Mumbai: The Maharashtra government Wednesday announced in the Legislative Assembly that it was contemplating to increase to Rs 15 lakh the financial aid to the kin of those killed by tigers. Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar made the announcement while replying to a debate on the issue of killing of tigress Avni in the Lower House raised through a calling attention notice. Presently the financial compensation is Rs 10 lakh, he said. “Similarly, the compensation for killing of cattle by a tiger is being proposed to be raised from Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000,” he added.
Avni, who was believed to have turned man-eater and killed 13 people in the last two years in Yavatmal district’s Pandharkawda area, was shot dead in Borati forest there earlier this month. The killing of T1, as the tigress was officially known, led to outrage among animal lovers and wildlife organisations. NCP leader Jayant Patil said it is being alleged that the tigress was killed to facilitate setting up of a cement factory of Reliance company there.
However, Mungantiwar rejected the charge saying, “The project was sanctioned in 2012 when Congress-NCP ruled the state and Congress-led UPA government was at the Centre. The place where Avni was killed is 60-kms away from the cement factory site.” He said Avni had turned a man-eater and killed 13 people. “The issue was discussed in the Assembly on December 21 last year and the matter had reached the Supreme Court. The apex court alsodirected if Avni can’t be captured, she can be killed,” he said.
Avni was shot dead by sharp-shooter Asgar Ali, son of famous sharp-shooter Nawab Shafat Ali. When asked about it, Mungantiwar said Asgar Ali was an authorised hunter of nine states in the country. Patil criticised the minister over his response and also sought to know how he would respond to the criticism of Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, who had slammed him after the incident. Gandhi had lashed out at the Maharashtra government, dubbing it a “ghastly murder”.
Referring to Avni’s post-mortem report, he said it did not mention thatthe tigress was shot when she was moving away. “The post-mortem report states that the dart fired to tranquilise her did not enter her veins,” he said. Mungantiwar said in two years between 2016-18, total 50 tigers, including seven cubs, had died. “As many as 33 tigers died naturally, seven were electrocuted, six died in accidents and three others due to food poisoning. One tiger was hunted down,” he said. There have been no incidents of poaching of tigers since 2014, he said.
In 2014-15, there were 203 tigers in the state as per the state forest department, while the National Tiger Conservation Authority said in 2014 that there were 190 tigers in the state, the minister said. Three tiger cubs, aged less than six months, were crushed under a train in the Junona forest range in Chandrapur district on November 15. Talking about the incident, Mungantiwar said since their mother was able to cross the railway tracks, she was saved.
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