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Monday, November 26, 2012

Ensuring food for overnight tourists irks activists

MONDAY, 26 NOVEMBER 2012 01:07 PARITOSH KIMOTHI | DEHRADUN Wildlife activists are opposing the order of Corbett tiger reserve director, wherein he has directed forest rangers to ensure food for tourists staying overnight in forest rest houses. The rangers have been ordered to manage facility through staff welfare society, but no such society exists in the State, allege activists. This is preventing staff from focusing on wildlife protection which is their main responsibility. In a letter written to National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) member secretary, People for Animals, Uttarakhand member secretary Gauri Maulekhi states that in an order dated November 6, Corbett director Ranjan Mishra has instructed rangers to ensure arrangement of selling meals and refreshments to tourists through a staff welfare society. “The order has been implemented in Bijrani and Sarpduli ranges since national park reopened for tourists on November 15. However, no such staff welfare society exists in Uttarakhand which can run these canteens and cook meals for visitors. The rangers have been managing the canteens themselves and through forest guards, watchers and daily wagers hired to guard the forest,” she said. Maulekhi adds that one vehicle is provided to each ranger in Corbett for official rounds and ensuring safety and observance of rules in the national park but these vehicles are being used by rangers to buy perishables like vegetables, milk and rations for the eateries that they are being asked to run. The vehicles are occupied practically daily for fetching supplies while the rangers are negotiating with vendors instead of attending to their official duties. The Supreme Court has simply asked that NTCA guidelines be followed, which state that canteens be run by the Tiger Foundation itself or in consultation with and cooperation by the State Government and local people. Uttarakhand CM who also heads the Corbett Foundation had categorically stated on August 27 this year that the canteens will not be run by the Tiger Foundation at Corbett and the existing arrangement of giving out tenders must be maintained and this has also been registered in the minutes of the meeting of the State Wildlife Board.

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