Port Blair, Feb. 27: The news of Indian Forest Service (IFS) trainees being allowed to travel on the Andaman Trunk Road from Jirkatang to Baratang in private busses has caused uproar among the Tourist Cab Drivers Union and Tour Operators Association.

According to sources, two batches of IFS trainees were allowed to travel on the Andaman Trunk Road through the Jarawa Reserve, on their way to Rangat via Baratang. The first batch of around 31 Trainees had travelled on the ATR on 25th Feb. 2013, which has been banned for tourists and outsiders. Again on 26th Feb. another batch of IFS Trainees were taken through the road in private commercial vehicles. It was not only this, the two groups had also visited Lime Stone Caves in private boats.

Commenting on the issue, the Director General of Police, Shri Sharad Agarwal who is also the nodal officer to monitor activities on the Andaman Trunk Road said, “Permission was sought by the Forest Department, which was signed by the Additional PCCF. It mentioned that the travellers are govt. officials on a field trip to Rangat. We had to allow them as the Court Order mentioned that govt. officials on duty are allowed to travel on the road”.  

Meanwhile, Shri M. Kannan, President of Andaman & Nicobar Tourist Drivers Welfare Union, talking to Andaman Chronicle said, “It is a violation of the order. When we are not allowed to take tourists or outsiders who do not possess Islander Identity Card, how can the IFS Trainees be allowed to travel in commercial vehicles and also allowed a trip to the Lime Stone Caves at Baratang, which has been stopped”.

“I had called upon the Superintendent of Police, South Andaman yesterday and expressed our objection in this regard. After the Court’s Order, we have been sending our guests to Rangat by boat. We pick them at Rangat for further journey to North Andaman. If we can do this, why can’t the Administration”, Kannan said.

Reacting on the issue, Shri M. Vinod, President of the Association of Tour Operators, Andaman & Nicobar Islands said, “Had the Administration really wanted, they could have provided boats from Port Blair to Baratang for the Trainees. I totally disagree with the explanation of the Administration that the IFS trainees are not tourists and were on official duty. They are not Islanders. If at all they were on official trip to Lime Stone Caves, which is under Forest Department, they should have used the department’s boat at Baratang and not hired private commercial boats”.

It is also learnt that in the first week of March 2013 more such trainee officer will be arriving Port Blair on exposure trip. Private Commercial Vehicles have already been booked for them to travel on the ATR. It can be hoped that the Administration which enforces rules on the commoners will not modify the same rules to suit their convenience.