Cops under cloud

SC takes note of police involvement in timber smuggling in Madhya Pradesh

Published: Thursday 31 October 2002

it is a classic case of keepers turning marauders. The Supreme Court (sc) has issued a notice to the Madhya Pradesh government over the alleged involvement of the state police in timber smuggling. The notice which was issued on September 26, 2002 was in response to an application by Damoh-based activist Santosh Bharti pointing to the seizure of a truck registered under the police department. The truck was caught illegally carrying teak wood from the Tendukheda reserve forests, located 60 kilometres from Damoh. The wood was allegedly being ferried for making furniture for senior police officials.

The truck was seized on the intervention of Bharti, who followed it from the police offices to the forests and back. "We wanted to expose the timber smuggling racket flourishing indiscriminately in the area," says Bharti.

The police however, had the 'oft-repeated' answer. The official statement issued by the department said that the truck had gone to get 'lal murram' (red sand) from the forests. The sand was to be used on the floors, where guard of honour was to be conferred to the inspector-general of police. According to the official version, when the driver saw logs of teak wood lying, he assumed that they were abandoned by thieves and decided to fetch them back. But Bharti points out, "They seem to have no explanation as why the vehicle had to go into the forests to fetch red sand when it is available outside the police offices." The incident has backfired at the Union ministry of environment and forest's decision to delegate powers to the police department to check deforestation and encroachments.

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