‘Two top airlines in wildlife smuggling racket’
New Delhi: Two major private airlines are allegedly being used in smuggling of endangered species, a high-level meeting chaired by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh was told on Wednesday.
An astonished Ramesh decided to write to Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi about the matter, sources said.
Amid concern over the menace of smuggling, Ramesh had called a meeting of various security agencies including the Intelligence Bureau, CBI, Delhi Police, CISF, Bureau of Civil Aviation and Security, ITBP, BSF, SSB, CBEC and the Enforcement Directorate.
An official, who attended the meeting, informed the minister that "smuggling is going through" two major private airlines and requested the minister to take "some measures," including the cancellation and suspension of their licences.
The Minister who directed the officials to "put this on record", said "I will write to the Minister of Civil Aviation" about the instances of private airlines being used in smuggling, the sources said.
"Take it up systematically," Ramesh told the officials in the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), which comes under his Ministry.
A top WCCB official, who was critical of the Bureau of Civil Aviation and Security, complained that the department officials face difficulties to get passes at airports to check smuggling. The official suggested that a system should be in place at the airport as "in the developed countries" in regard to presence of wildlife officials.
"At the checking points, we are finding it difficult to ensure issuances of passes," the official said.
The meeting also discussed the alleged instances of smuggling of endangered species in the border areas including the Indo-Tibetan boundary and the border areas of Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal. "Wildlife smuggling is happening all across the border," an official said.
It discussed the issue of sensitisation of people living in border areas to check smuggling.
Ramesh suggested to the officials to find out the areas where focus is needed and recommended a "system" to share actionable information among various agencies about smuggling taking place in one sanctuary.
The minister also directed the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau official to start a campaign to create awareness among public about wildlife-related crimes. It should launch a website to publish the photographs of "the wildlife smugglers who have been convicted, who are absconding and the most wanted," the minister said.