Shimla, April 11 (IANS) The decision to set up forest police stations or ‘van thanas’ in Himachal Pradesh to combat organised forest crimes was not planned that resulted in non-utilisation of infrastructure worth Rs 4.04 crore, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has said.
The decision to commission ‘van thanas’ was initiated in 2008 by then state Forest Minister J.P. Nadda, who is now Union Health Minister.
As per the policy, four to six forest beats were to be clubbed together to form a ‘van thana’ which would function as collective entity, both for developmental and enforcement purposes.
The staff of each forest police station was to be equipped with wireless sets, mobile phones, vehicles and arms to control forest offences and nab offenders.
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests accorded administrative approval for construction of building of 13 forest police stations for Rs 3.94 crore.
Eleven forest police stations, whose buildings were specially constructed, could not be made fully functional due to failure of the department to provide requisite staff, communication system and arms and ammunition, said the CAG.
Deployment of existing staff of forest beats to police stations in addition to their normal duties hampered the development works as well as detection of forest offences.
Against 37,705 offences reported in the state from 2011 to 2014, only 407 (one per cent) were detected through the forest police station.
As a result, the policy of the forest police station was abolished by the government in September 2014.
Evidently, the ‘van thanas’ established without proper planning and did not achieve the intended objective and investment of Rs 4.04 crore on the constructing buildings was rendered largely unproductive, said the auditor.
Himachal Pradesh was the second state at that time after Madhya Pradesh where the special task force had been raised to check forest crimes.
The total geographical area of Himachal Pradesh is 55,673 sq km, of which 66.5 per cent i.e. 37,033 sq km is classified as forest region.
The state is one of the storehouses of the biodiversity in the country. Of the 45,000 species of flora species found in the country, 3,295 species are found in Himachal Pradesh.