Nainital (IANS) From fake websites to the alleged forged booking of guest houses, Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand's Ramnagar seems to be mired in a long tale of corruption and controversies.
Several incidents have come to light about the blatant misuse of 'official positions' to seek favours for a safari ride or a stay inside the park premises.
Taking stern action against this prevailing mess, the new Officiating Director of the national park, Sanjeev Chaturvedi, has ordered that its sought after guest houses will now entertain only seven VVIPs, including the President, Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India.
No 'so-called VVIPs' including Judges, Ministers and bureaucrats would be entertained at the government's expense.
Sources said that on an average, over 300 applications for seeking personal favours and recommendations from bureaucrats, Ministers and Judges for safari rides and lodging inside the Corbett jungle were received every month.
"I do not want to take names, but I do admit that pressure of the VVIPs, seeking favour either for themselves or for their friends and relatives (for stay), was finally affecting the official work at the national park.
"More than 45 per cent of posts (of guards and other staff) are lying vacant. Despite being understaffed, we were expected to entertain VIP tourists instead of being engaged in patrolling duties," said Chaturvedi, a whistleblower bureaucrat and winner of the coveted Magsaysay Award.
According to Chaturvedi the order was issued purely in public interest and to comply with the government norms. "We have opened the online booking of guest houses for everyone. Every citizen has the right to stay inside the national park. Until now, most of the bookings were availed by the VIPs and their friends. Our Prime Minister wants to end VIP culture in the country, so why not follow the same principle here?" he told IANS.
Not just that. Several websites, using the original address and photographs of Corbett National Park, were duping hundreds of tourists, including foreigners, who flocked there to see its tiger population during peek season.
Identifying such websites, Chaturvedi has reportedly served them notices to immediately restrain from using the national park's official pictures and address to lure tourists.
Chaturvedi is officiating as Director of the Corbett National Park for the past three weeks, because the Indian Forest Officer posted there as director is on training leave.