Environment related offences are highest in Assam among all north-eastern states, and it also figures among the top eight states across the country in this regard.
Data from the National Crime records Bureau (NCRB) reveals that Assam recorded a total of 105 environment-related offences during 2015.
Of the total, 31 were cases registered under the Forest Act, 1927, while as many as 74 were under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Across the country, there were altogether 5,156 incidents of environment-related offences during 2015. Assam recorded the eighth highest number of such offences among all the states and Union territories.
Rajasthan with 2,074 incidents of environment-related offences was at the top of the table, followed by Uttar Pradesh with 1,779 and Jharkhand with 233. There were 211 such incidents in Karnataka, 181 in Andhra Pradesh, 127 in Maharashtra and 113 in Himachal Pradesh.
However, except for Assam, the other north-eastern States reported either none or very few such incidents.
NCRB data show that the total environment-related offences during 2015 in Manipur were four, while in Arunachal Pradesh there were three such incidents and in Mizoram only one. Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura did not report any such incidents last year.
A total of 170 persons were arrested in Assam for environment-related offences during 2015. Of them, 50 were arrested under the Forest Act and 120 under the Wildlife Protection Act.
Nationwide, 8,034 were arrested for environment related offence last year.
Commenting on the issue, Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, secretary general and CEO of well-known biodiversity conservation NGO Aranyak, told The Assam Tribune that the government must give priority on ensuring conviction of offenders.
‘Arrest of offenders is only the first step. Conviction is more important. People engaged in environment-related offences must be given exemplary punishment. Only then will it act as a deterrent,’ he said.
Talukdar said that even though a number of arrests are made in such cases, the conviction rates remain abysmally low. ‘The government must pursue the cases. They can set a target to increase convictions by enforcement agencies. Besides, the government lawyers must also perform better,’ he said.
With regard to nexus between environment and wildlife-related offenders and unscrupulous officials, Talukdar said many such incidents have come to light over the years. ‘So there is a need to instill the fear of law both among criminals as well as corrupt officials. At the same time, officials who perform their duties well must be given incentives,’ he said.