Living inside a wildlife sanctuary, this community marries conservation and co-existence


By Amarpal Singh Verma
Abohar, Oct 4 (IANS/ 101Reporters) An unobservant traveller, driving from Rajasthan and entering Punjab through the city of Abohar in the Fazilka district, might completely miss the fact that they are passing through a wildlife sanctuary. The animals know to keep away from the open and busy roads criss-crossing the land. And there are no forests here, only farmlands.

The sanctuary is essentially a close-knit community of nearly a dozen densely populated villages where hundreds of the rare blackbuck roam fearlessly in the fields amidst the bustle of agrestic life. The forest department does not own any land in this area and yet there is a thriving wildlife sanctuary, home to thousands of wild animals.

The sanctuary, which begins from the Punjabi village of Bazidpur Bhoma, is also home to over 30,000 people of the Bishnoi community. The Bishnois are a Hindu sect founded in the late 15th century in Rajasthan and are well-known for their fierce love for the environment and all things living.

The Bishnois here in Abohar have solidified that legacy over the last century by allowing their private land to moonlight as a special reserve for the protection of the Krishna (blackbuck) and Chinkara deer (Indian gazelle).

Establishing a ‘private’ sanctuary

The person credited for the founding of the sanctuary is Chaudhary Sant Kumar Bishnoi of Dotaranwali village, born in the year 1915. Sant Kumar grew up in the tradition of wildlife preservation; his father and grandfather were persistent in their patrols to drive poachers out of the area. Sant Kumar was more radical and started fining the poachers and handing them over to the police. He mobilised people in the surrounding villages to become more proactive in protecting the deer, eventually forming the All India Wildlife Defense Bishnoi Committee (AIWDBC).

At the request of the Bishnois, the Punjab Government issued a notification in the year 1975, declaring the villages of Raipura, Dotaranwali, Rajwali, Sardarpura, Khairpura, Sukhchain, Seetoguno, Maharana, Himmatpura, Rampura, Narainpura, Bishanpura and Bazidpur Bhoma as the Abohar Wildlife Sanctuary. Sant Kumar was felicitated with the Indira Gandhi Environment Award in 1992, and he passed away six years later. In 2000, the 13 villages were legally declared a sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Ashok Bishnoi, the grandson of Chaudhary Sant Kumar and a retired forest range officer, is now the National Vice President of the AIWDC.

He told 101Reporters: “Thousands of people of the Bishnoi community are involved in protecting wildlife. They guard these creatures day and night. As a result, this is the only area in Punjab where blackbucks are now found.”

Guardians of the blackbuck

The Bishnois are zealous in their mission to protect the wildlife here and have been managing the sanctuary with the support of the forest department. The Forest Department has deployed 11 employees in the sanctuary and, together with 10 daily wage contract workers, they oversee the vast reserve spread over 46,513 acres.

But the real deterrent for hunters and poachers are the Bishnois who number in the thousands. The other communities living here, though small in number, have assimilated into the Bishnoi way of life and are just as committed to the cause. RD Bishnoi, head of the Punjab branch of the AIWDBC, said that many a time unarmed Bishnois have caught gun-wielding poachers and handed them over to the police. When the wildlife is in any perceivable danger, even women single-handedly take on the hunters, he said.

Anita Rani, Acting Range Officer, Punjab Forest and Wildlife Protection Department, credits the Bishnoi community for the lack of poaching in the area for several years now. “The people of the Bishnoi community have saved these innocent creatures. They are always ready to protect them from poachers and provide first aid if they get injured,” she told 101Reporters.

For the last 26 years, Rajendra Bishnoi has been guarding the sanctuary. He said: “The forest department and the villagers work day and night. We have no fixed work hours. As soon as there is information about a wild animal being injured, we immediately reach the spot. If it is a minor injury, the animal is treated on the spot and freed. If it is serious, it is taken to the rescue centre for treatment. Many times we have even taken injured animals to Ludhiana.”

Apart from the blackbuck, other animals such as nilgais, pheasants, hares, jackals, wild cats, porcupines, wild boars and black ducks are also found in abundance. The community here takes efforts to make arrangements for food and water for the animals at different places in the fields.

From birth to death, the Bishnois nurture the wildlife around them like they are part of a large family. RD Bishnoi said that the community performs the last rites of animals killed in accidents. Sometimes, after the death of a female deer, villagers are known to bottle-feed the newborn fawns.

“Visitors come here in large numbers and find inspiration to protect nature,” said Kuldeep, the watchman at the Shaheed Mata Amrita Devi Bishnoi Park that was inaugurated last year by former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. The state government spent Rs 10 crore to construct this memorial in Maharana village to honour the sacrifice of 363 Bishnois in Jodhpur three centuries ago, who laid down their lives to protest the felling of trees by the king for his new palace.

In the shadow of this memorial, the Bishnois continue to cement their legacy.

A dogged situation

The sanctuary also has its fair share of difficulties and a recent development has left the Bishnois between a rock and a hard place. Attacks by stray dogs on deer are increasing. Also, the barbed cobra wire that was installed around the fields to protect the crops from wandering animals has been causing fatal injuries to the deer during dog attacks. RD Bishnoi said: “When we raised our concerns, the administration banned cobra wire. So far, most of the cobra wires have been removed. But the dogs are still a threat as their number is increasing exponentially. These dogs attack the deer whenever they get the chance. In the last two years, about three dozen deer have died in dog attacks. Many nilgais have also been killed by dogs.”

With the last wildlife census conducted in the area ten years ago, there are no recent numbers to drive home the seriousness of the situation and, in fact, there are conflicting views. According to Rani, when the census in 2011 found about four thousand deer in the sanctuary. She believes that this number has not decreased as the Bishnois have consistently protected them. But RD Bishnoi said that the number of deer has been falling due to the dog attacks. Rani promises a new census soon. “We had sent a proposal to the Wildlife Institute of India Dehradun in this regard, which they have accepted,” she said.

Ashok Bishnoi considers the increasing number of stray dogs a major threat to the sanctuary. “For us, all living beings are equal. We cannot protect the deer at the cost of harming or torturing the dogs. The administration should come up with a safe and speedy resolution for the stray dog problem,” he said, highlighting the helplessness of the Bishnois in handling the dog attacks.

Forest department officials have taken up the issue with the district administration who are considering a sterilisation drive for the stray dogs. But in the meanwhile, the number of dead blackbucks and nilgais are piling up, according to locals.

(The author is a Hanumangarh-based freelance journalist and a member of, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)

Source: IANS

Next Story

Does MBA really help in getting a better job offer ?

Does MBA really help in getting a better job offer ?

Most students pursuing an MBA come with the sole objective of having a decent job offer or a promotion in the existing job soon after completion of the MBA. And most of them take loans to pursue this career dream. According to a recent survey by education portal  74% MBA 2022-24 aspirants said they would opt for education loans.

There are exceptional cases like those seeking master’s degree or may have a family business to take care of or an entrepreneurial venture in mind. But the exception cases are barely 1%. For the rest 99%, a management degree is a ticket to a dream job through campus placements or leap towards career enhancements. Stakes are high as many of them quit their jobs which essentially means loss of 2 years of income, apprehension and uncertainty of the job market. On top of that, the pressure to pay back the education loans. Hence the returns have to be high. There is more than just the management degree. Colleges need to ensure that they offer quality management education which enables them to be prepared for not just the demands of recruiters and for a decent job but also to sustain and achieve, all along their career path.

  • So, what exactly are the B Schools doing to prepare their students for the job market and make them industry ready ?
  •  Are B schools ready to deliver and prepare the future business leaders to cope up with the disrupted market ?  

These are the two key questions every MBA aspirant needs to ask, check and validate before filling the MBA application forms of management institutes. And worth mentioning that these application forms do not come cheap. An MBA aspirant who may have shortlisted 5 B Schools to apply for, may end up spending Rs 10,000.00 to Rs 15,000.00 just buying MBA / PGDM application forms.

While internship and placements data of some management institutes clearly indicates that recruiters today have specific demands. The skill sets looked for are job centric and industry oriented. MBA schools which have adopted new models of delivery and technology, redesigned their courses, built an effective evaluation process and prepared the students to cope with the dynamic business scenario, have done great with campus placements despite the economic slow down.

However, the skill set being looked for by a consulting company like Deloitte or KPMG may be quite different from FMCG or a manufacturing sector. Institutes need to acknowledge this fact and act accordingly.

  • Management institutes should ensure that students are intellectually engaged, self motivated and adapt to changes fast. In one word ‘VUCA ready’.
  • B Schools should encourage students to participate in national and international competitive events, simulations of business scenarios.
  • Institutes should have the right mix of faculty members with industry exposure and pure academics.

The placement records of 2021 across top management institutes indicated the fact that recruitment is happening, skilled talent is in demand and certain management institutions continued to attract recruiters even in the middle of an ongoing crisis.

It is time, all management institutes rise to the occasion, understand market realities and identify areas of improvement at both ends – students and faculty.

After all, the stakes are high at both ends. B Schools taking corrective measures will stay while those which are lagging will end up shutting down.

Author Name : Nirmalya Pal


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here