SVC not interested in probing Hangul, Markhor conservation scam worth crores

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Karan Choudhary

State Vigilance Commission (SVC) is yet to order an in-depth probe into the alleged swindling of crores of rupees by the officials of forest and wildlife department on the name of research on endangered Hangul and Markhor conservation.

The probe would find out whether actually a nexus exists between some New Delhi based non-governmental organisations and officers of the forest and wildlife department. It would further dig deep to find out whether or not crores are being swindled on the name of research and other activities related to conservation of Markhor and Hangul, two endangered species by the officers and the members of the NGOs based in New Delhi and outside.

Probe would also look into details of funds available with both the wildlife and forest department for the research purpose besides finding out whether the same have been spent on the purpose for which they were meant or not. Sources said that these directions have been passed by the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) after a group of environmentalists met him recently and apprised him of their concerns vis-à-vis conservation of Hangul and Markhor.

Markhor is a wild goat supposed to be the ancestor of our domestic goats and is the major prey for snow leopard and common leopard. It is threatened with extinction due to poaching, hunting, habitat fragmentation and overgrazing by livestock. It is found only in Jammu and Kashmir. Hangul is our state animal and is a sub-species of red deer. It is also threatened with extinction due to poaching, livestock grazing, habitat degradation and fragmentation.

SVC is yet to investigate the issue in-depth and find out the facts about funds meant for these two species being swindled. It needs to be mentioned here that there are reports of an ex-IFS officer, who retired as PCCF having joined a New Delhi based NGO, acting as middleman. Sources said that it is this IFS officer who is using his connections both in the forest secretariat and the wildlife department to ensure that funds meant for research are misused and swindled.

It needs to be further emphasized that to protect the endangered species of Hangul and Markhor in Jammu and Kashmir, Union Government has approved a long-term plan to save these species. Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had earlier approved a long-term conservation action plan for Hanguls with a financial outlay of Rs 22.06 crore.

Census figure of Hangul for the year 2014 is yet to be received. However, it is believed that the number of Hangul has increased. Estimated number of Hanguls was nearly 6,000 in the beginning of the 20th century but the number came down drastically to 150 as per the 1970 Census. Due to efforts of the state government, number of Hanguls rose to 219 in 2011.

Meanwhile, under the Species Recovery Programme, the Union Government has released worth Rs 2.02 crore for conservation of snow leopard. As far as the Himalayan goat or Markhor is concerned, the Centre has already released worth Rs 7.95 crore under a specific project from 2009-10 to 2014-15. The total number of markhors in Kashmir is a meagre 350.

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