We are resilient by Force, not by Choice - A Wednesday.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Beyond The Hype !

(On The Animal Adoption Scheme of Van Vihar)
(Photo from here, without permission)

Bhopal is in news these days, one for the sorry incident of a farmer committing suicide after being mentally harassed for four years by government officials seeking bribe. Then there is a pretty lady kissing a python, the first person to adopt a wild animal from Van Vihar National Park.

I will talk about the pretty lady, her adopted python and Van Vihar National Park here. Seeing and reading so much about her ‘activism’, I too got interested in the scheme of things. But Paranoid and Pessimistic as I have become these days, I tried to understand the working of Van Vihar. So here are some of the points that I found useful for further discussion:

  1. Taking the Census data from Van Vihar website and the adoption rates set by the authorities, we can say that Rupees 89.54 Lakh are required per year for the maintenance of the listed (10) animals.

  1. Taking the Visitor data for the year 2005 into consideration and the minimum rates for entry into Van Vihar (Rs.20/-), we can say that Van Vihar earned more than Rupees 50 Lakh. (250000*20, the figure would be higher for 2008 obviously).

  1. The difference Rupees 39 Lakh, a meagre sum for a National Park. Of course they have to maintain the Park and the Free Ranging Animals too, so let us now discuss how Van Vihar is financed:

    a. Regular Maintenance : The State Government provided funds to meet the maintenance and establishment cost plus the fifty percent State share against the financial assistance provided by Central Zoo Authority (CZA).

    b. Development: Varieties of developmental works is carried out in Van Vihar with assistance from the Central Zoo Authority on an equal share basis between CZA and the State Government.

    c. Park Development Fund: The State Government has established a unique fund known as the "Park Development Fund"., Which is generated through the entry-fee receipt and other receipts from Park visitors. A controlling committee headed by Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, which approves the activities to be carried out from this fund. This fund is also utilized to create visitor facilities, such as: drinking water, Construction of sit-outs, parking, vehicle and public convenience amenities.

  1. Now comes the real issue. No data is available anywhere on the internet about the funds allocated to Van Vihar by the CZA or the State Government or even by the Van Vihar through donations and visitor fee. No data is available on how this fund is used (or misused). No audit data or report is provided.

Yes, I know you will be saying that this is an awareness campaign Van Vihar won’t gain much money from it. I agree too but think for a moment , isn’t the money allotted to Van Vihar our money, the taxpayers’ money.And the authorities are calling it a SCHEME not an awareness campaign, and they are collecting real money.

We pay taxes in each and everything so do we need to be made aware of the issues taken up by the government authorities and the “NGOs” when the relationship is mostly unilateral. Then the Park Development Fund has all the makings of large scale misappropriation, any fund that is mentioned to be used without proper auditing links automatically qualifies for something fishy. Adding to that the ‘ad-campaign’ centered around the lady would also have cost a fortune (how is that the news is covered by each channel and newspaper), I pray for the poor animals.

An economic principle comes to my mind, if you pay somebody for being poor why he would change his conditions. Donations more or less end up doing just the opposite they are intended to do, be it animals or human beings (if they can be called so).

Coming to the lady, adopting the animal is her choice, be it even for a month (by the way, the rate for python's monthly adoption is Rs.720/-, not bad for all that nationwide publicity), however I would like to wait and see whether there is a lifelong commitment, dedication, a love for the wildlife and forests that can exist beyond the hype.

And if I may request you Abhinita, Please request your father, Mr. Das (IAS) on my behalf, to advise/guide the Van Vihar people to put up the financial data on the website so that people like me can save hours searching for them on the net and then the words criticizing them and instead praise people like you. (As you are a law student I wanted to request you to file an RTI application for it, but how can I ask you to do something I am not doing, however. . .)

Finally, I rest my arguments and promise that I will find excuses in all future events till it suits my conditions and of course my purse.

And Thank you Abhinita that you helped me know our system better, keep up the good work!

All The Best!

[P.S. Actually a whole lot of questions can be investigated if someone wants to, for example, the propreity of development and maintenance work, the contracting system, the utilization of funds, etc.]

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