Monday, 30th October 2017

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Food for animals but forest shut

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  • Published 23.02.11

Alipurduar, Feb. 22: Pity for the animals or a threat by the conservator of forests to book the protesters: it is not known which worked but the captive beasts were fed today.

The spider with the human face, too, was handed over to the divisional forest officer of wildlife II at her quarters amid a tussle between NGOs vying for “credit”.

The chief conservator of forests (wildlife) of north Bengal, S.B. Patel, had yesterday said action would be taken against the protesters if any animal fell ill because of the fast.

Nearly 900 members of the Citu-led West Bengal Forest Watchers’ Association picketed in front of the forest offices across the region from the morning in continuance of yesterday’s cease-work demanding permanent jobs. All beat offices, range offices and divisional headquarters were shut and so were elephant and car safaris in Jaldapara and Gorumara. The few visitors in the forest guest houses complained about the absent staff.

But the leopards and tigers in the South Khayerbari rescue centre were fed and so were the elephants in the camps in Jaldapara, Gorumara and the Buxa Tiger Reserve. Nearly 100 animals had gone without meal yesterday.

The human-faced spider spotted by mailman Subir Roy at the head post office premises in Jalpaiguri found shelter at the bungalow of the divisional forest officer of wildlife II, Sumita Ghatak, at Rajbaripara today but not before it had spun its own share of handover tale.

Jayanta Das of Nature and Wildlife Conservation Society, who had taken the spider from the Jalpaiguri Science and Nature Club last night, handed it over to Ghatak without informing Roy. “I called him up today and asked him to return the spider to me. SPAWN had come to me for the spider. Das took it from Science and Nature Club without asking me. They were all vying for credit. But I had wanted to hand it over to the foresters. Das refused to relent and later called up to say that he has already given it to the DFO. This is not fair,” the postman said this afternoon.

Later, however, Das told Roy that he had mentioned his name to the DFO while handing over the spider.

“Jayanta (Das) had come to my residence and gave me the spider. We took photographs and later, it was released on the premises of my bungalow,” said Ghatak. For identification of the family, photographs have been sent to Spider India — a wildlife NGO — and D.N. Roychoudhury, head of the department of entomology at Calcutta University, she said.

Sanjib Chatterjee, the joint secretary of the state committee of West Bengal State Govt Employees’ Federation that claims to be a right wing organisation, said the Citu movement for permanent jobs is nothing but an eyewash before the elections.

“They are aware that a list of 536 temporary workers had been already drawn up for permanent jobs and approved by the forest department. Only forest minister Ananta Roy is responsible for the delay. If he wants to, he can make the workers permanent in a week. If the Citu really wants to fight for the interest of the staff then why doesn’t it gherao the forest minister’s house in Cooch Behar?”

The watchers, who have been casual staff for two decades, do every conceivable odd job in the forest. Chief conservator of forest Patel said: “The picketers today stopped the staff from entering the offices. But the animals got food and the patawalas had taken the elephants to the forest to feed.”