New Delhi: In an embarrassment to the Narendra Modi government, a war of words broke out on Thursday between union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar after Gandhi accused Javadekar of permitting the “killing of animals” across the country.
Gandhi said she could not understand the ministry’s “lust for killing animals”.
“Environment ministry is writing to every state, asking which animal should be killed and that they will give permission for it,” Gandhi, a well-known animal rights activist, told reporters.
“In Bengal, they have permitted the killing of elephants, in Himachal Pradesh they have ordered killing of monkeys, and in Goa they gave permission to kill peacocks. I don’t understand their lust for killing animals,” she said.
Defending his position, Javadekar said that “such permissions are given on the recommendation of state governments”.
Javadekar stated: “When state governments write to us about farmers’ suffering due to crop damage by animals, then such permissions are given. It is on the recommendation of state governments. This is not a central government programme, as it is an existing law.”
However, Gandhi put the blame squarely on the environment minister for the killing of animals.
Asked about the role of the minister, she said: “Now you tell me what could be the role? He only has to give the permission. This is the first time the environment ministry is giving permission to kill animals.”
“In Chandrapur (in Maharashtra), they have killed 53 wild boars and have given permission to kill 50 more. Even their own wildlife department said that they don’t want to kill the animals,” Gandhi told reporters.
Later, the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a statement that it has not given permission to kill either deer, peacocks or elephants.
Countering Gandhi’s allegations, the ministry in a statement said that no amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, has been made to this effect.
“There are many complaints from members of parliament, people’s representatives, state governments and farmers about their crops getting heavily damaged in certain parts of the country. There also, the process has been laid down in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, under Section 62.”
“No amendment has been made by the government to this Act. And nothing has been done beyond the procedure prescribed by law. Therefore, the ministry has not given any permission to kill either deer, peacock or elephant,” said the statement by Inspector General Wildlife S.K. Khanduri in the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The statement added that the ministry has received proposals from five states to take action on wildlife-human conflicts.
“As per the provision of law, if there are complaints about the wildlife conflict, then the state government has to submit the proposal. Till date, five states have submitted the proposal. The ministry examines the proposal in detail and allows scientific management in a specific area for a limited time. There were complaints about wild boar, blue bull and other animals.”
According to the statement, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh were given permission for scientific management for a limited time for a specific area.
“Accordingly, these proposals have been examined and given permission for scientific management for a limited time for a specific area in the three states of Uttarakhand, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh. Proposals of Maharashtra and Gujarat are still being examined.”
“India is proud of its animal-human coexistence. In some places, animal-human conflicts happen. Last year, more than 500 people lost their lives in human-wildlife conflicts,” the statement noted.
Wildlife activist Amit Chaudhery also criticised Javadekar, terming him a “criminal and a killer”.
“Against the country’s laws, including the Wildlife Protection Act, and in contempt of India’s civilizational values as well as Constitution, this killer has declared open season in the land of Ahimsa. Indira Gandhi brought in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, to put an end to hunting, Javdekar wants to be the antithesis of that in every way,” Chaudhery.