Sabyasachi Patra

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 3 Issue VIII

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 3 Issue VIII

The IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 3 Issue VIII discusses the impact of recent protests against corruption and a need for a messiah to champion the cause of conservation, Issues surrounding Rainforests challenges.

A Anna for Conservation

The amazing crowds at the Ramlila ground in Delhi – in Baba Ramdev led fasting-cum-yoga camp and then later Anna Hazare led fasts in Ramlila, Janpath and in other parts of the country – fasting, raising slogans against corruption has not only shook the complacent Government but also caught the imagination of people all over the world.

About two and a half months back, the Government came down heavily on the Baba Ramdev led agitation in Ramlila grounds in Delhi with the police mercilessly beating up people in the dead of night and emptying the grounds of people. The well-meaning Baba who has a tremendous fan following, tried to leave the Ramlila grounds in disguise of a woman but was arrested. The reason for this disguise – whether it was due to misguided briefings by his followers or perhaps genuine apprehension about his safety – we will never know. Despite his explanations that he wanted to hoodwink the police and evade arrest to continue the protests elsewhere, he lost a lot of sympathy as a section of people wanted their leader to court arrest.

In contrast, Anna Hazare who has perhaps more experience in fighting corrupt officials, chose to court arrest during his fast and the public pressure was sufficient to force the Government to release him from jail. The Government miscalculated that after the lathi charge by police during the Baba Ramdev led agitation, not many people will venture out to support Anna Hazare’s fast. People knowing very well that the police can forcibly stop them from protesting, still came out in large numbers to protest. In a country, where increasingly people are cynical about standing up and voicing their protest for the collective good of the society, this is a huge change. Whatever may be the outcome of these protests, it is indeed an eye opener for many that the common man could shed his indifference and come out on the streets to protest.

Unlike meetings of political parties, where people are brought to the venue by hired vehicles and a lot of planning is done, the protests against corruption by a large majority of people without backing of political parties has surprised many. The Government’s crisis managers who had initially tried to discredit Anna Hazare have taken a back seat due to the tremendous outpouring of sympathy for Anna Hazare. This is the Power of WE that I had talked about in the IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 2 Issue VII, titled Democracy, Activism and the Power of “WE” .

The Government which was earlier unwilling to even look at the version of the Lokpal Bill prepared by the Civil Society is now willing to consider it, including bringing the Prime Minister under the scrutiny of the Lokpal. That is the power that a mass of people wield when they work towards a goal in single minded devotion.

Though the Lokpal bill won’t act as the panacea for all our corruption issues in this country – as one needs efficient and transparent systems and processes as well – it will certainly act as a very good starting point. This agitation against corruption is probably the turning point in the short history of Independent India as democracy is likely to be strengthened.

Now the question that arises is who will act as the “Anna” and lead the nascent conservation movement in this country? Who will provide the selfless leadership and act as a rallying point for millions of Indians to conserve the fast vanishing wilderness and wildlife in this country? In the era of climate change, when the need for conservation is not just an esoteric subject to be discussed in the drawing rooms of the elite, but an issue to be tackled with urgency, what should be our approach?

Talking about the need for an “Anna” doesn’t discredit the many bright men and women, young and old alike who have been trying to face and tackle the issue of illegal mining, protection of forests from logging, death of rivers due to many dams, poorly thought large infrastructure projects and many other issues. One such bright activist Shri Amit Jethwa was felled by a bullet, ironically in front of the High Court in Gujarat last year. A few days back, a committed activist Ms. Shehla Masood who had been exposing various environment related issues including the issue of the death of the Jhurjhura tigress in Bandhavgarh who was killed by a forest department vehicle in the night ( ) was shot dead (For further details please check here: ).

Many more activists have been killed in an equally brutal manner, but the news doesn’t come to our notice. At that time, I had mentioned that strength lies in numbers. A lioness when encircled by hyenas, is often forced to abandon its kill and flea. Sadly Ms. Shehla Masood, despite being the fighter that she was, had to succumb to the bullet of the assassin. It is now important for all our activist friends to understand that rather than an individual seeking information under the RTI act and getting cornered, they should come forward as a group seeking a social audit under the Section 2-J of the RTI act. This social audit conducted under media glare can help in achieving the desired objectives.

I personally have been inspired by Rabindranath Tagore‘s immortal song Ekla Chalo re (Jodi tor ?ak shune keu na ashe tbe kla chlo re, kla chlo, kla chlo, kla chlo, kla chlo re..) which exhorts you to be the lone warrior if no one comes forward for a cause. I personally believe that if you espouse a good cause, then people will follow you. People will slowly but steadily buy into your dreams. However, if you want to be a one man army using the RTI tool to take on your opponents and gain instant publicity, then you are likely to be overpowered. I appeal to all of you to please tackle issues as a group, so that precious life is not lost.

Today we may not have a messiah in sight who can lead the battle and save our biodiversity. We lack a strong personality like a Subhas Chandra Bose – who had famously said “Give me blood and I will give you freedom” – and had created and led the Indian National Army (INA). Mahatma Gandhi, a frail looking but an equally strong personality, had shown that non-violent struggle can succeed and today Anna Hazare another frail looking man at the age of 74 years is creating waves with his fasting. So no leader is going to give a clarion call for you to make the supreme sacrifice and become a martyr in the battle to save our biodiversity. We are looking for the common man to be assertive and stand up for his rights. While the search for an “Anna” to lead a movement to save our biodiversity will continue, lets us shed our egos and join hands to do our bit to further the cause of conservation.

Rainforest Challenge:

The last few years, we have had many debates on the need for inviolate spaces, the need to relocate tribals and other settlers from the forests etc. The general argument put forth is that the communities living in forests for centuries have been living in harmony and harvesting the forest produce sustainably. There is increasing clamour for creating more schools, colleges, hospitals, playgrounds etc inside the forests with scant regard to conserving the fast vanishing wilderness areas and wildlife.

Dense Rainforest canopy India

Rainforest in India

While documenting the Western Ghats, many questions came to my mind. How much do we know about our forests? Do we know enough about the complex chain of inter-relationships between various organisms? Do we know the effect of selective harvesting of a fruit species or logging of a particular tree species on other species? Do we know the impact of pesticides used in the cultivated areas and plantations around and in a number of cases within the forests?

The Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot, has been fragmented with human habitations that are growing at a rapid pace. The ability to destroy or harm this amazing biodiversity is in our finger tips. Starting from the child who learns to use a catapult to kill birds (For more details please check here: ) to the indiscriminate use of pesticides that wipe away many invertebrates which form part of the diet of the endangered Lion-tailed Macaques, to contamination of fresh water resources due to littering and lack of waste treatment facilities; to roads acting as killing fields… the list appears endless.

To throw some light on these complex issues and raise awareness levels, I have recently completed my film “A Call in the Rainforest” documenting the plight of one sub-population of Lion-tailed. A short preview to the film can be found here:

Other conservation issues:

A discussion on Sundarbans tigers:

Shark fishing on the rise in India

Wildlife Photography:
Images shared by our members between 10th July 2011 – 9th August, 2011 that depict interesting behaviour or are just plain beautiful.

Bharal by Dileep Anthikad

Himalayan Mouse Hare by Dileep Anthikad

Down memory lane – a Lioness image from 1975 by Saktipada Panigrahi

When a prey turned into predator by Dileep Anthikad

Great Indian Bustard by Dipankar Mazumdar

Pheasant-tailed Jacana by Supreet Sahoo

Oar-footed crab burrowing by Abhishek Jamalabad

Indian Gamma by Joshi Bhavya

I look forward to your inputs and your support in preserving the last tracts of wilderness and wildlife left in this beautiful country. For other interesting articles and photographs please check:

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Sabyasachi Patra

Sabyasachi Patra
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