Thursday, April 25, 2013

Headless fight for Gir lions.

Gujarat government tried to defend its stance on retaining its lions but its wildlife board, which was meant to advise it on the issue, stood unconstituted since December 2012; lapse detected at a meeting this week
Hitarth Pandya
Posted On Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 08:57:59 AM

A high-power committee meeting regarding the issue has been scheduled for April 25
Ahmedabad - The Gujarat government harped on retaining its ‘pride’ and preserving its ‘unique heritage’ while arguing against the shifting of Asiatic lions from Gir in Saurashtra to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh, but it forgot to reconstitute the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL), meant to advise it on the issue. It realised its lapse only after a meeting was called to discuss the lions’ translocation.

Quickly, three MLAs were nominated to the board, as required by the SBWL statute, and invited to attend the meeting re-scheduled for April 25. State Forest Minister Ganpat Vasava said, “It is an important meeting and Chief Minister Narendra Modi is the chairman. MLAs, members from NGOs and others are board members. I’m not sure who the three MLAs are.

I am at my village and I can find it out later on,” he said. Senior officials in the forest department pressed the panic button on Monday when they realised that three MLAs who were part of the SBWL were not eligible to take part in the crucial meeting to discuss legal issues pertaining to shifting of lions.

When decision was taken to hold the meeting on April 25, some senior members realised that as per the constitution of the SBWL, it is necessary to re-appoint the MLAs on the committee as the term of the old ones gets dissolved after the Assembly elections in December 2012.

The state never took the necessary steps after the elections even as the case was on in the Supreme Court. The letter sent to SBWL members reads, “This is to bring to your kind notice that a number of members have requisitioned an urgent meeting of the State Board for Wildlife for discussing the directions issued by the Hon Supreme Court of India in judgment dated April 15, 2013, allowing the translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh.

The Honorable Chief Minister of Gujarat and the chairman of the State Board for Wildlife has kindly consented to convene a special/urgent meeting as requested by some members to discuss the aforesaid directions and other issues.” The core agenda of the meeting was to chalkout a strategy to take the legal battle ahead against Madhya Pradesh in the Supreme Court.

According to sources who were given the circular to attend the meeting, there were three points on the agenda. But the meeting was specifically called to discuss strong representation in review petition which will be filed within a week. Sources said the first point on the agenda pertained to the SC judgment for translocation of the lions.

“But just when the letters were about to be dispatched, it was realised that the three MLAs who were part of the board would not be considered as legal members as their term got over with the election. As per rules, we have to inform members about the meeting in advance.

To ensure that the meeting is not considered ‘illegal’ the three members were selected immediately and they were sent the letters on Monday itself,” said a SBWL member who is going to attend the meeting. Those who were nominated as members in MLAs category include Moti Vasava from Dediyapada of Narmada district, Shankar Chaudhari from Radhanpur and Kanu Desai from Pardi in Valsad district.

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