- Pardhis: The traditional Custodians of Cheetahs
- Retribution for the South, Accolade for the North
Recently, cheetahs were reintroduced in Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, marking a major milestone for the $5 million translocation project. In this context, the ‘pardhis’ possess knowledge that has the potential to greatly augment the scope and efficiency of our conservation initiatives.
GS3- Environment- Conservation, Biodiversity
Analyse the significance and risks associated with the cheetah translocation project. What role can the tribal group Pardhis play in this regard? (10 marks, 150 words).
Significance of the introduction of cheetah:
- Authorities argue that reintroducing a top predator like the cheetah can improve the area’s overall biodiversity by restoring the predator-prey balance.
- Cheetah presence could attract tourists, boost the local economy, and generate funds for conservation.
- From a scientific perspective, it can offer valuable data on reintroduction methodologies and challenges, applicable globally for this “vulnerable” species.
- Additionally, the presence of a historically significant animal can instill pride in local communities, furthering the cause of conservation.
Concerns associated with the performance of the initiative:
- Nine cheetahs, including six adults and three out of four cubs born in India, have tragically succumbed to various afflictions, such as renal failure, physical injury, and humidity-related infestations.
- Questions have been raised about the labeling of the cheetah’s ‘introduction’ as a ‘reintroduction’ and concerns about the suitability of Kuno as an ideal habitat.
- Some argue that the cheetah’s claim to fill a unique ecological niche is not well-founded, given the presence of native predators.
- Moreover, there are worries about potential human-wildlife conflicts and limited consultation with experts in cheetah ecology.
The Pardhis- Cheetah connection:
- Historically, the Asiatic cheetah thrived in diverse ecosystems, and the ‘pardhis’ played a crucial role as specialized hunters.
- They trapped, trained, and deployed cheetahs for hunting or traded them to the elite.
- The decline of the cheetah population in the wild was due to excessive hunting. Over time, the introduction of African cheetahs by the aristocracy further diminished the Asiatic cheetah’s presence.
- The ‘pardhis’ were declared a criminal tribe in 1871, but their expertise in hunting and conservation-oriented rules influenced wildlife-related regulations in India.
- Despite the removal of the ‘criminal tribe’ label in 1952, their perception by enforcement agencies remained largely unchanged.
- The ban on hunting marginalized them, leading some to engage in illegal activities.
- The current cheetah translocation project, touted as the “world’s first intercontinental large wild carnivore translocation project,” presents unique challenges.
- The cheetahs must adapt to an unfamiliar ecosystem with different food webs and climatic conditions. To ensure success, a professional and collaborative approach is essential.
- Utilizing traditional knowledge from the ‘pardhis’ is crucial, as seen in successful initiatives employing indigenous people in wildlife conservation.
The ‘pardhis’ are more than a tribe; they are stewards of centuries-old wisdom deeply intertwined with local ecosystems and cultures. Despite the unjust stigma of being labeled a criminal tribe, their potential as allies in conservation is significant. The decision to tap into their wisdom lies in our hands, and it could significantly enhance the effectiveness of our current conservation approaches.
In the context of India’s federal democracy, the political and economic significance of a state is closely tied to its relative population size. The robust linguistic identities and regional renaissances in the southern states have propelled them to greater heights in various development spheres compared to their northern counterparts. Notably, population control in the southern states has been achieved through social development and economic growth, in stark contrast to the northern states.
- GS2- Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure
- GS3- Mobilisation of Resources
What are the challenges faced in India in the context of balancing political representation with population geography? Suggest a way forward in tackling these challenges. (10 marks, 150 words)
- Population geography changes have a lasting impact on the political and economic landscape in the federal political system.
- Article 81 of the Indian Constitution mandates that Lok Sabha constituencies should be equal in size based on population.
- The freezing of the number of constituencies for each state, determined by the 1971 Census, was extended through constitutional amendments.
- If the current principle of equalizing constituency size by population is enforced, the southern states would lose seats, while the northern states would gain, leading to a shift in political representation.
Balancing population and political representation:
- The issue of balancing political representation for sub-central units with lower populations is a common challenge in federations. Canada, for example, has consistently increased representation for less populous provinces.
- The attempt to equalize constituencies based on population is rooted in the principle of “One Person, One Vote.” However, the winner-takes-all nature of the ‘First-Past-the-Post’ election system may lead to winners being elected with a fraction of total votes.
- In the Indian context, where family planning and population control are policy priorities, states that have successfully implemented these policies should not face reduced political representation.
- Population control in the southern states is a result of both family planning programs and broader social changes engineered by societal leaders.
- Penalizing these states through reduced representation could discourage other regions from taking population control seriously.
Balancing population and fiscal transfers:
- Population also plays a role in fiscal transfers, where Finance Commissions recommend the share of each state in the assigned tax revenue of the Union government.
- The formula often considers population and per capita income, with larger weights assigned to the latter.
- The trend of using current population in the distribution formula and delimitation can be seen as retribution for the population control efforts of the southern states and an acknowledgment of the higher population growth rate in the northern states.
In summary, freezing the distribution of seats among states as they were in 1971 until population stabilizes in all states is proposed as a solution. This addresses concerns about political representation and fiscal transfers while recognizing the efforts of states in population control.