News Brief

Unutilised Funds, Vacant Posts: Supreme Court Comes Down Heavily On Uttarakhand Government Over Forest Fires

Nishtha Anushree

May 15, 2024, 04:50 PM | Updated 04:50 PM IST

The Supreme Court of India.
The Supreme Court of India.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday (15 May) came down heavily on the Uttarakhand government for its inability to control forest fires and called out its "lackadaisical" approach.

A bench led by Justice B R Gavai and comprising Justices S V N Bhatti and Sandeep Mehta asked the state Chief Secretary to appear personally on 17 May to explain large vacancies in the forest department.

The court highlighted that of Rs 9 crore given by the centre to tackle forest fires, only Rs 3.14 crore was used and asked the Chief Secretary to explain this.

The bench also observed that despite the action plan in place, no steps were taken for the implementation. It asserted that no forest official shall be deployed for election duty.

Notably, the Election Commission had already exempted the forest department from poll duties but due to a lack of staff and firefighting equipment, the forest fire could not be controlled.

It affected 1,300 hectares of land and five people lost their lives, Hindustan Times reported. Most fire incidents were reported on 6 and 7 May taking the count to 68.

On 9 May, head of state's forest force Dhananjay Mohan informed that the fire has been controlled. Pauri Garhwal was the most affected district due to this fire.

The state also witnessed a year-on-year increase in forest fire incidents as last year reported 773 cases, while 998 incidents have been reported this season.

Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.

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