The concept of investigative journalism is, unfortunately, vanishing from the media canvas, at least in the Indian context, Chief Justice NV Ramana said on Wednesday, December 15. "Everything in our garden appears to be rosy," the CJI said at the launch of a book ‘Blood Sanders: The Great Forest Heist’ authored by journalist Udumula Sudhakar Reddy.
He highlighted the media's role in the protection of red sanders, which is known for preventing forest fires from spreading in the vulnerable forests of Seshachalam hills and is facing the threat of extinction. He said that the consequences of the ecological destruction caused by the cutting of red sanders can be seen globally and that the need of the hour was to address these issues locally.
The CJI said there was a lack of necessary will to enforce the laws that are already in place to protect the red sanders. “This is where the media needs to play its role. The collective failures of individuals and institutions entrusted with the role of protectors need to be highlighted by the media,” he said. He said people need to be made aware of deficiencies in the process, a job that can only be done by the media.
The CJI, whose first job was that of a journalist, shared his thoughts on the present-day media and said that the “concept of investigative journalism is, unfortunately, vanishing from the media canvas."
“It is true at least in the Indian context. When we were growing up, we eagerly looked forward to newspapers exposing big scandals. The newspapers never disappointed us. In the past, we have witnessed newspaper reports on scandals and misconduct creating waves leading to serious consequences. Barring one or two, I don't recall any story of such magnitude in recent years. Everything in our garden appears to be rosy,” he said.
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, the CJI asked the media to introspect and test itself against his words that the newspapers should be read for the study of facts. “They should not be allowed to kill the habit of independent thinking.”
He suggested that local residents if involved in conservation efforts of red sander, will make a huge difference.
“Tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries have benefitted from engaging tribals who are forest dwellers as forest guards. With this approach, prospective poachers of wildlife were turned into wildlife protectors as they found dependable livelihood.”
The CJI pointed out that like all good things in this world, red sanders also fell prey to the greed of man.
“The book explains how the high and mighty fuelled this project of destruction. The destruction, not only of the Red Sanders species but of the ecosystem as a whole. This species is known for preventing forest fires from spreading in the vulnerable forests of Seshachalam hills. The consequences of this ecological destruction are there for us to see globally. The need of the hour is to address these issues locally,” the CJI said.
The book gives insights into all that has gone wrong with the fragile ecosystem spread over Chittoor, Nellore, Prakasam, Kadapa and Kurnool districts of Andhra Pradesh. Red Sanders thrived in this habitat till a few decades ago.
According to an estimate presented by the author, in the last two decades, nearly 60 lakh Red Sanders trees were cut. Smuggling from the forest area spread over 5,30,097 hectares resulted in the arrest of over 2,000 people from the neighbouring state alone.