DFO posts vacant in Rairakhol, Athgarh (India)


Ryan Ramanath, Times of India

Date Published

Bhubaneswar: The posts of divisional forest officers (DFOs) in Rairakhol and Athgarh forest divisions are vacant since months. These areas known for rich dense forest and elephant corridors witness regular forest fires and timber smuggling.

The DFO post in Athgarh is vacant since the incumbent Sudhanshu Mishra was arrested by vigilance on February 26, 2016, for allegedly amassing wealth disproportionate to his income, the DFO of Rairakhol division S S Khora was transferred to another division in November 2015. Although S K Banchhor was posted in Rairakhol, he is on leave since his transfer.

Wildlife campaigner Biswajit Mohanty, who has written to forest minister Bikram Keshari Arukh, said the two divisions have been witnessing poaching and forest fire ever since the vacancy of the top posts at the division level. “I have mentioned in my letter that poachers are having a free run in Athgarh forests and many cases of poaching are going unreported. Routine patrolling is not been carried out properly due to absence of DFOs,” he alleged.

According to sources, there are 216 elephants in the two divisions. The contiguous forest in the two divisions provides a safe passage for the movement of pachyderms, but due to lack of monitoring a tusker was poached in Baniabandha reserve forest in April. Athgarh division has provided dedicated vehicles to the fire squads for patrolling to avert mishaps, but no forest personnel was seen during the fire, Mohanty said.

According to reports, absence of DFO in Rairakhol division has led to timber smuggling. “We have brought it to the notice of the forest department that timber felling is rampant in Burda reserve forest, which is close to Rairakhol. Every day four bullock cart loads of logs and firewood are being smuggled,” he alleged. His letter to Arukh also revealed that illegal excavation of ‘moorum’ (red soil) in reserve forest areas in Rairakhol is going on unabated.

Despite repeated attempts, comments of forest minister and forest secretary Suresh Mohapatra couldn’t be obtained.