Amid promises of eradication of all sorts of mafias active in Himachal Pradesh, the newly formed government of Bhartiya Janata Party found a solid matter to open attack on the previous Congress-government.
The revelation regarding illegal felling of hundreds of trees on the government land in Shimla has come as a jolt to the forest department, especially the field workers.
As a rare scene, the Forest Minister Gobind Singh Thakur also visited the spot of tree felling himself on Sunday. He blamed the previous government and officials posted in this division.
The police recovered over 300 large wooden planks of Cedar, Pine, Timber and Baan trees along with about 33 sacks of coal. The police suspect the tree felling is related to the production of coal, while another source cites it is an attempt to facilitate mining
As per the FIRs filed against the local man at the police station, Dhalli under Sections 32, 33, 41, 42 of the Indian Forest Act and 379 of the IPC, a local man felled about 416 trees of different species on both private and government pieces of land in Koti forest range in Shimla district.
He is believed to be carrying out this illegal business for last four to five years without coming under the scanner of the forest department ever during this period.
The matter came to light after the new Range Forest Officer, Anu Sharma, was posted in the division recently. The previous officer, who reportedly retired in last December, has also come under the scanner of the police.
It is hard to believe that such illicit felling of a large number of trees could go unnoticed for such a long time. Yet again, the situation hints at the nexus between the forest officials and forest mafia.
The booked man, identified by the police as Bhoopram, refuted the charges that the trees were felled on the government land. The trees were felled only on his private land, he claimed.
In case the offender is telling the truth, still, he would be booked for felling trees on private land without prior permission from the government.
For further investigation, the police is waiting for demarcation to ascertain whether the land belongs to the offender or to the government.
The forest minister has ordered a probe into the illicit tree felling, for which a three-member committee has been formed.
The committee will be headed by chief conservator of forests S. K. Sharma, divisional forest officer and range officer. The committee is supposed to file a probe report by the end of this week.
HP Unit of Shiv Sena Writes to Acting Chief Justice
Meanwhile, the State unit of Shiv Sena has sought the attention of the High Court through a letter to the acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol. Brij Lal, a state leader of Shiv Sena and an RTI activist, alleged in the letter that the government is being liberal towards the forest official in the current case.
No complaint was registered against the Conservator Forest and Divisional Forest Officer (Rural), he said.
He reminded that in a similar case that had come to light about a year ago, the court had acted tough against the concerned officials and the names of the DFO, Ranger, Deputy Ranger, and guard were included in the chargesheet. The CF was immediately transferred at that time, he said.
However, in the current case, the government is patting the backs of the officials instead of taking the matter seriously. The Sena urged the court to order a fair probe against the officials appointed in the said division. The officials should be transferred so that they could not tamper with the records or evidence, Brij Lal said.