The year we are about to end can be best categorized as a mixed bag. On the one hand, we have had some very positive developments taking shape on the environment front with the eviction of illegal settlers from Bandardubi and Deochurchang adjoining Kaziranga becoming a reality. This was an emotive issue for all Assamese and the success achieved presents an interesting and welcome change where all stakeholders including local NGOs and the Government joined forces together to achieve a common goal, inspite of a lot of hurdles – political and otherwise. This is a model which can be a template worth emulating to tackle the burning environmental issues in Assam and all credit goes to the former Director of KNP Mr. M.K. Yadava who took the initiative to bind together all the stakeholders to achieve the desired result. The other good thing that have happened is the appointment of a very proactive lady minister who has so far shown exemplary courage and commitment with a very hands on approach to tackle the ills ailing the Department of Forests and Environment. She needs unstinted public support for her commitment. Another positive news is the effect of demonetisation on Poaching activities. Lack of currency in circulation has had an immediate effect on the rhino poachers, which bodes well for the future.
On the other hand, there were some very negative issues which grabbed centre space. The first thing would surely be the transfer of a very popular and decisive DFO from Kaziranga. Accounting for the fact that transfers are a way of life for people in the Government, this particular transfer can clearly be dubbed as a political interference, which can never be hidden under the garb of Public Interest. This officer was very bad at appeasing his political masters, but was wonderful for motivating our demotivated forest guards with lot of innovative ideas. He was a person who took along everyone with a single minded agenda to change the way the Forest Department functions at Kaziranga. His transfer sent a very negative signal to hard working officers and demoralises the staff, mainly the foot soldiers in the department fighting a hard battle with antiquated arms and ammunitions in the harshest of conditions, against poachers armed with sophisticated weaponry. This could have been surely avoided. The heart-breaking news of the death of a female elephant in a pit dug in a project site at Tezpur as well as three elephants being mowed down by a speeding train at Hojai again raises question as to how the loss of habitat is creating havoc and also raises a huge question mark on our landscape management and ensuring free and protected animal corridors.
One thing which has picked up huge momentum in Assam is the unhindered activities of the glorified beggars – the multi-national NGOs’ who imposes their amateurish and often suspicious views on our Forest officials – aided and abetted by the paid media, mostly visual. These so called stalwarts have successfully thwarted the efforts of all environmentally conscious workers and over shadowed their hard work by sustained media blitzkrieg. They have been ensured that conservation ceases to be a process and have turned it into events – publicity stunts. These beggars can be seen regularly hobnobbing with the political bigwigs and are very prominent in the visual media. After successful hyped events in costly private schools in the metros they have now pointed their tentacles to Guwahati where they have identified the better known schools to create awareness for wildlife. But they are not to be seen dong that in vernacular medium schools in the fringes of protected areas, where there is an urgent and sustained effort required to educate the children, because they are the children who in due course of time will either kill or protect our fragile eco systems, not our city bred children (including my daughter) who will never ever kill or protect wildlife, and who will all probability head abroad to pursue their careers. These NGOs’ will never turn their attention to these remote villages for the simple reason that they wouldn’t get the required publicity as well strengthen their statistics to beg for more funds from the international funding agencies.