Ahmedabad: As the countdown draws closer, the battle seems to be getting fiercer. Sharp claws of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh Governments have come out scratching each other as they fight over the custody of the last breed of Asiatic lions.
On Monday, during the hearing in the Supreme Court for the relocation of lions to the Palpur Kuno Sanctuary, the Madhya Pradesh Government held back no punches in stating that Gujarat's claims over the former's inability to handle lions was totally misplaced as it finished its arguments in the case.
Sources claimed the environment in the court got rather acidic with MP's lawyer aggressively shredding each of Gujarat's allegations about poaching, absence of prey base and forest officials' 'inability' to conserve the lions as totally baseless. "The MP officials appeared hurt by Gujarat's allegations," he said.
Representing the petitioner, lawyer Raj Panjwani said MP is taking a strong stand and not a soft approach. "Gujarat has claimed officials in MP are incapable of taking care of lions. It was a heated argument on Monday," he said. The next hearing is scheduled for the coming Monday. The final judgment is expected in about three months, after the court returns from vacation.
Environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta said, "It was asserted to the court that there is enough prey base in Palpur Kuno to relocated the lions. Moreover, MP officials are taking good care of the tigers and the state has the highest population of the tigers in India. And, lions were poached in Gujarat too."
Though both are BJP-ruled states, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh Governments are stuck in a bitter battle over this issue. According to lion conservation experts, it is important to isolate some Asiatic lions to preserve their gene diversity. Accordingly, MP Government readied Palpur Kuno sanctuary to accommodate about a pride of lions to begin with. But when it was actually time to start the process of relocation, Gujarat refused to part with the lions. After the refusal of Gujarat Government, an environmentalist sought the intervention of Supreme Court.
After the case dragged on for some years, the apex court has now decided to hear it every Monday to arrive at a speedy decision. Meanwhile, the lion population in the Gir Sanctuary has jumped to 411 in 2011 from 359 in 2005.
The turning point came in the month of February this year when the bench of justices KS Radhakrishnan and CK Prasad had remarked that the lions are not the 'property' of any state but belong to the nation.
The lion population in the Gir Sanctuary has jumped to 411 in 2011 from 359 in 2005.