The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption has unearthed a scam involving at least 10 serving and retired forest department officials. The officials have misappropriated State government funds which were allocated for a tree planting scheme during the regime of former Chief Minister J Jayalalitha.
The Tamil Nadu forest department implemented the Bio-diversity Conservation Greening Project with the support of Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) between 2011 and 2019. According to the scheme, short and long rotation plant species will be planted in private land and the cultivators were paid Rs. 11.95 per plant for raising a nursery and Rs 19.80 for planting a sapling. The funds were released from annually from a corpus fund of Rs. 686.28 crore.
Last week, the DVAC registered cheating, forgery and corruption cases on nine forest department officials and one contractor for cheating Rs 22 lakhs which were allocated for planting trees in Coimbatore and Krishnagiri districts.
According to sources, the government had planned to plant 1.7 lakh seedlings with the help of 286 farmers from 16 cluster villages in Coimbatore at a cost of Rs. 33.66 lakhs. DVAC sources said that the accused officers, K Sekar, forestry expansion officer, V A Murugesan, a retired ranger who was reappointed on a contract basis, and D Ganesan, the contractor allegedly prepared 12 false vouchers to show that these seedlings had been sent to beneficiaries and planted.
DVAC stated that, based on the false documents, Rs 10.77 lakhs was released to contractor Ganesan to show that work had been done in planting 55,000 seedlings in fields at Pichanur village cluster.
In Krishnagiri, the government had planned to cultivate in three clusters between 2014 and 2015, 15,000 teak, 1.05 lakh silver oak, 12,500 of malai vembu saplings, 2,500 kumil saplings, and 5,000 rosewood saplings.
The DVAC has filed cases against forest rangers K Nagesh (Krishnagiri) and G Vimalanathan (Uthangarai), forester of Rayakottai range Panneerselvam, forester Krishnagiri Annadurai, forester Hosur D Vezhavendhan, retired forester of Kelamangalam M Perumal, forester Krishnagiri M Ramakrishnan, former Hosur ranger P Mohankumar and Hosur ranger V Nagarajan for creating false documents and conspiring to misappropriate Rs.11.03 lakhs.