Sunday, June 10, 2007

State wakes up to Gir killings, embarks on recruitment drive


State wakes up to Gir killings, embarks on recruitment drive

Ahmedabad Newsline By: Bashir Pathan


To recruit ‘vanya prani mitras’, increase fleet of vehicles, improve communication network


Gandhinagar, June 9: In wake of the recent poaching incidents_ that saw at least eight Asiatic lions dead in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary_ the State Government has decided to strengthen the man management in and around the sanctuary areas by recruiting additional field staff and also augmenting the existing fleet of vehicles as also improving the communication network to protect big cats.


The government has already issued sanction orders for the Forest Department to recruit over 100 young beat guards and 300 “vanya prani mitras” to be deployed in the Gir sanctuary. Besides, it has decided to fill up the 40 vacant posts of beat guards and also create four new posts of range forest officers (RFO) and other six of foresters.


With the government giving the go-ahead, the department has already initiated the process of recruiting beat guards, and also appointing over 300 local villagers as “vanya prani mitras” to man the sanctuary areas and keep a tab on any anti-lion activity. It has also been decided to double the mobile squads to four, with each squad comprising one ACF and two foresters and having a jeep equipped with a wireless set and other facilities.


“The recent ugly episodes (poaching incidents) involving gangs of criminals was a wake-up call for us compelling us to take an integrated view that the areas in and around the sanctuary be better guarded to protect the Asiatic lions,” Principal Secretary (Forests and Environment) P N Roy Chowdhury told The Indian Express on Saturday.


Chowdhury also agreed that the average age of each of the present 200 beat guards warding the sanctuary is 46 years that restricts them physically to man their respective jurisdictional areas.


“Keeping this in view, the youths being recruited as beat guards will be deployed in vulnerable areas of the sanctuary. Not only this, we have decided to employ local people as ‘informers’ on some fixed remuneration to help forest officials keep a close watch on possible poaching activities in the area,” he said.


The department has decided to provide firearms to foresters and beat guards so as to enable them to take on criminal gangs indulging in anti-lion activity. Initially, 100 forearms will be purchased and handed over to forest guards deployed mainly in the areas where the poaching incidents had occurred about three months ago, and also in lions’ new habitats in Babra, Savarkundla, Palitana and Mahuva talukas.


According to Bharat Pathak, Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Junagadh Circle, forest staff in Gir will be provided 75 wireless sets in addition to the 300 wireless sets and five more jeeps equipped with wireless sets will be added to the 10 existing ones.


Principal Chief Conservation of Forests (Wildlife) Pradeep Khanna said it was a challenging task for his department to provide safety to lions, as several big cats often stray out of the sanctuary in search of new habitats in the forests of neighbouring Amreli and Bhavnagar districts.


“But, we are resolved to meet this challenge by strengthening human resources and also bettering communication network in the sanctuary. The department has already set up one additional Task Force led by DCF which will collect all relevant information about possible criminal activities that may threaten the very survival of Asiatic lions and the forests,” said Khanna.

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