Govt forgets rules in tiger reserve chief transfer

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By SANJEEV KUMAR VERMA
  • Published 17.07.11
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Patna, July 16: Disregarding rules it had agreed to follow, the Bihar government has transferred the field director of Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) well before three years of completion of his term.

The decision to shift field director J.P. Gupta, considered an upright officer, has raised eyebrows in administrative circles, as it is being seen as a violation of the terms laid down in the memorandum of understanding (MoU) the government signed with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in September 2009. The NTCA is responsible for managing the tiger reserves in the country.

All states which have tiger reserves had to sign the MoU for getting grants and other assistance from the NTCA, which was set up in 2005 for reorganised management of Project Tiger. Bihar was one of the states which delayed signing the agreement, whose clauses the signatories are bound to follow.

The MoU was signed on September 2, 2009. The state government, NTCA and the VTR project director were the signatories to the tripartite agreement.

Gupta, who was one of the signatories of the agreement, was appointed field director of the Valmiki reserve in July 2009. According to the provisions of the MoU, his term as field director should have been till June 2012 at least.

The environment and forest department, which is headed by deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, however, chose to ignore this clause and appointed Santosh Tiwari as the new director for the reserve on July 13.

Gupta refused to comment when asked about his premature transfer. “I don’t have to say anything on this issue,” he said.

Clause Five of the MoU’s section dealing with obligations of the government says: “The state government shall post a motivated officer with the proven track record, preferably trained in wildlife management, as the field director of tiger reserve with a minimum tenure of three years (extendable if situation warrants).”

The then chief wildlife warden of Bihar, B.N. Jha, who signed the MoU on behalf of the state government, confirmed that the clause has been included in the agreement. “The clause related to tenure of the field director was put in the MoU to ensure that the person holding this all important post could have sufficient time to work for tiger conservation and take the initiatives, launched during his term for tiger conservation, to their logical conclusion,” Jha told The Telegraph over phone.

Jha is at present on central deputation and posted in Shillong as additional principal chief conservator of forest of the northeastern region.

He said the clause was included in the MoU as it was felt that frequent change in guard would adversely affect the continuity of tiger conservation work since a new incumbent would have his own views and priorities.

Deputy chief minister Modi said he was not aware of the clause. “It was not brought to my notice, else I would have taken it into account before allowing the transfer of the field director.” He said he would ask the department officials to provide details of the MoU.

Bosses in the department, however, did not appear to think that the transfer violated terms of the MoU. “We have posted a very efficient officer as the new field director of VTR,” environment and forest department principal secretary Subhakirti Mazumdar told The Telegraph.

Asked about the clause laid down in the MoU, Mazumdar said: “It is difficult for me to comment on this clause as I was posted in this department in December 2010.”

On whether there could be a delay in the submission of the annual plan of operation of the reserve to the NTCA owing to the transfers, Mazumdar said work was under way and the plan would soon be submitted.

Officials manning the NTCA were, however, not too sure about the release of funds to the reserve this year. “NTCA can stop giving funds to the tiger reserve if the state government has violated the terms of the MoU,” a senior NTCA official said over phone from New Delhi.