30 July 2020: The Indian Express Editorial Analysis
1) A home for tiger-
GS 3- Development, Bio diversity, Environment
- Last year, India’s tiger census revealed that the country is home to nearly 3,000 of these big cats.
- That was rightly considered a significant achievement given that India’s tiger population had come down to around 1,400 in 2006 and the animal had been completely wiped out of reserves such as Sariska.
- A survey by the Union environment ministry, whose report was released on Tuesday, also celebrates this success.
- But it adds a caveat(warning): Seventeen of India’s 50 tiger reserves are approaching their peak carrying capacity.
- In fact, nearly a third of the country’s tigers today live outside protected areas (PA).
- As these carnivores spill out of the national parks, they come into proximity with human settlements.
- This is a major reason for the rise in human-animal conflicts in the past five years.
- Male tigers require a range of 70-150 square km and females need about 20-60 sq km.
- The animal is highly territorial and does not like sharing space with even its siblings or cubs. When it is about a year-and-a-half old, a tiger begins its search for territory.
- When it cannot find space in a PA, the adolescent either moves out or forces an ageing tiger out of the reserve.
- The itinerant(wanderer) animal is confronted with a shortage of prey — research shows that one tiger requires a prey base of 500 animals to survive.
- The big cat is forced to shed(give up) its natural reticence(restraint) towards humans and stalks farms and villages for livestock.
- Tigers do not have a natural propensity(tendency) to attack humans.
- Even then, reports of people being mauled(attacked) to death by tigers are increasingly becoming frequent.
- According to data presented by then minister of state for environment, forest and climate change, Mahesh Sharma, in the Lok Sabha last year, more than 100 people were killed by tigers between 2015 and 2018.
- The tiger population seems to be growing in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand.
- Experts suggest that the problem of plenty can be solved by relocating some tigers from places whose carrying capacity is challenged to ones that have scope to host more animals.
- The country’s conservation authorities could take a cue from last year’s census which had revealed scope for improvement in the Eastern Ghats’ reserves.
- As the country celebrates its conservation success, policymakers and scientists will have to put their heads together to devise more creative solutions and find homes for the increasing number of tigers.
- Survey shows a third of India’s tiger reserves are nearing peak capacity.
- Creative solutions can reduce human-animal conflict.
2) The Government we Deserve-
GS 2- Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
- Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has very thoughtfully reopened the debate on the parliamentary versus presidential systems that had been dormant(inactive) for several decades.
- He makes several valid points, including the propensity(inclination) of lawmakers to defect at the drop of a hat(instant) in search of perks and offices, which he blames on the parliamentary system.
- Consequently, according to Tharoor, the system produces governments focused more on politics and personal aggrandisement(favours) rather than policy.
- The sordid(immoral) spectacle in Rajasthan bears testimony(proof) to the lack of interest on the part of the executive and the legislature in policymaking and legislation, preoccupied as they are with retaining or capturing power.
- Unfortunately, this continues to be true even when we are in distress today because of the pandemic.
LACK OF IDEOLOGICAL COMMITMENT:
- It’s not certain that this is the fault of the parliamentary system.
- The causes for the political malaise(difficulty) in India are manifold and they are not limited to a particular form of government.
- The first is the lack of ideological commitment, with the exception of a substantial portion of the devotees of Hindutva, on the part of the political class.
- Devoid of political principles many, if not most, politicians are up for sale.
- For these immoral politicians, defection and party-hopping(changing) are not serious political maladies(illness) but essential components of their political strategy to attain or retain power.
UNSUITED FOR INDIA:
- This is unlikely to change even if India moves to a presidential system.
- First, it is probable that it will contribute hugely to an executive-legislature deadlock as a result of competitive buying.
- It can also be the case where the legislature that is completely bought off by, and therefore totally subservient(subordinate) to, the executive by the offer of perks.
- The latter will completely invalidate the basic principles of separation of powers and checks and balances that are essential pre-requisites(essential) for a presidential system.
- Second, caste and communal considerations play a big role in Indian elections. This is a societal virus that is unlikely to disappear by switching to a presidential system.
- The same considerations will apply in choosing a presidential cabinet that affects cabinet formation in a parliamentary system.
- It is utopian(imaginary) to assume that the president will choose his cabinet based primarily on considerations of merit.
- In fact, leaving the choice of the cabinet to the whims and fancies(wishes) of the president will additionally vitiate(harm) the process.
- Third, in the absence of a viable party structure, the presidential system will encourage even more irresponsible behaviour by elected legislators, especially those belonging to opposition parties.
- Legislatures in the presidential system will become infinitely worse with both these characteristics on display on a much larger scale.
- They are unlikely to transform themselves into genuinely deliberative bodies that Tharoor imagines they could become.
- It is far more likely that they will turn into highly reckless gatherings engaged for personal gains.
- The problem lies not with the parliamentary system but with the political culture of the country.
- This is demonstrated above all by the way voters make their choices based on communal, caste and other primordial(earliest) considerations and in response to emotional appeals rather than making informed choices about public needs and services.
- The sorry state of India’s public health system during this pandemic is clear evidence that public health was not a consideration for the voters when casting their ballots in state and parliamentary elections.
- The wasteful expenditure indulged in by governments is testimony to the callousness(insensitive) of the authorities as well as the apathy(lack of interest) of the general public.
- All this proves the truth of the maxim “people get the government they deserve.”
- Misplaced, indeed highly distorted, public priorities and the ingrained venality(corrupt) of the political class are the root causes of the malaise(illness) in the Indian polity.
- These twin factors and not particular forms of government are the independent variables that help explain the sorry state of democratic institutions.
- Indians will have to live with this situation until the political culture of the country at the popular level and at the level of the political class undergoes a radical transformation.
- Changing the parliamentary form into a presidential one is not the panacea(solution for all wrongs).
3) For the Love of Dog-
- Dogs and Indians were barred(prevented) from entering prominent roads during the British Raj. Killing dogs was considered part of the sanitation process.
- This did not reduce the population of these animals before or since Independence.
- In 1980, a dog count estimated 8 lakh dogs in Delhi.
- Thousands were killed every month in a bid to rid the city of dogs. In 1987, a MCD survey revealed that the dog population was still 8 lakh.
- The survey also showed that the number of people bitten by dogs actually increased when more dogs were killed.
STERILISATION AND VACCINATION:
- Dogs exist in developing countries because of poor solid waste disposal systems. They must be dealt with scientifically and humanely.
- Otherwise we will repeat the disaster of Surat in 1994 when all dogs were removed and rats took their place immediately, creating fears of plague. I remember the masks and fear across the country.
- A WHO study in the 1990s showed sterilisation and vaccination was the only way to deal with street animals and the threat of rabies from them.
- This survey informed an order of a lower court in Delhi that asked the government to sterilise and vaccinate dogs instead of killing them.
ANIMAL BIRTH CONTROL (ABC) RULES:
- In 2001, the Centre notified the Animal Birth Control (ABC) rules.
- While local bodies were asked to execute the sterilisation programme, it was expected that the Centre and state governments would extend financial assistance.
- The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) was mandated to assist and monitor these drives.
- Unfortunately, the government made no financial provision for sterilisation.
- A few municipalities have implemented this programme very effectively on their own — especially in Delhi where the dog population is now under a lakh and dog bites have come down from 72,000 a year in 2000 to 12,000.
- The centres which issue the anti-rabies injections in Delhi will tell you that most of these bites are from foreign pet dogs who believe they should protect their owners.
- But Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Noida do not have any animal birth control programme and Gurgaon implements such a programme irregularly, which is a waste of money.
LACK OF IMPLEMENTATION:
- There is confusion on which ministry should underwrite the dog sterilisation programme.
- The health ministry as a health programme, the urban development ministry as a programme for cities, the animal husbandry department, or the environment ministry.
- Constructive measures to control the dog population need to be undertaken by the animal birth control monitoring committees in the states.
- Unfortunately, these committees don’t meet, they have not allocated any budget for the programme and are culpable for badly executed programmes.
- The Uttarakhand government has set an example by establishing Animal Birth Control Campuses with adequate hospital facilities.
- An evaluation of the programme after two years of operation found it extremely effective in controlling both aggression in dogs and their population.
- Uttar Pradesh has started a similar programme in Lucknow.
- Unfortunately, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has not acted on the SC’s directive to create a scheme to support the implementation of the dog population control and rabies eradication(removal) programme.
- Uttarakhand’s experience shows the salience(importance) of such a programme.
ADOPTING INDIAN DOGS:
- The Centre has banned breeders and pet shops which sell animals without licences.
- This rule is not being followed but it could become a significant part of a larger solution.
- Adoption of Indian dogs is a healthier and more practical option.
- They are better suited to our environment and are intelligent and friendly.
- If two in every hundred people adopt an Indian dog, there will be no dogs on the roads.
- Till then, we need a robust spay and neuter programme and community participation to keep the street animals healthy and friendly.
- A rabid(mad) dog loses the use of his nerves — first sight, then throat, then the legs. Such dogs do not jump about, climb over walls.
- Rabies is now very rare in Delhi because of the ABC programme.
- Violent foreign dog that has been mis-trained by owner and then set loose should be punished.
- Street dogs or colony dogs do not bite wantonly(deliberately). There are three reasons for them getting aggressive.
- One, if the female is on heat the males will break boundaries to reach her and get aggressive because they are both sexually charged and nervous.
- Two, if the female has a litter(offspring), she knows most of her babies will die and her pain and anger comes out as she tries to defend them. Anyone who feeds dogs knows that five out of six puppies will die.
- Three, if they are constantly hit by people, dogs become very defensive.
- Sterilisation takes away the first two reasons and in every colony where street animals are allowed to live and let live, there is complete harmony.
- Some people use their profession and power to abuse and bully harmless dog feeders who then reach out to me.
- During the lockdown, lakhs of people, especially young people, have emerged as thoughtful, generous and brave animal carers.
- Many of them have been subjected to irrational abuse.
- But we should remember that every animal carer takes care of the people in the community by feeding the dogs.
- Animals bring happiness. The word animal comes from anima — the soul.
- Each animal thinks, dreams and wants the same nurturing that we do.
- If we can coexist with them, we will benefit far more from our interaction with them than they with us.
- Let us be humane and kind to each other and the world around us. India will benefit.