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Supreme Court Rebukes Centre, Uttarakhand on Forest Fires

Photo : PTI

The Supreme Court of India issued stern criticism towards the central government and the Uttarakhand administration on Wednesday regarding their handling of the rampant forest fires in the state. Amidst a barrage of active wildfires causing extensive damage to over 1,100 hectares of land since November, the court raised serious concerns over the lack of adequate funding and the diversion of forest guards to election duties.

Expressing dismay over the meager allocation of funds, with the state reportedly receiving only ₹3.15 crore against a demand of ₹10 crore to combat the fires, the court questioned the wisdom behind deploying forest employees for election-related tasks amidst the ongoing crisis. Uttarakhand's allocation of forest officials to polling booths for the recent Lok Sabha elections came under particular scrutiny, as the court condemned the decision in light of the pressing need to address the wildfires.

Despite assurances from the state that forest officials have been reinstated to their primary roles following the election, the court remained unimpressed, denouncing the situation as a "sorry state of affairs" and dismissing the explanations offered as mere excuses. This reprimand underscores the court's frustration with the authorities' perceived failure to effectively tackle the escalating forest fires.

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This is not the first instance of the Supreme Court intervening in Uttarakhand's handling of forest fires. In previous hearings, the court emphasized the urgency of the situation, admonishing authorities for relying on unpredictable factors such as rain and cloud seeding to contain the fires. The court also expressed skepticism towards the efficacy of the Air Force's firefighting efforts and urged the state to adopt more proactive measures to address the crisis.

In response to the state's claims that only a minimal portion of the forest cover has been affected by the fires, the court highlighted the severity of the situation, noting the tragic loss of life and property. The ongoing challenges posed by the wildfires underscore the need for comprehensive strategies to mitigate the impact and prevent future incidents.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami reiterated his government's commitment to resolving the crisis, pledging to take action against those responsible for starting the fires. Meanwhile, legal action has been initiated against individuals implicated in igniting fires in various forest ranges.

As the state grapples with the aftermath of the devastating fires, efforts to contain the blaze and prevent further damage remain a top priority. The Supreme Court's intervention underscores the gravity of the situation and the imperative for swift and decisive action to address the environmental crisis unfolding in Uttarakhand.

May 15, 2024 3:29 p.m. 8643

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