Forest officials, scribes under scanner for official’s suicide

Nagpur, Feb 23 (IANS) A day after an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer – believed to have been fighting the timber mafia in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra – committed suicide, police Tuesday were on the lookout for five of his colleagues and four local journalists whom he named in a note.

Gopal Kale, divisional forest officer, Pandharkawda, who was an IFS officer with a doctorate degree, poisoned himself at his official residence Monday morning.

In his suicide note, Kale has named several forest department officers, including IFS officers, and some local journalists who allegedly harassed and blackmailed him, driving him to take the extreme step.

His widow, Prabha, has lodged a complaint with the Pandharkawda police demanding action against all those named in the suicide note.

‘We are investigating this serious issue and are on the lookout for the people named in the suicide note. Their whereabouts are not yet known,’ said Chandsinh B. Bayas, head of Pandharkawda Police Station.

The suicide note has named IFS officers Rajan Tongo, G.D. Potulwar, Deepak Chondikar, all serving as additional divisional forest officers in the region, and D.B. Shukla and Karim Shaikh who were working in the divisional forest office.

The journalists named are Sanny Khan, Rafiq Khan, Ravindra Kotkar and the editor of local television channel AapTak Javed Pathan, Bayas said.

According to Prabha’s complaint, her husband had been fighting the local forest and timber mafia and initiated several inquiries of corruption in the Prime Minister’s Package for Vidarbha.

Incensed by this, the complaint said, they threatened Kale, blackmailed and vowed to publish ‘exposes’ on him in the local media, prompting him to take the extreme step.

The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) Tuesday demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the suicide by a senior IFS officer who had been doing his work honestly.

In a letter to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, VJAS president Kishor Tiwari said the CBI must probe the incident and similar incidents of blatant theft and plunder of the rich forest wealth of Vidarbha.

‘Honest officers trying to protect the flora and fauna are either being removed or are forced to commit suicide,’ he said in the letter.

Yavatmal collector Sanjay Deshmukh visited the family last night. Police have registered cases under various sections of the Indian Penal Code against the nine accused.

The inquest on Kale was completed and his body was sent for the last rites to his native village in Parbhani district.

-Indo-Asian News Service


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