Uttarakhand forest dept lacks database on victims of animal attacks
Attacks by wild animals are frequently reported in Uttarakhand, but the state forest department lacks comprehensive data on the number of people killed or injured in such incidents, officials admit.
Activists allege that compilation of data on wild attack victims has been neglected since the exercise will expose the inefficiency of forest officials in tackling the conflicts.
“We have started an exercise to update the mortalities or injuries from the year 2016 on our official website. A few forest divisions aren’t responsive though. Yet, we are trying to get cumulative figures,” said Digvijay Singh Khati, chief wildlife warden.
The forest headquarters in Dehradun does not have complete data about the people killed by leopards, snakes, elephants, wild boars, monkeys and others, said activists dealing with animal attack cases. The wing dealing with compensation for the victims also lacks exact records about mortalities or injuries, activists added.
“If the department starts compiling data of victims since the state formation in 2000, the officers will be caught. The data will certainly reflect increase in number of attacks each year and crores being released to the people in the name of compensation,” said Rajeev Mehta, an activist.
“The officers do not wish to be held responsible for the inefficiency and incapability of not finding a solution to conflicts.”
Forest department estimates say nearly 300 people have died in Uttarakhand in leopard attacks and about 100 in attacks by other animals, except snakes. In the absence of a database on the victims, the figures quoted in the media and researches are ‘estimated’ and not ‘exact’, said activists.
“If there are mortalities or attacks, the department and the government should accept it. There’s nothing wrong in accepting such issues. But, it will be wrong if we fail to devise a strategy to mitigate the conflicts,” said former forest minister Dinesh Agarwal.
The in-house book of the department does not record the number of victims and the details of the compensation given. There is also no mechanism in which divisions submit the details of compensation to the headquarters, activists said.
“The figures of people dying because of wild animals will put the officers on radar and they don’t want it,” said Dinesh Pandey, a Haridwar-based activist.
Senior officials claim that Pauri reports the highest number of leopard attacks, but they have no figures about the district or other districts to support their stance, activists said.
The department prepares data on the death of wild animals, but does not have lists of poaching and smuggling cases, or seizures of wildlife parts. Such cases are recorded under the ‘wildlife crime’ head, RTI (right to information) queries have revealed.