The death of a tigress in the forests of Katni, Madhya Pradesh, two months ago, was caused due to “the carelessness of government officials”, a new investigation report has said.
“On 16 November, 2012, lineman’ Prakash Chandra Berman had spotted a damaged power transmission pole in the area where the tigress was later found dead. He made repeated requests. But there was no response from his superiors. On 18 November, carelessness turned fatal while the tigress was preying on a stray cow. They both fell on the live, high-voltage, loose electric supply wires and were electrocuted to death,” the investigation report of forest conservation (Katni circle) said. A copy of the report is available with Business Standard.
"It is a clear case of negligence and the investigation report must have made the MP Power Transmission Company an accused in the case. If proper action is not taken against the erring and irresponsible staff and officials, our organisations will file a private complaint in the local court," tiger conservationist Ajay Dubey told Business Standard.
Dubey also raised several questions about the incident. "Why did the forest beat in-charge not report about the incident immediately to his superiors? Why does the primary offence report of the forest department not have names of its own field staff and those of the MP Power Distribution Company staff when the lineman had already reported a damaged pole two days prior to the accident? What steps have been taken by the state government to protect tigers?"
Dubey had earlier demanded that the Supreme Court impose a blanket ban on tiger tourism across India.
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) R S Negi, however, clarified while speaking to Business Standard, "We have a process to file criminal cases under the Wildlife Protection Act when any Schedule - I animal is killed. When our team reached the scene of death, there was no one. As a result, the police has made "Unknown" as an accused. After investigations, responsibility will be fixed and a challan’ will be presented before the court either by police or by department staff to bring the accused to justice."
Katni District Forest Officer (DFO) Mohammad Quasim Khan told Business Standard, "Two staff members of the MP Power Discom Company have been found guilty of carelessness and I have filed an FIR (first information report) against them under an electricity act. Since the lineman and the maintenance engineer did not take timely action, the tigress was electrocuted."
Khan also responded to Dubey’s charge that the forest department had ignored and skipped the post-mortem of the tigress even though the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has made it mandatory to ascertain reasons and the time of death of a tiger. "The carcasses of the tigress and the cow were charred due to high-voltage and were beyond postmortem or lab examination limits," explained Khan.
Madhya Pradesh is already facing criticism from various organisations and wildlife activists on the fast-shrinking population of the big cat in the state. In the recent past, three tigresses died in accidents or poacher attacks.
The total number of tigers in Madhya Pradesh was 257 in the last census, while Karnataka reported 300 or more tigers in the count. This resulted in Madhya Pradesh losing the title of 'tiger state'.