INDIA. Mumbai: Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Vinod Shivkumar attached to Amravati division of Maharashtra forest department, was arrested on charges of abetment to suicide of a junior officer and was sent to two days police custody on Saturday.
Shivkumar was nabbed by the officials of Railway Police Force (RPF) with assistance from the Amaravati Police when he was about to board a train for Bangalore from Nagpur Railway Station on Friday, soon after the news of the Range Forest Officer (RFO) Deepali Chavan (33) committing suicide broke out.
Superintendent of Police Amravati (Rural) Hari Balaji told the “Transcontinental Times” that Shivkumar was produced in the District and Sessions Judge, Dharni, which sent him to police custody for two days. An offence (No.0211/2021) under section 306 Indian Penal Code was registered against the accused.
Similarly, Shiv Kumar was suspended and removed from the Wildlife Section of Sipna Forest Division and Deputy Conservator Avinash Kumar was asked to officiate in his place till further orders, by the Maharashtra forest department on Saturday.
Deepali Chavan, the RFO of Harisal with the Wildlife Section of Sipna Forest Division in Melghat, Amravati District, committed suicide at her residential wairteen, on Thursday evening. She left a suicide note running into several pages where she accused Shiv Kumar and senior forest officials of harassment and forcing her to take the extreme step. She mentioned that she had brought the harassment by Shiv Kumar, to the notice of Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR) Field Director, M.Srinivasa. Reddy (IFS). However, he ignored her pleas and ostensibly sided with the accused Shiv Kumar.
Before she committed suicide by shooting herself with a service revolver, she contacted her husband Rajesh Mohite, working as a treasury officer at Chikhaldhara. After some time when he tried to contact her, he noticed that her cell number was switched off. Soon, he got in touch with her colleagues M S Birgone, Jyoti Birgone, Sanjeev Dikar, and woman forest ranger Bisanan in Harisal and asked them to go to the government quarter to check on her.
As they went, they found that the door of the quarters was locked from the inside. After they broke the door, they found Deepali lying on the bed in a pool of blood. Her revolver was also lying by her side. It turned out she had committed suicide by shooting herself in the right side of the chest. Upon receiving the information, senior officials of the forest department reached the spot.
Mental and physical torture
Shivkumar used to call Deepali at odd hours at night under the pretext of discussing official work. Deepali who was married in early 2020, was pregnant in October 2020. During that period, Shivkumar had allegedly compelled her to accompany him on a gruelling 3-day forest patrol, walking or driving hundreds of KMS ignoring her maternal condition. Consequently, upon return from the forest ordeal, she suffered a miscarriage and was in deep depression, Deepali alleged in her suicide note.
As a sequel to Deepali’s suicide, (MTR) Field Director, M.Srinivasa Reddy was transferred out by the Maharashtra forest department on March 26. However, the Forest Rangers Association of Maharashtra (FRAM) President R B Rodge, demanded that the charges not only under section 306 IPC, but charges also under sections 302, 354 A, 376 C of the Indian Penal Code be levelled against Shiv Kumar.In a letter to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, FRAM demanded that besides, Shiv Kumar, Reddy also be made a co-accused in the case. Also, a CID inquiry be conducted in the matter. The Divisional Forest Officer Piyusha Jagtap too demanded an impartial inquiry in the episode. When contacted by the “Transcontinental Times” Reddy could not be reached since his cell phone was switched off.
Although earlier Deepali’s mother Shantabai had refused to accept her body and activists of political outfits including Bhim Army, Bahujan Vanchit Aghadi and BJP had staged demonstrations outside District General Hospital, Amravati, eventually, her body was accepted and last rites were performed at Nandgaon, Khandeshwar in Morgaon village in Amravati late Friday evening.
On Saturday, the forest officers from Amravati, Akola, Yavatmal, Washim, and Buldana gathered outside Amravati court, where Shiv Kumar was produced for remand and demanded action against him. Heavy police security was deployed to avoid untoward incidents outside the court.
In the meanwhile, NCP MP Supriya Sule expressed anguish over Deepali’s suicide and said that she would do her best to ensure justice to her family. Other women’s including BJP’s women wing, have also condemned the incident.