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With forest staff on poll duty, villagers attack tigers

The Times of India, New Delhi, 25th November 2013


The turf war between man and beast has come to the fore in the heat of the Madhya Pradesh elections.


With forest employees on election duty and nobody to keep vigil at the Pench Tiger Reserve in Seoni, tribals of the area nearly killed two big cats that strayed into their village on Saturday.


Forest department sources said the tigers had a narrow escape even as they faced a volley of stones from enraged tribals of Chaurai village, while the womenfolk ran for cover. "We've rushed our monitoring team to the tiger reserve to avert any untoward incident," said Kiren Bisen, deputy director, Pench Tiger Reserve. She said the tigers had strayed into the village since forest staff was on election duty.


"I've sent a team to keep tabs on animal movement and take precautionary measures," she told TOI over the phone.


Bisen had an altercation with district collector Bharat Yadav over her letter in September, refusing to spare Pench reserve staff for election duty since their absence may put the lives of tigers at risk. Yadav responded by serving a show-cause notice on Bisen on September 26, seeking an explanation.


"Will you take personal responsibility if a tiger is poached while the reserve staff is deployed on poll duty?" Bisen wrote. She said an EC circular issued in 1998 had directed all state governments and chief electoral officers to exempt officials from wildlife parks and sanctuaries from election duty.


Yadav responded through a notice: "Did the previous deaths by poaching take place only when staff was on election duty? Will you take personal responsibility if a tiger is poached when you are not on poll duty? Do you personally monitor the park for 24 hours and do tigers remain in your custody."


Finally, Yadav had to exempt the Pench reserve staff, but territorial employees continue to be on election duty.