*Alleges concealment of facts on premature transfers
* Watch video on www.excelsiornews.com
JAMMU, Jan 30: In a major embarrassment for the Coalition Government in general and Bharatiya Janata Party in particular, MLA from Ramnagar Ranbir Singh Pathania today entered into verbal spat with the Minister for Forests and Environment Ch Lal Singh in the Legislative Assembly over ‘concealment’ of facts from the House about illegal saw mills and pre-mature transfers.
Referring to the written reply furnished to his question by the Minister for Forests and Environment, the BJP MLA from Ramnagar Ranbir Singh Pathania told the Speaker, “the reply is not complete as such there is no scope for raising supplementary question”, adding “let the Minister first give clear answer to my question”.
He was pointing towards the reply pertaining to number of illegal saw mills running in violation of orders from the court and premature transfers ordered by the Forest Department in breach of the General Administration Department circular banning such transfers.
However, the Forest Minister Ch Lal Singh said, “I stand by my reply….the answer is 100% correct. Moreover, I don’t believe in concealing facts…..what I will achieve by doing so”, adding “it is unfortunate that a MLA, who has recently been given Best Legislator Award, is unable to read the reply carefully”.
“On one side you are not ready to allow the Minister to read the answer in the House and always press for it to be considered as read and on the other side you wrongly understand the reply”, the Forest Minister further said.
Even BJP MLA was not ready to relent and said, “I too stand by my point that information has been concealed vis-a-vis number of illegal saw mills and premature transfers”. He demanded that the question be deferred because of incomplete answer.
Pointing towards the reply that licenses have been granted/renewed only to saw mills that satisfy the norms prescribed under J&K Wood Based Registration and Regulation Rules and department has seized 18 saw mills during the last three years for being in operation in violation of rules, Pathania said, “I am challenging this reply as hundreds of saw mills are still functioning illegally in connivance with the officials of the Forest Department”, adding “as far as information about premature transfers is concerned the same is vague as in order to project small number the officers below the rank of Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) prematurely transferred by the department have not been reflected in the reply”.
Reiterating that no illegal saw mill was functioning in the State, the Forest Minister said, “it is not always mandatory to follow the GAD circular on pre-mature transfers as Ministers are competent to order such transfers in the interest of the administration”, adding “all such transfers have been ordered with the approval of competent authority only as such the question of hanky-panky doesn’t arrise”.
On this, the BJP MLA from Ramnagar remarked, “the Minister is on right foot but the department is on wrong foot”. “I still demand that this question be deferred as vague reply has been given to two important parts of my question”, he added.
As there was no response either from the Speaker Kavinder Gupta or from the Forest Minister, the BJP MLA staged walkout demanding deferment of the question.
Earlier, in the written reply the Minister informed the House that 217 encroachers have grabbed 50.94 hectares of forest land at different tourist resorts in Jammu and Kashmir. While furnishing the list of encroachers, he said that 4589.66 hectares encroached land has been retrieved from the encroachers during the current year.
Asserting that the department has been geared up to end this menace, the Minister said eviction of encroachments is being linked to the performance assessment of the officers.