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HindustanTimes Sat,27 Dec 2014

Uttarakhand a soft target for wildlife criminals

Nihi Sharma Sahani  Dehradun, May 19, 2014
First Published: 23:59 IST(19/5/2014) | Last Updated: 00:03 IST(20/5/2014)

Two Bawariyas were arrested for tiger poaching in Kotari range of Kotdwar, Lansdowne forest division on Saturday. The close network of NGOs and forest department informers managed to stop their plan of hunting tigers. However, a notorious poacher, Bheema managed to flee.

Members of the Bawariya community are professional tiger hunters and consider Uttarakhand to be an easy spot for poaching big cats. That’s the reason why they keep on returning to the hill state to try their luck with one of the Bengal Tigers. The forest department has managed to check Bawariyas on several occasions, but failed to stop tiger poaching completely.

BAWARIYA COMMUNITY AT A GLANCE

Originally from Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, the Bawariya community is behind nearly 60% wildlife crimes in Uttarakhand, activists said. Known to use traditional techniques of poaching, these people work in groups of family members and stay as migrants in the hill state.

Rajendra Agarwal, state head Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) said, “Bawariyas are migrants in Uttarakhand. A handful of members of this community are involved in 60% of the wildlife crimes in the state. They keep a low profile and works actively.”

One of the striking features of this community is that it uses traditional techniques of poaching. This generally includes use of steel traps, which are easier to install in forest areas where big cat movement is reported.

According to experts, Bawariyas can be spotted selling plastic flowers, wood items, local watches and other such products in Terai and Haridwar belt. Community members make friends and stay in rented rooms. As soon as they get an opportunity, they hunt tigers.
BHEEMA, A LEADING TIGER POACHER

Belinda Wright, executive director Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), a Delhi-based NGO said Bheema was a leading tiger poacher in Uttarakhand. “His connection with the hill state is strong. And no doubt he will return to the state again and again for killing tigers,” she told HT.

It was in 2005 when Bheema, along with his brother Hazari and partner Shankar Mandal killed a tiger in Kotdwar, Uttarakhand and was smuggling it across Uttar Pradesh. Division forest officer Najibabad then arrested all three accused in Kaudia range of its region, adjoining Kotdwar. After getting bail from a lower court, Bheema did not appear in Bijnore high court and thus, the court issued non-bailable warrant against him. After that, he went missing for two years.

Sources said that he spent two years in Haridwar developing nexus and contact to kill more tigers. Eventually, in February 2012 he was arrested in Gurgaon.

Bheema’s arrest brought a ray of hope for Uttarakhand forest department as the officers were sure he would not get further bail.

After his arrest, Bheema admitted to killing two tigers in 2011 and 2012 in Lansdowne forest division. However, Bheema get bail in late 2013 and immediately after coming out of jail, he planned another tiger poaching operation in Kotdwar which was tracked down.

SK Dutta, additional principal chief conservator of forest shared, “Bheema has killed several tigers of Uttarakhand. He is well versed with geographic conditions of Kotdwar. He knows the belt completely and also knows patches where tigers are present. He is a professional and no doubt one of the leading tiger poachers of the state.”

Besides Bheema there are other Bawariya tiger poachers.  Totaram alias Birbal was another threat to tigers of the state who was sentenced three years rigorous imprisonment by Khatima court of Uddhamsinghnagar district in December 2009. Totaram was in close contact with notorious poacher Sansarchand who is now no more.

In May 2012, a tiger-poaching incident was reported in Corbett Tiger Reserve. A series of raids and investigations followed and in Haryana 8 Bawariyas were arrested in this connection. Ramesh Bagri of Pinjore, Ginia Bagri and Tarachand Bagri of Panchkula, Gopi Bawariya of Chandigarh and Priya Bawariya were main accused arrested then.

Bheema was also involved in the case, who was later arrested in Gurgaon.

Besides, noted poacher Om Prakash Bawariya, Dariya Singh and wife Bhagwati also belong to Bawariya community and are involved in several wildlife crimes of Uttarakhand as well as other parts of nation.

FAILURE OF FOREST DEPARTMENT

Despite reminders from the National Tiger Conservation Authority, Uttarakhand forest department has largely failed to keep Bawariya community at bay. Blame it on the poor management or lack of manpower, forest department on various occasions has left its tigers at the mercy of Bawariyas. The May 2012 tiger-poaching incident of CTR said it all. When tigers are not safe in tiger reserves, then how can they be protected in territorial forest divisions of the state?

Dinesh Pandey from Wildlife Trust of India said, “There’s great emphasis on tiger conservation across the state. But, Uttarakhand forest department is inactive and slow in taking steps in accordance with NTCA guidelines. When Bawariyas can reach the heart of Corbett and hunt tigers, then they can kill big cats from wherever they want. The forest department lacks vision to conserve tigers. If Bawariyas are returning again and again to the state, it points out how easy it is for them to do poaching here.”

Needless to mention, lack of manpower mars Anti-Poaching Cell and APCCF intelligence wing. Both forest officers claim they have shortage of manpower. Informers are kept, but territorial staff is not included in intelligence and poaching cell activities.


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more from Dehradun

‘Central aid to state rose in past 3 yrs, but growth slow’

The annual assistance from the Centre to the state has increased in last few financial years, according to official statistics, even though the Uttarakhand government has been firing salvos at the central government over it.
 
Two days ago, the state Congress unit demanded `4,000 crore financial assistance from the centre.
According to the central statistics office figures, the Centre released `4883.74 crores for the state in 2011-12. It released `4717.68 crores in 2012-2013. And in 2013-2014, it increased the assistance to `5418.60 crores.

Uttarakhand is one of the 11 Himalayan states which enjoy special category status besides Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.
 
These special category states have to make part payment to the centre in lieu of getting funds for centrally-sponsored schemes.
Interestingly, on an average, central assistance has been substantial for the state though it has not helped Uttarakhand in increasing its Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) which is total monetary value of goods and services produced by a state economy in a given year.
“GSDP depends on various factors like rate of savings and investments and overall business atmosphere. But that doesn’t mean the state does not need help,” said Surender Kumar, media in-charge for CM adding that the state needs more funds.
 
The figures for Uttarakhand GSDP growth at constant (2004-5) price (as on 01-08-2014) was 9.36% in 2011-12. It was 5.61% in 2012-13 and 5.65% in 2013-2014.
 
Sometime back Planning Commission constituted a committee to study development in hill states arising from management of forest land with special focus on creation of infrastructure, livelihood and human development.
 
The report of the committee was discussed in Internal Planning Committee meeting held in February this year.
A Planning Commission note claimed that IPC broadly endorsed the recommendations of the committee. The report has also been forwarded to states for further inputs.

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