Udupi, February 25, 2020 : A remark by the Range Forest Officer (RFO) that he would only go by the rules with regard to developing a road in Hebri Range angered MLA Raghupati Bhat and led to a heated exchange between them at the general body meeting of Udupi Taluk Panchayat on Monday.
Earlier, Mr. Bhat had raised the question of developing the road, falling in Udupi Assembly constituency and coming under the Hebri forest range. To this, Mr. Muniraju, Hebri RFO, said he would follow the rules and go by the law as the road came under the reserve forest. “If you feel what I am doing is wrong, you can complain to my superior officers. I will not do anything illegal,” he said.
Mr. Bhat responded, “We know when to approach your superior officers. We do not need lessons from you. If you keep following rules for everything, the life of ordinary people will become difficult. Don’t put obstacles to the roadwork.” Mr. Muniraju said that the road was illegal. In response, Mr. Bhat asked, “Whose mistake is that?” Mr. Muniraju said it was not his. This infuriated Mr. Bhat, who pointed out that Mr. Muniraju was sitting on a seat meant for taluk panchayat members.
Mr. Muniraju said there was no place for officers to sit. He also pointed out that four other officers were sitting with him. Subsequently, Mr. Bhat ordered him to sit in the officers’ gallery. Mr. Muniraju responded, “Please be polite. We are government officers.” To which, Mr. Bhat said, “You learn to give respect and then take respect. You should learn to talk to elected representatives.” Some members supported Mr. Muniraju on the matter of seating arrangement. But Mr. Bhat said, “If one officer speaks like this, the others will follow suit. Elected representatives will have no value. A resolution should be passed against him.”The MLA also took the Udupi RFO, Clifford Lobo, to task for declining permission to fell trees for widening a road in Brahmavar. “We get funds for widening roads. But you officers block it saying that it is deemed forest. Should we fall at your feet?” he asked.