Wednesday, 14 November 2007

11 tons red sandalwood missing at DFO
LALITPUR, Nov 14 - Despite the presence of armed police and guards, about 11 tons of seized red sandalwood stored at District Forest Office (DFO) premises, Lalitpur, went "mysteriously" missing at midnight Monday.
According to Prakash Nath Pyakurel, district forest officer, Lalitpur, a group of 5-6 armed individuals who entered the DFO premises at midnight threatened the staff on duty at that time and looted the highly precious wood. Four staff including two armed police and two DFO guards were employed for the security of the sandalwood. "Our people were unarmed and couldn't fight them," Pyakurel said.
However, ministry officials and police involved in investigating the incident find high likelihood of the involvement of the office's own staff. Prem Kandel, an official at the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation and investigation chief said, the mysterious disappearance of red sandalwood from DFO premises comes as a great shock to officials. "We are really in great shock. It is not easy for one group to loot such a huge amount of wood within a short time," he said. According to him, the incident that took place Monday midnight was reported to police and officials concerned at 4 am.
According to Kandel, three DFO staff including two armed police and an office driver are being interrogated. Though, not proven, our own staff are highly suspect over the missing sandalwood," he added.
This recent incident has called into question the security arrangements for other red sandalwood stored around the country, Kandel said. "We have instructed our officials to be more alert over the security of the sandalwood stored at all places," he added. Similarly, Tirtha Raj Sharma, secretary at MoFSC, said any forest official found to be involved in this incident would be punished according to law. MoFSC on Wednesday formed a three-member committee to investigate the incident and submit a report within five days.
Meantime, Madhav Aryal, police superintendent of Lalitpur district who is investigating the sandalwood case, has stated that a press conference will be organized Wednesday and the names of people involved in this incident will be revealed. Within the last few months, more than 200 tons of this highly precious wood has been stored in different places including the Department of Forest and Soil Conservation, Babarmahal, DFO, Sindupalchowk and DFO, Lalitpur. Scores of tons of sandalwood was seized while being smuggled from India to China via the Nepal border.
I am sure the culprits are inside. Without the involvement of the insiders, it is almost impossible to loot the sandalwoods from DFO premises. And, also it is sure that nothing will be happened to the staffs because the investivagator and DFO staffs are not much cleaner faces as public know this.