April 2, 2021 3:15:51 am
HEAD of Forest Force (HoFF) G Saiprakash on Thursday instituted a probe into the suicide of Range Forest Officer Deepali Chavan at Harisal in Melghat Tiger Reserve on March 26.
Chavan had left behind a suicide note, in which she accused Gugamal Forest Division Deputy Conservator of Forest (DCF) Vinod Shivkumar of harassment and mentioned that she was taking the extreme step because of the harassment.
The probe will be conducted by a nine-member committee headed by Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (IT and Policy) M K Rao. The committee has several women members, including Meera Trivedi (chief general manager, Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra) and Melghat Divisional Forest Officer Piyusha Jagtap, as well as an NGO member to be decided by member-Secretary Pravin Chauhan, chief conservator of Forest, Amravati.
The order issued in this regard stated, “It is necessary to find out what led to the mental state that culminated into such an extreme position by RFO Chavan… to prevent recurrence of such incidents. The committee should suggest measures for the same.”
The HoFF has issued broad guidelines to the committee, directing it to evolve its own criteria for the inquiry and submit the report in two months. The guidelines say that the committee will find out how relations were between Chavan and her colleagues during her tenures prior to and during the one at Harisal.
It will also seek details of her tours along with her superior officials, in how many cases had Shivkumar issued show-cause notices to Chavan and how many times did the DCF visit the three villages whose rehabilitation was being looked after by Chavan.
The committee will also conduct detailed investigation into the action taken by Chavan to remove forest encroachments at Mangia village on March 17, 2020, and into the discussion that the DCF had with police officials regarding registration of an offence against Chavan under Prevention of Atrocities (SC/ST) Act.
The RFO had to go on leave following her bail application being rejected. The committee will also look into recommendation by the Shivkumar to not grant the leave to her. It will check if she had received salary for the leave period.
The probe will also look into the allegation by Chavan in her suicide note that she was forced to travel for three days in a vehicle on pot-holed roads while she was pregnant, leading to a miscarriage. The panel will also ascertain how many times her leave applications were rejected and how many times she had made written or oral complaints to the Melghat Field Director regarding “Shivkumar asking her to come to unseemly places at late night hours and talking to her in vulgar language”.
The committee will also record statements of the staffers in front of whom the DCF had allegedly hurled abuses at Chavan, as stated by her in the suicide note.
Statements of staffers will also be recorded about Chavan’s allegations that Shivkumar had asked her to come to the tourist complex alone, and tried to take advantage of the situation.
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