Jairam Ramesh recalls Jayachamaraja Wadiyar’s contribution to wildlife conservation

Pramoda Devi Wadiyar, Kamakshi Devi, Indrakshi Devi, and Jairam Ramesh, MP, at the third segment of the birth centenary celebrations of Jayachamaraja Wadiyar in Mysuru on Thursday.

Pramoda Devi Wadiyar, Kamakshi Devi, Indrakshi Devi, and Jairam Ramesh, MP, at the third segment of the birth centenary celebrations of Jayachamaraja Wadiyar in Mysuru on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: M.A. SRIRAM

Little-known facets of the last maharaja of Mysuru, the late Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, and his concern and love for wildlife and environment came to light during his birth centenary celebrations in the city on Thursday.

Congress MP and former Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh brought up these nuggets, gleaned from various sources, including official records and archives not easily accessible to the public.

Not many are aware that when the Central Board for Wildlife was constituted in March 1952, Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, who was then the Rajapramukh of Mysore, was appointed as its first chairman. Mr. Ramesh said his name was suggested by the then Minister of Food and Agriculture K.M. Munshi and it was “enthusiastically accepted” by Jawaharlal Nehru.

Mr. Ramesh said one reason Wadiyar was selected for the post was the conservation records established by the Mysore State. He pointed out that the Venugopal Wildlife Park within Bandipur was closed to all timber operations from around 1940 and the Mysore Game Rules put limits on tiger hunting as early as 1931.

The Mysuru zoo had a record among Indian zoos of captive breeding of elephants, and Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary was established in 1943 following the suggestions of ornithologist Salim Ali, said Mr. Ramesh.

The first meeting of the board was held in Mysuru from November 24 to December 1, 1952, at Lalitha Mahal Palace. This, Mr. Ramesh said, was a landmark conclave in the history of India’s wildlife protection and deserves to be resurrected from the oblivion to which it has been consigned, he added.

Two speeches

Wadiyar not only actively participated in and conducted deliberations with great erudition and sensitivity, but also made two major speeches — the first on the opening day and the second on the closing day. Both were described as striking and demonstrating his profound knowledge of ancient scriptures in the original Sanskrit, according to Mr. Ramesh.

Highlighting the salient features of one of the speeches, drawn from records, Mr. Ramesh said the former ruler had made out a strong case for protection of wildlife and made a special mention of the lion as it adorns the Ashoka Pillar. Subsequently, Wadiyar recalled various references to the lion in the scriptures and spoke about how wildlife was connected with the cultural life of Indians for centuries. Apart from calling for special status for the lion, which materialised five years later at Gir Sanctuary in Gujarat, the Lalitha Mahal Palace meeting saw the passage of a resolution calling for the lion’s protection.

Another 12 species were added to the list of animals that needed special protection, including the snow leopard, clouded leopard, rhinoceros, Indian wild ass, Kashmir stag, and Great Indian Bustard, but strangely the tiger, which went on to become India’s national animal, was not in the list. However, the list was not exhaustive and was expanded periodically, according to Mr. Ramesh.

He said Wadiyar continued to be the chairman of the wildlife board through the 1950s and 1960s, but could not devote much time to it because of illness. But there was one important meeting in February 1961, which saw the recommendation of making the peacock the national bird, said Mr. Ramesh. The full text of the speech is available on https://www.thehinducentre.com/resources/article30849800.ece.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 7:39:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/jairam-ramesh-recalls-jayachamaraja-wadiyars-contribution-to-wildlife-conservation/article30874429.ece

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