Alarmed by poaching in the state’s tiger reserves, the Maharashtra government has promised to provide forest guards with more weapons and said they could shoot-at-sight in the event that they found poachers in forest areas.
“The death caused by preventive shooting will not be treated as offence under the Indian Penal Code. We have made a legal provision to safeguard our staff from any excesses by so-called human right activists,” Maharashtra forest minister Patangrao Kadam told reporters yesterday.
“Human rights groups come in the way if there is any such action, but there is need to save the tigers,” he was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
Maharashtra reportedly has over 160 tigers in protected reserves. Reuters
“If the staff spots poachers committing an offence, they have been given orders to shoot on sight. They should sound a warning asking them to surrender, however if the poachers fail to do so, they should be shot,” said Kadam.
The minister’s decision came after two tigers were found killed by poachers in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra while another was found trapped by poachers and is in failing health.
Maharashtra reportedly has 169 tigers and most of them inhabit three tiger reserves in Vidarbha region
However, whether this will be a very effective means to stem the recent poaching of tigers isn’t certain.
Despite the Forest Department arming some of its staff with guns since 2002, they are meant for self protection and are not very sure of how much immunity they are entitled to if they do use them against poachers.
It doesn’t help that most of the forest department employees have not been trained in the use of guns and out of 11,000 only 1,000 have received training, the Times of India reported.
“We have prioritized it. Weapons and training will be given to staff posted in highly sensitive and vulnerable bordering areas and now in tiger sensitive areas,” the report quoted unnamed forest officials as saying.