Let’s Not Ruin a Happy Place


Some years ago, an investment banker and I were chatting about signs one can look for to tell if a country is a happy place to live in or not. I didn’t have to search far. My answer was lying right in front of me in that day’s newspaper – the headlines was on cricket.

It didn’t matter what the cricketing achievement was, but a nation that wakes up to sports as headline-news in a world consumed by terror must definitely be a happy place. Last week, a national daily’s anchor page was about how people were volunteering to search for a tiger that had gone missing in central India.

The news in itself is grim, given the fact that there are only about 3,200 left in the wild, of which an estimated 2,226 are in India. But, what was heartening about the report was that it shows people care.

But do we care enough? Or does everyone care equally enough?

Seven months into 2016, India has lost 59 tigers, compared with 69 during the whole of last year. At least , seven of the deaths reported this year are due to poisoning and poaching (details aren’t yet available for all deaths). Honestly, these days I am scared to open the http://www.tigernet.nic.in website to check for statistics on tiger mortality.

It’s not just tigers. As many as 49 elephants have been killed in railway accidents since 2010, and as many as 239 rhinoceros in India’s Assam have been poached in the last 16 years,  while nearly 95% of the white-rumped vulture population has been decimated due to use of a drug called diclofenac to treat domestic livestock.

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Vulture; Photo by M. Karthikeyan

This year also witnessed protests by a vocal minority against the government’s policy to brand as vermin and allow the killing of wild animals including the Blue Bull (Nilgai), the largest Asian antelope, and wild boars, among others. The reason for this decision was they were destroying crops. Foxes in Tamil Nadu’s Chennimalai have vanished as bushes that provided them natural cover were cleared for farmlands.

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In the world’s second most populous nation, where three out of every 10 people live in poverty, arguments abound about how people matter most. That is a flawed way of looking at things.

A people-first approach is sure to crowd out flora and fauna from their respective spaces. If at all someday we end up ensuring a society that’s free of economic poverty, we would realize and none too soon that the we’ve already squandered our natural riches along the way. That day we would be poorer than we are today.

That’s definitely not a happy place to be in.

 

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