Reserve pins cash hopes on governor

Ranchi, Jan. 29: A cash-starved Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) is banking on governor Syed Ahmed to promise what his predecessors and four chief ministers have failed so far ' a foundation dedicated to the big cat.

The much-delayed state-level tiger conservation foundation, mandated by the Union government, can most importantly also help rid deadlocks over funds flow once and for all.

Officials at the reserve hope that other pending tasks such as setting up eco-sensitive zones and upgrade of logistics for field staff, too, will grab the governor's attention.

After President's Rule was imposed in Jharkhand over a week ago, governor Ahmed has been convening meetings with the state's bureaucrats and senior officials to familiarise himself with the position of government departments.

A senior official of the tiger reserve told The Telegraph: "It's high time that one takes note of it (need for tiger conservation foundation). And we have understood that successive governments have brushed it under the carpet. Now with President's Rule in place, we can only hope that the honourable governor ensures a tiger foundation is set up."

His concern is genuine, as till date the tiger reserve is yet to receive a single penny from the Centre, thanks largely to political instability in Jharkhand.

The reserve stands to receive between Rs 2 crore and Rs 2.5 crore for various works including payment of staff, maintenance, creation of roads, enhancing biodiversity and prey base, sources said.

The green funds tend to be either wholly sponsored by the Centre or borne equally by the Union and state government concerned.

Blocked flow of funds is not new, as the scenario in the cash-strapped reserve in the past few years would suggest.

But if a senior functionary is to be believed, the Centre has already released its share long back but the funds are stuck at the state level for months.

For the ongoing fiscal, for instance, around Rs 2.50 crore had been earmarked ' including Rs 1 crore from the Centre that was meant to be spent on salaries for casual staff, tiger protection force, maintenance activities of reserve areas, et al. The state and the Centre are supposed to bear the remainder (Rs 1.5 crore) on a 50:50 basis.

Another official rued that hopes of funds reaching the park had risen lately, only to fizzle when the government fell and the environment and forest minister vacated his chair "after sitting on the file for long".

"As a result, we still haven't got a major chunk of this year's funds. We are frustrated with funds getting released at the fag end of a financial year, as a result of which either one fails to spend meaningfully or it encourages creation of fake accounts that eventually lead to malpractice," he added.

Premjit Anand, divisional forest official of PTR (core), confirmed that they were yet to receive any funds.

"The state released some funds from its share sometime back. But the major share, which comes from the Centre's kitty, holds the key to the principal tasks. We are waiting for it till now," he said.

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