Sandip Katara, Forester of Kothariya
round in Khambha range, posted a six-page note in a WhatsApp group of
forest employees around 2 am on Monday, and was reported missing from
his official quarters at Dhokadva village in Gir Gadhada taluka of Gir
ALLEGING HARASSMENT by his immediate superior officer, a forester of
Khambha-Tulsishyam range in Gir (east) forest division went missing from
his official quarters soon after IMAGES OF a six-page note was posted
on a social media group of forest employees early on Monday morning from
his phone number. He was untraceable till Tuesday evening even as
forest officers and police launched a search for him. Each of the pages
posted on the group bear his signature.
Sandip Katara, Forester of Kothariya round in Khambha range, posted a six-page note in a WhatsApp group of forest employees around 2 am on Monday, and was reported missing from his official quarters at Dhokadva village in Gir Gadhada taluka of Gir Somnath district. In the note, he alleged that Khambha range forest officer (RFO) Parimal Patel had been “harassing” him since the time he was given charge of Kothariya-II round seven moths ago.
The note attributed to the forester said that he was leaving his home and if he were found dead, the RFO should be held guilty. “I want to convey to my family that RFO Parimal Patel is responsible for this step of mine. I was not to take such a step. But I am fed up with life (due to unnecessary harassment during duty) and therefore I am leaving home for, well, I don’t know for what.”
The note also reads: “With an objective to denigrate me, RFO would convene a meeting in my area when I would be on leave”. “Such meetings would be held at the instance of some staff members on the agricultural farm of someone and (they) would allege that your forester is bad. Till the time he is there in your round, work of any type would not be done (they alleged) and that he is having bad character. By talking in this manner, he would defame me”, the posted note said.
The note also says that the RFO would not grant him leave even for medical treatment of his wife, who was struggling to conceive a child. “It has been seven years since my marriage and I have no children. We are taking medical treatment for that but I would not get leave when requested,” Katara’s purported note reads. “With an objective to harass me mentally, (Parimal Patel) would tell in the presence of forest staff that it was none of his concern if I manage to have children or not and that I would not get leave.”
Katara, who is a tribal native of Panchmahal district, had joined the Gujarat forest department as a beat guard. He served as a guard in Mitiyala Wildlife Sanctuary in Savarkundla range for more than six years, and was promoted as a forester around seven months ago and transferred to Kothariya round. His wife Jyotsana works in the state reserve police and is presently posted in Ahmedabad.
Gir forest and other protected areas spread across Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts in Saurashtra region are the only natural habitat of the endangered Asiatic lions, and the protection regime there is considered among the best in the state, and the staff among the most efficient ones.
The purported note by the forester further alleged that the RFO would not send additional staff when he made a request, to prevent illegal fishing in Raval and Zamari dams falling in his jurisdiction, but promptly proceeded to arrest those accused of stealing the nails of lions within hours of Katara proceeding on leave.Some people were arrested for illegal fishing in Raval dam also in this manner. “Thus, to defame me, he would come to my area in my absence and then stage a drama of seeking clarifications from me with an objective to tarnish my career,” the note alleged. He also said that the RFO favoured a farmer in laying an illegal pipeline.
The forester’s note also reads: “Whatever I have written in page-1 to page-6 is the fact and reality. Irrespective of whether I get respect or not, if my body is found on some road or in the jungle, it should be first presented to RFO Patel saheb and then be handed over to my family.”
At 5:15 pm on Monday, Assistant Conservator of Forests of Una, Nikunkumar Parmar and Jasadhar RFO JG Pandya lodged a complaint at Gir Gadhada police station saying Katara had gone missing between 11 pm on Sunday and 6 am on Monday. “He was living in forest quarters in Dhokadva but left it without informing anybody after writing a suicide note,” their complaint reads.
Chief conservator of forests (CCF) of Junagadh wildlife circle, Dushyant Vasavada said while the forester had not lodged any formal complaint, the forest department had taken the initiative to inform the police after Katara’s purported social media post. “He has put up a six-page note on social media-WhatsApp to somebody else…There is no official communication to us…We took an initiative and informed the police that he is missing,” Vasavada told The Indian Express. The CCF said that after the claws of a lion that had died in Kothariya round a few months ago were found missing, one beat guard of that round had been dismissed from service and Katara was also punished; his two salary increments were stopped. The forest department later recovered the lion claws from an agricultural field and arrested two persons.
Meanwhile, police said that their search for the forester has led nowhere. “We are searching the area where he was posted. We are also trying to locate him by tracing the location of his mobile phone but to no avail so far,” Police SI Kalpana Aghera said.