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- The government has come up with an amended Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) and called for public responses.
What the editorial is about?
- The need/demand for a relook at our flawed wildlife protection regime that has precipitated a humongous human-wildlife conflict throughout India.
The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021
- The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in December 2021.
- The Bill amends the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
- The Act regulates the protection of wild animals, birds and plants.
- The Bill seeks to increase the species protected under the law, and implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Arguments against the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972
- Under WLPA, people are not free to defend themselves against marauding animals as even driving them out of their homes and crop fields needs official permission.
- Yet the Indian Penal Code, Sections 100 and 103, sanction voluntarily causing death or any other harm to the wrongdoer if:
- An assault by the wrongdoer may reasonably cause apprehension that death or grievous hurt will be the consequence.
- The offence involves the wrongdoer committing house or property trespass or robbery.
- No other country has such a senseless act and bans hunting outside national parks, wildlife sanctuaries or game reserves.
Controlling wildlife populations
- There is an intrinsic tendency for animal numbers to increase unless checked by factors such as predation, diseases, limitation by resources like food or nesting holes, and accidental mortality such as through floods or landslides.
- Humans have played a dominant role in controlling wildlife populations since their origin three lakh years ago.
- Hunting had continued in India till the promulgation of WLPA in 1972.
- Naturally, with total cessation of hunting in India, the numbers of wildlife species have skyrocketed over the last 50 years, and the smart animals have learnt not to fear man.
- It is true that their habitat has been encroached upon, especially by urbanization, highways, railways and mining.
- But even in cases where it is well-maintained as with Pench, Tadoba and Mudumalai Reserves, the tigers are now spilling out and killing people.
- So, more than a thousand people are killed by wild animals like elephants, panthers, tigers and sloth bears while tens of thousands are injured each year in India.
- Losses of crops and property run into thousands of crores.
- This is a crude estimate since the details are shrouded in a cloak of obfuscation.
World rankings as an eye-opener
- Indeed, using the weapon of WLPA, a tyrannical regime controlled by the forest departments, has come to prevail all over our country.
- This oppression is counterproductive and has led to India sinking in the world rankings to 177 out of 180 in environmental performance and 139 out of 149 in happiness.
Need of the hour
- India must take a leaf out of Swedes, who declare that wildlife is a renewable resource that should be managed through regulated hunting involving decentralized decision-making by empowering local stakeholders.
Maintain India’s pluralistic nature
- India is a pluralistic country with a diversity of cultures and ways of making livelihoods, associated with a variety of food habits and taboos.
Use people at the grassroots
- Our people at the grassroots are motivated to protect the environment and have many still living traditions of conservation.
- Ensuring that they can play their rightful role in our democracy is the challenge before us.
- If wild animals come out of national parks, sanctuaries and reserve forests, people of concerned local bodies should have the right to either demand payment for tolerating them or cull them and use the various body products as they wish.
- What our country desperately needs is a full and fair play of reason, good sense and tolerance when it comes to the wildlife protection strategy.