Forest smugglers 'exploiting' lockdown in Bhadarwah

The ongoing lockdown is being exploited by forest smugglers in this town of Doda district.

Officials registered more than a dozen cases against smugglers even as the Forest Department along with Police have stepped up efforts to check such smuggling incidents amid COVID19 lockdown.

According to official reports as many as 1286.9 cubic feet timber extracted illegally from green cedars and pine trees and nine heavy mechanical diesel cutters have been seized from Tanta Panchayat in Chirala Range of BFD alone.

According to reports, as many as 10 cases have been registered so for, while 14 culprits (including two arrested) booked and 14 saw mills sealed in Neeru Range in the last 4 days.

DFO Bhadarwah Chander Shekhar expressed concern over the increasing deforestation in the surrounding urban areas. “We have verified the incidents and found that people are taking advantage of the lack of movement during the lockdown to steal the forest wealth and use diesel cutters which inflict maximum damage in minimum time. As during the lockdown, officials and staffers of the department could not move and miscreants see an opportunity in this,” the official said.

The DFO stated that the department has requested the JKP and FPF (Forest Protection Police) to help fight forest mafia. “They have readily assured us full support and we have already started joint operations.”

The officer stated that the night patrolling has been intensified as a result, last night two smugglers who were stealing timber from Divisional office Bhadarwah were nabbed by the vigilant staff and handed over to police.

“To tighten the noose against the forest mafia, I along with SP Bhadarwah Raj Singh Gouria and Deputy Director FPF Mohinder Thakur raided Tanta and Trainkal Panchayats of Chirala Range and seized 9 mechanical diesel cutters which are illegal to use,” DFO said.

“A dossier has been also made against the habitual offenders and who are taking advantage of the lockdown and they will be soon booked under PSA,” officer added.