We, the Citizens
By HUGH & COLLEEN GANTZER
Jim Corbett is the most famous citizen of our Uttarakhand.
Even before we became a state, the books of this great hunter of rogue animals had captured the imagination of the world. Uniquely, Corbett did not kill predatory big cats for sport, but because they had developed a taste for human blood. “Karpett Sahib”, as he was known to the grateful villagers of Kumaon, realised that man-eaters become human predators when they could no longer hunt due to age or injury often inflicted by humans, or because they are the offspring of a man-eating mother.
This change of attitude, from Taming Nature to Conserving it rode the crest of the New Age. Nature was no longer the Victorian Red in Fang and Claw to be whipped into shape: it was the global matrix that sustained us. It had to be nurtured and protected. The awareness we now call Environmentalism, had been born.
This is why Wildlife Sanctuaries and Reserves have a Core Area: a place where wildlife is free of human disturbance. Here they can breed and bring up their young and re-populate the wildernesses of the earth to restore the balance of nature. It is because this very delicate ratio was tampered with that Covid-19 leapt out of the forests of SE Asia!
Is our state government ignorant of this grave danger? Can this explain why our mantris are, repeatedly, trying to gnaw into our forest wealth and wantonly disturb the balance of nature? We have watched, with growing dismay, the attempt to redefine forests, to eat into the protected habitat of our elephants, to attempt to build a parking lot in the Shivaliks, and now the proclaimed decision to cut a road through the Core Area of Corbett. Was there an Environment Assessment made of the likely fallout of this road? Was this matter ever debated with the Citizens? Who were the domain experts consulted before the protections of the Core Area were violated so blatantly? Is our Cabinet aware of the fact that the Tiger is the National Animal of India? Has the Ministry responsible for protecting our endangered National Animal told our Cabinet how many Tigers have been lost in Uttarakhand and in what span of time?
Every part of a dead tiger commands a high price in the markets of South and South East Asia. Do we insist on a certificate, from a reliable Senior Authority, that every tiger carcase found in our state, has been totally burnt to ashes? Similarly, when a fire rages through our forests, what happens to charred timber and the green trees felled to stop the fire from spreading? This is often vaguely called “salvage logging” and is welcomed by timber contractors and their patrons!
We are certain that our new Ministers are aware of the principle of Joint Cabinet Responsibility. No single Minister can be held solely responsible for such important decisions involving our state’s most sensitive and valuable resource: its forests and environment. Every Cabinet Minister is responsible for all the consequences of every decision!
Dear Ministers, if you would like to be candidates in the next state elections remember an old saying: You can’t fool all the people all the time! Chest thumping, bragging, bullying and Bollywood-type make-up, costume changes and scripted dialogue might make a great impact initially, but they dissolve in the absence of roti, kapada aur makaan. Moreover, if you have convinced yourself that most massed and determined agitators have been misled by a political party then, obviously, that party is a very powerful and extremely well organised one. Your attitude has elevated it to the status of a dangerous Dark Horse waiting to charge across the political battlefield!
Finally, have you read this headline on the front page of a major National Daily? It appeared on Monday 5th April, 2021. It screamed “1,300 ha forest cover gutted as wildfires rage in U’khand”. It’s time to devote all our resources to restoring our ravaged forests, recharging our springs, recovering the balance of Nature. You don’t have much time left to undo the damage done by your gravely ill-informed attitude and your actions.
Do you still want to pierce the heart of Corbett and kill it?
(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 half-hour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who is a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)