29
Nov
09

Fie!

I was planning to comment on my botched attempts to walk the glitterati boulevard when I found myself reading about the ridiculous situation in Bandipur where the show of solidarity by wildlife conservationists and environmentalists is shamelessly being battered down by our bald-faced elected representatives.

But first, the glitterati.

I received, probably by mistake, an email invitation to attend a social-do. To be part of a ‘select’ crowd for a talk on “New Knowledge Frontiers of Tomorrow” by Mr. Sam Pitroda.

However, getting a pass to enter and then attend was tougher than renewing a driving license – and, the tougher it got the more resolute I became to check-out this gathering and to meet leaders and facilitators of this “Frontier of Tomorrow”.

The ‘Muah-muah’ crowd was there in full regalia – dressed to kill and overloaded with diamonds and other embellishments; suited-booted ethnofied glitterati – socialites with calculating departed eyes, heavily made-up principals, teachers and trustees of ‘good schools’ and academies, puffy-eyed doyens of other professions and similar species. All with benign expressions, measuring each other whilst nibbling designer pizzalets.

There is a stampede to get inside and pounce on seats around the VVIP reserved area – deserted at the moment because they are all late. Being on time is never a factor for any frontier anyway.

I manage to squeeze myself on a solitary chair and look around. I do not find a single young face, who technically will be facing the frontiers of tomorrow.

The esteemed chief guests with retinue arrive and the hosts and gathering scramble to their feet to genuflect and salaam the erst-while rulers, fawningly addressing them “his/her highness”.

Mr. Pitroda, as usual, spoke well with belief, hope and passion for a gathering that will not “sow seeds” for any Frontier of Tomorrow.

Very much like the frontiers of our fast depleting wildlife and natural resources. And back to the Bandipur situation as a recent example of the vulnerable circumstances created and maintained by our leaders and others in power.

“The desperate position of the wildlife of India….known and understood only by a few dedicated naturalists. Wildlife conservation is but vaguely and poorly understood in India, and there is neither public feelings for the animals nor is the state keenly interested in the problem.” – Balakrishna Seshadri in The Twilight of India’s Wildlife.

Seshadri (who I will quote extensively in this post as BS), goes on to say that, “Nowhere in the world has destruction of the natural wilderness – the habitat of the wildlife – proceeded with such speed and totality as on the Indian sub-continent.”

A two-hour ban had come into effect in August this year along the Bangalore-Kozhikode (NH 212), which cuts through the core area of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR). This was to be extended to nine hours – from 9pm to 6am – to prevent wild animals from being hit by speeding vehicles. BTR was declared a Core Critical Tiger Habitat in 2007. In the first seven months of 2009, the Bandipur Reserve had officially registered 56 cases of road kills.

The ban was introduced as part of the sanctioned management plan for the protected area, as over speeding along the corridor in the dark was endangering animal life in the sanctuary. This has irked many of the elected leaders of the region. One such leader championing the opposition to this ban states that it will lead to trade deficiencies and other market shortages and that the “increase in animal population has aggravated the problem.”

These are nonsensical and selfish observations made by individuals/parties who will pander to anything in order to retain their seats of power and source of immense takings. The same will pray to innumerable Gods, visit temples and advocate peace, harmony, and understanding and observe world environment day but never apply anything themselves.

Safeguarding wildlife was known and practised in India over two thousand years ago. Kautilya’s Arthashastra (about 300 BC), speaks of the protection of forests with their wild animals and disallowed the exploitation of timber, fuel and animal products in them.  In 242 BC, Emperor Ashoka’s Fifth Pillar Edit gave protection to animals, birds, fish and plants.

“In 1965, I completed the whole circuit of India’s more important forest areas….the resulting picture in my mind is one of terrible devastation. Totally gone are some of the most famous wildlife areas, inundated by vast water reservoirs built for irrigation and power or both, or cleared for the settlement of the proliferating populations or the refugees from across the international frontiers on the West, North and East, or to cultivation to increase production of food of which there never seems enough….or simply and directly destroyed by commercial interests.” (BS)

The colour of the grim picture painted by Seshadri is still so relevant and heart breaking. He was already ringing the alarm bell but did anybody in power care then? Does anybody care now? Four decades later we continue ravaging our country’s wildlife, natural resources and people within, “justifying the destruction – in the rare instance where justification was needed or demanded.” (BS)

This annihilation of flora, fauna, indigenous traditions and life styles is continuing with gay abundance – Orissa, Konkan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan (the list seems endless).

The Indian Express, dated November 18, 2009 carried a full first page advertisement inserted by ‘Vedanta Resources’ – primarily extending their gratitude to the governments of Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan; the ministries of Mines, Coal, Power and Environment and Forests for ‘support and expeditious clearances’ that will make ‘India the most preferred investment destination in the world.’ The advertisement mentions the visionary approach of the Government of India that will put this country on the global metals and mining map. Somewhere in the middle of this entire buddy-buddy-I-scratch-your-back-you-kiss-my-arse message is the mention of Rupees 10,000 Crores investment for bauxite – alumina project at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district in Orissa. Vedanta talks of ‘bringing transformational prosperity to the area’.

At what cost? The outcome will be dreadful and irretrievable!

I am not a great fan of Arundhati Roy but her latest essay in the Outlook magazine (November 9, 2009) does raise valid questions and hitting the nail-on-the-head is Prerna Singh Bindra’s ‘Special Report’ in the Tehalka (November 21, 2009).

“It is in the national interest to conserve the natural resources of land and water, jungle and pastureland….project planning is concerned with political and technical feasibility only. Wildlife and conservation of its habitats to the maximum extent possible do not receive consideration….it is only the power, irrigation or industrial targets which are dangled before the public eye….even outside the planning rooms, the wanton destruction of nature through such development receives no emphasis as the prime cause for the disappearance of wildlife – often the two are not even connected – while poaching, disease and other factors are repeatedly quoted as being the main dangers….planning of development projects should definitely include conservation of forests and vegetational blocks which comprise the habitats of wildlife.” (BS)

How does one tackle this growing menace, this virus that will sooner if not later eliminate the very source of our existence?   How long are we going to be willing bystanders? Till when will we continue to elect the wrong people? How long before we tell our children that we are doing our best to bequeath only platitudes?

For the moment, I say, Fie! Ye such leaders and those who allow such dastardly acts to continue and finally,

FIE! Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India.

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3 Responses to “Fie!”


  1. 1 sacredfig
    December 15, 2009 at 5:39 am

    I share your concerns and anxiety over the state of wildlife and forests in India, but I thought you are a bit harsh on the MoEF here. From the looks of it, Jairam Ramesh seems to be among the more credible and competent MoEF mantris we’ve had in a while. Whether some change eventually happens remains to be seen, but at least we have an intelligent bloke running the show.

  2. 2 bichhubooti
    December 15, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Hard-hitting but not harsh. I hope you have read ‘Paradigm Shift’? If yes, then you would have noted that my letter addressed to Mr. Jairam Ramesh, acknowledges the Minister’s credibility, competence and intelligence.


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