Residents seek BBMP forest official's suspension

A day after 17 trees were felled and protesters briefly detained by the police, the Sankey Tank Bund Road was littered with logs and stumps on Saturday. Twigs and small branches lay scattered on the footpath, posing a problem for pedestrians. Just two of the 19 trees are left standing on the stretch between Bhashyam Circle and Malleswaram 18th Cross junction.

Greens and residents opposed to the road-widening have now petitioned to Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner Siddaiah and Principal Secretary, Department of Forests, Ecology and Environment, Kaushik Mukherjee against BBMP's Deputy Conservator of Forests Puttaswamy.

Night felling

After days of protests, some 10 or 20 residents helplessly watched as the contractors went about felling the trees, branch by branch, during the early hours on Friday. “What was the need to take up the felling at night? If the BBMP has followed all procedures as per law, why were the trees felled in the [dark]?” was their refrain.

The campaigners, in their petition against Mr. Puttaswamy, have sought his suspension.

Vinay Sreenivasa from Hasiru Usiru said the public auction was called off after citizens objected to it. The demand drafts (DD) of the earnest money deposit (EMD) were also returned to the 13 bidders.

“We got to know later that the trees had been auctioned. There is no transparency. Also, the unwritten rule is that trees are not felled in the night, especially when it rains. This is mainly in the interest of the workers' safety as they use power saws.”

On his part, Mr. Puttaswamy said there was no law that stated trees should not be felled in the night. He maintained that neither he nor the tree officer knew of the greens' appeal to the Tree Authority. “The Tree Authority is headed by the Mayor. We did not receive any direction from the appellate authority to stop the felling.”

Due procedures

He said the Assistant Conservator of Forests was authorised to carry out the auction. “Syed Jaffer was the successful bidder. He must have anticipated opposition by citizens and taken up the felling at night. After the trees are sold, the BBMP is not involved in any way.”

Mr. Puttaswamy insisted all due procedures had been followed, and rubbished the allegations against him.

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