Hyderabad:Telangana state has decided to appoint sarpanches as honorary wildlife wardens and give them special powers to approve the killing of wild boar that damage agricultural and horticultural crops outside of protected forest areas. This means, in one fell stroke, the state will have 12,751 honorary wildlife wardens, one for each gram panchayat in the state.
In its orders on Tuesday, the government said that decision followed a proposal from the state forest department for appointing gram sarpanches as honorary wildlife wardens “to hunt Wild pigs (wild boar), which have become dangerous to human life and property, outside the protected areas and reserved forests subject to compliance with certain conditions.”
The sarpanches will have the powers to permit wild board hunting by hunters in possession of licensed weapons and “who are in the panel of shooters prepared by the Telangana forest department.” If such a person is not available, then “any other hunter available at the village/mandal/district concerned, who has a license for possession of fire arms,” can be permitted to hunt the animals. “The person identified shall be an expert shooter and own a rifle powerful enough and capable of killing a wild pig,” the orders said.
The orders from the government do not make it clear if they apply to all the 12,751 gram panchayats. The state has not been appointing honorary wildlife wardens over the past few years claiming that this opens a Pandora’s box with several of those appointed in the past because of political pressure using their status beyond what their supposed roles were in the honorary positions. The only exception to this unofficial ban was the appointment of a follower of a TRS MLA as following intense political pressure.
While the January 26 orders of the government make these appointments for the express purpose of killing wild boar, the guidelines for such appointments as per the Wildlife Protection Act make it very clear that the purpose of such appointments are for protection of wildlife.
Such persons, according to the guideline for such appointments should have genuine concern for wildlife conservation, and free of any personal record of involvement in any activity detrimental to the interests of nature and wildlife conservation. The appointees also get power to inspect records of licences under section 47 (b) of the Act, have powers of entry, search, seizure, and detention under Section 50 for prevention and detection of offences under the Act. The states, however, are also allowed to delegate any other power under the aforesaid Act, as it may consider necessary.
Deccan Chronicle had reported on January 8 in its report ‘Permit panchayats to deal with problematic wild animals: National Board of Wildlife’ that the National Board for Wildlife under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change advised all states and union territories to give gram panchayats powers to deal with situations relating to ‘problematic’ wild animals....