Forest officials working at Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) and Pench Tiger Reserve are all set to undergo a special training in operating Insas rifles. These guards will be part of the Special Tiger Protection Force being set up by the government.
Initiated as part of a three-party agreement between the state government,National Tiger Conservation Authority and the field director of the reserves concerned,the project aims to regulate the increasing number of tiger poaching cases. The training will be on the lines of India Reserve Battalion. We are in talks with police officials who will be providing training to the forest guards. However,funds required for the project are yet to be sanctioned by the government. We are expecting it to happen soon, said Virendra Tiwari,the Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director,TATR.
The sanctioned amount will include funds to procure the rifles,vehicles,building of mess and construction of barricades among other things. Tiwari said the 13-week training would begin only after the rifles had been procured and a schedule chalked out in coordination with the police department.
According to officials,it is the first time that such a training programme is being introduced for forest guards. They said the guards of Pench and Tadoba tiger reserves were the only ones in the state to be receiving this kind of special training.
While TATR in Chandrapur district is known as Maharashtras oldest and largest national park,Pench Tiger Reserve serves as the prime habitat of Indian Tiger and panther,the key species in these areas,along with other species of the big cat family.
Both the reserves will be given three platoons,each comprising 112 personnel one assistant conservator of forests (ACF),three range forest officers (RFO),81 guards and 27 forest watchers. The personnel who will be part of this platoon under STPF will serve till the age of 40,after which they will be re-employed on other positions, said Tiwari,adding that the post of forest watchers had been introduced for the first time.
A batch of 58 has recently undergone the basic six-month training for forest guards,while a group of 25 is being trained in the same skills at Chikhaldara in Amravati district. The group will be a part of the STPF, added Tiwari.
The idea of STPF and its guidelines were first mooted by the Government of India in 2009,but has since undergone several modifications as per the suggestions of various state governments.