Odisha Government’s initiative to create the Tiger Protection Force (TPF) for Similipal to combat a growing band of modernised syndicate of poachers and smugglers, may have to wait until the administration puts things in order for the future team.
In May, the government announced the creation of the TPF but is yet to confer the power it needs. As of now, the TPF doesn’t has the kind of immunity which its police counterparts have for the protection duty. It means when the force comes into being, its personnel will have to chase the poachers and timber mafia with ‘lathis’ as they are not equipped with the law to use their fire-arms. If at all they use their fire-arms in the face of an attack, they will have police cases registered against them under the wildlife conservation norms and must defend themselves in court.
Recently, the Forest and Wildlife Department presented the paradox before the state government seeking a change to the existing norms which will go a long way in bolstering the dipping morale of the forest officers in the tiger territory. Such immunity has been put in place in Karnataka, Kerala and many other states.
The Wildlife Wing has not sought carte blanche for the officials working in Similipal, but it has set riders to keep a check on unauthorised use of the immunity. “Instead of slapping a police case, every case of firing may be inquired by a magistrate. Incidents where use of fire-arms are found unwarranted, the officials may be taken to task. This will work as a deterrent on unnecessary use of power,” sources said.