Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When Modi is victor, Gir lions are the sufferers

When Modi is victor, Gir lions are the sufferers

Congress aversion to Narendra Modi is understandable but stooping down to the level of settling political scores with him through the majestic pride of the nation, the Asiatic lion, is simply incomprehensible. This is exactly what the Congress-led UPA government did with the lions of Gir forest in Gujarat.

What an irony. Politics is preying on Asiatic lions in Gujarat

Sample this: on November 22, 2011, In reply to a question asked by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Parshottam Rupala on the allocation of funds for lion conservation, Union minister for environment and forests Jayanthi Natarajan said that the Planning Commission had approved the project 'Long-term Conservation of Asiatic Lions' in the greater Gir region of Saurashtra and directed the ministry to support it as a Centrally-sponsored scheme.

Thereafter on December 1, 2011, again in reply to a question by Bharatsinh Parmar over allocation of funds, Natarajan stated that the Planning Commission, on January 13, 2010, had accorded in-principle its approval.

Followed by this, on March 12, 2013, Parmar was told that the ministry has not taken a decision on granting the funds for the project.

What an irony. Politics is preying on Asiatic lions in Gujarat as in less than 20 months, the Union ministry of environment and forests has given different versions on the allocation of funds for the long-term conservation of lions in the greater Gir region.

In a recent written reply to Parmar and Rupala, Natarajan said that "the ministry has not taken any decision on granting the necessary funds for the specific purpose of conservation of lions in Gujarat."

She said that "the Gujarat government has submitted a project proposal titled 'Consolidating Long Term Conservation of Asiatic Lion in Greater Gir Region, Gujarat' for a period of five years amounting to Rs 262.36 crore for financial assistance."

The minister further said that the Centre had released financial assistance of Rs 6.75 crore during 2010-11 and Rs 6.76 crore during 2011-12 to Gujarat for part of the activities under the project. During 2012-13, as requested by the state government, the unspent balance of Rs 10.39 crore has been revalidated."

However, in November 2011, the Centre had said that the proposal on the Asiatic Lion conservation project received from the state government was forwarded by the ministry to the Planning Commission for its approval. The commission approved the project, subject to compliance with provisions of The Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

However, the Planning Commission did not provide additional funds for supporting the project, and advised the ministry that it be supported within the budget allocated for the Centrally-sponsored scheme of 'Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats'.

Later, the commission again accorded in-principle approval for the project. But, when the same question was raised in 2013, the government said that it was undecided on the funding.

Officials said after the poaching incident in March-April 2007 in Bhavnagar and Junagadh, the Gujarat government had come up with a report, 'Long term Conservation of Asiatic Lions in the greater Gir region of Saurashtra.'

Even the Planning Commission, last year, refused to allocate funds, saying that Asiatic lions are located only in Gujarat. It said that it will not allocate such a huge amount as lions are limited to a single state. The department was told to scale it down to Rs 150 crore.

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