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Effect 2: DFO suspended
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 12
After dilly-dallying for six months, the Punjab government has suspended its much-controversial divisional forest officer (DFO) of Ludhiana R.R. Kakkar. He was in the news for signing an MoU with an NGO headed by his wife.

The MoU was signed on May 8 with the objective of plantation along the 77-km stretch of the Balachaur-Dasuya and Hoshiarpur-Tanda roads owned by the Punjab government. Kakkar signed the MoU without securing the official sanction to do so. He did not inform the government that his wife was chairing the NGO though he was bound to do so by government employees’ conduct rules 1966.

The Tribune had reported the controversy and how the government had been inconsistent in its attitude towards Kakkar. The government had first lauded the DFO for his “public-spirited act” of enhancing plantation and had even decided to accord to all territorial DFOs in Punjab the power to undertake tree plantation through recognised NGOs.

Later in July, Punjab forest minister Tikshan Sud, suddenly cancelled the controversial MoU, saying that it had created too much controversy.

Now after six months of the signing of the MoU, Kakkar has been suspended. Sources in the Forest Department say that the MoU controversy is behind the suspension.

Recently, the Punjab government had also told the high court hearing a PIL on the matter that it would proceed against the erring officials. Show-cause notices were accordingly served.

Earlier, too, the principal chief conservator of forests, Punjab, who was asked to clarify the position on the MoU, had said Kakkar was not authorised to enter into such an agreement without delegation of powers. He had also said the land sought to be afforested through Sahyogi, the NGO, actually belonged to the Public Works Department and the Forest Department only had management rights over it.

Kakkar recently kicked up another controversy by registering an FIR against Sukhwinder Singh Grewal, former state president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) and a serving state working committee member of the BJP. In the FIR dated October 22, Kakkar stated that Grewal had intimidated him in a certain case. Grewal, however, refutes the charge.

The FIR, however, created a huge stir in Punjab BJP circles, of which Sud is a significant part. A highly-placed Punjab BJP leader today confirmed to The Tribune that the FIR matter was not taken lightly. “It was raised at the highest level, with Balbir Punj. But this issue has nothing to do with Kakkar’s suspension,” he said.

Kakkar, when contacted, however, said, “The FIR was registered on October 22 and I got an explanation call from the Punjab forest department on October 29. Now I learn I have been suspended. I wonder why was I not suspended in six months? Why now?”

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