Times of India: Nagpur: Thursday, March 02, 2017.
The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, and Maharashtra Forest Department (MFD) is into a blame game over radio-collaring of missing tiger Jai.
In a new twist, the WII has put onus of procuring radio-collars, their replacements, warranty, costs and expenditure thereon on forest department, though the collars were twice fitted to Jai by WII scientists.
In latest reply received on February 22, to series of RTI queries on a second application filed by RTI activist Avinash Prabhune, Nagpur, WII has informed that collars were purchased by MFD and hence all details regarding expenditure and other issues can be obtained from the MFD only.
The WII has informed that first radio collar (No. 18855) was fitted on September 15, 2015. It went silent on November 25, 2015 but MFD & WII did not replace the collar for 114 days. The second collar (No. 19867) was fitted on March 18, 2016 after media raised the issue. This collar too failed on April 19, 2016 and since then Jai is untraceable.
On this issue WII says there is no failure of collars but there was technical snag in satellite communication of Jai's first collar. As far second collar is concerned, as the animal went missing from April 19, 2016, collar failure is overruled.
WII has informed that radio collars were purchased by the forest department and hence communication with manufacturer for warranty and replacement was done by them. All details regarding expenditure is also available with MFD.
Prabhune says this is something shocking as when he filed first RTI on September 7, 2016 with PCCF (wildlife) office regarding collar manufacturing firm, model, guarantee, data on monitoring, expenditure etc, PCCF office only provided information about number of collars, date of installation and removal. It said all other information will be available with WII and not with the department.
"Now WII has passed on the buck by stating details on cost and other issues is available with the forest department. It is also not sharing data on Jai's movement as it would expose laxities," alleged Prabhune.
WII has also admitted that monitoring of collared tigers is a joint responsibility of WII and MFD but is reluctant to share data on movement of Jai citing security reasons.
Prabhune has argued that what WII says is true, then why MFD did not supply information against an earlier RTI application filed on September 7, last. The MFD had asked him to seek information from WII.
"I will file complaint under Section 18 of RTI Act against the forest department for deliberately giving false information and wasting time by transferring my application to WII," says Prabhune.
As WII did not give satisfactory replies to the application transferred by the forest department in October last, on January 29, 2017 Prabhune had filed a fresh application seeking details on deployment of radio collars. However, WII has now put the onus on MFD.
"It appears that MFD & WII are deliberately denying information by shirking responsibility on each other. It seems to be an attempt to cover up own failures," alleged Prabhune.
The RTI activists has urged chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar to make hold officials accountable for the mess. Interestingly, in the recent civic elections Shiv Sena had made Jai a poll issue.