Time spent in and around the Corbett Tiger Reserve (then Corbett National Park) gave him a deep understanding of the issues that plagued this diverse and eco-sensitive landscape. Poaching and retaliatory poisoning for cattle kills were common. The locals did not trust the Forest Department for their interests were at stake – and rightfully so. Compensation for a head of cow that was killed could take as long as four years, if the cowherd knew that it was available and initiated the process.
Dilip formulated a three-pronged approach. A medical team was organised to cater to villages along Corbett’s mountainous periphery. Providing basic medical care and referrals gained the trust of the local people, and opened up a dialogue between them and the organisation. This made way for awareness programmes on both healthcare and wildlife conservation. Interim payments within three days was made for any livestock killed. This was possible thanks to the network of informers that the Corbett Foundation had formed through its relationship with the locals. The Foundation’s staff would document the incident, handle the paperwork and make the payment at the scene of the kill. It was with this strategy that The Corbett Foundation (TCF) was inaugurated on April 22, 1994.
As Dilip explained then, “We hold regular baithaks (sittings) and we speak to villagers about their problems – health, education and women’s rights. Our doctors visit every vil