The Locust and Forest Fire Crises in India– Certain Concerns | By Ashwin Vardarajan

The Locust and Forest Fire Crises in India– Certain Concerns 

By Ashwin Vardarajan 


Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, two new tragedies have struck India. The first is the Locust swarm which has been spreading across the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, and the other is the forest fires taking place in Uttarakhand. Both of these incidents have been under-discussed by the media and the people. 

Locusts are grasshopper-like creatures which swarm in gregariously, and are known to damage crops and plant-life that comes in their way. The Locust swarm currently being witnessed has not been seen in India, at least of a comparable magnitude, since 1997. These swarms generally visit India from its western borders in the second half of a year, usually comprising of older Locusts. This year, smaller groups of young Locusts were first identified across the India-Pakistan border around 11th May, 2020. By virtue of everyone’s ignorance in the initial days of the swarms’ attack on crops in Rajasthan, they grew bigger in size and finally developed into larger groups now spreading across India in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and NCR. Farmers have been subjected to mass destruction of their crops by swarms which cover entire fields – like a ravenous sheet devouring their land. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, “a swarm of Locusts spread across an area of one square kilometre can eat as much food as 35,000 people in one day. Their appetite is voracious and one locust can consume food equal to its own weight – which is about two grams – on a daily basis.” Some have said that Pakistan was a breeding ground for the swarms this year and that they arrived early in India due to climate change.

The Uttarakhand fires too are products of climate change. The forests’ trees have been excessively dry due to inadequate rainfall in the territory, which resulted in forests lighting up with fire. Over a period of two days, 70 acres of forest land has been lost. It is said that half the birds and animal species in Uttarakhand are engendered because of the fires.

Whist these incidents being despondently unfortunate, they throw light at two concerns: firstly, as to why the media has been oblivious of these incidents; and secondly, are the governments in this country prepared enough for future crises.

Both the incidents took place amidst the pandemic peaking in India. Thus, many have ignored them. In such a situation, there lies a certain level of burden on the media to cover them and make their viewers aware of the tough times India faces from all directions, but they do not seem to have done so. Consistent coverage is provided to the increasing COVID-19 cases in India, but one mustn’t forget that the virus is here to stay for a while. The media cannot ignore disasters which would have occurred – and are occurring – irrespective of the pandemic persisting. The “traditional role of the media and their key function as reporters of facts is to give the public the information necessary to make good decisions and sound choices using various communication technologies”, including the dissemination of national incidents which affects the nation at large. As a pillar of democracy, we should be discontented by how the media has disseminated these incidents – as it often seems like they turn a blind eye to relevant issues of public importance and wake up only after the havoc reaches a boiling point.

Governments, at the central and state levels, have been under incredible pressure during the pandemic, and incurred mounting costs for maintaining public health. Huge amounts have been transferred by the Centre to individual states to fight COVID-19. Yet, we see that the pandemic crisis has only revealed how ill-prepared we are as a nation to counter the crisis alongside other stumbling blocks to the environment and the public. The combination of hardships being faced by India is proof of how we ought to relook and revamp the governance at the central and state levels.

Pune, India

The idea of cooperative and collaborative federalism may be traced back to the Constituent Assembly Debates: when the Assembly, while devising India’s Constitutional framework, envisioned that the centre and states would be working tangent with each other (here, paras. 108-9). Sadly, democracy in India has only been an exercise of power-accumulation in the hands of a few, and not one of good governance furthered by cooperation between the centre and the states. The pandemic, the Locust swarm crisis and the Uttarakhand fires, no doubt, may be tended to disproportionately. Yet, the aid affixed to the latter two crises may be mindlessly inadequate. We do not know what the affected states and the central governments are going to do to tackle the hardships caused by the Locust and the fires – since these problems still persist at the time of this article being written – but there need to be additional layers of safeguards which ought to be installed for conveniently tackling such future situations. Pandemics may occur once every century, but public harm caused by climate change is an inevitable disaster we all need to live by everyday of our lives. The constitution of separate state-run institutions for disaster management is one way to tackles recurring public health and environment crises – something which Taiwan and South Korea have adopted and utilised instrumentally. This should be backed by adequate funding from the centre and from the respective states where the institutions are located. Further, effective laws should be enacted in furtherance of countering possible public health emergencies and adequate financial reserves must be created so that governments do not get flummoxed when a crisis hits India unexpectedly, or even recurrently.

At the end of the day, the governance of a nation is put to the test whenever a tragedy strikes its citizens. Being alert and precautious of possible disasters capable of affecting the country, or the world, is possible if the central and state governance in India is strong enough to swiftly collaborate, cooperate and counter the crisis.


This article has been written by Ashwin Vardarajan. Ashwin is a 2nd-year student of law, pursuing BA LLB (Hons.) from Symbiosis Law School Pune. He has a niche for constitutional law, public policy, and international law.


All views presented in the article belong solely to the writer. The editor does not support or condemn the views, and neither does The Global Telescope. The Global Telescope remains impartial and promotes every individual's right to freedom of speech and expression while not holding any responsibility for the views presented whatsoever.


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