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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The mystery behind man and animal conflict

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A local daily news paper in Hindi has printed two important news stories today. These stories have pushed me into somewhat serious and troublesome thought process. One of these runs under the headline – Oath taken to protect wild animals (vanya prani samrakshan ke liye sankalp), and the other runs under the headline – D.F.O. called to help in getting rid of elephants (hathion se nijat pane ke liye D.F.O. se lagayi guhar).The news paper is right as it has to report what it observes. So let me tell you these stories in brief first before entering into any comment or discussion.

The first story of the news paper tells about a morning rally organized on 5th October under the local forest department of Jharkhand state of India. The rally was flagged by Chief Forest Conservator cum Chief Wildlife Warden.It was attended by about five hundred people including 250 children (school children as it seems and they are easy to be caught by any government like their teachers who are easily caught from time to time for many types of duties).Many officers from different departments also graced the occasion. A number of programmes to be conducted during the Wildlife Week were also announced by the officers of the forest department. This is a good story which reflects how responsible our officers towards the wildlife and environment are. Let us know something about the other story.

In the second story, the representatives of the “Hathi Bhagao Sangharsh Samiti” (Council to struggle for chasing away the elephants - as I understand) of Torpa, an area of Jharkhand (India) have submitted a memorandum to the District Forest Officer to protect them from elephants on 6th of October 2009. The members have given ultimatum that they would sit before the office of the Rural Deputy Commissioner on fast up to their deaths if their demands were not met up to October20, 2009.

Now, let us see what officers can do? They have been facing these types of incidents continuously and no sooner they solve one problem, the other emerges out. They have to protect wildlife as well as to villagers. After going through a large number of cases of such type, one can conclude that wild animals are alone who are to be defeated in the battle between men and wild animals.

Earlier, stories of a hyena biting different people in a particular area of Ranchi District were continuously read by the local people in the same Hindi daily news paper. The report that was published prior to the report of the hyena’s death somewhere in the same area was that the authorities had been successful in receiving “shoot at sight” order. The final report did not reveal that the hyena was shot dead. The final report told just that the animal was found dead. Had the Hyena been a man, his relatives might have filed a case blaming someone about killing or more correctly about murdering one of their relatives.

Now, what will happen in the case of wild animals reportedly troubling the villagers of Torpa? As regards the non-government organization, its name itself means that it has been formed to chase the elephants away. Chase away? Where and up to what distance? … And to which forest …? Is there really a forest area where the “trouble causing” elephants can stand and move safely, after being chased away by this NGO having aim of chasing away the elephants? Certainly, the number of elephants is far less than the number of people ready to chase them away. Certainly, the power of people is much more than the power of elephants. Had the Wildlife (Protection) Act not been passed by the Indian Government, the villagers say humans might had killed all the elephants, and might had sold all the timber after cutting all the trees of the forest of the area in stead of submitting the memorandum and by it putting immense pressure on our officers. On the other hand, they can still do the same just if they can see even an eye signal from the officer concerned, though the later is bound to implement the law. Some one may say – you write so, as you are not affected. But, it may not be a correct remark. In my turn, I may say that I might not have constructed my house in the area of elephants and had never tried to grab the forest land.

Someone makes a hut along a road side and asks for compensation when government people ask him to shift it to some land he legally owns. He is in a well position to submit a memorandum and to threat for going on an indefinite hunger strike in case he is not authorized to construct a pucca house there on the place of the hut. Everything is possible in democracy. On the next day, leaders of some political party in opposition may come to support him and make an issue. The man may accumulate hundreds and thousands of people to cry slogans. These are the ways democracies function now a day in some parts of the world. But, these things appear to be immoral. Likewise the memorandum submission and act of threatening the administration, though it may be right as per the human rights principles, seems improper and a little immoral too.

During the time this Hindi daily was reporting the events of people being bitten by the Hyena, and more and more of the victims of Hyena biting were reaching to the Rajendra Institute of Medical Science, Ranchi and anti-rabies vaccines were being collected on war footing – a local person informed me that villagers go into the forest (which has no longer remained dense, and there is no core zone or denser area in the middle) to collect forest produce or to cut trees and twigs, the hyena who lived there attacked on them. Though the story is very painful, precautions could have been taken to escape the tragedy. The villagers living in the nearby areas report that once there was a dense forest where there is the village now. The people cleared the forest, extended their agriculture- land by grabbing the forest land and settled there. Though our tribal people have been living in the forests since time immemorial, they tend to protect forests, and know how to live in such areas. They have always been nature lovers and protected the nature as they think they can not survive without it. So, who were these people and what led to these accidents are matters of worry but ... strange.

Since the government in India … is “by the people, for the people and of the people”, it can not check people against doing what ever they want to. If something happens even slightly negative on the part of the people while concerned authorities try to go with the law of the country, the government- forming people can go up to any distance to please their people- an officer can be blamed or suspended, some enquiry can be set up against him or he may be forced to issue orders to kill the animal. What is important here is the event management. Who ever is weak, he is sure to loose. The people will keep on forming Hathi Bhagao Struggle Councils – though the name itself appears to be against the Wildlife (Protection) Law, and one may wonder how an organization with the name like this can get its legal status, and shoot at sight –orders may continue to be signed till all the Wild Animals assemble to form their party and win in the election to chase away the land grabbers, forest destroyers and gunners. But sorry, because it seems to be impossible. Men alone, will have to do everything - to check the habitat destruction, to protect the people from the sides of wild animals, and to protect and regenerate the forests, and yes to stop the land grabbing.

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