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Funds for bustard conservation embezzled, allege EDC members

The Centre and the state government funded activities under Project Bustard and Rajasthan Forestry and Biodiversity Project between 2013 and 2016 for conservation of the endangered birds, locally called ‘godawan’

jaipur Updated: Aug 17, 2017 21:10 IST
Mukesh Mathrani
Mukesh Mathrani
Hindustan Times
Rajasthan,bustard,godawan
Tthe Great Indian Bustard is on the brink of extinction with just 200 or so left in the wild.(HT File)

Forest officials have embezzled funds sanctioned for conservation of great Indian bustards (GIBs) in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district, eco development committee members alleged.

The Centre and the state government funded activities under Project Bustard and Rajasthan Forestry and Biodiversity Project between 2013 and 2016 for conservation of the endangered birds, locally called ‘godawan’.

The Centre has also constituted a task force to formulate an action plan to protect GIBs, the state bird of Rajasthan. A 2014 Wildlife Institute of India survey counted 44 GIBs in Rajasthan. A forest department survey in 2015 put the number at 13.

The president of the eco development committee (EDC) of Sam block alleged that officials have embezzled crores of rupees, sanctioned for godawan conservation, without doing any work.

“Taking advantage of my illiteracy, officials got my signature on many documents, including cheque books and bank dairies. On July 20, I came to know that ₹2,65,98611 has been withdrawn from the account of Sam block EDC without my knowledge,” alleged committee president Jusub Khan in a letter to the chief minister.

Jusub was elected the Sam EDC president in 2014. “I was not aware of the EDC job because of my illiteracy. Without any work done at the ground level, officials embezzled the funds,” he said, claiming he has not signed on any bill.

Hakim Khan, president of the Nimba block EDC in Jaisalmer, claimed forest department ranger Jaisalmer Shriram Saini had withdrawn ₹4 lakh, sanctioned in 2016 for godawan conservation, to make advance payments for construction work.

“Till date no any work has been done at the ground,” Hakim said. He claimed that when he asked for the bill and payment vouchers, Saini refused him to give any documents. He alleged that officials have embezzled the fund by putting his fake signature on bills.

Jusub and Hakim said forest department officials ignored their complaints. They have now written to the chief minister, demanding a probe and action against the officials who misappropriated the funds.

Deputy conservator of forest Anoop KR said, “The matter has recently come to my knowledge. I will investigate to find out the irregularities and take action against those found guilty.”

First Published: Aug 17, 2017 21:10 IST