Major poaching racket developing around Panna
Saturday 3rd December 2011

After arrest of Mohammed Raees, officials feel that a major international racket of tiger poaching could be tracked if the leads provided by him are tracked. So far it seems that Police and Forest Depts have missed the bus, reports Ritesh Mishra

A new Sancharchand racket of poaching is developing in and around Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) of Madhya Pradesh. In a similar case of poaching, Mohd Raees is the accused and the case is pending in the court.

Forest Department officials suspect that a major international racket of tiger poaching could be tracked if the leads provided by him are tracked.

As per a letter written by the Field Director of Panna Tiger Reserve RS Murthy to Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (wildlife) HS Pabla, there seems to be lot of truth in the confessions made by Mohammed Raees. Forward and backward linkages of Raees should be verified to get into the bottom of the case. This case seems to be one case where the Police and Forest Departments have missed the bus. Even now, it is not too late and if the case is properly handled then a major international racket could be tracked.

The letter further states that many allegations of poaching in and around the park were made covering almost all wildlife rich places in the entire Madhya Pradesh. As per his confessions, he traded five tiger parts, 29 panther parts and 2 otter skins between 1997-2005.

Raees claimed to have procured tiger, panther and skins/bones/nails from Vijay Singh, Chinkar Singh, Parvat Singh, Barf Singh ,Ranjit Singh, Venkat Singh, Jeetu Singh, Preetam Singh, Parvat Singh Thakur (of village Ghadokhar,  Amanganj) and Vikant Singh pardhies.

Many accused including Vijay Singh are residents of Panna district. Parvat Singh Thakur of Ghadokhar is a known poacher.

Buarf Singh's camp was raided by RO, Chandranagar.

Mohammed Raees also confessed that he had trade connections with Sansar Chand of New Delhi through Kale and Rajkumar Kuch Bandia way back from 1997 and onwards. Thus, the poaching trade network starting from poaching of the animals to New Delhi is complete. Details in this regard were sent to all higher ups at Bhopal and New Delhi also from the field director.

But the lack of understanding of this network both by the Police and Forest Departments became a stumble block in taking the case to its logical end.

Murthy further states in this letter that the main setback in the case was that no material evidence was recovered from the accused. Details of this case are available with the Chhatarpur police. The case is pending in the Chhatarpur court. Recently efforts of the PTRIC led to the arrest of Vijay Singh Pardhi who is holding huge amounts of money in his various accounts and is doing a money lending activity in and around PTR. The Chhatarpur police could not include the name of Vijay Singh in the original case claiming legal hurdles as communicated to FD, PTR.

There seems to be a case against the forest officials from Forest Guard to SDO. For the first time a direct allegation of gratification on the part of staff to omit a poaching case became known.

The letter of the field director further warns that this point needs in-depth verification for the benefit of future of tiger of this country in general and tigers of Panna in specific. This case should not be seen in isolation. Some other case must have same poaching trial and network of people putting their efforts together against the Panna tigers and sadly few lower level staff of PTR establishment seems to be part of the gang.

Two cases of sloth bears poaching

First Case

Trap by some behalias (Harpal Singh Behalia and his gang) in Amdabar beat, Compt No. 540 in the first quarter of 2005. Front line staff was supposedly part of the poaching nexus and tried to destroy the evidence. Achelal Verma and Budhial Verma the then FGs of Seja and Silon beat were involved in the destroying the evidence. After getting some specific information the burial place (nullah bed) of sloth bear in the Comp. No. 540 was dug in the presence of PCCF (WL)'s representative and independent witnesses.

Bones supposedly belonging to sloth bear were recovered from the spot. CCMB, Hyderabad could not reveal the identity of the bones for want of DNA in the samples. Now these bones are pending with the Wildlife Institute of India for identification.

Sufficient material and corroborative evidences are available in this case. Statements of the witnesses confirm the active involvement of front line staff in this poaching case and subsequent destroying of the evidence.


Second case

A sloth bear and a panther/hyena were poached in the first quarter of 2005 near Teen Munara Beat Silon, Compt No. 551 few days after the Case No. 6 of this table. Front line staff, again Budhlal Verma and Achelal Verma the then FGs of Silon and Seja beats tried to destroy the evidence. Range Assistant, Palkoha, Shivdas Khol never visited the spot in spite of the case being in his knowledge, Forest Range Officer RK Jaiswal visited the spot after some 10 days, But no one took cognisance of the case.

After getting some specific information, efforts of IC lead to search and seizure of one canine tooth from the spot in Compt No. 541 of Silon beat on 15.02.2010, which was sent to Wildlife Institute of India and was identified as sloth bear's canine tooth.

This case nails down the direct involvement of the frontline staff in Chandra Nagar Range in the poaching and subsequent destroying the evidence. Forest Guard to Range officer are involved in this poaching case by omission and commission of the offence.

Interesting case of 1997

A tiger was poisoned by some Yadav as a revenge killing of his buffalo killed by the tiger and non-cognisance by the frontline staff. Later he de-skinned the tiger and was trading the same at Jabalpur when the Jabalpur police raided and seized the skin. Later the local police exhumed the bones of the tiger. Details of the case are not known to PNP.

Tiger died due to revenge killing and the persons involved traded the skin way back in 1996 outside the PNP. The case was registered by the police, but what follow-up was done at Chhatarpur Forest Division is not known.

The letter, which was written by Murthy to Pabla has some other cases in which there was involvement of forest officials. RTI activist Ajay Dubey filed an RTI and sought this letter from the Forest Department.