A week since the Lok Sabha passed the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill, Jairam Ramesh, Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Wildlife and Climate Change (Committee) has objected to provisions of the Bill.
The approved Bill allows the “transfer and transport…for a religious or any other purpose” of captured elephants—a deviation Mr. Ramesh alleged—from the Committee’s recommendation that they be allowed only for temple elephants (religious purposes).
“The Standing Committee was clear that exceptions should be made only for captive elephants owned by religious institutions but you have expanded the ambit of expansion in a very open-ended and loose manner,” Mr. Ramesh said in a letter to Environment Minister, Bhupender Yadav.
Animal rights groups, too, have objected to this amended provision in the Bill. “At a time when countries, citizens, and courts are increasingly making decisions against keeping intelligent animals in captivity, this amendment in law sends our country back to the Dark Ages,” Khushboo Gupta, Director of Advocacy Projects, PETA India, said in a statement.
The Wild Life (Protection) Bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in the 2021 Winter session, was sent to the Committee for discussion and amendments. After four months of deliberation, in April this year, the Committee submitted its report on the proposed Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill.
The thrust of the Bill is to amend the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 by increasing the species protected under the law and ensuring that Indian law is aligned to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the treaty that protects endangered plants and animals from the threats of international trade.
Mr. Ramesh also pointed out that the Committee’s recommendations for the functioning of the State Board of Wildlife were rejected and would reduce it to a “rubber stamp”. Also, he underlined, the current version of the Bill was a “cumbersome” way to align India with CITES provisions.
The Wildlife Bill is expected to be brought up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha in the next session of Parliament before it can be passed and made into law.