With Union Ministers Maneka Gandhi and Prakash Javadekar locking horns over culling of animals including nilgai, animal rights bodies today expressed "shock" over the Environment Ministry's stand saying such killings will not help mitigate human-animal conflict.
Noting that more than 500 people lost their lives in human-wildlife conflicts last year, the Environment Ministry, however, said there are standard operating processes laid down in Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and permission for "scientific management" of human-animal conflict has been given to Uttarakhand, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh.
"We are shocked. Prakash Javadekar is unfit to be the Environment Minister. Since the time he has come, he has only done bad things for environment. Nilgai (blue bull) is a very serious issue. Nilgai is not the problem but the loss of its habitat is. We are challenging the constitutional validity of Section 62 (of Wildlife Act), which is a very arbitrary section.
"It gives power to the central government to declare what it wants to. We have gone to the Environment Ministry and suggested that we should do mitigation and adaptation work. As the Environment Minister, he (Javadekar) needs to understand that he is a trustee of environment and he has to ensure that it is protected for coming generations," N G Jayasimha, member of Animal Welfare Board of India (ABWI), told PTI.
Noting it is an issue of management of human-animal conflict, Greenpeace India said killing of animals is not the answer, especially when "you start declaring it as a vermin as it will only change the mindset".
"India is celebrated and recognised worldwide for the tolerance and its ability to live along with nature. Something of this sort will have a huge impact on how the general population would view. It can have all kinds of knock down effect.
"You cannot say that elephant is a national heritage animal and at another level, you say it's vermin. (Labelling them as) vermin will deeply affect ethos of Indian population towards biodiversity and nature," Ravi Chellam, Executive Director of Greenpeace India said.
Inspector General of Wildlife, Environment Ministry, S K Khanduri said that last year, more than 500 people lost their lives in human-wildlife conflicts and there are standard operating processes laid down in Wildlife (Protection) Act.
"Therefore, the Ministry has not given any permission to kill either deer, peacock or elephant," he said in a statement.
However, there are other organisations which said that culling or declaring vermin is an ecological management tool and maintained that it was a fact that blue bulls and monkeys are creating problems for farmers.
"Blue bulls and monkeys are creating problems in a lot of states including Bihar and HP. Declaration of vermin is like a population management tool. Vermin is a general practice in African countries as well where they even kill elephants.
"If you look at it as a animal welfare perspective, it will be wrong but if you look at it from ecological management perspective, it's a right move. There is nothing wrong in it," said Ajay Saxena, programme manager (forestry) at Centre for Science and Environment.
Khanduri said that as per the provision of law, if there are complaints about wildlife conflict, the state government has to submit a proposal for culling.
"Till date, five states have submitted such proposals. The Ministry examines the proposals in detail and allows scientific management in a specific area for a limited time. There were complaints about wild boar, blue bull and other animals," he said.
These proposals have been examined and permission for scientific management for a limited time for a specific area in Uttarakhand, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh has been given, he said.
"Proposals of Maharashtra and Gujarat are still being examined," he said.
Noting that there are many complaints from MPs, state governments and farmers about their crops being heavily damaged by animals in certain parts of the country, he said that there is a process has been laid down in Section 62 of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
"No amendment has been made by the government to this Act. And nothing has been done beyond the procedure prescribed by law," he said.
Gajender K Sharma, Country Director, India at World Animal Protection, said "we condemn this incident and would urge the government to form an expert group to find out humane and sustainable solutions to resolve this issue. Rampant killing of animals is not a solution and must be stopped immediately.