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State fails to get Central aid for tiger reserve 



TIMES OF INDIA
Sanjeev Kumar Verma, 19th August 2009

PATNA: The Valmiki Tiger Reserve, the only such reserve of Bihar, is facing a unique situation. Many ex-servicemen, whose services were roped in to strengthen the security arrangement here to thwart threats facing wildlife from poachers, have stopped reporting to their duties.

According to field officials, denial of regular salary payment has been the root cause of this desertion. "These ex-servicemen were not paid for the last four months of previous fiscal (2008-09) and from April to July in the current fiscal (2009-10) leading to their loss of interest in the job," said an official and added that one should not be surprised if the remaining of them too stopped coming in the near future.

Lack of funds has denied salary payment to these ex-servicemen who, otherwise, are of great help in providing security to the wildlife as forest department sanctioned posts for regular staff is not sufficient to meet the security requirement of this reserve spread over 840 sq km area.

The pertinent question which arises here is, why this reserve lacks funds when the Centre is willing to dole out huge funds for the proper upkeep and security of tiger reserves across the country.

Well, it has nothing to do with the Centre's partisan role. Rather, it is related to the failure of the state government to fulfil a statutory requirement for being eligible to receive the Central funds.

According to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (as amended in 2006), the state government has to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to get Central assistance. Bihar has failed to meet this requirement for reasons best known to the mandarins running the affairs of environment and forest department here.

"We have submitted a Rs 3.5 crore annual plan of operation for the current fiscal of which around half of the funds would have come as Central assistance had the state government signed the MoU with the NTCA," said a field official.

Even in 2008-09, against an annual plan of operation worth Rs 2.5 crore, the reserve got less fund. This despite the fact that the Centre had sanctioned over Rs 49 lakh as the first instalment as aid for the reserve. The state, however, could not use it due to its not signing the MoU with the NTCA.

Minister of state for environment and forest Ramji Rishideo, however, is hopeful that the state would be able to use Central funds this year. "One team is working specially for signing the MoU which would be inked very soon," he said.

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