| (From left) PWD minister Ajanta Neog, forest minister Rakibul Hussain and Khumtai MLA Bismita Gogoi at the public meeting in Kaziranga on Friday. Picture by UB Photos |
Jorhat, Oct. 12: Stung by the spate of rhino killings, the Congress today swung into action, organising a public meeting at Kaziranga National Park and resolving to float a protection force on the lines of village defence parties by engaging local youths.
The meeting held at Kohora also decided to set up a specialised veterinary hospital at the national park for proper treatment of animals, especially those that are injured during floods.
At present, the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, run by the NGO International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India, is the only centre where injured animals of Kaziranga and nearby areas are treated. Veterinarians from the centre also help the forest department carry out rescue and relief operations during the floods.
Official sources said the new veterinary hospital would be well-equipped and have enough manpower to cater to the needs of Kaziranga.
The meeting, attended by forest minister Rakibul Hussain, PWD minister Ajanta Neog, and local Congress workers, also decided to engage local youths in various jobs at the national park. It also resolved to distribute rabi seeds to the farmers residing in the fringe areas of the park whose crops were damaged in the floods.
Today’s meeting comes two days after the visit of Union forest and environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan to Kaziranga, where 16 rhinos were killed since January.
Hussain said rhino killings at the national park should not be politicised and one and all, irrespective of political affiliation, should work for the protection of the animal.
He said the government was serious about protecting wildlife in the state and has made special amendments in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 which stipulates stringent punishment for wildlife crime.
Hussain, who rubbished allegations that the tiger project would harm the tourism industry at Kaziranga, said on the contrary it would bring more benefits for the national park and that it would be extended to the neighbouring Karbi Anglong hills.
The meeting also adopted a resolution to work on various projects by involving local people to develop eco-tourism in and around the national park, which has a great potential to attract tourists.
Local MLA Arun Phukan said involvement of the local people, especially those in the villages near the national park, was necessary for proper conservation of animals at Kaziranga. “We have plans to involve local youths in Kaziranga activities in a big way,” he said.
The forest minister said for the benefit of the tourists, a tourism information centre would be set up at Kohora soon.