• Mr. Himmat Sing Negi
RECIPIENT : Mr. Himmat Sing Negi, I.F.S
Ex-Director, Kanha Tiger Reserve,  Madhya Pradesh
by  Raja Chatterjee

The satellite micro-core area of the Kanha Tiger Reserve was illegally occupied by cattle camps in 199 . This micro-core,better known as Phen Wildlife Sanctuary, is a vital linkage between Kanha TR and adjoining wilderness areas including Achanakmar WLS (now a Tiger Reserve). It is always an imperative from the conservation point of view to keep the area disturbance free as it is a refuge for the aged tigers and a gateway for young ones to venture out to forest areas beyond. This conservation vault was invaded by large gangs of Gujjars , a clan of cattle grazers, driving herds of a 7000 strong cattle population and settled some 38 camps to the fullest exploitation of forest patches as free grazing grounds. This meant impending doom for wildlife with a possible breakout of cattle-borne diseases epidemic amongst wild ungulates besides man-animal conflict, besides perpetuating an illegal occupancy of forest land like cancerous growth.

Here came an intelligent, dauntless forester for damage control. He is Dr.Himmat Singh Negi, IFS, the Deputy Director (Core Zone) of Kanha TR. At first he tried long to persuade the owners of illegal cattle camps with logic to vacate the forest. All attempts turned futile while shadow of local politics loomed large on their continuance with an increased damage to forests. As things reached a point of no return, Dr.Negi challenged them outright closing all other options. He launched special drives to evict them forcefully. The intruders succumbed to the actions of a man worthy of his name Himmat(meaning strength)!

Dr. H S Negi, an officer of Indian Forest Service of 1988 batch joined the country’s premier Tiger Reserve, Kanha as its Deputy Director (Buffer Zone) in 1995. He began his career in remote forests of Kondagaon, Bastar and served as DFO Wildlife at NoradehiWLS . Good service brought him to Kanha. His task here was to create a buffer zone to protect wildlife. The situation was volcanic in areas demarcated for it as groups of armed activists and anti-social elements reigned supreme. Tough opposition from villagers under their coverage often led to violent confrontations bringing down the morale of his staff. An unrelenting Negi in no time turned to be the target of angry villagers carrying risk to his life.Unfazed, he choose to walk extra miles to convince erring villagers of the good plans to support for their livelihood improvement through various government schemes. He succeeded in roping in the district administration, police and a host of well meaning NGOs in his stride.Through a series of meetings, villagers finally discovered a Good Samaritan in Dr.Negi, whomade them concur to creation of a Kanha buffer, a coveted condominium for disciplined co-existence.A caring Dr.Negi convinced the authorities to divert substantial
fund of ‘KanhaVikashNidhi’ for upliftment of the villagers who sacrificed their rights and concessions over the forest and agreed to be relocated outside the Kanha National Park.

Dr. Negi’s tryst with Tiger Reserves bloomed through several terms serving as Field Director of Kanha (2007-08&09-11) and Pench (2008-09) before being elevated to his current position of Deputy Inspector General at the National Tiger Conservation Authority. Tussles apart, ever since his joining Kanha, the landscape looked brighter with every passing season with reduction of man-made forest fires below 1%, man-animal conflicts, illegal grazing while an increase of foraging grounds vis-à-vis a healthy population of prey base.

Dr. Negi earned his doctorate through research on comparison of prey-predator abundance at Kanha. Dr. Negi had several overseas attachments at Smithsonian Institute, USA, World Park Congress at Durban, South Africa and TRAFFIC International at UK.

Words of Dr. Negi’s heroic deeds made its round at the highest quarters in no time. Kanha was adjudged as ‘The best maintained Tourism Friendly National Park (1999-2000)’ by the Government of India. A recipient of Gold Medal for meritorious service by Madhya Pradesh Govt. ,Dr.Negi also bagged the WWF-PATA Conservation award (1999-2000). Winner of Rajiv Gandhi Conservation Award (2005), laurels continue to decorate Dr.Himmat Singh Negiand here withthe Green Guard Award in reflected glories in his crusade of secured Tigerlands.