Wildlife & Biodiversity

Centre interviews official named in tiger poaching probe for WII directorship

Samir Sinha, former director of Jim Corbett National Park, is one of the eight officials the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change interviewed for the position on August 8

 
By Ishan Kukreti
Last Updated: Saturday 10 August 2019
A tiger near Ramganga river in Jim Corbett National Park. Photo: Getty Images
A tiger near Ramganga river in Jim Corbett National Park. Photo: Getty Images A tiger near Ramganga river in Jim Corbett National Park. Photo: Getty Images

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) interviewed eight people on August 8, 2019 for the position of the director of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, said sources. One of them — Samir Sinha, former director of Jim Corbett National Park — was named in an inquiry report on poaching of tigers in the state for “administrative laxity” in 2016. However, Sinha told Down To Earth that he is “not aware” of any such report.

In March 2016, five tiger skins and 136 kilogramme of tiger bones were recovered from Shyampur in Haridwar district. After this, in early 2017, the then Uttarakhand Forest Secretary Ranbir Singh had ordered an inquiry into poaching of tigers in Jim Corbett National Park. 

The inquiry report held Sinha responsible for administrative laxity in preventing the poaching. It was filed by Jai Raj, principle chief conservator of forest, Uttarakhand, in June 2018. 

“According to the information provided by the inquiry report, the present Park Director, Corbett Tiger Reserve, Divisional Forest Officer Kalagarh and Divisional Forest Officer, Lansdowne are responsible for administrative laxity,” read the letter the then Forest Secretary Ranbir Singh sent to PCCF and the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW) on August 27, 2018. DTE has a copy of the letter. 

The matter is being heard in the High Court of Uttarakhand since 2017. 

When contacted, Sinha confirmed to being interviewed for the position, but denied that he has been named in any report. “I am not aware of any inquiry report or high court case against me,” Sinha told DTE

The HC had ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to look into the matter in October 2018. “The Uttarakhand HC, in its October 4, 2018 order, said there was enough evidence to show that officials named in the case, including Sinha, connived with the poachers,” the source said. 

“Sufficient material has come on record which shows the complicity/involvement and connivance of officials/officers with the poachers,” read the court order. 

However, the then recently retired state CWW DVS Khati, who was also named in the inquiry report, got a stay on the CBI inquiry from the Supreme Court in November 2018. Hence, the case is still going on in HC. 

The other candidates for the position of WII director include Ruchi Badola, senior scientist WII, Bharat Jyoti, IFS Bihar, Shekhar Neeraj, IFS Tamil Nadu, Sanjiv Chadha, IFS Odisha, Dhananjay Mohan, CWW Uttarakhand.

The candidates were interviewed by a committee comprising CK Mishra, secretary, MoEF&CC, Siddhanta Das, director general of forest, MS Negi, additional director general of forests (wildlife), Soumitra Dasgupta, inspector general of forest (wildlife) and Rajesh Gopal, secretary general, Global Tiger Forum. 

WII is an autonomous body under MoEF&CC aimed to build scientific knowledge on wildlife resources. “It seems likely that Ruchi Badola will be the next WII director. In this case, the institute, for the first time in its history, will have a scientist heading it,” the source said. 

The committee’s decision will be announced soon, added the source. DTE tried contacting Das, but got no response.

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