Pride comes first
Sir — The article, “Gujarat puts ‘pride’ of lions at risk of disease and natural disaster to remain ‘world’s envy’”(July 10), by Katy Daigle points to a serious problem being faced by the wildlife in India. Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary is the only protected habitat of the Asiatic lion, also known as the Panthera leo persica, which, after having been saved from extinction, are now more than 400 in number in India. The only other sub-species of the Panthera leo persica is the Panthera leo leo, commonly known as the Barbary lion, which outnumber the smaller Asiatic lions, and live mostly in eastern and southern Africa. They are hardly found in places other than national parks and reserves.
Already, the Asiatic lions’ “gene pool is dangerously shallow”, as the report says. The spatially restricted Gir sanctuary might contribute to their extinction. Gujarat officials are reluctant to shift some of these predators to the lion reserve in Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh for two reasons. First, Gujarat wants to hold on to its uniqueness as the only state that is home to the Asiatic lion. Second, the state would lose a major chunk of its tourists if the lions are shifted. The controversy proves that “conservation in India is not about managing animals.... It’s about managing people.” This is extremely unfortunate.
Ranesh C. Dey, Calcutta
Sir — I was surprised to read about Gujarat’s indifference to the fate of the lions of Gir. As in the case of tigers, lack of space affects the existence of lions too. The extension of the Gir wildlife sanctuary and the creation of more buffer zones will provide the lions with more living space.
Since all the lions in the national park today descended from as few as 15 lions, there are not many chances of diversity among them. They are prone to death from a single epidemic. Shifting some of the lions to Kuno wildlife sanctuary would be a positive step. The lions would be better accommodated there and the change of habitat may improve the chances of their survival. The Gujarat government must act in the interests of the lions. These regal animals must not die an untimely death.
Deepungsu Pandit, Jalpaiguri
Sir — The chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, has taken a necessary step by visiting vegetable markets to look into the problem of the soaring prices of vegetables and other food items (“Mamata cracks price whip”, July 1). However, one fails to understand how she was “kept in the dark” about the abnormal price rise. On her next visit, she should also check the faulty weighing machines, which are often used to cheat the consumers.
A.S. Mehta, Calcutta
Sir — Mamata Banerjee made surprise visits to some markets in Calcutta to find out the reasons behind the high prices of vegetables. It is being said that the long summer and the lack of adequate rainfall are responsible for the soaring prices. Banerjee claimed that some traders, by stocking up the vegetables, have forcibly created the scarcity. For all practical purposes, there are no authorities to control and monitor the prices of food items in India. Farmers do not get their share of profit. It is the traders who grab all the money and the buyers bear the brunt. When the prices are too high and there is discontent among people, the administration takes a few steps. But nobody delves deep into the problem and the situation worsens in no time. The government should take concrete steps to arrest the price rise if the problem is to have a lasting solution.
Ujjal K. Pal, Calcutta
Speak the truth
Sir — In his article, “A habit of unpopularity” (July 14 ), Ramachandra Guha says that he is unpopular with politicians because he is truthful. Opinions and perspectives vary. Guha claims that he is against Hindutva since he feels that it aims to establish a Hindu State in India. But there are people who believe that Hindutva wants to protect Hindus from oppression. Guha has been criticizing the ‘first family’ of the Congress too. According to him, Jawaharlal Nehru was a perfect political leader. But many Indians feel that he was originally responsible for the problems of Kashmir. Such differences of opinion should not deter a renowned historian like Guha from speaking the truth.
Benu Kumar Bose, Calcutta