I have had a link with Shivpuri, northwest Madhya Pradesh, since 1950, when our people began to restore neglected farmlands on the fringe of the forest. I spent long school and college holidays there. The population was small, the forests of young India were abundant, the tiger, blue bull, chinkara and wild boar roamed everywhere. It had been the finest tiger-shooting area of the maharajas, and viceroys came here regularly. The first time I went there, we walked eight miles through the jungle to our farmer-uncle who then used to live in a thatched hut. We slept on paddy straw, and shouted all night to keep the deer away from the half acre of wheat. In the morning, we saw huge pugmarks in a slightly wet water course. A tiger had been by. At that time, the jungle stretched westward across the Chambal to Ranthambhor. The tigers roamed free and far through these forest corridors.
Alas, the forests have gone, the Shivpuri hills are bare and pockmarked by illegal slate mines. There are no tigers or even panthers any more. In the monsoon, we no longer hear the roar of a rutting male from the hill opposite. All is quiet. A game park has been established. It has only some deer and crocodiles in the lake. Cattle with nothing to eat roam everywhere. What hope can there be for wildlife in a situation of unlimited human and cattle numbers and no forest for food and shelter?