BENGALURU: Forest, Environment and Ecology Minister Eshwar Khandre on Monday told forest department officials that if they wanted to pay their respects to martyrs, they must clear all encroachments and sternly act against encroachers.
Accompanied by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Waqf and Minorities Welfare Minister Zameer Ahmed Khan, Khandre participated in a Forest Martyrs Day programme in the city. The day is observed to pay respects to forest staffers who died on duty.
Khandre said that so far, 57 forest staffers have died in man-elephant conflicts, during elephant rescue operations, and even while protecting wildlife and forest produce from poachers. “If you want to pay real tribute to martyrs, you should prosecute all those who have encroached forest land.
The day should be observed to instil confidence amongst others, and to the family members of the martyrs,” he said. Khandre also recollected recent incidents in which elephant task force member Girish and sharpshooter Venkatesh were killed. He said the government will take all measures to ensure forest conservation. He pointed out that the Western Ghats is a biodiversity hotspot and is home to endemic and endangered species, due to which its protection is vital.
In Karnataka, Forest Martyrs Day was observed every year on November 11, as a mark of respect to senior IFS officer P Srinivasan, who was killed by forest brigand Veerappan in 1991.
However, after a Central Government order was issued in 2013, National Forest Martyrs Day is observed every year on September 11, in memory of the Khejarli Massacre of 1730, when 359 Bishnoi tribals were killed while trying to save trees in Rajasthan, during the rule of Maharaja Abhai Singh.