Revenue and Disaster Management secretary Atulya Misra submitted his 125-page report on the Kurangani Forest Fire slamming the Tamil Nadu Forest Department. In his report he called the forest department ‘ill-equipped’ to handle forest fires and other disasters.
According to reports in The Hindu, the probe by Atulya Misra revealed that the range and district-level officers in the TN forest department were at fault while monitoring the activities in that area and that there were loopholes in forest area surveillance. The probe officer also highlighted that there is no mechanism to monitor the organisations which claim to be experts in adventure sports, trekking and camping in the state. The report also recommended that training be provided to the forest officers in surveillance.
The report also added that it was an agent and not the trekking organiser who led the groups into the forest and that the groups were ill-equipped and untrained to handle accidents.
The report also recommended the proper identification of trekking routes, having proper trek guides in place and regulation of eco-tourism in the state, as per media reports. The report also recommended that the government take suitable action against the forest department officials who acted in a lethargic way, reported Times of India.
The tragedy happened on March 11 when two groups of people – 24 from Chennai and 12 from Erode were returning after a trekking trip to the Kurangani hills in Theni district. The groups were stuck in the middle of a forest fire, which ultimately killed 23 people.
The Tamil Nadu government had appointed Atulya Misra as the inquiry officer to probe into the incident and submit a report with recommendations.
The officer, as a part of the probe, interviewed the survivors and the families of the victims. He also interviewed forest department officials, organisers, eyewitnesses and others involved in the rescue operation.