New Delhi: With Union Ministers Maneka Gandhi and Prakash Javadekar locking horns over the culling of animals, including nilgai, animal rights bodies on Thursday expressed "shock" over the environment ministry's stand saying such killings will not help mitigate human-animal conflict.
Noting that more than 500 people lost their lives in human-wildlife conflicts last year, the environment ministry, however, said there are standard operating processes laid down in Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and permission for "scientific management" of human-animal conflict has been given to Uttarakhand, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh.
"We are shocked. Prakash Javadekar is unfit to be the environment minister. Since the time he has come, he has only done bad things for environment. Nilgai (blue bull) is a very serious issue. Nilgai is not the problem but the loss of its habitat is. We are challenging the constitutional validity of Section 62 (of Wildlife Act), which is a very arbitrary section.
"It gives power to the central government to declare what it wants to. We have gone to the Environment Ministry and suggested that we should do mitigation and adaptation work. As the Environment Minister, he (Javadekar) needs to understand that he is a trustee of environment and he has to ensure that it is protected for coming generations," NG Jayasimha, member of Animal Welfare Board of India (ABWI), told PTI.
Noting it is an issue of management of human-animal conflict, Greenpeace India said killing of animals is not the answer, especially when "you start declaring it as a vermin as it will only change the mindset."
"India is celebrated and recognised worldwide for the tolerance and its ability to live along with nature. Something of this sort will have a huge impact on how the general population would view. It can have all kinds of knock down effect.
"You cannot say that elephant is a national heritage animal and at another level, you say it's vermin. (Labelling them as) vermin will deeply affect ethos of Indian population towards biodiversity and nature," Ravi Chellam, Executive Director of Greenpeace India said.
Inspector General of Wildlife, Environment Ministry, SK Khanduri said that last year, more than 500 people lost their lives in human-wildlife conflicts and there are standard operating processes laid down in Wildlife (Protection) Act.
"Therefore, the Ministry has not given any permission to kill either deer, peacock or elephant," he said in a statement.
However, there are other organisations which said that culling or declaring vermin is an ecological management tool and maintained that it was a fact that blue bulls and monkeys are creating problems for farmers.
"Blue bulls and monkeys are creating problems in a lot of states including Bihar and HP. Declaration of vermin is like a population management tool. Vermin is a general practice in African countries as well where they even kill elephants.
"If you look at it as a animal welfare perspective, it will be wrong but if you look at it from ecological management perspective, it's a right move. There is nothing wrong in it,"said Ajay Saxena, programme manager (forestry) at Centre for Science and Environment.