Jaipur: Before you donate to (Rajasthan) CM’s Vaccine Fund, do ask the following questions from the Congress, as they were asked by it at the time when the PM Cares Fund was set up:
1.Will it be audited by the CAG? 2.Who will decide its usage? 3.Will it be used by the Congress for Party’s campaign and minority appeasement ? 4.Why has it enhanced the salary of Madrassas’ teachers when the Govt. has shortage of funds for the public welfare? 5.Why did Rajasthan give away its vaccines to Punjab? 6.Why did Congress spread misinformation against the vaccine? 7.Congress’ stand is that Modi is responsible for the second wave. Then why isn’t it launching mass movement against him and blocking the National Highway, the way it did against the Farm Bills. 8.Why isn’t it asking financial help from the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, which is flushed with funds? 9.Will it stop wasting taxpayers’ money to keep its promise to doll out freebies to farmers?
Ajit Kumar Singh is an ex-bureaucrat from the 1983 batch of the IAS (Rajasthan cadre)
Jaipur: During the festive Diwali season, any shopkeeper selling any kind of fireworks in Congress ruled Rajastan will be fined Rs 10,000 and any person found using or allowing the firing of any kind fireworks will end up getting his offence compounded and shall have to pay Rs 2000.
In continuation of the Rajasthan Home Department’s notifications of 3, 12, 21 May; 27 July and 17 October 2020, and in exercise of the powers conferred by section 11 of the Rajasthan Epidemic Diseases Act 2020 (Act No. 21 of 2020), the State Government issued another order on Tuesday 3 November authorising all Executive Magistrates, all Police Officers not below the rank of Assistant Sub-Inspector, all officers of Municipal Corporation Council Board not below the rank of Revenue Inspector, all Chief Executive Officers of Zila Pari and all Development Officers, within heir respective jurisdiction, to compound the offences committed under section 4 of the Rajasthan Epidemic Diseases Act, by violating the order or regulation prohibiting the sale and firing of firecrackers.
A bunch of 92 retired officers from the all-India services have acted with the herd mentality and signed an open letter to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Mnister on the Hathras incident and condemned the State Government over the murder of a 19 year old woman, belonging to the socially deprived sections and lack of proper treatment to the victim when she was still alive.
The letter in question takes off by stating: “Just when we thought that nothing could numb our consciences and brains further, the handling of the Hathras incident by the Uttar Pradesh administration has shown that, as a nation, we are plumbing the depths of depravity and callousness in governance. A young Dalit woman is brutally violated. Almost three weeks after the incident, the police are yet to confirm the crime of rape and are still spinning theories around it, although the video of what amounts to her dying declaration seems to confirm it. Her neck was lacerated, her spinal column was broken and there were cuts on her tongue. Instead of promptly admitting her to a hospital with advanced facilities for dealing with trauma, she was allowed to languish in the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital, Aligarh. She was moved to Delhi only two weeks after the incident, that too on the request of her family, a case of too little, too late. What followed was an even greater travesty of justice and basic human values. After her death, her body was despatched post haste to her village and cremated in the dead of night by policemen.”
The bunch of oldies, who have had the best of both worlds as serving government officers, are extremely polarised as they go on to observe with blinkers on: “With our experience as erstwhile administrators in different departments of the central and state governments, our group of former civil servants had, in the past, highlighted the brazen violations of the rule of law in the Unnao rape case and in the murder of the police inspector in Bulandshahr.”
One can say with full conviction, the ex-officers have a motive and they acted with blinkers on as they have chosen to turn a blind eye to the role of PFI – the extremist and fundamentalist Islamic organisation- and the rabidly divisive and sectarian Bhim Army, besides mainstream Opposition parties including the Congress led by the Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Vadra, and the Samajwadi Party that has been at the helm of affairs in Uttar Pradesh but is now in the doldrums and the way they have done everything not only to politicise the issue but also creat a caste divide. There are also reports that the PFI had hatched a conspiracy and there was an attempt by few PFI operatives, some of whom have already been arested by the Uttar Pradesh Police on the basis of solid evidence and further investigation is on in this matter.
Eye brows are being raised as these retired officers have chosen to remain silent and have said nothing about the heinous incident of crime in Rajasthan coicinding with the Hathras incident. A 22 year old, also from the deprived sections, was gang-raped, brutally assualted and murdered – not by the so-called upper caste people but by Muslims.
These officers also have maintained an eerie silence over the lynching of two Hindu Sadhus and their driver in Palghar District of Maharashtra by a mob right in front of the police.
The unworthy lot never saw anything wrong in Kashmir, when the Police under Mufti was committing atrocities on students of National Institute of Technology in Srinagar, when Kashmiri Hindus were killed raped and driven out of Kashmir and forced to languish in refugee camps, when Indian tricolour was being burnt and ISIS flags were raised, when the Kashmir valley had become the hunting ground of terrorists and secessionist forces nor over political murders in Bengal and Kerala or when the anti-national students of JNU were raising slogans to split India into pieces and the anti-CAA protestors at Shaheen Bagh had taken the citizens of Delhi to ransom and resorted to violence and mayhem …..the list is endless
Those who have been following the ambitious tiger reintroduction programme at Mukudara Hills tiger reserve must be dismayed by the news about the death of the 2 nd cub on 17 th August 2020, that was being treated for injuries at the Kota zoo, Its sibling was found dead some 20 days ago, besides two adult tigers Tigers MT2 and MT3 were found dead within a span of 15 days in July.
It is certainly a serious setback to the Forest officers and the state government. I learnt from the newspaper reports that the state government has already ordered an inquiry to find out the causes. I think whosoever is entrusted with this inquiry should consult the NTCA’s MEETR (Management Effectiveness Evaluation) Report for 2017-2018 for Mukundara Hill Tiger Reserve. This report was prepared by a team headed by me; Dr Samir Kumar Sinha of Wildlife trust of India was member of my team. We had extensively toured the area and had discussed every relevant aspect of management with the officers and staff, we had also interacted with local people before making a detailed report about preparedness of the reserve for tiger reintroduction. Had the NTCA or the State government paid some heed to our findings and recommendations probably the project would have proceeded smoothly without such a dire impasse Despite strong warning in our report against premature reintroduction without being fully prepared on the ground the forest department had gone ahead with the programme , perhaps, under extraneous pressure and this unnecessary hurry has now cost them dear.
The MEETR reports of tiger reserves are public documents and are available on NTCA Website. Here I am presenting our unedited report to let the readers understand the reasons for such a dismal situation at MTR today and what could have been done to avoid this and succeed.
Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan
Dr. Suhas Kumar, Chairman Dr. Samir Kumar Sinha, Member MEETR (Cluster-I) (28.11.2017 – 30.11.2017)
Mukandra Hills Tiger Reserve (MHTR) has an unusual shape like a long-handled hammer (80 kms. in length and 2.5 to 5.5 kms. in width). It is a moderately sized tiger reserve with a core extending over 417.17 sq. km. and a buffer of 342.82 sq. km. The buffer consists of patches of forests scattered around the core area.
Mukundara Hills National Park, Darra, Jawahar Sagar and National Chambal Gharial Sanctuary (part), are included in the core area of the tiger reserve. Few forest blocks of Kota, Jhalawar and Chittorgarh division have been included as buffer of the tiger reserve.
The major immediate objective of this reserve is to “establish a viable, free-ranging tiger population in MHTR by the end of 2027 by reintroducing wild tigers from other habitats and rebuilding the tiger population by providing secure and conducive environment for them by creating a 200 sq m inviolate core, improving habitats, and by supplementing prey population by starting a translocation and conservation breeding programme. The plan includes supplementing the founder population by releasing 08-10 tigers in a phased manner over a period of 10 years in MHTR.”
The preparations to reintroduce tigers into this reserve have begun with palpable enthusiasm. Significant progress is visible on the ground in a short span of time. The achievements should be attributed to a strong political will, wholehearted support of the state and efforts made by the Field officers. Despite these positive vibes, the challenges faced by the reserve are enormous – 14 villages in the core and about 90 around its periphery, cause enormous biotic interferences in the habitat. Grazing pressure is quite high; there are about 10000 cattle head owned by 1585 families in 14 villages within the core and approximately 90000 cattle heads in the 86 buffer villages. Cattle herding is the mainstay of local community dominated by Gujjars.
Large scale mining activity has disturbed its connectivity with Bundi. Mumbai – Jaipur railway line and National Highway No. 12 fragments the core area at Darra. Moreover, the core in most part of the reserve is only a few km wide. The evaluation committee was apprised about the plan to reintroduce tigers by year end (2017), and the pace of infrastructure development work on the ground reflected this intent.
However, the committee strongly feels that reintroduction of tigers in the reserve in near future may be counterproductive as preparations, other than construction of enclosures, are far from complete and bringing tigers at this stage may result in serious conflicts with local people. Further, the committee also suggests that tourism in the tiger reserve should be given a backseat until the founder population of tiger establishes itself in their new home.
A strong political will and support from the government to establish Mukundara Hills as a popular tiger reserve.
Enthusiastic and motivated Field Director and Deputy Director and a team of young staff.
Serious and concerted efforts have been made to stop the seasonal movement and grazing of around 2 lakh migratory sheep through CTH and to evict illegal cattle camps from core and buffer.
A tenuous connectivity with Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve exits through Indergarh-Lakheri-Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary-Dabi-Jawahar Sagar Sanctuary, and also to Darra through the ravines of Chambal and Kalisindh. Another possible corridor is up to Gandhi Sagar Sanctuary of Madhya Pradesh through Bhainsroadgarh Sanctuary.
A Good tiger reintroduction plan has been prepared and several measures to strengthen protection and monitoring have begun. The e-eye surveillance system, M-stripes, creation of STPF has been planned.
About 10000 LPG connections have been provided to families residing in the buffer to reduce the anthropogenic pressure for firewood on the tiger reserve for firewood.
The shape possesses an inherent disadvantage to MHTR, making it vulnerable to the biotic pressures emanating from 14 villages inside the reserve and about 87 villages around the periphery. As grazers are the predominant occupants of the area with poor socio-economic background the habitat is under severe stress.
The unusual shape of the core with patchy buffer areas and excessive mining in the corridor linking MHTR with Bundi forests makes it a tough task to ensure long-term viability of tigers in this area.
The area has poor prey base. Recently 400 chital from Jodhpur Zoo were released in the CTH but post-release monitoring was not done, thus fate of the released animals is not known. Sambar are also being translocated from a military area. A good number of leopards, jackal and wolf in the landscape exert high predation pressure, therefore, there is a likelihood that the released populations would soon dissipate to unviable levels and will be eliminated completely.
Man-made development infrastructures passing through the CTH like the Jaipur-Mumbai railway line, National Highway 12 pose serious challenges before the managers.
Infestation of Prosopis in the grasslands and lantana in other area is destroying the habitat for herbivores.
Preparation to curb the risk of poaching is not visible on the ground yet. As soon as the tigers are brought here there are chances that the dormant local poachers may be activated by the organised mafia.
The frontline staff is untrained and inexperienced in wildlife management and protection.
The villagers still residing in the CTH are hostile to the management. There have been physical confrontations with the staff in Borawas village recently and also in Giridharpura village last year.
The plan to release tigers within next 6 months is pre-mature as preparations are not yet complete. Non- involvement of a full-time research team to participate in the release programme and later on in the monitoring of the released tigers and prey species is going to be detrimental. Training of staff in monitoring skills such as analysing signs and evidences, PIPs and camera traps appear inadequate and with the results of the plan to release tigers this year would not be much fruitful. In the current situation of low prey base, the reintroduced tigers may thrive on cattle that would certainly aggravate conflict with local villagers.
To protect the CTH from the biotic pressure masonry walls are being constructed. Care must be taken to ensure that these man-made barriers do not cut off the access to the corridors.
Some villages have been relocated on forest land, but the forest lands have not been de-reserved and mutation of the land has not been done, as a result legal status of the land has remained unchanged, even in the cases where relocation has completed nine years ago. Due to this lapse, the relocated families are not eligible for agriculture loan and they are mostly kept deprived of Panchayat’s developmental activities. Such inordinate delays may lead to loss of credibility and impede the relocation process.
The impacts of interventions to reduce villagers’ dependence of the forest, especially the current level of LPG connections provided to the villagers, are not monitored.
Present practice of hard-release of prey species into the CTH will not be successful. It would be useful to establish in-situ conservation breeding facility at multiple locations within the CTH.
Process of relocation of Giridharpura and Borawas villages should be hastened to help reduce conflicts and make available a large undisturbed habitat to wild animals.
Skills of staff need to be enhanced through trainings in controlling wildlife offences such as surveillance of crime and habitual offenders, traditional hunter communities, intelligence gathering, crime investigation etc.; managing conflicts with villagers; monitoring of various aspects of management such as prey base, predators, water sources, fire, road kills, cattle kills , impact of habitat interventions and also interventions in the villages to reduce resource dependencies such as distributed LPG connections, etc.
As most of the villagers in the buffer depend on cattle and a sizable number on mining for livelihood the conflict with them will continue in future unless a long term systematic intervention is set in motion to provide them skills and opportunities to switch over to other sources of livelihood.
The complaint of rehabilitated villagers about non-issuance of revenue pattas of the forest land on which they are settled should be addressed at earliest to make the rehabilitated families eligible for getting agriculture loans and reap the benefits of rural development schemes of the government. The management must take cognizance to resolve this issue. In March 2017 the MoEF&CC has already issued a clarification allowing de-reservation of forest land diverted for relocation and rehabilitation of villagers from PAs. This needs to be consulted for.
Retrofitting of NH12 and the railway line passing across the entire width of the CTH at Darra WLS needs to be completed as early as possible.
Strengthening the management of Bhainsroadgarh sanctuary would be necessary to support the Mukundra tiger relocation project. This is the area that the tigers from Mukundara would occupy in the coming years. It would be prudent to notify Bhaisroadgarh sanctuary as a Satellite Core of the MHTR and bring it under the administrative control of MHTR management.
Reports of occasional presence of tigers in this forest tract indicate existence of live corridors but the situation on the ground today is dismal – the corridor between Bundi and Mukundara is already vitiated owing to the heavy mining activity in Suket. As the government is keen on bringing in tiger in Mukundara, it would be worthwhile to free some area by stopping mining in critical movement passages. A study to understand the ground situation and give suitable recommendations may be initiated at the earliest.
Monitoring of the impact of interventions in the villages such as supply of cooking gas connection is not being done. It would be useful to monitor the level of use of the LPG as well as its impact on the consumption of firewood.
The committee came across some cemented waterholes constructed for wild animals. The use of too much cement-concrete in such water holes and their design should be reviewed and improved. The committee also advises to avoid building artificial waterholes that require filling up by transporting water from elsewhere. In water scarce areas provision of solar powered pumps for filling up the water holes may be made. The availability of ground water should be determined beforehand by carrying out Vertical Electrical Sounding (VES) Resistivity Survey.
The author, Suhas Kumar, IFS (Retd.), is former PCCF, Madhya Pradesh. Now he is Member Madhya Pradesh State Board for Wildlife, Member Chhattisgarh State Board for Wildlife, Member Governing Council NCHSE Bhopal, Member Delhi Biodiversity Society, Member WWF-India, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh State Advisory Board