The Lion King may have been trounced in Sri Lanka, which is the symbolic domain of the leonine, with a hallowed place on its flag. But the big cat stock is riding high in India, and the party in power has not been shy of taking ownership of that. The banter on social media has been along the usual partisan lines, too, with both sides taking the usual potshots, though in a light-hearted way. The political allusions are, of course, only offered in jest. The fact is that, in the midst of an acrimonious election in Delhi and pre-Republic Day security alerts with a world dignitary expected on the red carpet, the bit of good news that has come our way is from the field of environment.
At a time when everyone has been frothing at the mouth over green clearances and no-go zones, suddenly we hear that the tiger population in the country has now been estimated at 2,226, a whopping 30 per cent rise since 2010. What is even more heartening, India has fared better than any other tiger country in the world. It now accounts for as high as 70 per cent of the world’s big cats, a truly Malthusian proportion worthy of a country that also hosts one-fifth of the planet’s humanity! On the tiger front, unlike with mainstream or social media, the efforts have been truly bipartisan. Several states—particularly led by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand—have contributed to this positive outcome, with no particular pattern discernible in the political colours.
This remarkable turnaround—despite the harrowing tales of man-animal conflict surfacing intermittently, and deeper issues of how exactly we envision tiger zones—was possible because of a synergy between government policies and public effort. The central government, naturally upbeat about an outcome it could proudly showcase, is promising more reserved grasslands. For once, no one is afraid riding the tiger...er, we mean the T-project!