Remaining on paper is an incorrect idiom to use for ‘Project Tiger’ in the Telangana State. The centrally sponsored scheme for tiger conservation, which funds the tiger conservation programme in Kawal and Amrabad, has disappeared from the papers for the last two years.
The latest budget for 2017-18 shows no grant for the project from the State Government, based on which Central funds are to be devolved.
As per the changed guidelines for the Project Tiger, the State Government should show 40% allocations for the project in its budget, based on which the Centre would match it with the remaining 60%. Earlier, total funding was by the centre.
This year, the heads listed under the provisions for centrally sponsored schemes in the Environment, Forests, Science & Technology department do not include any specific allocations for Project Tiger or wildlife.
All the provisions, amounting to nearly ₹7.89 crore, are for the National Afforestation Programme (NAP) under the National Mission for a Green India.
Interestingly, officials, when enquired, replied that the funding for the Project Tiger is usually diverted from the NAP funds, and no separate allocation is shown.
Last year’s budget estimates did not show allocations for any centrally sponsored programme, let alone Project Tiger. Only ₹47.32 crore was the plan allocation for the department, which was revised to ₹154 crore by January 2017.
The accounts at the year end, however showed that additional amounts of ₹2 crore for the NAP, ₹20 crore for the Forest College and Research Institute, Mulugu, and ₹3.15 crore for the Project Tiger were released, which were inclusive of central and State shares.
Of the releases for Project Tiger, only about ₹52 lakh was actually spent up to January.
“The Telangana Government does not seem seriously inclined on protection of wildlife. They lost the opportunity to constitute Special Tiger Protection Forces which were being funded 100% by the centre earlier. Now, it is out of question,” says an environmentalist, on the condition of anonymity.
State of the art communication devices are not provided to the field staff for networking, nor anti-poaching base camps have been set up. “They set up one base camp with CAMPA funds, and called it anti-poaching base camp. There is absolutely no anti-poaching activity done by Forest personnel,” the expert says.
Though the central government has been providing grants under the scheme of Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats, the Telangana Government has not utilised the scheme, due to reluctance to provide matching grant under the budget, he alleges.
An official under the condition of anonymity admits that the Project Tiger is never allotted State funding, and often, the central funds too are diverted for various other purposes.
“State allocation is not shown in the budget, because, if it is, then there would be no scope for diversion,” he says.