Cops slapped bill of Rs 75000 - Foresters charge Latehar police for forcibly occupying guesthouses

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  • Published 10.04.12

Ranchi, April 9: An exasperated forest department has sent out the message loud and clear to the security top brass, slapping a Rs 75,000 bill on Latehar police for forcibly occupying the Betla tourist complex in Palamau to flush out Maoists.

Management of the tiger reserve on Monday sent a letter to Latehar SP G. Kranti Kumar to fork out money for using the tourist complex — which boasts two double-roomed guesthouses, four cottages, two tree houses and a 10-bed dormitory, besides a canteen — since March 30.

It is also mulling to draw up a separate expenses list for DGP G.S. Rath in lieu of two double-roomed rest houses, three guard quarters and one forester quarters in Kerh, 6km from Betla, occupied by security forces for four years now.

The reserve, 25km from the district headquarters in Daltonganj and 175km from capital Ranchi, witnesses a happy annual footfall of 600-700 tourists. But it is currently out of bounds for visitors, with 500-odd gun-toting men in uniform turning the Betla complex into a virtual fortress.

DFO (core) Premjit Anand said they had worked out the bill based on routine tourist tariff. “We charge Rs 8,000 per day for facilities at the Betla complex. So with taxes, the bill amounts to over Rs 75,000 till today. It has been sent to Latehar SP since the tiger reserve comes under his jurisdiction,” he said.

Expressing concern over an atmosphere of panic in the tourist hub, Anand said they had no other choice but to charge the men in uniform. “We met the SP and other officers, but in vain. The (Maoist) operation is important, but so is wildlife. Moreover, no formal permission was taken from the chief wildlife warden before they (some 500 CRPF and police jawans) occupied the tourist complex,” he said.

Another senior tiger reserve official said they had written a couple of letters earlier. “First, we requested them to vacate our premises. Next, we told them that bringing explosives inside a reserve forest was illegal. But no one paid heed. Now, we will charge them for putting wildlife, including the already endangered Royal Bengal Tiger, at risk,” he added.

Palamau Tiger Reserve field director S.E.H. Kazmi is on leave and is expected to join office tomorrow. Officials said a formal complaint with chief wildlife warden A.K. Malhotra would be lodged once Kazmi was back.

The Latehar SP’s phone remained switched off throughout the day, while zonal IG Deepak Verma seemed to be out of range. When the SP’s residence was contacted, the operator maintained that BSNL lines were down or dead in Palamau-Latehar since early morning.

“Some lines were revived only five minutes (8.35pm) ago. The SP is in the forest. We could not contact him also,” the operator said.