Speaker-Timber Lobby Threatens Sagar Forests?!

Speaker-Timber Lobby Threatens Sagar Forests?!

Submitted by Newseditor on Fri, 2015-12-04 13:30 This is a controversy Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah could have done without. By imprudently acceding to a “strong” request made by Legislature Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa, Siddaramaiah has opened a pandora’s box, raising questions over the intent to give additional charge to a non-cadre DCF, much against the ruling of the High Court. Though Deputy Conservator of Forest (DCF) Mohan Gangoli from the State Forest Service (SFS) cadre is a director at Mysore Paper Mills (Sagar), he has controversially been given additional charge of Sagar division, which is in the enfolds of the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats. The High Court ruling implies that a non-cadre officer should not be posted to cadre (IFS) posts. Though a Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) judgment (case no 237/2012, dated March 5, 2014), had been cited against the posting of a State Forest Service (SFS) cadre officer, the government went ahead and gave additional charge to Gangolli. The DCF took additional charge on 31-1-2015. Though it has been eleven months since the order was issued (January 23, 2015) by the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms (DPAR), the murmurs of unrest are getting louder in the corridors of the Aranya Bhavan. Conservationists have also questioned the government’s prudence. They fear that the timber lobby could wipe out vast areas of forest which is home to endemic flora and fauna. It is intriguing why Kagodu Thimmappa recommended Gangolli, when there were many other eligible officers who could have been given charge of this critical post. Having written to the Principal Secretary, DPAR that his candidate be favourably considered, he also approached the chief minister to ensure that Gangolli was given additional charge of Sagar division. Despite Siddarammaiah’s recommendation (dated 9-1-15), DPAR made an observation that an officer of SFS cadre was ineligible to be posted to a senior position in the division. Why was DPAR’s jottings ignored?Under mounting pressure from the powers-that-be, the section officer (SO) at DPAR opined (on 23-1-15) that the posting “can be approved on the basis of the chief minister’s orders.” Gangolli took charge on 31-1-2015.Why did Thimmappa insist on tweaking administrative protocols, much against the High Court and CAT orders? Sources reveal that Sagar division is a goldmine for the timber lobby. “The timber lobby is very powerful and active in this region. It is rich in cane as well. Minor forest produce is another takeaway. There is a lot of illegal felling in the region.” According to sources privy to the controversial posting, an officer who takes favour from a minister or MLA is obligated to meet their demands. The timber lobby benefits from this unholy nexus. The anti-forest mafia has the “license to destruction” as these natural resources come under the jurisdiction of the revenue department. Unfortunately, or deliberately, it has not been classified as forests. Though trees are protected under the Forest Act, the deputy commissioner has the right to grant land to an applicant. Once the land is alienated, evergreen trees come under the axe. Forests are denuded. It is alleged that vast swathes of forest were felled during Yeddiyurappa’s reign as chief minister. “Officers were ordered to shut their eyes even as scores of trees were felled. Forests were cleared for development!? Local people have been impacted by that remorseless devastation,” laments Raghavendra (name changed), an environmentalist.”  We are confident Siddaramaiah, who is incidentally the chairman of the State Wildlife Advisory board, will not let his people down. He could still appoint a DCF cadre-post officer (IFS) to the Sagar division to put all the Doubting Thomases to rest. Just last week 150 heads of states–presidents and prime ministers--met in Paris during the World Environment Summit. They fret over the disastrous consequences of global warming. The consensus was to reduce carbon emissions through green technology. Considering the precarious situation that we are in, Karnataka cannot afford to lose its already shrinking forest cover.  If trees are felled to feed the insatiable greed of the timber lobby and industrialists, we could be in for a major catastrophe. El Nino brought copious amounts of rain, manifesting into a calamity that befell Tamil Nadu. La Nina could influence drier spells, depriving us of life-sustaining water. Already, North Karnataka is reeling under drought.Should we destroy natural forests?