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Southern States - Karnataka-Bangalore Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Lokayukta unearths funds embezzlement

By Our Staff Reporter

BANGALORE May 8. In a surprise raid on the Bannerghatta National Park, a Lokayukta team on Thursday detected embezzlement of funds to the tune of several crores of rupees. Unkempt zoo cells, inadequately fed animals and a waiter-turned-cashier were among the big surprises in store for the hi-profile raiding party, led by the Lokayukta, Justice N.Venkatachala.

Acting on a complaint by a writer from Mahadevapura, Sanjay Dore, the team descended on the park, accompanied by a posse of presspersons and photographers. They were out to probe the complainant's allegations of misappropriation of funds in the construction of roads, a rubble wall for elephants, the bear farm, among others.

The team inspected the office of the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Rajeev, the Assistant Conservator, Shivanna, and the Range Officer, Nagabhushan, and went through the files. The files on feed for lions claimed supply of 750 kg of red meat, which the team found to be "substandard.'' Many of the lions were apparently undernourished and sickly. Some were limping.

Inspecting the bear farm, the team found records to show construction of trenches and water ponds and a daily ration of two litres of milk and a raw egg. But there was no provision for storage. Neither did an inspection of the egg cartons reveal any supply of eggs, according to a Lokayukta official. As per the records, about Rs.1 crore had been spent on the bear farm.

The team also noticed a high mortality rate of animals in the period between April 2002 and March this year. "During this time, the toll read two tigers, 10 lions, one panther, five bears, one cheetal, 12 Sambar deer, three neelgais, four blackbuck, two barking deer, one crocodile, one monitor lizard, two reptiles, one peacock and four jackals,'' the official said.

To their shock, the team did not find anything in the park to justify its international stature. "There is no doctor to diagnose tuberculosis among the animals. Our investigation revealed that besides a monthly visit by a team from the University of Veterinary Sciences, the animals are not treated. And this medical team did not respond immediately to calls.''

Interrogating the staff manning the ticket counter, the Lokayukta team discovered $ 4, 10 Euros, and Australian $ 5 dollars on his person. And the ticket collector, R.K.Balasubramanian, turned out to be a "waiter'' on deputation from the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation.

Raising the team's suspicions was the absence of any imprint or serial numbers on the tickets. The team had received information that about Rs.1 lakh had been misappropriated. This is under investigation. Daily collections, which ranged between Rs.45,000 to Rs.1 lakh during lean days and Rs.1.5 lakh to Rs.2 lakhs during holidays, were not remitted daily but once in three or four days. The other staff at the counter are B.Balasuramanian, Assistant Transport Officer, and B.Nagaraj, who is also on deputation. Besides, there were no proper shelter or food arrangements for tourists. However, the team could not verify allegations that illegal quarrying was on in the park.

Besides, the Lokayukta, the raiding party comprised the Director (Vigilance), H.Sudarshan, the Registrar, D.Krishnappa, the Inquiry Officer, B.K.Naik, the Superintendent of Police, G.Ramesh, and the Assistant, Syed Riaz.

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