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The Haryana Forest Scam

The Haryana Forest Scam, naya haryana, नया हरियाणा

6th July 2014

Naya Haryana

In 2007, Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi, unearthed a number of forest scams in Haryana and irregularities involving union government funded schemes amounting to many crores of rupees. Most of these scams involved cases of corruption and violation of some important environmental laws including the Indian Wildlife Act. The state broke out into much furore with the scams coming to light. Whistleblower Chaturvedi has, however, accused the Hooda administration of harassing him since he turned the spotlight on these irregularities.

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest instated a two-member committee to probe the scams and confirmed the charges directed against the Haryana government Chaturvedi. Yet, the ministry was reluctant to hand over the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CBI was not empowered to launch a suo moto investigation (on its own initiative) to probe offences committed by Haryana state officials in accordance with the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act of 1946. According to the act, only a state high court, the Supreme Court and/or the state governments can seek a CBI probe for offences committed in the state. Initially the Ministry of Environment and Forest ignored its own committee's recommendation for an impartial probe and had asked the Hooda administration to investigate the irregularities despite warnings that the government would encounter a conflict of interests if asked to move against its own politicians and bureaucrats.

The committee had also accused Haryana minister, Kiran Chaudhary, of harassing the whistleblower by recommending Chaturvedi's suspension. The Haryana Chief Minister's officer on special duty (OSD), R. R. Beri's part in issuing repeated transfer orders for Chaturvedi, the IFS officer was also questioned. Chief Parliamentary Secretary of the Hooda administration, Prahalad Singh Gillakhera, seems to have been the beneficiary of a huge amount of misappropriated public funds.

In early 2012, the Chief Parliamentary Secretary of the Hooda administration (CVC) gave the CBI an approval to go ahead and conduct a probe into the forest scams in Haryana. This led to a close scrutiny of the chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the CM's office along with a senior cabinet minister, the chief parliamentary secretary and some very senior bureaucrats of the state.

Despite a scrutiny being ordered, the scam, however, brings to light a number of important concerns about the way our state functions. Undeniably, the very existence of scams is a big question mark on the integrity of the top guns of the current administration. Harassment of the whistleblower is another major worry this especially since it could curb enterprise and honest practices in bureaucrats.

The union ministry's reluctance to hold up Haryana politicians to scrutiny has been a major blow to the checks and balances of our political system. As we wait to watch the unfolding of further episodes in this case, we are left with the distinct resolution that a Naya Haryana, free of corruptions and scams, is a dream to be realised by the people.


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