Reason v/s Religion
Not so long ago, I along with a bunch of like-minded wildlife enthusiasts were trying to reason out the ‘ban on tourism in tiger reserves as a cure to all evils’ sentiment flouted by a gang of so-called activists. While nobody denied the fact that the industry had scope for improvement & no one supports ‘rowdy tourism’ but it would be completely unfair to stop tourism because the authorities could not do much to control the real devils, tourism being an easy scapegoat. Amongst the many arguments flouted a popular one was ‘Why did the industry not self-regulate itself??’ sounded funny to me at least. Not sure if we have anything called self-regulation in this country. Here everything right from doing homework to the auction of 3G happens only because someone is hounding on the backside. Even friends from the media talked about self-regulation, not sure why the same did not apply while our broadcasters were doing ‘exclusive’ live coverage of 26/11, providing info to tourists about activities of security forces…. TRP does matter.
While all tourists were ridiculed & tagged as ‘rowdy’ we ultimately moved out of the debate as prejudices are strong to reason out. Now all of us wait patiently for the next court hearing…hoping wisdom prevails & the parks reopen.
While the ban on tourism continues, it is silent on religious tourism deep inside the core areas. Most of tiger reserves have a religious place inside tiger reserves & the entry for religious purposes is virtually without any restrictions. All u need is a pollution certificate on your vehicle & the forest becomes a picnic spot, play loud music, bath in water bodies meant for animals, go off-road in the forest, pluck fruits, feed animals or harass them, and leave leftover food & plastic waste unattended…the list is endless.
A few days back Ranthambhore witnessed ‘Ganesh Mela’. In a week, a record 1 million people visited the famous Ganesh temple deep inside the core area, walking through 6km of forest area which also happens to be the territory of 5 active tigers including 2 females with cubs. This count of pilgrims is way more than the total count of tourists who would have visited Ranthambhore in the past 10 years or so.
While the administration did whatever it could do - ban entry vehicles beyond the Sherpur check post, put up dustbins all through the parikrama route, additional cleaning charges levied on enroute Bhandaara’s who anyways do not bother to clean the mess left behind, put up notices warning the presence of predators & urging people not to go off track etc but nothing supersedes religion…people still did what they wanted. High decibel music played; water bodies meant for animals used as swimming pools etc. etc.
The result is a mess of leftover food, plastic waste thrown casually all over, and forest on both sides of the road stinking with unbearable stench as they served as public toilets. Now the poor district administration, park officials, lodge owners, drivers & guides are left with the responsibility of cleaning this.
Interestingly the same activist gang is silent about all this & has not bothered to raise a single word. Is it because religion does prevail supreme in this country??? or for them the evil starts and stops at tourism?? would these pilgrims not disturb tigers & wildlife???
I am appalled by the step-child treatment towards law-abiding tourists, who love nature, wildlife and tigers. We do spend a fortune of our savings visiting parks & yes it helps the local economy & the cause of Tiger conservation around protected areas. Would be glad to take anyone around the prove my point, in case you disagree. This blog post is nothing but the grievances of a humble ‘rowdy’ tourist.
Disclaimer: I am not an atheist, a Brahmin by birth & Indian by nature I do visit all places of worship. I do visit the Ganesh temple once in each Ranthambhore trip. I do not seek a ban on religious tourism, Ranthambhore probably is safe due to the blessings of Lord Ganesha & thankfully no untoward incident happened during the mela.