Woes of rising wildlife trafficking cases

Editor

In the past few days we are witnessing alarming cases of large seizures of illegal wildlife in the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya. Apparently they were transiting through Meghalaya on the way to other destinations in the country. We must congratulate the Police Department, local NGOs and the Wildlife Department in detecting and confiscating the live animals. What is more alarming is the fact that all the seized animals and birds are exotic species and are not native to our country as reported in sections of the media. As a person with direct knowledge of these confiscated animals’ identity, I wish to clarify that they belong to several species of endangered Gibbons and Hornbills and are native to several Southeast Asian countries especially Malaysia and Indonesia. How these exotic animals landed up in our shore is a matter of guess at this moment and investigations by relevant authorities will certainly open the Pandora’s Box. But a clear modus operandi is evident in these cases. Since these animals are not protected under the stringent Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, prosecution of the smugglers is an issue and they often manage to get bail. This legal loophole emboldens the culprits to continue with this illegal trade.
As reported in the media, in recent times there have been several such confiscations of exotic animals in neighboring Assam too and all of these apparently crossed borders from Myanmar and travelled through Mizoram en route to mainland India. Wildlife Trade is one of the most lucrative illegal businesses globally with an estimated value of 7-23 billion US dollars. While a large chunk of this trade involves poached animal carcass and their numerous body parts for their purported medicinal value, there is also a huge demand for live exotic animals as pets that drive the cases such as the one witnessed here. Huge monetary incentives must have been the driving force behind such illegal businesses. Without doubt, this is not the job of petty local dealers but a well-organized international racket with sophisticated mode of operation must be behind such business. We hope that authorities will dig deep into the problems.
Now coming to the real question – can these traffickers be punished under Indian laws? As mentioned earlier provisions of IWPA, 1972 may not be applicable to such cases. But if these criminals are allowed to go scot-free, they will only be emboldened and this will also have a demoralizing affect on the people or agencies that painstakingly unearthed such cases. Even if there is no provision to detain these people under current laws of the land, we must explore and find ways to deal with such menace even with the help of international conventions like CITES to which India is a signatory (all gibbons are listed under CITES).
I am no expert on legal matters and it is best left to the wisdom of the legal fraternity and administrators to deal with such offences. But what I feel is that there needs to be close inter-agency co-operation between the relevant government authorities especially with Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of the Government of India which can be deal with such issues on a case by case basis.
Another issue is related to the welfare of the confiscated animals. Once taken out from the wilds, these animals already have a doomed future. Since establishing the country of origin and sending the seized animals back to their native country is a humongous if not impossible task, they may be suitably accommodated in local zoos with veterinary care. I am sure the relevant agencies are mindful of these issues. The people behind unearthing the recent trafficking again deserve a round of applause. Let us all be more vigilant and not allow our state to become a transit hub for such immoral and destructive trade.

Yours etc.

Dr. Uttam Saikia,

Zoological Survey of India,

Via email

Of teachers’ evaluation

Editor

All these years, since my mother’s time ( although poor soul she did not get to study that much) mine and even during my daughter’s time in school and as a student in Delhi University, teachers occupied a prestigious place in the lives of the students. During my school days, government officials like the Inspector of Schools from the Education Department would come for inspection at least once a year to have a close knit relation with the teachers and students. Today, I wonder if we still have an Inspector of Schools and if there is interaction or how well do these Inspectors know the merits and demerits prevalent in a school.
The present scenario is such that the teachers are bearing the worst brunt. It is common knowledge that school teachers do not get their salaries on time. At times they go without salary for months together. Imagine how these poor souls feed and fend for their families? Teaching is indeed a noble profession but teachers today are victimised and have to make the streets their temporary homes in order to get their just dues. What a shame indeed! The lack of respect and regard for teachers from the higher echelons is appalling. I wonder if Teacher’s Day has lost its meaning. Students in schools and colleges and every educational institution celebrate Teacher’s Day as a mark of respect for their beloved teachers but for those in the government to provide the teachers their due is far from their call. Hence Teacher’s Day has become a stark reminder that the teachers are a poorer lot. All that they have been doing is offer their services and answer to their call of duty with hungry stomachs.
I agree with Deepa Majumdar who writes in her article, “What is Education? Overcoming the Noetic factory” that “The final nail on the coffin of higher education are teachers’ evaluation by students. Not only is it disrespectful but these ratings compromise the quality of classroom teaching, with teachers pandering to spoilt youth for the sake of evaluation. I feel this is utter nonsense. I’m reminded of the time when I was still in service. What if my Annual Confidential Report had to be evaluated by a Grade IV staff? Laughable and unacceptable indeed! Of course, gone are the days when students would blindly follow the teachers. Today with the internet the students are in a better position to add to their knowledge. But how wise is it to allow students to make a report card of the teacher’s performance, especially in college where many students barely attend classes and some are like Haley’s Comet? Can such students be in a position to evaluate a teacher? If the students’ evaluation of the teachers is at all to be taken into account their statement should have substantial proof before they are taken seriously.
Many write-ups have pointed out that in today’s world, there are a set of teachers who do not have a calling or the talent, love and dedication for teaching but are still taking up the profession of a teacher to feed their families. But can they be blamed if there is a lack of employment? They are in no position to make a choice but to take up any job that can feed them. The need is for more job opportunities which is the brief of the government. The present government would do well not to blame the previous government for all ills. Instead it should focus on the formulation of policies and find out ways and means to create more jobs and ease unemployment at all levels.

Yours etc.,

Helen Dkhar,

Shillong-4

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