Lions may get their share in Budget
THE TIMES OF INDIA
AHMEDABAD: For the first time after 1972, when the king of the jungle had been dethroned from its position as national animal by the Royal Bengal Tiger, a joint committee of the parliament has decided to give the Asiatic lion its due respect and conceive a separate 'Project Lion' in the lines of 'Project Tiger'. The
committee has recommended that fund allocation for the king of the jungle should not be a piecemeal exercise any more. The committee, which is on a week long tour of Gujarat, will submit their recommendations before the Union budget is published this year.
After the lion lost its status as the national animal, for four decades, little funds came forth for its conservation, while 'Project Tiger' stole the show, and conservation funds.
But on Tuesday, the joint committee including Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha parliamentarians recommended that Gujarat's pride should trump the tiger with a separate 'Project Asiatic Lion'.
Asiatic lions have been so much neglected in the Budget, that since 2013 the Gujarat government had been forced to send proposals to conserve lions under the centrally sponsored scheme - Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats, a project meant for all endangered animals. Despite proposals for Rs 150 crore, the required allocations could not be made owing to paucity of funds.
In the last three years, an yearly average of only Rs 10 crore was released by the Union government to Gujarat under various Budget heads.
Dilip Pandya, a member of the committee and Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, said, "The committee, after reviewing the ground realities, believes there should be a Project Lion on the lines of Project Tiger." He added, "The committee found that only Rs 1 crore has been allocated for lion conservation under Long-Term Conservation of Asiatic Lions."
Interestingly, despite four decades of tiger conservation, the only national institution that is using the tiger as a symbol is the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). On the other hand, the Asiatic lion grace our national emblem as the Ashoka lions of Sarnath pillar. The Presidential flag has the Ashoka lions along with an elephant. Most Indian states use the Ashoka lions, though some have their own symbols, often derived from previous royal courts. Former member of National Board of Wildlife, Divyabhanusinh Chawda, said, "I feel there is no dearth of funds for lion conservation. But 'Project Lion' should concentrate on protecting natural corridors of the Asiatic lion."