Growing plants on paper

The story of an RTI activist who shook the whole system

Er. Irfan Banka
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jul 10 2016 8:36PM | Updated Date: Jul 10 2016 8:36PM
Growing plants on paperRepresentational Image

Thanks to the social networking site ‘facebook’ which brought my attention towards the environmental week celebrations in Jammu & Kashmir. It was Professor Wilayat Razvi’s post on facebook about environment day being celebrated in Amar Singh College, which made me google out how the World Environment Week was celebrated in J&K this year. 

People pay tax one way or the other and the government organizes funds for the protection and development of environment. We celebrate environment week to keep our environment healthy and save our future. But at the same time our money, people’s money, is being misappropriated by the government officials of Forest Department. Normally, the Forest Department Employees should have been safeguarding the forests, but the truth is different… though it may not apply to all.

Our brother Activist Nazir Ahmad, famous as “Nazir RTI”, from Shunglipora Khag, who is having great interest in social activities is very close to Tossamaidan, the King of Meadows, falling in neighborhood of his house. Nazir has filed many RTI Applications for the safety of environment and to act against corruption. It is already on record that Mr Nazir had filed first RTI regarding Tossamaidan when it was felt difficult and almost impossible to save this king of meadows from the threat of the army. But now when all that has been possible and the army has left from the Tossamaidan, there is an another threat emerging for forests of this area and that is forest department employees. Mr Nazir has again tried to save the forests of this area from its new enemies “the forest department officials”. An RTI Application was filed in Pir Panjal Forest Division, Budgam by Nazir RTI. The information obtained shows a total expenditure of Rupees 88 43 596/= on plantations in compartment numbers S-12, S-13, S-16, S-17, S-18, S-23, S-24 from year 2010-11 upto 2014-15. The information itself reveals that only 10 percent plantation is successful in certain compartments which means a total failure. 

According to Nazir, he had requested the department several times for inspection as per Section 2(i) of the J&K RTI Act, 2009, but they delayed for several months. Finally, he was provided time for inspection on March, 24 2016. According to him the DFO had given time from 10am for the inspection of plantation. On March, 24 2016, J&K RTI Movement sent a team of Activists under Supervision of the then District Co-coordinator Er. Irfan Banka along with Nazir RTI and other activists from Shunglipora Khag for the inspection. The team observed during inspection that there is 100 percent embezzlement of public money in compartment No. 23 and 24. Lakhs of trees, both conifers and broad-leaved, claimed to have been planted by the Forest Department in the past few years in reality exist nowhere on the ground. This observation was only made by the use of “right to inspection”. While conducting inspection one of the officers managed somehow to escape from the spot as he could not show even a single planted tree. Although they had planted a few saplings before a few days for misleading the inspection team, but it did not work. In the same area, Rahim Greens in collaboration with J&K RTI Movement, had a plantation drive a year before and their saplings have grown to a large extent, all saplings were found successful as well. The result/analysis totally showed the mismanagement or embezzlement of public money in the department.

Conclusion:

Mr. Nazir had filed RTI in just one Forest Division and found such a huge embezzlement by the forest department officials. How can one expect proper management in other forest divisions of J&K? Public money is being looted away, environment is being degraded and in such a case it is not only the responsibility of the Minister but also of every individual to look around, celebrate environment week like Nazir RTI did on normal days while conducting inspections rather than conducting theoretical seminars and programs etc. in big hotels and institutes. Nazir does not know what World Environment Week/Day is? But he knows the importance of pure environment and the need to save our planet. Let's save the environment and not allow the efforts of our brothers like Nazir RTI go waste. 

Er. Irfan Banka is an RTI Activist and Secretary, In-Minds Society (J&K)

 

rti.irfanbanka@gmail.com