Supreme Court Summons Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Over Inadequate Response to Forest Fires

The Supreme Court, in a strict move, has summoned the Uttarakhand Chief Secretary to appear before it on May 17, criticizing the state government’s ineffectual response to the ongoing forest fires. On Wednesday, the court expressed its dissatisfaction over the “lackadaisical” approach of the Uttarakhand government and issued a mandate prohibiting the deployment of forest officials or department vehicles for election duties.

Highlighting financial discrepancies, the Supreme Court demanded an explanation for the underutilization of central funds designated for fire prevention. Despite receiving over ₹9 crore from the Centre last year, only ₹3.14 crore was reportedly spent on combating forest fires.

The Chief Secretary must also address the significant vacancies in the forest department, the shortage of firefighting equipment, and the unauthorized deployment of forest officials for election duties, despite clear exemptions by the Election Commission.

The bench, led by Justice BR Gavai and including Justices SVN Bhatti and Sandeep Mehta, pointed out that although multiple action plans have been drafted, their implementation remains lacking. This stern stance by the court follows a distressing report on May 9 by Dhananjay Mohan, the head of forest force, stating that wildfires this summer have resulted in the deaths of five people and affected 1,300 hectares of land in the mountainous state.

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