Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change in association with Aaranyak sensitised members of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in particular, forest staff and villagers in general on the role they could play in prevention of wildlife crime and illegal trade.
The workshop “Prevention of Wildlife Crime and Roll of PRI Members” was organised on December 28 last, as part of the sustained drive to woo support from the community as a whole to facilitate wildlife conservation and prevent wildlife crime, at the seminar hall of the Centre of Excellence (Citrus crops) at Chaygaon, Bamunigaon.
Jawaharlal Baro, Assistant Director of the WCCB enlightened the villagers about the importance of wildlife conservation and how they can help in the abatement of wildlife crime and illegal trade.
The WCCB official made a powerpoint presentation on species identification and how illegal wildlife traders use different techniques to surreptitiously tranship various wildlife parts and articles.
The Divisional Forest Office, West Kamrup Division, Government of Assam, extended support for organising the workshop.
The one-day sensitization programme was attended by the forest staff of the West Kamrup Division and villagers, primarily the members of the Panchayati Raj Institutions.
Dimpi Bora (IFS), the Divisional Forest Officer of the Kamrup West Division, graced the workshop as a special guest. Shamim Akhtar, Forest Ranger of the Loharghat Range, was present in the workshop.
Ajoy Kumar Das, a practicing advocate at the Gauhati High Court and the Senior Law Consultant of Aaranyak, spoke about the three-tier system of Panchayati Raj in India, which began functioning on October 2, 1959. The Panchayati Raj system was constitutionalized in India through the 73rd constitutional amendment in 1992. Panchayati Raj was first introduced in India on 2nd October 1959 in Nagaur district of Rajasthan.
He stated that in Assam, the Assam Panchayati Raj Act, 1986 came into effect in September, 1990. It replaced the Assam Panchayati Raj Act 1972. The PRI system is not new in Assam; therefore, it is a very developed system of local self-governance.
The members of the PRI can play a stupendous role in wildlife crime abatement by being informants in wildlife crime investigations or witnesses in wildlife court cases. They can also help in creating awareness at the grassroots by telling the common-mass in the village about the importance of wildlife.
Speaking about Section 125 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872, Advocate Das encouraged members of the PRIs to help the Forest Department without fear, as their names would never be disclosed in the investigation diaries.