From the Field

Is the tiger a citizen?

Are wild animals citizens of India? What responsibilities do people have towards animals? And what should we do now that a killer Highway is being expanded, widened and becoming more impossible for an animal to cross?

This magnificent black leopard is one amongst many animals you may never see in the forest, but tragically end up as roadkill. Photo: Roads to Nowhere

This magnificent black leopard is one amongst many animals you may never see in the forest, but tragically end up as roadkill. Photo: Roads to Nowhere

National Highway 7 passes through Kanha-Pench tiger corridors and Kanha-Nagzira tiger corridors. Here the tiger, is forced to cross the road. And now, the road will be doubled. The government plans to double the two-lane highway to four-lanes. Should animals, who often become roadkill, be forced to bow down to our alterations? Tigers and other animals get caught in headlights. They freeze. They get knocked over. They die. My earlier op-ed on the issue is here.

As per the reports of a group, NH7 Crusaders, 1035 animals have died in a 9 km stretch on NH7. They have made a petition against the widening of this road. Please sign here. This stretch of NH7 has killed many animals, not just tigers. No matter how strong, mighty or agile wild animals are, it is proved again and again that they cannot cross roads.

No way to die! Image: internet

No way for an elephant to die! Image from an Indian Highway. Source : internet

We can either consider it a shortcoming of the animal, or we can consider it a reality which we need to plan around. In this case, NH 67, which passes through Nagpur, is a viable alternative to NH7.

This takes me back the first question: do tigers have rights, just like humans? Should we uphold their rights and prevent deathtraps for them? On any given day, this is what I see on a highway, even in broad daylight: a jackal, dead, jaw smashed into the ground. A jungle cat, face open in a startled, grotesque grin, immortalised with a ‘what just hit me?’ look. And sometimes, animals one never gets to see– leopard cats, a black leopard, a mouse deer, are found pasted to a sleek, sharp tarmac. The photo of the black leopard killed by an incoming vehicle is from Satara, Maharashtra, in March 2015.

Are animals citizens? Then, should we protect their Right to Life as well? I would love to hear your thoughts, and how this is tackled in your country.

Image: The Hindu

Tiger in the headlights. Image: The Hindu

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3 thoughts on “Is the tiger a citizen?

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