Palamau Tiger Reserve, where one of the two Koonki elephants were supposed to be brought from Assam
Ranchi, Sept. 16: The conservator of forests (wildlife), Ranchi division, has written to top officials demanding a probe into an elephant purchase scam that has come to light eight years after embezzlement of funds to the tune of Rs 5 lakh went unnoticed.
The scam relates to the purchase of two Koonki elephants — a captive species trained to tame wild jumbos or drive away rampaging herds from human habitation and agricultural fields — which never materialised.
According to sources, the Ranchi conservator of forests’ office identified the fraud on July 23.
The letters, a copy of which is with The Telegraph, have been sent to the chief conservator of forests and principal chief conservator of forests.
In 2004-05, under a centrally sponsored scheme, the state forest department had mooted a plan to procure two Koonki elephants for Dalma sanctuary and Palamau Tiger Reserve.
With man-animal conflicts prevalent in Jharkhand, especially during the migratory season of elephants during which they run amok in paddy fields and homes, the forest department had selected an Assam-based vendor, Parwati Barua, after floating a tender for supplying the animals.
On March 31, 2005, the department made 50 per cent payment (Rs 1.75 lakh) to the vendor through a demand draft for procurement of the elephants on an urgent basis.
A couple of official teams were also sent on successive trips to Assam (on flights) for purchasing the elephants.
Though the elephants never arrived, a year later on March 30, the vendor received a second and final instalment as payment.
“When the elephants did not arrive, why was the final payment made?” the letter questions categorically.
What is even more befuddling is that an amount of no less than Rs 2.5 lakh was shown in the logbooks as expenses for maintenance of the elephants.
A source in the forest department, who did not wish to be named, said, “Funds for procurement of the elephants had arrived from the Centre, which were clearly pocketed by corrupt officials in connivance with the vendor. Had it not been the case, then when the teams went to Assam to follow up on the deal, why were the elephants not brought then and there? Also, we don’t have any report of the team nor the officials involved in the purchase.”
Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) A.K. Malhotra was not available for comments.
However, a source close to the official said that the culprits would be soon brought to book.
“After the matter came to light, we are working hard to find where the lapses occurred. Eight years ago, there were various officials, many of who may have retired. We will soon serve a legal notice to the Assam-based vendor as well and then take whatever actions are needed,” he added.