An open letter to Sri. Madhav Gadgil

Jan 30, 2023

In the context of the interview with Federal News published on 20 January 2023 recommending limited hunting of wild animals.

What prompted me to write this letter to you was your interview with the Federal News last week. I was shocked to read your comment: “India, however, is the only country which has this irrational system of putting a blanket ban on hunting forever”. You advocated for the hunting of wild animals by saying that they should be harvested in a controlled manner. Hunting the marauders may be a defensible act to protect the right to private defence of body and property under Sections 100 and 103 of the Indian Penal Code as you pointed out. But what makes the wild animals encroach into farmers’ property may not be because of their over-population within the wildlife sanctuaries or national parks, but human encroachment into their territories. 

I had immense respect for you which made me visit you personally to present my first book published in 2019. I am not sure whether you remember me or not. My respect was not for your position as the Chairman of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel but for books on the environment. But the interview dated 20th January 2023 questioned my conscience of fostering respect for you.

I am surprised that an environmental scientist would speak for making hunting legal even in a limited way and compare the Scandinavian context with India. The number of wild animals has been on a decline in the days when hunting was not illegal. Now the size of the forest is declining because of our greed for land grabbing. Yet, wild animals’ attacks are rare. No regulatory scale can measure hunting once it is allowed. Animals have no protection from the law while every law is made for protecting the interest of humans directly or indirectly as govts are elected by people not included to animals.

I am a common man with no stand to teach a great person like you the lessons of ecology. We need a safe environment, and clean drinking water free of mercury and cadmium, oxygen, etc. We need all forest products too. We need them for entertainment also. Without these, we cannot sustain ourselves. The human sense of supremacy keeps animals inferior. That was the very reason we heard the outrage louder when a tiger killed a man while numerous killings of animals go unnoticed and unquestioned.

I believe humans are not immortal. Nor are they the only species on earth. Every human dies for one or the other reasons. Humans killed by pollution which created by himself, humans kills each other called as murder , lot of humans dies on road on daily basis, in all this cases we don’t kill the “ criminal” but for us we should not killed by a animal , that is shameful.   Animals are unarmed, and humans are heavily armed with plenty of wherewithal to handle any of the powerful and many of the small wild animals. We demarcated areas for them within their region of natural habitation. We have wiped out many species and received no punishment for the crime because animals have no court or government to defend their rights. Now only a few animals survive. If it was the death of a farmer by a tiger attack that triggered outrage against all wild animals and led to the call for allowing regulated hunting, the same resembles regulated genocide. There are other bigger human killers. Mosquitoes kill an estimated 10 million people a year. But a tiger attack is far less than an attack on humans by any rarest of the reasons.

Last year, the Prime Minister initiated bringing some cheetahs from Namibia. Before that, we wiped them out and made them an extinct species. We know that they need herbivores for food and a large area for hunting. We believe a forest is incomplete without a tiger, which requires plenty of water, and a large area to hunt different kinds of food to sustain.

We recently created almost error-free data. At the same time, we do not know the original count and birth and mortality rates. With no such precise numbers, how can we say whether their number has gone up or down? For the same reason can we assure a desirable renewability of the wildlife so that we can allow hunting? Moreover, some wildlife sanctuaries like Wayanad Tiger, Bandipur and Nagarahole are in some way interlinked. They have no boundaries as animals cross over other territories as borders are created for humans not for the animals, You of course have better knowledge.

Most of the time, we hear about animal attacks as a result of their reactions. However, in one recent case, a PT7 elephant was apprehended by the forest department for inappropriate behaviour, and it was later discovered that he had 15 pellets in his body. The department subsequently received one more elephant. In Kerala, with permission, hunting boar is allowed, which resulted in its population decreasing to 12,500 in the last 12 years.

Even though hunting is illegal under the Wildlife Protection Act people hunt animals without the protection of a limited hunting right. This “open secret” remains ignored. In this context, if limited hunting is allowed what would be the final count of the genocide? Nothing stays balanced. One day we will discover that forests have no animals with shrinking boundaries.

Finally, you mentioned that the environmentalists have complete contempt for the common people, and wished that nature conservationists should experience village life. Sir, those who sympathize with villagers are also far away from large segments of villagers. Villagers are used to living in forests with the skill to live safely. Animals have no revenge but to hunt for their food. Attack on humans is a rare coincidence. In a way, villagers benefit from wildlife tourism potential, where they live close to the territory of wild animals. Animals suffer from trespassing humans.

The people who love forests and animals loved you too. But your opinion that favoured hunting disappointed them. I wish a great ecologist of your stature should not be an instrument to win the hidden goals of some wicked minds. Your voice has more value and would more keenly be listened to by lawmakers. The traps lie there, nowhere else, much for the worry of animal lovers.