Anindo Dey, TNN, Dec 3, 2010, 11.31pm IST
JAIPUR: The recent death of a tiger at the Sariska reserve and a complete reshuffle of officials later, it is a failed system that the state forest department is slowly but steadily getting entrapped into. For not only are threats of poaching are lurking large at Ranthambore but in Sariska members of the notorious Bawaria tribe are again apparently making inroads.
"The administrative and monitoring system in both the state tiger reserves are breaking down. One really needs to overhaul the entire machinery so that catastrophe of 2005 does not repeat itself once again," sources said.
There may be logic in this proposal. For, besides having declared a high alert at Ranthambore, the state forest department is yet to take any practical step to ensure that poachers are kept at bay.
"In 2005 after the shameful episode in Sariska, the forest department had requisitioned and deployed one company of RAC and 110 extra home guards for Ranthambore to ensure that nothing untoward happens. The results showed when around October that year, some poachers were nabbed. This time too, why did the state government not ask for extra personal," sources said.
That is not all. In the past one year there have been eight tigers that have either gone missing or have strayed just from Ranthambore. However, action in any of the cases is yet to be taken. Except one, none of the straying tigers have returned. The tale of woe began last year with two tigers being poisoned that saw two more straying towards the Kunho-Palpur area and the Chambal-Sheopur district. The incident was followed by T-7 going to Mathura only to come back to Bharatpur. In October last year, a tigress was poisoned while another made its way to the Kalisind area. The eighth Ranthambore big cat to have gone this way was when it too was poisoned.
"After the death of ST-1 in Sariska, what emerged was that none of the staff in the range offices were working properly. They had formed a pool system and if any post was to be manned by four persons what was happening is that three went home and left just one to man the post. Each one thus took turns to stay away from the forest. And to ensure this, the staff had used their resources to be posted within 20 km of their village," the source said.
Not just that, in an evaluation it emerged that 70% of Sariska's forest staff was from Alwar who choose to quietly leave for home every day at 5 pm.
"It is a government system that entails as far as possible the staff be given duty in their own district. But the pitfall was that most of them chose to stay off the forest," he added. It was in this context that after the death of ST-1 that the Talwar ranger was suspended.
"In fact, the ranger had refused to come to his range even when a senior officials has suddenly chosen to visit it," the source said.
Also pointing to the lapse at Sariska is the fact the male tiger ST-4, that had been missing and remained untraceable for more than 15 days, was located just within three days after the entire forest machinery landed in Sariska after the death of ST-1.
"This itself shows that the staff had taken things too casually. But after senior officials landed in the forest they got into the act and recovered ST-4. Moreover, when chief minister himself choose to go to Sariska after the death of ST-1 why are senior department officials not rushing to Ranthambore now when there is a threat," the source asked.
However, when contacted H M Bhatia, chief wildlife warden, Rajasthan, denied the allegations.
"There were RAC posted in Ranthambore and Sariska but they were taken away during the elections. Now again we have requisitioned the state government to give us two companies of RAC, one each for the two reserves. When they are sanctioned they will be posted there," he said.
"For Sariska, the forest terrain and the rain resulted in the initial hiccup in tracking the tiger. There is no question of the system breaking down for, if that was the case, then we would not have been able to track the tigers ever again. The field staff was doing their best in tracking the tigers but the circumstances were such that they could not track it earlier," he claimed.