Raj Bhawan, Odisha- A Sanctuary of Scot-free Sandalwood dacoits
On 22.6.15, there was news in different newspaper about incident of felling of Sandal wood trees in the premises of Raj Bhawan, Odisha. Having gone through the news, I got astonished how only Sandal wood ( not any other tree) is cut and stolen in the premises of Raj Bhawan, highly security zone in the state. Accordingly, to know the fact, I filed RTI Application dated 29.6.15 to the PIO, Office of Governor, Odisha, Raj Bhawan, Bhubaneswar seeking the following information.
A. Details of sadal tree ( Chandan tree) which has been cut I different times in Raj Bhawan premises ad steps taken to nab the thieves involved in cutting tree.
B. copy of details of complaints filed by the Raj Bhawan in police station or in forest Dept. for equiry into the matter.
C. Details of enquiry conducted by the Police or Forest Dept. in Sandal wood cutting case and status of the enquiry.
D. copy of the document in respect of whether Governor has been informed about Sandal wood theft.
E. Names of the watch man/ security guard appointed in the area when the sandal tree has been cut by thieves.
On 12.8.15, the PIO supplied the following information.
There are two incidents of felling of Sandal wood trees inside Raj Bhawan premises one on 19.11.11 and other 20.6.15.
1. First Incident of theft of Sandalwood on 19.11.11
A. On 19.11.11, Sri Sarada Prasad Pattnaik, PHD Staff informed to Comptroller, Governor’s Household that three nos. Of Sandal Wood trees aged about 7 to 8 years old were cut in saw and stolen nearer to Deer Park behind Administrative building of Raj Bhawan, Bhubaneswar.
B. Then it was informed to Chief Security Officer, Raj Bhawan on same day.
C. The Inspector-in-Charge, Capital Police Station and DFO, City Forest Division, Ghatikia, Bhubaneswar was intimated by Comptroller, Raj Bhawan about the incident and enquiry sought for.
D. On 26.11.11, a Joint Enquiry was conducted with the presence of Sri Assem Panda, IIC, Capital Police Station, Ramakanta Nayak, Range Officer, Bhubaneswar, Manoj Kumar Mishra, RI-cum-SO, Raj Bhawan and Sri P.K.Jena, Forester. During equiry it was found that three nos. Of Sadalwood tree have been cut up by the miscreants on 19.11.11 leaving the cut materials at the stump site. The all cutting parts of three trees were converted into 30 pieces = 38.750 kg and a UD case was instituted by Forest Officials vide UD Case No. – 13BS of 2011-12. It was decided to conduct separate investigation by both the police and Forest to apprehend the culprit.
E. On 14.9.12, the Comptroller of Raj Bhawan wrote a letter to IIC, Capital Police Station to appraise progress of investigation in the matter of illegal felling of 3 numbers of Sandalwood trees in Raj Bhawan Campus for appraisal of His Excellency.
There is no information about whether IIC, Capital Police Station conducted any enquiry. Neither is any investigation conducted nor any culprit nabbed. The investigation was completed through letter correspondence.
2. Second Incident of theft of Sandal wood on 20.6.15
A. Sri Brahma Nanda Chhotaray, the occupant of Quarter No. D-6 of Raj Bhawan Staff Colony has reported on 21.6.15 that a Sandal Wood tree has been cut down from his said quarter premises by somebody with a sharp cutter .
B. The Comptroller intimated the matter to the ADC, Governor and Chief Security Officer, Raj Bhawan .
C. On 22.6.15, the Chief Security Officer wrote a letter to IIC, Capital Police Station to cause an enquiry into the matter for appropriate action.
D. A Joint enquiry was conducted on 28.6. 15 in the presence of Chief Security Officer, Raj Bhawan, IIC, Capital Police Station, Forest Ranger Officer, City Forest Division, Assistant Commandant of Police , Raj Bhawan, Assistant Horticulture offier, Raj Bhawan, Forester Bhubaeswar Section. During enquiry, it was found that two nos. Of Sandal wood trees , one from Raj Bhawan Staff Colony and other from Raj Bhawan pump house , near Deer Park have been cut by miscreants leaving the cut materials at the stump side , stolen one piece approximately 4 ft. ( four) from the Sandal wood tree at the staff colony, leaving the clump. All the cutting parts of the two trees have been converted to six pieces ad twigs with approximate weight of 143 kg . Two no. of UD cases were instituted by the Forest Officials Vide Case No. 4 BS of 2015-16 and 5 BS of 2015-16. It was decided to conduct separate investigation by both the police and forest Dept to apprehend the culprit.
1. Interestingly and astonishingly, no further investigation was conducted and no culprit arrested in both the cases.
2. Both the cases were covered up in the name of so-called joint enquiry.
3. The inaction of the investigating officer or administration has encouraged the culprits to cut more number of sandal wood trees. The Culprit is within the Raj Bhawan not outside of it. It is not so difficult to nab the culprits who are within Raj Bhawan Campus.
4. Sandalwoods are precious and costly in the market. The thieves keep an eye on it for financial gains.
5. There is every possibility that there will be more felling of Sandalwood trees in raj Bhawan in future due to police inaction.
6. If there will be theft in Raj Bhawan in highly security zone and culprit be scot free, what the police will check theft in less security zone or no security zone in the state.
7. Failure to nab thieves proves the failure of the police administration or lack of interest to investigate it.