Uttarakhand chief forest officer aided poachers

Dehra Dun : Uttarakhand, carved out of the hill districts of Uttar Pradesh to meet the expectations of the people, specially in the far flung interiors, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, including the sting operation in which the personal secretary of the chief minister, an IAS officer, was allegedly seeking Rs 20 crores to get the liquor policy tweaked in favour of the liquor barons.

And if that was not enough, here is another howler. The allegation made by the member secretary, People for Animals (PFA), Gauri Maulekhi that the principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF), S S Sharma did not take cognizance of poaching in forests of this small mountain state has been ascertained by additional chief secretary, S Raju in his report.

The report which was submitted on June 20, days before the PCCF was to retire on June 30, further states that Sharma had been informed of poaching activities by his junior, additional PCCF, S K Dutt, but rather than acting on the information, “harassed and discouraged Dutt, who was performing his work diligently”.

Maulekhi went on to allege, besides not taking cognizance of the poaching, he sheltered poachers and abetted wildlife poaching in Corbett and Rajaji National Parks, disallowed officers from investigating wildlife crime, disallowed a network of information to be built to control poaching and posed hurdles in the investigation of wildlife crime.

File photo source: Satpura Foundation
File photo source: Satpura Foundation

It may be mentioned here that People for Animals had filed a writ petition in the Nainital High Court, seeking action against Sharma. The Court directed the chief minister to take action after getting the matter investigated. However, after one year the PFA approached the Court again with a contempt of court petition against the chief minister and the chief secretary for not taking action and delaying investigation. The inquiry was then handed over to additional chief secretary, S Raju.

The report states that Sharma also abetted the encroachment of land within the Rajaji National Park, a matter in which the ten Director, Rajaji Reserve, S P Subudhi was held responsible and that in violation of an order of the High Court, he allowed the appointment of one H Purohit as an official in the forest department.

It has been recommended in the report that action against Sharma be initiated for flouting the All India Service Conduct Rules, 1968 and police investigation be initiated against him for his alleged involvement in poaching and aiding and abetting wildlife offences under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, besides marking the boundary pillars of Rajaji National Park with respect to Nirmal Kunj ashram encroachment.

However, according to reports, Sharma dismissed the allegations as baseless adding that poaching takes place in every state and what could a chief wildlife warden do. As far as the encroachment was concerned the two officers passed on the buck to each other.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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