Authoritative cover up

Authoritative cover up The one-man inquiry commission appointed to investigate reports of poaching in the Ranthambhore tiger reserve has turned out to be a sham, say conservationists. The report has indicted the park's management for poaching, but has stopped short of actually pinning blame and recommending action. The report has generally criticised the entire park management in the state but has failed to specify who, in the Ranthambhore case, was responsible for allowing poachers to reduce the tiger population to 18 from 46 last year. Instead, it has confined itself to the non-availability of staff -- 10 of 19 posts are vacant -- and called for the training of staff.

"There is a clear bias in this report. The state government has covered its tracks and in the process, pre-empted action by a Central inquiry team," says Tejbir Singh, a member of the Ministry of Environment's committee on environment and forests. He feels the report fails to adequately address the issue of tiger census. Ranthambhore's foresters felt the census was wrong. If it was so, says Singh, the chief wildlife warden should have immediately ordered another -- something that was not done and which the report glosses over.

At a meeting to review the commission's report, minister of state for environment Kamal Nath chalked out a programme to regulate vehicular traffic and tourist flow to check poaching. He also set up a seven-member committee to oversee the implementation of the report's recommendations. In a separate move, the ministry decided to hold a tiger census every two years instead of every five years.

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