Capacity Building Workshop for Jharkhand Forest Staff
6th March 2019, Jharkhand: A two-day training was conducted by WCS-India at Jharkhand State Forest Training Institute, Mahilong. This training focuses on building capacity of forest officers to understand the scale of wildlife trade, impacts of wildlife trafficking, protocols to be followed during investigation, search and seizure, powers entrusted to the forest officers under India’s wildlife protection law and efforts to improve conviction rate of wildlife criminals in the state. A total of 39 frontline staff were present for the training on day 1.
On the Day 1, Dr. H.S. Gupta, IFS, PCCF (Training & Research) gave a motivational talk and inspired the participants by saying that he and all the participants belong to one tribe i.e. forester tribe. He reminded them of their responsibility to protect the wildlife and that they constantly need to update their skills and capacity to be able to do their job in a professional way. Diksha Prasad, IFS, CCF (Training) gave an introductory speech welcoming the participants and WCS-India trainers. Dr. Anil Mishra, IFS, DCF (Training) thanked the forest officers across the state for participating in the training. All senior officials spoke about the importance of such training workshops and how they enable the forest officers in carrying out their duty effectively.
Sahila Kudalkar, Program Manager, Combating Wildlife Trafficking of WCS-India, began by conceptualizing the idea behind the training and the outcomes it seeks. She sensitized participants on the gravity of the issue and how illegal wildlife trade is an organized crime with a huge international consumer market. M.I. Varghese, IFS (retd.) spoke about the powers of forest officers under the WLPA and the CrPC and how wildlife crimes can be prosecuted in court. Mridula Vijairaghavan, Legal Advisor at WCS-India highlighted the importance of conducting proper investigation, search and seizure as it is the primary evidence and forms the foundation of the wildlife case. The last exercise of the day was a simulation training where WCS-India trainers recreated a crime scene. This enabled a practical demonstration of the steps for investigating a crime scene, collecting and sealing evidence, interrogating the accused and drafting a Wildlife Offence Report.
Day 2 of the workshop on Combating Wildlife Trafficking commenced with Mr. M.I. Varghese giving a detailed explanation of procedures to be followed while conducting an investigation and the fundamental contents of a Complaint that make a strong case.
Mridula Vijairaghavan conducted a Complaint Drafting Exercise where participants were asked to draft a complaint based on the previous day’s simulation exercise. Post-drafting, the participants and the legal experts – Ms. Vijairaghavan and Mr. Varghese led detailed discussions on specific provisions of law to be invoked with examples of scenarios that the staff were likely to face in their line of duty. Based on his experience and years of service in the Kerala Forest Department, Mr. Varghese shared strategies to be used while conducting an interrogation in order to increase the likelihood of obtaining a confession from the accused.
Post-lunch Sahila Kudalkar engaged the participants in a session on common wildlife species, their parts and products in trade. The session sensitised participants to the ecological importance of species, methods of poaching, trade routes and provisions of law to be invoked in the case of wildlife crimes.
All WCS-India resource persons underlined the crucial role of frontline officers in combatting wildlife trafficking. At the end of the day, Diksha Prasad, I.F.S., CCF (Training) at the Jharkhand Forest Department congratulated the participants, and presented resource persons with mementos from the Jharkhand Forest Department.
WCS-India is hopeful that this is the first of many such workshops to be conducted in a state with a youthful and enthusiastic base of frontline staff.