This book is a call to decentralise wildlife management in the country.
“Wardens in Shackles” is the second offering, after the “Road To Nowhere”, in a trilogy planned by the author on Wildlife Conservation in India. While the “Road To Nowhere” critiqued the founding philosophy of wildlife conservation in India, “Wardens in Shackles,” now challenges the way conservation is done and administered in the country.
Modern wildlife conservation in India was originally conceived as a partnership between the Centre and the States. But, the relationship has gradually deteriorated into a boss-subordinate framework where the States have to seek Central permissions for even the smallest interventions on the ground. State officials can even go to jail for non-compliance with Central diktats. As the states struggle to comply with Central directives, rather than doing something original, creative wildlife management has come to a virtual standstill in the country. And, if a creative idea does sometimes come up for approval, the Central Government regularly imposes crippling ‘conditions’ rather than facilitating its implementation.
H.S. Pabla, former Chief Wild Life Warden of Madhya Pradesh, provides an insider’s account of how Central agencies tried to kill the projects which have already set a new course for conservation in India. He also exposes how wildlife tourism narrowly survived several deadly blows from the government itself. A long list of stillborn projects shows how creative instincts are stifled by the status quo lovers. The book shows that without dogged pursuit, and some madness, nothing worthwhile can be done to conserve wildlife in India.
Read “Wardens in Shackles” if you want to know how the Indian conservation establishment needs to change from within.
About the author(s)
Harbhajan Singh Pabla grew up in a Punjabi village in India. He joined the Indian Forest Service in 1977 and retired as the Chief Wildlife Warden of the state of Madhya Pradesh in 2012. Apart from doing the usual things that an Indian forester does, he nurtured his love for the wild while managing national parks like Kanha, Panna and Bandhavgarh. Along the way, he developed a penchant for challenging the stereotypes that have ruled the conservation mindset in the country so far. He was responsible for changing the face of wildlife tourism in Madhya Pradesh, despite opposition from NTCA, and made tourism revenue a significant resource in the tiger reserves of the state. When Panna lost all its tigers, he developed and implemented the tiger reintroduction plan that has given the world the confidence that wild tigers will always be around.
He introduced a culture of active wildlife management in the country through the reintroduction of locally extinct gaur, blackbuck and barasingha, besides the tiger, in the extirpated habitats. Thousands of animals have been moved between Indian parks since then, on the strength of learning from his initiatives. Despite his retirement from IFS, he still dreams of seeing the white tiger back in the wild and his wish list also includes seeing Indian foresters riding horses for patrolling and enjoying the wilderness.
He was once on the faculty of the Wildlife Institute of India and is an international consultant in forestry and wildlife management in South Asia now.