The Centre will create a Special Rhino Protection Force in Assam to protect the animal from poaching and form a task force to enquire into encroachment of forest land in the state, Union Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar said.
"We will have zero tolerance for rhino poaching. With the help of Central funds, a Special Rhino Protection Force will be created in Assam," Javadekar told reporters in Guwahati on Saturday.
Primarily local youths would form the Force as they knew both the forests and animals, said the minister, who was on a two-day visit to Assam for discussing the poaching and encroachment issues in Kaziranga National Park (KNP).
The minister said that 22 rhinos had been killed this year, while 24 poachers were arrested and 20 others lost their lives in encounters with security forces.
On encroachment of forest land, Javadekar said "we'll form a task force which will formulate a mechanism and enquire into the issue of encroachment in forests. It will talk to the state government on the issue.
"I have told the state government that if there is any encroachment, then enquire it and take necessary action. In the next six months, we'll evaluate the work done by the Centre and the state," he said.
To a query on allegation of settling illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in KNP by the state government, Javadekar said "a task force will be formed."
On the ongoing CBI enquiry into two cases of poaching, he said the Centre would request the investigating agency to put it on fast track and consider adding one or two more cases of rhino killing into the probe.
Sympathising with the works done by the forest guards in challenging conditions, the minister said health insurance scheme would be provided to them by the Centre which would consider giving life insurance as well.
"We will also create a group of select people called 'Friends of Rhino'. This will work for protection of the animal," he said.
Appreciating the work done in protecting the one-horned animal, Javadekar requested the state government to be "more responsible" and have a "zero tolerance against poaching".
"We believe in development with protection of environment and both have to go together. We cannot have development without the environment," he said.
Javadekar also said that the Centre had asked all the eight north eastern states to finalise the boundaries of eco- sensitive zones soon so that these could be recognised.
Appreciating the emotion of people from different segments of the state in protecting rhino, he said the government was considering to increase the area of KNP with the rise in population of the animal.
He said deliberation was on to make the six corridors of animal passage on the National Highway-37 completely safe for them with the help of technology.