The principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF), Mirza Asghar Sultan told a Bengali news channel that state Forest Minister Hiten Barman had twice threatened him for an order he passed enforcing closure of illegal saw mills in the state.
"He (Barman) called me up and asked why I passed the order without asking him, to which I replied it was my routine job. I have just sent a reminder to all the Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) as to why no action was taken against the illegal saw mills. There is no requirement for your permission as whatever I was doing is under law," Sultan said to the channel on phone.
Sultan, who took charge on February 7 and issued the order on February 12, said that Barman on Thursday threatened him in person.
"While I was sitting in his office, he (Barman) called up someone and said this PCCF is not obeying me. He needs to be taught a lesson. He thinks he is bigger than me. You collect people and take help from the police and teach him a lesson," said Sultan about the minister. The officer was at the state secretariat Writers' Buildings Thursday to attend a meeting involving Barman and other top officials of the forest department.
He also accused the DFOs of allowing the illegal saw mills to operate.
"The chief conservator has repeatedly said there are illegal mills and the DFOs have been turning a blind eye towards them. So I ordered them to close all the saw mills within 15 days, to which our department has not issued clearance as they are illegal," Sultan added.
However, Barman rubbished Sultan's claims.
"Whatever the PCCF said is absolutely false. I saw whatever he said on TV and it's not true. After an application for a licence to open a saw mill is made, the forest officials are required to give a written reply within 60 days stating whether they are eligible for the permit or not. No such reply has been given to them. Without proper permission, how can he (Sultan) give order for closure," Barman said.
Kolkata: A top forest official has accused his department's minister of threatening him to withdraw an order he issued earlier for closure of illegal saw mills. The minister, though, has refuted the claim.
First Published: Saturday, February 25, 2012, 13:41