Natarajan's bid to clean up forest bureaucracy spoiled | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Natarajan's bid to clean up forest bureaucracy spoiled

delhi Updated: Sep 25, 2011 23:26 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
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The higher echelons of forest bureaucracy have played spoilsport in environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan's bid to clean up amid allegations of in-efficiency and shoddy work.

Natarajan ordered the immediate transfer of AK Rana, chief conservator of forests and in-charge of ministry's Bhopal office, following allegations of him favouring project proponents in violation of norms.

The whistleblower was his subordinate Sujoy Banerjee, another IFS officer, who alleged that Rana had circumvented the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act to give permission for diversion of forestland.

"It is my humble submission that working in this office is becoming exceedingly difficult as I can only watch helplessly as ecologically valuable forest lands are squandered away in this manner and certain parties bestowed upon with favours," Banerjee said, in his representation to environment secretary T Chatterjee.

Natarajan was quick to act after the issue was brought to her notice and ordered Rana's transfer on September 14.

JK Tewari, chief conservator of forests, ministry's regional office, Bhubaneswar was asked to take charge from Rana.

The order, however, has remained on paper as Rana continues to clear projects in the Bhopal office. On September 18, he cleared a dozen projects including diversion of forestland for laying pipeline in Narmada district of Madhya Pradesh.

It has happened as forest bureaucracy in the ministry failed to direct Rana to immediately hand over charge to Tewari despite the minister's directions.

Earlier, Natarajan desire to suspend another Indian Forest Service (IoFS) officer, CD Singh, who had allegedly misused her file noting to approve a hydel project in Himachal, was blocked by the ministry officials.

He was sent back to his parent cadre, Himachal Pradesh, after the minister insisted on disciplinary action against the official, who dealt with clearing projects at the central level.

The clean up job started in the wake of a letter written by non-official members of the Forest Advisory Committee, mandated to consider all proposals for forest diversion, alleging huge discrepancies in the proposals submitted before FAC. The letter, signed by FAC members Mahesh Rangarajan, Ullas Karanth and Amita Baviskar, had accused the forest bureaucracy of conducting shoddy work so that the projects are cleared.

"From the bottom up, state forest departments/governments are routinely approving even obviously damaging projects ... We are being forced to take decisions on the basis of inadequate and inaccurate information," the letter said.