Wildlife bill moots higher penalties, better regulation
PUNE: It seems there is no reduction in the instances of crimes related to wildlife across the country. To address the issue, the ministry of environment and forest is planning a Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill that intends to strengthen the existing provisions for criminal procedure and penalties.
The draft Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill 2010 proposes higher penalties for offences, especially those involving unlawful trade in wildlife products; regulation of international trade in endangered species of animals and plants; ban on trade in peacock feathers and articles made from them; and prohibition of sale, manufacture and use of leg-hold traps, besides promotion of independent scientific research.
Welcoming the proposed amendments, wildlife experts pointed out that they need to be implemented properly.
"The forest habitat which is home to wildlife is totally disturbed. The land is fragmented and man-animal conflict is on the rise," said Anand Masalekar, former principal chief conservator of forest. "The lower level staff in the forest department is neglected. They are the ones who prevent wildlife related crimes. But unfortunately, they are poorly paid and are unarmed. Increasing the punishment is OK, provided it is implemented," he said.
Environmentalist Vijay Paranjpye, who is also the chairman of NGO Gomukh, pointed out that the forest guards have to look after huge areas and were less in number. "As they are unarmed, they are unable to deal with poachers who use sophisticated weapons. Most of the budget is spent on top bureaucrats in the forest department."
Paranjpye added: "In many cases the offender gets pardon through local politicians. The politicians are more than willing to grant favours to the offender. In such a situation, the law does not yield much result. There has to be change in the attitude of the bigwigs."
V B Savarkar, former director of the Wildlife Institute of India, said that enhancing punishment will act as a deterrent, but courts take a long time to decide the cases. The proposed amendment gave more power to the wildlife crime control bureau.
Savarkar said that emphasis on research work was important. "Wildlife research is still in its infancy. Many institutes and NGOs are doing outstanding work and the government should encourage them. Research will help in chalking out management strategies in fieldwork," he said.
On increasing incidents of wildlife related crime, Suresh Gaikwad, member of the wildlife advisory board, Maharashtra, said: "The poachers are not educated and they do it regularly. There is a huge demand for skin and bones of tigers from China and Tibet. Increase in penalties will help reduce the crime."
* The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill is the product of extensive consultations with a wide spectrum of stakeholders. People can email their comments on the draft bill to email@example.com till July 7
* The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 establishes the legal framework for protection and conservation of plants and animals and the proper management of their habitats
* Empower magistrates to detain the accused in custody of the forest department for a period of up to seven days to facilitate investigation
* Power to the central and state governments to appoint a scientific expert body when required
* The owner or occupier of the premises used to commit any offence under the Wildlife (Protection) Act shall be punishable as per the penalty provided in section 51
* Court to take cognisance of an offence under the Act on the submission of a report by a police officer under section 173 of the CrPC