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Navegaon safe haven for Naxalites

Posted by Indian Vanguard on May 16, 2007

Staff have almost given up the protection and conservation of the park

The sylvan surroundings of the Navegaon National Park in Gondia district have in recent months become a preferred hideout of the outlawed Naxalites with the result that the forest staff is running for cover.

In the last four months, extremist elements have penetrated from their set base of Deori on Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border and have struck at all four range offices. In fact, in one audacious attack, they stole wireless sets including one fitted in the vehicle of deputy conservator of forest, no less, in January this year.

So threatened do the staffers feel that they have virtually given up on protection and conservation activity. Sources said the 80-odd Naxals attached to the Deori dalam who had been rather dormant in the past few years, have reared their heads after Tendu leaves collection work began to swell revenue coffers.

It is learnt that forest revenue from Tendu auction has gone up to Rs100crore from the Rs21-22crore last year. With this scenario accruing, the Naxals have virtually taken over the 135sq km park, forcing the forest officials to shy away from even routine protection and conservation activity.

Deputy Conservator of Forests, Navegaon National Park Vijay Rakhe said, “Naxal activities have become remarkably visible in the park since the last four months. They are trying to garner support from tribals to carry out their activities. The forest department staff feels threatened due to their presence in the park”. So far, they have not caused major harm, but the employees are not willing for night patrol.”

By coincidence or by design, the Naxal threat has come at a time when the wildlife is on the upswing. For the first time since the last decade tigers have been found in the park. “There are concrete evidences, indirect though, of presence of a pair. Their existence was detected following a pug mark and water hole census conducted a fortnight ago. There are also reports of presence of a tigress with cub,” Rakhe added.

According to noted conservationist Bittu Sahgal, “Naxal infiltration will eventually spell doom for the forests. The situation will only deteriorate with the government showing little inclination to protect the forests”.

He said wildlife trade has served as a fuel for the Naxal activity. Manpower and fund crunch have only compounded the problem, Sahgal adding, “It is high time that the state and central governments took concrete steps to protect forest wealth.”



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