Union Minister Maneka Gandhi on Tuesday upped the ante on her demand for ouster of Maharashtra Environment Minister Sudhir Mugantiwar over the killing of tigress Avni and dashed off a letter to state Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, asking him to “consider removing” the minister.
“I request you to fix responsibility for the illegal killing of the tigress and consider removing Mugantiwar from the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment and Forest in the state government,” Ms Gandhi told Mr Fadnavis in her letter, released to media Tuesday.
“If the environment and forest minister resorts to killing animals instead of protecting them, he is definitely failing in his duty. This is something like the WCD minister working for child traffickers,” the Union minister for Women and Child Development wrote in her letter.
Ms Gandhi added that she had been speaking to Mr Mugantiwar on the issue of alleged maneater tigress Avni for the past two months and requesting the minister to have the tigress tranquillised and quarantined.
The tigress could have been saved, had the minister in charge of the Forest and Environment Department been a “little patient, sensitive and persistent”, rued Ms Gandhi.
Tigress Avni, who is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people in the past two years, was shot dead by sharp-shooter Asgar Ali in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal forests Friday as part of a government-sponsored operation.
Also known as T1, Avni is survived by two 10-month-old cubs.
Son of famous sharp-shooter Nawab Shafat Ali, Asgar Ali shot dead Avni in compartment 149 of the Borati forest in Yavatmal district under the jurisdiction of the Ralegaon police station.
Reacting to the killing of Avni, Ms Gandhi earlier, in a series of tweets, had lashed out at the Maharashtra government for ordering to kill the tigress despite opposition from several stakeholders.
“I am deeply saddened by the way tigress Avni has been brutally murdered in Yavatmal,” she had said in a tweet.
“It is nothing but a straight case of crime. Despite several requests from many stakeholders, Mungantiwar, the Minister for Forests, Maharashtra, gave orders for the killing,” she had said in another tweet.
She had said she was going to take up the matter “very strongly” with the Maharashtra chief minister.
“I am definitely going to take up this case of utter lack of empathy for animals as a test case – legally, criminally as well as politically,” she had said.
She had also come down heavily on Maharashtra Forest Minister Mungantiwar for giving orders to private marksman Shafat Ali Khan’s son to hunt down the tigress.
“Every time he has used Hyderabad-based shooter Shafat Ali Khan, and this time his son has also appeared on the scene illegally to murder the tigress,” she had said in a tweet.
“His son was not authorised to kill. This is patently illegal. Despite the forest officials being committed to tranquillise, capture and quarantine the tigress, the trigger-happy shooter has killed her on his own under orders of Mungantiwar,” she had tweeted.
“Shafat Ali Khan has killed 3 tigers, at least 10 leopards, a few elephants and 300 wild boar in Chandrapur, Maharashtra. He is a criminal known for supplying guns to anti-nationals and for a suspected case of murder in Hyderabad,” she had said in another tweet.
She had also questioned the Maharastra government’s decision to take services of Khan and his son.
“I fail to understand why a state government should even bother about such a man, let alone hire his services for illegal and inhuman acts,” she had said.
Ms Gandhi has also expressed concern over the well being of the two cubs left behind after the killing of their mother.
“This ghastly murder has put two cubs at the edge of a sad death in absence of their mother,” she had said.