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Tiger and tourist count up at Corbett, not of men who man it

There are only 139 people, including 60 daily wagers, to man the Corbett Tiger Reserve that is spread over 1288 sq km and is home to 215 tigers.

dehradun Updated: Nov 22, 2017 20:02 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand News,Corbett Tiger Reserve,CTR
The reserve receives 2.5-3 lakh tourists during seven months — from November 15 to June 15 — that it remains open for tourists .(AP File)

One hundred and thirty nine. That’s the total number of men and women tasked with manning and protecting the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR), spread over 1288 sq km. That is one person for every 9 sq km, approximately.

Also, that, in a nutshell, sums up the state of affairs at the CTR, which, at the last count, was home to 215 tigers. The reserve receives 2.5-3 lakh tourists during seven months — from November 15 to June 15 — that it remains open for tourists.

The footfall is likely to see a jump this tourism season as the CTR readies top open two more entry gates from Garhwal-Kotdwar side on November 27. The gates would be ideal for those coming from Delhi and NCR region.

While efforts are being made to increase tourism inflow into the reserve, not too much effort has been put into increasing manpower in the field.

Tourists at Corbett Tiger Reserve in Ramnagar. ( HT Photo )

Currently, against the sanctioned strength of 120, the CTR has only 79 forest guards of which nine are women. In addition, 60 daily wagers are deployed under Operation Lord, an initiative of the reserve officials where locals are employed as watchers to strengthen patrolling.

Nine years ago, then UPA government at the Centre had directed 13 most sensitive reserves to constitute a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF), which could provide at least 100 more staff to each of them to man the big cat.

“We faced a lot of hiccups in the constitution of the force. Recently, I wrote to the state government urging to deploy forest guards under the STPF. This way, we will not have any special brigade of people. Instead we will increase the numbers on the ground,” Surendra Mehra, director, CTR, said.

The initial notification for the STPF in 2008 mandates 30% reservation for forest dwellers to ensure livelihood for locals and also ensure they play a role in protecting wildlife. This, however, was turned down by the (state?) government. Thereafter, brainstorming began on whether or not the force could be armed with the Section 197 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) that allows attack in defence. This was fine by the (state?) government and a notification was issued last year. The government, however, could not constitute the special force.

“The recent employment notification for over 1,200 posts of forest guards was withdrawn as we are making amendments in the rules so that more people could participate in the process,” Harak Singh Rawat, state forest minister, said.

The government has hinted deploying forest guards as the STPF at Corbett, yet it would take at least a year’s time to get the people moving in the field.

Since 2012, the reserve has had limited influx of tourists after it disallowed private vehicles except those of the VIPs. However, two new gates means an additional tourist footfall.

“The corridors are blocked because of tourism. And Corbett had taken steps to limit tourists in past, but there’s a need to strategise the inflow (of tourists),” wildlife activist Prerna Bindra said.

This year, of 13 tiger mortalities in Uttarakhand, six were reported from Corbett, as per official website of National Tiger Conservation Authority.

First Published: Nov 22, 2017 20:01 IST