Bhubaneswar: The Wildlife Society of Odisha (WSO) has taken strong exception to the ruthless attitude of the state government that has stopped paying compensation to victims of wildlife attacks inside forest areas.
In a release on Wednesday, WSO secretary Biswajit Mohanty said the state government based on the order of the Orissa High Court on January 14 this year in the matter of Amruti Pradhan Vs. State, has now stopped paying compensation to victims of wildlife attacks inside forest areas.
He said the state government had stipulated that death/injuries occurring within a forest area or within 5 km of a forest boundary will only be compensated. However, it later relaxed the rules by deleting this clause through an amendment in March, 2011. As per the new rules, all cases of wildlife attacks irrespective of wherever they occur are eligible for compensation payments.
As per the latest order , even victims of elephant attacks who are killed on a road that is used by public every day passing through reserve or other forests will be ineligible for compensation.
Citing an instance of the attitude of the state government, Mohanty said the wife of a tribal victim of an elephant attack of Deogarh district had moved the Orissa High Court in 2012 claiming non-payment of compensation amount for her husband who was killed by an elephant while he had gone to the forest to collect mushrooms.
The state government apparently took the stand that no money is payable since the incident took place in a reserve forest where entry was prohibited.
Based on this, the High Court rejected the claim of the widow and specified that no compensation is payable if the incident occurs inside a forest.
“The state government has mislead the High Court by not pointing out the provisions of the Wildlife Rules that permits payment of compensation to victims of wildlife attacks irrespective of place of occurrence,” Mohanty pointed out.
Condemning the stand of the state government, he said it will impact the poor victims of wildlife attacks who are mostly Adivasis and Dalits who stay near forest areas. “The Forest Rights Act, 2008 also confers community rights on forest dwellers to collect minor forest produce like firewood, mushrooms, Sal seeds and leaves etc. for which they will enter the reserve forests,” he observed.
Mohanty further said there will be anger and animosity of forest dwellers who are affected by animal attacks unless compensation is paid. This might also lead to hunting of elephants and bears which people will feel are dangerous for humans.
He also demanded that the Forest department should immediately moves a review petition so that the proper position of law is placed before the court for seeking a modification of the order.
“This would ensure justice to the innocent victims of elephant and other wildlife attacks irrespective of the place of incident,” he noted.