Monday, August 27, 2007

Salman's sentence

As ardent nature-lovers, we were justifiably pleased to note that the long arm of the law had finally nabbed Salman, the deer-hunter. His sentence, however, with due respect to our honourable courts, has set us thinking on whether justice could be better served by a combination of conventional and alternate punishments. Our penal code is a relic of the Raj , and most laws have not seen fresh air in several decades. Considering the sorry state of wildlife, and the impoverished state of conservation programmes, why can we not utilise this opportunity to bail our wildlife resources out of the doldrums? Even if Salman were to spend fifty years in jail, instead of the five that he has been sentenced to, it is debatable wheter it would make an iota of difference to crimes against wildlife. Instead, the sentence could be split in a more productive manner. Here are some suggestions:
1. Let him spend a year or two in jail, as the correctional element has its merits, and gives him lots of time to think, ruminate about his follies, and perhaps, regret his actions.
2. Fine him heavily - media reports indicate that nearly 300 crores of rupees ride on him, so a fine of even 50 crores is something he can easily cough up. Set up a joint committe of dedicated NGO's and the Forest department, and utilise this corpus for wildlife protection. Buy guns, uniforms and good shoes for forest guards, who are our foot soldiers against wildlife crimes. Recruit more guards, and give them decent accomodation. Develop the villages around key wildlife areas, so that the locals are sympathetic towards conservation, and are not waging a quiet war on the forests. Build fences around vulnerable forest areas, and provide better patrolling facilities.
3. Get Salman to do a year's community service with the Bishnoi. With the inevitable glare of the media following Salman, the Bishnoi's commitment and approach towards conservation will hog lots of airtime, and can sensitise the entire nation, if not the world, towards wildlife issues. The Bishnoi will greatly benefit, as the local administration will be in the limelight, and this can catalyse all sorts of dormant government schemes which have been slumbering for eons.
Justice can take many forms, but in this version, there may be no losers.