News : ‘Hello Forest’ Helpline Nails Corrupt Bhandara Foresters
Nagpur, India, March, 2017 -- The Maharashtra forest department's 24x7 'Hello Forest' toll free helpline 1926 is proving handy for the people and at the same time it is helping to unmask foresters, especially those involved in corrupt practices.
In the latest case, a complaint on helpline 1926 by an alert resident Raju Tumsare, of Kardi in Mohadi tehsil and a wildlife lover from Injewada near Koka in Bhandara district has put a round officer and a forest guard in trouble for corruption.
According to sources, a deer was electrocuted on February 14, in the farm of one Dhote in Injewada close to Koka Wildlife Sanctuary. When forester WR Khan and forest guard VD Dongre learnt about the incident they approached the farmer and after a deal buried the herbivore on February 15, without conducting post-mortem and termed it as a natural death. Chowkidar Maroti Agashe too was involved.
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When alert Tumsare and a wildlife lover learnt about it, they called up helpline 1926. The complaint was transferred to higher ups who found the complaint on helpline to be true.
The carcass of the deer was exhumed on February 16, and later burned in the Koka rest house premises. The role of livestock development officer (LDO) concerned, who issued post-mortem report that the deer died a natural death, has also come under scanner .
The Nagpur Circle chief conservator of forests (CCF) TSK Reddy has ordered an inquiry into the matter. He directed assistant conservator of forests (ACF) Manohar Gokhale to submit a report.
Reddy said, "It is good that 1926 has now a wider reach for common man. It has exposed a case which we would have never known had the helpline not been active. I will see to it that action is taken against such staff."
This is not the first case of corruption against Khan. Earlier, as reported by TOI on October 17, Khan was involved in preparing fake vouchers to pay wages to dead persons for various plantation and soil conservation works in Bhandara range, but senior officers gave him a clean chit for reasons known to them.
Since the launch of the 1926 helpline on January 5, at least 300 calls are received daily but most of them are prank calls. Call centre officials said, "We pass on the information to respective divisions in case of serious calls about poaching, forest fires, illicit felling, grazing etc."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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