Home Conservation News WCS India Country Director Releases Statement In Support Of Karnataka Forest Department

WCS India Country Director Releases Statement In Support Of Karnataka Forest Department

WCS India Country Director Releases Statement In Support Of Karnataka Forest Department

On behalf of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) India, Prakriti Srivastava, the Country Director has released a statement in support of the Forest Officers of Karnataka, denouncing the fallacious FIR filed against them following a case of Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC), that resulted in the death of a person in Kodagu district of Karnataka.

On January 22, 2017, Mohan Das, a plantation worker was working in a coffee field when an elephant attacked him, killing him on the spot.

Events took a turn for the unexpected when a resident of the area filed an FIR under Section 304 (a) (causing death due to negligence) of the Indian Penal Code, against the Karnataka Forest Department officials—The Chief Conservator of Forests, Deputy Conservator of Forests and Range Forest Officer.

The complaint demanded a compensation of two crore and criminal action against the officers, claiming that the elephant belonged to the Forest officials, and they ought to be held responsible for the elephant attack.

“Any death is a matter of deep concern and our deepest condolences go out to bereaved family. An FIR however is misplaced and cannot possibly be registered... in quite the same way as an FIR against someone in whose premises a snakebite leads to death would be untenable... or against a traffic policeman on whose beat a pedestrian was killed by accident. It's a sensitive issue and hopefully incidents like this will prompt planners to pause before destroying still more natural habitats, which then forces wild animals into dangerously close contact with humans.” says Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary Asia.

Below is the official statement released by the Country Director of WCS India regarding FIR wrongly filed against Karnataka Forest Officers.

On behalf of the Wildlife Conservation Society – India, I would like to issue a statement regarding the recent FIR filed against three forest officers of the Karnataka Forest Department, Kodagu district. We understand that the FIR has been registered against the three forest officers in a case where a person was killed by a wild elephant due to a serious conflict situation. We wish to express our deepest sympathies to the bereaved family.

We are aware of the difficulties that forest officers face while dealing with such conflict situations. In many cases, officers and forest staff put their lives at risk while trying to get an escalating situation under control. We are dismayed to note that in this case, an FIR has been filed against the jurisdictional forest officers, holding them responsible for the unfortunate demise of the victim. Elephants are wide-ranging species and hence require large spaces of forest land to move and survive.  Unfortunately, in Kodagu, elephant habitats are highly fragmented resulting in frequent conflict situations that sometimes lead to human mortality. In this context, it can be extremely demoralising for the Forest Department staff if legal action is taken against them while they are doing their duty. It is deeply demotivating to see FIRs being filed against forest officers holding them responsible for ill-fated situations that are not entirely under their control.

We wish to express solidarity with the forest officers against whom the FIR has been erroneously filed. We strongly urge the Government of Karnataka to immediately withdraw the said FIR and drop all further proceedings against the officers. Further, we look up to the Karnataka Government to ensure that the morale of forest officers is kept high so that they may discharge their duties efficiently.  In future, such situations can be avoided only if the conflict is scientifically monitored and effectively mitigated. We urge the Government of Karnataka to take steps to address the same.

Prakriti Srivastava
Country Director
Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program

     
     
     

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