GUWAHATI, Oct 29 - State Environment and Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma today said that infrastructure bottlenecks, manpower shortage and lack of motivation among sections of staff and officials were at the root of the high incidence of rhino poaching in the State, especially in Kaziranga National Park.
Brahma also announced that the State Government was sanctioning an amount of Rs 10 crore to be utilized for procurement of sophisticated firearms for Kaziranga and relocation of villagers living in Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
�We are taking on poachers with renewed vigour and the results are showing... but yes, manpower shortage and lack of sophisticated firearms are big issues as is absence of motivation among sections (of forest staff),� she said while addressing the media at the �Face-to-Face� event at Dispur Press Club here today.
Brahma said that lack of motivation among casual guards was understandable as they were not getting adequate remuneration and amenities but matters stood worsened by the lackadaisical approach of a section of officials.
�We have now enhanced the pay of casual staff from Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000. We have no dearth of committed officers who are doing a splendid job, but there are always a few who lack the motivation and drive � so essential when you are manning a vulnerable rhino-land like Kaziranga. This has to change,� she added.
Brahma said that the lucrative nature of rhino horn smuggling was luring many people to the nefarious trade as selling a single horn could fetch a fortune. �This is a disturbing trend and we need cooperation from all quarters, including the people living near forests to prevent poaching. There is a large presence of poachers near the Fifth and Sixth additions to Kaziranga,� she added.
The minister also said that clearing all forestland from encroachment was a priority with the department and that eviction drives would soon be launched in all forests affected by encroachment.
Terming the growing man-animal conflict as a big concern, Brahma said that people should learn to respect the right of space for wildlife. �The conflict is a result of rampant destruction of forests which have compelled the animals to stray out to human habitations in search of food and space. We are trying to save forests but the people also should cooperate,� she said.