By: Rahul V. Pisharody
Companies of armed uniformed personnel could be soon seen moving around the forests of Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda and Adilabad districts. Not to hunt down smugglers or extremists but dedicated to protect the dying population of tigers from poachers. It is learnt that the Centre has sanctioned two battalions of Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) for tiger reserves of Amarabad and Kawal.
The Telangana forest department had in July written to the Centre requesting grant of armed battalions to counter poachers in its forests under the STPF scheme of the National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA). Though an official order is yet to reach the department here, officials say it was sanctioned and an order is expected any moment.
While neighboring states of Karnataka and Maharasthra have their own STPF, it is said that the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh never forwarded such a proposal to the Centre citing Naxalite issues. ‘’While the funding for vehicles and ammunition would be covered by the Union government, the state government will have to recruit 100 persons per battalion. There would be three mobile and armed company in each battalion,’’ said PK Sharma, special principal chief conservator of forests (SPCCF-Dev) & chief wildlife warden. One batallion each would be deployed at Kawal and Amarabad tiger reserves, he said.
However, the state government has so far neither been able to recruit new forest personnel nor been able to procure weapons for its rangers and beat officers in the forest. In the undivided state, forest department had chalked out a proposal to procure 250 double barrel guns from the USA over a year ago. And it was about 20 years ago when forest officers in the state had surrendered their .303 rifles to the police department owing to the increasing incidence of Naxals snatching away the weapons.
Telangana forest department is now working on preparing a fresh proposal for weapons procurement. ‘’Last year, recruitment process had started but could not be finished. May be now we will do recruitment for STPF along with regular recruitment. The weapons procurement is, however, a long process. It is being carried forward,’’ Sharma said.
The department has also grand plans for interconnecting the tiger reserve areas and wildlife sanctuaries in the state by creating special corridors to provide better habitation and more protection to the tigers. As of today, official data says, there are only 24 tigers in the state.
- Kawal Tiger Reserve (KTR) forms the southern most tip of Central Indian tiger landscape which is arguably the largest tiger landscape in the world. KTR is spread across a core area of 892 sq kms and a buffer area of 1123 sq kms in Adilabad district
- Amarabad Tiger Reserve (ATR) is spread across a core area of 2166sq km with a buffer area of 445 sq km in Mahabubnagar and Nalgonda districts
Source: The New Indian Express