Frontline wildlife protection guards in the world-famous Kaziranga National Park are now better equipped with INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) and Ghatak rifles apart from 9-mm pistols and 12-bore pump-action guns, with Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal formally distributing them on Sunday.
Procured under a special scheme for modernisation of arms and equipments for protection or rhino-bearing areas and tiger reserves at a cost of Rs 10 crore, chief minister Sonowal said more such arms and equipments were being procured in the next few months to strengthen anti-poaching measures in Kaziranga and other national parks and tiger reserves in the state.
Highlighting his government’s commitment to protect wildlife and forests of state, Sonowal said that while providing sophisticated weapons to frontline forest guards was a long-pending issue, the legal mechanism to deal with poachers and others involved in wildlife crimes has been also strengthened. Accordingly, ten wildlife fast-track courts have been set up in the for speedy trial and punishment of poachers and wildlife criminals.
“The new sophisticated weapons will work not only a big boost to the morale of the forest guards who work round-the-clock to protect wildlife, but also serve as a deterrent for the criminals,” Sonowal said.
Altogether 272 INSAS rifles, 954 SLRs, 133 12-bore pump action guns, twenty 9-mm pistols and 91 ghatak rifles that were recently procured by the forest department were handed over to the frontline forest personnels by the chief minister. The 2017-18 state budget has provisions for procuring more weapons worth Rs 10 crore, he said.
While rhino poaching had become a major issue during the 2016 assembly elections in Assam, incidents have come down drastically since installation of the BJP-led government. Poachers had killed eight rhinos in Kaziranga and other sanctuaries in Assam during 2017 in comparison to 16 the previous year. However, Kaziranga has two rhinos to poachers in the current year.