ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Privatising 'Wild India'

Saving Wild India: A Blueprint for Change by Valmik Thapar; New Delhi: Aleph Book Company, 2015; pp 145, Rs 499.

Does wild India need saving in the manner outlined by Valmik Thapar in his latest book Saving Wild India: A Blueprint for Change? This question, derived from the title and ambition of this work, is interrogated through a focus on three aspects: (1) the claim to expertise on “wild India”; (2) the recommendations made/blueprint outlined; and (3) the evidence forming the basis of these recommendations. It should be made clear at the very outset that this review is not an assessment of Thapar’s long career and self-fashioning as a wildlife-saver and, especially, tiger-lover. Rather it is an attempt to engage seriously with the terms of this particular book; an exercise that is, for reasons outlined below, somewhat trying.

Saving Wild India is written in a masterful tone. The entire book is shot through with an implicit assumption of possessing an incontestable knowledge of the natural resources and wildlife of India. This expertise emerges, it would appear, from the “decades” Thapar has spent in the task of “saving” wild India. He has sat on influential committees, run organisations, published prolifically, and made expert recommendations—many of which have been accepted and implemented. No doubt these decades (an impressive sounding but ultimately vague indication of time that Thapar uses liberally) could and, indeed, ought to allow for a wealth of knowledge. In this work, however, one struggles to find the nuanced and deep discussion expected from someone who has spent so much time working within privileged spaces of power as well as in the field. Instead, all that is in evidence is standard middle and upper class Indian remonstrations and hand-wringing against the paper tiger that is the Indian state.1

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