Mangaluru, Feb 22, 2017: National Environment Care Federation (NECF), an NGO, has blamed the Minister for Forest, Ecology and Environment, B Ramanath Rai, and the chief secretary for the death of forest guard Murigeppa Tammangol.
In a symbolic protest outside the office of the deputy conservator of forests near A B Shetty Circle on Tuesday, NECF general secretary H Shashidhar Shetty said the death of Murigeppa was actually a “murder committed by the authorities”.
Murigeppa died from burns he had sustained while dousing wildfire in the Kalkere range of Bandipur National Forest in Mysuru district on February 18. Drawing a parallel between the forest personnel and Indian soldiers sent to fight Chinese troops with substandard arms and ammunition, Shetty said 7,898 men were deployed to guard a whopping 38,720 square kilometres of forests in Karnataka. These include 1,170 forest watchers, 2,734 deputy range forest officers and 3,994 forest guards. Shetty said the NECF was considering filing criminal cases against the minister and the chief secretary for “failing” in their duty. “The minister should get down from his car to take stock of the reality,” he said sarcastically.
NECF convener Dinesh Holla blamed most incidents of wildfire on the “resort mafia”. In separate letters to Rai and the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, Jagadish Shettar, the NECF has listed nine demands. These are: divide the state’s forests into 15 zones, provide state-of-art equipment like helicopter, establish a forest security force on the lines of Border Security Force (BSF), equip helicopters with firefighting devices in aerial manner and scanning machines to ensure early medical intervention for wild animals and disasters inside the forest, recruit 50,000 watchers, DRFOs and guards, procure oxygen kits, medical kits and fire resistant body armour, set up forest watching centres in all districts for round-the-clock vigil, hike the salaries for existing personnel, restrict women personnel to office work, provide advanced arms to forest personnel posted in Naxalism-hit areas and instal closed circuit television cameras at sensitive places in the forest.
The NGO handed over the letters to Assistant Conservator of Forests (Mangaluru subdivision) A Sridhar Nayak and will send its copies to the Shettar and the chief secretary.