G. Satyamurty

Unaccounted timber worth over Rs 30 lakh legalised by unauthorised permits

Ranger suspended Conservator's order ignored

Coimbatore: The Forest department has ordered an inquiry into an alleged scam in issuing permits for transporting timber from Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, Pollachi.

Official sources, requesting anonymity, say the ranger of the Forest Timber Depot, Pollachi, is suspected to have issued 200-250 unauthorised permits to timber merchants/saw mills since 2004 despite lacking "territorial jurisdiction."

"The suspicion is that thousands of sqft of illicit and unaccounted timber worth not less than Rs 30 lakh to Rs 40 lakh was legalised because of such permits." The ranger is under suspension pending inquiry for various other charges too.

According to the sources, the ranger flouted the orders of circle-level officers but the Principal Chief Conservator's (PCCF) office came to his rescue.

A correspondence relating to the issue reveals that the PCCF's office cancelled, within three days, the transfer of the ranger ordered by the Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle, in March. The Conservator's explanation that the transfer order was well in accordance with rules and failure to implement it would lead to manipulation of evidences was overruled.

It also reveals that the Pollachi Wildlife authorities did not lodge an FIR and failed to execute arrest warrant against some sandalwood smugglers. Subsequently, the smugglers were arrested by the Kerala Forest Department. Even the non-bailable warrants (NBWs) against them were kept pending and no enquiry was made to find discrepancy in the quantity of sandalwood seized.

The "non-cooperation" by the higher authorities is said to have forced the Conservator of Forests to respond in the following fashion: "It is recorded and highly regretted that the office of the PCCF is interfering without jurisdiction in the rightful discharge of my duties and responsibilities, [which are] well in accordance with the power vested in me by law." The interference was a clear violation of official proprieties to either promote responsive, fair, honest and credible administration or protect forest wealth.

Conservator R.C.Purwar declined to comment.

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