Sunday, April 13, 2014

Atrocious Sariska

Atrocious Sariska
Inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve
After deliberating over the issue regarding whether to write about the Sariska Tiger Reserve or to give it a skip, I finally arrived at the conclusion that if I do not share my experiences, a lot many people, who sometimes go through my blogs may get conned at Sariska.  I was saved the blushes, as I had not gone there for a full blown holiday to Sariska, but was just passing by for a day visit while returning from Bharatpur and its famed ‘Keoladeo Ghana National Park’ (KGNP) for short.  After seeing the beautiful photographs that cropped up at the various websites, as soon as you seek ‘Sariska’ in Google search, I too was entrapped into visiting the destination.
A small hamlet across the dhaba where we had B'fast
We had planned to start very early in the morning, for our return leg from Bharatpur (as detailed in my previous blogs) to Delhi and the morning again turned out to be very foggy and hence I decided to delay our start.  However, as the fog had not lifted even by 9.00 A.M, we decided to proceed with our return journey, driving very slowly.  After having driven about 10 Kms. or so, we saw the first big casualty of the fog on the road, a State Roadways bus had met with a collision with another vehicle and hit the road divider before coming to a stop (check out the video link attached below).  We had proceeded on the road leading though Mahawa, Rajgarh and crossing through the extreme end of Sariska before officially entering its precincts through Tehla, which is about 110 Kms. from Bharatpur.  However, about having traveled for about 25-30 Kms. the fog lifted from the roads, as if it never existed and I think the cause of the fog was the water body in Bharatpur.  Having traveled for about 50 Kms. or so we stopped for having our B’fast in a road side dhaba.  We had a sumptuous treat of fresh Aloo Paranthas with farm fresh butter and some coriander leaves thrown in to enhance the aroma & taste and accompanied with a hot cup of tea, it was a real treat in the lap of nature.
As we head into the Aravallies on way to Sariska
            We turned towards Rajgarh from Mahawa, although the Agra Bikaner State Highway was in excellent state, the initial entry through the town was a bit congested but thereafter the road was fine upto a few Kilometers and thereafter, the road being under construction slowed down our pace considerably, as the road surface was uneven and even missing altogether at some places.  We struggled to keep pace and after a horrendous road journey reached the Sariska entry gate from Tahela side, much delayed from our planned time of arrival.  One has to purchase a entry permit for entering the Sariska Tiger Reserve and from this side of Sariska, no public transportation is available and being a Tuesday, the locals were allowed inside to visit the ancient ‘Hanuman temple’ albeit only on motorcycles.  This road is to be closed as per Hon’ble Supreme Court directions, but due to local pressure it is still open and despite the warning of speed limit of 30 Kms. per hour, I found locals driving through the destination at break neck speeds with no means of monitoring this by the forest department.  There are 28 villages situated inside the precincts of the Sariska Tiger Reserve and attempts are being made to relocate them.  Thanks to the notorious poacher Late Sansar Chand, the Tiger reserve is bereft of any tiger population, but the local management in collusion with the private resort owners etc. make a killing by projecting the reserve as being one of the best.
Going past Rajgarh - some ancient ramparts 
Just beyond Rajgarh, ruins of some ancient temple on shores of a large lake
            Having purchased the entry permit for my vehicle by paying Rs.250/-, I entered the Sariska Tiger Reserve with great expectations and with my Camera ready for some action.  However, just after entering the reserve I found that women, in hordes were returning after collecting firewood from the forest, right under the nose of the forest guards.  I then knew fully well that there was nothing to fear in these forests, but our driver kept insisting that there were some wild animals inside the forest reserve and we decided not to take any careless decision in this regard and being a Government servant thought it wise to stick inside the car.  This road that traverses through the heart of the so called Tiger reserve, which in turn connects Rajgarh with Alwar via Tehla, it is quite a busy road.  Despite being an ardent devotee of Lord Hanuman, having being delayed considerably due to bad roads, I decided to skip my scheduled visit to this ancient temple atop the fort inside the Tiger Reserve.  We were keeping to the speed limit prescribed and neither using horns etc., but the other vehicles were being driven at break neck speeds, throwing up a cloud of dust in the aftermath.  We tried very hard to locate some wildlife, but were not able to find anything except for some peacocks, peahens and wild pigs.
As we descent towards Tehla, view from top of the hill
The vast expanse of the Sariska forests
            After having traversed more than 2/3rd of the journey inside the Tiger Reserve, I saw a few local couples on motorcycles, who would occasionally stop on the road and get down to adjust their belongings etc. for a couple of minutes and then move on.  After a while I spotted a few couples sitting by the road side, with their bikes parked a few meters away and I thought that the same was allowed on the road.  Suddenly, I spotted some white feathered bird and as could not get a good look from the vehicle, I alighted and tried to take a shot of it with my zoom lens, but found that it was some kind of cotton etc. that was hanging on the branch.  Just as I was moving back to my vehicle, a local Gypsy carrying tourist approached and started questioning as to why I was moving outside, since I could make out that he was a private operator, I did not answer him and returned to my vehicle and we moved off.  The vehicle kept following us upto a kilometer or so and thereafter, it moved off into a dirt track.  We slowly made our way forward, hoping fervently to spot some wild life or bird.  The actual shocker came the moment we reached the exit gate, the guard came out gesticulating and stating that I was his culprit.  When I asked him as to what was the reason for stopping us, he informed that I had strayed into the core area of the forest.  When I confronted him with the fact that the vehicle I was traveling in was not meant to be driven on dirt tracks and therefore, it was not possible for me to have driven there.  The next allegation was that I got down on the road, but when I confronted him that what about the two couples who were sitting on the road side and those two had been asked politely by the safari driver to move on, what action had been taken by them against those two and as to where were they?  The guard got baffled and was really got out of his mind, when I told him of my identity, but after some more ramblings he let us go after my wife intervened,  because the children were disturbed by this behavior.
No other wildlife except for some Peahens
No wildlife in Sariska can be seen except for some wild pigs
            Sariska Tiger Reserve has no tigers and hence this tag should be removed and it should only be declared as a Wildlife Reserve.  It is evident from the incident narrated hereinabove that there is a nexus between the local operators and the forest guards, who make every possible attempt to discourage the use private vehicles and only to collude to allow the private run tour operators inside the Reserve, from whom they get some monetary benefits????  In case you have got some time to waste and only interested in a holiday in a good resort and seeing wildlife is not a priority for you, then you may visit Sariska or else give this atrocious place a miss, which will not only save you some money but also the hassles by some lowly placed forest guards, who do not do their duty for preserving the Wildlife reserve but to fill their pockets by colluding with private operators and harassing nature lovers… the choice of course is yours to make.

Here is a link to the video for the destination -