Monday, February 04, 2013

Collector, forest dept call truce

Collector, forest dept call truce
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

The Junagadh collector and forest department, who were on loggerheads over the recent circular permitting entry of devotees in the night, have finally called it truce. The district collector in a notification issued on Friday, clarified that devotees will only be permitted to enter the Girnar sanctuary from sunrise to sunset.

"Only those people who have been issued identity cards by the forest department will be permitted to stay the night at temple premises," said Junagadh collector Manish Bhardwaj.

Acting on complaints received via the state government's Swagat online programme, collector Manish Bhardwaj had on January 24, issued directions that sanctuary gates be open for temple priests, workers and devotees during the night. This effectively opened them to the public. The issue was taken up by wildlife experts and environmentalist and senior officials from the forest department. Sources said that on Friday, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife) C N Pandey and the collector had a detailed discussion over the phone after which the collector issued the clarification.

Bhardwaj said "It has been decided to form a Grievance Redressal Mechanism (GRM) which will be directly at the levels of Chief Conservator of Forests and Deputy Conservator of Forests. The priest or any other person who is aggrieved by the forest department can complain directly in the GRM."

He further said that the department has been asked to smoothen administration at the gate level and ensure that devotees do not face hardship from sunrise to sunset for visiting temples in Girnar.

He further said that those people - including the priest and their workers who have been given the right to stay the night in the sanctuary - will be issued identity cards by the forest department and the department will check their identity whenever they get out after sunset. He said that no other person, other than those permitted by the chief wildlife warden, will be permitted to stay within the forest at night.

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