Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Great Okhla Bird Sanctuary

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From the news, and Okhla Bird Sanctuary is very often in the news these days, it conjures up images of a vast wilderness, a virgin habitat of birds, that needs to be saved from the advancing concrete jungle, that has now come up to ten km from the edges of the sanctuary.


But if you actually ever go to the Okhla bird sanctuary, a different kind of shock awaits you. It is a rundown place, that has roads, very busy roads, on its three sides. And across those roads, on all the three sides is bustling NOIDA city and industrial area. Fully developed. On the remaining side is Yamuna, and across the river is Kalindi Kunj and the great megapolis of Delhi.


So it is impossible to believe that recently construction work has been banned within ten km of this “bird sanctuary”. That is, people had all clearances, all permissions, and construction was on, on the plots which were still vacant among the large numbers that already have multi-storey residential towers, educational institutions, and business districts.


Birds have been living in the centre of this all all these decades. But now suddenly they are supposed to be threatened by new constructions.


No businesses can function in such arbitrariness and irrationality. The whole area was acquired by the government from the farmers, it was sold to the builders and other businesses with all necessary permissions, the area is already a full fledged concrete jungle, so to suddenly remember the birds, and ruin people-the builders, their purchasers, their bankers; the businesses that would never come up, the jobs that would never be created.


As for birds themselves, if buildings go right to the edge of the sanctuary, and the sanctuary is walled on all sides, the birds would be really safe and happy. Birds live in all sorts of places. To claim that they need 10 km of wilderness around their habitat is without any basis, as it is unlikely that birds were ever consulted.


And in any case, it is not that any rare birds stay there. There are no birds in that sanctuary that are not found elsewhere also. The sanctuary is good as an open area in the middle of the two cities-NOIDA and Delhi. It certainly does not require banning of all new constructions within ten km of its edges.


But that is what the business environment in the country has become. After you have bribed those forty odd departments you needed to bribe to obtain the permissions to start business so that you could pay the taxes which go to run those forty departments, and give jobs to people who are raised to believe that you are actually their enemy and exploiter; and are halfway through the construction, there comes the forty-first department, waves in your face some Act or Law you never dreamt existed, nor any of the forty departments you had already bribed cared to tell you, and summarily orders you to stop the work.


Only the bravest people can do business in India, mostly those who have not yet been exposed to the torture of Official India. We are forever condemned to be a third world kleptocracy.

And the birds of Okhla? They will not survive either. All the unemployed, starving millions will kill them and eat them. Or may be they will trap them and sell them to the folks from the industrialised West.


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