Govt orders enquiry into irregularities in SFC, FD

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Srinagar, Sep 12 (UNI) The Jammu and Kashmir government today ordered an enquiry into the alleged irregularities in the State Forest Corporation and Forest Department.

An order to this effect was issued by the Forest Department.

Financial Commissioner (Home) B R Kundal has been appointed the enquiry officer. He has to complete the inquiry within three weeks and submit the report to the government by or before October 1, 2007.

The ''artificial'' scarcity of timber in the state to facilitate its import by the State Financial Corporation through middleman will also be probed, besides other illegal activities in the Forest Department.

The Managing Director State Forest Corporation and other heads of departments in the Forest Department have been directed to provide the necessary assistance to the enquiry officer.

In a sudden announcement on September two, Mr Azad had stripped Forest, Environment and Ecology Minister Qazi Mohammad Afzal of the portfolio, following allegations of creating artificial timber scarcity in the state and retained the charge with himself.

However, the Housing and Urban Development portfolio was not taken away from Mr Afzal, who then resigned from the state Cabinet in protest on September 4, which was rejected by the Chief Minister.

In response to Mr Afzal's resignation letter, the Chief Minister said they had discussed the matter before taking the decision. ''I had advised you to let me keep this portfolio for sometime to clear the mess and then return it to you after some time,'' he said.

However, Mr Afzal turned down the offer, saying a decision on his continuation as a Minister would be taken by the PDP leadership.

Later, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti accused Mr Azad of violating the coalition 'dharma' by taking unilateral decisions.

She said ever since the Supreme Court gave its clearance to the prestigious Mughal Road project, several vested interests have become pro-active and launched a sustained campaign to take away the Forest and Environment portfolio from the PDP.

Earlier, the state government had constituted an internal probe, which found that not much timber was being marked by the SFC for use in the commercial and private construction work, leading to creation of artificial scarcity of timber. The probe also ascertained that the SFC was allegedly in nexus with some timber smugglers from outside the state.


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