Gir is lush green and a dense forest: Rajendra Dethadiya
THE TIMES OF INDIA
JUNAGADH: Rajendra Dethadiya, 65, retired as forester from the state forest department. But this has not dimmed his love for the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary. He joined the department as forest guard in 1978 and, in 1984, one of his hands was mutilated while fighting wood smugglers in the sanctuary.
Even now he continues his fight to save the pristine beauty of the forest. He says a true nature lover never retires.
Dethadiya is unhappy over the allotment of land close to the sanctuary for setting up Bhakt Kavi Narsinh Mehta University. The allotted land falls in what is known as lions' corridor of Gir. He is one of the three petitioners who have filed a PIL in Gujarat high court against the government's decision to allot this land to a proposed university.
"Today Gir is lush green and a dense forest," Dethadiya said. "This is so because it was protected by the forest department and by dedicated staff at all levels."
He said dry wood collection (Kathiyara system) was once allowed in Girnar. This unfortunately helped in proliferation of illegal wood-cutters.
"It took years to stop illegal wood-cutters," the retired forester said. "Various measures were adopted for this, including confronting them with force. I survived a deadly attack by the wood smugglers. I have tried my best to serve the forest and its wildlife.''
Dethadiya's hand was mutilated and made useless by the wood smugglers in 1984 during one such fight in the Junagadh area. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that his role has been critical in conservation and rejuvenation of Girnar forests.
Rajendra, better known as Kishor Dethadiya, has always served in the Girnar forest and devoted himself to the conservation of the wildlife sanctuary. He knows each and every corner of the 182-square-km of the sanctuary.
He said that as he had spent his entire life with Gir animals, he is emotionally attached to them.
"That is why I find it painful that wild animals' space is shrinking and their corridors are being blocked," Dethadiya said. "This will increase human-wildlife conflict and animals will pay the price for human folly." He further said that animals are unable to raise their voice against haphazard development by human beings "Hence we have moved the high court in an effort to protect the animals,'' the retired forester said.
Dethadiya has passed only the old SSC but has acquired good knowledge about the flora and fauna of Girnar. He is always ready to promote conservation and has been actively involved in environment education even after retirement.
"Whatever little I can do to save forests, I will do it,'' he said.
The land on which the university is proposed to be built was allotted to the forest department (extension) and, from 2007 to 2013, it carried out plantations in the 40 hectare area to improve the biodiversity in the land adjoining the sanctuary.
"I have seen rich biodiversity increasing in the area adjoining Gir. The land on which the proposed university is to come up was declared a permanent corridor for lions,'' he said.
"I have no regrets that I lost the use of my hand. But I am deeply pained that the government is suffering from 'policy paralysis' and is bent on reversing what has been done to protect and save wildlife," Dethadiya said.