Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been leading tiger conservation efforts in Delhi for nearly three years. He now wants chief ministers to give the big cats the same attention and promises to back them with money from the central kitty.
Singh will also shortly convene a conference of chief ministers of states with tiger reserves “to put in place a coordinated response to the challenge of tiger conservation,” a spokesman in the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Singh’s fresh set of initiatives came at a meeting on Friday to review the tiger conservation status in the country and the functioning of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
The meeting comes in the backdrop of intense public attention on the dwindling numbers of tigers reflected in the latest tiger census that estimated the population of the big cats at 1,411. This is the lowest estimate of their population in independent India, down from the 1,800 tigers that the first census in 1960 had come up with.
Singh expressed concern at the decline in the tiger population as well but also noted that the recent estimates could not be compared with the earlier ones since different methods were used to undertake the fresh census.
“Noting that some states have a better record of tiger conservation than others, the meeting stressed the importance of concerned state governments paying focused attention,” a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office later said.
Singh — who had written to chief ministers last year, asking them to urgently take steps to strengthen institutional arrangements in the tiger reserves — went a step further this time. He asked the chief ministers to take “personal charge” of tiger conservation and forest management.
The central government had recently approved an enhanced relocation package of up to Rs 10 lakh per family for those living in tiger reserves and also formulated several schemes aimed at tiger conservation.