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|December 10, 1997||
Bird trouble for Pataudis
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
Former cricketer Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and wife Sharmila Tagore are in trouble -- for shooting some 100 migratory birds in Kashmir's Hokersar wetland.
Though hunting birds has been banned in the state since 1990, the official machinery threw the wetland open to the pleasure of the Pataudis, who were Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah's personal guests.
Worse, Housing and Urban Minister Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari even escorted the couple on their venture!
Unfortunately for the threesome (Or was it a foursome? Reports also speak of a fourth 'unidentified Britisher'...), they were caught red-handed with a sackful of dead fowls.
Environmentalists, naturally, are up in arms against the VIP poachers. And how dare the government provide an escort!
On being prodded into action by angry environmentalists, the state forest secretary said he would 'discuss' the matter with senior officers immediately.
Meanwhile, North Kashmir Wildlife Warden M S Bacha said the VIPs had sought permission to kill. How they could be allowed to do that when the law specifically prohibits it, however, was beyond him.
"No licence has been issued to professional hunters in the past eight years," he admits. In any case, even licensed hunters could only kill a maximum of 20 birds.
The Hokersar wetland provides shelter to over 100,000 migratory birds from Siberia, north Europe and China. These include mallards, greylag gooses, coots, shovellers, teals, pin tails, lapwings, moorhens and the rare pochards. Various central acts and a host of international regulations prevent the shooting of migratory birds. India being a signatory to the 1971 Wetland Convention and the Conservation of Wild Animals at Bonn in June, 1997, shooting in wetlands is strictly prohibited.
"The birds need a peaceful atmosphere," Bacha says, "If disturbed they will desert the area and migrate to either Punjab or Rajasthan."
But disturb them, the Pataudis did -- fatally.
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