Govt admits nexus between forest deptt, timber smugglers

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DODA:  The government Thursday admitted that its forest officials and timber smugglers were in nexus in chopping pine trees following reports of rampant felling of trees in broad daylight in Dandi village near Baderwah in Doda district in Chenab valley.

Locals alleged that forest officials sell trees without permission.

“We went to the forest department and asked for timber for the construction of our house. They (officials) said if you are in a hurry, we will get the timber delivered at your house for Rs. 60,000, as in normal procedure it will take a lot of time. The forest officials sent the timber to my house without any receipt and I constructed my house,” a local resident told a New Delhi based news channel.

The news channel reported that its team, posing as clients for buying timber without documents, did a reality check by going to a government timber depot in Bhaderwah.

“Forest officials were willing to sell a block of timber illegally for Rs. 840, saying the official price for the same is Rs. 2,200,” it said.

Quoting sources, it said the trees chopped from the forest are kept at specific places near the road for forest department trucks to pick them up for illegal selling later.

The stumps of the cut trees are burnt to destroy the proof.

Whistle blowers are being targeted as forests are under threat of being wiped out.  Ghulam Qadir, a whistle blower, of Dandi village almost lost his life.

“Supporters of the forest guard suddenly attacked me with axes and sticks and beat me. The jungle mafia is hand in glove with the people from the forest department,” he said.

While the state government has started a helpline number for the whistle-blowers and a reward for those who give information about timber smuggling, it also has assured action against the accused officials.

“This is a very big nexus, at some places forest officials are also involved, but the whole of the forest department is not like that, some people are there, who we have identified some and we will take strict action against them,” Minister for Forests, Bali Bhagat said.

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