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Tiger protection force yet to be constituted


GUWAHATI, May 13 - Despite repeated prodding by the Centre, the State Government continues to maintain a baffling reluctance to set up the proposed Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF), raising questions over its sincerity in protecting the State�s famed biodiversity.

The STPF was proposed by the Centre following recommendations by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for securing longtime well-being of the tiger population across the country.

The STPF was to be raised, armed and deployed by the State Government as a specialised force for tiger protection with hundred per cent Central assistance under Project Tiger.

Governor PB Acharya has voiced concern over the developments, saying that the proposed STPF could have gone a long way in checking the unabated rhino poaching in Kaziranga (which is also a Tiger Reserve) as well.

�The Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, had approved the constitution of a STPF, comprising 112 personnel with 100 per cent Central assistance of Rs 3.72 crore at that point of time, which is yet to materialize despite repeated persuasion by the Government of India and the National Tiger Conservation Authority,� the Governor said in a letter to Assam Forest Minister Atuwa Munda.

Regrettably for Assam, which is among the last strongholds of the Royal Bengal tiger, the State Government, for reasons best known to it, is yet to do the needful in raising the STPF.

�The State Government needs to fix its priorities and act. The STPF would be funded entirely by the Centre, with the State Government�s role restricted to recruiting the required manpower. The State Government can also opt for a more convenient approach vis-�-vis raising of the force by recruiting youths living in fringe areas of tiger reserves,� a senior NTCA official told The Assam Tribune.

Conservationists believe that engaging local tribal youths from fringe areas would also have the effect of transforming the local inhabitants into important stakeholders in conservation. More often than not, the fringe dwellers have a fractious relationship with the forest authorities, harming the cause of conservation.

Since the STPF is a dedicated force for protecting wildlife and also mitigating the human-animal conflict, involvement of fringe inhabitants would always be an advantage in realizing its objectives.

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