Despite tall claims of the state government to check illegal tree felling, about 45 trees were reported to have been axed in Theog, around 60 km from Shimla. The police filed a criminal case under section 379 of the Indian Penal Code following a complaint lodged by a forest guard on Saturday.
"In his fortnightly report submitted to forest officials, the guard, Sita Ram, stated 45 trees - 23 of which were 'deodar' and 21 pine trees- had been chopped during the past 15 days in the Sheela Ghoond area of Theog, a police official said.
Theog deputy superintendent of police Rattan Negi said a forest investigation report had been filed and an investigation into the matter was on. "We have yet to ascertain that whether the felling has been done on private or forest land. Meanwhile, we have recovered all logs from the site," he added.
"Demarcation will be done soon and if the felling is on forest land, action would be taken as per the Indian Forest Act while in the other case the Land Preservation Act will be implemented," said a forest official.
A police official requesting anonymity quoted some locals as saying the trees were axed to smuggle in commercial markets. "The investigation may also reveal more cases of felling," he added.
Last year several cases of tree felling were surfaced that also dogged the Himachal government inside and outside the state legislature with opposition parties demanding the resignation of forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmauri.
In 2014 around 477 trees were axed at Taradevi near Shimla while hundreds of trees were felled in Chamba, Nalagarh and Shillai. The government suspended several officials but investigations in all the cases are still continuing. In Taradevi, tree felling has been done on 38 bighas of private lad while in Chamba felling is allegedly done by the contractors who were granted contract to remove logs from the forest. The tree felling site in Chamba is inaccessible by road.
However, the government has maintained it was not patronizing the forest mafia but initiated action in every case.