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Zoo stories gone bad ...starved of funds, Ranchi park ails

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By A.S.R.P. MUKESH
  • Published 23.09.11
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Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park, spread over 104 hectares of sprawling natural forest in Ormanjhi, could have been a green oasis for its 1,000-odd animals and birds, but for the stranglehold of red tape which has squeezed funds for this financial year dry.

Its 80-odd daily-wage workers have threatened to strike from early next week as they haven’t been paid since April. They’re fuming more because 18 government employees — from class IV to class I — get monthly salaries on time, including the zoo director, assistant conservator of forests, doctor, two foresters, office assistants and peons each, three rangers and six forest guards.

Zoo sources said cleaning and sanitation activities had already taken a beating. Worst, stockists stopped supplying medicines, as outstanding bills amount in excess of Rs 50,000, and food supplies are depleting.

The worst victims of this cash crunch are the animals and birds of the zoo, 15 km from the state capital. For, resentment among workers leads to their neglect.

For the 2011-12 fiscal, the cabinet sanctioned Rs 12.5 crore to the zoo as late as in the beginning of September. The money was to be released in two phases — 50 per cent initially and the rest after an utilisation certificate was given to the department by Jharkhand Zoo Authority — a mandatory procedure.

However, if sources are to be believed, the government later issued a letter to the zoo authority to submit an annual action plan before getting funds. That’s where funds got blocked.

“Under Central Zoo Authority of India’s guidelines, Jharkhand Zoo Authority was formed as an independent body to ease bureaucratic hassles for funding. As per rules, the government will simply provide an annual lump sum to the state authority, which has its own governing body (chaired by the forest secretary) that will approve the action plan and allocate funds accordingly. This has been done to speed up the whole process. But with this new twist, is the government is trying to nullify Jharkhand Zoo Authority?” said a zoo source.

Additional principal chief conservator forests (development) U.R. Biswas, the man in-charge of funds allocation, agreed there was a discrepancy in the letter, adding that the forest department was trying to take up the matter with the government.

“I think there was some communication gap. The issue is being looked into. We will release funds soon,” said Biswas.

But zoo officials have been left to face the music. “It’s a complete mess out here. At the receiving end are zoo authorities, facing brickbats from all quarters,” a senior zoo official wishing anonymity said.

Zoo director P. K. Verma, however, didn’t want to comment. “We just hope the funds arrive soon,” he said.

Does the state take its wildlife resources seriously?

Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com