New Delhi, Aug 3: Within a month of taking stock of the work being done in tiger conservation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday asked all chief ministers to urgently take steps to tighten institutional arrangements in tiger reserves and recruit frontline staff in sanctuaries on priority basis.
"The prime minister in a letter to the state chief ministers, after a review of the implementation of the Tiger Task Force Report, said that a large number of frontline posts in the Department of Forests are lying vacant in several states," said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.
After setting up the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) last year as part of the new strategy to shore up the dwindling numbers of big cats that have fallen prey to unchecked poaching by organised gangs, Manmohan Singh has been taking an active interest to save India's national animal.
In his letter, Singh pointed out that recruitment bans could have been imposed when state finances were under stress but maintained that matters had changed and urged chief ministers to fill up vacancies.
In its provisional findings in May, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) estimated that the number of tigers in India was not likely to be more than 2,000-2,200 after a study of tiger population in six states. The final findings of the WII study are expected in December.
The last tiger census had put the number at more than 3,500.
Singh also urged chief ministers to create a development agency in each tiger reserve for guidance in increasing local participation in tiger reserve management.
"These agencies would be under the field directors involving local panchayats and professional wildlife experts," said a statement.
On World Environment Day (June 5) over 140 tiger experts, NGOs and prominent citizens sent an open letter to the prime minister expressing the critical need to act immediately to save the tiger.
"Recent government monitoring studies have unequivocally confirmed what conservationists have been saying for years - the tiger is in steep decline, it is not adequately protected and unless action is taken now, it will be too late to stem the slide to extinction," said Belinda Wright, chief of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.
As a follow-up action Prime Minister Singh has also asked the states to consider major parks and tiger reserves as autonomous profit centres suggesting the creation of a "development fund" in each reserve, which would be made eligible for tourism gate receipts and assistance from governments.