Why tigers fear Indian forest service officers

A forest officer

"Untouchability has not been eradicated from the country. There still exist classes of people who have to perform chores for their lords with unquestioning servility. Any attempt at protesting means a long exile in jungles with very little facilities for families of the banished,' says a forest guard.

He is referring to the fate of forest guards, foresters and range forest officers: the executives of the forest department whose primary job is not to protect the tiger from extinction, but serve officers of the Indian Forest Service (ifs). People engaged to perform domestic chores of these officers and for taking care of their children are routinely slotted down in the muster rolls of the forest department as forest protection labourers. Getting newspapers, repairing fans, even cleaning toilet seats are among the chores expected of the lower level forest staff.The forest guard adds, "I am amazed that the tiger has not gone extinct in spite of all efforts of the forest department and the public. Officers of the forest department are supposed to be custodians of forests, but then, you have to understand their plight.'

Forest and wildlife management are low priority for our forest managers. They have other imminent callings: pleasing local political bosses, circumventing the Supreme Court ban on new rest houses in forests and discovering loopholes in the law, very often to facilitate mining in areas in the vicinity of wildlife sanctuaries.

The moment an ifs officer is posted in a forest circle, the whole machinery of the department is galvanised into locating a bungalow for him. The officer then starts scavenging up all forest rest houses in his jurisdiction for furniture, utensils, refrigerators and television. If there is no television, one is procured