Nature’s protectors often in line of fire
The South Asia Network on Dams, River and People reports that in 2018, 28 people died across India in sand-mining violence. Not all were officials.Updated: Jul 15, 2019 07:40 IST
We are all rightfully dismayed by the killing of a policeman discharging his duty. While we seek justice in this case, it’s also important to remember how officials and other citizens protecting our natural heritage face death in the course of their work.
We’ve just seen videos of a Telangana forest officer being assaulted during a sapling plantation drive. It’s not a one-off case. I recall reading, in another newspaper report, a number to describe India, from the International Ranger Federation. The number was 29 total rangers killed in the line of duty in India in 2017, making us the most unsafe country to be a ranger.
Congo (17) and Thailand (8) were second and third respectively. Some rangers were killed in animal encounters, but many others by people with vested interests. We’ve also read about those fighting sand-mining. The South Asia Network on Dams, River and People reports that in 2018, 28 people died across India in sand-mining violence. Not all were officials.
If this is the price to pay, we can’t do a good job of conservation. Political patronage at the lowest levels plays a role. We must hold elected representatives accountable for conservation safety in their constituencies.
We must also enable front-line conservationists to protect themselves. Guns with ammunition in working condition, better communications, more rangers, each better empowered, are some ways forward. They imply recurring costs, but that is a bill India must foot for its natural heritage. It’s our constitutional duty.
First Published: Jul 15, 2019 07:40 IST