Posting of ex-servicemen as foresters pay off

The Pioneer , Saturday, September 03, 2005
Correspondent : Rahul Noronha
The Forest Department's decision to engage ex-servicemen and deployment of additional vehicles for patrolling in wildlife reserves of Madhya Pradesh seems to be paying off.

Nearly a month after the patrolling began, a gang of poachers has been nabbed in South Seoni Territorial Forest Division, on the outskirts of the Pench National Park.

PCCF Wildlife, Dr PB Gangopadhyay while speaking to The Pioneer said that forest officials and ex-servicemen patrolling the Pench Tiger Reserve nabbed a gang of poachers from village Tikari in the South Seoni Forest Division.

A surveillance was mounted on persons who had a history of wildlife offences. The ex-servicemen also seized bones of sloth bear, nilgai and panther from the poachers, he said.

The Forest Department during a meeting with the Chief Minister had cited the dearth of vehicles as a major impediment in controlling poaching.

The police are provided vehicles even at the police station level while Rangers are not, said Mr Gangopadhyay.

The department demanded 35 vehicles for patrolling in Protected Areas while 19 were provided eventually. The department needs another sixteen. The success against poachers has been possible largely due to greater mobility, he added.

Patrolling by ex-servicemen has other benefits too. The sight of gun toting ex-servicemen in fatigues acts as a deterrent, said Mr Gangopadhyay. Moreover, the State Government is also helping the cause of ex-servicemen by employing them.

The deployment of the ex-servicemen is governed by the area of the Reserve and its terrain.

Twenty seven ex-servicemen have been deployed at Kanha, thirty one in Satpura, twenty six in Panna, fifteen in Pench and nineteen in Bandhavgarh.

The ex-servicemen not only patrol areas by vehicles but also on foot. The ex-servicemen are also establishing an intelligence network by working closely with NGOs, Forest Committees and Gram Raksha Samitis.

The Forest Department had thought of employing ex-servicemen after it was found that the department was facing a staff crunch. The ex-servicemen were also found to be much fitter than the average forest guard. The Forest Department entered into an agreement with the District Sainik Welfare Board that made the manpower available.

The funds were provided by the Directorate of Project Tiger, Government of India. The net outflow on every ex-serviceman is Rs 6,345 out of which Rs 5,200 is paid to the ex serviceman while the rest is deducted as insurance charges.

SOURCE : The Pioneer, Saturday, September 03, 2005

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