SHIVAMOGGA: A Range Forest Officer, who was clearing encroachment as per a Supreme Court order at Masaruru reserve forest in Shivamogga, has been transferred following alleged political pressure.
Ripponpet RFO G Hanumanthayya has been transferred to Muthodi territorial forest in Chikkamagaluru, 21 days after he took part in a drive against encroachment at the forest in Hosanagara taluk, during which a farmer, who was part of a protesting crowd, died.
The transfer order, issued by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests on Friday, cited ‘administrative interest’ as the reason for the transfer. However, a forest officer told TNIE that Hanumanthayya was transferred due to “political pressure mounted on the department”.
“The problem occurs when the department clears land grabbed by big encroachers as they are influential persons,” the officer said.
Sources said that the farmer’s death was not the only reason for the officer’s transfer and that it had to do with his strict action against encroachers. A senior officer from the forest department said that they are first going after encroachment done by landlords on forest land measuring 6-15 acres. “This is when politicians interfere and get the officers transferred. We will continue to clear encroachment by small and big encroachers,” the officer said.
The forest department sources said that the farmer Lakshmanappa (80), who died on November 16 during a protest against the drive, was not an encroacher and that his death was a coincidence.
“Hanumanthayya was leading the drive with other officers to clear encroachment of 180 acres of land in Masaruru reserve forest,” the senior officer said. “Though other officers were there, only Hanumanthayya was targeted,” said another officer.
After Lakshmanappa’s death, some politicians, along with the villagers, took his body to the RFO office at Arasalu and kept it there till 12.30 am. The body was buried the next day after a postmortem was conducted, which stated the cause of his death as blockage of arteries. Based on a complaint filed by the son of the deceased, the Ripponpet Police had registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against Hanumanthayya.