By Amarjyoti Borah
The issue of rhino poaching in Assam, which was almost a non-issue for the opposition parties in the state, has suddenly become a much talked about issue by the opposition, and in the past few days the opposition has left no stone unturned to take on the government over this issue.
Assam lost around 40 rhinos to poachers last year, and of this 35 were killed in the Kaziranga national park. This year till now the number is over 11. Though the ruling Congress led government in the state is all along saying that stringent steps are being initiated to prevent poaching of rhinos, the opposition parties are saying that the state government has completely failed to protect rhinos. Taken aback by the opposition attack, the Assam government had also recently announced setting up of task force to prevent rhino poaching, but nothing positive has happened till date. The opposition parties have now even gone a step ahead to claim that the state government is involved in the poaching of rhino.
“We strongly suspect that the Assam government is in some way or the other behind the poaching of these rhinos, otherwise how has the instances of poaching suddenly gone up,” asks Atul Borah, working president of the Asom Gana Parishad, the regional party in the state.
The opposition BJP, whose prime ministerial candidate - Narender Modi has attacked the Congress over the issue by even saying that the government is killing rhinos to make way for illegal migrants in the state, has said that if it comes to power it will institute a thorough investigation on the issue. “We will ensure a thorough investigation on the issue, and we also take steps to ensure that investigation is done against the Assam government’s concerned ministers and the officials,” said BJP MP from Nagaon, Rajen Gohain.
The BJP also alleged that if the Congress government cannot give protection to the rhinos in the national parks and sanctuaries, one cannot expect the Government led by the party to give protection to the life and property of the people.
“If the BJP comes to power at the Centre, effective steps would be taken to deal with the problem,” said Assam BJP general secretary Shantanu Bharali. The other main opposition party in the state, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), has brought out that the Government lacks clear policy to deal with rhino poaching.
“The Assam Government does not even have a policy for protection of wildlife and even the forests of the State,” said party general secretary Aminul Islam
The Congress spokesman Apurba Bhattacharya, however, tried to defend his party by saying that the Government might not have been able to provide modern weapons to all the forest guards to deal with the heavily armed poachers.