Govt body, NGOs present maps with parts of J&K, Arunachal, Sikkim missing: RTI

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New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) A government organisation and two leading NGOs have submitted wrong maps of India to the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), according to an RTI reply.

The CZA said that Udaipur Zoo (Rajasthan), Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Wildlife SOS had submitted wrong maps of India to it while giving details of some projects.

One of the maps accessed by IANS shows some parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim outside Indian territory.

The map submitted by Udaipur Zoo depicts Pakistan- administered Kashmir and Aksai Chin (under Chinese control), Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim as white unmarked region, while the rest of India is marked and shown in colours.

According to the Survey of India (SoI), Department of Science and Technology, such cases are becoming very common and they have been recieving several complaints on these.

The organisations, however, are not clear how such maps were submitted. While officials from the Rajasthan Forest Department and Wildlife SOS claimed that the maps were submitted a couple of years ago, those from the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust said that they don’t recollect submitting any such map.

Madhya Pradesh-based activist Ajay Dubey, who sought the RTI replies from the CZA, says that the case shows a common practice of “cut, copy and paste”.

“As per the information accessed by you under Right to Information (RTI), till now those who have submitted wrong maps of India to us are Udaipur Zoo, Rajasthan; Wildlife SOS, New Delhi, and Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu,” said Ravinder Singh Rawat, Finance Officer with CZA, who replied to the RTI.

“We submitted a report a couple of years ago and mapped out the range of all four bear species and the map was not designed according to India’s political boundary as sloth bears and Asiatic black bears are also found in Nepal and Bhutan… Also the project was later cancelled and became void,” said a reply from Wildlife SOS, a leading animal welfare organisation.

“It (map) was submitted in 2009. We are checking other facts,” G.V. Reddy, Chief Wildlife Warden of Rajasthan, told IANS.

Meanwhile, the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, the first crocodile breeding centre in Asia, was certain that it did not submit any such map.

“There is only one instance in which we have used an India map in our reports. From our side, we are clear that we have not used the incorrect India map,” Allwin Jesudasan, Assistant Director, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, told IANS.

The SoI says providing a wrong map of India attracts penal provisions.

“It is a criminal offence and we receive similar complaints from India and abroad. In most of the cases we refer the complaints to Ministry of External Affairs or Home Affairs. If the organisation is Indian, we ask them to change the maps immediately,” a senior official from SoI, who did not want to be named, told IANS.

“We consider all these parts, including PoK and Aksai Chin, as integral parts of India and thus always depict them within India’s geographical and political boundaries. This also asserts India’s claim over these regions in international fora,” the official added.

Meanwhile, the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, has proposed imposition of a fine of Rs 10 lakh to Rs 100 crore and imprisonment of up to seven years, in case any organisation or individual tampers with the Indian map.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had released a draft of the Bill in May 2016.

“Such mistakes happen because a certain copy and paste culture is being followed. This is dangerous. While debates over nationalism and sovereignty are on, such things, especially from Indian organisations, are disheartening. I will take legal action against them,” Dubey told IANS.

(Kushagra Dixit can be reached at [email protected])

–IANS

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