Spread over 25 acres, the Government Arts College has 3,798 students and hundreds of trees on its premises. In the last week of October, allegations surfaced that the college authorities had cut more than 50 trees and sold them without obtaining permission from the departments concerned. Some of the students also circulated photos. Acting on this, Revenue and Forest Department officials visited the college last week to ascertain how many trees were cut.
Revenue officials found that the college administration had cut 19 trees completely and chopped off the branches of some. The trees and branches were then sold for ₹9,120, and the proceeds were donated to the college’s parents’ and teachers’ association. The college administration claimed that snakes and poisonous insects entered classrooms and bathrooms. Considering the students’ safety, they cleared the bushes and cut some branches that covered CCTV cameras and overhead electric cables.
‘Will obtain nod’
College principal (in-charge) S. Bangaru, in a letter to the Rasipuram Tahsildar, assured that he would obtain proper permission to remove the trees in the future. However, some social activists and a few political outfits announced protests demanding that the principal be removed and, said they would observe a fast on Monday.
Meanwhile, Namakkal Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) T. Manjula, in an order, said the value of the 19 trees and seven branches that were cutdown was ₹43,729.
According to National Green Tribunal rules, cutting trees without permission would result in a five-fold fine. As a result, the college principal must pay ₹2,18,645 as penalty. The Rasipuram Tahsilar should collect the amount from the principal, remit the money into a government account and send a report. Similarly, for every tree cut down, ten saplings must be planted. So the college principal should plant 190 saplings, and maintain them for eight years, the RDO added in the order.
S. Bangaru, the college principal (in charge), said he had yet to receive the RDO’s order. ”After receiving the order, we would go for an appeal against the order,” he said.