Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tiger Conservation and Man’s dependence on Land

Couching at the comfort of our homes against mainly China-made computer running on American software sipping coffee from the beans collected and processed in Karnataka bought from a franchise of British retailer’s shelves in our respective cities powered by either thermal or hydro power it is very easy and cool to lament the fate of tigers in our country. It is rather uncomplicated to raise a voice by merely a click of a mouse and join a chorus of many like us who are concerned about their own and their future generations’ ability to see tiger in open jungles. But have we ever reflected or to be more precise pondered about the implications of our decisions on our fellow human beings, on the jungles, on the animals and on the ecology on a whole.

This furor about Tiger Conservation has being sparked off by a campaign by Aircel (a telecom company) and WWF (an wildlife fund) showing the desperate condition of a young cub waiting for his mother who has being poached by the hunters. This video has evoked many emotional responses from the viewers across the spectrum ranging from moist eyes to poetic lines to instant manifestation of rage. Their website asking for support has become an instant hit with more than 30,000 showing their support on the last count. I to submitted to my sentiments and registered my support and called in for further support.

However, stung by my own inquisitiveness and bitten by eagerness to quench the insatiable thirst of knowledge and to produce some good article on Tiger Conservation I searched for some more information. The results, though were from the usual place, was surprising. Surprising in the sense that what I has got is much more than conservation of Tiger itself.

To see conservation of Tigers in isolation would be a folly and to impose any direct approach of conservation would be disastrous. On the very onset we had to examine various factors that lead to this current situation in order to come up with a solution which just and equitable.

Man and animal both depends on the land, therefore the friction between to the two becomes inevitable. History of tiger hunting follows the same path, initially done to regain land for agriculture and to protect their domesticated animals. Later, it became a sport. As a sport hunting of tiger was linked to valiance of the hunter. This had a reason, because it all started with killing by hands, then by weapon like sword and then by bow and arrow. When guns arrived at the scene, tiger hunting was still seemed to be seen as the sports of brave, even though an entire entourage of servants, helper and guides used to accompany the master and his guests, and had the responsibility to set-up the game. As shown in the short story “Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger” by HH Munro, it had rather became a trivial sport of amusement, a quick road for self gratification.


The people who were the part of this game and who guided the Sahibs were the poor villagers or tribals who lived by the forest. For everything they depended on forests, from food, fodder, wood, everything, in fact their very survival depended on the forests itself. Illiterate and with far from civilization, they killed the animals only for food or clothing or for mere survival; not for commercial exploitation and enjoyment. They have being there for thousands of years, doing the same thing. They treated the forests as their rightful property, until industrial age gave rise to increased dependence of humans on the lands.

From the times immemorial trees have regularly being felled for claiming land for agriculture, whether by these forest dwellers themselves or by other. But by the advent of 18th century, felling proliferated with the advent of Industrial age. Products of the forest had multiple commercial applications, timber, lac, gum, shellacs, skins & hides, almost anything extractable had some commercial application. Further, land on which these forests rested, had enormous quantity of mineral wealth, like coal, gold, iron-ore, copper etc. All these resources led to enactment of various legislations targeted towards streamlining of revenue and the resources towards the imperial masters. Legislations like Indian Forests Act, 1927 were enacted with the sole purpose of levying duty on timber and helping in transit of other forest produce. The main assumption of this specific legislation (and other ancillary laws) was “Local communities were incapable of scientific management and that only a trained centrally organized cadre of officers could properly manage forests”. By “Scientific Forest Management” it is only meant sustained yield of timber and nothing else, it was not related to preservation, leave alone conservation. These legislations effectively made the people of the forests tenants of the very lands of which they were masters. Thereby making their very existence precarious and the necessity became the mother of invention.


Necessity to survive led these people to plan out games for the Sahibs, to grab lands for farming and for hunting animals that came into their new domain. With heavy dependence on land by humans leading to shrinking of forest covers the wild beasts came out in open and became a menace, or game that has to be controlled. And there began the struggle between the man and animal, results of which we are seeing now. But it is not only the animal which had the hard bargain. There are the people of forests, the tribals, the adivasis, and other marginal dwellers who had being and are still be exploited in the name of ‘public good’. First there were the Imperial Masters and now state actors powered with Imperial Legislations but changing the mask of timber extraction into the mask of public good. It was then with only few thousands of Tigers were left the Project Tiger was launched.

Project Tiger is one of the world’s longest running conservation projects, envisaged in the year 1973; it was initially meant for 6 years and was limited to 9 different ecosystems in India. Its main objective was to ensure the maintenance of a viable population of the tiger in India and to preserve, for all times, such areas as part of our national heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of future generations”. The report on which Project Tiger was based was remarkable as it not only showed political realism of the day but also provided an exhaustive blueprint of management systems, administrative framework and legal provision. Even though beginning was clear-sighted, the results are not rosy.

A task force of Indian Board for Wildlife notes in its report in 1983 “growing degree of apathy and indeed, antipathy, towards wildlife among different classes and sections of the public”. Indeed, this antipathy is the direct outcome of fight for survival between man and animal. It is the result of increasing dependence on land. Having pushed people first out of the forests and then to the brink and then into the poverty have a direct bearing this antipathy. A hungry stomach seldom sees any reason and it scarcely submits itself to the logic. The very forest to which they are custodians becomes their prey.

But they are not to be blamed alone. As said earlier, the laws that were made to be subservient to the business interest were kept as they were, and after independence only minor changes were made. The Forests Officials who were supposed to be statutory protector became ad hoc lords of the forests. In collusion with the mafia, big businesses and with the help of police they attacked the tribals and other forest dwellers uprooting them from their lands, so that the forests, or whatever left of it could be used by them. And whatever remained, invited the wrath of the tribal who are now being pushed to the brink. Poaching is one of the outcomes of this flawed system.

At this juncture I can be accused of diverting from the topic. I started with writing about Tiger Conservation but ended up taking cause of tribals and other adivasis. However, somewhat I find these all things interlinked. This current campaign is based upon a survey done in 2008, in exact terms it gave the following results, minimum limit of 1165 maximum limit of 1657 giving an average of 1411. Make no mistakes, minimum is 1165, the number 1411 is just ploy to fool ourselves. The report (Tiger Task Force) also points that leaving the local people out of the benefits of the Tiger program is also one of the major causes for this crisis. The report points out local people, who lived in the territory of the tiger, were left out of the benefits of the programme. They were made illegal settlers in their own land and denied even their basic needs. These ignored people increasingly turned against the tiger. Their contribution in sharing the ecological space of the tiger was never recognised. They continued to lose their livestock, crops and lives to wild animals, but were rarely properly compensated”.

The rehabilitation and relocation of local populace inside the National Parks and Tiger Reserve are rarely done in proper, unquestionable and ethical manner. Though by virtue of few new legislations deforestation have being controlled but the degradation of the forests continues unabated. In the densest forests of the country lies enormous mineral wealth, flora and fauna, but these same forests houses the poorest people of the nation, who after years of exploitation have turned into naxalites. Left winged terrorism amongst tribals in India is only manifestation of lopsided development and conservation efforts where we have failed to recognize the problem and instead focused on managing the situation. There has being cases where the naxals have encouraged the tribals to kill the tigers, there are also cases of tigers being killed out of retaliation. All this is due to alleged failure of the government machinery and too much extent us.

Amidst this enormous hue and cry from the Indian Middle and Upper Middle class to save and revive the remaining Tiger population one thing that is being ignored are the methods that are to be used for such conservation. Though we are being told to raise the awareness by anything but the reason “for enjoyment of future generation” is good or ethical enough, because it is for this enjoyment of hunting and tourism that we have our major animal wealth. Should we raise the question what steps are to be taken for such conservation and what implications it would have on fellow human beings?

One Mahatma once said “There is enough in this world for every one’s need but not for everyone’s greed”. In today’s world we need our daily goods; we need electricity water, paper, computers and many other things. All of these needs directly affect our forests and then the tiger. Dams submerge forests for water and electricity, trees are felled for furniture, agriculture and plantations, forests are dug up for iron, copper and other minerals. Till when our greed will last?

China once had largest population of tigers in the world till 1950’s when it declared them pest and had them wiped out of its landscape. By 1970’s it exhausted its quota of tiger bones used in traditional medicine and turned to importing. The US, UK and other great preacher nations have tarnish record of preserving animal wealth of other countries. Now it is up to us that what record we should have. Should we submit to blatant orthodox conservation practices or should we take our people on board to our development? This question is what we need to raise now.

On this current campaign, though it might be done with good intention, I cannot help myself asking; Is it in response to similar campaign regarding trees by a rival telecom operator? Or it is done with a real intention to make a change.

To conclude I will just quote these line from English poet William Blake

“Great things are done when Men and mountain meet

This is not done by jostling in the street.”

© Tarun Mitra

25 comments:

Sanand said...

This is truly an awesome post. I really appreciate the endeavor to capture the latest information and update us about tiger conservation and also ignite awareness about issues we tend to neglect when we read or talk about tiger conservation in India.

Mridula said...

Tarun that is a very balanced post.

ANULAL said...

Nice post. Nature is the responsibility of every human being.

Megha said...

Yea, it makes me so sad. The royal, beautiful animal is close to extinct..can't imagine.

The adivasis have their own stories. I had watched it in a Nature converstaion program "Earth matters" on DD.

I hope that all the genuine efforts to preserve nature and wild life comes fruitful :)

Anonymous said...

NICE

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Sanand..Thanks..I didn't do anything special I just glanced over the report over which this whole brohaha is raised..and then it struck my brain about some law that was passed about forest rights...nothing special

@ Mridula...Thanks..tried not to overcome by emotions..I am not anti development but cannot also like to see innocent blood in my hand

@Anu...Thanks..yes it is

@Megha...Thanks...your comment just reminded me something that song of U2 and Greenday "saints are coming" on Hurricane Katrina and failure of Bush regime to help the survivors..at the end of the video...there was a disclaimer.."NOT AS SHOWN ON TV"...check that one out and yo will understand why I said this

@ Anon..Thanks..but do give your name while commentig

Anonymous said...

KYUN CHUTIE......... NAAM KI MUTH MAAREGA KYA..?

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Anon....122.162.125.# (ABTS DELHI)Safari 1.3 I think its yours IP...atleast C*** ki spelling toh sahi likh deta...It show how useless you are...

Nalini Hebbar said...

we forgot that we were just animals ...and have become the most dangerous one on earth...a predator whose greed is his undoing...he not only eats too much, he also adorns himself with the remains of his kill...is is any better than the tribals the white man apparently civilized? well, the earth was a better place before the white man decided to teach her his ways!
well informed and well presented article...worth studing

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Nalini...We are now, by our acts, the most dangerous animal. And in the name of civilization we have plundered our brethren, though some was done with a good intention, but profiteering (not profits)and greed soon took precedence and hence the result.

Thanks for reviewing by blogs at Indiblogger :)

Shivani said...

Tarun this is really very well written post and question that is been raised by you at the end is to some extent correct. It may be just to literate people and spread the awareness regarding this issue.watever be the reason but today's generation are actually very serious abt this.

Chakoli said...

To be honest I didnt read it fully... its a looong post :) so apologies for the same....

but what I read... is definitely awesome post....

you know na how sahara desert ws form....

if we have to realize this... we really need more initatives... and awareness....
world without tigers ..... nopes... it should never happen :(

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Shivani...level is seriousness is quite visible...In the race to end we are forgetting the means

@Chakoli..should have read it fully..anyhow thanks for stopping by

Anonymous said...

NOW TELL IN WHICH COUNTRY I AM?

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Anonymous...Who ever you are I am damn sure u are not from a good family. Because what u are doing is not one accord to a good person, whether gentleman or not.

Hari said...

I enjoyed reading it. I often wonder whether the Tiger would save us if we were in their shoes. Extinction is a fact of life. If the dinosaurs did not become extinct we mammals would not exist on the planet.

www.indiafirsthand.com

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Hari..Interesting question you put up here, will tiger? may be not reminded me of a story by Kushwant Singh "Mark of Vishnu"..But somehow Tigers and other scavenger still for part of food chain..This is the most interesting comment I got..thanks and keep visiting

Dick said...

YOU MOTHERFUCKER, YOU FUCKING LOOSER, YOU TALKING ABOUT MY FAMILY.

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Dick/Anon whatever,,,u just vindicated what I had thought about you..it seems u have nothing productive to do..that u drop in here and keep abusing me..i know what type of people and what type of family you do belong and u not helping yourself

Rajesh said...

Extraordinary post. Conserving tiger is every man's duty.

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Rajesh Thanks...:)

Arjit said...

A very well written post. Appreciate your research and hard work, bro!

I too wrote something on the similar grounds – SAVE TIGERS.

http://bit.ly/savetigers :)

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Arijit ....Thanks..u post is also very good satire...

rukhsana said...

The Save Our Tigers campaign seems so unproductive as mentioned in http://theregoesathought.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/save-our-tigers-really/ . I have pasted the campaign widget on my blog but does it really help? And most importantly why should we care? Most people need a personal link to care for a cause. Maybe what is lacking in our Tiger Campaign is just that . If the tiger becomes extinct how much will the economy suffer and most importantly how much will the middle class loose. It all boils down to the money.
Really liked your post. Got me thinking.

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Rukhsana...thanks a lot for providing me link to that blog, It is not only awesome but also stinging reminder of our callousness. It is not only lack of personal cause but also lack of consciousness on the part of the people to think about the problem in hand both subjectively and objectively. But the class we are now is so overdone by demonstration effect that we fail to see thing beyond ourselves....the same thing the same attitude was visible when Pune blast and Silda massacre happened.

Thanks for stoppin by and do visit often