Nature’s nation


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SEVENTY years is a long time in a human life span but not in that of a polity, a country or a people. This is especially true of the land mass and waters around India, which includes waters, lands and seascapes long occupied and inhabited by humans. While it is tempting to see India as ecologically distinct, the issues/conflicts which define human-nature interactions affect all societies.

Crossing the river Indus, Muhammad Zia ud din Babar saw a distinct change in the countryside, its fauna and flora. The flowers, the trees, the animals, the people of Hindustan, as northern India was then known as, were very different from what he was familiar with. Among the animals, he noted were the elephant and the langur, the rhino and the pied mynah. Today, in the 21st century, the change is dramatic both in the landscape and in its inhabitants; the same land mass and waters are critical to not only the political futures of its billion plus human citizens but to all the varied life forms that inhabit it.

How did the coming of freedom or rather the years since the tryst with destiny reshape the spaces and places we share with other organisms? It is critical here to note that then, as now, India teemed with myriad life forms: it is only among a dozen of nearly 200 nation states to be so richly endowed with the wonder and beauty of life in so many shapes, sizes and colours. That so much of it still abides is worth further and detailed historical enquiry. That it remains vulnerable is a paradox that needs careful thought and reflection.

In addition to the 535 known species of mammals, there is likelihood of other animals still unknown to biologists: the tea planter Edward Gee described the golden langur along the Bhutan border only in the 1950s.1 It was in 2005 that young biologists from Mysore’s Nature Conservation Foundation identified as distinct species the Munzala macaque, the first such new description in Asia in a century. Further, Aparajita Datta, one among an intrepid generation of women ecologists, found evidence of the world’s smallest deer, the leaf deer, only recently found by biologists in Indo-China.2 India still abounds with life: it has more elephants than all the other Asian countries put together. And not just tigers but also the last redoubt of lions in Asia. Equally important is the wealth of bird life and over 25,000 species of flowering plants.


Crowded as they are onto two per cent of the land with five per cent of the world’s fresh water, they live next to 17 per cent of the world’s humans and over one in five of the domestic livestock on earth. Whether this tapestry of life can endure not only the growing numbers but the environmental changes wrought by economic growth rates of well over five to six per cent since 1980, is the question of questions. But, rather than ask how the wider ecological record looks – too ambitious in a short essay – it may be best to focus instead on one key legacy of independent India, namely the initiatives to protect and preserve its natural heritage, mainly but not exclusively wildlife and forests.

It is widely believed, and rightly so, that the years 1969-89 were critical; the two decades saw not only a fivefold growth in the acreage under national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, but also the enactment of key laws, the most well known of which are on wildlife (1972) and forest conservation (1980). But other key federal enactments on water (1972) and air pollution (1981), as well as the Environment Protection Act (1986), also date to this period. This combination of legislative enactments and executive policy is often seen by pro-conservation groups as epochal. Less recognized is the fact that this push also carried within it the seeds of crisis that confronts India’s natural heritage today.3


Some of this was unintended. To comprehend how and why this ‘big push’ for protecting and making spaces for nature originated, one has to go back a step in time. It is now commonplace to see the preceding era (1947-69) as one where untrammelled economic growth, in particular heavy capital goods investment, drove the economy. There is today little doubt that the India of the steel mills and big dams, the new planned cities and fertilizer factories, did place incredible strain on the basic ecological infrastructure. Most crucially, the forest estate of the British era now expanded to include the woodlands of the princes and landed intermediaries, and the timber and other resources were allocated on a priority basis for industrialization.

Yet, a careful reading of evidence shows a deeper and more nuanaced engagement with scientific and aesthetic concerns. This was clearly evident in the prime minister’s direct intervention in 1948 to help protect the lions of the Gir forest from the hunter’s gun as also the Keoladeo Ghana wetland from schemes for agricultural colonization. In both cases a deeper ethic of peace with nature and distaste for the violence of shikar was strongly evident. Less well known is a letter penned on 15 August 1957 – the tenth anniversary of Indian independence. Here, Nehru came closer than ever to posing questions about the ecological viability of big projects, especially the big dams he is so associated with in history and legend.


Nehru wrote, ‘We have many large-scale river valley projects that are worked out by engineers. I wonder, however, how much thought is given before the project is launched to have an ecological survey of the areas and find out what effect it would have on the drainage system and the flora and fauna of that area.’4 While this letter resulted in no serious follow-up, it is still significant in that it shows far more hesitation and forethought than was perhaps popular at the time. To place it in its wider context, it was in 1956 that Premier Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev launched the giant and ill-fated Virgin Lands Campaign to expand the ploughed acreage of the Soviet Union onto marginal lands. A year later, in 1958, Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward combined such slogans as ‘Grow grain on the tops of mountains and the bottoms of lakes’ with a huge ‘war on the sparrow’. While India did see an expansion of agricultural acreage and initiation of large projects but simultaneously there was enough diversity of opinion and interest to also forestall such ambitious state projects with deeply dubious claims that the conquest of nature would radically improve the human condition.

There is little doubt that by the late sixties, as much as in the political model of one party dominance in a democracy and the mixed economy approach, there were clear intimations of a larger ecological crisis. The political and economic dimensions have been assiduously explored in the footsteps of pioneering scholars such as Francine Frankel and Rajni Kothari. Though less common, studies of the ecological dimension that broke ground have also been greatly enriched by two recent accounts. One is by a senior civil servant who was present at the making of the Wildlife Protection Act in 1972, and also returned from his home cadre in Madhya Pradesh to the same post in the early 1980s. Much of his account is critical to comprehending how decisions were made and the sheer extent to which Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was the driver of change.


A wider and equally meticulous account is Jairam Ramesh’s new work which argues the late premier was as much a naturalist, albeit self-taught, as a veteran of political battles. By drawing on archives and papers, he provides a larger supplement to the civil servant M.K. Ranjitsinh’s narrative.5 We learn that more than a love of landscapes and flowers, of tigers or crocodiles, Indira Gandhi also kept herself abreast of most major debates. In a conversation with Ralph Bultjens, she was able to rattle off Barry Commoner’s Four Laws of Ecology.6

These works go far in showing how she strove to balance political imperatives with concerns she shared with scientists such as Salim Ali. For instance, efforts to take over the Sariska and Keoladeo Ghana reserves in Rajasthan came to naught. As did the proposal to dam the Silent Valley in Kerala. This was not always the case. For instance, translocation of rhinos out of Kaziranga proved exceedingly difficult due to its being a symbol of regional nationalism. State governments, even those ruled by the same party, could and did defend their own turf and interests.7


Yet, it is still worth asking afresh as to why and how these concerns took effect so rapidly. The reasons for posing such questions are more than merely of academic interest. In 2014 and 2015, as in 1965 and 1966, the monsoons had failed. A new prime minister in 2014 asked urgently about the impact of the El Nino on the monsoon. Projects to clean the Ganga, as well as the clarion call to double the number of tigers have also been sounded. Notably, while ecological concerns do exist they are mostly viewed through a technological prism. Water conservation and solar energy are integral to rapid industrial and urban transformation as India seeks to become a developed country. Two monsoons may have failed but this India is a more triumphal one.

In the new century, economic concerns seem to be elbowing out precautionary principles vis a vis nature and the fabric of life. Conquering nature and remaking India as a strong nation state go together. Equally apparent is a decline in the sense of deep crisis in land and water, food and forests that seems to have pervaded the mood at the top at the turn of the sixties. At the time, the monsoon failures resulting in an over-reliance on US food aid was a spur to the spread of high yielding varieties of wheat. But there were wider insights drawn on the ecological linkages of hydrology and vegetation as well. Notably, these concerns did not vanish even as the rains came back in force or food output rose by 1972. If anything, the linkages between forests and water security, the health of the wider ecosystem and nature protection were reinforced in the debate on how to save the tiger.

Recent works provide valuable insight into deep fears of big game hunters wreaking havoc on the big cat in the wild. More crucially, both in closed and open fora, there was open criticism of the idea that the worth and wealth of our beautiful fauna could be measured in foreign exchange. The ban on tiger hunting and the launch of Project Tiger in 1973 were seen as part of a wider effort to not only protect natural heritage but a sign of what Ramachandra Guha presciently labelled deep ‘ecological patriotism’. They were also integral to wider debates on how to better husband soil, water, land and forest resources.8


Much as she saw herself as the standard-bearer of Nehru’s vision, Indira Gandhi was equally a critic of much of his approach. This was true not only in political terms with the centralization of power in party and government, especially after the state assembly polls of 1972. It was equally true in the larger realm of the interface of nature with state making. That focus on ecological dimensions included serious revision of extant thinking is most evident in the paper, ‘A Charter for the Land’ by B.B. Vohra, who called for rethinking large projects for irrigation, and for promoting soil and water conservation on a war footing. Even the urban wildlife group, World Wildlife Fund, in its literature on the tiger laid stress on how snakes controlled rodents and forests were critical to water storage and security.


Notably, there was a clear continuum of concern at both the elite and popular levels. The Chipko leader Sunderlal Bahuguna said that, ‘Every tree on the Himalayas is a sentinel for the country.’ The prime minister used a similar idiom when she said the Himalaya that had long saved India now itself needed saving and protection. The ideas of natural heritage, the commonwealth of the citizen and ecological linkages as between animals and plants, mountains and plains acquired a new place in the public idiom.9 In a telling comment, Ranjitsinh refers to how the status of rare Sangai deer of Manipur changed from being essentially a scientific hobby horse to one that became a symbol of local regional pride. But the issues are wider than the power of popular protest or the rise of a regional ecological identity.10


All, however, was not peace, love and harmony. In her monograph, The Forest of Tigers, the indefatigable Annu Jalais, now at the National University of Singapore, documents the confrontation at the village of Marichjhapi in the Sundarbans in 1978. The date and location are significant. Not only had the Congress been voted out of office (it is worth stressing that West Bengal has never returned to Congress party rule ever since), it was a strong Left Front government that sought to displace the residents of the village to secure the tiger reserve.

Refugees as victims and tigers as citizens is the epigram coined by Jalais. It shows just how far those who relied on forest lands for their living could be forced to bear the brunt of fortress style protection.11 There is little doubt that such reserves shut out the poacher’s snare and the shikaris’ bullet and some zones even saw an end of commercial forestry operations. But the nation state in securing nature in the manner chosen, did so by expropriating it from underclass citizens in a rather brutal and uncivilized way. The cosmopolitan tiger thrived at the cost of the disempowered citizen.

It is notable that by this time (1978) wildlife protection had transcended party loyalties. This was true both as symbol and in substance. Jagjivan Ram, once a key player in conservation as Union agriculture minister under Indira Gandhi as in 1975-77, was deputy prime minister in the first non-Congress government in independent India. In March 1978, he inaugurated an International Tiger Symposium. Yet, placing the shifts in a wider context, there was a major remaking of the state and reconfiguration of key elements in society in the 1970s and 1980s. This period saw keen contests over power and resources, legitimacy and knowledge. Nature was critical if not central to many such contests.


Even after the political and social crises of the late sixties and the mid-seventies had subsided, key ideological and institutional shifts continued to leave a mark on the future. For instance, the push to centralize control over forests and wildlife was integral to the 42nd Amendment of 1976. And even though most of its provisions were subsequently repealed, these subjects remained on the Concurrent List and no subsequent government has either unmade or even sought to unmake these.

In 1980, the Forest Conservation Act gave the Union a key role in diverting government forest land for non-forest use. Like the tiger and its animal kin, the forest too was made into a preserve of the centralizing nation state. One estimate is that the extent of legalized deforestation of forest acreage declined from four million hectares in 1950-80 to a mere million in the next two decades. Again, as in the sixties, there were limits to state action. Despite early warning signals on pest resistance and hazards to human health, there was an over-reliance on petrochemical based inputs in the Green Revolution, as national self-reliance in production came first.12

The critical role of the ‘environmentalism of the poor’ in the forest, fisher and anti-pollution movements in the early 1970s is well known. In a democratic polity, despite deep social disparities, these did influence and restrain officials as well as elected representatives. India again did not witness (save during the 18 months long Emergency) the kind of remaking of state-nature boundaries many other countries did in the period. The neo-Malthusian drive for forcible family planning was cut short by the electorate in the 1977 general election.


Checks and balances were often absent in other polities that saw larger experiments in remaking nature. China was still in the grip of the Cultural Revolution till 1976 with its manifold consequences for nomadic peoples and landscapes. Tanzania under Julius Nyerere not only set aside a fourth of its land in parks and hunting reserves but also resettled 80 per cent of its people in Ujaama socialist villages. In other experiments, successive waves of US army engineers tried to tame the waters of the Mekong delta and resettle peoples. Save for the Lushai hills, and the concerns there were strategic, India did not witness such extensive remaking of society-nature relations on the ground.

But there was a tightening on the ground, even if in push and starts. There is little doubt the forest and nature conservancy regime as it took shape drew more from princely statecraft and British imperial legacy than its public proponents have ever either admitted or realized. Whereas most extant political commentary focuses on the break with the princely order, it is equally important to note how some of the ways the princes reordered nature-society boundaries got a fresh lease of life in the 1970s.13 One reason that these interventions did not result in widespread resistance lies in the political idiom of the time. The attack on the shikar lobby and princes echoed that on black marketers and hoarders. This incidentally was not unique to India: in the 1900s, a key innovator of American federal government and protector of wilderness, Teddy Roosevelt had similarly spoken against strong private cabals that were against the popular interest. Of course, the parks and wilderness preserves were literally like fortresses – as historians have shown – and also shut out American Indians and many poor whites.


The nation in enclosing nature did save it, but not for all or from all. In defence of Teddy Roosevelt, and it could be added of Indira Gandhi, it must be kept in view that they were responding to crises, not just leaving a legacy. Nature was deeply prone to collapse due to strong private interests and the project of national renewal could mobilize nature as resource and also as source of legitimacy. There the similarities ended; Roosevelt being an ardent big game hunter saw wilderness as key to American frontier spirit and masculine courage; not true of Indira Gandhi.


Faunal and floral projects were integral, if not central, to a kind of nationalism where India marched to its own drum. Nature as symbol had both internal and external dimensions. In the India at the turn of the sixties, Ramesh records fascinating debates in 1969 when the lion became the national animal, and in 1972 when the tiger replaced it. In both instances, there were evocations of history and culture, elite texts and popular lore. The big cats it seemed had become Indian before they were feline. A self-aware nationalism of an India more assertive on the global stage was evoked in both projects to secure the lion as well as the tiger even as foreign inputs of knowledge, and in Project Tiger, funds were crucial. The deployment of a feline icon and powerful anti-imperialist rhetoric were both part of a finely balanced effort, as India sought to carve out a distinctive place in a world and Asia dominated by powerful military blocs.14 Indira Gandhi, and to a lesser extent her other successors in the 1970s and 1980s, saw natural heritage as a critical binding force of an assertive patriotism. It is also striking that while Roosevelt was a pioneer of American dominance, most so in the Caribbean and Central America, Indira Gandhi’s speeches included clear references to the defoliation of Vietnam by US forces. The latter was a major issue at the international level especially in the scientific community due to the impact of Agent Orange.15


By the 1980s, however, the model was fraying and not just at the edges. The shift in economic policy, halting and piecemeal in the 1980s, towards the private sector and foreign capital, became open and clear in 1991. The upshot of all this was a flurry of efforts – both via the courts and media, and also at the level of citizen action – to renew and strengthen or to revise and transform the structures safeguarding nature and ecological systems. In 2007, the Forest Rights Act that recognized land rights of forest dwellers held out the promise of security of tenure to forest dwellers denied to them in the wake of independence during land tenure reforms. Yet, even its proponents and supporters would agree with critics that the provisions for collective rights have mostly been a dead letter.

How then does a short balance sheet look? There is little doubt that engagement with ecological ideas and scientific concerns as much as citizen awareness together helped evolve checks and balances from the late 1960s on. The longer legacy of the freedom struggle that had space for diverse currents of thought may perhaps have saved India from unthinking attempts to reorder nature in post-revolutionary and post-imperial polities. But the allegations of brute force, studied by few intrepid scholars but experienced by many on the ground, needs more sensitive appreciation and deeper reflection. If today the opening up of natural areas to speedy industrial growth or extraction of minerals and fossil fuels has gathered pace, it is often by evoking the very same acts, rules, regulations and committee systems that set aside these tracts in the first place.16


This concern about the ‘use of natural resources’, though hardly unique to India, has far-reaching consequences for local livelihoods. It can also lead to long-term adverse effects as in the floodplains, coastal zones or in regions of unstable geological formations. In the decades of the 1970s and 1980s, it was still possible to evoke broad values of ecological patriotism to try and quell, or at least apply corrective to, projects with longer-term harmful impacts on the web of life or the aesthetic heritage. Both the Moyar dam and Silent Valley stand as examples of projects shelved and the Chilka Lake Naval Boys Training School and Mathura oil refinery as projects which went ahead but with some correctives.17

It is, of course, a truism that the early 1970s was a time of a major global awakening to ecological dangers. India was at the forefront on these larger changes. Even a figure as unlikely as President Nixon oversaw in 1970-72 the enactment of the Endangered Species Act, the protection of the timber wolf, the creation of the Environment Protection Agency and the ban on DDT. By 1970, the Indira Gandhi who once wore mink fur coats was a person of the past. India, as she explained in the widely misquoted Stockholm address, hoped to utilize nature’s wealth but not hurt its vital functions.18

Perhaps, the larger lesson of the crisis of the late sixties was to temper progress with some degree of respect for natural systems. In this, our new century is a study in contrast. Public opinion, in the context of the post-2008 global slowdown in favour of growth at all costs, is today far stronger than appeals to live in harmony with nature. The Hollywood actor turned politician and California governor who in the 1960s said, ‘If you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all’ is more appropriate to our own times. Of course, there is some serious substance to Indian claims of long-term cultural and historic ties to nature. But these are unlikely to help a tiger cross a six lane highway, stand in the way of rivers swollen by monsoon battering down cities or replenishing ground water where it has been over used.


In the dying years of the Cold War, India’s search for ecological sanity had elements of a third way, different from that of the major power blocs. In the long-term, the growth trajectory opened up in 1991 is now undermining the protective laws and systems of an earlier era. As the government becomes a facilitator of investment, and the Indian economy is more closely integrated to drivers of growth, it is increasingly unlikely that government will act against major players charged with violation of environmental guidelines. The start of the 1990s marked not only the end of a political era but also signalled the dawn of a new economic and ecological period.

These shifts in the larger body politic and economy have unleashed far-reaching changes in the environment and their consequences will unfold fully only over the long-term. What is distinctive are the deeper linkages of economic ties with the wider world and expansion of market forces within.


The present growth path – and this transcends party politics – is crafted to grow first, think later. Though deeply flawed in terms of justice and inclusiveness, and over-reliant on bureaucratic fiat and a centralist drive, it is undeniable that the decades in discussion also laid the foundations of much that presently secures the forest and wild wealth of India. In revising it to meet emerging aspirations for growth, there is the peril of endangering the processes it helped protect.

The growth at all costs fetish is not unique to India, but the scale and number of those who are citizens unable to realize basic rights to live in dignity is astonishingly large. Marginal peoples in ecologies being rendered unlivable can find their energy and knowledge vital to the wider society if only their rights are recognized. In many ways legislation already on the statute book – say on Scheduled Areas and pollution, displacement and environmental security – can provide for active citizenship, knowledge based administration and act as safeguard against long-term damage to biotic and ecosystem integrity. This approach was mostly neglected in the 1970s and 1980s when protection was often at the cost of rights: this need not be the case anymore. The larger imperative also arises from the fact that the sensibilities of an earlier era are absent and the kind of compulsions, corporate or populist, today are on a far larger scale than they were a quarter century ago. The way to craft a new peace with nature thus has more to it than merely transcending the culture of shikar. The tiger or the rhino, the mangrove or the grassland now need not just the state but the citizen to gain a lease of life.

Remaking the state to be inclusive, just and sensitive to the web of life is vital for the greater collective good. It may not succeed, but is it not worth trying? The polity faces many challenges.19


Gandhiji’s 1927 remark that India would strip the earth like a pack of locusts if it adopted England’s way is quoted often by critics. It was rarely evoked by rulers of independent India, even at the time nature was a major concern. One need not go so far as Gandhiji did. State making in the last century in practice hardly emulated his precepts. But it did draw on science and citizen to moderate some of its impacts. True, it fell short on both counts but the attempt was significant.

It is up to us as we mark the 70th year of freedom to draw from these shortfalls and begin anew. No peace among people can be secured if not simultaneously underpinned by a peace with nature. Can India show the way?



1. E.P. Gee, The Wildlife of India. Fontana Collins, London, 1964.

2. Aparajita Datta, Japang Pansa, M.D. Madhusudan and C. Mishra, ‘Discovery of the Leaf Deer in Arunachal Pradesh: An Addition to the Large Mammals of India’, Current Science 84(3), February 2003, pp. 454-458; Also notable are the various frog species described by Prof S.D. Biju of the University of Delhi. Such description only goes to show how little we know of the natural word that we are unmaking at often rapid pace.

3. For further details please see M. Rangarajan, ‘Striving for a Balance: Nature, Science, Power and India’s Indira Gandhi, 1917-84’, Conservation and Society 7(4), 2009. Excellent published and anecdotal evidence is available in the work of the veteran forester and first Director of Project Tiger, Kailash Sankhala, Tiger! The Story of the Indian Tiger. Collins, London, 1978 and in a lucid recent study of turtle conservation history in India, Kartik Shanker, From Soup to Superstar: The Story of Sea Turtle Conservation along the Indian Coast. Harper Collins, Delhi, 2015.

4. J. Nehru, ‘No. 67. Letter to Chief Ministers, Independence Day, 15 August 1957’, in S. Gopal (ed.), Letters to Chief Ministers, Volume 4, 1954-57, Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund and Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1988, pp. 543-4; Judith Schapiro, Mao’s War Against Nature. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2004; William Taubman, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era. W.W. Norton, New York, 2003, pp. 266-267.

5. M.K. Ranjitsinh, A Life with Wildlife: From Princely India to the Present. Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2017; and Jairam Ramesh, Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature. Simon and Schuster, New Delhi, 2017.

6. Reference to Barry Commoner’s work, in J. Ramesh, ibid., 2017, p. 372.

7. Successive chief ministers of Rajasthan resisted attempts by the Union government to take over the Sariska and Keoladeo Ghana reserves. J. Ramesh, ibid., 2017, pp. 160-162.

8. J. Ramesh, ibid., 2017, pp. 80-83. The letter to the minister concerned was on 30 April 1969 and the speech at the Indian Board for Wildlife in July 1969. The latter was convened after a gap of eight years. Ramachandra Guha (ed.), Nature’s Spokesman: M. Krishnan and Indian Wildlife. Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2000. See M. Krishnan’s essay, ‘Our Wildlife: A Great Legacy Dissipated’, Illustrated Weekly of India, 24 August 1980, reproduced in M. Rangarajan (ed.), Environmental Issues in India: A Reader. Pearson Longman, Delhi, 2007.

9. J. Ramesh, 2017, pp. 288-292 on her correspondence and speeches in 1980. It has been argued that around 1973, the left phase of her policies and politics 1969-72 was at an ebb. There were early signs of economic liberalization, if haltingly. See Srinath Raghavan, ‘Indira Gandhi, India and a World in Transition’, in Ramachandra Guha (ed.), Makers of Modern Asia. Belknap Press, Cambridge, 2014, pp. 215-44 and esp. pp. 234-236. Yet, as Project Tiger, conceived in 1972 and brought into operation the following year shows, different strands were evident in one programme. It protected core areas, whole landscapes within each reserve in toto, from forestry and commercial shikar but also from grazing, lopping and residency by villagers.

10. M.K. Ranjitsinh, op. cit., 2017, p. 273. This refers to the Sangai Protection Forum in the villages around the reserve formed by the mid-1990s.

11. Annu Jalais, Forest of Tigers: People, Politics and Environment in the Sundarbans. Routledge, Delhi, 2010. Less well known but equally crucial was the firing on grazers in the Keoladeo Ghana in November 1982. See Kalpavriksh, Death in the Sanctuary. Delhi, November 1982. This tragedy is alluded to by Ranjitsinh, op. cit., 2017, pp. 147-148.

12. Prerna Singh Bindra, The Vanishing: India’s Wildlife Crisis. Penguin Viking, Delhi, 2017, pp. 10-11. The overall figure is also given in Ramesh, ibid., p. 297. Also see Jairam Ramesh, Green Signals. Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2015, esp. pp. 234-264 on forest project clearances in 2009-11. There was an awareness of the impact of pesticides and chemical contamination not only along critics but also advocates of the Green Revolution. See M.S. Swaminathan, ‘Agriculture on Spaceship Earth’, reprinted in M. Rangarajan, (ed.), Environmental Issues, Pearson, Delhi, 2007.

13. On the Lushai Hills and the deep disruption of life and swidden cultivation, see Sajal Nag, Pied Pipers in North East India. Manohar, Delhi, 2007. Ullas Karanth, ‘Making Room for Nature’, The Hindu, 15 August 2007 for a deeply insightful view. On the Mekong, see David Biggs, Quagmire, Nature and Nation Building in the Mekong Delta. University of Washington Press, Seattle, 2012; and on Tanzania, especially Daniel Brockington, Fortress Conservation: The Preservation of the Mkomazi Game Reserve. James Currey, Oxford, 2002. On princely practice being embedded in the codes under modern conservation schemes, see Ranjitsinh, op. cit., 2017, pp. 135-136.

14. J. Ramesh, op. cit., 2017, pp. 83 and 125. This is a major corrective to earlier scholarship (including my own) that argued the lion had been designated national animal in 1952. Its importance had been acknowledged but designation was only in 1969. For the earlier view see Rangarajan, ‘From Princely Symbol to Conservation Icon’, in M. Rangarajan, Nature and Nation. Permanent Black, Ranikhet, 2015, pp. 86-143, esp. p. 114. On Roosevelt, see Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory. Alfred Knopf, New York, 1995. On the parallel of private interests and depredations on nature, see Donald Worster, Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas. Sierra Club Books, 1977.

15. Indira Gandhi, ‘Unfinished Revolution: Address to the Lusaka Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement’, May 1970, in her Peoples and Problems. Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1983, p. 55.

16. P. S. Bindra, op. cit., 2017, especially pp. 30-54, is an insightful account of the working and undermining of committees on wildlife protection.

17. J. Ramesh, op. cit., 2017, on the Mathura refinery, especially pp. 169-172 and 380-381. And on Chilka Lake, Silent Valley and Mathura, the best work is still Darryl D’ Monte, Temples or Tombs? Industry versus Environment: Three Controversies. Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi, 1985.

18. J. Ramesh, ibid., 2017, on the controversies especially see on Chilka, pp. 172-174. And on the Stockholm speech, pp. 134-139; Sagarika Ghose, Indira Gandhi: India’s Most Powerful Prime Minister. Juggernaut, Delhi, 2017, pp. 277-278, writes of a fur coat and sari combination in 1953, and the book has a similar photo from a 1960 event with the Kennedys. By the early seventies the slogan ‘save our skins’ was widely popular. The crackdown on spotted and striped cat skin trade was not unique to India but part of a global trend. It is notable, however, that her fur coats were mink (probably captive bred) and not Indian in origin. By contrast, American First Lady Betty Ford accepted a timber wolf coat from Soviet President Brezhnev at Vladivostok 1976 prompting wide criticism.

19. There are cautiously positive views view of corrective ground up measures often by scientists and citizens in unusual alliances with elements of local government and citizens. See Madhav Gadgil, Science, Democracy and Ecology in India. Perspectives in Indian Development New Series, Occasional Paper, no 12, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Delhi, 2013; M Rangrajan, Nature and Nation. Permanent Black, Ranikhet, 2015, Harini Nagendra, Nature in the Indian City. OUP, Delhi, 2016. Also Umesh Srinivasan and Nandini Velho (eds.), Conservation from the Margins. Orient Blackswan (in press). A work worth a close look is Ajantha Subramanian, Shore Lines. Yoda Press, Delhi, 2009.