R S TEJUS:
No Political Party either seem to be interested or keen on forest and wildlife conservation in Karnataka. After reading and analyzing the manifestos of BJP, Congress, and JD(S), one thing stands out clear that none of them give a hoot for protection of forest and wildlife areas in the state. With electioneering at its pitch now, only personal and caste issues dominate while issues of water conservation, floods, drought, extreme weather events or catastrophic events find a place in the manifestos of the political parties.
The much-awaited 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections are a few days away, and all the political parties are striving to get a majority in the backdrop of a hung assembly. Promises are being made to win the hearts of people through different means. Political parties are supposed to give an impetus to law enforcement agencies like the police and forest departments, given the rising crime rate and encroachments of forest lands and its diversion but no way are they concerned.
The subject of forests is in the “concurrent list” of the Constitution, meaning both centre and the state can make laws on the subjects falling under the concurrent list. In the background of climatic changes and extreme events of recurring floods, landslides, soil erosion, forest fires and drought hitting the state year after year, let us look at the manifestos of three parties.
Janata Dal (S)
The Manifesto of Janata Dal (Secular) looks very dangerous for the cause of forests and wildlife conservation. There is not even a word about “environment, forests, and wildlife,” which is disastrous. Adding salt to injury, there is a list of ill-planned development projects like Mekedatu etc. that they promise to fulfill, if elected. This clearly shows that the JD (S) leaders are least bothered about environmental issues, and as responsible voters, it is left to the people’s judgment to whom to vote for.
As a national party, it is amazing that no word is mentioned on conservation or any plans for law-enforcement agencies. They are busy repeating the development mantra again and again, however, unsustainable it may be.
Surprisingly, this party needs an understanding on conservation issues; on the one hand, they talk about pursuing Mekedatu, Yettinahole projects, etc while under the head – mining, forests & environment management in their manifesto, an eight-pointer agenda has been charted out. On the other hand, a special emphasis has been made on arresting illegal mining mafias, quarrying, sand mining, and changes to be made in laws regarding mining. One sensible point in the manifesto of Congress – they have promised effective implementation of forest laws which is a welcome step.
In conclusion, Congress has put out a detailed manifesto with a few good outlines for conservation. But the BJP and JD(S) have yet to mention even a word about this burning issue. Manifesto is a solemn document, and the state’s future for the next 5 years will be based on it. Having forest and wildlife conservation experts is vital while preparing such documents because development and conservation must go together. Without political will, there is nothing possible and environmental issues may get buried permanently.