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Trouble Brews for Shivraj Singh as MP Govt Orders EOW Probe into 2017 Plantation Scam

File photo of Madhya Pradesh CM and senior BJP leader  Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

File photo of Madhya Pradesh CM and senior BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

The case pertains to July 2017 when Chouhan was the chief minister of the state and various government departments had taken a mammoth drive to plant around 6 crore saplings in a single day to make it to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Bhopal: A fresh trouble seems to be brewing for former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as Kamal Nath government has handed over the probe of plantation scam, which had taken place during his tenure, to the Economic Offences Wing of the police.

This was revealed by Madhya Pradesh’s forest minister Umang Singhar in Bhopal on Friday.

The case pertains to July 2017 when Chouhan was the chief minister of the state and forest department, in co-ordination with various government departments, had taken a mammoth drive for planting around 6 crore saplings in a single day across the state to make it to the Guinness Book of World Records.

However, the bid had ended up in a major scam as the record could not be made and allegations were levelled that huge amounts of funds were misappropriated in the process.

Calling the scam a ‘systematic siphoning of government funds’, Singhar said that according to the Guinness Book of World Record officials, only 4.5 % saplings were planted in accordance with the parameters. There have been massive anomalies in Rs 455 crore plantation project, the minister said.

He further added that saplings were bought from Maharashtra and Gujarat and JCB machines were used to dig up pits. Pits were not dug at several places, he said.

Singhar said the probe against Chouhan, former forest minister Gaurishankar Shejwar, senior officers has been handed to the EOW.

The documents shown by the forest department suggest that then Addl Principal Chief Conservator of Forests BB Singh was appointed as the nodal officer of the project and retired PCCF Y Satyam was appointed as an expert in State Planning Commission on contractual basis.

According to government records, over 1.21 lakh places were identified for plantation and 7.10 crore saplings were planted whereas the data offered by the Guinness Book of World Records officials to MP government, there were only 5,540 plantation sites and over 2.22 crore saplings were eventually planted in the drive.

The documents also suggested that the former forest minister did nothing for the creation of Guinness record and eventually no record was made.

Following a probe, the department had reported that over 2.96 crore saplings were planted out of which 59% were alive in February 2019. The minister pointed out that he was offered wrong information by the department as at Betul’s Pathai RF227 area, the department claimed to have planted 15,625 saplings while there were only 9985 pits found during inspection. As against 11,140 living plants, the minister during an inspection had found 2,343 plants on the spot.

A former order issued by the minister claimed that it was quite evident that the plantation drive was an attempt to create a Guinness record and it had nothing to do with environment conservation.

“Offering wrong information to department minister and indulging in record breaking effort instead of fulfilling departmental obligations is ‘conduct unbecoming of a member of civil service which is clear breach of All India Services (Conduct) Rules 1968,” said an order from the minister which sought chargesheet against several senior Forest department officers including plantation nodal officer BB Singh.

Commenting on the allegations from the minister, former Shivraj minister Vishwas Sarang said that state government is speaking on multiple allegations including pits were not dug up, costly saplings were purchased and saplings weren’t planted; the state government seems confused, claimed the minister.

He accused the state government of misusing agencies, including the EoW.