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Forest body seeks action against top Haryana official over tree chopping order

Forest officials said they were forced to sanction the felling of 10,000 trees of over 52 acres in the Aravallis

gurgaon Updated: Aug 06, 2017 22:38 IST
Ipsita Pati
Ipsita Pati
Hindustan Times
Manohar Lal Khattar,SK Gulati,abusive language
SK Gulati, the additional chief secretary, forest and wildlife, is accused of forcing forest officials to issue tree felling permission at the 52-acre Aravalli land that he declared ‘non-forest.’(HT FILE PHOTO)

The Indian Forest Service Association has demanded disciplinary action against additional chief secretary (ACS), forest and wildlife, SK Gulati who is accused of forcing forest officials to issue tree felling permission at the 52-acre Aravalli land that he declared ‘non-forest.’

Forest officials had also accused him of using unparliamentary and abusive language. IFSA wrote to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Friday urging him to look into the matter immediately.

The letter by SP Yadav, secretary general, IFSA, to the chief minister includes copies of correspondences from ML Rajvanshi, IFS, conservator of wildlife Panchkula and Ranjitha, IFS, deputy conservator of forest, Faridabad, where they have alleged that Gulati threatened them with “dire consequences,” if they failed to follow his orders.

The forest officials were allegedly made to give permission for the chopping of more than 10,000 trees over 52 acres land at Sarai Khwaja village in Faridabad district in June. A group housing project is proposed to come up on the plot.

“….M L Rajvanshi, IFS, also stated about disciplinary action of ‘recorded warning’ to the officer without any enquiry/show cause notice and opportunity to the officer to present his position, which is against the principles of natural justice…(sic),” the letter states.

Earlier, on June 23, Vinod Kumar, conservator of wildlife, Gurgaon complained to the principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) PP Bhojvaid, claiming that Gulati had used objectionable language and asked him to change the status of land earmarked for the housing project.

“Gulati had asked me to take into account the Survey of India map and change the status of the land. When I protested, he put pressure on me (sic),” Kumar said in his letter.

Ranjitha, in her complaint on July 5, said, “On June 23, the ACS asked me to give permission for felling trees on the Aravalli land.” She also mentioned in the letter that she was verbally abused and threatened by Gulati.

“The ACS, during a phone call,said I would be made to pay for not giving permission for tree felling,” she said in her letter.

On Tuesday, the National Green Tribunal also observed that the Haryana chief secretary should take note of the allegations. The NGT was hearing a petition filed by Lt Col (retd) Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi demanding that construction of realty projects be banned in gair mumkin pahar (non-cultivable) area of the Aravalli, which is deemed forest land.

Read I Gurgaon lost five times more trees this year

Gulati refuted all allegations saying that the government could take any action it deems fit if he has done anything wrong.

“The land is marked as ‘gair mumkin’, which is not forest land. We also have sub-categories for Aravalli forest as ‘gair mumkin junglat’ (non-cultivable forest). This particular piece of land is not termed as ‘junglat’. The gair mumkin law pertains to the Shivalik ranges and is meant to protect the water sources there. The Act has nothing to do with forest land in the Aravallis,” Gulati to Hindustan Times.

He also said, “The Survey of India maps mark out every tree and has been keeping a record of the same since 1905. Hence, I asked the forest officer to take into account the SoI map. Vinod Kumar had refused to refer to SoI maps.”

First Published: Aug 06, 2017 22:37 IST