Recent revelations of presence of poachers in the Corbett national park have elicited the focus of department officials and strong reactions from wildlife activists.
While the Forest Department officials state that all necessary action is being taken to prevent poaching, wildlife activists allege that the department’s officials are mired in corruption; which is why they are more focused on covering-up their failures instead of admitting lapses and taking steps to redress the same.
They further aver that many of the dozen plus tiger deaths that have occurred this year in Uttarakhand are suspicious, but the department denies this.
Recently, taking cognisance of information provided by People For Animals, Uttarakhand, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) member secretary Rajesh Gopal wrote a letter to the Uttarakhand Director General of Police requesting him to facilitate concerted work by the police and forest department to act upon information on presence of six gangs of poachers active in Corbett and neighbouring forest divisions.
Meanwhile, activists say that improving the functioning of the forest department is more important for protecting wildlife. According to Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) Uttarakhand in-charge Rajendra Agrawal, tigers and even other wildlife in the State would have been much better protected had the State forest department formed the Special Tiger Protection Force. The department has been delaying the formation of the STPF slated to consist of 112 members, he added.
However, the State Principal Chief Conservator of Forests RBS Rawat said that tigers are not being poached in Uttarakhand. “Our officers are doing their job properly and we recently nabbed three members of a national-level poaching ring in Corbett. I recently toured Corbett for three days and did not find any signs of official negligence”, he stressed.
According to Rawat, following the red alert declared by the department, the leave of staff has been cancelled and meetings are being held only in the field and not in the HQ in Dehradun so that officers don’t have to leave their areas of jurisdiction. Apart from this, the department is also keeping a watch on dubious characters especially visiting members of the Bagri and Bawaria tribes who have a track record of poaching, he added.
According to PFA Uttarakhand member secretary Gauri Maulekhi, “If the authorities in Uttarakhand could find time to look into the evidences of corruption provided by NGOs and to seriously evaluate the situation, they would never give statements like ‘there is no departmental negligence found’. Departmental negligence has been established and whoever is not willing to acknowledge, is perhaps part of the whole corruption chain. The NGOs who are crying foul and providing information have not been asked for more inputs. We have not received a single reply to any of the tens of letters sent to PCCF, neither on paper nor in terms of action on ground,” she said.
Src: Daily Pioneer