Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Matrika Prasad Yadav rightly pointed finger at rampant corruption in forestry and wildlife sectors in the country. Although the other sectors cannot be said to be totally free from malpractices, of late many cases of corruption and smuggling in these two sectors have come to light. As recent as April 18, almost seven tonnes of contraband red sandalwood, which was ferried here to be smuggled to Tibet through Kathmandu, was seized by the police in Araniko Highway. Reportedly, groups of smugglers, usually comprising young guys, receive cash ranging from Rs. one lakh to Rs. five lakh to carry out these nefarious operations. On the other hand, the authorities concerned have not been able to do much to prevent illegal trade in animal and bird parts, especially the parts of endangered species like one-horned rhinos and tigers.
To bust the smuggling rackets, serious efforts have to be made by the agencies concerned, including close coordination between and among governments. Back home, the Ministry for Forest and Soil Conservation, Home and Finance, together with the police and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, must come up with an action plan to take control of the situation. Local people must be included in carrying out the plans to capture the offenders, who, in turn, must be severely penalised. Most importantly, the government must make laws or introduce changes in the existing ones to curb malpractices in the forestry sector and smuggling in wildlife and forest products.