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Axe never causesForest anydamage alone

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By Bhushan Parimoo

Frenetic calls have been pouring in even at odd hours these days. Imploring upon the Environment Awareness Forum, an NGO working for the cause of the Environment since last 40 years, to restrain J&K State Forest Corporation for anti Forest approach.. Has pressed Mechanised cutters in service to extract timber    from the allotted Forest Compartments. These mechanized cutters do not fall in Hand Saw category but, instead, qualify as Band Saw, though smaller in size. Asked callers to rise to the occasion and protects and resists. Confided that musclemen on behalf of the sub contactors threaten to get them arrested branding them above ground workers. Hence pleading    to bring it to the notice of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. Under section 29(i) of the J&K Forest Act, 1987, “saw mill” has been defined as ‘any device and machinery with which and the premises (including the precincts thereof) in which or in any part of which sawing is carried on with the aid of electrical and mechanical power.  The Supreme Court of India has banned the operation of saw mills within a distance of less than 8 km from the boundary of any demarcated forest in the State of Jammu and Kashmir where as in other states it is 10 kms limit. Therefore, the mechanised cutters or saws, which have been allowed by the State Forest Corporation for timber extraction, are not only being operated in the blatant violation of the Section 6(j) and Rule 2(n) of the SRO 103 dt. 26.03.2012, mandate seeking of licence from the prescribed licensing authority viz, the territorial Conservator of Forests as defined under rule 2(h) of the said SRO.

Environmentalists at local level are of the opinion when the Government introduced Mechanised Sawing Machines, how locals shall be refrained from using it, which will encourage the carrying out of clandestine timber trade.  Already under the very nose of the concerned authorities, Big Saw mills have been operating illegally. These are not a needle hidden in a stack of hay. Forests belong exclusively to the State Subjects. Those who are brought in to save, have nothing at stake; hence no sentimental attachment barring the locals. Forests belongs to the State Subjects exclusively. Those who are brought in to save have nothing at stake hence no sentimental attachment barring the locals. EAF did approach on cell to the Suresh Chugh, Managing Director of the State Forest Corporation. He had his view that it does not fall under Band Saw, which is utterly not correct. Second he was of the opinion that it is beneficial on two accounts one work is carried fast second non availability of local labour is one of the main reason to press this mechanised Saw machine, besides Labour has to be imported. That means envisaged Man days generated for local youth is defeated. There is no hurry to put in practice which is not legally allowed, because tree won’t run and cross the LOC. This is like CEC drew the notice of the Apex Court  that it  had been unable to agree with the  contention of the State of Jammu and Kashmir that regulated felling of trees from the forest is absolutely necessary to maintain  and improve upon the quality and quantity of the forests cover. In the eco-sensitive hilly areas of Himalaya, it may be desirable that a conservative approach is followed. Awareness dawned among the state Subjects that the world famous rarest of rare Green Gold has been almost wiped out causing direct severe impact of the biodiversity here.

 

To save Forests from further vandalism J&K State Forest Corporation was established in 1978 to carry timber extraction on scientific lines. History of J&KSF Corporation   has been a sordid affairs, since it was established. Earlier Forest lessees had a strong a clout and it were they who would decide which Compartment should be releases for timber extraction. Copies of working plan used to be in their possession and services of retired Forest officers were engaged to suggest after scrutinise the Working Plan. After the establishment of the J&K SF Corporation, most of these became sub-contractors. Nothing changed except nomenclature. It was P.C.Kapoor subjected to correction who retired as Pr Chief Conservator Forest, while as Conservator Forest noticed that the J&K State Forest Corporation is not remitting Royalty for the timber extracted from the Forests. Lack of records to reconciling, besides sister concern, worked out a plan let bygone be bygone for onwards things be carried as per rules. It was the Environment Awareness Forum who through a Writ Petition before the Supreme Court of India State of J&K 7 ors No 171/96   has revealed that the Corporation has been extracting timer to the tune of 1.25 corers of CFT annually. Despite of the fact during a Periodical Review Meeting of Forest Department taken by the Planning Department in 1987. A survey report was presented in the meeting from 1966 to 1987 where a pronounced decline of the regeneration of these species. Survey conducted in 1966 took for test check a commercial area of 404053 Ha. First time sigh of ill health of these Forests was recorded. Another examination conducted area covered was 588467 Ha in 1982. Things showed no sign of improvement. There after it was 1987 area considered was 592401 Ha. Same story to convey nothing to write home about. Quite clear that instead of Forest growing in stock as per its normal behaviour showed consistent decline. Indicated that the Forests have been in distress needs immediate attention. While regeneration showed perturbed trend still department carried increase in areas for commercial exploitation. Only looters not protectors can do it. Commissioner Planning and Development out rightly called for the cause for this decline. Queried further that on one hand Forest Department claim that Forests management and regulated in a manner. Where the natural regeneration commensurate with the rate of removals. Then where from this abnormal behavior cropped up. Coniferous Forest of North Kashmir called Kamraj area was subjected to reckless clearing first, followed by Chenab Valley. Once the valley exported these species outside the state. And it was the Kamraj Circle timber transportation two log booms were established. One atDoabgah, another the main on river Jhelum, at Jhelum city borderingState with then Punjab, now part of Pakistan, even accommodated the needs of Jammu Division as well. Readers may like that till the Supreme Court of India intervenedthrough its 12-12-96 judgment in the Writ Petition (Civil) Environment Awareness Forum v/s State of J&K and Ors, State Forest Corporation had been extracting Timber up to 1.25 crores CFT. Which adherence to the direction of the Apex Court has scaled down as per norms just less than 25 lakhs CF. To meet local demand import has reached to about 50 lakh CFT of timber. At present State has no stock of Deodar or Kail to extract. Only Budloo is being extracted. It calls for us to ponder about the status of our forests. Budloo has few takers in preferenceto unspecified imported Timber.it was In an affidavit on Behalf of Ministry of Environment and Forests Before The Supreme Court of India Civil Original Jurisdiction I.A No 19 of 2000 in WRIT PETITION  ( C) In the matter of Environment Awareness Forum, Petitioner (S) Versus State of J&K 7 ors, Respondent (S) “Supreme Court of India in this very case stressed that involves active participation of the village youth in plantation and forest regeneration Besides Village Forest Committees for the affairs of the Forest, which earlier used to be called Joint Forest Management Committees which never took place. Department bring in outsiders to carry the job disregarding the orders of the Apex Court. Kashmir valley cleared of its mature coniferous forests. Deforestation shifted to Chenab valley, where from needs of the Kashmir valley has been met. Last 60 years almost all the mature trees in a scheme ofthings were felled. Tree canopy gone, cleared areas allowed toencroachments. Corporation, as already said is a sister concern of the Department of Forest Environment and Ecology, HOD interchangeable as comrades in Arms, make it a point to overlook shortcomings and shield as one. Readers may like that once wood from   log boom at Kanthan, Reasi used to be carried under Form no 25 to Jammu, by the political backed Contactors and on one form at least three trips inconnivance and later to cover up the fraud loog boom was made to collapse.EAF raised crusade, but vigilance department was oiled even meteorology Department gave a report that that days it rained heavily though before and after collapsed of the Boom days were sunny.

Lt Gen S.S.Salaklani, when he was Advisor to the Governor in charge Department of Forest Environment and Ecology, directed to make it State Forest Development Cooperation on the Kerala Forest Development Corporation, thought it has been carried but while write this piece found it is still Tree Felling Cooperation. During that period Advisor was approach by the EAF to establish in each blocks of the state demonstration cum traing Fodder Nurseries, he appreciated the idea and pass on the job to Corporation, which it not carry. Just a few years back under Bamboo Mission it was asked to restart Value added Bamboo products from Crafts centre Gagwal with a seed money of rupees 40 lakhs but it did not took the challenge. Similarly about 40 lakhs Corporation paid in advance a sum of Rs 40 laks to the forest Department for the rights to extract minor Forest Produce, but not a single extraction is in the record. Agreement with a private concern as alleged had strange terms, first it was to be jointly rum in Forest area. Dumping of Timber at Leh against no demand has been another dirty job but no one taken to task. What makes this writer to surprises when timber extraction has come down from 1.25 crores to mere 22 lakh Cft of timber annually, how staff on borne of the Corporation is almost same besides how number of vehicles to the staff has increased. It requires mention that the  field staff carry  are working against very heavy odds under charged circumstances  for month no salary  on retirement no dues for years. But forests are to be protected. Advisor has to its credit one Veerapan, here he has to face in every corner of the forest set up in Forest Uniform. Save Forest or Leave Forests choice lies with him.

(The writer is a Jammu based environmentalist)


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Opinion

Some baffling decisions of the SC

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Manini Chatterjee

Of the three pillars of the state, the judiciary has always evoked much greater respect from ordinary citizens than either the legislature or the executive. Since the legislature comprises elected representatives of the people, we — the people who elect them — feel justly entitled to criticize them at will. The executive, similarly, is more often pilloried than praised when it fails to deliver on its many promises.

The judiciary, on the other hand, has usually been treated as a hallowed institution. Judges, unlike politicians, are seen not only as wise but also possessed of thinner skins. The fear of being hauled up for contempt of court (what construes contempt remains a mystery to most of us) acts as a deterrent to commenting on the judiciary.

 

But that silence was broken last year. And not by an irreverent media or crusading activists or outspoken lawmakers. It was members of the highest judiciary who dealt the blow, coming out with home truths whose reverberations have yet to subside.

On January 12, 2018, the then four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court — J. Chelameswar, RanjanGogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph — held an unprecedented press conference in the capital. In the course of the press conference, they revealed the letters they had written to the then Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, questioning his style of administration and the manner in which he allocated cases to difference benches of the court. Expressing dismay at the CJI’s refusal to address their grievances, they said, “Unless the institution of Supreme Court is preserved, democracy won’t survive in the country.”

That press conference, which alluded to government interference in the workings of the court, was not a one-off affair. Soon after, in separate letters to the CJI, J. Chelameswar and Kurian Joseph expressed concerns about the judiciary’s independence in face of the executive’s encroachment.

But what made waves in circles well beyond the judiciary was RanjanGogoi’s speech on July 12 to a packed auditorium in Delhi.Delivering the RamnathGoenka memorial lecture, Gogoi spoke at length on the “Vision of Justice” and the role of the judiciary in upholding constitutional ideals.

In the course of the lecture, he quoted an article from the Economist which said, “…independent judges and noisy journalists are democracy’s first line of defence.” Gogoi went on to say, “I agree but will only suggest a slight modification in today’s context — not only independent judges and noisy journalists, but even independent journalists and sometimes noisy judges.” Those words made headlines then and have been quoted frequently since.

Pointing out that the judiciary had been endowed with great societal trust, he said, “This very fact gives it its credibility and this very credibility gives it its legitimacy… I will only say that if it wishes to preserve its moral and institutional leverage, it must remain uncontaminated. And, independent. And, fierce. And, at all times. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. So is an institution.”

Gogoi’s speech was remarkable because he was in line to be the next Chief Justice. In fact, many feared that he had risked his career with that speech and the government might not elevate him to the post of the CJI after Dipak Misra retired.

Those fears were belied. Gogoi became the Chief Justice of India in early October. But, truth be told, hopes that a feisty judiciary would force more transparency on opaque and questionable executive decisions have also remained unfulfilled.

Some of the Supreme Court’s decisions, such as in the case relating to the removal of the Central Bureau of Investigation chief, has left even retired judges puzzled.

On October 23, the government conducted a midnight raid on the headquarters of the CBI and seized a whole lot of material related to pending investigations. It then summarily removed the CBI chief, AlokVerma, from his post. Since Verma had been appointed by a three-member selection committee (comprising the prime minister, the leader of the largest Opposition party and the CJI), he contended that only that committee could remove him — and not the central vigilance commissioner. Verma moved the Supreme Court with alacrity against his arbitrary removal.

The apex court chose not to adjudicate on the removal. Instead, it appointed a retired Supreme Court judge, A.K. Patnaik, to supervise a CVC probe into the allegations of corruption levelled against Verma by his bête noire, the then CBI special director, Rakesh Asthana. It directed the probe be completed within two weeks. The three-judge bench of Gogoi, Sanjay KishanKaul, and K.M. Joseph passed no strictures against the manner in which the raids were conducted by the government nor asked why and what materials had been seized.

Although the probe was completed in two weeks and the report presented to the court, it was not till January 8 that the judges delivered their verdict. On the face of it, the verdict was a victory for Verma. It said that only the three-member selection committee could transfer or divest Verma of his powers, and not the CVC or the Centre.

Again, puzzlingly, it passed no strictures against the government for removing him in the manner it did. Instead, it asked the selection committee to go through the contents of the CVC probe report and decide in a week whether Verma should be exonerated or indicted.

The government convened a meeting the very next day and less than 48 hours after he was reinstated as CBI chief, Verma was once again given marching orders. The CJI had recused himself from the panel, and appointed the judge, A.K. Sikri in his stead. Sikri and the prime minister, Narendra Modi, voted to remove Verma while MallikarjunKharge dissented.

What followed has been extremely unflattering for the apex court. A.K. Patnaik, the judge who had supervised the CVC probe, told The Indian Express that “[t]here was no evidence against Verma regarding corruption”, that the decision to remove him was “very very hasty”, and that the committee “should have applied their mind thoroughly, especially as a Supreme Court judge was there.”

Speaking to The Telegraph, two highly respected former Chief Justices of India also expressed misgivings on the way the committee took the decision without giving Verma a chance to present his side of the case. Former CJI, T.S. Thakur, underlined that if a decision was being taken on the basis of an adverse report against an individual, that individual must be given an opportunity to present his point of view. “If that process has not been followed… then any decision based on such adverse findings will be contrary to the principles of natural justice.”

Another former CJI, R.M. Lodha, said much the same thing: “He (Verma) needs to be heard. Ordinarily, he should be heard. Principles of natural justice deserved to be followed.”

In other words, the Supreme Court’s failure to explicitly state that Verma should be given a hearing violated the principles of natural justice.

Similarly, a CJI-headed bench’s verdict on the Rafale deal has also raised eyebrows. While the government, understandably, has hailed the verdict as a “clean chit”, the detailed review petition filed by ArunShourie, Yashwant Sinha and Prashant Bhushan points out how the “the government has blatantly misled the Hon’ble Court and the Hon’ble Court has grossly erred in placing reliance on false averments in the note not even supported by an affidavit.” In layman’s language, it questions the touching faith the apex court placed in the assertions of the government in spite of evidence to the contrary.

The Supreme Court collegium’s decision to appoint two judges to the apex court after retracting an earlier selection of two other judges is the latest controversy to hit the judiciary.

The CJI, reportedly, is “very upset” over the “media leaks” on the collegium’s functioning. Last week, he also advised the advocate, Prashant Bhushan — who wanted the government to disclose the names shortlisted by the search committee for the post of Lokpal — not to “look at things from a negative point of view” and to “be positive” instead.

That is fine advice from a spiritual guru. But advocating such a course in today’s India can also be construed as unquestioning faith in a majoritarian government’s intents and actions. The apex court has baffled us on many counts in the last few months. But that someone who spoke in praise of noisy judges and independent journalists should now worry about adverse media reports and negative attitudes to the government is, perhaps, the most bewildering of them all…

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Opinion

Growing menace of corruption

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Tawfeeq Irshad Mir

“One who listens to truth is not less than one who utters the truth”

With glued memories of my infantile period, hardly I could retrieve the surroundings and the events happening around, Brought up in a very small village “Goripora” in Sopore town of Kashmir, a village with meticulous presence, conscious, a mixture of intellect and a think tank of its own, whenever I revert my memory lane through times, I find myself in the nap of my grandfather, an image of an old man enveloped in “chadar” yet young by mind, he was the then head of village, people of all ages enjoyed his presence, igniting the debate pertaining to different issues, being the head of the village, so mostly revenue matters were discussed and the consistent content of all debates used to be “corruption” the word that recurrently vibrated my neurons and propelled me as to what is this corruption all about, initial understanding was like this, “to get your work down, have a chicken to please” and sometimes “the person inflated the pocket to get the work down” in common Kashmiri language, you might have encountered the word most frequently “channel, like the person has channel,designated to corruption. As being in rural area, the incentives for corruption used to be” chicken “an apple box” sometimes red beans “probably due to lack of money as people used to exchange their daily needs rather than money. As I grew up, exposed myself to the environment, what I found was interesting, now an updated version of corruption :every now, people discussing the scourge of corruption, as like a curse, preferably in revenue department, to have an income certificate, an amount of 2 to 3 hundred rupees was a prerequisite, with the time I found people paying huge amounts to get their land acquisitions settled, even to get a driving licence, driving skill hardly mattered, as the time passed by, now the word “corruption” was a constant encrypted into the minds of people, a peculiar picture of engulfing in corruption was most obvious from electricity department, then it was not digitalized, the new house holder enjoyed the bless even without registration by simply paying a meagre amount to officials in the department. “Not a single institution is prone to corruption” but it’s deleterious effects on education and recruitment system “has perturb and monstrous consequences. As I observed during the years, it was evident during the board exams, every one among us might have witnessed the special privilege being offered to some students in the examination Hall, a corruption of intimate level, eventually with the enlightenment of newspapers, social media, the youth Began to lay their repercussions on corruption pertaining to selection process whether it be for further education or selection of job process, like the ‘x’ person got selected because the said person had paid a huge amount for it, it swept the general consensus of youth, dredging them to denial resorting to premature statements that “now this education is futile as you won’t get any things unless you don’t have enough money, there is no place for poor fellows, we can’t continue with this” and the consequence was such that many talented ones dredged in drug dependency, heralding their further education.

 

Here I am talking about corruption on the local level, attached to the ground where I am the self-observant of this scourge, many a times I have been a part of discussions locally regarding this remorse, but in an alienated elite.

Social networking sites are filled with tons of data regarding corruption, gallons of ink have been spent on news papers to reflect this horror, while everyone apparently and seemingly attacking the subsequent political discourse and the concerned administrative systems,

“I have a virtual opinion, I believe, “every human being has encoded traits, and has a natural tendency to express these traits, both positive and negative as like in all other animals, but the best thing about humans is to differentiate between right and wrong and the ability to direct their energies toward humanity, that’s why called humans, but one’s the person is exacerbated by materialistic influence, the person tends to express the negative trait to fulfil the Ill designed desires, and simply the person who endorses or resorts to such mischievous act of corruption, the person is engulfed my this wild trait “
Now what astonishes me the most,” while everyone seemingly denigrates this scourge, then who supports it, I mean everyone is raising in objection to it, then who constitutes to the corruption.

I would like to prove my content with objective analysis, suppose I am the person, and I am asked to give some amount to secure a place in any govt. department, despite irrelevant educational qualifications and out of any fearful selection procedure, now it’s all about me, would I agree or not, so surely the moment I am in such a position, I will surely opt for it, likewise I believe every single person on the planet not only in the valley, will opt the same, I jus made an analogy and it almost pertains to every aspect. So literally, I mean to say that corruption is from within, not a system is corrupted, in fact the people with this thinking make the system corrupt and that’s how it seems that the whole system is overwhelmed with corruption, it is engrained in the minds of people, “the humans have rbcs, wbcs, and platelets in blood, but I suspect we have one more” corruption cell “in our blood and we have genes encoded with it dominantly.

” We have to deter this menace from within, the moment we object to this greed, it needs to be abolished from within, sanitising the systems won’t yield any results, because it’s already ingrained in the minds of people, so we have to interpret and analyse and suppress this wild trait only then we will get rid of this wild menace infesting our spirituality, ethos”

(The writer is pursuing graduation in Nursing at G M C, Srinagar and can be reached at: [email protected])

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Opinion

Why the JNU story won’t die

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Rakesh Batabyal

Not too long ago in the history of the Republic — 1974 to be precise — a large body of students entered the lobby, and later the room of Vice-Chancellor G Parthasarathy, the founding head of Jawaharlal Nehru University, a man charged with the setting up of a world-class university, and announced that they were gheraoing him. They wanted the barriers of gender separating the girls’ and boys’ hostels to be done away with, as it smacked of a feudal society based on patriarchy. They were expressing the most progressive ideas agitating the young mind — the gendered barricades encompassing society. Parthasarathy, who had interacted with the most powerful people in the world, found this group of students, many of whom did not even speak English (the language of the diplomatic elite that he was familiar with), more powerful than all who had come before — they were students, yet their demands were not for their own interests, nor even for something euphemistically called national interest. They were protesting for something which in their minds they thought would make society better all-in-all. He did not ask for the police, did not chide them, neither was he demurred — he talked to them about social, bureaucratic and other miscellaneous issues that would not permit such a great idea to be immediately pursued in a traditional society; it would in fact be harmed through the vicious constrictions of traditional society. Its time would come, though, one fine day, and then the society would remember the pioneers — those JNU students. Such was the spirit embodied in the foundation of the university that is JNU. There are many other instances that reinforced these values and established the spirit of dissent and dialogue that became the signature of this great institution.

In the mid-1980s, a Dean of Students introduced a register for women students/ guests entering the men’s hostel, where the purpose of visit was to be recorded. Many uncharitable remarks made the administration understand its own lack of practical wisdom, and this rule was never strictly enforced.

 

Then, in the late 1980s, an ever-watchful body of students discovered that a senior official was drawing salary from two sources. In the pre-RTI age, they made efforts to get at the source. The Vice-Chancellor, a stickler for rules, had to disown the officer; at no point was a student either issued a show-cause notice or shown the door.

In the early 1990s, students wanted to strike against the administration and they were sitting on a hunger strike when the Vice-Chancellor himself joined them in the strike, saying this was his cause too. Professor Yoginder K Alagh, the Vice-Chancellor, was no mean scholar and knew that the students were not demanding something out of the world.

Thus, through such acts, the young were indicating the new and emerging mores, which led to the university not being ossified. Teachers had their individual political and intellectual predilections and students too had their own, but one saw the campus, like the nation, carry on with the variety and colour of these differences.
There were shouts and slogans to drown the other, but they were more a demonstration of intellectual prowess than threats to physically eliminate the other. When the State imposed Emergency in 1975, JNU students became part of street agitations. Their refusal to allow then prime minister Indira Gandhi into the campus is the stuff of legends.

The story of an institution is a story of shared memories and shared ideals. JNU, as it has grown in the last 50 years, is one such great story. Within this story lay millions of small lives and their careers as they have woven the narrative of this country in the last half century.

A university reflects the character of a nation: its moral self, its confidence and its resolve to face the world. When we sat at the table in our hostel mess, when we all talked about our larger vision and smaller plans — about fighting the capital and its sway, our resolve to finish off shades of Apartheid or the discriminating caste hierarchies — we were speaking of the society and for a future society. The shared memories of those talks, of the politics that gave us the language to express those visions and plans, are small stories in the big world.

As the University celebrates its 50th anniversary, it is these shared memories of the collective self that will keep the beauty of the institution intact. All that is beautiful needs to be cherished and the memories are those beautiful things that direct us towards a great future. It is unfortunate that those who do not cherish the memory and what JNU stands for, are at the helm of affairs today. But memories fortunately cannot be killed, only repressed in some circles.

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