Subject: Wildlife Protection in India
This is with reference to the violation of wildlife laws by filmstars and politicians in our country. The force of the law which punishes nobody, despite hunting wild animals, needs to be exposed.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act makes no distinction between a film star and a politician, or for that matter any other citizen. In Telugu Desam ruled Andhra Pradesh, hunting wildlife is a favourite pastime with politicians. Forest rest houses have become the exclusive preserve of politicians where the staff bend over backwards to prepare dishes made out of protected animals and endangered birds to reassure them that they are above the law. No politician is ever punished under this law. Close on the heels of the arrest and framing of charges against Salman Khan in BJP ruled Rajasthan for violating the Wildlife (Protection) Act comes the news of a lavish dinner party for 400 to celebrate Tummala Nageswara Rao’s completion of three years as Minister for Major Irrigation in the Chandrababu Naidu government at Marlakunta village in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh. The menu comprised, among other items, roasted peacock, masala version and barbecued wild boar. Among the guests were G. M. C. Balayogi, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, T. Devender Goud, Minister for Revenue and P. Krishna Yadav. Minister for Animal Husbandry. A helicopter was to transport the special invites to the venue of the feast but bad weather spoiled this part of it.
The Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu, greatly embarrassed by the extravaganza which reportedly cost Rs.50 lakhs, ordered an inquiry by a Chief Wildlife Warden, while the Centre is conducting a separate inquiry by one of its officials based in Chennai. Attempts to whitewash the episode by State officials must fail because the organisers have left behind enough tell-tale evidence to establish that forbidden flesh was indeed served. Balayogi’s explanation that he is too old to enjoy such a spread has few takers and the Speaker’s office, fourth in constitutional hierarchy, offers no protection against violation of the law. Nageshwara Rao’s claim that he ate only curd rice is unconvincing as this common item was apparently not served according to the menu card of the banquet captured in a video film, a copy of which has fallen in the hands of P. Janardhana Reddy, leader of the Opposition Congress Legislature Party, Nageshwara’s contention that the animals slaughtered for the feast were domestically reared only compounds the offence. It is true that protected animals can be reared privately with permission from the authorities concerned — slaughtering them for the table is punishable under the Wildlife (Protection) Act and punishable with imprisonment. Article 14 of the Consitution says: “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India,” Will the Telugu Desam government allow the law to take its course or interfere in the approved manner to hush up the case?
I call upon you and the readers of your daily to probe into the matter and voice necessary demands and anger.