With rising tiger deaths becoming "a great cause of worry" for the government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has decided to personally take up the matter with the states, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said today.
The prime minister expressed his concern regarding unnatural tiger deaths in reserves during a meeting of National Board for Wildlife held on Thursday, Ramesh told reporters here.
He said Singh will also talk to state governments on the delay in notifying buffer zones in protected areas which was having a negative impact on wildlife.
Majority of the states are yet to bring the identified buffer areas in sanctuaries, tiger reserves and protected areas under the legal ambit which would ban construction and any infrastructural projects.
"However, the states do not want so. Hence, the delay in notification," Ramesh said.
Pointing to 60 tiger deaths last year, the minister said "a conspiracy" has been hatched by mining and estate mafia with the support of some politicians.
"The prime minister has agreed to lend weight of his office for monitoring state governments. He will also take up the matter with chief ministers of various states, particularly Uttarakhand government about unnatural tiger deaths in Corbett National Park," he said.
"It is a great cause of worry that 60 tigers died last year against the average mortality of 30 reported in the past. These are not accidents.
"It is a conspiracy hatched by mining and estate mafia supported by politicians who will be benefited by eliminating tigers. They want the land for mining and construction purpose," Ramesh said when asked about the reasons for the tiger deaths.
As per recent official estimates, there are about 1,400 big cats across the 37 tiger reserves in the country, a sharp decline from 10,000 reported a decade ago.
According to Ramesh, at least 18 tiger reserves are in a precarious situation with tiger populations nearing extinction.
On the ongoing village relocation work in tiger reserves, he said Rs 8,000 crore would be required to move 77,000 families over the next seven years. So far, out of 80,000 identified families in 37 reserves, only 3000 have been relocated.
The Minister pointed that families keen to move out from the protected areas will be offered Rs 10 lakh financial help as is being done for those in tiger reserves.
"There is a general perception that we are supporting only village relocation in tiger reserves. But any family which voluntarily wants to move out even if it is protected area, we would provide financial compensation of Rs 10 lakh to it," he said.