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India's rich biodiversity offers scientists a unique resource and the opportunity to understand local environments, audit natural resource management systems and document wildlife.

Yet across all disciplines, scientists in India are being prevented from conducting their research, says Kamaljit S. Bawa in this commentary.

He draws on two articles, also published in Current Science, to show how Indian bureaucracy is stifling national scientific endeavour.

First, many field researchers are being arbitrarily denied access to wildlife reserves and protected areas in India, without the means to appeal, by forest departments that see scientists as finger-pointing busybodies whose research findings are often a source of embarrassment.

Taxonomists face further barriers to research because of India's 2002 Biological Diversity Act. This places impractical conditions on the international exchange of specimens and causes unnecessary delays in identifying wildlife.

Bureaucratic hurdles do not only hamper critical research, Bawa argues, they are also undemocratic.  

It follows that if India is to become a global leader in conservation science it must first free its scientific community from red tape, and actively encourage field-based research.

Link to full articles in Current Science

Biological Diversity Act, 2002: Shadow of permit-raj over research

Science in the wilderness: the predicament of scientific research in India's wildlife reserves

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