The Corbett Tiger Reserve has failed to set up a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) according to a directive issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) seven years ago.
Out of 48 tiger reserves in the country, the directive was to 13 which were identified as sensitive, according to wildlife activists.
They told HT on Sunday that repeated reminders by Union forest minister Prakash Javedaker and NTCA failed to wake up the Corbett management to the issue. They said Van Gujjars or forest nomads’ 30% reservation in the proposed force got into way of setting up of STPF.
However, the ministry of forest, environment and climate change (MoEFCC) is not ready for 30% reservation of Gujjars in the force, as approved by the state government, they further said.
“The ministry promotes tiger reserves without human intervention because of which it does not supports participation of Gujjars in STPF,” they added.
According to them, the Corbett Tiger Reserve sharing boundary with Uttar Pradesh on its southern side needs its own STPF.
“So, the state government should have intervened in the formation of STPF. Corbett needs such a force considering its porous southern boundary,” AK Singh, team leader Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) WWF said.
At present, there are only 200 staff members to keep vigil on the 1288.31-sq-km reserve.
Prerna Bindra, former member of the state board of wildlife, told HT, “There seems to be no reason for delay in forming STPF in Corbett. The reserve has high density of tigers and therefore, every possible step shall be taken for their protection.”
Over 200 tigers were found at the reserve during an All-India Tiger Estimation whose report was released early this year.
In October this year, director of Corbett Sameer Sinha said, “We have sent the proposal to government for concurrence and comments. It will go to departments concerned. There was an issue with vacancies which we will soon be able to resolve.” Despite efforts, he couldn’t be contacted for version on this issue.
Prior to the reservation issue, the Corbett management was struggling for immunity to the force under The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) section 197 which allows counter attack in defence during encounter with poachers and timber mafias.
The government relaxed this clause with a rider that forest staff too would face court trials in such cases.
On 29 February 2008, finance minister during his budget speech had announced a grant of `50crore to NTCA for raising, arming and deploying STPF in 13 sensitive tiger reserves of the country. After this, in May 2012, a tiger poaching incident was reported from Savalde range of Corbett raising urgency of constituting the force.