Empowerment for rhino conservation - are we in the right direction?
Rhino Conservation is big news in Assam. A few years back, a TV reporter claimed rather proudly that he was seriously engaged in rhino conservation. Enthused, I ventured to ask him more about his initiatives. He shot back at me with incredulity written all over his face “Haven’t you seen me on the Television?” Ill-informed journalists egged on by some armchair crusaders have all but relegated rhino conservation into an event where a few individuals reign supreme on the Idiot Box. No one seems to be interested that the solution to rhino conservation lies in empowering the local community. Nothing highlights this scenario better than the death of an unfortunate rhino in the hands of poachers, and these peddlers have a free run on the idiot box, often casting aspersions on the local community.
Rhino Conservation and the role of NGOs
In the rat race to be visible in the media, the genuine issues confronting Kaziranga National Park remain hidden. The milieu that ensures opens up a profitable avenue for a few self-proclaimed experts and multinational NGO’s. They promptly hijack the issue by engaging in technical semantics to show off their superior intellect. With stupendous zeal, they work overtime to organize seminars ostensibly to discuss the issue. The outcome of such seminars in five-star hotels would unfailingly be the same. The decision would be to undertake a study tour to learn more about rhino conservation and in the process the opportunity to go begging for funds.
Thus the death of an unfortunate rhino turns into an enormous cash churner and an opportunity for many to globe trot on the pretext of study tours. Try as much as I did, I haven’t been able to phrase a better term to describe these people, other than terming them as Glorified Beggars.
The unsolicited and ill-informed intervention of these glorified beggars relating to all matters related to rhino conservation in Kaziranga has spelt doom for this place. And the matter is all the more aggravated by a few high-ranking Forest Officials, who patronize them. As a result, these forces (flush with overseas funds) have adroitly manoeuvred the Forest Department’s rhino conservation policies over the last decade to ensure that this goldmine is and will always be there’s for eternity. One needs to understand here that overseas funds will continue to pour in only if there is a crisis.
There can’t be a better place and opportunity than the world heritage site of Kaziranga to continue to earn a livelihood by highlighting, or even engineering, a crisis. Shedding a few crocodile tears in the event of a crisis, appearing on a few talk shows and being active in social media, is all that it takes for these people to hijack the issue. They regain their premium position as the sole custodians of our forests to engage in further loot with renewed vigour.