Satyajit Sarker, AVP IT, DTDC Express Ltd, talks about his mission to preserve and protect forests and wildlife.
Even older than Satyajit Sarker’s passion for technology is his love for the natural world. When he’s not working on the global IT strategy and operations at DTDC Express Ltd, Satyajit spends time with various NGOs trying to protect our natural bounty. “I’ve loved nature from as far as back as I can remember,” says Satyajit. “There’s something indefinable that draws me to it. Mother Nature has a beauty that’s unparalleled. If you stand quietly in a forest, and let your senses overwhelm you, you will experience something out of this world. With your unconscious mind, you’ll connect yourself to the world around you. We’re all from this wild untamed space; we all originated from here. The forest will remind you of that connectedness.”
“About 20 years ago, we’d stayed for two days in winter in a forest in north Bengal. Back then, I felt something calling out to me. It’s like nature started speaking to me and I could communicate with it. That’s when my true interaction with nature started and I keep going back again and again and again to relive that feeling. We have to remember that nature has given us so much and we need to do what we can to protect it.”
Getting involved in conservation
“I’m involved with many NGOs, including WWF, working to preserve our forests and wildlife. We’re also work in the tribal education and rehabilitation space. My core involvement started around 10 years ago. Back then the tiger census found that the number in India were very less. And if it continued like that for the next 20 years then the tigers would become extinct. That’s when I started reading whatever resources possible to understand the importance of tigers and other wildlife. How they create an ecological balance, and how important they are to the ecosystem. I realised that all wildlife needs to be preserved and I must do whatever I can to help. It’s not only about giving money to the cause, it’s about contributing your time and mind. Some projects require your physical presence more than anything else.
“We roam the different national parks to understand their concerns, problems and challenges. We try to help the forest department in any way possible. Their guards are the ones in the field doing the work that needs to be done. But they are so ill equipped. Most of the forest guards aren’t permanent; they’re on contract, and so lack even basic infrastructure. I’ve seen guards walking around barefoot in the muddy forests during the monsoon with just a single stick to protect themselves. Seeing their condition has inspired us to help them in whatever way possible, by providing raincoats, shoes, etc. We also observe and learn from other countries on how to preserve our ecosystem.
Photographing the wild
“It was a dream for a long time to learn nature photography, but when I was younger we couldn’t afford to buy the kind of camera that allowed me to do it at a professional level. So, I used the small camera we had to indulge in my hobby. Then around eight years ago I got actively involved with some NGOs who work in the nature and wildlife conservation space. Being so frequently around nature awoke the dream in me again and I decided to buy myself a better camera and take it up more professionally. I haven’t done any course in wildlife photography. I’ve mostly learnt through experience and from the photography groups I’m a part of on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Members share their pictures and we analyse them, get into debates, etc, so that’s how I learn.”
All in the family
“My wife and son also share in this passion of mine. They are also completely devoted to the cause. Even though my son is just eight-and-a-half, he involves himself in whatever we do, and we educate him so that he understands the importance of conservation and can continue the work forward. Also 99 per cent of our vacations are in forest areas. And any free weekends and days off are also spent there.”
“When you see a tiger for the first time, it’s magical. But when you see the same animal multiple times, spend hours together, and get to know the creature, it’s a completely different feeling. There’s a bond that can’t be described. The first time this happened with a tiger is a moment that really stands out in my mind.”
Some challenges faced
“Till the time tribals were completely dependent on the forest for their livelihood they were okay. But the moment they got in touch with the modern world the problems started. They want to expand their paddy fields, so they deforest the land and extend their boundaries. They kill wildlife to save their crops. They have access to modern gadgets like loudspeakers and TVs, which affect the animal life where they live. So we try to educate them about these harmful activities and how they’re adversely affecting forest life. The forest department has programs through which they’re given help to relocate, given new land, the government helps them to build their houses, they get perks, etc. But the tribals are reluctant to relocate because they’re afraid of going to a new location and starting afresh. Therefore we work hard to educate and spread awareness through our various activities. Through the NGOs we also support the government in rehabilitating tribals and provide support to them during the transition.”
Lack of education
“Tribals themselves often get the short end of the stick. The ones who are employed as forest guards don’t have access to basic facilities and have to do their job in hazardous situations without any protection. There’s also lack of education, which leads them to adopt habits that unbalance the ecosystem they live in. The children living in these forest areas don’t have easy access to schools. The nearest school is usually 40-50 km away. The children have to hitch rides with passing vehicles to go to school and return home. Very often children cannot continue their education because of such hurdles. The NGOs also help with this basic right; we owe it to these kids to give them a better education.”
Below are some of Satyajit’s images.