Expressing deep concern over the illegal felling in the hill state, chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Friday informed the state assembly that an inquiry would be conducted in this regard and nobody would be spared, even if it was his son, who was found guilty in such offence.
“Nobody will be spared in the illegal axing of green trees. Even if my son is found guilty in such offence, he will also be punished,” said the chief minister, while replying to a debate on “illicit feeling of trees in private land and forests in Himachal Pradesh”.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Ravinder Singh Ravi raised the issue under rule 130 on the first day of the winter session that began at Tapovan complex of the assembly in Dharamsala. Ravi alleged that there was illegal felling of trees in the state, including the Chamba district, where the forest minister belonged to.
“Illegal felling on such a large scale is not possible without the administrative and political patronage and the forest minister should resign or be sacked,” said Ravi, seeking an inquiry into the matter by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Ravi alleged that over 2,000 trees were cut on the pretext of dead trees in Elmi forest near Chamba, while the government had given permission to fell only 1,016 dried trees in the Chamba district.
The BJP legislator said that a chemical was being used on green trees, by the people involved in the clandestine trade, to dry them up so that they got the permission to axe these trees.
Congress party member Asha Kumari, who represents the Dalhousie assembly segment of the Chamba district, apprised the chief minister about flourishing forest mafia. Citing a case where 112 dried trees were marked, but more than 500 trees were axed illegally, Kumari said whatever was happening in Chamba should be stopped immediately and no illegal felling should be allowed to take place.
BJP legislator Suresh Bhardwaj raised the issue of illegal felling of 477 trees on a private land at Tara Devi in the outskirts of Shimla and of axing the green trees in Jakhu area of the town.
Replying to the debate, the chief minister said the axing of the trees was a serious issue. “I feel sad even when the trees are axed with permission,” said the chief minister, adding that the state imposed a blanket ban on the axing of the green trees in 1986 and was a historical decision for protection of flora and fauna of the hill state.
He said that the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, was deeply concerned about the axing of the trees in Himachal and assigned him the duty to save the forests by appointing him as the chief minister in 1983.
“The forest mafia is very active and strong, and people involved in this even dragged me to the Supreme Court,” said Virbhadra.
He asserted that Chamba too was very rich in the biodiversity and matter raised by the members about illegal felling in the district would be investigated and nobody would be spared.
“If I failed to stop the illegal felling, it will be my biggest failure of life. I will look into it with a heavy hand,” said the chief minister, reiterating his commitment to save the forest wealth of the state.
Apart from another Opposition member Randhir Sharma, Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) legislator Maheshwar Singh and Congress MLAs Kishori Lal, Nand Lal and Bambar Thakur also participated in the debate.
Later, dissatisfied with the reply of forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri the BJP staged a walkout.