Funds meant for plantation used on defending deforestation in Punjab
Chandigarh(Rajay Deep) – Punjab forest department is apparently throwing all guidelines to winds at least where the utilisation of the CAMPA funds are concerned. Notably, following the orders issued by the Supreme Court of India, Union Government had constituted a body Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) to manage funds for afforestation to compensate deforestation done to give room for development projects.However, here in Punjab, the CAMPA funds are being used to pay hefty fees to senior advocates in its legal battle in the National Green Tribunal and Supreme Court to defend and justify the deforestation and irregularities in the afforestation.Interestingly apart from engaging fees, travel allowance to the officers, about Rs one lakh is being paid to the advocates per appearance per case. As per the official information procured under the RTI Act, the department has so far spent about Rs 86 lakh, in just past one year. And interestingly the data shows the most of the transactions were made in the name of one advocate.“I am disappointed to observe that the forest department and its officers have virtually misused the funds to defend their wrong doings,” said Dr Amandeep Aggarwal, who had filed a petition against massive deforestation along Zirakpur-Bathinda stretch of National Highway.It is worth mentioning that the forest department of the state had denied providing the information as it could expose the startling details of misuse of funds. However, the applicant had to file an appeal before State Information Commission and on the orders issued from there the department has now provided the information.
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