Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Madhya Pradesh tests Modi’s lion-transfer mood

Madhya Pradesh tests Modi's lion-transfer mood
The Times of India

The Madhya Pradesh government has forwarded a proposal for Rs 80 crore assistance to the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), for the lion conservation project to be taken up at Kuno-Palpur.

MP officials in the past had demanded the same amount from the 12-member lion expert group, which had been formed on the orders of the apex court. The court, in April last year, ordered the translocation of lions and formed the 12-member committee to facilitate this.

Sources in the forest department said that in its first communique after Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has fired its first salvo and with the proposal to the MoEF, seeking funds to move Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Kuno-Palpur.

The proposal budget includes Rs 20 crore for infrastructure, like the construction of a hospital and procurement of vehicles and Rs 59 crore for relocation and rehabilitation of two more villages from within the Kuno sanctuary.

The MP government has already spent Rs 15 crore for relocation of 1,543 families from 24 revenue villages inside the sanctuary, while preparing the alternative habitat for Asiatic lions.

It now wants another Rs 59 crore for relocation of two more villages.

The MP government has said that the expert committee has asked the state to expand the sanctuary and have more villages relocated before the first pride of lions was shifted.

Based on the proposal from Madhya Pradesh, the Union government under a centrally-sponsored scheme — Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries —sanctioned and released Rs 15.45 crore in 2007-08 to pave the way for the translocation of lions despite protests from Gujarat.

Sources in the committee said that, so far, MP was demanding this money from the committee, but now it has forwarded this to the ministry. With Narendra Modi taking over as Prime Minister, MP wants to test if the funds are allocated or not.

"If the MoEF approves the allocation of Rs 79 crore, it will indicate that it is all for the translocation, but if it keeps the proposal on hold, it will be the first signal that the Centre was against the translocation and was waiting for the apex court to decide.

Gujarat government has already moved a curative petition in the Supreme Court as its last legal resort to retain all its Asiatic lions. Two Gujarat-based NGOs have also filed separate petitions challenging the translocation of lions to Kuno.

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