EDITORIAL

Forest Royalty Evasion

While most of us familiar with the royalty that has to be paid by oil companies to the government on the crude oil or tural gas used, not many are aware that a royalty has to be paid to the government also on the forest produce used for different kinds of development work. Obviously, royalty would have to be paid to the Forest department also for cutting down trees in order to clear a way for the construction of highways and railway tracks. The Bureau of Investigation of Economic Offences (BIEO) recently detected a large number of cases of evasion of royalty due to be paid on forest produce. The BIEO is of the view that this could not have been possible without the connivance of a section of officials of the Forest department. Within the last few years alone the evasion of forest royalty has exceeded Rs 20 crore. Such evasion of royalty has become easier for contractors largely because Forest officers have repeatedly paid bills of contractors without verifying whether forest royalty had been paid. Taken together with what has been happening recently in respect of rhino killings, the report on forest royalty evasion shows officials of the Forest department in a very poor light. They are now being seen as being on the side of poachers and crimil elements instead of being on the side of the government that pays them their salaries. The two latest acts of rhino killings are clearly acts of defiance of the new Forest Minister, and should be seen in that light. This implies that the Forest officers under whose jurisdiction such acts of defiance have taken place must also be held fully responsible for the crimes.