GUWAHATI, Sept 12 - The two Prabhakar Barua Memorial Awards for Rhino Conservation for the year 2014-15 were formally presented to Md Nasim Khan and Gagan Kakoti, game watcher of Kaziranga National Park and constable of 2nd�Assam Forest Protection Force Battalion respectively, and Naba Kumar Borah, an inspector of Assam Police, at a function at the Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra here last evening.
The annual awards � carrying a cash of Rs 50,000 each and trophies � were instituted by the Prabhakar Barua Rhino Conservation Trust for honouring outstanding conservation work, especially performed by a grassroots conservation worker. Former vice-chancellor of Rajiv Gandhi University, Arunachal Pradesh Prof AC�Bhagawati, who was the chief guest of the occasion, presented the awards to the recipients.
The first award was shared by Md Khan, a game watcher posted at Biswanath Ghat in the Northern Range of Kaziranga and Gagan Kakoti, a constable with the 2nd Assam Protection Force Battalion, posted at Biswanath
Ghat. The duo, who were working in harsh conditions, had risked their lives while gunning down a notorious poacher last year.
On the other hand, Inspector Naba Kumar Borah had played a key role in apprehending 64 poachers in 2012 and was instrumental in exposing the role of militant outfits in rhino poaching. He was the officer-in-charge of Diphu Police Station during the period.
Two other brave-hearts � Susheel Sheel, a homeguard of Orang National Park and Isab Ali, a poacher-turned-conservationist of Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, who played a key role in conservation saving some 15 rhinos from poaching � and laid down their lives while fighting poachers, were also honoured posthumously at the function. An amount of Rs 25,000 each was handed over to the kin of the departed brave-hearts.
Speaking on the occasion, Prof Bhagawati lauded the role played by committed frontline personnel as also volunteers like Isab Ali, who received very little in terms of recognition or monetary incentives, but yet went about their jobs selflessly and without complaining.
�It is because of people like Isab Ali and selfless frontline forest sentinels that hope is still not lost in spite of the gloom engulfing the State�s conservation scenario,� he said. He also lauded police officer Naba Kumar Borah for his sincere initiatives towards nabbing scores of hardcore poachers.
Prof Bhagawati also appealed to the Prabhakar Barua Memorial Trust to raise a fund for helping the distressed families as that of Isab Khan, who had none to look up to for eking out a decent living.
�It should be the bounden duty of civil society members to donate selflessly for the purpose,� he added.
Retired State PCCF Hiranya Choudhury also addressed the gathering. He recalled his long association with the late Prabhakar Barua, describing him as a �most committed forest officer and an able administrator.�
Prabhakar Barua was the first Assamese chief conservator of forests of undivided Assam for 13 years from 1963 to 1976.
Purnima Devi Barman of conservation NGO Aaranyak was also felicitated at the function for her pioneering role in the conservation of the endangered greater adjutant stork at Dodora in Kamrup district. Dodora today has the world�s largest colony of the greater adjutant stork.�
Dr Bibhab Talukdar, secretary general of Aaranyak and Prof Shiela Bora, daughter of the late Prabhakar Barua, also spoke among others.