Curious case of ‘Unaware’ minister
Bengaluru: It seems to be a curious case of a forest minister not having the full details of the recent forest fires or other issues concerning his department.
Speaking to reporters in the city on Tuesday, Ramanath Rai, the forest, environment and ecology minister, gave ‘I don’t know’ or ‘not aware’ as answers to many questions by the media (see box).
On Western Ghats
Regarding the issue of Western Ghats eco-sensitive zone, the minister said Karnataka had proposed to delete 1,571 sq km of the total 20,668 sq km of the eco-sensitive zone notified by the Centre. Rai said the state wanted to retain only 19,097 sq km as “no-go zone”.
“We will send a reply to the Union ministry of environment and forests to reduce the proposed ecologically sensitive zones by 1,571 sq km, which form 1,576 villages. We have retained all forest areas, including reserve forest patches and shrub forest patches. The opinion of gram sabhas has also been taken. Karnataka has 36 lakh hectares of forest area.”
For the third time, the Centre has sought opinion from states having Western Ghats -Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Maharashtra. The minister did not lose the opportunity to blame the previous BJP government for the delay in filing the response during the first time. The minister said he was not aware of the details of what is being submitted to the Centre. “I do not know, but it will be put on the public domain,” he said.
Before the onset of summer, the forest department creates fire lines and hires sufficient temporary staff to prevent forest fire. Interestingly the forest minister is unaware of all these procedures.
‘Don’t know, not aware’
Q: How much area has been lost in fires this year?
A: 100 ha, of which 40 ha is in Bandipur Tiger Reserve and 30 ha in Kappatagudda conservation reserve. I do not know the extent in BRT and Anshi-Dandeli tiger reserves, Chikkamagaluru and Kodagu, but they are small.
How many fire lines have been created?
The same as last year, I do not know the numbers.
Q: Where were you when first forest fire broke out in Bandipur and what did you do?
A:I was not aware of the fire then (he visited Bandipur on February 21, 2017).
Q:What is the staff strength and vacancies?
A:I don’t know, but 3,060 have been trained.
Q:How much money has been spent on creating fire lines this year?
A: I do not know.
Q:Why have the incidents of fire in Bandipur and Kappatagudda been given to CID, what happened to the CID probing Nagarahole forest fire?
A: There is something wrong. The fire was man-made.
Q: Why was B J Hosmath transferred, with just two months remaining for retirement?
A: It was the decision of the chief minister and I have nothing to say.
Q: How many animals have died in the forest fire?
A: None. If any, people should give me photographic proof.