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Foresters taken for mines ride

Bhubaneswar, Aug. 10: Take car and computers to grant mining in areas covered with green.

Documents available with The Telegraph show how the forest and environment department mandarins over the past eight years begged for Scorpio, Ambassador, Sumo, Bolero, computers and even a fax machine!

While former forest and environment secretary S.P. Nanda (now agriculture production commissioner) was given a Tata Sumo Victa (OR-02AJ-1755) by Nalco, principal chief conservator of forests P.R. Mohanty used an Ambassador Avigo (OR-02AH-0955 purchased on November 14, 2005) and a Mahindra Scorpio (OR-02AH 4081 purchased on January 13, 2006) given by Nalco and Jindal Steel and Power Limited. In the document, former chief conservator of forests (nodal) and now special secretary of forest and environment department P.N. Padhi was shown using an Ambassador (OR-02AC-6864) given by Keypee Eterprises in 2004.

It’s not just vehicles, the department also did not think twice over using two IBM computers and a fax machine given by MCL, Tata Steel and Keypee Enterprises as favour.

The papers show that the department is justifying the supply of vehicles, computer and fax for the services rendered by it in forest diversion proposals of various steel, aluminium, coal and mining companies.

If an area to be mined comes under forest areas, the forest department recommends for forest diversion of that area to the Union forest and environment ministry. The Forest and Advisory Committee of the ministry then gives green signal to the forest diversion following which the companies go ahead with their mining plans.

While Tata Steel gave a Bolero (OR-05K-7262), a Spacio (0R-02AH-7173), three Ambassadors (0R-05W-3695, 0R-05W-3696, 0R-02AH-3694) in 2006 against the Joda West iron ore mines, Tiringipahar manganese mines, Bamebari manganese mines and Khandabandh iron and manganese mines in 2006, Nalco gave the Ambassador against its bauxite mining in Panchpatmail hills in Koraput district.

However, Nanda denied the revelation. “The allegations are scandalous. I have never used any vehicle given by any mining companies during my stint in the department,” he said.

State forest secretary Hrusikesh Panda was not available for comment.

Orissa has lost 472sqkm of forest in two years according to the forest survey of india report. It has also lost more than 12sqkm of mangrove.

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