Gir protection staff strike work to protest suspension
THE TIMES OF INDAI
AHMEDABAD: The field staff of the Gir Sanctuary responsible for the conservation and protection of the world's last Asiatic lion in its abode in Sasan have struck work. The staff is protesting the suspension of two forest officials against whom a police complaint was lodged after a youth from Hadmatiya was caught for illegal lion show.
The staff including the rescue team sat on dharna at the office of the Chief Conservator of Forest in Junagadh and demanded that the suspension be revoked. The suspension had led to unrest in the department. A voice message had gone viral in groups of forest department staffers, asking them to unite against the politics that was playing out in the suspension incident.
The Gujarat forest department suspended a range forest officer, P T Kaneria, and a forester, M M Bharwad, against whom a complaint was lodged at Talala police station after a detainee of theirs, Bharat Kalsaria, attempted suicide. Kalsaria had been arrested for his alleged involvement in organizing illegal lion shows.
On April 29, seven residents of Harmatiya village including Kalsaria were accused of holding an illegal lion show in Talala. "Kalsaria had been on the run ever since. On Tuesday, a forest department staffer spotted him and he was detained. On finding him guilty of holding illegal lion shows, the officer fined him Rs 7,000 and he was then let go. The department filmed his release as well," said senior officials from the department.
Even the Non-Government organization association with the conservation have demanded that the suspension be revoked. Kishore Kotecha of the Wildlife Conservation Trust in a letter to the PCCF said, "Our trust strongly condemns the unwarranted suspension of RFO Talala Kaneriya and Forestor Bharwad. They have a very strong record of having performed their duty diligently even at risk of their own life. Now for the sake of better known reasons they are being punished. In the support of our Gir and it's lion's conservation we humbly request that their suspension order should be revoked and an impartial inquiry should be order in the issue and instead the department should file a petition in the high court for quashing of the FIR against the two forest staffers."