Uttarakhand Fires: Why Is Forest Staff On Election Duty, Asks Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court rebuked Uttarakhand over forest fires that have been raging for weeks and asked searching the state government and Centre searching questions.

The top court was livid on being told that staff of the state’s Forest department had been deployed on Lok Sabha election duty.

“Why have you employed the Forest fire staff on election duty amidst the fires?” the top court the Uttarakhand government’s counsel.

When the court was told election duty was over and that the state’s Chief Secretary had directed officials not to put any Forest staff on poll duty, the bench said: “It’s a sorry state of affairs. You are only making excuses.”

A bench of Justices BR Gavai, SVN Bhatti and Sandeep Mehta, which continued to hear petitions over Uttarakhand forest fires, was told by advocate Parmeshwar on Wednesday that there is a “huge fire and 40 per cent of the forest is under fire which is undoused.”

The state’s counsel said there were no new fires, and further argued that Uttarakhand government had not received funds from Central government to tackle the forest fires.

“Funding is a huge issue now. Had there been proper funding, the situation would have been better. The Centre has to chip in to help the state,” the counsel said.

The Supreme Court was not impressed about funding coming in the way of controlling the fires.

Over 1,000 forest fires have been reported across 1,145 hectares since November, causing an estimated Rs 15 lakh in damages.

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