Felling Of Pine Trees In Jammu And Kashmir, Minister Admits To Big Nexus

11 June 2015
Sheikh Zaffar Iqbal

Doda: Felling of trees is rampant in Jammu and Kashmir, where timber smugglers and forest officials are party to illegal timber trade. NDTV investigated the deep nexus between forest mafia and employees of the forest department. Pine trees are being cut down in broad daylight despite a ban in Dandi village near Baderwah city of Doda district. Locals say forest officials sell trees without permission. 'We went to the forest department and asked for timber for the construction of our house, they said if you are in a hurry, we will get the timber delivered at your house for Rs. 60,000, as the normal it will take a lot of time, the forest officials sent the timber to my house without any receipt and I constructed my house', the local resident said. NDTV did a reality check, and our team went to a government timber depot in Bhaderwah, posing as clients for buying timber without documents. Forest officials were willing to sell a block of timber illegally for Rs. 840, saying the official price for the same is Rs. 2,200. Sources say the trees chopped from the forest are kept at specific places near the road, for forest department trucks to pick them up for illegal selling later. The stumps of the cut trees are burnt to destroy the proof. Whistle blowers are being targeted as forests are under threat of being wiped out. Ghulam Qadir of Dandi village almost lost his life, 'Supporters of the forest guard suddenly attacked me with axes and sticks and beat me. The jungle mafia is hand in glove with the people from the forest department', he told NDTV. The state government has started a helpline number for the whistle-blowers, and a reward shall be paid to those who give information about timber smuggling. 'This is a very big nexus, at some places forest officials are also involved, but the whole of the forest department is not like that, some people are there, who we have identified some and we will take strict action against them', said Bali Bhagat, state forest minister.