The Punjab government has taken Rs 25 crore as a loan from Punjab State Forest Development Corporation (PSFDC) to meet its expenses. The money was part of the Rs 50.15 crore given by the Centre to PSFDC in 2011-12 for creating a land bank for increasing the forest cover. The money remained unused and was given to the government last month in the name of Green Punjab Mission,under which,massive plantation drive has to be done across the state. In a report tabled in Parliament last month,the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had said that while 2,190 hectares of land was diverted for non-forest purposes in the state in 2011-12,non-forest land received in lieu for afforestation was zero.
This,when the forest department had received Rs 51.59 crore from the Centre to create a land bank. The money was passed on to PSFDC to purchase land for increasing forest cover.
The CAG report mentioned that PSFDC spent only Rs 1.44 crore on purchasing land and the rest Rs 50.15 crore remained unutilised. This money should have been credited to Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) account,which was not done,the report added. Instead,PSFDC used the interest of this amount for running its expenses. Now,Rs 25 crore has been loaned to the government.
In addition,the Punjab forest department had purchased 80 new Bolero jeeps worth Rs 4.45 crore last month from CAMPA purportedly to use these for patrolling of forests. This,when the fuel bills of existing vehicles are often not paid for months. When the forest land is being diverted for non-forest purposes,what was the purpose of buying a fleet of jeeps? These are just white elephants that will add more expenses. The government will also have to employ drivers to run these jeeps and pay their salaries, said a forest official.