New wildlife bill requires proper study
Sep 11 2013
In the present session of Rajya Sabha, Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill 2013, has been introduced by environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan. The bill is well-drafted and is stringent against the lawbreakers. However, many clauses of the bill are opposed by some conservationists and researchers. Following are the reasons for this opposition:
(a) The amendments propose stricter deterrents on wildlife crimes related to sale, purchase and transfer of animals, their parts or products listed in various schedules. The bill proposes that hunting in national parks and sanctuaries should be punished with up to 5-7 years in jail and fine of Rs 5-25 lakh. This has been raised from 3-7 years in jail and Rs 10,000 fine in the present law. The punishment would be 7 years in prison and Rs 30 lakh fine for repeat offenders; this is between 3-7 years of imprisonment and Rs 25,000 fine now. (b) The proposed bill also included the most awaited amendment for leg traps. According to the new law, “no person shall manufacture, sell, purchase, keep, transport or use any animal trap except with prior permission in writing of the chief wildlife warden given for educational and scientific purposes”.
The new bill has also incorporated Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) into the Act. CITES is an international agreement that aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
There are some clauses that are not well-interpreted and give powers to the authority to deduce as per their suitability. Wildlife researchers and scientist are opposing this aspect as well. Authority can frame charges against the wildlife researchers, documentary filmmaker and tourists, who breach laws even unknowingly. This clause needs revision and correction as this can send an ignorant person to prison for 3-5 years and get fined up to Rs 50,000. They can create serious trouble for those who deviate from the stated purpose and subject of research and films. Researchers are saying that if they are associated with reputed organisations and institutes, it would mean they already cleared a screening and that they should not be tackled as a poacher.
Such restrictions would limit a free thinker who would be forced to work in a fixed framework. They should have certain freedom to do experiments. The wildlife Act certainly needs amendments, but its main structure should be to curb illegal crimes. However, we should be careful not to bring any alterations due to which we may lose wildlife supporters.
(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)