Axe-mafia puts ‘oblivious’ Forest Department on toes

Balwant Singh Bhau

Despite the official orders by minister of forest-Ch Lal Singh, the illicit cutting and smuggling of green gold continues across the district, with tractor-trolleys loaded with wood describe the sad state of affairs.
During the month of April, this year, Ch Lal Singh-Minister for Forest Ecology and Environment after seeing the depleted condition of forests near village Forelain and Jakhol passed instructions to department to put a blanket ban on issuing Form-25, which is otherwise used for carriage and transportation of wood.
Unfortunately, notwithstanding the official decree, the people involved in the smuggling of wood, continues to harm the forest. The axe-mafia is evidently working in connivance of the powerful people, apparently politicians and police officers.
Alleging apathetic attitude of the Forest and Revenue departments, Kulveer Singh Pathania said, “Previously, in routine one could see dozens of tractor-trolleys coming from the village Hatli side, which has decreased now a day”. However, it is clear that the reckless felling is the handiwork of a well-organized mafia, headed by powerful persons, who has been selectively axing the valuable trees for the past few years.
Expressing his concern, Nariender Singh of Village Hatli said that felling of trees is not going on in their village only but it is going on in the adjoining villages also. The village hills without trees are the telltale sign of the grave violation in the felling rules.
Lambasting the concerned agencies, he said that it is nexus of axe people, forest and revenue department. Whenever, environment activists tried to check the trolleys carrying wood, it reveals that they are few axe people who are carrying out this business. These people have hands in glove with the forest and revenue people. These axe-people just contact the innocent villagers of far off areas for felling and pay a very little amount of the earning.
Sunil Sharma, Chairman of Speak India Environmental Foundation said, “According to Jammu and Kashmir forest protection law, ‘Fell’ or ‘Felling’ includes topping, looping, girdling of otherwise damaging a specified tree. There is total restriction on felling of trees. No person shall fell any specified tree except under in the accordance with the terms and conditions of permission granted by the prescribed authority under act. Provided, that a permit granted shall not authorize the felling of specified tree by any person other than the owner. “It is strange to know that how it is possible that reckless felling of trees at large scale is going on in the district,” he miffed.
When contacted DFO Ashwani Kumar, he said, “I agree that some people are involved in axing green gold and the department is on toes to curb the menace. “A couple of days back we raided an industry and seized 3-trolleys of wood and tractor,” DFO said and added it is true that this axe-mafia is working in connivance of some powerful people, but despite this fact, the department is not going to spare them.
He further said that they had information that axe-mafia changing its modus operandi, presently is carrying wood from Hatli village during the late hours and department had arranged special patrolling to crush this practice.
He also said that the acute shortage of staff, as the most of the staff is busy in extinguishing forest-fires, is also creating problem for the department to checkout smuggling of wood.

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