Indore: While Madhya Pradesh boasts of the largest forest cover in the country at the moment, some forest officials are determined to crush this title and lead encroachments on the forest land as quickly as possible.

Not just encroachments, deputy ranger and forest guard in Surgaon Banjari are extorting money from villagers, chopping off trees and selling them, demanding non-vegetarian treats and other forms of luxuries from villagers.

The poor farmers in villagers are struggling to earn their bread are troubled by these two forest officials every day, leaving them in tears. Sharing their pain, villagers said, “The two officers demand monthly payment of at least Rs 1,000 from each poor villager and further, they demand extravagant meals, alcohol and other items as per their need.”

The two officials are: deputy ranger Thavar Singh and forest guard Suresh Sagar.

Troubled villagers say…

“The two officers target poor villagers, who cannot afford to fight back. They extort money from us regularly misusing their post in the forest department. Not just this, they are actually the ones clearing up forest land. They are chopping off trees almost every day and selling the trees for profit. We, as farmers, understand the importance of having trees, but all these officials see is money. They knock on our doors any day, any time, forcing us to prepare extravagant meals with chicken and other meats. They turn up on our doorsteps drunk and abusive. It is scary for us to even survive with such fear looming over us, that these two will come up and attack us with their demands anytime any day.”

The entire village signed and submitted a complaint against the two officers as well.

Legal activist raised complaint

Legal activist Abhijeet Pandey after hearing the plea of the villagers raised the complaint with forest department. “Forest area is under constant threat in Madhya Pradesh, as the number of encroachments continue to rise and we are still settling claims on forest land,” he said.

According to Forest Rights Act, the occupation of forest land should be prior to December 13, 2005 for recognition and vesting of forest rights. “However, with such officers, new encroachments are coming up and even qualifying for claims,” Pandey said.

Sharing the ordeal of suffering villagers, he wrote a complaint to the forest department. “Such officers are not only a danger for forest land, but also dampening the image of forest officials,” the complaint said requesting action against the officers.

Forest officials say…

“We have received and confirmed complaints against both Thavar Singh and Suresh Sagar. We will be acting upon it soon. It is sad to see that forest guard and deputy ranger, who are expected to protect forest land are encroaching it. Strict actions will be taken soon.”

- Sandeep Gautam, Sub-divisional officer (SDO), Forest department

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