Lackadaisical approach: Supreme Court summons Uttarakhand Chief Secy over forest fires : The Tribune India

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Lackadaisical approach: Supreme Court summons Uttarakhand Chief Secy over forest fires

Lackadaisical approach: Supreme Court summons Uttarakhand Chief Secy over forest fires

The top court has sought to know the reasons behind the underutilisation of funds and the huge number of vacancies in the Forest Department. file



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, May 15

Upset over a “very sorry state of affairs” in dealing with forest fires in Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday directed the state Chief Secretary to personally appear before it on May 17 and explain underutilisation of funds and delay in

filling vacancies.

“We are at pains to say that the approach of Uttarakhand in controlling the fires is, to say the least, lackadaisical. Though action plans have been prepared and finalised, no steps are being taken for the implementation of the same,” a Bench, led by Justice BR Gavai, said.

“On the last date, the rosy picture you depicted was not correct… We find that the state needs to take some concrete decisions,” said the Bench, which also included Justice SVN Bhatti and Justice Sandeep Mehta.

It directed the Centre to spell out its stand on timely disbursement of the National Disaster Management Fund and funds under centrally sponsored schemes.

The top court asked the Chief Secretary to explain why Forest Department personnel were deployed in election duty despite an exemption given by the Election Commission. “Be that as it may, we direct that in all states, forest staff as well as forest vehicles shall not be requisitioned for election purposes or any other purposes like Char Dham Yatra,” it said.

The Bench asked him to explain the delay in filling vacancies in the Forest Department. “On one hand, the state contends that resources like manpower and vehicles are not available, and on the other hand it keeps a large number of vacancies,” it said, adding the Chief Secretary needed to explain how much time would be needed to fill the vacancies in the forest department.

It also sought to know the reasons behind underutilisation of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) funds and the huge number of vacancies in the Forest Department.

During hearing of a petition on forest fires in Uttarakhand, the state’s counsel had on May 8 told the court that five persons had been killed in 398 forest fire incidents in Uttarakhand, where 388 criminal cases had been lodged and 60 persons were named accused. Only 0.1 per cent of the wildlife cover in the state was on fire due to such incidents, it had said. On Wednesday, the Bench said when CAMPA funds were available and sanctioned by the central authority, there was no reason to utilise only Rs 3.41 crore out of the Rs 9.12 crore sanctioned for forest related activities during 2023-24.

It wanted to know if CAMPA funds were being utilised for some other purposes unrelated to forest activities.

Can’t use staff, vehicles for poll

We direct that in all states, forest staff as well as forest vehicles shall not be requisitioned for election purposes or any other purposes like Char Dham Yatra. — The Bench

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