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Raid on Forest Officer’s House yields Rs 2 Crore in Cash, Gold and Animal Parts in Assam

After being suspended by the State government, Talukdar was produced in a special court

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Seized tiger skin Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Assam Police recovered animal parts, Rs 2 crore in cash and gold from two residences of a divisional forest officer (DFO) of Assam
  • He was initially caught red-handed by the anti-corruption officers while accepting a bribe of Rs 30,000 each from three truckers
  • After being suspended by the State government, Talukdar was produced in a special court on June 14, which has sent him to police remand

GUWAHATI: Assam Police have recovered animal parts including tiger skin, deer skin, ivory, Rs 2 crore in cash and about 1kg of gold jewellery from two residences of a Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Assam.

According to The Indian Express report, Mahat Chandra Talukdar, who has been posted as the divisional forest officer in northern Assam’s Dhemaji since 2014, was initially caught red-handed by the anti-corruption officers while accepting a bribe of Rs 30,000 each from three truckers, who transport forest produce, at his office on June 13.

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“We have arrested him after he was caught while accepting bribe. We raided his house on Monday evening. First, we raided his house in Dhemaji and then in Guwahati. We have seized the amount, his personal vehicles and other documents and bank passbooks. There were allegations against him that he demanded bribe from three suppliers. Investigating the matter, we have caught him red-handed,” said Assam Police PRO Rajib Saikia to Deccan Herald.

Pallet of seized raw ivory in US Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Pallet of seized raw ivory in US Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the next 24 hours, he was taken to Guwahati and his two residences in Dhemaji and Guwahati were raided where the police found the cash, gold and parts of wild animals. Also, the police did not rule out the possibility of him being linked to poachers considering the 89 rhinos who were killed by poachers from 1989-1983 in Kaziranga National Park where he was serving at that time. A rhino horn could be priced for Rs 1 crore in the international black market.

Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma said the arrested DFO could not get away. “He has been placed under suspension. We will go hard on all those who are involved in corrupt practices,” she said.

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After being suspended by the State government, Talukdar was produced in a special court on 14 June which has sent him to police remand.

After this case of corruption which was linked to Wildlife, the Gauhati High Court had asked the state government to frame appropriate rules under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, authorizing police to file charge-sheets in cases of wildlife crime.

-prepared by Pashchiema Bhatia, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @pashchiema

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Wildlife Poaching Incidents Double Amid COVID Lockdown: Study

Poaching incidents for consumption and local trade have more than doubled during the lockdown period, says study

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Wildlife poaching
Poaching of many animals including 'small mammals', including hares, porcupines pangolins, giant squirrels, civets, monkeys, smaller wild cats is on rise. Pixabay

Poaching incidents for consumption and local trade have more than doubled during the lockdown period, according to a recent study. A report published by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network with WWF India support, indicated that despite consistent efforts of the law enforcement agencies, wild animal populations in India are under “additional threat” during the lockdown period.

The highest increase in poaching was reported to be of ungulates mainly for meat, and the percentage jumped from nearly eight out of 22 per cent pre-lockdown to 44 per cent during the lockdown period. The second group which showed a marked increase was poaching of ‘small mammals’, including hares, porcupines pangolins, giant squirrels, civets, monkeys, smaller wild cats.

Although some have always been in high demand in the international markets, most hunting during the lockdown period is presumably for meat or for local trade. Cases for these rose from 17 per cent to 25 per cent between the pre-and lockdown periods.
Among the big cats, leopard poaching showed an increase during the lockdown period as nine Leopards were reported to have been killed compared to four in the pre-lockdown period.

A total of 222 persons were arrested in poaching related cases by various law enforcement agencies during the lockdown period across the country, significantly higher than the 85 suspects reported as arrested during the pre-lockdown phase, the report stated. Incidences related to wild pet-bird seizures, however, came down significantly from 14 per cent to 7 per cent between the pre-lockdown and lockdown periods, presumably due to a lack of transport and closed markets during the lockdown period.

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Pangolins and other small mammals are poached for their meat widely. Pixabay

Larger birds such as Indian Peafowls and game birds such as Grey Francolins, which are popular for their meat, were reported to be targeted during the lockdown. There was less reporting of poaching and illegal trade in tortoises and freshwater turtles, with almost no seizures of these species during the lockdown period.

Saket Badola, Head of TRAFFIC’s India Office said, “The more than doubling of reported poaching cases, mainly of ungulates and small wild animals for meat is doubtless placing additional burdens on wildlife law enforcement agencies. Therefore, it is imperative that these agencies are supported adequately and in a timely manner so they can control the situation”.

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Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO, WWF-India added, “If poaching of ungulates and small animals remains unchecked it will lead to depletion of prey base for big cats like Tigers and Leopards and a depletion of the ecosystems.” He said that it will lead to higher incidences of human-wildlife conflicts and will undermine the significant successes that India has achieved in the field of wildlife conservation. (IANS)

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Back to the Soil With Organic Farming

Here's the story of various people who have returned back to their soil, organically

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soil
Many professionals have returned back to their soil. PIxabay

By Sukant Deepak

A banker from Canada, a resort director, a top executive in a leading IT company and a senior corporate communications professional with a major hospital chain. Defying all stereotypes and preconceived notions of farmhands, an increasing number of highly qualified professionals from both genders are quitting their lucrative professions and getting back to the soil in Punjab full-time,making responsible farming their way of life.

Using social media including WhatsApp to spread the word, participating in pop-up organic farmers’ markets across the region and organising day-long farm tours, these new-age farmers, compost kit makers and teachers are ascertaining that those wanting pesticide-free food grains don’t have to look too hard.

Rahul Sharma’s wife would always laugh when on a typical IT sprint meeting call, he would be discussing his project at Flipkart, and a few hours later, talking about manure collection with a farmer.

This organic farmer who now grows cereal grains, pulses, oil seeds, turmeric and garlic at his five acre farm in Kapurthala full time, insists that the ongoing lockdown has made people aware about the importance of growing their own food, and that too pesticide-free. “But yes, if the government is serious about providing nutritional security, then it must ascertain economic benefits to farmers so they can go in for sustainable agriculture,” he stresses.

For someone who started doing organic farming in 2016, the thrill that comes with growing safe food for others is unparalled.”The fact that there is a patch of land which is now free of poison, where life thrives, and that I am contributing towards healthy soil.”

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Rahul Sharma now grows cereal grains, pulses, oil seeds, turmeric and garlic at his five acre farm in Kapurthala full time. Pixabay

Not regretting his switch from a corporate IT job, which never allowed him to pursue his passions like photography, Sharma has now decided to streamline production and ordering process. “I have now a set rotation of crops which provide nutrition to the soil, as well as work well in the consumer market. I am also working on an online platform to make it easier for my consumers to order grains and be in touch with me,” he adds. He also lectures and interacts with school and college students at his farm about the importance of sustainable agriculture/lifestyle.

Shivraj Bhullar, who has a four-acre farm in Manimajra and grows a variety of seasonal vegetables, leafy greens and fruits left his cushy banker job in Canada to start organic farming on his piece of land in 2014 post volunteering at different farms across India to learn the ropes. “The organic farming convention that was held in the region in 2015 brought a lot of people together. Since then, the movement has been growing with greater awareness amongst consumers in this part of the country,” he says. For someone who has always been interested in Yoga and nutrition, one of the major factors that keeps him excited is the community around the organic farming movement in Punjab. “Farmers go out of their way to help each other out. It’s been a humbling and continuous learning experience for me,” he adds.

Planning to take his farm to the next level by installing a drip irrigation system and rain water harvesting for water conservation, Bhullar is all set to buy more animals so as to decrease his dependence on outside sources for manure.

Coordinator of the Chandigarh Farmers’ Market, Seema Jolly, who owns a five-acre farm in village Karoran in Punjab and grows vegetables,fruit, grains, oilseeds and pulses wants her farm to be a school for organic/natural farming, yoga and Ayurveda in the near future. One of the directors of the Baikunth Resorts Pvt Ltd, Jolly started organic farming in 2011 and there has been no looking back since then. “There is a certain joy in knowing that what you supply is not harming the consumer in any way,” she says. Instrumental in organising trips for school children to different farmers across Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, Jolly also helps small organic farmers with logistics and selling their produce. “The organic farmers market initiative, in July 2015 was a landmark in bringing relief to the marketing problems of organic farmers and encouraging more farmers to turn organic. Frankly, what is needed is small markets like these in all districts. It may take time, but people are bound to tilt towards organic if there is easy availability.”

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There are many people who own farms including Former National level hockey player Mohanjit Dhaliwal who has two farms. Pixabay

Former National level hockey player Mohanjit Dhaliwal who has two farms — one if Ropar and another in Fathegrah Sahib, the latter being part of permaculture food forest in ‘Sanjhi Mitti Food Forest Community’, has been involved in organic farmer for more than 10 years now. Talking about the roadblocks when it comes to shifting to organic, he feels, that the government’s policy of 100 per cent wheat paddy procurement has to change. “Farmers, who used to be entrepreneurs and solutions finders are now behaving like robots.Nothing is going to change unless policy makers get out of whole process.”

Besides holding regular workshops on permaculture which is attended by people from around the country, Dhaliwal, who is working on a forest therapy centre, adds, ” Our Eco library at the farm where anyone can read or borrow books on related subjects is quite a hit with both children and adults.”

Chandigarh-based Jyoti Arora, who supplies odour-free composters in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Chandigarh to houses, hotels, institutions, municipalities, and engages with Swachh Bharat teams of different municipalities, says, “I also do a lot of lecture demonstrations to sensitise people and encourage people to go green. In fact, my farming is a by product of the compost generated from my domestic waste in which the produce comes solely out of the compost.”

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Everything changed for Diksha Suri, a former corporate communications head with a major hospital chain when she spent time at Auroville in 2004. “Being there and learning from experts started a journey of a more conscious approach towards the living greens and browns. I attended formal workshops and started experimenting an organic way of living,” says Suri, who, along with a friend set up Chandigarh’s first Nature Club in 2012.

From organising organic farm visits, forest walks and fossil sites for children and their parents, Suri says that she has been able to make hundreds of children conscious about what they eat. “A lot of them are now at ease with composting, growing vegetables, identifying birds, and more than anything, being in sync with nature. We now regularly hold talks and workshops on organic farming, composting, waste management, across schools, colleges and corporate offices in the region.”

Chandigarh-based Rishi Miranshah, who has made the nine-part docu-series ‘The Story of Food – A No Fresh Carbon Footprint’ which is available to watch online on Films for Action website and YouTube says, “Considering what chemicals have been doing to our food and the need to switch to organic, it was important for me to make this documentary which is an investigation, tracing the trail of devastations bringing us to the point where we are today. Food being the thread that connects us to life; and the way we obtain our food being that connects us to a way of life, the movie begins by examining our agri-culture, our very relationship with the land.” (IANS)

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Responsible Human Behaviour has Helped Animals: WWF

Images from across the world have presented a very interesting picture of animals being sighted due to responsible.

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Animals
More and more animals are sighted outside as humans stay inside. Pixabay

Venice, the beautiful Italian city where nature meets culture, was recently in news, when calm returned to its overtourism-affected waters with aquatic life shining through clear canals.

Closer home, monkeys, buffalos, cows, and dogs have all come to be increasingly sighted on Indian streets, as human life remained under a tight lockdown from March-end. In Udaipur, one could spot fish swimming in the lake after decades.

Images from across the world have presented a very interesting picture – with people indoors, wild animals can be seen roaming the streets, birds sing on balconies, the dolphins have made a comeback in the rivers and the skies are blue and the air is clean, says WWF India on a campaign film ‘Our Planet, Our Home’, that visually illustrates this human-animal contrast.

The short film, that puts together visuals from across the world, is a clever satire on the idea of freedom, and how reduced human activity has led to the animal kingdom spreading its wings to territory it is kept out of.

“Any kind of development and industrial activity will have some impact on nature. What we have seen in the last few weeks, is that when human activity is decreased, and when we start behaving responsibly, we see the difference. Most of us are locked in our homes, not just because someone advised, but because we are also afraid of infection. If this responsible behavior was demonstrated against climate change, against use of plastics, today we’d live in a different space,” Dipankar Ghose, Director of the Wildlife and Habitats, WWF India told IANSlife.

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Nature meets culture as animals are sighted more now say WWF. Pixabay

Adding, Himanshu Pandey, Marketing Communication Director at WWF India says that he cannot imagine life, without wildlife. “When we talk about wildlife, it’s about their habitats, their ecosystem. Without nature, no human activity – whether economic or otherwise – is possible. This contrast of us being locked up in our houses and wildlife moving about freely in urban spaces, this is a reminder of the cruciality of conservation,” he said over phone.

According to WWF’s Living Planet Report, we have lost 60 percent of wildlife populations in the last 44 years, globally. So when we step out of our houses after the lockdown, let’s ensure we protect this biodiversity and build a sustainable world where nature and people coexist. This is a film that aims to inspire individuals, businesses and governments to strengthen positive action to help build a better world for our future generations, he added.

The campaign film, which puts forth a question of coexistence as compared to human-animal competition – “what remains to be seen is whether this will continue once life returns to normal” – has been developed by McCann Bangalore and Native Films.

“In advertising, we believe that all good ideas come from simple observations or insights. This insight came from the site of animals, who were on the streets while humans were caged inside their houses. This was like a role reversal of sorts. This irony was unmistakable in a sense. It was a big lesson for humanity because we truly understood the value of freedom, and not just ours, but that of other species too. It was a timely reminder that this place we call home, is theirs too. This is the film’s message: Coexistence is the key to our survival,” Sambit Mohanty, Creative Head (South), McCann told IANSlife.

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Coexistence, as per Ghose, is more of a perception that something which is practically happening. “Animals are reclaiming, I would say, urban biodiversity has always been there, we started observing them, hearing different sounds, and appreciating them. If you want to hear these koyel sounds, we have to change certain things in our behavior,” he concludes. (IANS)