Guwahati, Oct.16 (ANI): The Department of Forests in Assam formally inducted semi-automatic arms for its Assam Forest Protection Force (AFPF) at Guwahati on Tuesday.
Henceforth Forest Guards, Forest Rangers and Game Wardens would be armed with SLRs (self loading rifles) and other automatic weapons to combat the menace of poachers.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi accompanied by the state's Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain attended this function in which around 200 semi automatic weapons and ammunition were distributed to the personnel of AFPF.
Later Gogoi flagged off 50 personnel of the AFPF to take over the charge of the Kaziranga National Park, famous for the one-horned Asian rhinoceros, elephants and tigers.
The recent spate of killings of the endangered one-horned rhinoceros by poachers here did spurt the government and the Conservator of Forests to initiate this measure of arming the Forest Guards with modern weapons.
Most of the poachers possess advanced semi automatic weapons like the AK-47, while till now forest guards were equipped with the outdated .303 rifles to deal with them.
Highlighting this move, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Suresh Chand said that this is the first ever move of its kind to equip forest guards with such advanced weapons to combat poachers.
"In the Forest Department, it is for the first time that the Assam government has given such sophisticated semi-automatic weapons to the Assam Forest Protection Force.
This is for the first time ever. The Forest Protection Force along with the Assam government would be able to do their duty better with these SLRs (self loading rifles). Since the poachers are using such sophisticated arms nowadays, we have proposed to arm our personnel with these weapons so as to counter them," said Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Suresh Chand.
The 50 personnel of the AFPF would join the already existing 100-strong staff of Forest Guards deployed at Kaziranga.
Commenting on this, Suren Bora exuded confidence of tackling the mafia of poachers with success.
"Henceforth, all of us will be going to Kaziranga with semi-automatic weapons to stop the rhino poaching there. The government has given us these automatic weapons to combat the poachers there. Now with these automatic weapons, we will be able to confront them properly and we will also be able to root out the illegal activities taking place there," said Suren Bora, a Forest Guard.
A total of 43 rhinos have lost their lives in Assam this year, in the worst floods and also due to poaching.
Reportedly, 16 rhinos were poached for the horns this year. As per the last census and other estimates, Kaziranga is home to 2,229 rhinos.
Poachers injured and decamped with the horn of a rhino in Kaziranga National Park on Sunday as another live animal writhed in pain for survival after poachers had dehorned it after injuring it in the Park on Saturday.
In the second similar incident witnessed here in as many days, poachers injured a rhino in Bagori range of the sanctuary and dehorned the live rhino on Sunday.
With the forest guards being armed with sophisticated arms and this long standing demand of theirs been fulfilled, they now feel that the poachers would be intimidated and would find it hard to carry on their free run. (ANI)