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A clean slate for hounded officer.

HARYANA chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda's office, a state minister and more than half- adozen bureaucrats have been indicted by a high- level panel for victimising an IFS officer who blew the whistle on several environment and forest- related scams in the last four years.

The 2002- batch IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi was hounded, slapped with frivolous cases, suspended and chargesheeted by the Congress government in Haryana, prompting him to move a ' memorial' to President Pratibha Patil on August 30 last year, seeking justice. He did that under Rule 25 of the All India Services ( Discipline & Appeal) Rules of 1969.

The President, in a unique order, revoked the chargesheet against the officer on January 19. Patil's decision was based on the committee's scathing report.

Appointed on the direction of the Union cabinet secretary, the committee was headed by inspector- general of forests ( wildlife) A. K. Srivastava and assisted by assistant inspector- general of forests Shally Ranjan. The panel submitted its report to the environment and forest ministry last month.

Chaturvedi faced the wrath of the Hooda government "for implementing the orders of the Supreme Court and upholding the lawC*," says the January 19 order issued by R.R. Rashmi, chief vigilance officer in the ministry of environment, on behalf of the President.

Chaturvedi refused to comment. The officer's ordeal began in 2007. He started exposing scams one after the other that ranged from stopping illegal digging of a canal inside the Saraswati Wildlife Sanctuary in Kurukshetra to illegal use of public funds on a herbal park raised on private land in a Fatehabad village.

This was allegedly done to benefit powerful local politician Prahalad Singh Gillakhera, now an independent MLA and chief parliamentary secretary to the Haryana government. He is also close to state cabinet minister Kiran Chaudhary.

Currently, Chaudhary is holding charge of the departments of excise, taxation and public health.

The IFS officer also uncovered massive fraud, where crores were paid by the forest department for non-existing tree plantations in Jhajjar and Hissar.

The officer also laid bare a financial bungling over recovery of licence fee from the powerful owner of a private plywoodmanufacturing unit in Hissar.

The President's order has indicted the Hooda government by clearly stating that "C* the chargesheet ( against Chaturvedi) had been kept pending by the state government deliberately for more than three years thereby blocking his prospects of promotion, deputation, study leave etc". The panel has reprimanded Hooda's OSD R. R. Beri for transferring the officer from districts every time he detected a scam. It has recommended a CBI probe as " prima facie there are very strong evidences against the CM office". " On perusal of records, the role of R. R. Beri appears to be very dubious. In the Jhajjar plantation scam, he noted on the file in June 2009 that the CM has desired that the officer be transferred to HissarC* At the time this proposal was moved by Beri, the investigations into the Jhajjar scam had reached a crucial stage," the report said.

The report cites another instance where Beri directly intervened to again remove Chaturvedi from Hissar. " In this case also, it was totally because of the intervention of Beri" who inserted the IFS officer's name to a transfer list on his own, stating on the official file that the CM's approval was sought.

Beri has mentioned " the desire/ approval of the CM, but there is no way to ascertain" whether Hooda actually gave his consent to repeated transfers, the findings clarified. That is why the need for a CBI probe as no state agency can probe impartially the involvement of the CM office, the report argues.

Chaturvedi, the report points out, was suspended for stopping illegal use of public funds for constructing a herbal park on private land at Fatehabad. " The available documents convincingly suggest there was a strong link between the private landowners and the then forest minister ( Kiran Chaudhary) and the stoppage of this work annoyed the ministerC*" Media reports suggest this land belonged to local strongman Gillakhera. " Because of the forest minister's annoyance, it seems it was decided by the powerful vested interests involved in the matter to teach the officer a lesson in the form of suspension and chargesheet," the findings said.

While the officer is still to get justice, some of the senior forest officers whose roles are under the cloud were allegedly rewarded for their proximity to the state government.

For instance, 1975- batch IFS officer R. D. Jakati, whose controversial role finds a mention in the report, was made director of the National Forest Academy in Dehradun, post- retirement. The panel has suggested Jakati's removal from the post.

HONEST AND UPRIGHT

Sanjiv Chaturvedi is a 2002- batch Indian Forest Service ( IFS) officer. During training, he won two Presidential Awards. He was transferred 12 times since he took on the establishment. The average time he spent at each posting was a maximum seven months. To nail dishonest government officers, he used the RTI Act to access documents related to the numerous scams he exposed.

UNDER THE SCANNER

R. R. BERI, OSD to Hooda Repeatedly transferred officer

KIRAN CHAUDHARY, minister Recommended officer's suspension

PRAHALAD SINGH GILLAKHERA, Fatehabad politician Alleged beneficiary of funds spent on herbal park

R. D. JAKATI, former IFS officer Turned blind eye to illegal canal inside Saraswati Wildlife Sanctuary.

He is now director, National Forest Academy in Dehradun

M. M. JOSHI, IFS officer Played key role in Chaturvedi's suspension OTHERS J. K. Rawat ( senior forest officer); H. C. Disodia ( ex- financial commissioner); Keshani Anand Arora ( IAS officer); M. L. Rajvanshi ( ex- CEO of Forest Development Agency); M. S. Malik ( former DFO, Jhajjar)

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Feb 4, 2011
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