Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurates the event as forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma looks on in Guwahati on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Oct. 6: Dispur today refused to pay heed to protests against clearing of forests from illegal settlers and is planning joint training of police and forest guards to protect wildlife from poachers.
"We will continue to take stern steps to protect our wildlife and forests. Our forest guards and police will get joint training and share their knowledge and experiences to counter militants and poachers. Our police will study the topography of forests which will help them check militants. Militants take shelter in our jungles and they (militants) have been found to be involved in poaching as well as aiding them," chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said while addressing the 62nd Wildlife Week function here.
Seeking the assistance of people living near the forests to check poaching, Sonowal said they should not aid poachers and inform the police and forest guards about any movement of poachers and criminals. "Our prized wildlife is being killed by poachers regularly and people living close to our national parks and forests must join hands with us for their protection," he said.
The forest department has come under fire as poaching of rhinos, mostly in Kaziranga National Park, has become a cause for concern. Kaziranga houses more than 2,000 rhinos, Royal Bengal tigers, wild boar and other animals. Poaching has been reported in Manas National Park, Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park and Pobitora wildlife sanctuary as well.
The department today felicitated 36 policemen and 42 forest guards and staffs for their good performance in protection of wildlife and forests.
Forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma, who was present at the function, said eviction in the forests will continue to clear all illegal settlers as such people could aid poachers. "We must evict the settlers despite protests," she said.
Asked by The Telegraph about protests against eviction notices served by the Bodoland Territorial Council to over 1,000 Adivasi families in Ripu-Chirang reserve forests, she said, "Most of them are new settlers and are cutting trees and destroying forests. We can't allow such a thing to continue."
On the demand by Adivasi groups for rehabilitation of settlers, she said, "Landless people who settled many years ago out of compulsion will be rehabilitated but not all."
Adivasi groups are planning a "massive agitation" after Durga Puja against the government move to evict the settlers from Ripu-Chirang forests in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts without giving them land in another place.
An exhibition-cum-sale was organised by Assam Project on Forest Biodiversity Conservation Society at the venue showcasing items produced by forest communities.
Sonowal inaugurated the exhibition organised under a project, Consortium for Micro Planning and Enhancing Livelihood Opportunities, conducted by the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship.