Dehradun: With forest fires raging in Uttarakhand, state Forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat on Wednesday took strong exception to the foreign tour of three top forest department officials who went to England other European countries.
In a letter to the Department of Personnel, Rawat has stated that "no due permission" was taken from him for the foreign tour of the three officials and that "no such permission" should be granted to any officer without his prior approval.
Rawat's letter came after the Congress launched a scathing attack on the state government, saying it was sending its top officials to foreign countries at a time when forest fires were spreading fast in the jungles.
The three top officials who went on foreign tours are Principal Conservator and head of Forest Department Jay Raj, Chief Conservator (Kumaon) Vivek Pandey and Conservator (Western Circle Kumaon) Parag Madhukar Dhikate. All the three spent nearly a half a month in foreign countries.
In the letter, Rawat also stated that the three officials took permission from Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat without his knowledge. "They went at a time when forest fires were raging. This is not acceptable," the Forest Minister said.
Meanwhile, the total number of forest fire incidents have gone up to 818 with the inferno affecting 1,044 hectares of forest land in the state till Tuesday night.
Forest fire incidents have been reported from all the 13 districts of the state. Almora district is the worst affected as 300 hectares of forest land have been affected there.
Forest fires are a common feature during summers in Uttarakhand where more than 70 per cent of the area comes under forests.