Purushottam Patra, Gariaband. Hundreds of years old and tall green teak trees were cut down in the South Salhebhath bit of Risgaon area, which is considered the core area of the Udanti Sitanadi Sanctuary. In which a sensational case of collusion of forest officers posted in the same area has come to light. 'Pushpa Gang' is active in this area bordering Navrangpur, Odisha, which was continuously carrying out the harvesting in connivance with the tainted officers and personnel of the sanctuary. In the 350-page report submitted by Deputy Director Varun Jain to PCCF on January 30, the dark deeds of the tainted officers have been mentioned with proof.
Confirming the report, Varun Jain said that apart from many technical facts found during the action taken from September to January, after confirming the information received from the informer, we investigated by connecting the links minutely for three months. In which direct and indirect involvement of SDO Mehtar Ram Sahu, Deputy Ranger Devsharan Sahu, Forest Guard Keshav Pandey and daily wage earner Nimesh Yadav was found. A detailed report has been sent and action has been recommended.
Investigation started after recovery of timber in September
On September 26, the anti-poaching team of the sanctuary raided several houses in Sonpur village of Navrangpur district and recovered teak furniture and furniture worth lakhs of rupees. This area was at a distance of 15 km from the border of the Tiger Reserve. During interrogation it was found that they were coming from the core area of the Teak Sanctuary. It was told that these artisans associated with West Bengal supply furniture to the famous places of Odisha apart from the businessmen of Andhra Pradesh and Calcutta. The informer of the anti-poaching team also hinted at departmental collusion in this big game of smuggling. From the same day, the team of Deputy Director Varun Jain started investigating the case. After this input, Varun Jain first inspected the Khallari bit. Where remains of general harvesting were found.
Supply network broken after action
After the network was found from Sonpur, the anti-poaching team started keeping an eye on the people involved besides the supply network. New field personnel were also deployed at some places. Meanwhile, on December 25, the new forest watchman Uday Ram posted at Salhebhatha Bit informed Deputy Ranger Devsharan Sahu about the entry of the Orissa gang into the core area on 15 bicycles equipped with wood cutting tools. But they not only refused to take action by saying that they were busy with other work, but also tried to mislead the watchman by saying that the smugglers were ordinary villagers who had come for puja.
The Deputy Director has stated in the report submitted to the PCCF that after receiving information from the Forest Watcher, the Inti Poaching Team stopped 15 accused cyclists who were carrying teak sleepers. In the operation that lasted for two days, only three accused were caught along with 15 cycles. Based on the information, when Varun Jain's team inspected Salhebhatha Bit, more than 250 trees were found cut there. 135 trees were recovered. The smugglers had taken away most of the trees. The count of felling of trees in other 3 bits bordering Risgaon area is yet to be counted. Investigation revealed that this harvesting was going on for the last 6 months. A gang from Kandatra and Rajpur of Odisha was involved in this. Who, on the lines of Pushpa Gang, used to take timber from the forests and sell it to the Bengali artisans of Sonpur.
The accused absconded
It has been told in the report how the responsible officers kept encouraging the smugglers. The three accused arrested on December 26 were brought to Risgaon office. The anti-poaching team had given information about the entire action to SDO Mehtar Sahu. According to the rules, the SDO had to record the statement of the arrested accused. But this did not happen. Even during the raid in Odisha, SDO Sahu had not completed the warrant process. Due to which the action was delayed and taking advantage of this, some accused got a chance to recover. The negligence reached its limit when in the presence of the SDO, two smugglers managed to escape from the custody of his favorite Deputy Ranger Devsharan Sahu. The data of patrolling app of forest worker Nimesh Yadav revealed that he had been repeatedly alerting Odisha for several months before the action in Rajpur area. It is mentioned in the report that the responsibility of security was given to dismissed forest guard Keshav Pandey and his involvement was also found based on various information received. It has also been told that SDO Sahu has asked other personnel officers dedicated to the work in the departmental WhatsApp group of Sub Forest Division not to go to the field on Saturday and Sunday. Whose screen shot has also been attached in the report.
Complaint trick to avoid action
As soon as they got wind of the collusion, the sanctuary administration started taking help from the police. With the help of Dhamtari Cyber Cell, the anti-poaching team continued the action against teak smugglers in January also. Till now 7 smugglers have been sent to jail. 11 are still absconding. Seeing the clampdown being tightened on the SDO accused of collusion, SDO MR Sahu complained to the PCCF raising questions on anti-poaching and the working style of Varun Jain. In his complaint, the SDO has tried to justify the team's activism by citing elephants and Naxal affected areas. The SDO also kept raising questions on the appointment of Range Officer and deployment of new personnel in Risgaon range by the Deputy Director to fight smugglers. Not only this, a complaint has been lodged in Sihawa police station by using forest employee Nimesh Yadav as a pawn. In which Deputy Director Varun Jain and the team have been accused of assault and abuse. Whose investigation is ongoing.
In this case, SDO Mehtar Ram Sahu termed all the allegations against him as baseless and said that he has filed a complaint against Jain with proofs. They are not working as per their position and have been taking wrong actions. Not treating employees properly. If departmental investigation and action is not taken, I will go to court.
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