BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh high court on Wednesday expressed concern over state government's apathy in setting up a Special Tiger Protection Force (SPTF) to shield big cats from poachers.
Division bench of Jabalpur high court comprising Chief Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice S S Khemkar issued the notice, asking chief secretary, principal secretary (forest) and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to file their replies in its next hearing on November 26.
The showcause followed a hearing on PIL by wildlife activist Ajay Dubey. NTCA directed 13 tiger-inhabited states in the country to form the task force for which it offered to provide funds. While SPTF is operational in most states, MP government is yet to begin initial proceedings, said Dubey, pointing out that poaching continues unabated in the state.
He also submitted an investigation report of the forest department (acquired under RTI) which states poachers had been killing tigers and sloth bears around Kanha and other reserves.
Dubey submitted a detailed report on unnatural deaths of tigers in the state in the last five years.
In 2007, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had appealed to states to form a SPTF after it was revealed that country's tiger population had dipped to less than half of its population, reported in 2002. Later, based on tiger abundance and vulnerability, 13 tiger reserves in the country, including three from MP (Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh) were identified for raising, arming and deploying STPF. Panna tiger reserve in MP lost its entire tiger population to poaching by 2009.
Directives were also issued from Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for constitution of SPTF and even funds were sanctioned by NTCA, but in vain. Karnataka was the first state to constitute SPTF, followed by Maharashtra.