Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel. A breather. If we were brooding over losing two tigers in four days in Karnataka, there is some relief, albeit in a decision taken by the Karnataka high court. The HC has vacated a stay obtained by Assistant Conservator of Forests, J Kumar to retain his position in the Bandipur National Park.
Transferred from the tiger reserve, the ACF had approached the Karantaka Administrative Tribunal (KAT), contesting the jurisprudence/ authority of his senior officers. Fortunately, the HC quashed the stay, Justice Gopala Gowda implying that it had to be done in the interest of the public. Wow! Wish we get more judgment like these.
The said officer allegedly has a dubious record. When he was the ACF of the Antharsanthe division in the Nagarhole National Park, he was involved in acts which eventually led to his suspension. Itntriguingly, though the suspension order carried a remark that he should never be posted in a wildlife division again, he pulled political strings to have himself posted at Bandipur National park, which is home to 80 critically endangered tigers.
Though the government, as an afterthought, chose to transfer him from the critical and ravaged wildlife habitat, the ACF approached the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal (KAT) and succeeded in obtaining a stay. Senior forest officers were left an exasperated lot. The court order has certainly come as a relief to them. It is victory for wildlife conservationists as well.
But nailing one officer won't redress Karnataka's wildlife problems. If the government, which has disdainfully whittled the power of high-ranking officers (IFS cadre) and rendered them mere rubber stamps, is keen to save India's flagship species (tiger), it would do well to forthwith transfer incompetent RFOs (Range Forets Officers) from tiger habitats.
Evidently, there are only three or four rangers, who are competent and honest. The rest either have no wildlife background or care little for its well being.
Given their political affiliations and their money-power to buy postings (most are auctioned) in the ranges of their choice, they disregard the authority of their immediate bosses.
It is all about money, money, money. It can buy you a posting. It can influence you to fell a huge teak tree to recover your investment.
Often, the timber and mining barons call the shots. They use their cash reserves to get senior officers place in positions of their chose and go about devastating our forests. Wish somebody could deny this fact!
Imagine the plight of our wildlife in Bandipur. There re are 12 ranges in the 992- sqkm national park. If you come across two good officers, you should be lucky. It is good as a lost and parched adventurer finding water in the Sahara desert.
One corrupt officer being relocated is not going to solve issues afflicting our wildlife. We need a political will to right the wrongs before the tiger disappears from our wildlife reserves. It would be pre-budget bonus, if the Karnataka forest minister resolves to act. But will he?