"If a human can face punishment for eating a cow, why can't a tiger face the same fate?"
As strange as it may sound, that was exactly the question posed by Indian Nationalist Congress Party lawmaker Churchill Alemão in the Goa Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.
Alemão is the former chief minister of Goa.
Speaking at the parliament regarding the recent killing of four tigers in the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary, Alemão said that wildlife was being given more importance than human life, reports Hindustan Times.
These tigers were poisoned by a local villager, whose cattle were killed by the tiger.
"This problem needs to be looked at from both sides. As per the Forest Act, the tiger is given high priority. But from the human point of view, cows are given high priority. Because if you see, even if a man eats cow meat, the man gets punished. Can the tiger eat cattle? Does he not face any punishment?" Alemão asked prompting loud guffaws in the Legislative Assembly.
"This is not to be laughed at. It is serious," Alemão continued with a straight face.
"The poorest of the poor, whose family completely depended on the cow... and if he loses the cow and the man goes and does something about it and then the tiger dies, Should that man be punished?" Alemao asked.
"If you eat cow's meat, there's a punishment for you. Why should the tiger not be punished?" he asked.
"We should give attention to the people who live there and treat them like humans. I see many people sleeping on the street and nobody cares. Our ex-minister Maneka Gandhi wanted to do something for the street dogs, but to care for the humans, nobody bothered. We need to value human life. There is no value for humans," he contended.
"So I ask that after what happened, let us not make a big deal and in the future, we should worry about the humans and their livestock and their future. What has happened should be left at that," Alemão said.
Alemão who served as Goa's chief minister for 13 days during the 1990s is known for his wisecracks and rustic humour and has become a meme in this age of social media.
The opposition accused the state of negligence in safeguarding the lives of these animals and also of the residents who live in the area by failing to tackle the issue of human-wildlife conflict.
Last month, a tigress and three cubs were found dead near Golavali village adjoining the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in a suspected case of retaliatory killing through poisoning as the striped cats had killed a few cattle belonging to a family of forest-dwelling herdsmen known as Dhangars. Five villagers were arrested who have allegedly confessed to the killing.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant assured the assembly that his government was doing everything in its power to protect the wild animals as well as the people in dealing with the human-wildlife conflict.