Forest fires: Supreme Court summons Uttarakhand Chief Secretary over ‘very sorry state of affairs’ : The Tribune India

Join Whatsapp Channel

Forest fires: Supreme Court summons Uttarakhand Chief Secretary over ‘very sorry state of affairs’

The Bench says 'that the approach of the state of Uttarakhand in controlling fires is, to say the least, lackadaisical'

Forest fires: Supreme Court summons Uttarakhand Chief Secretary over ‘very sorry state of affairs’

The top court was hearing a plea on raging forest fires in Uttarakhand. PTI 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 on Wednesday directed the state Chief Secretary to personally appear before it on May 17 and explain underutilisation of funds and delay in filling up vacancies.

“We are at pains to say that the approach of the state 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 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 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 the states, the forest staff as well as the 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 up vacancies in the Forest Department.

“On one hand, the state contends that the resources, that is, manpower and vehicles are not available, and on the other hand, keeps a large number of vacancies,” it said, adding the Chief Secretary needed to explain how much time will be needed to fill up 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 people had been killed in 398 forest fire incidents in Uttarakhand where 388 criminal cases had been lodged naming 60 people as 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 Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (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 amount 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.

On the state’s grievance regarding failure of timely disbursement of the National/State Disaster Management Fund, it said, “We fail to understand as to how state could have grievance with regard to the disbursal of state disaster management fund in as much as it is within the domain of the state to disburse the said funds.”

While informing the court of the steps taken to deal with the issue, the Uttarakhand Government counsel suggested that a committee comprising representatives of the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee, the Centre, state and other agencies which can come up with a holistic approach to deal with forest fires.

About The Author

The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

#Supreme Court #Uttarakhand


Top News

Assembly elections in J-K before September 30, next step statehood, says Home Minister Amit Shah

Assembly elections in J-K before September 30; next step statehood, says Union Home Minister Amit Shah

Shah says the possible merger of PoK with Jammu and Kashmir ...

Six newborns die in fire at East Delhi children's hospital

7 newborns die in fire at children's hospital in East Delhi’s Vivek Vihar

Action is being initiated against the owner of the hospital

Remal intensifies into severe cyclonic storm, to make landfall by Sunday midnight

Remal intensifies into severe cyclonic storm, to make landfall by Sunday midnight

The severe cyclone is set to bring extremely heavy rain in t...

Punjab Police, BSF bust drug smuggling racket; arrest 7 members

Punjab Police, BSF bust drug smuggling racket; arrest 7 members

Seize 5.47 kg heroin, Rs 1.7 lakh drug money and 40 cartridg...


Cities

View All