Sunday, 8 May 2011

Letter to PM re erroneous recording of minutes, Dec 24th, 2007


The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India 
Chairperson, National Board for Wildlife
South Block
New Delhi 
December 24, 2007

Hon’ble Prime Minister,

Re:            Erroneous Recording of the Minutes of the 4th Meeting of the NBWL

With deep regret and disillusionment we wish to bring to your kind notice the fact that the Minutes of the above meeting, circulated recently by the MoEF, are incorrect in crucial respects and make a mockery of the positive decisions that were taken under your chairmanship. We are sure you will agree that the sanctity and purpose of decisions taken at the highest level should not be undermined in this manner.

The positive meeting on Nov 1st 2007 left us optimistic about the prospect of progress on important agenda items that were discussed.  A careful reading of the minutes however, now leaves us with one inescapable conclusion: that, at the end of the day, all good intentions – including important decisions taken even by the Prime Minister of the nation – can be nullified by individual bureaucrats to ensure that nothing positive actually happens. It is deplorable that the decisions of a high-level statutory body that aims to safeguard the ecological health and wealth of the nation are being subverted.

As you percipiently observed during the meeting, the 15 non-official members of the Board represent a wealth of experience in the field of wildlife and conservation.  While we are willing to commit our time and expertise for the good of the nation, there appears to be a systematic effort to thwart us at every stage by the MoEF which seems to regard us as an unavoidable nuisance.  This was evident before the meeting, when most of the agenda items proposed by us were omitted from the final agenda of the meeting.  It is even more evident now from the selectively - and inaccurately - recorded minutes. 

With the very credibility of the NBWL at stake, we have no choice but to seek your intervention once again, to ensure that the functioning of the NBWL is not trivialized and rendered inconsequent. If the letter and spirit of the decisions taken are not recorded accurately, or are willfully distorted, the implications for India’s ecological security are serious.  In the annexure to this letter we are listing seven key decisions that have been distorted or omitted in the minutes.

We seek your kind intervention in the matter so that the erroneously recorded Minutes of the 4th meeting of the National Board for Wildlife are appropriately modified. We also seek your urgent intervention in ensuring that the MoEF manages the affairs of the NBWL strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006, and that, starting now, it functions in a transparent and professional manner.

Signed on behalf of and in consultation with the following members

Brijendra Singh

Wildlife Protection Society of India – Belinda Wright; Reef Watch – Prahlad Kakar; Wildlife First – Praveen Bhargav; World Wide Fund for Nature-India - Ravi Singh; Bombay Natural History Society - Dr.Asad Rahmani; Dr. Divyabhanusinh Chavda; Valmik Thapar; B. Mohanty; Dr. B. Talukdar; Shekar Dattatri; Mahendra Vyas; Dilip Khatau; Bonani Kakkar ; Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh


Key decisions taken and the way they have been recorded in the minutes.

i)               Decision: Create a Sub-Committee with adequate representation of non-official members to look at adverse impacts of the Forest Rights Act on forests and wildlife and suggest mitigating measures before the Rules are notified.

This decision has been watered down, distorted and recorded in the Minutes as - “Formation of Committee to suggest effective implementation of ST and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 with reference to wildlife conservation.  The crucial element of the decision “before the rules are notified” has been left out.

Incidentally, a month and half after the meeting, there has been absolutely no attempt by the MoEF to constitute the said committee.

ii)             Decision: Non-official members of the NBWL to present suggestions to the Chairperson on policy regarding best utilization of CAMPA funds.

This decision has been totally omitted. This we believe is to subvert any attempt that has the potential to disrupt the application of this huge fund on lucrative and nebulous “afforrestation” projects.

iii)            Decision: Review the constitution of the Standing Committee of the NBWL and ensure the inclusion of more non-official members so it is better represented. Ensure positive discussions based on suggestions of all members of the Standing Committee so that the working of Standing Committee is not restricted only to de-notifications.

This decision has merely been mentioned in the discussion summary as -
“He (Hon PM) also requested Minister of State (Environment & Forests) to look into the matter.

We believe that the way the Standing Committee has been constituted, and the manner in which it is presently functioning, has the potential to cause huge embarrassment to your government.  It is therefore in the government’s express interest to take all measures necessary to set right the serious lapses.  This is why we brought this to your attention at the meeting and are now suggesting a comprehensive review.

iv)            Decision: Initiate immediate measures for the creation of a Tiger Protection Force all across the country.

This has been totally omitted in the list of decisions summed up by the Secretary (E&F). Only a point that steps taken since the last meeting under Agenda Item 4 has been mentioned as –

“Central assistance was being provided for creation of Tiger Protection Force comprising of ex-army personnel and people from local communities complimenting the efforts of the field staff “.

This does not reflect the urgency that was felt at the meeting to protect our rapidly declining national animal.

V)            Decision: Constitute a Sub-Committee - with adequate representation of non-official members - to examine the proposed amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act, and any other legislation that may have an impact on forests and wildlife. The opinion of the NBWL to be sought at the draft stage of any new legislation or amendments to existing legislation that may potentially impact forests and wildlife.

This has been partially recorded as –

“To form a Sub Committee having representation of members from NBWL to discuss the amendments to Wildlife (Protection) Act as well as amendments to other acts, which could be affecting the wildlife conservation in the country”.

The decision that the opinion of the NBWL be sought at the draft stage of any new legislation or amendments to existing legislation that may potentially impact forests and wildlife has been omitted in the list of decisions summed up by the Secretary (E&F). However, a mention has been made under Agenda Item 7 that the Prime Minister observed that this (opinion of NBWL at draft stage) could be considered”.

VI)           Decision: The NBWL will be the premier agency to drive policy and agenda for wildlife in the country, and positive outcomes of the NBWL meetings must be disseminated and shared in the public domain.

This decision has been totally omitted.

VII)  Two keynote presentations, on successful relocation of people from Bhadra and Nagarahole Reserves, and the revival plan for tigers and wildlife have been recorded to project that they do not form a part of the meeting.

Encl. Letter to the Member Secretary on the Summary of the Decisions taken at the
4th Meeting of the NBWL