Vigilance raid in Kharar areas to check illegal felling of Khair trees
Mohali: The Punjab vigilance department on Monday raided areas near Karoran village in the Kharar area following directions from the Punjab chief minister’s office (CMO) to probe reports of felling of 5,500 khair trees during the Covid-19 lockdown even as permits to cut down 4,000 had been issued.
It remains to be probed how the trees were felled when strict rules allowing only essential services were in place during the lockdown.
The team of 10 vigilance officers led by assistant inspector general (vigilance) Ashish Kapoor with district forest officers of Garhshankar and Ropar raided the Karoran village area after the CMO’s office received complaints that the contractor allotted the contract had felled more trees than permitted, a vigilance official said.
The raids revealed that no registers showing number of trees felled had been maintained and no fresh saplings planted as per the forest management plan approved by the government of India.
Rules to mark and fell trees were also violated by opening up the close canopy of the forest. Labour records of workers entering and exiting forest areas were also not kept and trees were felled after sunset, which was prohibited, the official said. Apportioning of common land shares to owners of the common land was also not done, he added.
Katha used in paan (betel leaf) and cutch, used as a food additive, in astringent, tannin, dye and medicines are produced from Khair or Acacia catechu. The wood is much prized for posts in house construction and used for making oil and sugarcane crushers, oil and sugar crushers and parts of boats.
The raids will continue for the second day on Tuesday.
“This is private forest land, the government has nothing to do with this. What the teams are checking are illegal felling of trees as permits were given for the same. We have marked all Khair trees,” said Guraman Singh, district forest officer, Mohali.
The forest department gives permission to fell trees after every five years as per silviculture practices.
Though guidelines state that felling had to be completed by March 15 and logged wood moved to stores by March 31, reports had been received of felling continuing till mid-April amid the lockdown when strict rules allowing only essential services were in place.