The transfer of Panna tiger reserve field director R Sriniwas Murthy is perhaps being seen as a move to counter his opposition to the proposed Ken Betwa river link project to resolve the shortage of water in the Bundelkhand region.
Highly placed sources said Murthy had put down his opposition to the river link project on paper, saying that it will submerge about 50 sq km of prime forests, which are part of the Panna Tiger Reserve.
This perhaps did not go down too well with the state government, which is quite keen to go ahead with the project.
Murthy was posted as field director of Panna in May 2009 - soon after the tiger reintroduction project began there.
The reserve had been declared tiger less in December 2008 and Murthy piloted the reintroduction project. There are now 27 tigers in the reserve.
Sources also added that the forest department had proposed changing the field directors of five of the six tiger reserves on grounds that the incumbents had spent more than three years in their respective positions.
However, the shortage of wildlife trained officers in the state coupled with the fact that on earlier too, officers posted as field directors in the tiger reserves have served for longer terms - as observed by the chief secretary - prompted the forest department to withdraw the transfer proposal, but it singled out Murthy.
“Bandhavgarh has proved to be the weakest in terms of management practice. Yet the state government did not affect a change there and instead replaced field director, Panna. This shows there are reasons other than wildlife management that came into play while deciding the postings,” said a senior forest department official on condition of anonymity.
The Ken Betwa river link project was shelved by the previous UPA government citing environmental concerns.
It was, however, revived after the NDA came to power in May last year.
Denying that Murthy was transferred due to opposition to the river link project, forest minister Gauri Shankar Shejwar said, “It is wrong to say that the field director, Panna, has been transferred due to his stand against the Ken Betwa river link. Transfers are part of an administrative process and transfer of field director, Panna is no different."