By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 14 Dec: Forest & Environment and Labour Welfare Minister Harak Singh Rawat, who is the legislator from Kotdwar constituency, and Lansdowne MLA Mahant Dilip Singh Rawat have been at loggerheads for a very long time and this continues even to this day! Hours after Dilip Singh Rawat opposed the move by Harak Singh Rawat to set up a Tiger Safari at Pakhro in Corbett National Park, Harak Singh Rawat today refuted the allegations against the upcoming Tiger Safari at the Corbett National Park.
At a press conference held here, today, Harak Singh rejected the claims of the Lansdowne MLA that the upcoming Tiger Safari in Pakhro area of the Corbett National Park would hinder the proposed Kandi Road to link the Garhwal and the Kumaon regions of Uttarakhand.
The Senior Cabinet Minister said that some leaders were claiming the Tiger Safari had been originally announced by them, which was false. He asserted that the Tiger Safari had been originally announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he had visited the Corbett Park for a documentary made by the Discovery Channel. Rawat further claimed that it was him and his team at the State Forest Department that had pursued the matter with the National Tiger Authority and Union Forests & Environment Ministry and got the project approved.
Reacting to the allegations made by BJP MLA Dilip Singh Rawat, he said that the upcoming Tiger Safari would be set up at Pakhro, which was already linked by a pucca road built and maintained by the State PWD. It would be located in the buffer zone of the Corbett Tiger Reserve and would not affect in any way the proposed Kandi Road project to link the Garhwal and Kumaon regions of the state. Rawat claimed that he was committed to construction of the Kandi Road and would not do anything to affect the project.
Rawat further noted that the proposed Tiger Safari would be sort of a natural zoo where each enclosure would be built on 20 hectares of land. The total area to be covered under the Tiger Safari project would be around 106 hectares. Neither the tigers located in this safari would feel that they were enclosed, nor would the tourists get the feeling that they were witnessing a closed zoo. This Safari would be the first such located within a National Tiger Reserve in the country. This, he further claimed, would generate a lot of revenue and jobs for the people of Pauri district. This Safari would attract a huge number of tourists. A multipurpose building would also be constructed at the Tiger Safari site which would also house a museum and a 3-D projection theatre. The total cost was estimated to be around Rs 150 crores but an initial amount of Rs 4 crores had been released by the Tiger Foundation of which he is the chairman. In the first phase, an amount of Rs 48 crores would be spent on the project, and the work had begun. It was a long term project which would be a source of income and attraction for a long time to come.
It may be recalled that Dilip Singh Rawat, earlier, had objected to the tiger safari project claiming that since more tigers would be placed in the tiger safari, the rules regarding wildlife preservation would get even more strict in the region and this would not only adversely affect the livelihood of the people living around the Pakhro buffer zone but also hinder the proposed Kandi Road project.
No irregularity in ESI hospital project in Kotdwar: Harak Singh
Labour Welfare Minister Harak Singh Rawat also sought to clarify a recent controversy regarding release of funds to a Government of India project for the construction of a 300 bed ESI Hospital at Kotdwar even before the formal approval of the project. Rawat claimed there was no irregularity in the release of the funds to the executing agency, as the project had already been approved in principle and the agency in question had already been selected for the construction of the hospital at Kotdwar.
He further asserted that, as the Kotdwar MLA, he had promised a medical college for Kotdwar, initially. However, due to some technical reasons, the Union Labour Ministry did not approve a medical college there. However, the Union Minister of State for Labour Santosh Gangwar had during his interaction granted in principle approval for the construction of a 300 bed hospital, instead. He said that he had followed up the project through the proper channel and process. He had put up the proposal for the construction of the 300 bed hospital at Kotdwar and had already recommended a Government of India agency already empaneled with Uttarakhand Government as the executing agency. Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had approved the project on the file and, at his request, the CM had also sought a sought formal approval of the project from the Union Labour Minister, Santosh Gangwar.
Harak Singh Rawat further claimed that, at his request, the CM as well as the then Finance Minister, Prakash Pant, had approved release of Rs 50 crores as advance payment in anticipation of the approval by the Centre so that the work could start. However, as the state government had paucity of funds, only an amount of Rs 20 crores was released by the state government. This advance payment was in the form of a loan which would be returned to the state government once the Centre approved the project and released funds for the construction. There was no irregularity at all, he claimed.