Forest guards no match to smugglers

the tribune , Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Correspondent : Nishikant Dwivedi
Yamunanagar, December 14

The ill-equipped guards of the Kalesar reserved forests spread over an area of 11,570 acres on the either side of Yamunanagar-Paonta Sahib road, are no match to the smugglers of khair wood armed with modern fire weapons and moving in trucks. The Forest Department has just two jeeps and a canter to patrol the jungle and only two guns (outdated) to fight the hi-tech smugglers.

The guards who patrol the jungle on foot or their own two-wheelers do not have firearms to challenge smugglers who are often armed with weapons, said sources. The guards do not get any travelling allowance. As per reports smugglers after khair trees often carry the wood in trucks and cross over to UP via the Yamuna, which flows like a seasonal rivulet during most part of the year.

The part of the jungle falling in the Chhachchroli area has been divided into four parts having 15 beats with one guard in each beat. Similarly there are 17 beats in four blocks of the forest falling in the Kalesar area of the district.

It is the wireless sets (about 42) with the Forest Department, which helps the guards and officials perform their duties.

The forest department has erected “nakkas” on several entry points to the jungle but all gates on the “nakkas” are broken and smugglers allegedly take their trucks inside the jungle to carry khair wood. It is pertinent to mention here that the jungles are a ‘no-entry zone’.

As per reports smugglers take the help of people living in villages situated along the forest. The locals are a great help to the smugglers, as they know all routes to the jungle. The Forest Department has blacklisted some of the villages.

Lack of coordination among the forest officials of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal and UP is only helping the smugglers. Officials of the four states hold regular meetings but no joint drive has been undertaken in the recent past to check smuggling or poaching in the jungle.

As per sources, after felling khair trees smugglers cross over to UP via the Yamuna. Similarly, smugglers from UP enter Haryana. The Forest Department of Haryana has on several occasions seized trucks with khair wood from the forest area falling in UP.

An official in the Forest Department claimed that smugglers were more active in the areas falling in UP and Himachal Pradesh. He said some time ago, the UP Government had suspended some Forest Range Officers and issued showcause notices to district forest officials. He also claimed that khair wood seized during the past few months were felled from forests of Himachal and UP and not Haryana.

District Forest Official Jagmohan Sharma admitted that the department did not have sufficient weapons to fight the smugglers. Mr Sharma, however, claimed that the department had been able to a check smuggling. He said that a proposal for procurement of weapons was sent to the department but no action had been taken so far.

SOURCE : The Tribune, Wednesday, December 15, 2004

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