For focused efforts to control wildlife crime and act against poachers, the Uttarakhand government has created two seven-member Wildlife Crime Control Units for its administrative divisions of Garhwal and Kumaun. Each will have jurisdiction — spanning over an entire region — to take action against poachers, register cases and pursue them in court, and maintain records of criminals and their wildlife crime history.
According to an order issued by Chief Wildlife Warden J S Suhag announcing the formation of the two units, these will also act as a consultancy for the government on wildlife crimes.
They will also serve as nodal bodies sharing information and coordinating with the Union government’s Wildlife Crime Control Bureau .
According to an official, jurisdiction remains a challenge in prosecution in such cases as they are often dismissed in court when the defending party cites a jurisdiction issue.
“Now the state government has expanded the jurisdiction by creating two separate dedicated Wildlife Crime Control Units for the entire Garhwal and Kumaun regions… Each unit can now move in all the forest divisions of the region concerned. They can conduct raids in any division on information of wildlife crime, register cases, and pursue the matter in the court,” an official said.
These units can develop an intelligence network in any of the forest divisions of their jurisdiction area.
Assistant Conservator of Forest (Kalsi division) Rangnath Pandey, who heads the Garhwal unit, said, “If a criminal commits the same offence under Wildlife Protection Act for a second time, punishment increases three times. But as forest divisions were not sharing the information of criminals and were maintaining records of local divisional jurisdiction areas only, they remained clueless about the crime committed by the accused in other forest divisions, and hence they could not pursue a case for rigorous punishment…”
“But now,” he said, “information of criminals and their crimes will be collected and maintained centrally at regional level and will be shared with all the divisional units concerned when required.”
While the Garhwal unit has members from Rajaji Tiger Reserve and Kedarnath wildlife division, the Kumaun unit has members from Corbett Tiger Reserve and Bageshwar forest division.