By Seema Sharma
Dehradun: In a move that would come as some relief to forest officials, a panchayat of a local sapera community on Friday decided to impose a fine of Rs 25,000 on community members found involved in poaching. Saperas, who are notorious for not just catching snakes, but also hunting endangered species like pangolin, moniker lizard, civet cat etc, have been a big problem for those involved in conservation activities. But with the sapera panchayat of the Mothrowala area in the city deciding to come down heavily on poachers within its ranks, conservationists are hopeful that the poaching menace can be curbed.
Acknowledging that the panchayat's decision was a significant one, Abhishek Singh, president of EFFECT ( Endangered Flora and Fauna on Earth Conservation Team), said, "This is indeed a big transformation. Over the past few years, I had been a part of many raids in sapera residential colonies where body parts of endangered animals were seized. It was becoming increasingly difficult to control their poaching activities. The situation was compounded by the fact they could be very brutal with anyone who acted as an informer for the forest department."
Saperas, on their part, said that they were hopeful that the move would help facilitate alternate employment opportunities for them. Sanjay Nath, sarpanch of the Mothrowala saperabasti, said, "Since the forest department has taken a new initiative to provide us alternative employment avenues, we did not want to do anything which would mar our chances of a better future. Hence, the panchayat took a collective decision to fine those involved in poaching."
He added that the panchayat members were also planning to hold meetings with other sapera panchayat representatives in the community's residential colonies in Haridwar and Dehradun to impress upon them to take a similar decision.
Welcoming the move, Dhananjay Mohan, chief conservator of forests, said, "Economic rehabilitation of the sapera community is the only way to reform them since they are illiterate and dependent on poaching for their livelihood. The government is taking steps to ensure they are absorbed in other professions."