Wildlife First, an NGO advocating conservation issues for nearly two decades, has sought exemption for Forest Department staff from being deployed for poll duty. It had sought a similar provision during last year’s Assembly polls, and received the Chief Electoral Officer’s (CEO) nod. The memorandum to the Chief Electoral Officer is attached for download. Conservation India urges you to write to your state’s electoral officer with a similar plea.
The Election Commission of India has repeatedly issued orders exempting vehicles and staff of National Parks, Sanctuaries and Tiger Reserves across the country from election duties. A copy of the said order issued in 2009 is also enclosed to the memo.
Praveen Bhargav, managing trustee of Wildlife First, hoped the Chief Electoral Officer would respond to the situation and exempt staff and vehicles in Protected Areas from election duty during the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, which also happens to be during ‘fire season’. Underlining the imperatives of this move, the NGO argued that tigers and other endangered species were under constant threat of being poached; forests and national parks had to be patrolled continuously to prevent this. By deploying anti-poaching camp personnel and other forest staff, or utilising patrol vehicles for election duties, would weaken protection measures and make the animals vulnerable.
See related coverage in The Hindu.