Forest Fire ReachesCM House

3 February 2008

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India — ChiefMinister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Friday said government will send the forest scamcase, in which the names of his brothers have come up, to Central Bureau ofInvestigation (CBI) for probe. The CM however ruled out sending the entireforest scam case probed by the Kundal Commission to the CBI.

 A CNN-IBN report yesterday said the Kundal Committee probe may have been acover up for a multi-crore timber scam involving Azad’s brothers, GhulamMustafa Bhat and Sajjad Ahmad Bhat. The Kundal committee was formed on Azad’sorder. But CNN-IBN claimed to have documents showing that Azad in factintervened to fix huge timber contracts for his brothers.
 These documents also indicate that Azad himself overturned a report by aformer forest commissioner alleging timber pilferage by a cartel involving hisbrothers.

 “I will send the forest scam cases of 1980’s and 90’s to CBI forinvestigation. And if my brothers are found involved in the scam they will bedealt in accordance with the law,” said Azad addressing media persons at hissecretariat office here.
 Asked if he had allegedly directed the authorities concerned to allot someforest work to his brothers last year, the CM said he has never passed any suchdirection. “In fact I had called a meeting of the officials that time todiscus why the extraction of timber was on decline during past two to threeyears,” Azad said.

 Responding to another question about his favors for allotting timberextraction work including felling of green trees, which is against Supreme Courtrulings, to his brothers, Azad reiterated that if his brothers are foundinvolved they should be ‘hanged.’
 The CNN-IBN report reveals how several lakh cubic feet of timber—mainlyin forests contracted to the Chief Minister’s brothers—worth crores wereshown as “lost” in unexplained fires. This, the report alleges, suggestspilferage and payment claims for timber stocks that didn’t exist.

 CNN-IBN said it has letters Azad’s brothers wrote to the State ForestCommissioner demanding forest areas for logging.

 Azad said a contractors’ association from Jammu had approached himearlier seeking hike in the timber extraction rates. Azad acknowledged that hewas in favor of increasing the rates but referred the application to theauthorities concerned for discussion. “I had even no knowledge that my brotheris either a member of the contractors’ association or having any of its posts.Some disgruntled people against whom action has been taken during past two yearsare bent upon to defame me,” Azad said adding any minister, brother orrelative of CM found involved in the forest scam will be brought to book.

 He said those found involved in the forest scam by the Kundal Report havecome up with some documents showing the involvement of some forest employees andcontractors in the forest scam in 1980’s and 90’s. “Where am I responsiblefor it? Why weren’t those officers hanged for their involvement,” Azad asked.

 Distancing himself from the controversy, Azad said he has left home in1966 after passing his matriculation exams. “I am alone for 41 years anddon’t know what they (brothers) are doing. I should not be involved in whatthey are doing,” Azad said.

 He said Kundal Commission Report has already held Managing Director StateForest Corporation and General Manager as culprits. He said the case has beenreferred to state vigilance organization for investigation.

 “Many names are expected to figure in the scam and nobody will be letoff. If media will not help the government no Ghulam Nabi Azad will come againto the state,” Azad said.

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