‘Misuse’ of forest money: Madhya Pradesh diverted Rs 167 crore from CAMPA funds

According to a CAG report, the state spent over Rs 50 crore on ‘ineligible activities’ when Shivraj Singh Chouhan was CM.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
Shivraj Singh Chouhan with a map of MP.

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In a case of “misusing” forest money, the Madhya Pradesh government allocated over Rs 167 crore meant for afforestation activities towards “ineligible activities”. According to a report published by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India earlier this month, over Rs 50 crore has already been spent on activities like a scheme for farmers and infrastructure development. The funds were diverted when Shivraj Singh Chouhan was chief minister.

These funds were collected by the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority. They are meant to be used for “compensating the loss of forest land and ecosystem services by raising of compensatory afforestation, improving quality of forests through assisted natural regeneration, enrichment of biodiversity, improvement of wildlife habitat, control of forest fire, forest protection and soil and water conservation measures”.

The funds are collected from companies that undertake non-forestry projects, and kept with the national authority under the central government. The national authority then transfers these funds to states after they submit annual plans of operations.

In its report dated February 8, the CAG said the Madhya Pradesh had allocated Rs 167.83 crore of CAMPA funds to “ineligible activities”: Rs 120.30 crore for agro forestry under the Mukhyamantri Krishak Samriddhi Scheme in 2017-18 and 2018-19; Rs 20.88 crore for construction of a Van Bhawan in 2018; Rs 7.13 crore for fresh forest recruits in 2017-18; Rs 6.47 crore for research by the State Forest Research Institute in Jabalpur from 2017-18 to 2019-20; Rs 5 crore for training of forest staff in 2019; and Rs 1.97 crore for infrastructure development from 2018-19 to 2019-20.  

Of the allocation, it has spent Rs 53.29 crore so far.

“Thus, the department irregularly incurred expenditure of Rs 53.29 crore on ineligible activities  which could not be linked to any of the activities envisaged for CA [compensatory afforestation] and hence could not be carried out from CAMPA funds. This resulted in irregular expenditure and misuse of CAMPA  funds amounting to Rs 53.29 crore,” read the report.

In its reply to the CAG findings, the state government said expenditures were in compliance with guidelines and instructions.

CAG differed: “The reply is not acceptable because the expenditure incurred on the above activities was against the guidelines as mentioned above.”

Funds used for commercial plantations

The CAG red-flagged more violations of CAMPA guidelines in the state. 

The state CEO of CAMPA, who is in charge of the funds, disbursed Rs 29.58 crore to Madhya Pradesh State Forest Development Corporation Limited for teak plantations from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The CAG said the expenditure was “irregularly incurred on plantation of teak from CAMPA Fund in violation of several CAMPA guidelines”.

Another section of the report flagged “unwarranted expenditure on eradication of weeds” at the same location five times in seven months from December 2019 to July 2020. These included the removal of weeds at the Nauradehi Wildlife Division, which was one of the priority locations for the reintroduction of cheetahs.   

The wildlife division removed “high density weed” first in December 2019 at a cost of Rs 9.43 lakh. It provided separate funds worth Rs 17.20 lakh for lantana and brushwood, which are already covered under all types of weeds, in December 2019 and July 2020. The eradication of weeds was repeated in January and February 2020 at a cost of Rs 5.72 lakh and Rs 4.05 lakh.

The CAG observed that weed eradication programmes can be repeated only in one or two years only if they create “any adverse impact on wildlife habitat”.

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