FOREST GUARDS and other staff of Dudhwa National Park have threatened to boycott work and shut the park gates next week in protest against Lakhimpur Kheri District Magistrate (DM) Kinjal Singh for forcibly entering into the park’s restricted areas “during nights in sheer violations” of park rules and Wildlife Act. They have called a meeting on Saturday to finalise their further line of action in this connection.
In the Dudhwa staff’s letters to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav dated November 27 and November 30, they had alleged harassment by the DM who entered forcibly into the restricted area at night, which even led to a tigress and its four cubs moving into neighbouring sugarcane fields.
Denying the allegations, the DM claimed that her late night visits aimed at checking illegal felling of trees and movement along the Indo-Nepal border. She had also pointed out that there was no rule stopping a government officer on duty to move into the restricted area.
Ravikant Verma, general secretary of Lakhimpur unit of UP Van Rakshak Sangh said, “We are wearing black ribbons since the issue began but have so far not affected tourist movement. In our memorandum to Principal Secretary (Forests), we have made it clear that if DM is not transferred or no action is taken against her till December 16, we would boycott work.”
Verma said they did not protest so far as the model code of conduct for panchayat elections was in place, which would end on December 16.
Other associations of foresters and rangers have also come out in support of the staff at Dudhwa. Amit Srivastava, general secretary of Uttar Pradesh Sahayak Van Karamchari Sangh, said, “We are not going to settle below the transfer of the DM because since the time our fellow staff members had raised their voice against her, they are being harassed. If action is not taken till December 16, gates of Dudhwa National Park would be closed.”
Meanwhile, the state government maintained that the issue has been settled after a meeting between Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan with DM Kinjal Singh and Deputy Director of Dudhwa National Park, PP Singh on . “In order to get first hand information about the status of the ongoing issue in Dudhwa, the government had today sent Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, S K Upadhyay to Dudhwa and in his report, he has mentioned that things are returning back to normal and there is no longer any dispute. He has not even mentioned any negative reaction from the forest staff. So from our end, things have settled,” said Sanjeev Saran, principal secretary, forest department.