An order issued by the Forest department last week directing its officials to stop all works being executed under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) scheme has triggered a major controversy. While the officer who issued the order said he did not issue the directive on his own, the Forest Minister, however, distanced himself from the move, saying "I have not passed any such direction."
"It is reiterated that all works under the scheme shall be stopped forthwith and no additional expenditure shall be incurred till further direction is issued to resume the works," reads the order (PCCF/CAMPA-141-80) issued by Chaturbugha Behera, CCF, CAMPA.
The order mentions that Forest Minister, during a review meeting of CAMPA on February 18, had desired that further works shall be stopped under the program till further orders.
However, Forest Minister Choudhary Lal Singh this evening told Greater Kashmir that he has not passed any such direction.
He said the officer has been attached "for misleading the public."
When contacted, Behera, a senior IFS officer, said he did not issue the order on his own.
"The PCCF also went through the order and made some corrections in it before it was issued," he said.
Sources, however, said the officer had opposed a proposal of Forest Minister Lal Singh in a meeting held on February 18 in Jammu.
"The officer, without entering into an argument with the Minister, clearly told him that one of his proposals was impracticable as rules don't permit it," sources said.
An official spokesman this evening said the government today attached CCF, S&D/CAMPA, Chaturbugha Behera. "He shall report to the Project Chief, IWDP, Jammu," he said.
The spokesman quoted Lal Singh as saying that strict action would be taken against officials for providing misleading figures to the general public for their vested interests.
The directive has triggered controversy at a time when Forest department has come under sharp criticism for diversion of funds meant for Kashmir.
As already reported by Greater Kashmir, the Wildlife department has mooted a proposal to withdraw Rs three crore from Kashmir to spend these in Jammu region under CAMPA scheme.
Asked why funds of Kashmir region were being diverted, Lal Singh told Greater Kashmir: "Where will we spend (funds) when situation is bad in Kashmir?" "We are spending Rs 400 crore on Wular Lake in Kashmir," the minister added quickly.
"It is not diversion. We are spending savings which we could not utilize in Kashmir due to disturbances," Suresh Chugh, Chief Wildlife Warden, Wildlife Protection Department, had told Greater Kashmir yesterday.
In August last year, the 12th Steering Committee meeting of the CAMPA had approved an outlay of Rs 68.28 Crore for Forest department. According to sources, the panel had proposed lion's share for Jammu region in the funds. "The share proposed for Kashmir was half of what was proposed for Jammu region," they said.