Environment Minister A Raja wants more power to directly intervene in management of tiger reserves. But Left and BJP members of Parliament are against the Centre usurping what they perceive as the right of State Governments. The impasse saw the Wildlife Amendment Bill, 2005, deferred in Rajya Sabha on Monday.
The clause of contention in the Bill says the proposed Tiger Conservation Authority can "issue directions in writing to any person, officer or authority for the protection of tiger in tiger reserves and tiger-bearing forests, and such person shall be bound to comply with the directions".
Left and BJP members of Parliament protested that this over-rides the authority of State Governments. Wildlife protection is a State subject under the Constitution.
"We will solve the issue by Tuesday. We could introduce an amendment that the directive be issued in consultation with the steering committee (headed by Chief Minister)," Raja said. But the Minister ruled out doing away with the clause.
"I have no powers to intervene in tiger reserves (at the present)," said the aggrieved Minister who has received brickbats since the news that Sariska had lost its big cats to poaching.
BJP MP SS Ahluwalia asked the Minister to clarify whether such directive from the Centre could go to Chief Ministers and whether they will be required to comply with it. "The Minister should clarify who all can be issued a directive. If CMs can be given directives, it infringes of States' rights. The Centre cannot appropriate State rights," he said.
Earlier Left MP Brinda Karat also objected to the clause that roughshods States' rights. The MP, who has been a strident campaigner of tribal rights, came down heavily on the Environment Ministry for arbitrary decisions on park boundaries.
"Who decides what is core area or buffer zone? Instead of ministry officials deciding the boundaries, the task should be assigned to an expert committee in consultation with the gram sabha," Karat said. In absence of revised definitions, as many as 1.7 lakh people reside in core areas and over three lakh in buffer zone, she added.
Former Gujarat forest minister and now MP Kanji Patel suggested that the committees have representation from tribals, so as to converge the twin objectives of conservation and development.
The amendment effects 28 tiger reserves in 17 States and forms a chapter within the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The proposed Act also provides for stringent punishment for poaching, hunting or habitat destruction in tiger reserves.