Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Gujarat saved India's pride

Gujarat saved India's pride
Times of India By Ashish Vashi & Harit Mehta

For hundreds of years now, this lion-faced state has been a natural abode of the jungle king. Lions were hunted in large numbers in northern and western India in 19th century. Gir was their last refuge because the Gujaratis protected them.

It is on sound scientific counts that Gujarat is resisting Centre's move to shift lions from Gir to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh.While the Nawab of Junagadh was among the first to bring in regulations to protect lions in the 19th century, the idea first came from Ashoka the Great in 257 B.C.

Ashoka's rock edict at Girnar talks about preservation over 2000 years back. If Gujarat had also killed the lions, the emblem of India would not have been those magestic four Asiatic lions, standing back to back. The symbol is taken from Sarnath, Ashoka capital. It's a great work of art and a symbol of India's pride, made possible only because Saurashtra protected the prides of lions in a corner of the peninsula.

After Gujarat was born in 1960, the government formed a lion sanctuary in 1965. In 1975, Gujarat government conceived a special project for the protection of Gir area and declared it a national park.

But only with the support of local people, the number of lions has gone up. According to the 1968 census, there were 177 lions, which went up to 350-360 in 2005.

The Gujarat government formed a committee to tackle the menace of lion poaching and a Rs 40 crore five-year plan was chalked in 2007-08. Gujarat Inc too has pitched in with financial support.

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