Friday, November 13, 2009

‘Maoists denuding Jhargram forest’

Kanchan Chakraborty Posted online: Saturday , Nov 14, 2009 at 0345 hrs

Kolkata : In a fresh salvo against the Maoists, the Left Front government has alleged that for the last one year the ultras are steadily denuding forests in the Jhargram sub-division in West Midnapore.

Speaking to The Indian Express, state Forest Minister Ananta Roy said the Maoists are encouraging locals and timber smugglers to fell trees in the forest areas.

“It is difficult to ascertain the volume of timber already lost and destroyed in the south Bengal forests during the last one year as forest guards have left their posts and they don’t have the courage to enter the forests infiltrated by armed cadres,” Roy said.

The minister said normal activities of the forest department have collapsed in Jhargram sub-division, particularly in blocks like Binpur I, Binpur II, and Salboni. It is to be noted that Lalgarh, which has remained the epicentre of the Maoist resistance is the block headquarter of Binpur I.

The department’s round-the-year programme of planting trees and felling them has been stopped in the three blocks. “The locals have been badly hit by this and they are losing their earnings,” said Roy. The department’s plan to construct roads in the forests under the NREGA scheme and distribution of the pattas (document of land right) among the tribals have also been held up in the three blocks. Nearly 18 per cent of the total land area (1.76 lakh hectare) in West Midnapore is covered by forests — of which 7,742 and 16,700 hectares of forest is located in Binpur I and Salboni blocks.
Roy admitted to his department’s failure in providing security to forest guards and government employees who were posted in Jhargram sub-division.

Troops, Maoists exchange gunfire
Central-state joint forces and Maoists exchanged fire at Chandra in Midnapore’s Kotwali police station area this evening but no one was injured in the hour-long gun-battle, the police said.

West Midnapore SP Manoj Verma said the Maoists opened fire at the security forces patrolling at Chandra, who then returned the fire.

Meanwhile, Asit Mahato, spokesperson of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), alleged six houses at Bakshirhat were damaged when fires broke out as security forces fired mortars in the villages. Verma denied the allegation. ENS

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