Archives of Contemporary India

Supported by HDFC LTD.

M. K. Ranjitsinh Papers

M. K. Ranjitsinh Papers

"Cheetah is a flagship species of a highly endangered ecosystem of the country — the grasslands. It is also the only species to go extinct in peninsular India in historical times. We could not save the cheetah earlier, but if we allow any other species to go extinct now, it will be because we allowed it to happen."

India’s leading wild life conservationist, Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh (born 1938) belongs to the royal family of Wankaner in Saurashtra, Gujarat. Educated at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, he was selected for the Indian Administrative Service in 1961. As collector of Mandla (1967-1970) in Madhya Pradesh, he helped save the central Indian Barasingha from extinction. Transferred to Delhi in 1971 as deputy secretary of forests and wildlife in the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, he was the prime architect of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (subsequently associated with every significant amendment of it thereafter, even after retirement from government service in 1996).

He was the first Director of Wildlife Preservation of India, 1973-75, and served for a second term, 1985-89. Dr. Ranjitsinh served as Regional Adviser in Nature Conservation (Asian Countries) for United Nations Environmental Programme in Bangkok, Thailand, 1975-1980. Back in India in January 1981, he was appointed Secretary, Forests and Tourism, and Commissioner, Bhopal Division, Madhya Pradesh. During his 4 year tenure, he established 14 new sanctuaries, 8 new national parks and more than doubled the area of 3 existing national parks, a total addition of over 9,000 sq. km. to the protected areas of the nation. As Commissioner of Bhopal in 1983, played a pivotal role in the aftermath of Bhopal gas tragedy. Mid 1985, he was moved to Delhi as joint secretary in the newly created Ministry of Environment and Forests and put in overall charge of Project Tiger. He was also Chairman of Standing Committee, CITES, 1985-86.

Dr. Ranjitsinh was appointed India’s commissioner on the International Whaling Commission and attended its annual Conference of Parties at Bournemouth, England, 1985; Malmo, Sweden, 1987; Auckland, New Zealand, 1988; and San Diego, USA, 1989. He was Chairperson of the Research Advisory Committee of Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun for many years. He became Additional Secretary and Project Director of the Ganga Action Plan, under the aegis of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, 1989-90. He was Chairman, Narmada Valley Development Authority, 1993-95, and Director General, Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART), 1995-96.

Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh retired from government service in February 1996. His passion for saving endangered species continues after his retirement, whether in planning the relocation of the Asiatic lion from Gir forest, the reintroduction of the Cheetah into the grasslands of central India, or in saving from extinction the Kashmiri stag, the Manipur brow-antlered deer and the great Indian bustard. The eastern subspecies of the Indian Barasingha is named after him (cervus duvauceli ranjitsinhji). In 1997, he headed a special unit for tiger conservation in India under the aegis of WWF International, based in WWF office in Delhi. He has been associated with the major conservation initiatives as a member of the National Board for Wildlife and its Standing Committee; Chairman, Biodiversity Conservation, Madhya Pradesh, 1998; member, National Forest Commission, 2003; Chairman, Wildlife Trust of India, 2008-09, and special task force for reintroduction of Cheetah in India. In January 2020, Dr.Ranjitsinh was appointed by the Supreme Court to head the committee to help the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for the re-introduction of cheetah in India.

Dr. Ranjitsinh was awarded the Order of the Golden Ark in 1979, in recognition of “outstanding work on behalf of International conservation both in India and in South East Asia” and was elected to the Global 500 Roll of Honour of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) “in recognition of outstanding practical achievements in the protection and improvement of the environment” in 1991; was recipient of Maharaja Martand Singh Dev Trust Award (1996) and Maharani Udai Singh of Mewar Award (1998) for his contribution to wildlife and environment conservation.

 Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh has published numerous articles and two books on Indian wildlife and conservation, The Indian Blackbuck; Beyond the Tiger: Portraits of Asian Wildlife and a book on his life’s journey which in essence is the history of nature conservation in India, A Life with Wildlife: From Princely India to the Present.

About the Collection: The papers of Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh comprise a valuable source material for the study of the awareness of conserving wildlife in India and policy formation in the early 1970s and 80s. The papers reflect his passion for saving the endangered species and mainly relate to saving from extinction the Kashmiri stag, Indian bustard and Manipur brow-antlered deer. The collection contains papers on the amendments to Indian Forest Act, 1927, and Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972; Project Tiger; wildlife and forest management; forest policies of states; and development of wildlife protected areas, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserves of India.  There are papers on the activities of national and state boards for wildlife; statics of wildlife and various species in the states; All India Census of Wildlife and related correspondence with forest officials and others. Besides, there are also various research papers/reports/surveys on the avians, aquatic ecosystem, and biodiversity conservation in India, related correspondence and notes by M.K. Ranjitsinh. The collection is significant for the study of ecology, endangered species, wildlife conservation, development planning and natural resource management in India.  (Catalogue I available) (Catalogue II available)

Donor: Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh
Acquisition: 2018 & 2021