|Early Times Report|
JAMMU, Jan 14: At a time when the J&K Union Territory (UT) administration is conducting awareness camps at various levels on Forest Right Act (FRA), incidents of misbehaviour and extortion of money from the gullible villagers by the officials of Forest Range Kalakote have come to light.
The UT administration for the smooth implementation of Central law, FRA in J&K, is conducting awareness camps at Panchayat, Block, Tehsil and district levels. But in Kalakote reports of misbehavior with villagers including females and extortion of poor people by some Forest officials today landed in office of Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Kalakote.
"A deputation of villagers form Panchayat Traru-B of Mohgla Block submitted a written complaint in the office of ADC wherein they narrated their daily sufferings and harassment at the hands of forest officials", said Liaqat Ali, one of the members of the deputation.
He said that there were over a dozen people who are ready to give their statement before any government agency regarding the demand of extortion by the forest officials.
"Forester, Zakir Hussain and a Forest Guard, Gulshan have made our lives hell. We cannot bring fodder for our cattle and livestock even from our own land", he said, adding that these officials drink alcohol and roam in our village abusing everybody without any reason.
"Our girls and women feel insecure when they go to fetch drinking water, both these officials block their way and abuse them and some time they even try to touch them inappropriately while they returned carrying earthen pot of water", said Mohd Tufail, who was allegedly duped by these officials for providing wooden logs for repairing of his kachha house.
"Forest Guard Gulshan demanded Rs 15000 from me and assured that he will get the required permission from higher authorities for cutting logs for construction of my kachha house. Since I'm a daily wage labourer, I find it convenient to pay him money to get my work done, instead of making rounds of government offices", he said and added it has been two years when he paid money, but the Guard was not giving him the permission as was promised.
"Not only me, they (Forester and Guard) extracted Rs 14000 from Mohd Shabir, Rs 12000 from Mohd Issaq and few others as well, but now when somebody ask them for wooden logs and permission, they abuse us and threaten to kill us if we do not sit silent", he said.
"We met ADC Kalakot and submitted a complaint. The ADC assured us action against the erring forest officials", they said.
When contacted ADC Kalakote Krishan Lal said that he has directed concerned Range Forest Officer for submitting a report and action would be taken against erring forest officials for harassing the villagers.