Manikandan's death raises questions on staff training, revives lantanna concerns

Manikandan's death raises questions on staff training, revives lantanna concerns

Manikandan's death raises questions on staff training, revives lantanna concerns

The death of S Manikandan, director of Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, in an attack by a wild tusker on February 3 has raised several concerns in the forest department.

Two major worries are lack of training among ground staff and increasing lantanna cover in the forests.

The officer had gone to the incident spot in Kakanakote where there was a forest fire the previous day. The trees and grass were still burning when he reached there.

The forest department staff were involved in dousing the flames and were fetching water from the tanker stationed on the main road.

"The question is if there were guards, range forest officers and other personnel, why were they not alert. Alertness is the first lesson that forest staff are taught during training. There is a protocol to follow when directors visit the field. Guards have to keep a close watch on animal movement, especially in DB Kuppe, which houses a healthy elephant population and whenever there is a forest fire. The personnel had weapons, but why did they not fire in the air to scare the elephant away is the moot question. All this is being investigated," said a senior forest official. Nagarahole and Bandipur house the highest population of tigers and elephants in India.

The increasing growth of lantanna and other weeds has caught the attention of the forest department yet again. "We were worried about the lantanna, but now it has become a bigger problem. Manikandan was unable to see the tusker hiding in the lantanna growth close to him. Even in his death, he has taken forward our case to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to give permission to clear lantanna and other weeds," the official said.

Human presence within a short distance and noise of vehicles and people provoked the elephant and it charged at those standing nearby. While the range forest officer and guards escaped, Manikanadan, who was reportedly on the phone, was late in trying to escape.

MoEF holds condolence meeting

The MoEF, on Monday, held a condolence meeting for Manikandan.

"Manikandan was a conscientious and honest officer. Words are not enough to express condolence," Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said.

"The MoEF has lost a dear colleague and a friend. Our heart goes out to the members of the bereaved family," environment secretary C K Mishra said at the condolence meeting held at the office of the ministry. Director General of Forests Siddhant Das also paid tributes.  

A condolence message on behalf of the IFS Association was read out and a two-minute silence was observed in his memory. The Wildlife Conservation Society also issued a statement, condoling the 2001 batch IFS officer's death.

 

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