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Jim Corbett National Park: Whistleblower Bureaucrat Crackdowns on VVIP culture

The order was issued purely in public interest and to comply with the government norms

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National Park, Bureaucrat, Fake Websites
More than 45 per cent of posts (of guards and other staff) are lying vacant. Pixabay

From fake websites to the alleged forged booking of guest houses, Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand’s Ramnagar seems to be mired in a long tale of corruption and controversies.

Several incidents have come to light about the blatant misuse of ‘official positions’ to seek favours for a safari ride or a stay inside the park premises.

Taking stern action against this prevailing mess, the new Officiating Director of the national park, Sanjeev Chaturvedi, has ordered that its sought after guest houses will now entertain only seven VVIPs, including the President, Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India.

No ‘so-called VVIPs’ including Judges, Ministers and bureaucrats would be entertained at the government’s expense.

National Park, Bureaucrat, Fake Websites
Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand’s Ramnagar seems to be mired in a long tale of corruption and controversies. Pixabay

Sources said that on an average, over 300 applications for seeking personal favours and recommendations from bureaucrats, Ministers and Judges for safari rides and lodging inside the Corbett jungle were received every month.

“I do not want to take names, but I do admit that pressure of the VVIPs, seeking favour either for themselves or for their friends and relatives (for stay), was finally affecting the official work at the national park.

“More than 45 per cent of posts (of guards and other staff) are lying vacant. Despite being understaffed, we were expected to entertain VIP tourists instead of being engaged in patrolling duties,” said Chaturvedi, a whistleblower bureaucrat and winner of the coveted Magsaysay Award.

According to Chaturvedi the order was issued purely in public interest and to comply with the government norms. “We have opened the online booking of guest houses for everyone. Every citizen has the right to stay inside the national park. Until now, most of the bookings were availed by the VIPs and their friends. Our Prime Minister wants to end VIP culture in the country, so why not follow the same principle here?” he told IANS.

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Not just that. Several websites, using the original address and photographs of Corbett National Park, were duping hundreds of tourists, including foreigners, who flocked there to see its tiger population during peek season.

Identifying such websites, Chaturvedi has reportedly served them notices to immediately restrain from using the national park’s official pictures and address to lure tourists.

Chaturvedi is officiating as Director of the Corbett National Park for the past three weeks, because the Indian Forest Officer posted there as director is on training leave. (IANS)

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Strict Conservation Laws Result in Eviction of Hundreds of Indigenous Karen People in Thailand

After the military government took charge in 2014, it vowed to "take back the forest" and increase forest cover to about 40 percent of the total surface area from about a third.

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Salween River
A view of the Salween River is seen from a small Thai-Karen village on the Thai side of the river, Nov. 17, 2014. VOA

Hundreds of indigenous Karen people in Thailand face evictions from a national park that authorities wish to turn into a World Heritage Site, joining millions in a similarly precarious situation as authorities worldwide push tough .

The Kaeng Krachan is Thailand’s biggest national park, sprawled over more than 2,900 square kilometers (1,120 square miles) on the border with neighboring Myanmar.

Renowned for its diverse wildlife, it is also home to about 30 communities of ethnic Karen people, who have traditionally lived and farmed there — and is on a tentative list of world heritage sites.

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Last year the country’s top court ruled that about 400 who had been evicted in 2011 had no legal right over the land. Pixabay

The United Nations’ cultural agency (UNESCO) had referred the submission back to the Thai government in 2016, asking it to address “rights and livelihood concerns” of the Karen communities, and get their support for the nomination.

The Thai government plans to respond later this year, according to campaigners.

“The communities have not been consulted or reassured on their access to the forest,” said Kittisak Rattanakrajangsri of advocacy group Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact.

“The communities are not opposed to the heritage status,” he told Reuters. “They are just asking that they not be evicted, and that their land rights are secure — because if the park gets heritage status without that, there will be a great many more evictions.”

A spokesman for the forest department did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesman for the U.N. human rights office (OHCHR) in Bangkok said they had recently facilitated a meeting between a rights organization working with the Karen, and Thai officials.

Worldwide, more than 250,000 people were evicted from protected areas in 15 countries from 1990 to 2014, according to Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Rights and Resources Initiative.

In India, more than 1.9 million indigenous families face evictions after their forest rights claims were rejected.

‘No legal rights’

Since Kaeng Krachan was declared a national park in 1981, hundreds of Karen — a hill tribe people thought to number about 1 million in Thailand — have been evicted, according to activists.

Last year the country’s top court ruled that about 400 who had been evicted in 2011 had no legal right over the land.

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In India, more than 1.9 million indigenous families face evictions after their forest rights claims were rejected. Pixabay

“The security of indigenous people in Thailand is so tenuous because they have no legal rights, and no recognition of their dependence on forests,” said Worawuth Tamee, an indigenous rights lawyer.

“The laws have made them encroachers,” he said.

A 2010 Cabinet resolution had called for recognizing the Karen people’s way of life and their right to earn a livelihood the traditional way. But this has not been implemented, said
Tamee.

After the military government took charge in 2014, it vowed to “take back the forest” and increase forest cover to about 40 percent of the total surface area from about a third.

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This has resulted in hundreds of reclamations from farmers and forest dwellers, according to research organization Mekong Region Land Governance.

“It is the biggest challenge facing indigenous people,” said Tamee. “Parks are not just for the enjoyment of city people and tourists. They are also the home of poor, indigenous people who have nowhere else to go.” (VOA)