Save Our Tigers!

Posted on February 21, 2010 in Environment

Rudrani Das Gupta:

1411 has become the newest catchphrase on the Indian billboard. Cute pictures of little Stripey the cub warms our hearts every time we see them. And in the midst of it all, Aircel is basking in the limelight which even low call rates had failed to achieve. Countrymen are being entreated to spare a thought for the tiger by Facebooking and Tweeting. A lot of questions are being thrown up by this media blitz. Is the Save the Tiger campaign a publicity stunt for a telecom company who still cannot match up to the giants, namely Vodafone and Airtel? Are the top men at Aircel genuinely thirsting to save the national animal?

There is another very interesting possibility that can be taken into consideration. Corporate Social Responsibility is a newly developing trend in India. Major corporations tying up with social causes is not a recent phenomenon but it is slowly seeing the light of the day here. For example, Idea is currently saving trees. It is definitely a win-win situation. Grab the eyeballs (in this case, the ears) and chalk up some good karma points at the same time.

Atindriyo Chakravarty, a law student feels that this campaign heralds the beginning of the CSR trend in India. However, according to him, it is doubtful as to whether the campaign is reaching people living in rural India, and who are more likely to bump into a tiger than a company executive in New Delhi. The campaign is almost exclusively in English and depends largely on the Internet for publicity. People are being asked to join Facebook groups and visit the website to root for the cause. This leads to the question: What concrete steps can you and I take to try and save the tiger? According to Save The Tiger website, one can “spread awareness” and/or “join NGOS” and so on. Haven’t these steps been outlined ad nauseam over the last few decades? Have all the tiger projects managed to prevent the number from dwindling to the widely publicised 1411? This campaign has nothing new to offer other than exploiting the newly emerging forms of online social networking. Is that going to prevent poachers in a far off land from slaughtering the tiger? Will it make sense to a man who kills them for income? The answers to these questions are yet to be answered.

How is Stripey the cub reaching the target audience in the rural areas of the country? Or is it that all the good-doers in India live in metropolitan cities? Will tweeting and opening groups on Facebook reach the poachers who are mostly responsible for this act of slaughter?