- A recent CAG report exposes yet another phenomenal scam, the impact of which will be felt in the near future.
The incumbent government has been hit by quite a few scams in the last few years. A few have blown wide in their faces, a few have been relatively minor (after a point of course there is a general feeling of familiarity that may have crept in within the Indian public), but all of them have stemmed from criminal disregard for the laws of the country. Here’s another one that has been brewing for a while but has only just been brought to the limelight.
In September, the Comptroller and Auditor General’s office tabled a report in the parliament on compensatory afforestation. Although the subject matter is not as consequential to the immediate concerns of daily life, the report, nonetheless, is nothing short of scandalous. Compensatory afforestation is a practice where, when forest land is diverted for development, other lands are set aside for afforestation as an alternative. Furthermore, a compensatory monetary amount, considered to be ‘net present value’ of the diverted forest land, must be deposited as compensation.
Of course, neither substitution of forest land, nor monetary compensation for the usage of forest land has been performed justifiably. The report reveals that, between the years 2006 and 2012, of all the lands that had to be diverted for afforestation, only 27% had actually been received as substitution. Of this 27% land that had been set aside, only 7% had actually been afforested. This means that of the 103381.91 hectares that had to be afforested as compensation for the forest land lost to development, only 7280.84 hectare had actually been afforested. The net loss of forest for our country therefore has been of phenomenal proportions.
In order to accommodate required forest resources with a growing need for development space, the afforestation scheme also allowed for part of the afforestation to be carried out in degraded forest land. Even in this case, only 49% of the afforestation has been carried out. The problem has been further exacerbated by ambiguous transfer of ownership of land to the State and irregular and unequal record keeping between the State and Central governments.
Collection of funds by the central fund management body has been dismal, with only 26% of the amount due from the State’s collection being accounted for. The report reveals that over 400 crores has not been transferred. Furthermore, money from the fund given to the States to be utilized for afforestation purposes, have remained unutilized and nearly 52 crores had been utilized for unauthorized purposes. Arbitrary and suspicious investments have resulted in over 200 crores either going to unauthorised banks for deposits or were lost in interests to fixed deposits.
All this happened even with prevalent laws and Supreme Court orders and in clear violation of them. The Environmental Ministry, high ranking and influential ministers and the State governments have been complicit in allowing companies to take over forest land illegally and without adequate compensation and for the unaccountability of the little funding that was accrued from the scheme. For the thieves and the lowest scum running our country today, it is not only enough to take away the present, through the more immediate economic scams. They must also take away the future that lies in our forests and sustainable drives for the sake of greed and a quick buck.