Piloting extinction

Political priorities in insurgency-prone Kashmir may well override the apparent vigour of the wildlife officialdom to protect the shahtoosh (Hymalayan goat-antelope). Senior bureaucrats of the union environment ministry (MEF) cite the large number of recent seizures of shahtoosh-derived products as proof of their drive to protect the endangered species. Shahtoosh is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Conservation) Act.

But for Rajesh Pilot, union minister of state for home, who handles Kashmir affairs, this amounts to an "unnecessary and avoidable harassment of honest, India-loving Kashmiris". Since the beginning of this year, Pilot has been flooding the MEF with messages expressing his worry that stringent curbs in the use of shahtoosh-derived products would "adversely affect thousands of Kashmiri weavers who derive their living entirely by weaving exquisite shawls" of shahtoosh wool.

Pilot's eminence in the union cabinet has forced the MEF to "review" his concerns "at the highest level", reveal officials, requesting anonymity. Sure enough, Kashmiri traders, as well the J&K Emporium displayed and sold shahtoosh shawls openly in a handicrafts fair held in New Delhi last month.

And such good deeds have to be advertised, so what if they negate wildlife concerns. So, the Doordarshan prominently publicised the trade in shahtoosh goods in its February 10 news bulletin. Wildlife officials only shrug their shoulders helplessly.