SHILLONG: The Meghalya Department of Forest & Environment is preparing the the Standard Operational Proceedures (SOPs) that will equip the Forest gaurds with sophisticated weapons to deal with the poachers and smugglers in the State. Drafting of the proceedures will be in sync with the recent Supreme Court directive to the States to ensure that the frontline Forest gaurds have the proper weapons to deal with the armed poachers and smugglers.
Disclosing this to The Sentinel about the preparation through a draft policy that needed the approval of the State Government, the Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) in charge of Headquarters P.B. Shangdiar said, " The proposed SOPs will enable the the Forest officials at the field level to handle the proposed new weapons, keep other security agencies informed and to co-ordinate with them in tackling the poachers and timber smugglers operating in the State."
He also informed that the cases of timber smuggling smuggling is on the decline in Garo Hills due to joint vigilance with the State police. The CCF further revealed that the timber smugglers are better off in terms of arms and modus operandi. Most of the illegally transported timbers are sal and teak; and these that are taken surreptitiously to Assam and Bangladesh, he stated.
It is a hard truth that the smugglers have had an upper hand in taking on the Forest Guards in the Garo Hills due to the acute shortage in manpower and fire power of the Forest guards even in the most vulnerable and illegal transit areas of the State, admitted Shangdiar. He, however added, "The sophiticated arms should help the Forest gaurds on ground." There are around 800 Forest gaurds throughout the State. The Department of Forest and Environment has termed this as an "acute shortage" and "serious". Talking about the constraints of Forest gaurds, the CCF said that there have been cases when the arms of the Forest gaurds were snatched away by millitants in Garo Hills. This further restricted their operations in the past few years," he added.
At one period of time ,the Forest gaurds had to deposited thier arms in the nearest police stations to avoid snatching incidents by insurgents. Presently, it is no more the case because the patrolling party places their weapons in the range offices. Mentionably, alleged timber smugglers also attack the Forest Beat personnel.