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Green poetry

On October 15, 2003, the Prime Minister (PM) attended the first meeting of the new all-powerful Indian Wildlife Board. He gave a virtuoso performance. In green-poetical terms, he said: "We need 'people-centred conservation' approaches with the participation of all stakeholder groups in decision-making." Then Union minister of environment and forests T R Baalu took over proceedings, proving how pure this genre is. He coerced the board to ratify six pre-concluded resolutions; then 'convinced' members to overrule its own committee and give away prime protected land for oil exploration, at two-fifth the suggested cost

 
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015 | 21:11:47 PM

-- ON OCTOBER 15, 2003, the Prime Minister (PM) attended the first meeting of the new all-powerful Indian Wildlife Board. He gave a virtuoso performance. In green-poetical terms, he said: "We need 'people-centred conservation' approaches with the participation of all stakeholder groups in decision-making." Then Union minister of environment and forests T R Baalu took over proceedings, proving how pure this genre is. He coerced the board to ratify six pre-concluded resolutions; then 'convinced' members to overrule its own committee and give away prime protected land for oil exploration, at two-fifth the suggested cost (see: Overruled!).

But let's look at what the prime minister forgot to mention. He forgot to tell the wildlife board of the consternation caused, in the corridors of power, by the decision of the Karnataka high court to halt mining in Kudremukh National Park. He forgot to mention the subsequent decision his cabinet took: taking control of the environmental committees set up by the Supreme Court under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, a brazen move to sidestep an ecologically proactive judiciary. Did he speak of the recorded incidents of illegal or unauthorised industrial activity in protected areas during his tenure, which Baalu's ministry defends in the courts? Of course not.

But it is possible our poet-PM rules in ignorance. It is possible he doesn't know of the thousands of impoverished villagers in Gujarat who cannot harvest the bamboo they brought to maturity under a joint forest management scheme, because the government would rather let it rot than let people reap the fruit of their activity. But could it be that he missed the hundreds of articles on this encroachment-removal debacle in the media, and the desperate missives flying all over grassroots networks? Has Baalu informed him of the investigations and raids of the Lokayukta of Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka, that have revealed the rot of money siphoned off from what he called -- in the meeting -- 'people-centred conservation'? Does he know that most of the faculty in India's 'premier' institute of wildlife research -- the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India -- spends more time defending charges of corruption than putting out research in the public domain?

The last thing Indian wildlife needs is poetic representation. It survives in harsh reality. Could the PM -- or is it his speech-writers? -- get real?

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