MP refuses to take Panna blame, tells tiger authority to change policy
Milind Ghatwai Posted online: Tuesday , Jul 14, 2009 at 0045 hrs
Bhopal : While refusing to act against officials responsible for the tiger going extinct in Panna, Madhya Pradesh on Monday joined issue with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), advising it to take more effective steps to increase the tiger population in the country.
“When 16 out of 37 tiger reserves in the country are not doing well, the NTCA will have to change its policies,” state Forest Minister Rajendra Shukla told the Assembly in reply to a Calling Attention motion by the Opposition.
The work on tiger conservation was carried out according to day-to-day directives/guidelines issued by the NTCA and the money made available by it, Shukla said while telling the House that the Union Environment and Forest Minister had praised Madhya Pradesh for its conservation initiatives in Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench reserves.
In the same breath, the minister admitted that his government had received the report of a Special Investigating Team set up by the Union Environment Ministry, which held that poaching was the main reason for the Panna debacle. “We are examining the report and will soon let the Centre know of our reaction,” he said.
The Opposition accused the minister of digressing from the issue and staged a walkout saying the legislators were not satisfied with his reply. Before walking out they sported specially stitched adult bibs that carried pictures of tigers and “save us” messages.
“Who are you saving, tigers or officials,” asked Leader of Opposition Jamuna Devi. Congress MLAs said the ‘tiger state’ was in danger of losing that tag because the Government not only failed to save the big cat but also remained in denial. They reminded the minister that the Rajasthan government had sacked its highest forest officials after the tiger went extinct in Sariska.
Former HRD minister Arjun Singh’s son Ajay Singh asked whether all tigers had been poached during 16 months when dreaded dacoit Thokia took shelter in Panna. Refusing to take the bait, the minister replied that vigil was never discontinued.
Eyebrows were raised when Shukla claimed that every year 60 cubs were born. When pressed further by deputy Leader of Opposition Rakesh Singh Chaturvedi, the Minister claimed that there were some deaths too. Chaturvedi had said if so many cubs were being born every year the population should have been much more than the estimated count of 300 in 2006.