KASHMIR NEWS TRUST #KNT
Despite having a check post at Ranga Baltal, a check-point created by Forest Protection Force Ganderbal in Sonamarg can be seen functional for at least 9 months a year when as per the government order it should have been operational for 20 days only.
In March this year, the office of the Director Forest Protection Force, Gama Unit – K2 Ganderbal here in Central Kashmir deployed 3 employees for a period of 20 days at Sonmarg Check Point.
Last year, Sonmarg Check-Point was operational throughout the season and this year, it seems it will be there as well for at least 8 months.
“The main task of Forest Protection Force (FPF) is to curb jungle smuggling by patrolling in forests, but here the FPF men are being deployed in Sonamarg to check the Ladakh-bound vehicles carrying timber,” a forest department employee told news agency Kashmir News Trust on condition of anonymity.
He said one can easily understand why FPF employees stay for a longer period of time at the Sonamarg checkpoint. “Ladakh-bound trucks carry timber legally but they usually carry extra timber than the prescribed limit and this factor gives rise to ‘corruption’ and this is the reason why this check-point is not being vacated,” the employee added.
He claimed that the same 3 employees are being posted at his check-point for over the last 10 years.
Last year, a similar order was issued asking these 3 employees to perform duties at Sonamarg Checkpoint for a period of 20 days, but these employees vacated the checkpoint only after the Srinagar-Kargil highway was closed for traffic.
Another employee said that if the order is for 20 days only, why do the employees stay for 8 months?
Instead of protecting forests from smugglers’ loot, FPF men are busy in checking Kargil-bound timber-laden vehicles.
Reliable sources said that the main check-post of the forest department that was set up at Ranga near Baltal four decades ago is virtually non-operational. They said forest guards deployed there hardly attend their duties and sometimes they too enjoy their stay at the Sonamarg checkpoint.
“It’s a concern that needs to be addressed in the interest of forest protection. There is a need for accountability,” said an official wishing not to be named.
When contacted, Deputy Director Forest Protection Force, Gama Unit – K2 Ganderbal, Jan Muhammad told KNT that they will soon wind up the Sonamarg checkpoint. He said it is not a big concern. [KNT]