Culling Nilgais in Bihar: Is Killing Animals the Solution?
Bihar government had asked the Centre to allow them to kill nilgai because acres of crops were being destroyed.
It seems that Bihar is enjoying a game season, courtesy the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Visuals of Asia’s largest antelope being gunned down reminds us of colonial game hunters. Never in the history of this country has such a massacre been conducted by a Forest Minister.
It all started with a provocative advisory, issued by the Environment Ministry, months after Prakash Javadekar was crowned their king. The advisory invited proposals from the states so that the Centre could declare wild animals as vermin – essentially meaning that all protection will be taken away from such species in that state and they can be killed as rats and mice.
No accountability, no process, no impact assessment – even the dead bodies are free to be misused!
Nilgais Are Vermin: Bihar Government
So far five states have responded to this advisory. Bihar asked wild boar and nilgai to be declared vermin, Himachal asked for rhesus monkeys to be declared so, and Maharashtra wants wild boars and nilgais exterminated. Uttarakhand wants the wild boar population to go down, while Gujarat also wants nilgais to be declared vermin. Proposals from Bihar, Uttarakhand and Himachal have been considered worthy by the Ministry, and Gujarat and Maharashtra are under ‘active consideration’.
A perusal of the proposals sent by the states shows a complete degeneration of the forest department in India. Neither has a single state shown any efforts made towards mitigation of man-animal conflicts, nor have they conducted a scientific census of the animals.
No survey has been conducted to determine the carrying capacity of the forests, and the reasons why these shy herbivores are venturing into human habitation. The proposals simply claim that crop damage has been reported and the politicians of the state are having to face inconvenient situations.
200 Nilgais Shot Dead in Bihar
- About 200 nilgai or blue bulls have been shot dead in Bihar in the last six days.
- Bihar government had asked the Centre to allow professional shooters to kill nilgais because acres of crops are being destroyed.
- According to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Bihar sought protection for farmers, and therefore, he had to agree .
- Maneka Gandhi opines that states are being encouraged to seek licenses to kill animals.
- The ecological imbalance this is creating will be irreparable.
Not a single state has been able to prove to the Ministry that due diligence was done and yet there was failure to curb the conflict. The Ministry has overlooked such minor omissions.
There is indeed growing man animal conflict, but there is a pregnant silence regarding the reasons of such conflicts. The fact that habitat destruction is the single biggest cause for man-animal conflict, could not find its way in the Ministry files. Almost every forest range has massive encroachment. The continuous forests of the past have been fragmented into scanty patches and left without corridors. Any animal movement from one place to another in search of water or food, is necessarily through habitation.
Mining in reserve forests is on the rise and sanctions are being granted left right and centre without regard to the fact that it would force the panic stricken wild animals out of the forests. Monoculture of timber varieties and annihilation of the mixed forests, add to that growing dumping grounds for solid waste on forest fringes is making animals venture out for food.
Buffer zones have been de-notified as unnecessary by Javadekar and permissions to convert land use and convert jungles into industrial areas are given without regard to the impact it would have on the man animal conflict.
How Can the Man-Conflict be Resolved?
It is claimed by the IG Forest, SK Khanduri, that the provision in law used by the Ministry in these cases, existed since 1972. He failed to mention that not a single Forest Minister in the history of India was foolish enough to use it in such an arbitrary and unscientific manner, defeating the purpose and the objective of the Wildlife Protection Act and the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
Goa wants to kill peacocks, West Bengal find elephants inconvenient, UP find it problematic to deal with monkeys and a very cooperative Ministry looks the other way if they cannot make out a case and obliges them with a license anyway. Khanduri also omitted to mention that the provocation for such demands has been given by the Ministry by issuing a very misleading advisory in December 2014. All pretences have been abandoned now and its open war against the environment.
The overall mismanagement of the forests and rampant destruction of habitat over decades, suddenly accelerated in the past two years in an unprecedented manner, in responsible for the growth in man-animal conflict. The politically motivated shortcut of a genocide will not solve the problem but aggravate it further.
Once the prey species are exterminated, the predators will have to be massacred, because they will venture into habitation. The ecological imbalance this is creating will be irreparable. But by then, everyone would have earned their brownie points and left. It is indeed the beginning of the end of a glorious era of ahimsa and coexistence.
(The writer is a New Delhi-based animal rights activist)
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