Assam’s Zero Tolerance Policy Led to Zero Rhino Poaching in 2022
- Jonali Buragohain
- Published on 5 Jan 2023, 9:17 am IST
- 5 minutes read
- Assam recorded no rhino deaths due to poaching in 2022.
- Few years back, one rhino was getting poached every fortnight.
- Current government’s zero tolerance policy was the defining factor.
2022 ended on a sweet note for Assam as the year did not witness a single rhino being poached. From two cases in 2021, it came down to zero, creating a record of lowest poaching in 22 years.
No mean task by any chance, considering there was a time, one rhino was getting poached every fortnight. Both 2013 and 2014 had 27 rhino poaching cases each.
So, how did this turn of events come about? It all boils down to the zero tolerance policy adopted by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, and implemented effectively by the state police and forest department.
THE COUNTDOWN BEGAN
Soon after taking charge as the Chief Minister of the state, Mr. Himanta Biswa Sarma had directed the police and forest department to jointly prepare a plan to ensure that poachers cannot enter the Kaziranga Park at any cost.
In line with this plan, a new task force was notified in June 2021 to check rhino poaching in Kaziranga. It was named the Assam Rhino Protection Task Force and it had senior forest and police officers on board. And, the officer picked by Mr. Himanta Biswa Sharma to lead it was 1991-batch IPS officer of Assam-Meghalaya cadre, G.P. Singh, a man known to be a trusted lieutenant of the CM. And, living up to his reputation of a troubleshooter, the IPS officer, who is currently Special DGP Assam, deployed commando forces in Kaziranga to combat poachers. 2022 alone saw 58 rhino poachers arrested, 5 injured and 4 deaths.
Speaking with Indian Masterminds, Mr. G.P. Singh outlined the key steps that were taken by his department to end poaching. These include: 1. Mapping the incidents of poaching in time and space; 2. Collection of data about all past poachers and their present activities; 3. Sensitising the stake holders, especially villagers, forest dwellers, and those in buffer zones; 4. Mapping of all boatmen; 5. Coordination with police of other states, especially Arunachal, Nagaland, Manipur and Kerala; 6. CCTV on entry/exit routes including night vision CCTV; 7. Movement sensors; 8. Analysis of cyber and mobile data; 9. Coordinated approach between police and forest department; 10. Extensive usage of drones and dog squads; 11. Armed commandos of police and forest deployed in core areas.
He also mentioned the constant support and guidance of Assam CM and Union Home Minister as important motivating factors.
Prime Minister Modi was one of the first persons to praise the people of Assam, after news about the zero poaching broke.
Commenting on it, Mr. G.P. Singh said, “It’s a matter of great pride and privilege that our effort has been recognised at the highest level in the country. This also drives us to work harder. We need to keep the pressure on the poaching gangs. We have to ensure that the graph of poaching stays flat at nil for a few years, by when, it would become a norm. We need to now work on the receivers of rhino horns based in other states and across the border with the help of other state police forces and central agencies.”
KAZIRANGA: PROACTIVENESS THE KEY
Following the CM’s zero tolerance policy in letter and spirit, Field Director of Kaziranga National Park, Jatindra Sarma, IFS, has ensured no mercy was shown to people involved in any way in poaching activities.
“With increased intelligence gathering; monitoring of ex-poachers; conducting frequent raids and picking up suspected and suspicious characters for questioning; intensive river patrolling, especially in the north bank as it is most vulnerable; improved logistical support with E-Eye cameras installed at strategic places to record who’s coming in and going out of the Park; we were able to ensure no poaching of rhino took place,” he told Indian Masterminds.
MANAS: TAKING LOCALS ON BOARD
There has been no rhino poaching in the Manas National Park since 2016. Unlike Kaziranga, where the intensity of armed boots on the ground is far higher, Manas was fortunate to have been complimented through active engagement of fringe communities, with whom park authorities are continuously interacting.
Field Director of Manas, Vaibhav Mathur, IFS, said, “Conservation partners have played a significant role in bridging the gap between forest personnel and locals. Manas was financially assisted in these endeavours through the Man and Biosphere Programme provided by the MoEFCC, GoI. There are 48 Eco Development Committees (EDCs) along the nearly 100 kms southern boundary amounting to an EDC at every 2 kms., which acts as a social buffer.”
Over a period, anti-poaching infrastructure has been built up under Project Tiger, CAMPA and the Assam Project on Forestry and Biodiversity Conservation. “As we speak, 6 new anti-poaching camps under the latter are being constructed in critical locations. Without Project Tiger, it would not have been possible to manage day to day management interventions,” Mr. Mathur informed Indian Masterminds.
Having a hard southern boundary, with no connecting corridors or forested landscape, the rhino bearing area of Manas has been fenced here with anti-poaching camps dotting the border. These have prevented negative interactions between humans and wildlife, which has generated a lot of goodwill and ensured reciprocal commitments from the local people.
END OF THE ARTICLE