Forest officials dismissed over tree felling

113 trees in Baloor reserve forest in Chikmagalur were felled in 2007

In an unprecedented move, the State Forest Department, on June 25, dismissed a range forest officer (RFO) and two others in connection with mass felling of trees in the evergreen forest patch of Baloor in Chikmagalur district.

Setting an example for those found shirking their responsibility, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) B K Singh dismissed RFO M C Surendra and Deputy Range Forest Officer (DFRO) K M Ramachandra from service, while stopping increments for DFROs G E Manjegowda and T Shivappa.

Charges not proved

The officers were placed under suspension following felling of 113 trees in Baloor reserve forest of Mudigere range in Chikmagalur division in 2007. Despite an inquiry which dragged on till October 2012, with a report by former District Judge G Raghavendra Rao stated that the charges could not be proved against the officials.

However, the PCCF, analysing the evidence and statement of officials found them guilty of dereliction of duty. “Statements that trees felled were not of girth more than one metre are not correct. Trucks intercepted on February 1, 2007, were transporting trees with girth more than two metres.

The duty of range forest officer is to protect the forest. Such large-scale felling took place for over a period of one or one-and-a-half months and would not have happened without the knowledge of jurisdictional officers. It could have been prevented if he had taken action to do so,” the PCCF order observed.

No beat officer

“Shifting the blame on Deputy Conservator of Forests, stating that there was no beat officer appointed, cannot be accepted as there are hundreds of beats without any protection and the duty to protect forests rests with the RFO.”

Stating that the finding of the inquiry officer that the charge has not been proved is unacceptable, Singh ordered the dismissal of the forest officers.

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