Skip to main content

Modi floats Project Cheetah amidst rulers' 'disdain' for natural forests, biodiversity

Counterview Desk 

In a representation to the chairperson and members of the National Board for Wildlife, Government of India, top energy and climate change policy analyst Shankar Sharma has said that the Project Cheetah, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, may be an important move, but what is forgotten is, the “obvious lack of the willingness” on the part of the authorities to “adequately protect wildlife habitats and biodiversity.”
Pointing towards the “mindset” which displays “disgust towards natural forests”, the expert insists, “as a responsible country with a great tradition of worshipping nature, India should urgently take an oath to adequately protect our natural forest lands, and to remodel our developmental paradigm with biodiversity at the centre of our focus.”


This has reference to Project Cheetah, which was launched today by the Hon'ble Prime Minister. The PM is reported to have stated: "Project Cheetah, under which the cheetahs were reintroduced in the country after they became extinct seven decades ago, is our endeavour towards environment and wildlife conservation."
Whereas, any endeavor towards environment and wildlife conservation, is a great move by the Union government, and should be welcomed by all, there have been many contrasting opinion by wildlife conservationists w.r.t the efficacy or desirability of this particular Project Cheetah.
Irrespective of whether such opinions are fully supported by the relevant knowledge and by such experiences elsewhere or not, all such skeptic opinions can be excused because of the obvious lack of the willingness on part of our authorities to adequately protect our wildlife habitats and the biodiversity itself.
There are many reasons for such a skeptic opinion prevailing in our minds: fast dwindling areas of natural forests; never ending diversion of forest lands even within the legally protected Wildlife sanctuaries in the name of various developmental projects; increasing number of incidents of man-wildlife conflicts because of shrinking forest cover; continued planting of alien species such as Acacia in forest lands in states such as Karnataka; continued approval for projects such as high tension power lines, power projects, mining, railway lines and roads etc. within forest areas; approval for additional reservoirs in different parts of the country for the sake of hydropower dams and water storage etc.
The large number of projects approved by the National Board for Wildlife involving the diversion of thousands of hectares of forest lands within Wildlife sanctuaries during the last 10-15 years should be the evidence enough to prove our society's callousness in adequately protecting our natural wealth.
The real implications of the practice of approving a large number of projects even inside wildlife sanctuaries, leading to destruction of wildlife habitats for many kinds of endangered species, can be easily highlighted in the context of two associated media reports:
"For the country as a whole, the loss of primary forest in a five-year period between 2014-19 was more than 120,000 ha, which is nearly 36% more than such losses seen between 2009 and 2013... Over 500 projects in India’s protected areas and eco-sensitive zones were cleared by the National Board of Wildlife between June 2014 and May 2018.”
It seems such wanton destruction of our forest wealth which seem to have made many environmentalists to view the general approach of the concerned authorities as the one bordering on hatred towards wildlife and wildlife habitats. There is a critical need to undertake massive efforts to change such unfortunate mistrust towards the concerned authorities.
As against the National Forest Policy target of 33% of land area to be covered by forests and trees, the present scenario is only about 23%; that too because of the inclusion of large chunks of lands covered by plantation trees and by alien species.
In such a scenario, and with a mindset of our authorities indicating almost a disgust towards natural forests, it should be anybody's guess as to when will our country achieve a level of adequate area and richness of forest wealth to support the wildlife on a sustainable basis. It is in this context that many wildlife conservationists may be expressing their apprehension about the Project Cheetah.
They are of the opinion that as a responsible country with a great tradition of worshipping nature, India should urgently take an oath to adequately protect our natural forest lands, and to remodel our developmental paradigm with biodiversity at the center of our focus.
Until such time many of the truly concerned wildlife conservationists may tend to view this project without much hope. Some may even deem it as a sort of "tamasha" as one political party has stated; and also as a waste of public money.
Until a conscious decision, and also preferably a legal requirement, not to permit any diversion of the forest lands until the National Forest Policy target of 33% forest area is exceeded by a good margin is taken, there seems very little chance of adequately protecting our wildlife habitats.  Hence "our endeavour towards environment and wildlife conservation" is likely to remain only on paper.
On this occasion, can our people hope to see early a paradigm shift in "our endeavour towards environment and wildlife conservation", along with a clear commitment which can also be corroborated periodically through reliable statistics, and policy frame work?



'Enough evidence' in Indian tradition to support legal basis for same-sex marriage

By Iyce Malhotra, Joseph Mathai, Sandeep Chachra*  The ongoing hearing in the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage provides space for much-needed conversations on issues that have hitherto remained “invisible” or engaged with patriarchal locker room humour. We must recognize that people with diverse sexualities and complex gender identities have faced discrimination, stigma and decades of oppression. Their issues have mainly remained buried in dominant social discourse, and many view them with deep insecurities.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Victim of communal violence, Christians in Manipur want Church leadership to speak up

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  The first eleven days of May 2023 have, in many ways, been a defining period of Indian history! Plenty has happened in a rapid-fire stream of events. Ironically, each one of them are indicators of how crimes and the criminalisation of society has become the ‘new norm’; these include, the May Day rallies with a focus on the four labour codes which are patently against the rights of workers; the U S Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its Annual Report on 1 May stating that conditions for religious freedom in India “continued to worsen in 2022”; the continued protest by the Indian women wrestlers at Jantar Mantar for the expulsion of the chief of the Indian Wrestlers Federation on very serious allegations; the Elections in Karnataka on 10 May (with communalism and corruption as the mainstay); the release of the fake, derogative and insensitive film ‘The Kerala Story’; the release of World Free Press Index on 3 May which places India

Delhi HC rules in favour of retired Air Force officer 'overcharged' for Covid treatment

By Rosamma Thomas*  In a decision of May 22, 2023, the Delhi High Court ruled in favour of petitioner Group Captain Suresh Khanna who was under treatment at CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, between April 28 and May 5, 2021, for a period of eight days, for Covid-19 pneumonia. The petitioner had to pay Rs 3,55,286 as treatment costs, but the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) only reimbursed him for Rs 1,83,748, on the basis of government-approved rates. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

India joining US sponsored trade pillar to hurt Indian farmers, 'promote' GM seeds, food

Counterview Desk  As many as 32 civil society organisations (CSOs), in a letter to Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and India joining the trade pillar, have said that its provisions will allow the US to ensure a more favourable regulatory regime “for enhancing its exports of genetically modified (GM) seeds and GM food”, underlining, it will “significantly hurt the livelihoods of Indian farmers.”

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam* In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Undermining law, breastfeeding? Businesses 'using' celebrities to promote baby food

By Rajiv Shah  A report prepared by the top child welfare NGO, Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI), has identified as many as 15 offenders allegedly violating the Indian baby food law, the Infant Milk Substitutes Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 1992, and Amendment Act 2003 (IMS Act), stating, compliance with the law “seems to be dwindling by the day.”