By Kalyan Barooah
Unabated killing of rhinos in Assam could land the State Government in further trouble, with BJP MP Bijoya Chakravarty on Monday directly complaining to Congress president Sonia Gandhi accusing Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi of shielding State Forest Minister, Rockybul Hussain.
It all happened this morning in the Lok Sabha when the House was conducting business. The Congress president was surprised to find Chakravarty walk over from the Opposition Benches and talked with her. What transpired could spell trouble for the State Forest Minister because the Congress president did not seem to like what she heard from a MP belonging to the Opposition. She signalled Union Environment and Forest Minister, Jayanthi Natarajan to join them and was seen passing some instructions.
Later, Bijoya Chakravarty, who is the national vice president of BJP, told this newspaper that she drew the attention of the Congress president to the killing of rhinos in Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and the utter failure on part of the State Forest Minister to check the unabated slaughter of the world-famous one-horned rhinos. She alleged that the Chief Minister has refrained from taking any action against him because Hussain is one of his most trusted lieutenants.
“When we raised the issue of killings of rhinos with the Union Environment and Forest Ministry officials, we were told that they and the State Forest Department were not on the same page regarding handling of the situation, pleading their helplessness. Hussain is the Chief Minister’s most trusted aides and hence he has escaped all actions, while the killings by poachers continued, Chakravarty allegedly told Gandhi.
Slightly taken aback, the Congress president asked the Union Environment and Forest Minister, who was also present in the House to take note of Chakravarty’s allegation and do the needful to save the rhinos, even as clueless MPs from Assam watched trio converse.
Meanwhile, in a Lok Sabha reply, Minister for Environment and Forest said that State was advised by the Government of India for CBI investigations. As requested by the State and subsequent notification by the Government of India, three separate regular cases relating to poaching of rhinos in the districts of Karbi Anglong and Nagaon were registered, Natarajan said.
Interestingly, some of the Congress MPs also partly shares Chakravarty’s point of view. Apart from ordering a CBI probe into the killings, Gogoi has not done much to find out why the situation has gone out of hand in KNP, which once enjoyed excellent track record in checking poaching activities.