Hitting out at the Maharashtra government over the killing of tigress Avni, Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam Saturday accused Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar of having links with the international poaching mafia, following which the BJP leader said he would file a defamation case.
Mungantiwar has been facing flak from opposition parties in the state over the killing of the tigress in Yavatmal district on November 2.
Officially called T1, the big cat had allegedly killed 13 people in the district’s Pandharkawda area in the last two years. It was shot dead by a marksman hired by the state government.
Demanding the minister be sacked from the Cabinet immediately, Nirupam said tigers are “unsafe” in Maharashtra as long as Mungantiwar is in-charge of the forest department.
The Congress leader said a CBI probe should be instituted against the forest minister over the death of tigers in the state in the last four years.
“Sudhir Mungantiwar resumed office as the forest minister in the year 2014. Since then, 14, 16 and 21 tigers have died in the years 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively, in Maharashtra.
“The number of tiger deaths (in Maharashtra) in the year 2017 was second highest in the country after Madhya Pradesh. India’s biggest tiger Jay has been missing too,” Nirupam said at a press conference here.
“Does this bitter reality sound normal to Sudhir Mungantiwar? It is highly possible that Mungantiwar could be in nexus with international poaching mafias. It is clear that our national animal isn’t safe under Mungantiwar’s rule,” the Congress leader said.
Nirupam alleged that despite the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s rule of having a surveillance system in every tiger reserve in the country, Mungantiwar has conveniently refrained from doing so in Maharashtra.
“States with tiger reserves have installed surveillance systems, except Maharashtra. When a surveillance system was installed on a pilot basis in a tiger reserve in Chandrapur district, Mungantiwar admitted it helped in tracking the location of tigers and poaching activities.
“Is this why he hasn’t installed it (such a system) in Maharashtra so that the poaching mafia could continue to kill tigers for huge monetary benefits?” he asked.
Mungantiwar said he would file a defamation case against Nirupam for making wild allegations.
“This is nothing but low-level politics. He has lowered the standards of politics by making baseless allegations. I will file a defamation case against him in Chandrapur district,” the BJP minister said.
The BJP-led government in the state has come under fire over the killing of the tigress. She left behind two 10-month-old cubs.