Thursday, October 11, 2012


12 October, Friday

Today morning I saw a mail from Raza, who feels depressed with his recent experience at the interview held for selection for a job. The personal traits reflected of Raza in his writings on wildlife convince me that he must be a good and methodical student of engineering too. In spite of doing well in the written examination, Raza didn't get the first job he applied for. The reason for his ‘rejection was his passion towards wildlife and forest conservation’. The people interviewing him for HR were ‘candid enough to let him know that his passion for wildlife and forest conservation, his booklet on Cheetah and other writings from him just didn't work for the employers as they believed that these attributes would eventually pull the employee away from their company once they hired him and they--- (the internationally known computer-related business consultancy services provider)--- couldn't take that risk’. The mail and the feelings contained in it were a bit shock for me, but I don’t see it is the end. I sent sharp a consolation and encouraging letter to Raza hoping that he will be back to his normal.

Let me go back by a decade. From Similipal we used to conduct Nature Camps for various target groups of students, teachers and NGO-personalities. We also conducted Orientation Programmes for local drivers who drove tourists to the Tiger Reserve. I was at the centre of at least two down-to-earth training programmes for Tourist Guides.  The objectives were to generate supporters for wildlife conservation in every sphere of social profile surrounding the Tiger Reserve. For graduate and post-graduate students I always give a very rosy picture about usefulness of wildlife experiences, and  say that ‘wildlife-related experiences’ or ‘wildlife-related interests’ may not give them a full-fledged job in the wildlife sector but it could help them to get to their other chosen field. For the last 10-11years I have often narrated a story to many students.

It is about a bright student of Physics from Maharaja Purna Chandra College. The college is situated in Baripada, the District Headquarters of Mayurbhanj. One of the cherished attractions of the district is forests of Similipal. Young Partha was very enthusiastic about wildlife and forest conservation, and used to come to see me in my office when he was preparing for various competitive examinations. It was perhaps the year 1992. He was selected by us for an 8-days long forest stay as one of the 25 non-official members for tiger census. He was allotted one of the two Census Units at Bhanjabasa.

For many reasons Bhanjabasa was our southern-most census unit in Similipal. It is a Forester (Section) Headquarter and reachable by van or jeep. I had my first King Cobra experience of Similipal there. The area extending up to Putulidiha, Ghaghra and Nekdanacha etc. always gave good tiger experiences. It has enriched my own research on tiger and also the understanding about the pressure mounted by people from periphery down the Similipal hills. Later, all these helped me to write the Biosphere Management Plan.

After leaving the census groups at Bhanjabasa, I came to Upper Barha Kamuda from where I was coordinating the census units in southern and south-central part of Similipal. One day I marked Partha had brought a voluminous book which he was reading as a preparation for Bank Probationary Officer. He used to read it in the night and in early morning before setting out to the field. He was good in field work--- full of questions and full of interpretations.

Field work and the analyses for Tiger census were over. Months passed by. In the meantime Partha got through the written examination for Probationary Officer in State Bank of India, and was called for an interview. Before leaving for the interview he came to me. I answered some more of his questions and encouraged him, as usual. To my disappointment, on return from the interview Partha was depressed, as is Raza today. He told me that at the interview the discussions dominated around tiger census, Similipal and wildlife conservation. But ultimately he was told that he will not fit for a banking job. Better he tries and joins the Indian Forest Service. I too felt sorry for him and about my own confidence about the chosen field.

After a few days, Partha came to me with a packet of sweets to celebrate. Reason---, he has been finally selected for the job of PO in SBI. He joined the training, then the regular job. For some time he remained in regular touch with me over the phone. He got married. His efficiency took him to serve in one of the Branches of his Bank in the USA. Now he is back in Orissa, and I locate him through a group that is active about wildlife matters in Orissa.

MORALE of the two stories: all employers may not be equally nature-oriented. Some may be more instrument-oriented.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


An emerging trend in areas meant for wildlife conservation is the demand for urban amenities for ‘developing the life of people’. Any decision in this direction requires careful deliberations and planning about (a) where and how to preserve anthropological heritage and traits, (b) where to provide urban amenities inside the forests, and (c) where to take the people out of the forests closer to developed urban set up. While attitudinal evolution of human society is inevitable, conservation of biodiversity in any form is also a survival necessity. From early 1970s one of the ‘recommended approaches’ in wildlife conservation is to relocate human population from designated areas which offer better chances for survival of wildlife. Implementation of the idea of relocation or its results has not been encouraging. Where implemented, it has been only in part, and only the brighter side or only its opposite is presented to the world. Often there is unhappiness on either side----, the relocated family feels neglected, and the Protected Area Manager is unable to make use of the area deemed to have been vacated for him. Similipal in the district of Mayurbhanj in Odisha, India is an example of activities under Tiger Conservation, Crocodile Conservation, Elephant Conservation, Eco-development, Biosphere Reserve Management and the programme for development of primitive tribal families namely, Khadia and Mankedia. With experience and lessons drawn from Similipal forests, it is urged that (1) only the primitive Khadia tribals may be able to prolong a sustainable living without going away from the forests. (2) For all other ‘tribal people’ education should be so much interwoven into their desire for change and urbanization that they grow fast with it away from pressure of complying to measures for nature conservation. (3) Those willing for relocation should be done fast with distinct pre-relocation and post-relocation packages. Post-relocation requires long term care and development. (4) Back in forest the Policy should be clear to handle ‘motivators’ and other people encroaching into sanctions that may accrue only for ‘primitive tribals’.