Forest officer pays the price of honesty

Forest officer pays the price of honesty

Submitted by Editor on Tue, 2016-04-26 18:15 Bengaluru: In a shocking administrative decision, the Karnataka government has suspended a sincere, hard-working, gutsy assistant conservator of forests (ACF) without any justification.It is intriguing that T Venkatesh, a duty-conscious forest officer, has been suspended when the principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF, Forest Force) had merely recommended that he be “transferred to a forest division where there is less pressure.”Bafflingly, the suspension order has been issued without the concurrence of forest minister Ramanath Rai.Also, the principal conservator of forests (wildlife), B J Hosmath, was not taken into confidence before the suspension order was issued by the Under Secretary, forest and environment, Karnataka government.  It is obvious that a powerful lobby has motivated the government to oust the officer who had been a thorn in the flesh to a couple of wildlife wardens. Ridiculously, he has been suspended as 151 hectares of forest cover was reduced in ashes in Bandipur’s Moleyur range (Oct 18, 2015).Strangely, no action has been taken against a range forest officer where more than 2000 hectares of forests were engulfed by fire in the adjoining Nagarhole tiger reserve.This is the second instance when the ACF has been wronged by the government and his senior officers.Earlier, he had filed a case against a wildlife warden for illegally constructing a resort inside the Bhadra tiger reserve, notified by the National Tiger Conservation Authority as an inviolate area. Bhadra is a critical tiger habitat.In fact, as many as 300 families had been relocated from the Bhadra tiger reserve to ensure wildlife wasn’t disturbed by the presence human habitations. The resort, according to senior forest officers, does not impede the movement of wild animals, including tigers, elephants and gaur.Though Venkatesh had been steadfast in his findings that the resort had infringed on forest land, a farcical inquiry conducted, under duress, by the forest department had absolved the wildlife warden.The resort, according to senior forest officers, does not impede the movement of wild animals, including tigers, elephants and gaur.As a ‘reward’, Venkatesh was transferred on October 14, 2015 to the Bandipur tiger reserve.Venkatesh could have shut his eyes and ears to the dubious happenings and bid his time in Bandipur. But his conscience wouldn’t allow him to sleep. It was with the intent to protect our fragile eco-sytem and to conserve wildlife that he had joined the forest department. Hence, he dared to expose the wishy-washy dealings of the conservator of forest, B B Mallesh.He paid the price for taking on the mighty in the interest of wildlife conservation.His faults:1.       Questioning the anarchic administration of the conservator of forest, Bandipur tiger reserve2.       Stopping a power line from being illegally drawn without clearance from the ministry for environment, forest and climate change.3.       Throwing the spanner in the works of public works department (PWD) which had illegally started to construct a road inside the tiger reserve4.       Raising the issue of a wildlife warden constructing a farm house adjacent to the Nugu wildlife reserveInstead of commending his sincerity to protect our dwindling forests and wildlife, the Karnataka government has inadvertently suspended Venkatesh to please some wildlife wardens.God save our wildlife.