Mrunal Manmay Dash

The Opposition, including the BJP and the Congress, slammed the Odisha government over the latest CAG report that unearthed massive irregularities in the State Forest Department.

While Santosh Singh Saluja from Congress alleged that this is a massive corruption and this was made possible only because of a lack of coordination between the DFO and the PD-DRDA.

“Immediate action should be taken against the responsible officers who swindled crores of taxpayers’ money,” Saluja demanded.

Similarly, the Opposition Chief Whip, Mohan Majhi from BJP said, “As per the CAG report, we can smell major corruption in the plantation activities. This issue will be taken up in the next PAC Committee meeting and the officials involved in the issue will be summoned too.”

The CAG report has revealed that the Forest department has incurred unfruitful expenditure worth Rs 13.17 crore as 191 out of 485 plantations were complete failures.

A joint physical verification including representative team from forest division was conducted to confirm the existence and to assess survival of the bamboo plantation at Baghdangar Protected Reserve Forest (PRF). The officials of the forest division could not identify even a single planted bamboo to audit and the site was a failed plantation.

Similarly, Rs 19 lakh was spent by the Keonjhar Horticulture department to plant cashew saplings in 8 hectares of land at Munduli sahi under Keonjhar’s Gobardhan panchayat. But owing to alleged administrative apathy, no fencing or irrigation activities could be undertaken in the fields resulting in the death of all the saplings.

Moving on to Jagatsinghpur district, the soil conservation division had planted 4000 coconut saplings at Adhanga panchayat. But without maintenance, almost all the saplings have either died or eaten by the cattle.

After the Opposition furor over the report, interestingly, the ruling BJD played it down and termed the CAG report as allegations and it will be studied thoroughly by the concerned committee.

Speaking to reporters, BJD MLA Prashant Muduli said, “Only allegations do not mean anything. If a CAG report has come, there is a committee which will review the report and enquiry may be conducted if deemed necessary at all.”

Notably, the CAG for the first time has taken the help of a drone to survey the plantation fields and prepare the report that revealed the massive 'misappropriation' of funds.