Sep 16, 2014
PILIBHIT: A team of Pilibhit tiger reserve trapped seven illegal fellers carrying jungle wood on bicycles through a major road on Monday. However, six of their aides managed to escape. The forest team recovered 20 quintals of jungle wood from the fellers. The cycles and the recovered wood have been seized by the staff and a case has been registered against the illegal fellers under the sections of Indian Forest Act as well as the Wildlife Protection Act. Mahof forest range official KP Singh told TOI that the illegal fellers had cut the wood from Mahof forest range which they were carrying on bicycles for sale. He added that police’s help would be sought to nab the other six accused. Here, it is worth mentioning that before the notification of Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, it was a common practice of the forest department to permit villagers living near forest areas to collect dry and fallen branches of trees, which would be used as fire wood. Taking benefit of this policy, thousands of villagers started visiting the jungle area on a daily basis, which led to unrestricted felling.
Villagers, however, allege that the present malpractice of illegal felling was started by forest employees long back when they retained some amount of daily wages of contract labourers, and in lieu of this allow them to cut trees and take the wood. In due course of time, hundreds of other villagers who were not at all concerned with the forest work also engaged themselves in illegal felling comprehending it as a profitable business. They were allowed to cut the trees and transport the wood by bicycles as the forest staff members stealthily started to take money from these illegal fellers. But after July 30, when the state administration suspended 23 forest personnel, including officers like DFO, SDO and the range officers, on the report of a secret inquiry on massive illegal felling in Pilibhit forest region in nexus with the forest employees, the departmental staff has now started to keep a vigil on the activities of illegal fellers. Range officer KP Singh said the fellers can face imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of Rs 25,000 if proved guilty. He added that after the notification of Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, entry of any civilian in forest region without prior permission of a competent forest authority would be termed as a punishable offence.
As posted in Ttimesofindia.indiatimes.com