NAGPUR: In bid to check menace of poaching and provide better protection, the Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR), which turned 40 last year, has proposed setting up of Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF).
MTR chief conservator of forests (CCF) and field director Dinesh Kumar Tyagi said a proposal in this regard was sent in February first week to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
"The issue was also discussed in the field directors meeting at Delhi on February 20. Now, NTCA has to take a call," said Tyagi.
However, sources said though Melghat is in dire need of STPF, NTCA has not committed anything as of now. The project is fully supported by NTCA. One STPF platoon consists of 112 men, headed by an assistant conservator of forests (ACF), three range forest officers (RFOs) along with 81 forest guards and 27 forest watchers.
In 2012, STPF platoons were constituted in Pench (Maharashtra) and Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserves in 2012. However, owing to funds crunch, staff salaries were paid in 2013.
Senior forest officials admitted that topography of Melghat makes protection difficult and hence the need for STPF. Besides, a large number of villages inside the reserve makes it easy for poachers to have access deep inside the forest areas.
Additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF) for wildlife (East), SS Mishra stressed urgent need for STPF in Melghat. "I feel Melghat should be given more priority over Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR)," said Mishra.
STPF will exercise policing powers and the state will be required to confer these powers on personnel under subsection (3) of Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974). These are powers to use firearms to combat tiger poaching and related offences in the tiger habitat.
Not being an armed force of the Union, STPF will be used only for tiger protection and under no circumstances would be requisitioned in aid of civil authority for any other work. The STPF will receive special training from state police and paramilitary forces.