By Raman Kirpal
Two hundred and fifty tigers, 2,000 leopards, 5,000 otters, 20,000 wild cats, 20,000 wild foxes and still counting. That’s the number of wild animals that law enforcers have been able to count as falling prey to the deadly trade plied by Sansar Chand, 55, dubbed the Veerappan of the North, in the four decades since he took to a life of crime. He himself says they are “uncountable” and betrays no remorse about this mayhem.
The incorrigible poacher and his partners in crime, at least five of them family members, have been apprehended in as many as 57 cases in a bid to link him to seizure of large caches of animal parts. But thanks to shoddy investigations, apathy of State authorities, possible bribery of witnesses and weak laws, Sansar Chand has so far been acquitted in 10 cases and convicted only in one. Seven cases are still pending. Right now he is lodged in Jaipur central jail, but is looking forward to freedom after serving a five year term.
The sustained cruelty to animals — caught in iron traps, clubbed to death and then skinned — has brought rich dividends. Over the years, Sansar Chand amassed 45 properties, some of them covering an entire lane in Delhi’s Sadar Bazar. A conservative estimate puts their cost at Rs 40 crore, but the present market value would be much more. He claims he has no bank account, but the rent from the shops and flats alone will keep him comfortable, should he walk free.
Sealing of these properties is not within the purview of the Indian Wildlife (Prevention) Act, 1972, under which the cases are being tried. He has also been dragged into the stranglehold of the more stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999, but is trying to wriggle out on the technical ground that it can only be evoked for repeat offenders with more than two convictions. More....