Corbett Tiger Reserve authorities have decided that it will not entertain references from VIPs requesting stay and safari facilities among others either for themselves or for their relatives and friends, instead these requests would be reported to their higher authorities.
The move comes as the Corbett administration has been receiving a large number of communications, through explicit use/display of official position/state symbols, for arranging safari, stay, other private arrangements of various highly placed authorities, which is otherwise a purely personal activity and has nothing to do with discharge of any official duties of the authorities concerned.
On many occasions, even cases of friends/other known ones have been referred to the authorities at Corbett and sometimes the matter has been tried to be pursued in coercive /intimidating manners, according to a recent official order.
"This is nothing but brazen abuse of official position for seeking favour for personal ends. Such practices also put stress on an already overburdened administration, primary duties of which are habitat management and protection works," it said.
Therefore, in accordance with constitutional principles, orders of the Supreme Court and other relevant rules/notifications in this regard, it is hereby ordered that any communication received through use of official positions, except for those entitled, in any manner, for the said purpose will not be entertained at all, by any of the officials posted in the Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, the order said.
Rules framed by the Uttarakhand government regarding state guests allow very few constitutional functionaries like the president, prime minister, chief justice of India, Lok Sabha speaker, among others to avail such facilities.
"In future such requests are not to be taken cognizance of at all and the same has to be returned immediately, in original, to the office concerned and the matter has to be reported to the higher authorities of such offices for action against them, regarding such abuse of official positions," said Sanjiv Chaturvedi, director of the Corbett Tiger Reserve, in the order.
He said the Right to Equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution, is one of the bedrocks of democratic polity.
"However, over the years, a ''VIP culture'' has crept into our polity, where persons occupying influential positions, started using their official position and powers to create a distinct class for themselves, and using it as a privilege to make undue claim over public resources, for purposes which had nothing to do with discharge of their official duties," Chaturvedi said.
This VIP culture, which is anathema to the cherished principles of equality and fraternity, has created distortions in system of governance and has caused resentment in general public, he said, citing a central government decision on prohibiting use of red beacons on official vehicles.
Chaturvedi said the communications received by those not entitled to the facilities of stay at the Corbett Tiger Reserve "are nothing but brazen misuse of official positions/ symbols for absolutely private purposes".
A lot of people, including those in the judiciary and bureaucracy, seek favour from the Corbett Tiger Reserve administration for stay and safari, among other VIP facilities for themselves or for their friends/relatives, officials said.
Wildlife activist Ajay Dubey, who had got a Supreme Court order in 2012 on banning tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves, welcomes this move by Corbett authorities.
"It is a welcoming step. Tourism in core and other areas frequented wild animals is having a negative effect on wildlife. I expect other tiger reserves and national park authorities to take a cue from Corbett authorities and stop this abuse of VIP power," he said.
Dubey said any reduction in VIP references of stay and other facilities will help forest staff to invest more time in taking care of wild animals rather than of those in power.
The Corbett park is first national park of India established in 1936. It was then named Hailey National Park. In 1957, it was rechristened as the Corbett National Park in the memory of late Jim Corbett, great naturalist and eminent conservationist.
The park, which is spread in an area of around 1,200 sq.kms, is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas. There are estimated 340 tigers in Uttarakhand, according to 2014 census of the big cats.
Uttarakhand has three tiger reserves - Corbett National Park (or tiger reserve), Rajaji Tiger Reserve and Kalagarh Tiger Reserve.