2 yrs on, CID clueless who started Bandipur fire

2 yrs on, CID clueless who started Bandipur fire

Two years after a massive forest fire destroyed over 1,000 hectares of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Kappatagudda in Gadag district, officials are still groping in the dark about the cause of the blaze.

The CID, which took over the case after a delay of three months, is yet to submit any report. On February 18, 2017, a high-intensity fire had raged through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Kappatagudda. A forest guard was also killed while trying to douse the fire.

Senior CID officials said there were several theories about the possible cause of the fire, but they didn’t have evidence to support them as the case was handed over to them three months after the incident.

Initial probe revealed it was a man-made disaster. Some suspected that miscreants who were partying in the forest area caused the fire, while others said that locals and tribals, who had some issues with the Forest Department over employment opportunities, were behind the incident.

The then chief minister Siddaramaiah had pulled up forest officials for not visiting the spot and taking up the investigation. He handed over the case to the CID’s Special Enquiry cell months later.

CID officials said that by the time they arrived at the scene, there was no evidence left. “It was a forest fire. What can the CID do after a gap of three months? There was no evidence on the ground. If the case was handed over to us immediately, we could have rushed to the spot and traced some evidence that would have led us to the culprits,” they said.

The officials said that it was impossible to check if anyone had a party or held a campfire, or whether locals with animosity towards the forest officials caused the fire.

Another officer said that the local police, with collaboration of forest officials, could have done a better job. “Even though the case is handed over to the CID, we take the help of local police and forest officials. We only monitor the investigation,” the officer said.