Kerala: Farmers' body lampoons Kasaragod MP for 'doublespeak' on culling wild boars

The association is particularly miffed with the MP for referring in his letter to the pregnant elephant that was killed by a bait explosive in the Palakkad district.

Published: 27th April 2022 08:51 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th April 2022 08:57 PM   |  A+A-

Photo of women forest guards used for representational purposes

Photo of women forest guards used for representational purpose only (Photo | Vincent Pulickal)

Express News Service

KASARAGOD:  A farmers' association has lampooned Kasaragod MP Rajmohan Unnithan for purportedly taking contradictory positions in Parliament in tackling the menace of wild boar in Kasaragod district.

Speaking in the Lok Sabha on March 28, Unnithan asked the Union government to declare wild boars as vermin in Kasaragod under Section 62 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act.

But over a month ago on February 9, Unnithan wrote to Jairam Ramesh, chairman of the joint parliamentary standing committee on environment and forests, to omit Section 62 from the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill 2021 because the provision does not offer any checks and balances and is open to misuse. He also wrote that the section can make a large number of animals and birds vulnerable to incidents of brutal cruelty and victims of culling drives.

The Kerala Independent Farmers Association (KIFA) -- which made public Unnithan's letter to the joint parliamentary standing committee -- said the MP betrayed the trust of the farmers and also portrayed the farmers as a cruel collective.

The association is particularly miffed with the MP for referring in his letter to the pregnant elephant that was killed by a bait explosive in the Palakkad district.

"(The late Congress leader) P T Thomas had also taken a 'pro-environment' stance throughout his career and farmers had opposed him. But unlike Unnithan, PT did not indulge in doublespeak," said Joshjo Ozhukayil, a farmer from Balal panchayat and state committee member of KIFA.

In a statement, KIFA, which has around 2,000 farmers as members, asked the MP to recall the letter written to the parliamentary standing committee.

In Letter and Speech

Section 62 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act allows the Union government to declare any wild animal as vermin for a specific period.

Vermins are harmful to crops, farm animals, or humans and can be indiscriminately killed.

On March 28, Unnithan told Lok Sabha that wild boars had become a menace killing 'several' persons and wounding many more, and destroyed crops in his constituency Kasaragod and urged the Union government to declare the animal as vermin.

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, however, rejected the request and told the state government that wild boars cannot be declared vermin in Kerala as they are important prey for tigers and leopards.

Unnithan's February letter to the joint parliamentary standing committee on environment and forests, which is reviewing the draft amendment bill, bats for the wellbeing of the wild animals.

Unnithan wrote: "Section 62 offers no grounds for the declaration of vermin, time limitation for such declaration...

"It also makes them more vulnerable to incidents of brutal cruelty and they are viewed as inferior pests that can be killed by anyone, and disregards other laws in force.

"Further, snares and traps for vermin often capture and injure other animals, including tigers and elephants. The most prominent recent incident was the pregnant elephant that died after consuming a pineapple stuffed with firecrackers, known as bait bombs. These methods are often used to hunt wild boars," he wrote in the letter and recommended the omission of the section in the amended Act.

When contacted, Unnithan said man-animal conflicts can be tackled at the state level, and declaring an animal as vermin was not necessary.

He said Section 11 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act gives ample powers to the Chief Wildlife Ward of the state to come up with scientific and logical solutions that make section 62 obsolete.

Under Section 11, the chief wildlife warden or any authorised officer can give permission to hunt any animal or group of animals in a specified area if they have become dangerous to human life or property, including standing crops on any land, Unnithan said.

To be sure, on April 19, Union minister for environment and forest Bhupender Yadav wrote to Unnithan asking him to approach the state government to find a solution to the man-animal conflict under Section 11 of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Farmers want wild boars declared as vermin

Joshjo Ozhukayil of Kerala Independent Farmers Association said the state government had permitted selected farmers with gun licences to kill wild boars with several conditions attached. "That is not solving the problem. Last November, a farmer-hunter (K U Johnny) was gored by a wild boar after it was shot at. Johnny died after 51 days in the hospital," he said.
Only indiscriminate killing of wild boars can bring down their population, he said. "The main reason is there aren't enough tigers and foxes in Kasaragod to keep their population under check," he said.



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