Aravali case: 7 forest dept men in dock
CHANDIGARH: Indicating that the Aravali ecology is very much on its mind, the Haryana government has now initiated chargesheet proceedings against seven forest department officials, including two Indian Forest Services officers, in a 10-year-old plantation scam concerning the ravaged ranges.
The matter dates back to 1999 when the state vigilance bureau noticed irregularities in a soil conservation programme and indicted the officials. The forest department had implemented a project worth Rs 35 lakh and funded by European countries in the Aravali hills to conserve soil and construct check dams. “But a vigilance probe found that work hadn’t been done properly and there was embezzlement of Rs 14.9 lakh,” said P K Gupta, financial commissioner (forests), on Friday.
Moreover, the officials “continued work on the project despite the scheme coming to an end in October 1999, inviting financial implications for the state,” said sources. Gupta added, “Instructions for the chargesheet to be made out against the accused officials, including IFS officers S M Somashekhar and S S Sikriwal, have already been issued.”
Principal chief conservator S K Dhar said the Gurgaon conservator has been asked to also file a report in this regard. Others in the line of fire are Haryana Forest Services officers B S Gulia, Jile Singh and Umashankar (now retired), range officer Attar Singh Malik and accountant Dharmbir. Sources added all seven officers were posted in the Gurgaon forest range at that time.
Defending his role as then conservator of the Gurgaon range, Somashekhar said he had left Gurgaon in 2000 while the said payments were made in 2003-04. “I’m innocent and did not play any role in the payment for project implementation,” said Somashekhar, who is presently conservator, north.