R S Tejus:
It is very new for political parties to keep conservation as one of their tools for election campaigns. But it seems BJP is at the forefront as PM Modi visited Bandipur Tiger Reserve and released the All-India Tiger estimation 2022 report on the eve of Karnataka state assembly polls.
For any political party, election trump cards will usually be agriculture, woman empowerment, and similar sectors with conservation concerns being not usually on their checklist. Times have changed now as there is a lot of impetus on climate changes, issues of scarcity of water, habitat destruction, etc. Politicians are slowly getting an understanding of the importance of environmental conservation now.
Earlier and even now, many politicians and political parties talk about anti-conservation to gain votes. For example, in Karnataka, many forest patches are deemed fit for upgradation of Tiger Reserve status, but due to a lot of public misunderstanding and political foul play, and of course, vested interests, efforts of a few conservation-friendly forest officers, activists and the citizens are in vain.
Neta’s constant assaults on a few targeted honest forest officers to get clearance for road construction, quarries, dam, etc. is on the rise as well. Such heinous acts will fetch votes in many cases, and winning elections by notifying a few Tiger Reserves might turn negative as there would be a strong resistance from the public then.
States like Kerala and even some parts of Karnataka voicing for conservation prove fatal and deadly. For any conservation initiative, there will be mob attacks. Recently, the news of population control of elephants, wild boars, and even tigers are making headlines in Kerala, so, no politician would dare to announce and notify a Tiger Reserve or a National Park ahead of polls as that would be his/her final nail in the coffin.
Most importantly, it is the manifestos of parties, a document which needs careful reading. Usually, they would not be carrying anything concrete regarding conservation barring a few lines on planting trees. This trend must be reversed. I tried to get in touch with all major parties of Karnataka to ask if there would be any mention of critical conservation aspects but I was not entertained.
This visit of PM Modi to Bandipur commemorating the 50th anniversary of Project Tiger is a welcome move but the key point is how many MLAs or MPs have taken it positively, especially the MLAs of Kodagu, Shivamogga, and other forest areas for any officer to work for conservation concerns in the coming days.