As the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to step up offensive against the government on issue of illegal axing of trees in the state, chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Monday informed the House that strict action was being taken in the incidents of illicit felling of trees in Chamba forest.
As soon as the question hour ended, BJP legislator Suresh Bhardwaj again pointed out to speaker BBL Butail that the Opposition had moved an adjournment motion on illegal axing of trees in the state and sought his ruling.
Intervening in the matter, chief minister Virbhadra Singh said the issue had already been discussed through a resolution moved under Rule 130, by the Opposition member Ravinder Singh Ravi.
However, Bhardwaj said that adjournment notice was given on December 5 and the chair had ruled that it had been forwarded to the government for comments. “We want a ruling by the chair,” said Bhardwaj.
Giving a ruling, the speaker said that since the issue had already been discussed it could not be taken under any rule in the same session.
Meanwhile, Ravi said the issue was of utmost importance as 2,000 trees had been felled illegally in forests of Chamba.
Accusing the forest minister, Thakur Singh Bharmouri, of misleading the House by giving false information, Ravi said that the CD he had given to the speaker should be played in the House so that the members get to know the real picture on the exact situation in Chamba forests.
Leader of Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal said that if the chair had ruled that issue could not be discussed again, would this be subsided. “Will this illegal felling continue and will the House not discuss the startling facts coming to fore every day?” asked Dhumal.
On this, the chief minister said that the Opposition was giving the statements pretending that the government was running away from the discussion.
Making a suo moto statement the chief minister informed that the department had marked the trees for felling in Almi forest of Chamba in 2012 and the lot was given to Forest Corporation for the purpose.
“During an inspection on November 15, 2011, a joint team of the forest department and Forest Corporation found that 12 green trees were illegally felled in this area,” said the chief minister, adding that the damage bill was raised and given to the corporation and simultaneously a complaint was lodged with the police.
He said another inspection was done from 25 to 27 during which it was revealed that 88 trees were felled illegally.
“In a stiff action, four officials of the department and corporation had been suspended,” said Virbhadra, adding that since the lot was given to the Forest Corporation, an FIR was lodged only after a proper verification.
The chief minister said that in 2013, as many as 978 dried trees were marked for felling in Sikri forest of Chamba.
However, during an inspection on November 27, the officials found that 78 spruce trees were axed illegally, while in another inspection on December 3, illegal axing of 29 green Deodar trees was detected.
He said the matter was reported to the police on December 5 and FIR was registered on December 7, while the forest guard and deputy ranger concerned had also been served show cause notice. “I have fought with the forest mafia my entire life. If something wrong has happened, strict action will be taken,” said the chief minister.
He also alleged that same kind of incidents happened in the BJP regime and investigation in those cases was on.