by Meera Bhardwaj
Amid the continuing political drama and instability, the H D Kumaraswamy government has withdrawn transfers of 52 out of the 118 forest officers who were transferred in the state. Now on what basis the transfers were withdrawn so hastily is anybody’s guess. Activists say it is very clear, money has played a big role in the transfers and whoever pays, reaps the benefit.
However, the transfer of Bannerghatta Range Forest Officer Ganesh Rao has agitated many conservationists and wildlife activists. They have launched an online petition for withdrawal of the transfer of this upright officer to a non-forest posting in Dakshin Kannada district.
On his part, the RFO told Green Minute that till date he has never faced any political pressure from any quarter. “As alleged in the media, I have never received any calls from the DK brothers or any other party leader or faced any pressure from anywhere in any case. I have been doing my duty as per law and following the court’s directions in the Anekal matter. I would like to continue with my work in Bannerghatta as also Anekal.”
Taking serious objections to his transfer, activists add Ganesh Rao was in the forefront of containing illegal quarrying activities and taking on the powerful real estate and mining lobbies in Bannerghatta which is the last remaining lung space of Bengaluru. “As it is, no officer is ready to work in the wildlife ranges of Bannerghatta National Park as they have to face regular threats and intimidation by various lobbies. Forest officers do not mind working in the territorial division but every one shies away from working in the wildlife division. In the background of this, the RFO was not only holding charge of Bannerghatta but also additional charge of Anekal wildlife range. The transfers are so frequent in Bannerghatta that no officer is allowed to stay even for the mandatory period of two years. With the result, protection work and action against illegal encroachers and quarry owners has suffered.”
However, taking action against illegal activities based on the directions of the High Court appointed special committee, Ganesh Rao has maybe stepped on the shoes of many quarry owners and forest encroachers’ in the Anekal Range. Further, he had been successful in containing and stopping illegal transportation of sand and water from the ranges of Bannerghatta.
Activists add, “He is one of the most committed and erudite officers and has been carrying out his responsibilities despite many pressures. This is not the first time, government has transferred honest RFOs in the state for diligently carrying out their responsibilities and taking action against forest encroachers be it Turahalli or Ripponpet. So, Ganesh too is facing the axe for doing his work diligently what with rampant commercial and apartment complex constructions going on in the ESZ.”
Even as the ESZ has been reduced by 100 square kilometers and real estate lobbies are continuing with their construction activities on the northern side, this action by the government against a committed officer comes as a big blow to Bannerghatta’s protection.
The RFO who has been handling two wildlife ranges all these months is not prepared to take things lying down. He is likely to take the legal route to stay and continue with his work in Bannerghatta.