BENGALURU: The state forest department has said that claims of Krithi Karanth, 40, conservationist and recent winner of the Rolex Awards For Enterprise, facilitating payment of ex gratia to thousands of people in wildlife conflict cases through Wild Seve — a community-based conservation programme of hers — are baseless and false. Punati Sridhar, principal chief conservator of forests, told TOI he has communicated the same to luxury watchmaker Rolex though its Twitter handle and is awaiting its response. “Even to facilitate payment in a single case, one has to interact with forest department officers. No such interactions happened with Wild Seve. Moreover, the department pays ex gratia and not compensation. So the claim of ‘compensation’ itself is flawed,” stated Sridhar, who reiterated the same in his Facebook post on Tuesday. The department said the director of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, where Wild Seve claims to have worked, had issued a press note on May 17 stating its claims were false. The note had said that no organisation, individual and NGO was involved in facilitating the process of payment of compensation for crop damage or death of livestock due to attacks by wild animals and hence, any such claims are baseless and far from the truth. On the allegations made by the forest department, the Centre for Wildlife Studies — Krithi is its executive director — said the press statement (by forest department) and social media posts are factually incorrect and may mislead the potential rural beneficiaries of Wild Seve. “The programme is being implemented on private land or public access areas outside notified forest areas directly administered by the forest department. It is implemented by us directly in collaboration with individuals who are victims of wildlife conflict incidents. We intervene and assist them only after they voluntarily seek our help. It is perfectly legal. We have, so far, operated the Wild Seve programme around Bandipur and Nagarahole national parks with over 13,702 claims filed on behalf of 6,505 individual beneficiaries. The programme doesn’t claim that it has provided direct compensation as is alleged in some recent media posts,” a CWS statement said. The statement further said any unbiased observer can examine Wild Seve’s record on the ground and they will be happy to share details with those interested. Rolex had said Krithi has bagged the award for her efforts to reduce the friction between wildlife and people living near Indian national parks and also assisting with compensation claims through a tollfree helpline service.