Controversial officer back as Forest Department chief - Mandi Gobindgarh News

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Controversial officer back as Forest Department chief

Controversial officer back as Forest Department chief

Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, August 9

A senior Indian Forest Services (IFS) Officer Kuldeep Kumar, whose role in the controversial illegal felling of 24,777 trees under a project to widen the 800-km-long Bist-Doab canal during the SAD-BJP’s 2016 rule, has been questioned by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), is back as the chief of the Punjab Forest Department.

The chief of the state Forest Department is designated as Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Head of Forestry Force (HOFF).

In a major reshuffle at the top level in the Forest Department, Kuldeep Kumar has replaced another IFS Officer Jitendra Sharma, who has now been posted as Managing Director, Punjab Forest Development Corporation.

It is learnt that the reshuffle is said to be the outcome of difference of opinion between Forest Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and the outgoing Principal Chief Conservator Jitendra Sharma over recent transfer of some IFS officers in the department. The matter of the minister not adhering to seniority of IFS officers had even reached Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh. Despite repeated attempts, Dharamsot did not respond to calls.

Interestingly, Kuldeep Kumar has been posted as PCCF (HOFF) even as the state government, as per the orders of the NGT, is yet to be probe the role of the erring forest officer in the illegal felling of trees.

In its August 2018 orders, the tribunal had observed that a former PCCF and a former Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Nawanshahr, deliberately ignored the fact that the trees stood in the area demarked as protected forest and it was a wilful violation of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980. Kuldeep Kumar was the PCCF (HOFF), before being replaced in August 2017, after Capt Amarinder Singh took over as the Chief Minister.

In the same order, the NGT had directed the Punjab Chief Secretary to appoint an inquiry officer, not below the rank of Additional Chief Secretary, to fix responsibility of the officers responsible for the violation of the Act and take strict action.

Instead of implementing the NGT orders, the state government has been sitting on the directions since January this year, despite facing dismissal of a civil appeal filed in the Supreme Court against the tribunal’s orders. Additional Chief Secretary (Forests) Roshan Sarkaria, while confirming the reshuffle, said the matter of conducting the probe as per the NGT orders was still under consideration.

Others officers who have been transferred are Dhanedra Singh, who had been posted as PCCF (Wildlife) and HS Greal, who has been posted as Additional PCCF ( IWARD).

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