Sugandhagiri tree cutting: Action to be taken against 18 forest staff

Forest department officials who failed in supervisory duties also accepted bribes from the accused.
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

KOZHIKODE : Additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF, Vigilance) L Chandrasekhar has submitted the investigation report in the Sugandhagiri illegal tree cutting case to the government. According to the report, Wayanad forest department officials who failed in their supervisory duties also accepted bribes from the accused. The report has suggested action against Wayanad South DFO A Shajna and Kalpetta range forest officer Neethu.

Meanwhile, Forest Minister A K Saseendran expressed shock at the findings. “It has been found that the forest department officials are responsible for the serious lapse. What makes the incident more serious is that high-level officials were involved in the scam. We have come to know that the officers, including the DFO, knew of the matter and pretended otherwise. The chief of the vigilance wing has been instructed to take immediate action against the erring officers soon,” the minister said at a press conference in Kozhikode.

The probe report mentions the names of 18 forest officials -- Shajna, Neethu, flying squad range officer M Sajeevan, deputy range officer Beeran Kutty, Kalpetta beat forest officers C S Vishnu, P Siyad Hassan, Najeeb, I V Kiran, K S Chaithanya, Saji Prasad, M K Vinod Kumar and Balan, Kalpetta section forest watchers R Vincent, P G Vineesh, K Lakshmi, A A Janu and Johnson; and Kalpetta section forest officer K K Chandran.

Among them, Chandran, Johnson, Saji Prasad, M K Vinod Kumar and Balan are under suspension.

APCCF Chandrashekar said while some officers were complicit in looting, some failed in their supervisory duties while others did not inspect the logging. A few of the officials failed to take strict action when they found out about the illegal logging, and others took money from loggers.

A lookback into the case

The case involves the illegal logging of trees on the lands allotted to 750 Scheduled Tribes families in Sugandhagiri of the Pozhuthana grama panchayat in the Kalpetta range forest under the South Wayanad Division during the Indira Gandhi government as part of the Sugandhagiri Cardamom project. The accused people axed over 130 large trees while they had permission to cut only 20 trees.

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