Three years on, no recovery in felling of Corbett sal trees
Even after three years of illegal felling of five Sal trees in the Kalagarh division of the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR), the forest department has failed to recover ₹ 20 lakh from a forest ranger and other officials.
A resident of Haldwani, in a letter to the CM and state forest minister, has demanded immediate action against the accused.
Chandra Prakash, a resident of Haldwani’s Halduchaud on March 31, submitted a letter to chief minister TS Rawat, state forest minister Harak Singh Rawat along with a copy to the chief secretary, head of forest force and National Tiger Conservation Authority giving the details of the incident and alleging that the then director of CTR and the then chief wildlife warden being involved in illegal felling of trees.
Under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, felling of trees is prohibited in the protected area unless the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change gives permission to fell trees that are either dead or decaying or could cause danger.
According to the letter, the incident took place in 2015, but the matter was reported in 2016. The then reserve director had issued a show cause notice to the deputy ranger, directing him to recover the fine money from him. But, the amount was never recovered from the official.
AK Tripathi, Kalagarh divisional forest officer, said: “There is no official record of recovery the fine amount from any department staff.”
People close to the matter, said that to dilute the case, illegal felling of trees was purposely carried out within a van panchayat area of Sal trees after nine months to do away with official records. The particular incident, however, is sub-judice, they said.
The letter alleges the involvement of Sameer Sinha, who was the then director of the reserve and is presently heading the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Management.
“I recall having written for the recovery of the fine amount, but then I was transferred and do not know what happened in the case,” said Sinha.
Similarly, chief wildlife warden DVS Khati too said he has no knowledge about the issue.
The letter also claims that an FIR was registered with a police station in Kotdwar but no action has been taken.
Prakash, however, refused to speak to media persons on the issue.
Jai Raj, head of forest force, said he received the letter on Monday.
Reacting to the allegations on his senior forest officers he said, “It is for the first time that the matter has come before me.”
“If needed, I will constitute a team and even seek compliance from officers as to why recovery couldn’t be done.”