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Top officials of the Orissa Forest Department have been rewarded with luxury cars and vehicles for looking the other way and allowing companies or individuals to carry out mining or other illegal activity on forestland.
Now, thanks to an RTI filed by an activist, it might become clear where those vehicles really came from.
The fleet of cars at Aranya Bhawan headquarters does not belong to the Orissa Forest Department.
They come as gifts from various companies, a thank you for allowing them to mine or carry out industrial activity on forestland.
The Orissa Forest Department has got 40 such vehicles including luxury cars being used by top officials now.
Act of extortion
This can be interpreted as an act of extortion under the garb of legality and activists say it's plain and simple - bribing.
While forest guards and field officials don't have patrol vehicles, top officials have quite openly asked various companies for air-conditioned luxury cars.
This led green activist Biswajit Mohanty to file a petition under the RTI Act.
''This is a very incestuous relationship because the department is supposed to be a regulatory agency. This is totally condemnable, this is unethical and I would say this is illegal to a large extent. How can you expect an officer to take action against a mine, which has given him a vehicle?,'' said Biswajit Mohanty, Environmentalist.
Fortunately, the new state Forest Secretary is open to investigating the matter.
''Yes, I think someone did tell me about it and I shall surely look into it. In fact, when someone told me this I said, no, I will not use that car and I said I would use a government vehicle. So let's see how it's happening and why it is happening,'' said Hrishikesh Panda, Secretary, Forest & Environment.
Such practices do raise questions about top officials who decide on whether or not forestland is to be allotted for mining and other industrial purposes.
So the least the department can do now is return the cars and make sure it doesn't happen again.
NDTV.com: Orrisa forest officials under scanner
BU comes under KIC scanner
BANGALORE: Bangalore University is set to pay a heavy price for letting lakhs of files gather dust for over 25 years. The Karnataka Information Commission has taken note of BUâ€™s failure to digitize its documents, as mandated under the Right to Information Act, and asked the varsity to explain why it has not done so.
The KIC has also threatened BU with a hefty penalty if it doesnâ€™t digitize the data soon. What triggered the direction is BUâ€™s failure to provide information and allow inspection of files under RTI.
Though the Herculean task is set to cost BU crores, the varsity doesnâ€™t really have a choice. According to the Act, all public authorities â€” varsities included â€” must maintain their records duly catalogued and indexed, computerized and accessible across the country.
Moreover, BU should have published details with regard to its functioning within 120 days of the enactment of the Act.
State Information Commissioner H N Krishna told The Times of India: "The information should have been posted on the website by October 15, 2005. Failure to comply with norms has lead to numerous complaints landing before the commission."
Over thousands of files are opened and maintained every month at BU. These pertain to issues like individual payments, academic activities, receipts of grants from different agencies, resolutions of governing bodies (Syndicate and academic council), results, marks cards and convocation.
"The cost of collating the information, scanning it and other processes will run up to several crores. Financial implications apart, who will perform such a laborious task?" said university officials.
But KIC is in no mood to listen. The case is expected to come up before it on January 8.
BU comes under KIC scanner-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India