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Thursday, May 10, 2012

6 booked for trespassing in Kharangla forest

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | May 10, 2012, 05.33AM IST NAGPUR: It is apparent that the forest department has not learnt any lessons from the Palasgaon tiger poaching incident. There's a literal free for all in the sensitive Bhiwapur forest range, despite the proven presence of many tigers. On the night of May 5, on the eve of the machan census, Umred police booked six persons under Section 26 of the Indian Forest Act (IFA) 1927 for trespassing in the reserve forest of Ranbodi in Kharangla beat. The cops are also probing the role of wildlife enthusiast Sanjay Soni from Nagpur, who too was roaming in the forest in his vehicle, and described himself as a forest officer. Soni has flatly denied all charges. Those who have been booked are Kedarnath Pathak, Jaggu Sahu, Raju Anru, Mukesh Raut, Ravindra Raut, and Digamber Sontakke, all from Umred. Sources said that actually the offences should have been registered by forest officials. "Since no objectionable material was found on the accused, an offence of trespassing was registered. Without prior permission you cannot move in the reserve forest. All have been released on bail," PSI AK Mankar told TOI. The Ranbodi area has been declared sensitive and the free movement of vehicles here raises question mark over safety of tigers in the area, especially in the backdrop of Palasgaon poaching incident. Meanwhile, Nagpur division officials are puzzled what Soni was doing in Ranbodi? Soni says he went to the forest for patrolling with prior permission of RFO Londhe. "While Londhe was resting in Navegaon (Deshmukh) guesthouse, he had asked me to check water holes in the forest area. Those booked were sarpamitras from Umred," he said. Londhe is RFO of Kuhi range while Dipali Vankar is in charge of Bhiwapur range. So, Londhe had no reason to entertain Soni in another officer's range. Sources said the Nagpur forest division is not taking action against Soni since their own officer has been caught on the wrong foot. Chief conservator of forests (CCF) for Nagpur Circle CR Gajbhiye said he has taken note of the Soni episode. "I've asked deputy conservator PK Mahajan to take action against Soni, who, I was told, posed as a forest officer." However, Gajbhiye's orders have not been acted upon yet. Forest department sources said that Soni and his two friends had volunteered to be part of the machan census exercise on May 6 in Bor wildlife sanctuary. Their I-cards were also prepared, but Soni chose to visit Ranbodi and Kharangla at the instance of Londhe. When asked about this, Soni said, "I was asked to volunteer in New Bor Sanctuary, where I was not interested. Hence, I preferred to go to Bhiwapur." Honorary district wildlife warden for Nagpur Kundan Hate has decided to register a formal complaint with PCCF (wildlife) SWH Naqvi in the matter. "Even persons with wildlife conservation credentials are not allowed in Bhiwapur range while others have a free run. The incident puts a question mark on protection in the area," he said.

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