Who destroys our forests? The forest department!

Starvation killing jumbos

N D Shiva Kumar | TNN

Of 105 elephants that died in 2007-08, post-mortem of 22 was done after 10 to 25 days of death.

Due to the delay, between 2002 and 2008, the bodies of 23 elephants decomposed and the reason for deaths couldn’t be ascertained.

Five elephants died due to dehydration and starvation

new-picture-17

Bangalore: Elephants are starving to death.

Around 137 of them died over two years (2006-2008), and most due to starvation, dehydration and infection. This is a cause of concern as Karnataka has only 5,500-6,000 elephants.

Post-mortems have revealed that they died due to infection, diseases like peritonitis, diarrhoea, encephlyomyconditis, cardiac arrest, starvation and dehydration.

The number of deaths drastically increased after 2006. Between 2002 and 2006, 24 elephants died, 32 in 2006-07 and 105 in 2007-08.

Nobody cares for them

Of the 105 elephants that died in 2007-08, over 70% died before completing even half their lifespan, which is normally 55-60 years.

Also, 61 were below 20 years old and 21 between 21 and 30 years old.

Shockingly, forest department officials made no effort to find out the reasons for the outbreak of infection.

Displeasure over attitude of officials
The Public Accounts Committee led by Congress leader Siddaramaiah highlights these aspects in its report. The committee expressed shock and displeasure at the attitude of forest officials.

“It’s a serious issue of concern. The department made no efforts to find out the reasons for the outbreak of the epidemic. This is shocking.’’ The committee felt delay in the information to officials about elephants’ death was due to improper vigil (beat system).

Causes of deaths
Inadequate food and water holes and failure to manage and develop grassland were cited as major causes of death. The authorities registered 2,987 forest crimes between 2001 and 2008. Referring to this, the committee felt camps to prevent illegal hunting had not been set up properly.

More camps had been set up in areas less prone to illegal hunting and few camps in crime-infested areas. For long, animal rights activists have been asking the government to save elephants. It seems the effort is just not there.

Corrective measures
Study by Wildlife Society on reasons for major outbreak of epidemic and diseases Tighten beat system, conduct postmortem of dead animals and record reasons for death Ensure speedy disposal of pending cases

No peace even in death

Of 105 elephants that died in 2007-08, post-mortem of 22 was done after 10 to 25 days of death.

Due to the delay, between 2002 and 2008, the bodies of 23 elephants decomposed and the reason for deaths couldn’t be ascertained.

Five elephants died due to dehydration and starvation

Forest dept felled twice

CAG REPORT REVEALS LAPSES

IN FOLLOWING CONSERVATION ACT.

PAC REPORT SLAMS OFFICIALS FOR RISE IN ELEPHANT DEATHS

Jayashree Nandi | TNN

Bangalore: Who destroys our forests? The forest department!

The latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has revealed non-compliance of the administration of Forest Conservation Act, 1980 by the forest department, which has led to several hundred hectares of forest land diverted for non-forest use.

Shockingly, compensatory reforestation has not been carried out on 5,73,297 acres in Karnataka and Rs 17.09 crore fine has not been recovered from 23 user agencies.

Forest land of 483.52 acres were transferred by the revenue department without the Centre’s approval. Though renewal of lease in two cases was rejected by them, 24.09 hectares were not resumed. In 22 other cases, proposals of renewals of lease were not sent to the Centre by the PCCF despite lapse of 1 to 45 years!

And if this was not enough, the records in the forest department at Bangalore, Shimoga, Chikmagalur, Sirsi and nine other divisions headed by DCFs were checked by the auditor general’s office.

Seven user agencies had sought approval for utilization of 342.35 hectares for non-forest purposes. But over 391.71 hectares of forest land were utilized prior to obtaining an approval from the government.

This included 49.36 hectares utilized in excess of that approved for diversion in two cases in Bidar and Mangalore.

Way off the mark

In 19 cases of diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes like irrigation, wind power, mining, road work and others involving an area of 3,198 hectares, compliance with conditions by Centre were not ensured despite a lapse of 2 to 27 years from the date of clearance.

LAND DRAIN

Of 594.10 hectares of forest land approved (December 1995 to September 1996) for settlement of displaced families of Sea Bird project in Karwar, only 182.94 hectares utilized

Out of balance area of 411.16 hectares, 277 hectares where felling was done, reforested subsequently at Rs 45.49 lakh without resuming land

Centre not informed

Forest land of 483.52 acres were transferred by the revenue department without the Centre’s approval

In 22 cases, proposals to renew lease were not sent to the Centre by the PCCF despite lapse of 1 to 45 years

Between a rock and a hard place

An enlightening (and frustrating) article by P. Sainath. He is an authority on state of Indian agriculture, and has travelled extensively throughout the country, documenting the disgraceful mess created by this entity called “the Indian government”. One of the most popular books he has written, which will send shivers up your spine is, “Everyone loves a good drought“.

http://www.indiatogether.org/2008/apr/psa-foodprice.htm

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19 April 2008 – The bailout of Bear Stearns by the U S Federal Reserve was worth $30 billion. That is roughly twice the ‘loan waiver’ given to millions of Indian farmers. The latter move has been scorched by the ideologues of the free market and neo-liberalism as ‘fiscal insanity’ or ‘irreversible damage.’ The media – even those mildly critical – have been far more muted in their criticism of the ‘rescue’ of Bear Stearns. That is, one of the biggest global investment banks and securities trading and brokerage firms anywhere on the planet.

Think of it: a tiny Wall Street cabal which gave itself bonuses worth billions of dollars just weeks before the crash gets a bailout of Rs.1,19,520 crores. That’s almost double the Rs.60,000 crores given to tens of millions of farmers in dire straits in this country. A country where one farmer kills himself every 30 minutes in despair. The problems of farmers do not even begin to end with that waiver.

On the other hand, a bunch of thugs in tuxedos who did pretty much whatever they wanted, laying a minefield across the world, have got the waiver of a lifetime (or many lifetimes). The lifejacket for the bank does not require the return of their bonuses. So much so that Jim Rogers, CEO of Rogers Holdings and a staunch free marketer, calls it “Socialism for the rich.” In his words “the Federal Reserve is using taxpayer money to buy a bunch of Bear Stearns traders’ Maseratis.” He points out that hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent to bail out Wall Street as a whole. The theologians of the global market are between a rock and a hard place. Hypocrisy has rammed into reality.

Three of the basic principles the believers of corporate-led globalisation swear by have been so eloquently summed by Professor James Galbraith Jr. of the University of Texas at Austin. One: all successes are global. Two: all failures are national. Three: the market is beyond reproach.

This is election year. So we see Minister after Minister, the latest being Kapil Sibal, tell us that the price rise and food shortages in India are the result of global factors.
What a lovely waiver!
Protect at home, preach abroad

For over a decade, we were assured that everything good that ever happened was because we had embraced corporate-led globalisation. All the negative effects visible were the result of our own national inertia and corruption. And of course, the market would heal all wounds. The notion of state meddling in economic matters was blasphemy. Now the nations feeding us this rot – which we recite by rote – are nationalising banks, bailing out brigands and pouring in funds to stop factories from closing down.

Now having to blame ‘global factors’ for the price rise at home must seem a bit galling. Failures at home? Er, well, you see, let’s not go there now. This is election year. So we see Minister after Minister, the latest being Kapil Sibal, tell us that the price rise and food shortages in India are the “result of global factors.” Nothing to do with us. No less amusing to see the World Bank and the IMF warn of starvation and riots. It’s hard to think of anyone who has contributed more to those phenomena than they have. And now Finance Minister P. Chidambaram calls for an urgent “global consensus on the price spiral.” Without this, social unrest would conflagrate into a “global contagion.”

To be fair to the Union Agriculture Minister, he alone has not laid the blame at the door of faceless global forces. Sharad Pawar locates the problem closer home. In his view, south Indians are eating too many chapathis, leading to shortages of wheat. (DNA page 1, April 2, 2008). An entertaining view but there’s a problem with it. Even while dietary changes do affect consumption patterns, these occur over decades. There is little evidence of an outburst of wheat-centric gluttony in the southern states these past six months. (Unless, of course, with great cunning, the southies are hoarding it up for future chapathi orgies.)

Someone is hoarding it up, though, and it is not the general public, south or north. The presence of very large traders including MNCs buying directly from farmers has been on awhile. A process aided by our strangling of the old Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees’ Act. We’ve set the soil for contract farming and corporate agriculture. Meanwhile, the lip service paid to higher Minimum Support Prices (MSP) has proved worse than a sham. In practice, producers are being pushed towards private trade. Fewer procurement centres, delays in purchasing and, still worse, delays in payments are the norm. Then, when procurement is poor, we announce that the farmers are doing so well in the market, they don’t want to sell to the state.

The present mess was arrived at with much celebration of the farmer’s right to sell as and when he liked, to whom he wished. In effect, millions of farmers, deep in trouble, have been selling their produce at distress rates for several seasons now. The bargaining power of individual farmers on their own is zilch.

Total procurement has been down. When market prices for the farmers’ produce have been higher than the MSP, this might be expected. But it has happened even when the MSP has been raised. There have also been cases of traders picking up produce from indebted farmers and then claiming the higher MSP on it themselves. On the whole, though, smaller traders are in trouble. The big boys are here. And so even with enough grain within the country just now, the less well-off cannot access it at affordable rates.

The Centre’s pressing the States to act against hoarding is itself an admission of the problem. But there is yet to be a single instance of action against really big hoarders and speculators. These include giant companies operating through a variety of pointmen. The raids now focussed on small traders will yield little.

Meanwhile, the entry and growing entrenchment of giants in retail ensures things will get worse. (Remember this was supposed to provide us with cheap prices? Then look at the gap between wholesale and retail prices.) We have also nurtured the commodities futures market despite its clear links to speculation and price rise. It’s odd how every other small trader will brief you at length on this – but you won’t see much of that story in the media. In fact, with markets tanking around the world, more speculators have seized on foodgrain as a good bet. Which it is.

Through the reforms period, we have pushed millions of small farmers to shift from foodcrop to cash crops. The acreage under foodcrop has reduced across these years. And we also exported millions of tonnes of grain – as in 2002 and 2003. What’s more, we exported at prices cheaper than those we charged poor people in this country for the same grain. The idea was that we had a “huge surplus” of grain and could well afford to export. The truth was that the massive pileup of unsold stock arose from a surplus of hunger rather than of grain. The purchasing power of the poor had collapsed. But the fake “surplus” story came in handy. It allowed the export of grain – heavily subsidised by us – to be consumed by European cattle.

The present mess is no surprise. For years, economists such as Utsa Patnaik have warned strongly that we would arrive at where we are now. As she repeatedly pointed out, the effects of all our actions could be seen in the plummeting net per capita availability of foodgrain. From 510 grams per Indian in 1991 to 422 grams by 2005. With the top fifth of Indians doing better than ever before, this meant that those below were eating far less than they did just a few years ago.

The plunging food intake of the poorer sections has come along with the steady scrapping of the public distribution system. On the one hand, the PDS has been sharply whittled down. On the other, millions who need BPL cards are denied them. In Mumbai, just 0.28 per cent of ration cardholders have BPL cards. Now, even those who do have cards find no supplies to buy. And of course, we’ve spared no efforts to link our agriculture to the volatility of global prices in a world where a handful of corporations control those prices. Their clout within India has grown rapidly. Their control extends further each day from the field and farm gate to the price and sale of the final product.

Meanwhile, each budget takes further the process of “growth” driven by the consumption of the rich. Tax breaks at the top, cuts in state spending, all these too have a major role in making life unbearable below. Yet, even as the edifice crumbles, a few true believers hold out for the Second Coming. “Price rise reflects scarcity,” says one editorial, “and at no time is free trade more effective as a welfare enhancer than when it combats scarcity by quickly getting supplies where the demand is.” But governments are “denying free trade this role.” Well, get set for the global contagion.

P Sainath
19 Apr 2008

P. Sainath is the 2007 winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts. He is one of the two recipients of the A.H. Boerma Award, 2001, granted for his contributions in changing the nature of the development debate on food, hunger and rural development in the Indian media.

Rice from obscurity : 70 obsolete indigenous varities have been resusciated

One more story from Indian Express, on 06 December: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/247445.html. Anupam Pal, Agriculture Development Officer at Agriculture Training Centre (ATC) in Phulia, West Bengal, used a small plot of land next the ATC, to plant 70 varities of indigenous and obsolete varieties of rice.

Only four decades ago 5800 varities of rice were cultivated in West Bengal. Today, only 516 varieties exist. All this has happened because of the government sponsored High-Yielding Varities (HYV) promotion programmes, which were supposed to produce more yield per acre.

This initiative coincides with several such initiatives of seed-protection, among which one of the most popular in India (atleast that I know of) being that of by Navdanya.

An excerpt from the article:

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His effort has provided exceptional results, as the yield is expected to quash popular misconceptions about the productivity of the indigenous varieties compared to the HYVs.

Under the same soil conditions, local varieties like Bahurupi fared better than their HYV counterparts like Swarna Kamal and Minikit in terms of grain yield. So a full bloom Khejurchari rice plant on the ATC farm had 75 tillers or branches. In fact, none of the rice varieties had less than 25 tillers which is comparable with the HYVs.

The number of grains borne by a mature Bahurupi, a local variety, is 450, which easily scores over popular HYVs. More importantly, unlike the HYVs, the local varieties yield hay, which is used for cattle feed and in mushroom farms. So local varieties make for better economic sense.

“Even if the HYVs give a yield of 720 kg in one bigha plot and the local varieties yield around 480 kg per bigha, the latter leads to higher profit margins. This is because the cost of inputs—pesticides and fertilisers—for the HYVs is significantly higher than for the local varieties,” said Bahadur Chetri, one of the two farmers roped in for the project.

“It is sad that the farmers have turned their backs on these varieties which can compete with the HYVs. Also there isn’t any effort to explore the export potential of fragrant rice varieties,” said Pal.

Perhaps his experiment will mark the beginning of the return to local varieties.

Punjab farmers rave about rent

Please read the complete story as appeared on 06 December in the Indian Express: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/247444.html.

How wonderful to see co-operatives covering some real ground and reaching out to farmers, eliminating or reducing their purchase requirements of expensive farm-equipment.

Also, in some ways, such sharing of machinery and equipment is a way towards ‘enlightened capitalism’, a form of capitalistic society which encourages sharing of equipment, thus reducing the need of families in owning non-critical goods, and rather have a shared pool of equipment which is used and returned to the pool – a co-operative.

This is certainly positive news. You may

It is Srijan Foundation’s goal to help form and facilitate such enlightened co-operatives in various sectors, across India. God willing, we shall be able to take some steps forward in this area. We had carried another story in a similar area earlier in our Blog. See: http://srijanfn.org/2007/03/04/free-tractor-service-to-small-landowners/

Free tractor service to small landowners

A story from today’s Indian Express: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/24797.html talks about a man Ramesh Arnalkar, a trader from Pune, who is giving out a brand new tractor to small land-owners in Maharashtra’s suicide belt, free of cost to help them till their land, and thus start earning from it. While returning with his wife, Shalini, from a pilgrimage, the Arnalkars, made made up their mind to do something for the farmers. Shalini, put in her personal savings of Rs.50,000 for the cause.

The tractor mission has already reached 50-odd farmers from the Alandi region in Maharashtra. These farmers have to only pay for the Diesel and the driver’s daily salary, which, both including comes to about Rs.150/- per day. Compare this with the cost of hiring a tractor from large land owners – upto Rs.3000/- per day, which was absolutely impossible for these small landowners with 1 – 3 acres of land typically.

We, at Srijan Foundation will surely send some money to the Arnalkars. Could we help them raise funds for another tractor? hmmmm… possible surely!