BENGALURU: Although wildlife laws have been codified for a long time now, its understanding, awareness and implementation have been pretty poor. Forest, police and judicial officers deliberated recently in Bengaluru on the low rate of convictions and the need for taking forest/wildlife cases to its logical end. The occasion was the release of Praveen Bhargav’s book, Wildlife Laws for Rangers, which the experts said is a ready-reckoner and useful guide for forest officials and wildlife managers.
Releasing the book, former cricketer Anil Kumble said, “Post my cricketing career, I was fortunate to be nominated as the vice chairman of Karnataka State Board for Wildlife. I strongly believed I had an opportunity of making a contribution.” Kumble, who had a tenure of three years, talked about how much he depended on Bhargav’s guidance during the time.
“There is too much negative connotation given to celebrities’ association for a cause – we are not experts and don’t claim to be, but we can be the strong voice for a cause,” he said, adding, “In this regard, I could rely upon experts like Praveen, whose views are genuine and trustworthy.”
Kumble also said that he realised while working with the department that not everything is rosy, although Karnataka is a pioneer in wildlife conservation. “We have led from the front; there is increase in protected areas with addition of 1,000 sq.km by formation of new wildlife sanctuaries. When I visited Chincholi, the overwhelming response from the local communities made me realise the advantage of being a cricketer. So it became a mission – of how much we could contribute to wildlife. We have enough laws to govern and enforce wildlife protection but lack of knowledge has been a bane. Praveen’s book will act as a ready reckoner for many,” he added.
The event also included a panel discussion on the ways and means to curb wildlife crime. Justice A V Chandrashekar, former Justice, Karnataka High Court, said, “When Praveen held workshops for judicial officers, there was a remarkable change in their mindset, benefiting wildlife conservation.”
Bhaskar Rao, additional director general of police, added that conviction is very low in wildlife cases – out of 547 cases in the last eight years, only 24 convictions have taken place. Former DG and IGP S T Ramesh as well as chief wildlife warden Sanjai Mohan said failure in investigations is due to lack of investigation skills.
Bhargav, who anchors the policy and litigation campaigns of Wildlife First, has been promoting the cause for over two decades and has conducted over 100 programs for officials, judicial magistrates and public prosecutors on implementation of the Wildlife Act. “From these training programs emerged the idea of writing a book,” he told CE.
“Effective implementation of the law and prosecution of offenders requires forest officers to have a reasonable understanding of the rules. However, lack of formal training makes it intimidating for rangers. The book seeks to address this lacuna and has been written in a simple style along with specific examples. We will be handing over 1,500 books to the forest department for distribution,” he added.