‘Bring back ACF Ravindra’: K’taka activists stage protest over transfer order

Wildlife activists accuse the Karnataka government of harassing efficient forest officers like ACF Ravindra Kumar, who was transferred earlier this month.
‘Bring back ACF Ravindra’: K’taka activists stage protest over transfer order
‘Bring back ACF Ravindra’: K’taka activists stage protest over transfer order

Scores of wildlife activists in Bengaluru joined in protest at the city’s Town Hall on Wednesday against the unceremonious transfer of former Assistant Conservator of Forest Bengaluru Urban Division, Ravindra Kumar.  Environmentalists have been calling for a withdrawal of the transfer order since the first week of October. Placards carried by the protesters, read, “Shame on Yeshwanthpur MLA ST Somashekar and MLC Mohan Kondaji” among others which called for “no political intervention in forest department appointments”. They said if the government does not withdraw the transfer order, they will go to the courts to prevent further harassment of efficient officers.

ACF Ravindra Kumar was a favourite among environmentalists in the city as he had recovered 130 acres of turahalli forest land during his brief tenure and initiated action against 60 encroachers irrespective of their political influence. Documents accessed by TNM show that the order was requested by the two influential politicians. According to the activists, the officer was currently in the process of recovering another 30 acres of forest land from the grip of influential encroachers.

Sunil Baberwal, member of the Eco-Volunteers India Trust and one of the organisers of the protest, said, “He did more in two-and-a-half years than any other officer could do in 30 years. This is why the government is punishing him by transferring him without a positing.”

Joseph Hoover, another wildlife activist, alleged, “If the government says in court that they are doing it for administrative reasons, then why is a officer put in place who has just five months of his service left and has a questionable track record. The post required an efficient officer who would actively pursue the existing cases.”

He also alleged, “Similarly, KM Narayanaswamy has been posted as director of the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, who has the dubious record of being trapped by the Karnataka Lokayukta in 2011 while illegally transporting Rs 8 lakh in his official car. The Karnataka government should have appointed an officer with a clean reputation to this critical tiger habitat, ensuring that the director has a passion for wildlife conservation and has excellent man-management skills, especially when man-animal conflicts have been escalating in Nagarhole. We pray that our honourable Chief Minister accepts administrative norms and allows the head of forest force (PCCF) to take a call on departmental transfers.”

The protest was postponed to Wednesday as environmentalists were expecting the government to go back on the controversial transfer order. In fact, informed sources had said despite the transfer order by CM HD Kumaraswamy on October 5, Forest Minister R Shankar coming to know about the public sentiment had instructed senior forest officials to put the movement orders on hold. However, the movement certificate was eventually issued to him on October 12.

Both senior forest officials and retired foresters had alleged that the transfer was made owing to political pressure and nothing else.

Activists claim that recovery and restoration of forest lands are of utmost importance especially following the environmental disaster in Kerala and Kodagu.

“If things continue like this, then children on their way to school will not only carry their tiffin boxes and water bottles but also an oxygen cylinder,” J Manjunath, another activist warned.

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