BENGALURU:The Forest Department had promised a fair and transparent inquiry into the alleged violations committed by Chikkamagaluru Honorary Wildlife Warden Satish Gowda.
However, local wildlife experts allege that senior district forest officials are trying to bury the case. They say that instead of taking action by arresting the warden, they (senior district forest officials) are browbeating the officials of the forest mobile squad who had booked three forest offence cases against Gowda on January 13.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Vinay Luthra told Express that investigations were on. He said, “If any violation has been committed in the forest land, I do not think anybody, including senior officials, can bury the issue as forest offence cases have already been booked. Our working is transparent and investigations will continue. We will take the case to its logical conclusion. If he has built a road in forest land or illegally drawn water from a forest stream or encroached on forest land in the Bhadra or Masagali Reserve areas, action will be initiated as per forest laws. But if it is outside the forest zone, we cannot do anything.”
ACF G Venkatesh, forest mobile squad, Chikkamagaluru Circle, said he had booked cases as per existing forest laws where his investigations had revealed 100 per cent violation. The ACF added, “There have been efforts to dilute the case. In fact, the RFO concerned, who turned a blind eye to the continuing violations all these months, has submitted a report to higher officials that there is no case and Gowda has not done anything. My authority and jurisdiction have been questioned. Now, I have been given seven days time to file my reply to the three memos that I have received from senior officers since the filing of the case against Satish Gowda.”
Adding to this, Wildlife Conservationist D V Girish said, “Instead of questioning and arresting the alleged offender, efforts are on to suppress the case because of Gowda’s high connections. Further, all evidence has been destroyed and even the water pipeline that had been constructed has been dismantled. There is a collusion between officials and the offender. When an FIR has been filed and investigations are on, why should the senior officials interfere without even waiting for the preliminary inquiry report?”
It may be recalled that three forest offence cases were booked against Satish Gowda on January 13 by the state Forest Department for allegedly building a diversion road in Masagali Reserve, illegally drawing water from a forest stream and grabbing land in a notified area.