Forest planning and management in the whole of India is so scientific and systematic that no irregularities, pilferage or smuggling of any kind should be possible. This is a British pattern of administration of the forest resources introduced in India by Dr Bandish.
The forest of a State is divided into several circles and each circle into several divisions according to management facilities.
For systematic administrative management, a division is further divided into several ranges, a range into sections and a section into beats.
Beat is the smallest unit. When a divisional forest officer is the sole authority of a divisional forest administration, an assistant conservator assists him for the same. When a range officer is in charge of a range, a forester is in charge of a forest section. A forest guard is in charge of a beat and runs the beat administration.
A regional chief conservator of forests remains in charge of a circle as a supervising authority over four to five divisions. All forest cases are cognizable offences. In face of such an administrative setup, one wonders how the illegal mining of minerals went unabated for several years!
Further, for the systematic management of the forest wealth in Odisha, the forests are divided into blocks, blocks in to compartments and sub- compartments.
Every forest block is surveyed and demarcated as well as mapped for records.
Similarly, the boundaries of each block are well laid up with pillars. Every pillar is verified in respect of its position in the concerned block map and is repaired if needed. The boundary lines are cleared during winter before commencement of fire season. The boundaries of every forest block act as fire protection line.
The work is done as preventive corse of action to protect forest resources from fire damage. Again, the compartment boundary lines are renewed with white paint. Trees standing on the compartment boundary lines are marked with double paint marks at breast height which can be visible from a distance. In certain cases, watchtowers are made to watch the incidence of fire and poaching.
People are engaged, especially during summer season, to watch the incidence of fire. The compartment history and fire control maps are regularly maintained for each forest block.
The blocks are vividly inspected and watched by the concerned range officers. During rainy season, cultural operations like surveying and regeneration of minor forest produces are undertaken. Besides, plans are devised to prevent theft of timber and poaching of wild animals. So, round the year, cultural activities are carried out to meet the provision of departmental code and working plan code.
Every DFO is supported to inspect the forest blocks within a division and he is supposed to reflect the current positions in his fortnightly tour diaries and send the same to the conservator of forests.
This is the usual practice to carry on the management of a forest. The whole forest management is governed by three instruments, including working plan code, working plan and departmental code.
The indiscriminate smuggling of iron ore and manganese from State forest shows either the forest officials grossly neglected their duties and allowed the wrongdoings to continue or connived with the illegal miners.
The writer after returning from the forest college was first posted at Keonjhar forest division and was given the task of carrying out field tasks in connection with revision of working plans, which was written by a British officer.
he plan period was ten years but the works were getting delayed. So, a revision of the plan was necessitated which was taken up by Pravakar Pani and subsequently was completed by Udayanath Sarangi. The writer was posted as a range officer. All the major blocks like Reban, Kalapat, Baula, Atei, Palashpal and Telkoi were in my charge.
They were to be surveyed and re-demarcated and boundaries pillars were to be posted. Later, the writer was posted as range officer at Champa range for some time and all the mining leasehold areas were under his control.
All the forest blocks like Karo, Sidhematha, Thakurani, Joda, Nalda, Barbil and Kiribar were personally surveyed by the writer. Scientific field operations were done before a final shape was given to Sarangi’s plans in the Keonjhar division.
The writer personally visited the boundaries of each leasehold area and submitted the verification certification to the authorities in every fortnight.
Further, the writer served in different capacities in Karanjia and Baripada divisions for long years, where Gorumaisani and Badampahad mining leases had gone controversial. The writer is also acquainted with Sukinda mines because Sukinda forests were under the forest administration of Keonjar division.
The moot point is if the forest areas had been regularly verified and records maintained, the question of mining beyond leasehold areas would not arise.
But, the regular monitoring and surveillance were not done violating the working plan code. If the officials had stuck to the working plans, departmental code and management map in the field practices, no illegal mining would have taken place.
Given this, the writer sincerely believes Justice MB Saha Commission is being kept in dark of the violation of forest management norms and practices which led to plunder of forest resources and minerals. The mining scam is therefore a result of utter negligence of duty of the forest, environment, revenue, police, mines and transport department officials. Coupled with this, it involves nexus between the dishonest officials and mine owners to make easy money.