By Sandhya Sekar
In the upcoming session of the Indian Parliament, MPs will debate whether researchers and poachers should be treated in the same manner for a breach of law.
A new bill proposes to impose substantial penalties, including imprisonment, when researchers with permission to enter a forest area default in any way. At the same time, a poacher or a person in possession banned wildlife product is let off with a fine.
"The structure of penalties seems to be extremely illogical and therefore needs...immediate attention", wrote former member of the National Board for Wildlife and Wildlife First trustee, Mr. Praveen Bhargav in a letter to Smt Jayanthi Natarajan, the Minister of State for Environment and Forests. You can read the full letter on the website of Down to Earth magazine (link below).
In Indian legislation, The Wildlife Protection Act is an umbrella act that provides a framework for protection of wild animals, birds and plants, and all matters connected with them. The Act lists animal species that are at risk of going extinct; species most at risk are in Schedule I, and so on till Schedule V. Animals included in schedules are completely protected from hunting, and trade in these animals or animal parts is strictly restricted. Plants at risk are listed in Schedule VI.
After being introduced in 1973, the Act has been through six amendments. During the monsoon session of the Indian Parliament, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, is planning the next set of amendments. A Bill containing these was introduced in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament) earlier this month.
On a positive note from a researcher's perspective, the Act will get a section on "scientific research," and it states that any proposal for scientific research should be "disposed of" in a maximum of 120 days. More....