Blue bulls, wild boars not pests, Shaminder Boparai tells Govt

In a controversial move, environment minister Prakash Javadekar recently announced that state governments will soon be permitted to hunt animals such as blue bull and wild boar in high human-animal conflict zones. In protest against the move, conservationist and wildlife expert Shaminder Boparai has written an open letter to the environment ministry.  The Goodwill Project presents his compelling argument.

(Photos courtesy Shaminder Boparai)

Shaminder Boparai
Shaminder Boparai

Dear Sir,

Subject: Some hard facts against the government’s decision to declare some animals like Blue Bull and Wild Boar as vermin.

I would like to bring to your notice the following statement of the environment minister Prakash Javadkar:

 

In areas where farmers are facing huge problems due to animals, there is a procedure to declare them as ‘vermin’ like blue bull and wild boar for a particular period of time. We will give them (states) permission to declare such animals as vermin,”

The minister clarified that it was not an unusual move as there was provision to declare wild animals listed in various Schedules of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972 as vermin and it has been so in the past as well.

I would like to quote the Hindustan Times for a revert to the statement, “In a controversial move, the environment ministry will soon give permission to state governments to hunt animals in high human-animal conflict zone. Under the procedure, the ministry would notify a particular animal as vermin (pests) based on the recommendations of the state government. Once notified, the states would be free to hunt these animals for a limited period of time.”

Even if the minister says for a limited period, as per his statement, what effect can the whole issue have in places where the local wildlife has its back against the wall?

The news in The Tribune on 24th June 2015, cited the environment minister’s excuse that the Chief Wildlife Warden himself has proposed to the state government that farmers be allowed to kill animals like Blue Bull/Neel Gai and Wild Boar.

I am shocked with insensitive, non-measured and short-sightedness of the environment minister’s approach on the subject; and an equally numb, unprofessional and debunked approach of the Wildlife Department of Punjab. It is a sad day for the country wherein the people who were supposed to be the protectors of Wildlife have turned into advocators for the death warrants of what is left of a miniscule wildlife in the state; instead of standing up for those without a voice they are proposing their culling.

Culling under Wildlife Management is the last resort; after translocation and contraception have failed or have been ruled out. It is a shame that the poor animals are being treated as commodities by the Wildlife Department.

The reason for this culling is that they have increased in numbers and are destroying or over grazing the farmer’s crops but conversely speaking density of wildlife populations have increased as a consequence of a reduction in natural predators, loss of wildlife habitat, and increases in suburban development and agricultural land. Now are we correct in blaming these animals for the production loss? There seems to be nobody answering that. What about the rich people who have taken over the government land? The forest land; the panchayat land; the shamlat land;…who is going to book them…I guess none.

IMG_1641I would like to quote the environment minister in this regard wherein he has said that with the climate change there is a decrease in production and resultantly to cover the loss if need be under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972 he can declare theses animals as vermin and it has been done in the past also for which ever states in our country who want to issue permits to kill such animals.

The climate change is happening due to human greed and the animals are not responsible for it and to bring upon them this calamity is not the answer and such short term methods to solve loss in productivity are not the answer to the problem. The world has already witnessed such cases and nature has hit back with all its fury; once such experiments are conducted.

The western world is already reeling under the effects of mass culling and we want to follow them??? Having learnt their lessons from culling they are learning to live with it and are adopting conservation in a major way whereas our country is following it in a reverse direction.

*History is witness to the time when the western world shot down its Wolf population for they were considered a non wanted wildlife in the 18th century…as a result they were hunted down to near extinction. Once the Wolves were gone, the Elk population began to rise resulting in the ecosystem being deteriorated. Today the very same people want to reintroduce the Wolf as a top of the line predator, because they are sick of acting as god and issuing licenses to eliminate eliminating over populating Elk population in the absence of a top of the line predator.

*Mao the Chinese premier declared a campaign against the ‘Four Pests’. In 1958 it was initiated as a hygiene campaign by Mao Zedong, who identified the need to exterminate mosquitoes, flies, rats, and sparrows. Sparrows – mainly the Eurasian tree sparrow were included on the list because they ate grain seeds, robbing the people of the fruits of their labour. The masses of China were mobilized to eradicate the birds, and citizens took to banging pots and pans or beating drums to scare the birds from landing, forcing them to fly until they fell from the sky in exhaustion. Sparrow nests were torn down, eggs were broken, and nestlings were killed. Sparrows and other birds were shot down from the sky, resulting in the near-extinction of the birds in China. Non-material rewards and recognition were offered to schools, work units and government agencies in accordance with the volume of pests they had killed.

*By April 1960, Chinese leaders realized that sparrows ate a large amount of insects, as well as grains. Rather than being increased, rice yields after the campaign were substantially decreased. Mao ordered the end of the campaign against sparrows. By this time, however, it was too late. With no sparrows to eat them, locust populations ballooned, swarming the country and compounding the ecological problems already caused by the Great Leap Forward, including widespread deforestation and misuse of poisons and pesticides. Ecological imbalance is credited with exacerbating the Great Chinese Famine, in which at least 20 million people died of starvation.

*In 1959, Chinese leader Mao declared the south China Tiger ‘a pest’ and the overall population of the subspecies dropped from 4000 to a mere 200 in a few years. In 1977, the Chinese government reversed the decision but by then it was too late and the remaining tigers failed to survive in the wild.

*Historically there are examples where culling has been used to manage disease transmission in wildlife. Among the most studied is the use of culling to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in Badgers in South West England (Badgers are persecuted because they are blamed for spreading the bovine tuberculosis disease to cattle). A culling program was initiated in 1975 to remove badgers from areas where their potential contact with cattle was high. After some apparent success in reducing the number of badgers testing TB positive and farm infections of cattle during the first 10 years of the program, the trend reversed in subsequent years. By 1996, incidences of TB in Badgers and Cattle were as great as when the study began. Scientists evaluating the results suggested that the program may have failed. Scientific studies have shown that killing badgers is ineffective in reducing TB in cattle.

*Finally the scientists reached on the following consensus that the methods that could be used to control the disease include trapping and vaccinating Badgers (as happens in Wales) and preventing the spread of the disease amongst cattle were more fruitful.

*Seals are slaughtered on the ice floes off Canada’s east coast. The Canadian government claims that the harp seal population needs to be culled to protect the North Atlantic Cod fishery. Young seals are cruelly shot or clubbed and skinned so that their pelts can be sold. The profit motive is the real reason for the cull. In truth the North Atlantic cod fishery declined because of past over-fishing (by the same fishermen who are now killing seals) and not because the seals ate all the fish!

* In UK post the culling of the white tail deer scientists realized that since the deer’s are territorial by nature; and the place where culling had taken place more deer’s were running into the same area sighting a vacant territory. Moreover it was also noticed deer’s do not need culling; for when the species is hard pressed for food nature has an inbuilt mechanism, whereby they produce lesser fawn per year.

*Culling of Cormorants foxes and squirrels have had far reaching consequences as history has seen world over.

*Now coming to culling in our country; back in India in 1976, Rajasthan had placed Foxes and Jackals in Schedule V as they were considered a “nuisance” but were listed in Schedule II in 1988 after they were poached indiscriminately and reached the verge of extinction.

*In the 1950’s and 1960’s in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh the outside settlers (people from Pakistan who were given land after partition in the state) in the state demanded license in the name of crop protection; for the entire area in which they were resettled was a forested area. Hence gun licenses were issued to all and sundry in the name of crop protection. Eventually these guns formed the basis of the Naxalite movement which engulfed the state for over a decade or more.

Whenever Culling has taken place it has impacted the eco system adversely. The world has witnessed this time and again. In India we consider a God to be in each and every animal and we have co-existed with them for centuries. Hindu mythology has plenty of examples which speak of it. Then how can we ape the west and show such disregard to the plight of animals.

The rise in human-animal conflict is only to be expected when human settlements have been encroaching on forest land and other animal habitats for centuries. And now, from threatening animals’ right to live, the Centre’s move is outright elimination of these animals.

Now I would like to bring you to the crux of the problem wherein I would like to quote the environment minister himself admitting to the shortage of fodder in the wildlife areas… I quote, “The availability of fodder and water in a forest is very crucial as the lack of it encourages animals to come out for food,” he says.

Now if the minister agrees to the shortage of food and water in the forest…Then what are the people who are managing these places wherein this wildlife is supposed to dwell doing? It clearly means that they are not doing their job cleanly and efficiently. It is a complete collapse of the wildlife department in the states who are asking for the killing of these animals.

What about the grassland management of the wildlife supporting places and stopping it from human interference. It is the job of the wildlife department of the states to make sure that these areas are left alone. For the wildlife department officials are itself busy making a quick buck. Efficient grassland management is a subject which the forest department of every state needs to master but no sincere efforts are being done to master the subject. These animals need fresh green shoots to nibble upon but due to lack of proper grassland management there is no steady supply of the same. Due to improper management, the grass in the forest becomes coarse and hard to nibble upon and these animals only then venture out outside the forest to the Farmers’ fields. Now whose fault is this… the local wildlife or the Forest Officials?

If culling is the need of the hour…then! Why should the ordinary tax payers’ money be wasted to maintain these wildlife departments and lakhs paid as their salaries and perks?

Just imagine providing protection to kill animals which have mistakenly wandered off into fields; how many will be killed? We all know…perhaps all…and as it is in our country…who is going to check? None…it is going to be a free for all.

Blue bull
Blue bull

Going into the process of culling (from the minute of the meeting between the wildlife officials of the states and the Minister for Agriculture) (report attached alongside) I have found that they want to empower the Tehsildar first to issue permits for the eradication of these animals and follow it up by empowering the Panchyats and Sarpanches for issuing of the permits. Knowing the corruption scenario in our country do you think this can work? Knowing very well these are the same people who have looted the State Governments and the country of valuable state property in terms of forest land etc. It is like simply playing in the hands of the people who have encroached on vast tracks of forest land and now want to destroy or eliminate the last remaining pieces of forest land. For once if there is no wildlife left in the area they can easily get the land de-notified as non forest land for a mega project to be shortlisted upon it.

I would also like to question the government in context with the hunting permits to be distributed by the Tesildar following it up with the Panchayats and the Sarpanches at a later stage.

Sir, you will be well aware that not every farmer in India has a gun in his house especially the ones who are very poor (this scheme well is targeted towards the loss to the poor farmer) then what does the government propose when these farmers will apply for the gun licenses in the name of crop protection. Or else will the redundant and non performing Forest and Wildlife Department distribute guns on rent (for that will be the only work left for them post this ordinance) for these farmers to kill these animals? Or else there is some kind of a hidden agenda to pass or distribute guns in every rural house hold by the government? Can you understand the probable law and order risk.

Also I would like to bring to your notice as per the proposal in case the ministry grants permit for hunting of blue bulls or any vermin declared by the government; the remains of the kill like the skin, meat is handed over to the forest department. With corruption running in the forest departments ranks from top to bottom do you think it is possible? Who is going to check? All this meat will end up in the refrigerators of the rich farmers for them to party.

Just imagine providing protection to kill animals which have mistakenly wandered off into fields; how many will be killed? Perhaps all…and as it is in our country…Who is going to check? None…it is going to be free for all.

Question is… who will be the loser? We will be the losers for we will slowly loose our lungs through which this fragile environment breathes.

Question is who will be the eventual losers in the short run? It will be the top of the line predators, which will lose their prey base. For the Wild Boar is the staple diet of the Tiger and the Leopard. We will eventually see the Tigers and Leopards running amongst us for the shortage of its prey base. It is already happening with all these Leopards running amok in the cities. It is happening for two reasons the forests are being vandalized and exploited by the humans and secondly their prey base is running toward human settlements for the shortage of food in the jungle.

Who is at fault for a deplorable scenario?? The wildlife department of the states; for it has been debated for years that an IFS (Indian Forest Service) employee who has no interest in working in the forests comes for the job as this was his last resort…for he had envisioned to be commissioned as an IAS, IPS, IRS and posted in swanky town of India but the truth is the IFS category is last on the priority of a Civil Services aspirant. For the exams are separate but the general catchment area is the same as majority of the civil service aspirants run for the exams of the Indian Forest Service. We need to end this Babu Raj! We need to rethink on the selection of personnel for the forest service. We also need to bring in the Ex Army personnel for their experience in surviving in such harsh conditions. I know that IFS has a provision for ex service men from short service commission to apply in IFS. But I feel we also need to think to hire the services of ex army men from full service commission to assist here. For most of our borders are heavily forested areas I have personally seen the non cooperation between the BSF/SSB/CRPF and the local wildlife department.

Another aspect is the state government has failed or delayed along with the centre government in announcing some of the forest as sanctuaries or protected zones for the local wildlife. Failing which these forested areas have been totally vandalized by people living on the periphery or in it. The local wildlife is left with no option to run out of these no longer safe havens and the result is man-animal conflict. These so called areas had already seen the loss of the top of the line predator that is the tiger and the subordinate predator is also threatened with humans killing them or the local wildlife department catching them and putting them in the local zoos. Moreover both the Blue bull and Wild boar being the staple diet of the Big Cat’s i.e. the Tiger and the Leopard… by doing so aren’t we disrupting the food chain? What if the big cats start running to cities after their food supply has been disrupted then we will have to declare them also vermin or what the list of probable animals to be declared vermin is also monkeys? So one would like to ask the BJP government which wants to make Ram Mandir but what about Ram’s best friend and biggest devotee ‘the Monkey’. They want to eradicate it??

I would like to bring here on the table as it has been cited by the forest minister that the pulses crop has been affected by the Blue Bulls. Being farmer myself, I know parrots are also ones which like to feed on the pulses crop so like the Chinese dictator Mao are we going to declare Parrots also vermins? I would like to share with you that Parrots like to feed or forage on Silk Cotton Tree flowers but under hand the rangers in cahoots with the local mafia robbed all the silk cotton of all the flowers from the government road sides to anywhere around the towns. Large gunny bags were filed up which stocked these flowers. For the flower buds are used as vegetable in the whole of Western UP. Now if we were to vandalise like this and rob the poor animal of its staple diet then it will be left with no option but to forage on farmers fields. Who is responsible for this? The local rangers who for the lure of some money allowed this to happen and then why are we blaming the animals? These local rangers were supposed to protect the interest of the animals and that’s what they are paid for! Finally look for what interest and what are they working for?

Question is why does the government not plant more fruit trees in the forest? Why does the government not start an extensive program to plant fruit trees in the idle lying government land and protect it from vandalism by humans. So that the Monkeys do not come in search of food in cites. Well it is simple you really do not need rocket science as the saying goes to solve some minor issues with the local wildlife but it does require some will and some sincerity toward your community and the nation. Who cares it is all about rich lobbies and mega vote banks and to top it all the animals neither can speak nor have the right to vote so they are not important to the politicians…who are the decision makers in our country.

There are alternatives to culling as the world has realized now. Deciding which animals live or die is interfering with the process of natural selection. It is not man’s role to play God. Animals have been here as long as humans and man has no right to kill them. Animals deserve rights and it is not up to humans to make decisions for them.

 

I would like to quote from the minutes of the meeting held for the control of blue bulls held on 17.11.2009 in ICAR’s committee room no. 1, Krishi Bhawan under the chairmanship of the Agriculture minister, Govt. of India (report can be downloaded from the net as ‘Minutes of the brainstorming session for the control of the blue bull held on 17.11.2009 at 11.00AM in ICAR’s committee Room no.1, Krishi Bhawn, New Delhi under the chairmanship of the Agriculture Commissioner, Govt. of India) and following were the suggestion given by one of the participants from Uttar Pradesh:

*Killing of the animal was reported to be difficult due to social/religious sentiments as it called a ‘Gai’. He suggested general measures as barbed wire/bamboo fencing; plantation of Jatropha along the borders of the crop fields; cultivation of aromatic plants as Basil, Menthe, Zerenium, Opium, Lemon Grass, Citronella and Plum Rosa, etc; erecting human effigy, burning crackers and specific watching of crop fields and the application of Kamdhenu bio pesticides wherein a mix of 20 liters of cow urine,5kg neem and 1.5kg of dry chilli and kept air tight for 40 days works very well for the effective control of Blue Bull menace. Infact , Jatropha plantation has been suggested by other members also as a very effective way.

*Also a participant from Agribusiness Management Centre KVK Barabanki suggested the use of paraffin base from Indian Oil and organic sources in repelling the Blue Bulls and keeping them away from fields.

*Moreover it was time and again discussed…why are the farmers not compensated timely for the loss? Which is a Government of India policy and a state subject so that this man animal conflict does not take this shape.

* Shocking it was a member from Haryana wanted to change the name of the Blue Bull to ‘Banrose’ and have an active publicity on it so that the ‘gai’ suffix people forget and hence he says it would be easier for them to kill it.

* The loss as suggested by Bihar is 1.35 crore annually (as per the report)and if we see the money spent by the politicians annually on their well being, this bit of amount as compensation is nothing in a state budget. (Knowing very well that these days the Chief Ministers convoy has at least 2-4 cars which are valued at app. anywhere from 50lakhs-1.25crore each).

I would also like to bring on the table that states which have little forested areas are keener to opt for this killing spree and I wonder why the government not makes it mandatory for the states to have the average green cover prevalent in India made mandatory for every state to maintain. In that way states like Bihar, UP, MP are not the only states required to maintain green spaces. For we know there is a mad race for economic development being fought by every state. It should left to some states to act as lungs of the nation and the rest keep minimizing their forests to serve their exchequer requirements. .

Even if the minister says for a limited period as per his statement but what effect can the whole issue have in places where the local wildlife has its back against the wall?

Lack of interest on the part of the State Governments: Since the state government has to run the national parks, sanctuaries or these wildlife or forested spaces under the guidance of the Ministry of the wildlife but unfortunately the stark reality is that the state governments cannot and will not resist the pressure of their voting public. To the general public around the tiger or other predatory big cat habitat areas, tigers/big cats are a potential danger to their lives and livelihood. Wildlife appears to have no rational reason to justify its existence, if merely judged by a resource potential. A predator kills human livestock, the deer grazes the agricultural crops; birds feed on the ripening grain and are therefore are against the human interests. Moreover with the state governments more being elected on the basis of cast, creed, language, and regional parties finding more favours from the vote bank, perhaps saving the tiger/leopard and the wildlife is not a part of their ideology or even their manifestos. The interest of the general public since they form their vote banks is of utmost importance to the Chief Minister of these states. Hence, the magnificent tiger/leopard/local wildlife bears no semblance or reward if saved. Moreover coupled with it, with regional parties forming majority of the state governments in our home states and because saving the tiger/leopard/local wild life/forested areas is not a part or a focus of their ideology, the situation has become very grim and bleak as on majority of the occasions the state governments are working in complete opposite of what the centre government proposes.

There is now a growing knowledge and awareness of the dangers which threaten our civilization, but the knowledge by itself not sufficient. Wisdom is also required, but in spite of it all the political expediency governs action in most of the spheres of nation building activities. Sixty years ago when our constitution was drafted, forests were allotted a state subject. With the kind of environmental degradation taking place today, the Constitution should be more flexible, and in matters pertaining to safeguarding the interest of the Nation, it should not be necessary to have an extensive legislative enactment for such amendments. For such a process tends to perpetuate a procedure which has been proved to be wrong in the light of experience.

The time has come in India for us to realize that commercial forestry and wildlife management are two opposite ends and cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be run by the same administrative facility. The Forest Department requires felling to maximize the timber yields from the forest. Wildlife loses habitat with each tree which is felled. Therefore, coexistence is not possible. Both the departments should be separated out; the wildlife department should be made bought under the ambient of the Tourism department, because wildlife can be a major revenue earner for the government, if properly nurtured.

The wildlife areas should be made free of unrestricted human intervention. Perhaps where ever required, fencing should be done, to reduce man-animal amalgamation. All forested areas should be sacrosanct, and no intrusion should be allowed beyond a controlled tourism. We need to equip all the forest guards and provide complete backup and infrastructure and legal support. For this; the forest guards should be extensively trained and developed by a group of ex-service men from our armed forces, perhaps the Special Task Force specially anointed for the purpose should be given the charge of developing the physical and mental standards of the forests guards and preference should be given to ex-servicemen. Time has now come to get rid of the chowkidar system which was introduced by the British to protect the forests.

One of America’s leading neuroscientists concludes that both animals and humans have brains wired to feel emotions, and that animals have the capacity to experience pleasure and happiness from their lives. For this reason, there are those who believe that culling animals is morally wrong.

Some argue that culling is necessary when biodiversity is threatened. However, the protection of biodiversity argument has been questioned by some animal rights advocates who point out that the animal which most greatly threatens and damages biodiversity is humanity, so if we are not willing to cull our own species we cannot morally justify culling another.

Finally I would like to bring to the fore a very important statement by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), a farmer’s collective that has approached the government seeking relief for crops damaged by Blue Bulls, has clarified that its only intention was to save crops. We only want that the Nilgais remain in forest and not harm the farmers,” says Narendra Tikait, a BKU leader. ? The government should look for alternative options such as controlling their population by rendering them infertile or by moving them to forests,” he adds.

I think it is very evidently clear the farmers are not interested in getting these animals killed. It is the State Governments and the Central Governments which want to wash off their hands in distributing the compensation for the loss to the farmers. So a plan has been hatched wherein the farmers will be given the right to kill any such animal which walks into their field and the state governments will wash their hands of the compensation which was supposed to be paid by the state against the damage done to the farmer’s crop.

Now the question is who is the government is trying to please by taking such a controversial decision? I think the land mafia is getting stronger day by day as our population grows; shortage of space is evident and it is bound to happen. Along with the support of the local and central leadership they now want to evict the animals of their last bastions for some mega projects and so on and so forth. This is what economic development is? In the name of economic development these people are serving us poison…please take note of it or else we along with the ones who do not have a voice stand to lose it all.

Let’s stand up strongly for those who do not have a voice.

With warm regards,

Shaminder Boparai

Author & writer

P.S: Besides being a conservationist and an avid wildlifer; I am also a farmer in the Terai region namely Palia on the periphery of Dudhwa National Park and have been associated with the famous world-renowned conservationist Billy Arjan Singh for a number of years. I have been working for some years in converting my farm into a jungle by planting tress so that the local wildlife can find food and safe haven at my farm (which is on the periphery of the forest) and had been advocating to numerous other farmers to do the same. In the process making them aware to earn money through wildlife tourism and making sure that the other farmers who want to pursue farming the local wildlife does not go into their fields.   There are lot of way were by government can implement such schemes whereby the man-animal conflict can be bare minimal. Government can create new sanctuaries were sops can be given for tourism and revenue can be generated through tourism, instead of killing and destroying the local wildlife.

(Get in touch with Shaminder at shaminder@activeclothing.org)

 

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