Thursday, October 12, 2017

GR permitting overnight stay inside Gir worries foresters

GR permitting overnight stay inside Gir worries foresters
The Times of India

AHMEDABAD: A government resolution allowing pilgrims to stay overnight at the Kankai Mata temple inside the Gir Sanctuary is worrying forest officials and conservationists. The use of the word 'yatralu' in the GR has broadened the scope beyond members of the community, who have Kankai Mata as their family deity, and were the only persons who used to stay overnight at the temple, traditionally.

A worried forest department official said, "There are no special permits required to be obtained from the forest department to stay at night at the temple. A person entering the temple with a day permit can stay back with the same permit."

"Earlier, the permit holder visiting the temple had to return by 5pm," said the official.

Through a notification, the government had in the first week of September, allowed 50 devotees to stay overnight at the Kankai Mataji temple within the Gir Sanctuary - the last abode of the Asiatic lion.

Wildlife activists, including some members of the state board of wildlife are worried that conservation of lions may be affected by allowing pilgrims to stay overnight inside the sanctuary.

A senior officer from the forest department said, "After getting the notification, we found the word pilgrims. Initially, it was only for the community who have Kankai Mata as their family deity. But the final notification had the word 'yatralu' thus widening the scope for stay at night."

A tour operator who conducts Gir tours, when contacted, said, "The night permit can be managed easily. Come down and we will arrange for the same."

Forest officials said they had tried to implement a system where a special permit was to be issued for night stay and only after getting a letter from the temple trust. However, the office bearers of the trust objected to the procedure and hence the new system was not implemented.

In 1998-99, a similar attempt was made to permit tourists to stay overnight at the temple. However, the permission was cancelled following the intervention of the standing committee on science and technology, environment and forests of the Rajya Sabha.

So far, apart from the trustees, no one, not even their family members, had been allowed to stay overnight at the temple. In the absence of clarity about who constitutes 'devotees', the deputy conservator of forests denied permissions. The forest department, which had so far made it mandatory for devotees visiting the Kankai temple to exit from the same gate, has now relaxed this norm and devotees can now leave from either gate.

No comments:

Previous Posts