Manju, a temporary staff member of the Bandipur forest department, was given the Wildlife Service Award to honour his rescue of then Range Forest Officer Gangadhar from a fire that took place on February 18, 2017. In the process of rescuing the officer, he severely injured himself.
Looking back on that day, 26-year-old Manju told TNM, “My friends and I started working with the forest on a temporary basis in January and was going to continue till March. On February 18th, 2017, someone set the forest on fire at 12 pm. Our range forest officer informed us about the fire and asked for help. He brought us to the elephant camp to rescue the elephants. As is the practice, we started another fire in the opposite direction so that fire from both sides would clash and eventually extinguish. However, it was unsuccessful because of the heavy wind and Gangadhar sir was injured. We had gotten separated when we arrived at the spot and therefore, only I could help Gangadhar sir. I waded through the fire and eventually got him out of it, after which he was taken to the hospital.”
“I underwent medical treatment for one-and-a-half months. However, I continued to have problems and had surgery last month which was funded by the government. I want the government to do me another favour by giving me a permanent job. Functioning as a daily wage labourer is not beneficial to me,” he added.
Wildlife reserves in south India have witnessed multiple forest fires in recent years, including a massive fire at Bandipur in February this year. Most are said to be caused by people. Joseph Hoover, the event coordinator, told TNM, “The local people are responsible for this. Some of them practice poaching and are handed over to the police by the forest department. Once they come out of jail, they set the forest of fire in order to take revenge against the forest department.”
The fires can not only destroy the environment but also injure people, and even take lives. “Such fires pose a threat to our lives as well as that of the animals. I wish that some precautionary measures are taken by the government in order to prevent such incidents from happening in the future,” said Manju.
The Wildlife Service award is an initiative undertaken by Tiger Cup which aims to unite the concept of wildlife conservation with junior cricket. It gives young people an opportunity to not only hone their cricketing skills but also become young ambassadors of wildlife conservation. The Tiger Cup tournament takes place every summer and the Wildlife Service award is presented on the same day as part of the award distribution for the tournament.
The Tiger Cup has taken place for the last eight years, with the wildlife service award being given to those who have shown courage and valour, and contributed to protecting wildlife. The eighth edition took place on Monday at at Global Village Tech Park Ground, Rajarajeshwari Nagar. The chief guest of this event was international cricketer Mayank Agarwal and he was accompanied by sponsors of the event and Parameshwar, ACF of Bandipur forest.