My dear countrymen,
Rarely does humanity face such occasions when the cycle of time gives us a chance to rectify the past and build a new future. Fortunately, there is one such moment before us today. Today, we have got an opportunity to reconnect the age-old link of biodiversity that was broken decades ago and had become extinct. Today the cheetahs have returned to the soil of India. And I would also like to say that along with these cheetahs, the nature loving consciousness of India has also been awakened with full force. I congratulate all the countrymen on this historic occasion.
In particular, I also thank our friendly country Namibia and its government with whose cooperation the cheetahs have returned to Indian soil after several decades.
I am sure these cheetahs will not only make us aware of our responsibilities towards nature, but will also make us aware of our human values and traditions.
When we are away from our roots, we lose a lot. Therefore, we have reiterated the importance of ‘paanch pranas’ (five pledges) like 'being proud of our heritage' and 'liberation from the mentality of slavery' in this ‘Amrit Kaal’ of independence. In the last centuries, we have also seen the time when the exploitation of nature was considered a symbol of power and modernity. When only the last three cheetahs were left in the country in 1947, they too were hunted mercilessly and irresponsibly in the forests in the next few years. It is unfortunate that we declared cheetahs extinct from the country in 1952, but no meaningful effort was made for decades to rehabilitate them.
Now the country is committed to rehabilitate cheetahs with new energy in the ‘Amrit Kaal’ of independence. ‘Amrit’ (nectar) has the power to revive even the dead. I am glad that this ‘amrit’ of duty and faith is reviving our legacy, heritage and now cheetahs also on the soil of India in the ‘Amrit Kaal’ of independence.
It involved years of hard work. We put a lot of energy behind such an initiative, which no one gives importance to politically. A detailed Cheetah Action Plan was prepared in this regard. Our scientists carried out extensive research by working closely with South African and Namibian experts. Our teams went to Namibia and experts from there also came to India. Scientific surveys were conducted across the country for the most suitable habitat for cheetahs, and then Kuno National Park was chosen for this auspicious beginning. And today, our hard work is in front of us as a result.
It is true that our future is secure when nature and the environment are protected. The avenues for growth and prosperity also open up. When cheetahs sprint again in Kuno National Park, the grassland eco-system will be restored and bio-diversity will improve further. In the coming days, eco-tourism will also pick up here, new possibilities of development will arise here and employment opportunities will increase. But friends, today I also want to make a request to all the countrymen. The countrymen will have to show patience and wait for a few months to see the cheetahs released in the Kuno National Park. Today these cheetahs have come as guests and are unaware of this territory. We have to give a few months time to these cheetahs to enable them to make Kuno National Park their home. India is trying its best to settle these cheetahs following the international guidelines. We must not allow our efforts to fail.
Today, the world talks about sustainable development when it looks at nature and environment. But nature and environment, animals and birds, are not just about sustainability and security for India. For us, they are the basis of our sensibility and spirituality. We are such people whose cultural existence rests on the mantra of 'Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma'. That is everything from animals, birds, trees, plants, roots and consciousness in the world are the form of God. They are our own expansion. We say:
यो जीवति स जीवति'।
That is, real life is not about taking into account one’s own benefits only. Real life is lived by those who live for charity. This is the reason that we take out food for the animals and birds before we eat our own food. We are taught to care about even the smallest creatures living around us. Our ethos is such that we are filled with guilt if any living being dies suddenly. Then how can we tolerate if the existence of an entire species is lost because of us?
Just imagine how many children do not even know that the cheetahs, which they are growing up after hearing about, have disappeared from their country in the last century itself. Today, cheetahs are found in some countries of Africa and in Iran, but India was off that list long ago. Children will not have to go through this irony in the near future. I am sure they will be able to see the cheetahs sprinting in their own country in Kuno National Park. Today a big void in our forest and life is being filled through the cheetahs.
Today, 21st century India is giving a message to the whole world that economy and ecology are not conflicting against each other. Along with protecting the environment, the progress of the country can also happen. India has shown this to the world. Today, on the one hand, we are part of the fastest growing economies of the world, at the same time, the forest areas of the country are also expanding rapidly.
Since the formation of our government in 2014, about 250 new protected areas have been added in the country. There has also been a significant increase in the number of Asiatic lions here. Today Gujarat has emerged as an important habitat of Asiatic lions in the country. Decades of hard work, research-based policies and public participation have a big role behind this. I remember, we took a pledge in Gujarat – ‘We will improve respect for wild animals and reduce conflict’. Today the result of that approach is before us. We have also achieved the target of doubling the number of tigers in the country ahead of time. Once, the existence of one-horned rhinoceros was threatened in Assam, but today their numbers have also increased. The number of elephants has also increased to more than 30,000 in the last few years.
Brothers and sisters,
Another major work that has been done in the country from the point of view of nature and environment is the expansion of wetlands. Not only in India, the life and needs of crores of people all over the world depend on wetland ecology. Today 75 wetlands in the country have been declared as Ramsar sites, of which 26 sites have been included in the last four years. The impact of these efforts of the country will be visible for centuries to come and will pave new paths for progress.
Today we need to approach global problems, solutions and even our lives in a holistic way. That is why, today India has given a mantra LIFE i.e., Lifestyle for the Environment, to the world. Today, India is giving a platform and a vision to the world through efforts like the International Solar Alliance. The success of these efforts will decide the direction and future of the world. Therefore, today is the time for us to consider the global challenges as our individual challenges and not of the world. A small change in our lives can become a basis for the future of the whole earth. I am sure that India's efforts and traditions will guide the entire humanity in this direction and give strength to the dream of a better world.
With this belief, I thank you all very much for this historic and valuable time. I congratulate you very much.