Uttarakhand forest minister posts a video fighting forest fire; slammed
Amid the raging forest fire in Uttarakhand which has affected over 1300 hectares of area, state forest and wildlife minister Harak Singh Rawat has drawn flak over a video, in which he and his aide are seen trying to douse a forest fire with what appeared to be a shrub or a stem.
The Congress and Aam Aadmi Party said the video and stills shared on social media by the minister’s close aides were “mere publicity stunt”.
“When the forest fire was raging, then the forest minister was nowhere to be seen. But now, when the choppers of the Indian Air Force (IAF) have arrived to fight the situation, he has now come up with a publicity stunt,” said Congress state president Pritam Singh, who earlier said the BJP led state government was “doing nothing” to control the forest fire.
“Forests are Uttarakhand’s most precious assets after the Himalayas. And the lethargic response of the minister to such a serious situation shows this government doesn’t care about the forest of our state,” Singh said.
Earlier on Monday, two Mi-17 helicopters reached Uttarakhand to help in fighting the forest fires which have so far affected about 1,300 hectares of forest area and claimed four human lives. Currently over 85 forest fires are raging in hill districts. This year since January 1, the state has reported 1,130 forest fire incidents, in which 1540 hectares of forest land has been damaged. Of these 1,130 forest fire incidents, the maximum 269 have been reported in Pauri Garhwal, followed by 116 in Tehri, 100 in Bageshwar, 94 in Pithoragarh, 93 in Almora, according to the data provided by the state forest department. Since 2000 to April 4 this year, the hill state has lost 49,231 hectares of forest land to forest fires.
“When the people were sharing videos and photographs of the forest fire incidents on social media, urging the government to take note of the situation urgently, the minister didn’t pay any heed. Now, instead of taking concrete steps to control it and prevent it in future, he decides to come up with this ridiculous video just for publicity,” said Amarjit Singh, spokesperson of Aam Aadmi Party in Uttarakhand.
Minister Rawat however, couldn’t be contacted for a comment till the filing of the story.