The major forest fire across Bandipur has highlighted the major bureaucratic lapses and failure among the officials in preparing for such disasters despite such looming threats in the summer season. Enraged over the incident, several retired IFS officers, conservationists and activists have pointed fingers at the cavalier attitude of senior IFS officers.
Talks were abuzz in the conservation circles that Bandipur Reserve had no permanent field director who could exert control over the administration of the reserve. Soon after the promotion of previous field director Ambadi Madhav as Chief Conservator of Forests, the government did not post any full-time field director but continued Ambadi Madhav as in-charge of the Bandipur Reserve reportedly due to political reasons. Juggling between both the assignments, the officer reportedly held no meetings of local village committees, tribal leaders, NGOs and owners of nearby resorts and homestays ahead of the summer season. Initially, according to reports, Madhav was not present at Bandipur when the fire broke out and rushed to the spot only a day after.
However, the same officer had effectively controlled the fire incident last year in his full capacity as the field director of the reserve. The government’s decision to give him an additional charge of the reserve rather than posting a full-time director has triggered an intense backlash among conservationists and wildlife circles.
The same bureaucratic lapses in 2012 and 2017 had previously cost dearer for the department resulting in the death of a forest guard. Shockingly, the department failing to learn from its past mistake has yet again continued with the same resulting in the worst ever fire mishap in its history reducing close to 3,000 hectares of forests to ashes.
Acknowledging such reports about the effectiveness of the in-charge officer, forest minister Satish Jarkiholi said, “Reports on the failure of the officials has come to my notice and I will look into it. But in a day or two, we will post a full-time field director to Bandipur.” Yet another senior official of the department revealed that a departmental inquiry be held pertaining to the Bandipur fire incident.