THE Maharashtra government on Wednesday placed Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR) Field Director Srinivas Reddy under suspension. Reddy’s suspension has come in the wake of the death by suicide of Harisal Range Forest Officer Deepali Chavan in Melghat on March 26.
Chavan had left behind a suicide note, in which she accused Gugamal Forest Division Deputy Conservator of Forest Vinod Shivkumar of harassment and mentioned that she was taking the extreme step because of the harassment.
In the letter, Chavan had mentioned that Reddy had failed to take action against Shivkumar despite her bringing the harassment to his notice. In the letter, however, she had also thanked Reddy for support, saying she felt safe when he was around. She had said that only Shivkumar should be held responsible for her suicide.
Shivkumar has been arrested by Amravati Police for abetment to suicide. The government had come under intense pressure from various quarters, including politicians and forest staffers’ associations, to suspend Reddy.
Reddy has already been transferred from Melghat. But instead of accepting the transfer quietly, he chose to write a letter to the Head of Forest Force and also to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, saying his transfer was unjust. A few women staffers of the Forest Department had also met Amravati Member of Parliament Navneet Rana to express their support for Reddy, only to get an earful from Rana, who rapped them for supporting someone being seen as responsible for the tragic turn of events leading to Chavan’s suicide.
All these maneuvers by Reddy to galvanise support have not gone down well with the state government. Incidentally, Reddy is believed to be the only Tiger Reserve Field Director in the country holding the rank of additional principal chief conservator of forest.
On Tuesday, demonstrations were held by organisations of forest staffers at Nagpur, demanding action against Reddy.
Teosa Congress MLA and Minister for Women and Child Development Yeshomati Thakur also met Thackeray on Tuesday and sought Reddy’s suspension. Thakur requested the CM to order an inquiry by Amravati Divisional Commissioner and suspend Reddy till the inquiry is complete.
In her representation to the CM, Thakur said that some woman staffers from Melghat had approached the Amravati district collector with grievances about problems at workplace, and had requested him to do the needful in the matter. Following this, the Collector had put it across to Reddy, who didn’t take necessary action, Thakur has alleged in the letter to the CM.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra State Commission for Women has also issued a notice to Reddy, seeking his explanation in the matter within eight days