Panaji: Congress on Tuesday came down heavily on the Forest department for attempting to shield influential persons and grilled South Goa District deputy conservator of Forest Mr. Premkumar IFS, for not registering ‘Forest Offense Report’ against Legislative Assembly Speaker Ramesh Tawadkar and his accomplices for felling trees and transporting it illegally in Canacona.
Girish Chodankar, former Chief of Goa Pradesh Congress Committee, Congress leader Elvis Gomes and other members also asked why suo-moto cognizance in tree felling incident was not taken and why the dilly-dally approach was adopted is investigating the complaint lodged by Janardhan Bhandari and Vikas Bhagat, both locals from Canacona. It may be recalled that news of a recent case of transportation of truck loads of timber was sent to a government run carpentry without documents had gone viral on social media.
Speaking to reporters, Chodankar stated that the allegation against Ramesh Tawadkar of encouraging deforestation is of serious kind and it should be investigated thoroughly and he should be booked under the forest act.
“Common man can’t cut the trees even if they are endangering peoples lives. Common man would have been booked if involved in felling trees even from their own backyard. But here the law for Tawadkar is different and forest officials have given him liberty to do whatever he wants,” Chodankar said.
“Some of these trees were from a wildlife sanctuary, how can they be transported. Forest department has no right to issue permits for transportation. They should have taken Suo-moto cognizance, but they have not done it while working at the behest of law makers,” Chodankar added.
“If forest officials were serious about the allegation on Tawadkar, they should have seized the trees and initiated an inquiry. But they have not done it,” he said.
Elvis Gomes said that the Forest Offense Report (FOR) should have been registered against those involved in felling of trees.
“DCF says that a committee has been appointed under Sub Divisional Forest Officer to investigate the matter. In normal cases such committees are not appointed. Forest should have registered FOR. Assuming Speaker of the house Tawadkar is not involved, still it was mandatory to register FOR more so when a complaint was lodged. People of Goa are watching” Gomes said.
He added that Janardhan Bhandari and Vikas Bhagat, both locals from Canacona, who had alleged that Ramesh Tawadkar was using his position as speaker were facing police harassment to cause them to withdraw their complaint.
Congress has warned of more protests if thorough investigation is not done in this case. GPCC General secretaries Varad Mardolkar & Archit Naik, Block presidents Parag Sabnis & Anwar Sayed, Mrs. Carmen Vaz, Floy Miranda, Yogesh Narvekar, Seby Menezes Kenisha Menezes, Wilma Fernandes among others also spoke
Meanwhile, the DCF has assured the delegation that culprits will be booked in a day or two based on inputs of the committee and that the Committee’s report would be made public and action would be initiated based on its findings.