MORE THAN 15 months after a tigress and two cubs were found poisoned to death inside the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, a war of words has broken out between the Indian Forest Service officers, one of them being partly responsible for poaching, and the other alleging that the meat of spotted deer killed in the park was served in nearby resorts.
The animals were found dead on March 28, 2016. Senior forest service officer Vinay Varman, then CEO of the state Ecotourism Development Board, had stayed in the park at the time. The deaths of the animals were preceded by two other casualties of big cats near the park.
A three-member inquiry committee’s report suggested that Varman’s presence in the park contributed to lax monitoring, as some staffers were busy attending to him. Submitted last year, the report has come to light recently. “It’s an attempt to shift blame,” Varman told The Sunday Express. “The committee’s report was based on the statement by a forest officer who had been chargesheeted, and who manipulated diary notings to escape responsibility.”
The committee headed by Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) R P Singh had Pench field director Shubhranjan Sen as a member. Varman, who is now managing director of MP Seeds and Farm Development Corporation, said the presence of the field director in whose park deaths have taken place in the committee, and the absence of an outsider, was in violation of rules for forming probe committees. Accusing the park management of laxity, even collusion, Varman said he fears the meat of spotted deer was being supplied in some resorts near the park, and that he had informed his seniors about this possibility.
Asked about Varman’s charges, Singh and Sen accused the officer of trying to shift blame off himself by raising the issue of poaching of the deer and supply of the animal’s meat. Denying Varman’s allegation about deer meat being served in resorts, Sen asked, “Where is the proof? Has he given any evidence to substantiate his allegations? I don’t think he was directly blamed for tiger poaching in the report.” Forest Minister Gaurishankar Shejwar was not available for a comment.