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Foresters root for automatic arms
Published on 8 Aug. 2010 11:21 PM IST
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The state forest department is playing hardball with the home department on the issue of allowing forest guards to carry automatic firearms in protected areas.
Buoyed by the recent order that authorizes forest guards to use firearms to maintain public order, the forest department is now actively rooting for the forest field staff and guards’ rights to carry automatic weapons.
“Allowing the use of automatic rifles has become essential if our field staff are expected to fight back poachers, who bring along sophisticated weapons to hunt wildlife. We have taken up the matter with the home department and it is still under discussion,” a forest official said.
Last week, officials of the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, about 150 km from here, found a 7.65 mm automatic pistol and a .303 rifle from two slain poachers.
Even hard-core poacher Harmuj Ali, who was gunned down inside Orang last year, had an AK 47 with him. Six years ago, authorities of Kaziranga National Park, too, had recovered an AK 47 from an encounter site inside the protected area.
Principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Suresh Chand said field staff and forest guards were greatly encouraged by the notification issued by the state government on July 14 which allowed them to use firearms to maintain public order related to conservation and management of protected areas, reported Times News Network.
Forest staff of states like Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa enjoy the power of using firearms, Chand said, adding that the Assam forest department has already received about 100 .303 rifles from the state police force.
Earlier, the forest guards were permitted to use only .315 rifles that fall in the category of sports rifles.
Moreover, a criminal case is slapped on a guard if he fires upon a poacher. One-and-half years ago, a forest guard at Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary in Nagaon district had to face criminal proceedings for shooting two suspected poachers.
“Now our field personnel are relieved from this hassle. In case a forest guard fires his weapon to maintain public order inside a protected area, only a magistrate inquiry like in case of police firing can be instituted,” Chand said.
The notification stated a criminal case against any firing can only be instituted after a “magisterial inquiry” finds that the use of firearms was “unnecessary, unwarranted and excessive”, and is examined and accepted by the state government.
The notification allows forest officers including game watchers, forest guards, foresters, forest rangers, assistant conservator of forests, deputy conservators of forests, divisional forest officers, conservators of forests, members and supervisory officers of Assam Forest Protection Force in the state for using firearms.

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