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Cruel commerce

Editorial | New Delhi |

Without casting aspersions on the competence of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the Wildlife and Forest officials of the UP government, it is difficult to understand why the supposedly “crack” agency, the CBI is not taking the lead in the “busting” of an international racket in poaching and trading in the skins and body-parts of the riches of the Indian jungle that have been unearthed in Meerut. Even if conservation and protection of wildlife is accorded only limited priority, the racket extends to the smuggling of a range of firearms ~ there could even be a terrorist link to what came to light somewhat inadvertently. Surely the matter ought to have attracted more attention than it did. Perhaps the “criminality” is limited to trade in the body-parts of animals, yet the fact that weapons of European origin were being smuggled into India ought to have raised concerns in the highest levels of government. Hence questions must be asked if the DRI has the authority and expertise to deal with clandestine activity with cross-border linkages. All of which serve to reinforce the demand for a separate ministry for forests and wildlife: clubbing it with “environment” results in a dilution of focus and diversion of resources.

It is a matter of shame that a retired colonel of the Indian Army is one of the prime suspects in the case, and it was from his home in Meerut that the “trophies” and skins of several animals were seized, along with a wide range of rifles and hand-guns, not all of them used for “poaching”. It is also a matter of shame that the ex-officer and his son, another key suspect who is absconding, belong to the Bishnoi community that is famous for its commitment to the conservation of wildlife. Perhaps most disturbing of all is that the son of the officer ~ and a couple of others picked up later ~ have been posing as marksmen participating in competitions at various levels, and exploiting the permits granted to them for importing weapons and holding considerable quantities of ammunition. It is obvious that the “federation” does a poor job of monitoring the conduct of the sportspersons it represents. If the coach who helped the colonel’s son to learn to shoot soon grew wary of the young man’s bona fides and declined to train him any farther, how come he was able to continue enjoying the facilities extended to “sportsmen”. Other shooters should have been alert to the masquerade. It is customary to perceive poaching as a criminal activity pursued by people from particular communities, but now a degree of sophistication has become manifest. That emphatically underscores the need for a competent agency to crack down on commercial activity with truly cruel dimensions.