By Vijay Pinjarkar
Even as investigations in over dozen tiger poaching cases in the region seem headed towards a dead end, five alleged poachers were granted magisterial custody (MCR) while one was remanded to forest custody (FCR) on Wednesday.
All the accused were produced before judicial magistrate first class (JMFC) R B Raja, who granted MCR to Siri, Mamru, Chika and Barsul, all belonging to Baheliya community, and Jiyalal Bawankar, who made metal traps. One of the accused Yarlen was given FCR till July 6.
Yarlen and Barsul were handed over to state forest officials by Madhya Pradesh. The call detail records (CDRs) of Yarlen's mobile reveal he was in touch with Mamru and Chika, who had poached a tiger in Melghat, and also Sarju, a Delhi-based agent who bought tiger skins from some of the accused still at large.
The poachers are hiding facts and not cooperating with the investigating officials who are finding it tough to deal with them. Besides, there is lot mudslinging among the officials involved in the probe. The five-member team set up on June 19 by SS Mishra, additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF), Nagpur, East, too is proving of little help as only one of its members PC Biswas visited Katni to know real identity of poachers. Some members are on leave while some are busy trying to get choice postings.
"The way investigations are being handled, a watertight case that could stand in the court of law cannot be made. The poachers will be released on bail and will once again be back in business. Handing over the probe to an agency like CBI is the only solution," said some officials seeking anonymity.
Leading conservationists like Belinda Wright and Valmik Thapar have already demanded a probe by an independent and professional agency like CBI in the case. Meanwhile, a meeting of senior forest officials was held on Wednesday to discuss whether to hand over the investigations to state CID or CBI. Mishra was not available for comments.