Hunt the poacher

The Statesman , Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Correspondent : Staff Reporter
Protect the habitat

If there is anything “positive” to emerge from the current flare-up over vanishing tigers it is unanimity that poaching is the immediate problem. It ought to be easier to tackle than other impediments like a shrinking habitat and disease resulting from close proximity to domesticated cattle. The poacher is a criminal, and so a concerted policing exercise could either trap him or cripple his functioning. It is imperative that police forces set up crack teams of investigators to hunt down poachers and those involved in masterminding their operations as well as selling the skins, claws, fat, bones and so on of the animals they slaughter. Simultaneously, strong police squads must be deployed around game parks to supplement efforts of wardens and protect them against the poaching gangs. That kind of police mission might not be easy to mount, but it is not impossible. Clearly there has been laxity on the part of the law-enforcing agencies or why else is the name of Sansar Chand suddenly cropping up as the kingpin of the illegal trade? If the police were aware of his gang, why was so little done to check its activity? Still, a signal to the cops that they had better get their act together can produce results.

The larger issue of a significant upgrade in the management of wild life parks will be a long-term effort. The just-appointed task force will, hopefully, come up with specific recommendations though the underlying causes of the malady are generally well known: essentially the result of the political and administrative leadership according conservation very low priority, and obviously not bothering to deal with the problems that resulted from that indifference. Now that the Prime Minister has made no secret of his dismay at the manner in which wild life is managed (mismanaged?) some improvement can be expected. But it will have to be sustained, habitat-protection has to be a permanent task. Dr Manmohan Singh will also do well to inject accountability into the system — starting with the Ministry. Its excuse that the sanctuaries fall within the jurisdiction of the states is pathetic and does not even qualify as an excuse. Clearly there has been an appalling lack of leadership and supervision — political and bureaucratic. The first step in the fresh battle to save the tiger must be a revitalised Paryavaran Bhawan.

SOURCE : The statesman, Tuesday, April 19, 2005

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