Tiger - Burning Out ! By Nayan Raheja

Thursday 1st January 1970

Powerful, Majestic, Graceful, Mysterious, Dangerous, Stealthy, Enigmatic, Divine, Unimaginably beautiful…some of the words used to describe the Tiger. I wonder how far we are from the word ‘extinct’ being added to this list !
 
In the recent few years, Tigers have completely vanished from Sariska, Panna, Rani Durgawati , and Palpurkuno. Tiger population is also decreasing at an alarming rate in all other parks in India presently. Its anyone’s guess whether Project Tiger reserves like Palamau, Indrawati, Manas, Dampha, Srisailam, Valmiki are still left with enough tigers to reverse an inevitable extinction. Present population hovers around 1400 although I trust this figure to be grossly over reported. Issues like Habitat destruction, Poaching, Illegal Mining, Human intervention in form of tribal’s etc, all are responsible for driving the final few nails in the coffin.
 
Tigers are mercilessly caught in foot-traps and later shot or speared at point blank range!! (In the mouth so as to not spoil the coat). Of course, baiting with poisoned flesh is another trick to achieve the desired result. Each and every part in the tigers body is used for some purpose or the other. There is an illegal trade of tiger bones, nails, flesh etc which are being smuggled to China to convert into medicines and aphrodisiacs. The skins are being adorned either in plush designer living rooms or around fancy waists. At this rate, we would have killed all the tigers in the next decade. And all this while, blame shifting goes on in the government machinery, lack of knowledge and priority within the very saviours who have to protect these beings!
 
I feel ashamed to be part of this Human race who is the cause for mindlessly raping and plundering our mother earth.
 
The primary body of governance, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), needs immediate reform, empowerment, and most importantly, an agenda. The Prime Minister has shown some interest and that’s a good sign. Other bodies which have been constituted for the same purpose like the Project Tiger, Tiger Task Force, Wildlife Institute of India, National Board for Wildlife etc need to act in unison and with enough empowerment to make a logical effect on the system.
 
On the ground, the forest guards remain grossly ill equipped to fight the fancy weaponry of the poachers. Their numbers are not enough to patrol the large park territories that we have. A large majority of them are living the latter part of their lives, and yet remain on daily wages. I think its easier for them to connive with the poachers for a meager sum of money and overlook the killings. The Field Directors and Wildlife Wardens are impotent because despite their best intentions, they either don’t have the power or the budgets or the driver to lead them. They have themselves become mere paper tigers in a system where Tigers don’t really count as a priority.
 
One of the other big issues is of the Tribals and other villagers who reside within the boundaries of the forests or on its fringes. While there is a lot of intellectual masturbation by a lot of propogants for the theory according to which there is an inter dependence between the Tiger and these tribal’s, facts show something else. On the ground, the tiger population has always increased after these people were removed from the system.
 
Having said that, there are steps that have been taken by the government nevertheless. In the following articles, I would deconstruct them and show how they boil down to mere firefighting.
 
Like any other journalist, I should logically end with trying to blow some sunshine up the readers mind but this time I wouldn’t. It has really come to a point where inaction would lead to disaster.
 
There was a recent episode in Panna Tiger Reserve wherein the tigers just ended but the people involved very conveniently tried to hush up the fact again (as in the case of Sariska) and on the sides started a relocation program to shift tigers from Bandhavgarh to hide the real issue. How long should we be taking all this as a Nation!
 
 You Decide…YOU ARE India !

 

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