Assam citizens’ meet demands Transparency in Wildlife Conservation

Assam citizens’ meet demands Transparency in Wildlife ConservationBy- Nava Thakuria

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It was a crowded citizens’ meet organized at Guwahati Press Club on March 14 that elaborately discussed about the wildlife conservation effort in northeast India, where the speakers unanimously urged the province government of Assam to immediately hand over the case of rampant wildlife poaching in various forest reserves of the State to the Central Bureau of Investigation (India).

Organized by Nature’s Beckon and Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA), the meeting had expressed utter dissatisfaction on Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and State forest minister Rockybul Hussain for their repeated failures to engage the CBI for the wildlife probe, particularly the rampant rhino poaching in various forest reserves including the world fame Kaziranga National Park.

“The chief minister has made statements that his government is asking for CBI probe into the matter, but nobody in Assam is convinced about the handing over the case to CBI by the State government,” said Soumyadeep Dutta, director of Nature’s Beckon. He also raised voices for a comprehensive probe to check how many origin rhino horns are in the custody of the State forest department.

Presided over by JFA president Rupam Barua, the meeting asserted that Assam needs a forest accountability committee in the line of police accountability committee. The committee is expected to monitor the wildlife conservation activities and continues interacting with the habitants of fringe villages of reserve forests.

In another resolution, the meeting urged the forest department to start a helpline to engage the common people in rescuing the wildlife
across Assam. It pointed out that the proposed forest helpline, once started in Assam, would help accelerating the instant response and reducing the wildlife crimes in the State.

Various speakers in the meeting also demanded a judicial enquiry into the activities of Wildlife Trust of India, which once trained few
individuals to operate tranquilizer guns in Assam. They argued that the incidents of chopping of one-horned rhino horns, when the animal was alive that took place in Kaziranga last year, throw light on a different aspect of poaching.

“It is simply impossible for anybody to chop off a full-grown rhino for its precious horn without first tranquilizing the creature. We suspect that many individuals, who got the training from WTI, later joined hands with the poachers,” said Khanjan Nath, a wildlife activist.

He also pointed out that WTI has played hide and seek game in its conservation effort in Assam and keeps on trying to safeguard the senior forest officials of Assam whenever public outcries arise against the department. The people of Assam have every right to know how much funds, the WTI has generated from the Union government and spent for conservation efforts in Assam, added Nath.

Dr Kulendu Pathak, former vice-chancellor of Dibrugarh University, Parbati Barua, a legendary elephant expert, Ritesh Bhattacharya, former wildlife warden of Assam, Pranjal Saikia, an eminent film personality in their speeches had advocated for a convention on the issue in the coming days.

Other speakers including Biraj Choudhury, George Bordoloi, Haricharan Das, Bhaskar J Barua, Hiten Mahanta, JP Das, Abhijit Bhagawati, Rubul Das, Bikramjit Kakoti and Manomati Barman were unanimous in their opinions that the environment & wildlife activists of northeast India should have a strong platform to sustain their fight for the conservation of forest and wildlife of the trouble torn region.

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