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What is the News?
The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 was introduced in the Parliament to amend the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The Bill proposes to remove Schedule V completely. Schedule V lists species classified as ‘vermin’, such as common crows, fruit bats, rats and mice which may be hunted freely.
What is Vermin?
Vermins are basically a problematic animal or a nuisance creature because they threaten humans, crops, livestock or property.
Origin of Vermin Category in India
The Vermin category of the The Wildlife Protection Act(WLPA),1972 is a colonial legacy which has minimal scientific basis.
British legislation was the first to mandate the extermination of vermin. For instance, the Tudor Vermin Acts allowed for the eradication of nuisance animals or agricultural pests.
Then the British Raj brought to India the ideas of desirable animals (suitable for hunting and subsequent consumption being considered game) and problematic animals (considered vermin). These very ideas were then used to establish British colonial control over the ecology of India and its people.
Vermin Category under WLPA Act,1972
The WLPA,1972 currently has six schedules that assign varying degrees of protection to animals and plants.
Under Schedule I and II of the Act, for instance, animals and birds such as tigers and elephants are offered the highest protection.
Schedule V lists species classified as ‘vermin’, such as common crows, fruit bats, rats and mice, which may be hunted freely.
The act does not define the word Vermin. But the 62nd section of the Wildlife Protection Act grants the central government the power to declare any wild animal as vermin.
Being declared as vermin deprives these animals of protection, thereby allowing for its hunting without any consequences.
However, wild animal species which are placed in Schedule I and Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 can not be declared as Vermin.
What changes does the Wildlife Protection Amendment Bill,2021 aim to bring?
The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 brings in a major change by reducing the number of schedules from six to four. It proposes to remove Schedule V completely.
This gives the Centre direct power to declare any species to be ‘vermin’ and make way for them to be freely hunted. Hence, the procedure to declare animals to be ‘vermin’ becomes easier and the number of species labelled ‘vermin’ also increases.
This change could potentially impact 41 species of mammals, 864 birds, 17 reptiles and amphibians and 58 insects.
Source: The post is based on the article “‘Vermin’ politics: Human-wildlife conflict mitigation needs to be based on science, not historical biases” published in Down To Earth on 6th June 2022.