Wildlife & Biodiversity

Can’t do without support: Wildlife Institute chief writes to environment ministry

The Union finance ministry on September 30, 2020 recommended that MoEF&CC ‘disengage’ from five autonomous institutions, including Wildlife Institute of India 

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Tuesday 20 October 2020

The functioning of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) will not be viable without the support of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), WII Director Dhananjai Mohan wrote to the ministry October 15, 2020. 

The letter, accessed by DTE, was against the proposed disengagement of WII an autonomous institution under MoEF&CC.

The Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, in its report September 30 on rationalisation of autonomous bodies under the MoEF&CC recommended that the ministry “disengage” from five autonomous institutions under it — including WII. The proposal also seeks to reduce WII’s funding by 25 per cent each year and turn the institute into a deemed university. 

Mohan wrote the letter to MoEF&CC Joint Director, Wildlife Division, R Gopinath. It said the institute has 112 serving employees and 65 pensioners, and that it gets annual expenditure of Rs 34 crore in grant-in-aid from the ministry. 

According to the letter:

The institute raises a meagre Rs 3.50 crore a year on account of its consultancy and advisory services to various departments. This amount is used to cover pension liabilities of its employees appointed before 01.04.2004 for which currently it is insufficient.

The letter added that raising funds from the institute’s two Masters’ programme — one in Wildlife Science and another in Heritage Management and Conservation — with a maximum intake of 20 students each every alternate year would not be possible without the ministry’s support. 

The institute had approached University Grants Commission on two occasions to seek the ‘deemed university’ status, but was refused since it did not have the adequate number of courses and students.  

“The institute gets no revenue from course fees. These courses fill in the need of the nation to provide professional wildlife biologists and, therefore, are funded in limited number by the Union government,” the letter stated (sic). 

WII also provides scientific assessments of projects appraised under the Environment Impact Assessment notification, 2006. Dissociating the institute from Union ministry would lead to conflict of interest during undertaking of these projects, for funding would have to be sought directly from agencies the reports would be prepared for, Mohan said in the letter. 

Currently, the MoEF&CC coordinates funds from these agencies for WII. 

“Given the above facts and the institute’s inability to generate adequate resources due to its limited and highly specialised scope, the proposal to disengage the institute from MoEFCC will not be viable,” the letter said. 

WII is an autonomous institute under MoEF&CC and trains students to be wildlife biologists in India. The institute has a laboratory for wildlife forensics; the reports generated there have the credibility to stand in the court of law.

The institute has provided the scientific basis to drive the policy of various conservation initiatives, including conservation of tigers, Gangetic dolphin, great Indian bustard, Sangai, the Gangetic river system and the recovery of biodiversity as well as climate change-associated conservation initiatives.

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