With a view to ensuring that polls do not take a toll on the country's wildlife and biodiversity, the Election Commission has asked state governments to spare forest staff from poll-related duties.
"The election watchdog has issued a notice to all the states including tiger ranges not to divert the jungle staff as well infrastructure like vehicles and arms provided for the safety of the wildlife for poll purpose," a senior official from the environment ministry said.
Conservationists such as Belinda Wright, RS Chundawat, PK Sen, Valmik Thapar and Fateh Singh Rathore had last month written to Prime Minister Manohan Singh to ensure that jungle staff is not diverted to poll duties.
"If the security forces in parks becomes concentrated on poll-related issues, the poachers will have advantage once they get the clue of security lax. Any lax in security or vigilance will be threatening to the life of animals particularly predators like tigers and leopards who are always at the target of the poachers," Belinda Wright, a prominent wildlife expert said. "Polls should not be held at the cost of wildlife," she added.
The EC has enforced its 1998 order which exempts vehicles and staff of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries across the country from election duty. There are around 96 national parks and over 500 wildlife sanctuaries in the country.