If everything goes according to plan, Sariska will get tigers in a year's time, say officials of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. In 2004, tigers had gone missing from the tiger reserve because of rampant poaching.
Now, in a major breakthrough, the Centre has been able to convince the Rajasthan government to relocate two villages out of the Sariska Tiger Reserve. According to Rajesh Gopal, director, Project Tiger, the central government will give Rs 1 lakh each to over 60 families as an incentive to move out of the reserve. The Rajasthan government too will give Rs 1 lakh to each family apart from allocating farming land some distance away from the reserve.
While the Centre has already released money for the relocation, ministry officials said a strategy to deal with other issues related to tiger safety would be discussed with the Rajasthan government at a meeting in Delhi on October 30.
"We have called a meeting with the conservator of forest, Rajasthan, to prepare a schedule to settle the remaining issues," said Gopal.
Three key issues likely to be discussed at the meeting are that of limited visits to a historical temple within the tiger reserve, the use of a road tehsil level road crisscrossing through the reserve and replacing the old forest staff with younger people.
“About 30-40 per cent posts in the tiger reserve are vacant,” said an official.
Officials say restricting visitors to the temple is a major issue as religious sentiments of the people in many villages around the reserve are involved.
“We don't want to relocate the temple or stop pilgrimage there,” said an official. “But there should be some sort of restriction on the number of visitors and the timing for visits.” The Rajasthan government is yet to agree to this.
On the road issue, the two governments are working on a plan to construct an alternative road. Till that is done, the present road will continue to be used but the ministry is demanding that a speed limit be imposed.