Mysuru: Three contract employees of the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens or Mysuru Zoo including a lady employee have been dismissed from service for irregularities in the ticket collection and checking counters where tourists are allowed inside after accepting the same tickets (mostly sold online) that are sold earlier to different tourists. The scam has caused considerable revenue loss to the Zoo. Added to this, the automated barcode scanning machine at the entrance to scan the online tickets is ‘under repair’ since six years and no effort has been made to repair it.
Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Member-Secretary, Zoo Authority of Karnataka (ZAK) B.P. Ravi has now ordered a probe into the ticket scam in the Zoo and Shivamogga Zoo Executive Director Chandrashekhar will investigate and submit a report to the ZAK.
A section of Zoo employees are also planning to file complaints with the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the Lokayukta seeking a probe as they feel that only an independent probe will reveal the truth instead of a probe by the Forest Department.
While the lady contract employee, who was working at the Zoo for over five years, (name withheld on request) was dismissed from service in the first week of March, the other two contract employees, who were ex-servicemen, Hiriyanna and Basappa were dismissed earlier.
The ticket racket came to light on Mar.8, when the counter staff found that 40 tickets worth Rs. 50 each amounting to Rs. 2,000 issued to a tourist party from Tamil Nadu carried an earlier date. When the ticket collector saw the tickets he found that the dates printed on the tickets were that of three days earlier. Immediately, he brought it to the notice of Executive Director, Mysuru Zoo, C. Ravishankar (now In-charge). On Mar.10 (Saturday) they found one more ticket of Rs. 70 (as tickets for adults are priced at Rs. 70 on weekends and Sundays).
Investigations revealed that the tickets originated from one particular counter that was managed by the lady. She, however, denied the charge and said that her ID and password had been stolen and someone would have misused it. But as the tickets had originated from one particular counter which she was manning, the lady was dismissed from service.
BARCODE MACHINE DEFUNCT
Sources in the Zoo, however, told Star of Mysore that the lady’s incident where tickets worth Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 70 were issued was just a tip of the iceberg. A mega scam is playing out in the Zoo since over 12 years with a handful of contract employees controlling the affairs at the Zoo.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Zoo employee said that the e-ticketing barcode scanning machine that was installed in 2012 to ensure transparency functioned only for three months and is in non-working condition since then. “The machine has not been repaired so far and nobody is bothered about it. The Zoo is controlled by a ‘mafia’ of over 10 contract employees and they are misleading the Executive Director too,” he said.
MEAT, GRASS SUPPLY
“If an Executive Director takes stringent measures, he/ she is told that the animals are likely to be poisoned if the ‘set system’ is upset. Only one contractor has been supplying meat, vegetables, fruits, pulses, dry and fresh grass to the animals. His contract has not changed and he continues to hold his grip over the Zoo and there is no one to question him either on quality or quantity of the meat supplied,” the Zoo employee said.
It may be recalled here that in 2016, the then Zoo Executive Director Kamala Karikalan had suspended four employees and she had stated then that the suspended employees had objected to the installation of CCTV cameras on the Zoo premises. They were also interfering in the recruitment process, she had stated. The suspension, however led to protests and ugly spats between the Executive Director, the suspended employees and their supporters.
ACCUSED MANAGE GATES
Some Zoo employees have direct connection with tour and travel agents and tourists are allowed inside the Zoo after giving them back-dated online tickets. “This is causing a huge revenue loss to the Zoo. This scam has not come to light as those employees who are involved in the racket themselves manage the entry gates,” he added.
Sources in the Zoo said that a group of ex-servicemen were appointed on contract basis as Security Supervisors years back. “These Security Supervisors now call themselves as ‘Security Officers’ and they control the Zoo. It has been more than one year since the famed Butterfly Park in the Karanji Lake has been closed. They have closed the Butterfly Park to hide the theft of sandalwood trees from the Karanji Lake campus,” the Zoo employee alleged.
He further alleged that over one truckload of Nilgiri trees had been chopped from the Zoo’s extended unit at Koorgalli (Chamundi Wildlife Conservation, Rescue and Rehabilitation) and illegally transported to a saw mill in K.R. Nagar.