‘Funds that the Centre offers to states for compensatory afforestation are being grossly misused’.
New Delhi: The arrest of 1987 batch Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer, Abhay Kant Pathak from Odisha, and his subsequent suspension from the service on prices of accumulating huge ill-gotten wealth, have introduced into focus the misuse of the massive funds that the Central authorities offers to all of the state governments and union territories below Compensatory Afforestation Administration and Planning Authority (CAMPA) for compensatory afforestation.
Pathak was posted as Further Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (APCCF), Plan, Programme and Afforestation, since 2 June 2018 earlier than he was arrested. He was dealing with the funds that Odisha had acquired below CAMPA in 2019.
As per authorities information, Odisha had acquired Rs 5,933 crore from the Centre for CAMPA, the very best amongst all of the states, adopted by Chhattisgarh at Rs 5,791 crore and Madhya Pradesh at 5,196 crore. In all, the Centre gave Rs 47,872 crore to all of the states and UTs in 2019 below CAMPA, the principle intention of which is to extend forest cowl in India.
A Particular Investigation Crew (SIT) of the Odisha state vigilance, which is probing Pathak, has up to now discovered virtually Rs 15 crore in money from him, other than undeclared property paperwork in his and his family’ names. Pathak spent not less than Rs 3 crore on the 20-plus air journeys that he undertook on chartered flight throughout the lockdown.
Beneath Indian legal guidelines, forest land may be diverted for non-forest functions corresponding to building of dams, mining and different developmental actions after taking permission from the federal government. Since this diversion of forest land leads to lack of forest cowl and biodiversity, compensatory afforestation can also be mandated below the legislation and that is the place CAMPA comes into play. For this afforestation, the businesses that are buying the forest land, ought to present an alternate land and pay for planting of the brand new timber.
Nonetheless, serving and retired forest officers whom The Sunday Guardian spoke to, said that the funds that the Centre offers to states below CAMPA are being grossly misused. In line with them, Pathak’s case was not an exception, however one thing that was taking place throughout the nation, particularly within the three states of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh the place these funds are being despatched probably the most.
As per the Forest Survey of India Report of 2019, there was a rise of simply 3% within the forest cowl in India in comparison with 2017. The whole forest cowl within the nation, as per the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) is 7,12,249 km2 which is 21.67% of the whole geographical space of the nation. This is a rise of 3976 km2 in comparison with that of the whole forest cowl in ISFR-2017.
Forest officers stated that afforestation is without doubt one of the most wanted departments within the states by the forest officers as there may be a variety of scope to “earn cash”.
Whereas explaining the modus operandi utilized by corrupt officers to misuse CAMPA funds, a forest officer instructed The Sunday Guardian, “Let’s assume an afforestation undertaking is handed which states that Rs 20,00,000 can be required for afforesting a selected piece of land below CAMPA. The funds are launched. Nonetheless, in precise, solely Rs 5,00,000 is spent on it and the remaining is pocketed by the officers. They search funds within the identify of utilizing higher high quality of soil, higher high quality of saplings, higher high quality and amount of fertilizers. Within the report, the officers say that the soil by which the saplings are being grown, was changed twice for which the fund was spent. Nonetheless, in actuality, the soil may not have been modified even as soon as. Equally, they could say that 5,000 saplings are being planted, however in actuality, it may not be even 2,000. There’s a provision that inspection on the bottom must be carried out to make sure that the work that has been sanctioned is being carried out on the bottom, however the officer who does the inspection, too, will get his share; so nothing will get revealed and this goes on,” a senior Bhopal-based forest officer stated.
In line with one other veteran officer, Rs 1 crore was embezzled by a senior forest officer who was in-charge of CAMPA in a central state. “He handed a undertaking of Rs 1 crore, which was launched below CAMPA. He additionally uploaded footage of the world the place the supposed afforestation was carried out through the use of this Rs 1 crore. After I went to the precise web site, I noticed that it was an agricultural land the place farming was taking place. Everybody is aware of such issues are taking place and since everybody will get their fee, nothing occurs,” he stated.
He added that funds launched for afforestation from the state funds are restricted and their use is well-defined. “Nonetheless, below CAMPA, a variety of discretionary energy is there on the subject of finishing up afforestation actions. The forest officers cost fee for procuring barbed wire to safe the sapling web site, for cement that’s used to erect these barbed wire,” he stated.
To watch the funds below CAMPA, the Centre has appointed a bunch of three consultants of whom two are retired Indian Forest Service officers, whereas one is a scientist.
Azad Singh Dabas, a 1985 batch IFS officer MP cadre officer, who retired as Further Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (APCCF), recalled a current incident in Madhya Pradesh by which an audio dialog between a PCCF and a forest ranger on the bottom went viral. Within the audio clip, the PCCF, who was answerable for finishing up inspection associated to afforestation below CAMPA, is telling the ranger to satisfy him “personally” or he’ll come to examine the world below him that must be forested below CAMPA.
“I introduced this to the discover of the CM, the Chief Secretary, the Forest division, however no motion was taken. CAMPA funds are being misused grossly in Madhya Pradesh, there are a number of Pathaks in MP too,” Dabas stated.
After the audio clip went viral, a two-member inquiry committee was arrange by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan authorities which gave a clear chit to everybody regardless of the stated PCCF later stating it on document that large-scale irregularities had been taking place when it got here to make use of of CAMPA funds in MP.
In line with a senior Gujarat cadre IFS officer, lack of strict monitoring of how the funds are being spent and the freedom accessible to officers on the way to spend it, are derailing what’s in any other case a welcome programme. “There are two parts below this legislation—compensatory afforestation by which you afforest the identical quantity of space which has been diverted for residential or business use, and secondly, you pay for web current worth of the forest which was reduce, the speed of which is already determined by the Authorities of India. The cash collected from these two parts, goes into the CAMPA funds. The legislation requires a selected APCCF and a devoted staff to deal with CAMPA funds, however in lots of states, it’s given as a further cost to an officer. They’ve liberty to make use of the CAMPA funds as they like, which isn’t the case for funds obtained from the state. In Gujarat, Kutch space is utilizing the utmost quantity of CAMPA funds because it has a variety of waste space and afforestation is required there. On account of this, officers do their greatest to get a posting on this area in order that they will have entry to the massive CAMPA funds. The Authorities of India must strengthen the monitoring below CAMPA as proper now it is vitally weak,” he stated.