Updated: February 15, 2017 1:10:50 pm
Seven months after the BJP came to power with stopping rhino-poaching as one of its top promises, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Tuesday admitted in Guwahati that the forest department or the government alone could not put an end to it, and that the people, especially from the fringe areas of Kaziranga, would have to play a proactive role. Poachers meanwhile have killed seven rhinos in seven months.
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“Forest guards and the police have been putting in their best efforts to stop rhino poaching. But people living in the fringe villages of Kaziranga National Park too have to play a very positive and proactive role in order to wipe out the menace,” Sonowal, who was releasing a book on the one-horned rhinoceros of Assam, said. Though, Sonowal admitted to lapses on part of the forest department. “There are lapses on the part of the forest department. The government is trying to spruce up the forest department. But, apart from the government, people living in the fringe areas of five districts in which Kaziranga is spread have to also play their role. After all, tourism centering round the rhino creates livelihood opportunities for the people,” he said.
“People in the fringe villages must ensure that the entry of every stranger or unknown person is reported immediately to the police and forest department. Kaziranga after all should not be considered just as a national park. It is a major industry of the state which attracts tourists from all over and provides livelihood to hundreds of families,” Sonowal said. The chief minister said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Maneka Gandhi ask him about rhino poaching every time they meet him. “Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Maneka Gandhi are very much concerned about rhino poaching. There is a perception outside that we have failed to protect the rhinos. This perception has to be changed,” Sonowal said.
About the efforts, Sonowal said while he has been holding regular review meetings on rhino protection, additional forces have been sent to Kaziranga to back up the frontline staff of the national park. “I do not remember how many meetings I have called regarding rhino poaching. I have also asked the SPs of all districts to provide support to the anti-poaching efforts,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, state Forest and Environment Minister Pramila Rani Brahma too admitted that her department had failed to stop rhino poaching. “The poachers are so sharp that we have not been able to prevent poaching despite such hard work. I have not been able to show my face to the chief minister. Poachers have killed seven rhinos since our new government took over,” she said.
Brahma regretted that three rhinos were killed in Kaziranga in December alone. “I must admit that rhinos cannot be protected in Kaziranga with the existing staff. They have been working round the clock, but it is very difficult. The situation has slightly improved with the director-general of police has sent 50 Home Guards with arms to back up the Kaziranga staff. We are also soon recruiting a number of local youth for Kaziranga,” she informed.
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