Why in the news?
- The Assam government has approved more arms to the forest guards of Kaziranga National Park. Read more about Kaziranga National Park at https://officerspulse.com/12980-2/
- It has also approved Commando training for forest guards thus treating them on par with the State police personnel.
- It has approved helicopter services in the Kaziranga for better management of poaching and also to increase the tourist flow in the coming years.
- These steps have been taken after the the Supreme Court in January 2021 urged the Central government to arm forest officers and provide them with bullet-proof vests and vehicles when told that India recorded the “greatest number of mortal fatalities” among forest officials in the world.
- In this regard let us discuss the debate of arming forest guards.
About arming Forest Guards
Arguments in favour
- Rising cases of violence against forest rangers by poachers and encroachers.
- Today’s wildlife trade/hunting mafia can’t be opposed with simple gram sabha or local dwellers as they are heavily armed. A professional, well-trained force is needed to protect forests, with appropriate checks and balances to prevent abuse of power.
- Lack of arms is a threat to the life of foresters. Over 160 of them have died in India during 2012-17 in the line of duty, according to the International Ranger Federation.
Arguments against the move
- Can disturb the power balance between forest dwellers and the state.
- Forest Guards already have immense powers like, to search and seize forest produce; arrest, charge and send forest dwellers into detention and impose fines, compound offences and auction seized goods. Arming them can lead to exploitation of forest dwellers.
- Arming them can result in alienation of forest guards as they need immense ground support from the local people and undermine their social connectedness.
- It will also contribute to the “militarisation of conservation” or “green militarisation”, which refers to the use of military/paramilitary logics, practices, and technologies in the name of protecting biodiversity and spaces of conservation.
- Constant patrolling of armed commandos disturbs the social fabric, curtailing basic civil liberties and restricting the collection of natural produce. This deteriorates the basic food basket, impinges upon cultural rights,and causes psychological trauma to children, women and the elderly.