23
Sep
16

Those were the days! 4

We’ve seen over time that countries that have the best economic growth are those that have good governance, and good governance comes from freedom of communication. It comes from ending corruption. It comes from a populace that can go online and say, ‘This politician is corrupt, this administrator, or this public official is corrupt.’ – Ramez Naam

I can, of course, talk about the harrowing time I had as Director of The Corbett Foundation – not the work, but the way the Board (in particular Rina Khatau) behaved and treated people; of assurances and promises broken; the way sycophancy was encouraged and nurtured to unbelievable levels; the arrogance and subterfuge; the nauseating hold the Khataus had over their employees. Why most of them were so servile and willing to be treated worse than guttersnipes is something I could never comprehend. I always felt that the Khataus never ever learnt or appreciated the fact that the stature they achieved was by standing on somebody’s shoulders.

But I choose instead to share some of the most glorious, enriching and satisfying moments of my life, even when things were going awry.

The time when waking up at 4 am to patrol the banks of the Kosi was not a task; walking or driving for hours to reach remote communities/forest outposts; tracking; talking; teaching, learning, implementing, sharing a hot cup of jaggery drenched black tea (found this to be a fairly unique feature amongst isolated forest guard outposts in India); bone-weary but not tired; at times sleeping well past midnight, but alert and ready to go with within hours well aware of the fact that every moment in the jungle was fraught with danger – from man and animal both.

I could go on further here but it would take more than a lifetime.

*

There was tremendous amount of work to be done off the field too. Data had to be constantly updated and records kept. Work schedules, vehicle maintenance, community projects, supplies, movement of the main four (elephant, tiger, wild boar and leopard), creating a chain of command, funds and utilization, liaison with other organizations (government and non-government), following kill reports to name a few. And of course, it became very irksome when the board members trotted around occasionally.

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Technically, I did not have any ‘off-days’. There was always paper-work to do and letters to write. The worst follow-ups were letters to the ministry that remained totally unanswered, let alone acknowledged.

*

The Corbett Tiger Reserve has gone through various changes of name. It is spread across 1318.54 sq. km. including 520 sq. km. of core area and 797.72 sq. km. of buffer area. The core area of the CTR forms the  Corbett National Park while the buffer contains reserve forests (496.54 sq.km.) as well as the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary (301.18 sq.km.)

The immense size of the park/reserve with all its flora and fauna, diverse terrain and weather conditions, hamlets, different forest zones and porous borders is still a humongous area to watch-over and extend services. The unpredictable tenures of government/forest officials, made it extremely difficult to sustain a healthy professional relationship. Add to this, the show of one-upmanship by zonal officers always undermined work.

So, it was extremely essential to have an efficient network of people (from village communities) who could be relied upon totally. They were my eyes and ears and I held them in great regard for their knowledge, time, effort and diligence. Besides the movement of wildlife they kept an eye out for poachers.

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Now I only think and dream of those days when I felt belonged and with a sense of purpose.

Concluded

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1 Response to “Those were the days! 4”


  1. October 3, 2016 at 9:38 am

    This is tremendous sir. I’ve been following your blogs for more than a year now and can’t think of any one else in modern times writing with so much heart. Deeply personal and blunt, I’m now looking up to yours as a guiding force for my own blog on environmental/wildlife stories. But as they are, I must admit you have been really fortunate to have experienced a lifetime in the woods. Being a 30+ city dweller and constantly fighting for EMIs and ‘ghar ka chuhla’, I’m still hoping to break free and lose myself in the woods sometime. Reading about your experiences are my escapes for now.Gives me relief and hope.


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