Monday, February 20, 2012

'Toothless' regional tiger cell meets today

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN Feb 21, 2012, 06.11AM IST

NAGPUR: With time running out for tigers and wildlife in particular due to poaching and the shrinking habitat, the regional tiger cell will meet on Tuesday after a gap of nine months to address various issues.

PK Mahajan, deputy conservator of forests (DyCF) for Nagpur division and member-secretary of the cell, said this is the 12th meeting and will be held at 4.30 pm at Van Sabhagruha, Seminary Hills.

The meet will be chaired by special IGP Rajinder Singh. It will be attended by divisional forest officers (DFOs), MSEDCL officials and superintendents of police from Gondia, Nagpur, Gadchiroli, Wardha, Chandrapur and Bhandara districts. Member-NGOs including Prafulla Bhamburkar of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), Nitin Desai of Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), Harshawardhan Dhanwatey of Tiger Research and Conservation Trust (TRACT) and Kundan Hate have also been invited.

The regional tiger cell meeting should be held every three months but it's not been happening. The cell was formed in 2000. The last meeting was held on April 11, 2011.

Mahajan said the meeting could not be called early as the officials concerned were busy with recruitment of forest guards and later with the winter session of the state legislature followed by the zilla parishad, municipal council and corporation elections.

"We will approve the minutes of the last meeting and discuss strategy on wildlife protection and better coordination," Mahajan added.

Meanwhile, conservationists have expressed grave concern over lack of action on a host of decisions taken by the cell in the past. They want the cell to take issues seriously. "Such meets should not end up as mere tea sessions," a member felt.

The cell has failed to act on many decisions taken for wildlife protection including curbing and nailing culprits in illegal fishing in Pench, forming a special committee to look into skin seizure cases, preventive action against habitual offenders, operations against Baheliyas and checking 'musafir registers' with police patils.

In the last meeting it was decided that police station diaries will have a special column for wildlife crime and police personnel will take part in the tiger estimation exercise, but the decision remains only on paper.

"As the cell meetings are not held at regular intervals, every time a new Special IGP chairs the meet. This leads to a fresh discussion on issues," said one of the members.

They added that many wild animals continue to be poached for meat and body parts. The meat is openly sold in weekly markets in rural area but officials' action is not forthcoming. "These illegal activities only go to show that due to lack of coordination between the forest department, the police and NGOs, the results are nil. These cells have become clawless," moaned conservationists.

Decisions Only On Paper

* FDCM, which has a large forest area under its jurisdiction, not invited to meetings

* Decision on expert group of police and forest officials in vulnerable Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Gondia, Wardha, Amravati, Nagpur, Bhandara, Thane and Mumbai not taken

* Decision on secret funds hanging by fire

* No special cell for handling wildlife crime cases. Joint forest and MSEDCL teams too not formed
* Several tiger poaching cases in Chandrapur not reopened as promised by the then Spl IGP SB Sawarkar

* Police station diaries with special columns for wildlife crime pending. Cops too not part of the census exercise as decided

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