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Uttar Pradesh: Meet on man-tiger conflicts ends with customary suggestions

According to environmentalists, the suggestions proposed by the Uttar Pradesh CM were “non-scientific and customary.”

lucknow Updated: Aug 17, 2017 15:41 IST
Chandan Kumar
Chandan Kumar
Hindustan Times, Bareilly
Pilibhit tiger reserve,Man tiger conflicts,Chief minister Yogi Adityanath
The attacks started two years after the Pilibhit forest was declared a tiger reserve.

“It started with tigers and ended with toilets,” said a forest official who attended chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s meeting with officials of Pilibhit district on Wednesday to discuss man-tiger conflicts in the region.

It was Adityanath’s first visit to the district after being appointed as the chief minister.

Women and child development minister and BJP MP from Pilibhit Maneka Gandhi along with local BJP leaders and MLAs of the district also attended the meeting.

“The chief minister heard about the problem keenly but didn’t go too much into the scientific aspects of it,” said the officer. Thus, the 45-minute meeting ended with customary suggestions, he added.

“We have decided to build more toilets in the villages where these incidents (tiger attacks) were reported and provide them with cooking gas cylinders,” Yogi said informing about the directions he gave to officials during the meeting aimed at reducing man-animal conflicts that have claimed 18 lives since October last year.

The attacks started two years after the Pilibhit forest was declared a tiger reserve. Economic activities like harvesting wood and other forest products were stopped once it was declared a reserve.

The first attack occurred on October 24, 2016 followed by three more deaths by the end of the year. Seven deaths were reported in quick succession till March.

The attacks again started in May and seven people were killed till August. According to experts, the reason for the attacks were many – right from increase in tiger population in the forest, to change in land use, thin buffer zone and the unique horseshoe shape of the forest which is interspersed with human habitation.

Read more: Tiger kills another farmer in Pilibhit, toll reaches 18

However, these reasons were overlooked in Wednesday’s meeting.

Elucidating on the CM’s directions, UP forest minister Dara Singh Chauhan said, “Apart from toilets and gas cylinders, we will also help the forest department build a fence on 50-km stretch of the forest where most of these attacks have occurred.”

Asked if the CM promised any fund to implement these directions, the minister added, “As per our estimates, no additional fund will be required to implement the directions as they can easily be implemented by current programmes of the central government.”

According to environmentalists, the suggestions proposed by the CM were “non-scientific and customary.”

“Firstly, none of the 18 people killed in tiger attacks were out to attend nature’s calls and neither were they out collecting firewood. All of them were farmers who were either guarding or doing farm work in their fields at the time of attack,” pointed Mohammed Zagir, a local environmentalist.

“The biggest challenge near PTR is to prevent animals from straying out of the forest by changing the land use of nearby farms but the issue was overlooked,” he added.

For farmers living in villages near the forest the minister suggested, “Farmers must avoid visiting their farm too often and adhere to guidelines issued by the forest department.”

The villagers criticised the suggestions. “Tigers attack us while we are working in our fields. We cannot stop working in our farms… how will we eat and what use will be the use of a toilet if will not have enough to eat,” quipped Shamshad Malik, a relative of Sanshul Rehman who was killed in a tiger attack last week.

Malik, along with family members of five people killed by tigers since June, were invited at the Collectorate for the CM’s visit. The chief minister provided them relief cheques of Rs five lakh, but failed to provide any relief for the ailing local forest department.

The department which is functioning with half of its assigned strength becomes the first target of enraged villagers. The ill-equipped staff relies on local police for their safety and assistance.

Commenting on the issue, the forest minister said, “Recruitment of staff is an administrative process, which takes time. We will try to speed up the process.”

Meanwhile, the opposition hit out against the CM’s visit with SP leaders calling it a tactic to divert attention from the Gorakhpur incident.

“The CM wants to show that he cares about the suffering of people, but where was he in the last four months?” asked Hemraj Verma, SP MLA from Puranpur area who is on a hunger strike to protest against the tiger attacks.

“Tiger attacks are an ecological problem, which needs to be dealt with in a scientific manner. But not a single environment or wildlife expert was invited in the meeting,” said Zagir.

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First Published: Aug 17, 2017 15:38 IST