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Killing of tigress: Maharashtra forest minister hits back at Maneka

Press Trust of India  |  Mumbai 

Forest Monday hit back at Maneka Gandhi, who had slammed him for hiring private marksmen Shafat and his son Ali for carrying out hunting operations in the state, including the latest killing of a tigress.

A day after the Union women and child development lashed out at the government over the "ghastly murder" of the tigress, Mungantiwar said she "lacks information" on the issue and was free to order a high-level probe.

The tigress, officially known as T1, was believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people in the last two years.

It was shot dead by Ali in the in Yavatmal district Friday.

The tigress left behind two 10-month-old cubs.

Mungantiwar, a senior leader, claimed that Khan was tasked with shooting a tiger in Maneka Gandhi's Pilibhit constituency in in 2009 (Gandhi's son Varun was representing the constituency in 2009).

"Hyderabad-based sharpshooter Shafat was given a certificate of appreciation by the conservator of forest (PCCF) of Pilibhit for killing a tiger," he told reporters at the Mantralaya here.

Maneka Gandhi, the current from Pilibhit, had alleged that Khan had killed three tigers, at least 10 leopards, elephants and 300 wild boar in in eastern

Mungantiwar hails from district.

"He (Shafat) is a criminal known for supplying guns to anti-nationals and for a suspected case of murder in Hyderabad," the had said in a tweet.

Mungantiwar said Khan's name was registered with the governments of nine states to carry out such operations.

"Maneka Gandhiji has used the most derogatory comments against the state government, which has lowered the morale of the forest officials. I will write a letter to her and ask her to use national or international agencies to probe the issue and I ensure my cooperation," he added.

Mungantiwar said was a "victim of lack of information".

"She could have spent 50 paise to call me up to ascertain the facts, instead of taking to the social media," he added.

"Instead of lodging a complaint with the chief minister, the can order a high-level inquiry into the incident by a or a committee of judges," Mungantiwar said.

He claimed that Maharashtra's tiger population had gone up by around 25 per cent in the last four years due to various initiatives of the since he took charge as the

Responding to Gandhi's charge that three tigers were killed on his orders in the past, Mungantiwar said neither he nor the had the right to order such killings.

"The tigers were killed in 1995, 2006, 2013 and 2014. I was not a minister then," he added.

"After I took charge, there was one such case in 2017. Even then, the (NTCA) guidelines were followed and the tiger was only tranquilised. Hence, this is only lack of information that such baseless charges are being levelled by our central leader," Mungantiwar said.

Seeking to justify the killing of T1, he said a tigress was beaten to death and run over by a vehicle in an village Sunday, after it mauled just one person.

"Here, 13 persons were killed. We do not want tribals, farmers and villagers to turn enemies of wild animals. They are the ones who are actually helping in animal conservation," he said.

After the killing of T1 sparked an outrage, came out with a series of tweets Sunday.

"It is nothing but a straight case of crime. Despite several requests from many stakeholders, (Sudhir) Mungantiwar, Minister for Forests, Maharashtra, gave orders for the killing," she had said in one of the tweets.

had said she would take up the matter "very strongly" with Maharashtra

Mungantiwar said he acknowledged Gandhi's love for animals.

"She is the (However) I have to consider the women and children who have been killed by the tigress," he said.

Mungantiwar said orders to capture the tigress were issued after she had killed five people.

But animal activists approached the and obtained a stay, which resulted in the "man-eating" big cat killing more people, he added.

"The Forest department is not the enemy of the tigress. The animal was killed only after it attacked those trying to tranquilise her," Mungantiwar said.

He added that if there were criminal cases against Khan, then Gandhi, being a Union minister, could order his arrest.

Meanwhile, seizing the opportunity arising out of the war of words between the two BJP ministers, the took a dig at the over the killing of the tigress.

Recently, several farmers in Yavatmal district in the Vidarbha region lost their lives due to inhalation of toxic pesticides, but no one was punished, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party, an ally of the BJP, said.

"We have not seen those responsible for the deaths (of the farmers) get any punishment like the tigress was punished for killing people," the Sena said in an editorial in party mouthpiece "Saamana".

said the people in the state were dying due to lack of water, malnutrition, government policies and debt traps, but the administration had never been termed a "carnivore".

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, November 05 2018. 23:05 IST