(Update written by Sourabha Rao)
The last day of our IFS training course began with several IFS officers sharing their experiences of the voluntary relocation process in their areas. Mr. Mukesh Kumar, Deputy Director, South Division (Palamau Tiger Reserve); Balaji Kari, DCF, Udaipur North and Ram Karan Khairwa, CF, Wildlife, Udaipur (Sariska Tiger Reserve); N. Ravindra, CCF Southern Zone UP, Prayagraj, were the speakers. They said that with the support of senior officials and the willingness of people themselves the process has benefited wildlife as well as people.
Our next session was with Mr. Imran Siddiqui, our Senior Director – Conservation, who is currently serving as an external expert to guide Forest Departments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in tiger and prey monitoring. He is credited for the incorporation of 2000 sq km of critical forest habitat of Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary under Project Tiger. Additionally, he was responsible for adding 1200 sq km to NSTR (Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve).
Mr. Siddiqui has worked extensively in Forests of the Eastern Ghats and Telangana for over a decade, and his skills include large-mammal surveys, statistical analyses and advanced GIS techniques. With extensive work experience, a deep understanding of the local setting, his existing connections and his technical training, Mr. Siddiqui co-founded HyTiCoS in 2002, and leads a group of volunteers for wildlife conservation. He has also carried out various capacity building programmes for over 2,100 frontline staff, and has designed short wildlife courses for Forest Departments. He works closely with local tribal communities who he believes are the most important stakeholders in any conservation scheme.
“Not all villages are considered for voluntary relocation. Those that are truly isolated, where people struggle for basic necessities of life, people with whom we spend a considerable amount of time for a dialogue – understanding their needs and problems – from where people voluntarily show the willingness to move and give consent, are considered for voluntary relocation for a secure future for both people and wildlife. Like Abraham Lincoln had once said, people’s sentiment is everything,” – says Mr. Siddiqui
Our valedictory speaker was Dr. S. P. Yadav, IFS, who is presently posted as Addl. Director General of Forests (Project Tiger) and Member Secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). He is also holding charge of Member Secretary, Central Zoo Authority in the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change at New Delhi.
Dr. Yadav is trained by WII and Smithsonian Institution, USA, in tiger conservation and holds a PhD degree. He has played an important role in successful tiger conservation in India while working in the NTCA for almost seven years during its formative years. He has distinction of working as Assistant Secretary General in the Global Tiger Forum, which happens to be the only inter-governmental international organisation in the field of tiger conservation in the world.
Dr. Yadav was conferred with the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi National Award for Wildlife Conservation by the Government of India.
Throughout the week, the sessions were interactive and lively, with participants coming up with relevant questions to the speakers and positive feedback after each talk.
Certificates of participation were shared with all the participants towards the end of the session.
We look forward to hosting these dedicated, passionate officers who are committed to work towards the welfare of both people and wildlife, again, and take them to the successful voluntary relocation sites for first-hand experience of the process and the positive impact of it.