Tiger poaching: Sariska probe resumes
SARISKA, Friday 5th August 2011
The state government on Thursday resumed a probe that had been ordered in 2005 after it came to light that all tigers in the Sariska reserve have been poached. Additional chief secretary and development commissioner B B Mohanty arrived at the tiger reserve on Thursday morning and began the probe. He is being helped by the assistant conservator of forest Bhagwan Singh Nathawat. Officials revealed Mohanty took possession of all records dating back to the period before all the tigers had been poached. "Statements of various forest officials, including many of those working here in 2005, were recorded. The statements of NGOs working for tiger conservation were also recorded," officials said. "We have written to all involved that whosoever has any information on the incident can give us their side of the story. We will also be sending notices to people who were engaged here but are now retired, including field directors, DFOs and other officials, and get information from them," Mohanty said. "We will be look into the matter carefully so that whosoever involved does not go scot-free. In addition to this we will also be giving our recommendations so that the incident is repeated," he said adding the report by the R N Mehrotra committee will be a great help. Officials explained the probe is being resumed now because the person who was heading the probe team then retired eventually. "This was revealed recently and we decided to resume the probe and have sought details of all officers who were at Sariska between 1995 and 2005. The idea is to trace those responsible for dereliction of duty," officials said. Highly placed sources said after it came to light in 2005 that all the Sariska tigers had been poached, the state had ordered an independent probe into it. However, the probe remained incomplete after a preliminary stage as the then additional chief secretary Alka Kalla who was heading the probe failed to make much progress. She retired about two years ago. Subsequently, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also probed into the incident while an empowered committee set up by the centre to also look into it. Both the agencies have submitted the report and have not found any official guilty in particular though it has rapped the all concerned authorities of negligence. Later, notorious poacher Sansar Chand was arrested. While state forest department officials explain the resumption of the probe as a natural process after the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Rajasthan assembly recently traced the order to be incomplete. Incidentally, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had also pointedly put in its report on the incompletion of the probe. In perhaps one of the biggest setback to conservation, the entire tiger population was wiped out due to poaching from Sariska before the whistle was blown in 2005.