A Tribune Special- by aditi tandon, Tribune news service

Chandigarh, March 17
Former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and members of his family and friends own a chunk of wildlife articles or animals covered in Punjab under the Wildlife Protection Act.

As per the Punjab wildlife department’s official list, procured under the RTI Act and in exclusive possession of The Tribune, Malwinder Singh, Amarinder’s brother, leads the pack of 500 applicants who declared wildlife articles to legalise possession.

He owns a whopping 1,300 articles, followed by Amarinder, who has 97 articles, including a live red jungle fowl.

Congress MLA from Nabha Randip Singh and members of his family have 60 articles, ranging from peg tables of rhino foot (schedule I), heads of endangered animals, elephant tusks and black buck trophies.
Interestingly, 80 per cent of the applicants are from Patiala.

Also in the list is B.I.S. Chahal, media adviser to the former Chief Minister, who has declared two sofa sets with ivory engraving, three ivory tusks (schedule I), mounted head of hog deer (schedule III) and two shahtoosh shawls.

His wife has an ivory box and an ivory table.

Also among the applicants are members of the wildlife advisory board Maj A.P. Singh and Jaskaran Sandhu.

The Oswals (residing at 514, College Road, Ludhiana) possess 61, the maximum shahtoosh shawls, made of the wool of chiru, listed in the red data book on endangered species in the world.

Second to them are Amarinder’s daughter-in-law Rishma and her parents, the Dhingras, who own 41 shahtoosh shawls.

Nimmi Singh, daughter of Charan Singh, a former head of the Dera Baba Jaimal Singh, Beas, owns 13 shahtoosh shawls.

These applications were made when the Government of India declared amnesty for those who had wildlife articles, but did not know they needed licences to keep those.

Licences had to be procured till October, 2003.

For the first time since then, the Punjab wildlife department, under the RTI Act, had given details of those who had sought ownership certificates.
The list also bares many discrepancies.

It shows how some bigwigs had been given licences in Punjab though they resided outside. Selja, a union minister, has a licence from Mohali, but she lives outside.

Rishma’s parents live in Delhi, but have a licence from Amritsar.
Daughters of former minister Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder live outside Gurdaspur, but have a licence from there.

Some applicants have got away with incomplete disclosures.
Malwinder says he only has 1,300 articles of elephant, chiru, crocodile and tortoise, all schedule I animals.

He does not specify how many or what type.

Amarinder, however, has declared 77 ivory items, four pheasant feather paintings, elephant tusks, a goral and a bharal trophy.

Though the DFO, territorial, was authorised to do so, the DFO, wildlife, Patiala, P.C. Atalya, had been receiving applications from Patiala and even from Amritsar and Muktsar. Atalya’s daughter Sonalika figures among the applicants.

She has a stuffed pangolin (schedule I).

Lastly, no scientific testing had been done in Punjab to see if declared articles of schedule I animals like tigers and elephants were genuinely inherited or procured from hunting. Hunting of schedule I animals was banned in 1972.

The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Main News