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As Uttarakhand sleeps on proposal to appoint wildlife wardens, TN offers a lesson

dehradun Updated: Aug 10, 2017 19:35 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand News,Tigers,NTCA

Tamil Nadu lost two tigers this year as compared to Uttarakhand’s 11, according to the NTCA.(HT File)

Uttarakhand can take a leaf out of Tamil Nadu’s book to appoint retired divisional forest officers as honorary wildlife wardens to keep a check on poaching and illegal wildlife trade.

Drought-hit Tamil Nadu shares boundary with Karnataka which is home to one of the largest tiger populations in India. Both the states were once the theatre of notorious poacher Veerapan. Tamil Nadu lost two tigers this year as compared to Uttarakhand’s 11, according to the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s official database Tigernet.

Uttarakhand has 24,240 sqkm (45.32%) under forests of its total 53, 483 sq km of geographical area. The forest department comprises 13 circles, 44 divisions, 284 ranges and 1,569 beat.

The warden system was abolished after Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000. Prior to the bifurcation, honorary wardens were present in eastern, western, trans Himalayan and in northern divisions. The forest department had demanded four honorary wildlife wardens in 2014 for Kotdwar, Gopeshwar, Ramnagar and Dharchula. Later, it was scaled down to two - one each in Garhwal and Kumaon. The file is, however, gathering dust at the state secretariat.

Chapter II, clause 4 (b) of The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 lays provision of appointment of chief wildlife warden, wildlife wardens, honorary wildlife wardens (appointed in protected areas) and other officer necessary for conducting various duties.

Under the Wildlife Protection Act and the Indian Penal Code, honorary wildlife wardens are deemed as public servants and have powers to initiate investigation, arrest and even search during the time of emergency. And, all this come without paying any salary to them.

“It’s been more than three years since the proposal of anti-poaching cell was submitted to the government which had a flagship point of appointing honorary wildlife wardens,” additional principal chief conservator of forest, wildlife and intelligence, Dhananjai Mohan said.

Contrast it with the situation in Tamil Nadu, the southern state recently appointed 20 honorary wildlife wardens to check wildlife crime. “I don’t know of any such proposal. And if there is one, I will consider it. We will also engage our retired staff as they have experience,” forest minister Harak Singh Rawat told Hindustan Times.

Former principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) Srikant Chandola asserted the warden system was of immense support to the intelligence network before the state was formed. “The wardens used to lead sources which helped in cracking wildlife crime even before it was committed.”

First Published: Aug 10, 2017 19:35 IST