Manu Srivatsav

Fallen from grace, Lal Singh faces raids on factories of his kin

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Katha factories using banned Khaer wood raided; more on radar

Jammu: A joint team of Jammu and Kashmir Police and the State Forest Department on Friday reportedly raided three factories of Katha in Samba and Kathua districts.

“The vigilance wing of Forest Department assisted by the police on Friday afternoon raided three Katha factories at Maroli Industrial area at Lakhanpur in Kathua and Samba districts,” police sources here said.

Sources, said that the factory owners have close relations with one of the senior BJP MLA and former Forest Minister, Lal Singh.

The factories used to manufacture Katha, sources said, adding, but were closed two decades back as extraction or cutting of Khaer wood was banned.

However, as Lal Singh was appointed as forest minister, the factories secretly became operational with official patronage and started making Katha once again by felling banned Khaer trees, sources said.

The team also recovered huge quantity of Khaer wood, sources added.

Sources said that the Khaer trees grow in low reaches and the growth is abundant in Kathua district.

The Khaer trees had all along been a big attraction for forest smugglers as these trees produced delicious Katha for paan (beetle) lovers.

As people started cutting Khaer trees mercilessly for material gains, the government, few years back, banned the cutting, sources said.

However, as Lal Singh became the Chief Minister, he discreetly allowed his men to cut the trees and make Katha in their factories, sources said.

Sources further said that there may be much more raids on some of other business establishments of Lal Singh.

They said that Lal Singh is running a factory that manufactures poles for fencing purposes and the factory has been doing the same for fencing forests since his induction as minister.

“In most of the cases, the supply of these poles has been made on verbal orders without proper tendering,” sources said.

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