Saturday, July 26, 2008

Move over PETA

July 23, 2008

h/l: Forest control rooms to check poaching
intro: State plans 33 control rooms to keep wildlife cruelty in check

Mumbai: As cases of poaching and maiming wild animals in the State's jungles come to light, the government has given the State's citizens a good chance to help combat poaching and cruelty against wildlife. Forest Minister Babanrao Pachpute has announced his department's ongoing project of setting up control rooms in 33 districts to register calls from concerned citizens.

Pachpute made the announcement via a written reply to a question put to him by MLAs Sudhir Mungantivar and others on the floor of the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.

A senior official from Pachpute's office said, "Excluding two districts in Mumbai, 33 districts will have control rooms where people who have spotted a hunting activity or cruelty towards wild animals can call and register a complaint."

The control rooms would be attached with the local forest office and would have a fast access short code. The short code, to be operationalised by BSNL, would be the same all over the State and would be designated only for the use of registering these complaints.

Considering that major poaching activities for ivory and cutting down of sandalwood takes place after dark, the helplines would run for 24 hours. The assistant forest conservators in each district would monitor the working of the control rooms. Even such activities as disposing off carcasses, skinning animals or felling trees can be reported.

The Centre has given 155314 as the fast access code for Maharashtra. The necessary permissions to operationalise 33 separate control rooms for this project were given on May 15 this year.

Meanwhile, Pachpute said that of the 33, five control rooms are ready at Amravati, Buldhana, Paratwada, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur. "The project is fast nearing completion," he assured.

No word on Atram arrest
Interestingly, while explaining to the House that the Chinkara poaching incident of June 14, 2008 was 'still under investigation', Forest Minister Babanrao Pachpute avoided mentioning the Dharmarao Atram angle to the case.
Responding to questions about the action to be taken against those involved in the killing at Chaudharwadi, Pachpute replied, "Four persons have been arrested, and the statements of 23 witnesses have been recorded. We have recovered rifles, pistols and the vehicles used in the hunt."

Missing you...

July 25, 2008

h/l: Where in the world is Renge Patil?

intro: Missing ex-Sena MP is in hiding since last Sunday

Vrushali Lad

How's this for an irony? The Member of Parliament, who from August 2006 onwards, is a member of the Committee on Absence of Members from Sittings of the House, is himself missing from action. Tukaram Renge Patil, Shiv Sena MP expelled for defying the party whip to vote against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) during the trust vote held on Wednesday, has been 'untraceable' since last Sunday.

Interestingly, he has been giving interviews to television channels for the last two days, though the channels have not been revealing his location on air.

Renge Patil was spotted last in Delhi on Sunday morning, after which he has seemingly 'disappeared' but is in touch with family and close associates. He remained absent for the two-day special session of Parliament held on Sunday and Monday, and has not gone to his home at Jamb in Parbhani.

In fact, the phone number he usually uses is currently being operated by his close aide, Amul. Speaking to Sakaal Times on Friday evening, Amul said, "I am currently in Pune. Saheb (Renge Patil) is not here with me. I don't know where he is." On probing a little further, he confessed, "I cannot tell you where he is. All I can say is he is not here in Pune."

That Renge Patil was bound to defy the party whip had become obvious when he did not attend the party meeting at Sena chief Bal Thackeray's residence 'Matoshree' last Saturday. For two days after that, the Sena maintained that Renge Patil was with them and that all MPs would abide by the whip. However, that did not lessen the blow for the Sena when he did not show up for the trust vote and though his absence had a bearing on the NDA losing the vote, his defiance of the party whip stunned the Sena, which is not used to such rebellion.

Renge Patil has reportedly been changing his location every two days since Sunday to escape Shiv Sainiks, who are on the lookout for him. His home in Parbhani has been given police protection and sources said that the MP is due to return home next week, albeit under tight police protection.

The number that Amul provided to Sakaal Times has been consistently switched off. When he provided an alternate number, it was a wrong number. "That is the number we call saheb on," Amul insisted. Meanwhile, sources said that Renge Patil is not in talks to join any other political party as of now.

In Renge Patil's official profile as listed by the Lok Sabha book on MPs, the missing MP's sporting interests include kabaddi and kho kho. His skills at both sports should come in handy now as he dodges irate Sainiks baying for his blood after his 'betrayal'.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This book goes to...

If I ever write a book (and I'm as likely to do that as accepting that DDLJ is a good movie), the first thing I would keep ready would be the dedication. Whether I have a story to tell or not is not as important as who I dedicate the book to.

The following are likely to get a mention and the following dedication:
Golu: For tipping the balance, literally, with her cheeks. This book is a result of the agony I felt when the said cheeks went missing after a bout of paid self torture that fooled no-one.
Pooky: For showing me that where there's a laugh, there's a snort.
Mummy: For the most acidic and most hilarious sense of humour. This story was born just as my life was flashing by in front of my eyes, after I almost choked on my food with one of your observations.
Dad: For helping me with the fine tuning of this book, since I had to repeat everything thrice to get you to listen.
Babboo: For giving me the bright idea to write in the first place, and for innocently hoping that I'd be so busy with writing, I'd finally get out of your hair. Good luck with that thought.
Moh: For balancing the dual role of being Manmohan Engapoye and Manmohan Singh.
Sanju: For being the obliging (and expanding) punching bag for all seasons.
Prash: For practising tomorrow's on-air witticisms on me today.
Prasad Patil: For showing me what can be done with little brains and no spine - Nothing.
Satish Nandgaonkar: For being an online buddy and mentor without even meeting me yet. It's been over a year.
Dixit sir: For understanding that I have some brains and giving me the respect I deserve.
Vinod Kumar Menon: For adding a whole new dimension to crime reporting and dog-at-the-scene-of-crime coverage. Also for packing a Punch.
Sriram: For being more elusive than Greta Garbo. And for calling me 'item' and getting away with it.
Madhav Gokhale: For being my clean jokes and SMS buddy.
Ketan: For always having a joke ready, whatever the time or place or situation.

General dedications
National College batchmates: Just die, the whole lot of you. No dedication for you fuckers.
St Andrew's College batchmates: For being the craziest and funniest bunch in the world.
School: The only thing good about you is the location.
Dad's relatives: Who needs lobotomy when I have mind-numbers like you?
Journalism: Who you?
Writing: I love you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I KNEW somebody else was to blame

June 30, 2008

H/l: Current agro policies causing food crisis: UNESCO
Intro: Food report slams delink between technologies introduced by developed countries and poverty increase in developing nations
Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: A UNESCO-supported initiative in which 400 scientists worked for over three years to compile findings about the world's agricultural patterns and economies has been released at a time when the world is grappling with a food crisis. Interestingly, their findings raise pertinent questions about what the effects of agro-technology have been on countries like India.

Titled 'Why Modern Agriculture must change' and written by Susan Schneegans, the June-September 2008 report chronicles the current global food crisis and its effect on the economies of developing countries.

In the context of India, Schneegans writes, "How is it that in India, one of the greatest beneficiaries of the Green Revolution, the number of landless rural farmers rose from 28 million to over 50 million between 1951 and 1990s? And why does India grapple with one of the world's highest rates of child malnutrition?

Current international policies promoting economic growth through agriculture do not necessarily resolve the issue of poverty. The cost of structural adjustment policies advocated by the World Bank in recent decades is one cause of the high migration from the countryside to urban centers in search of jobs in India and elsewhere."

She further adds, "Resource constraints limit the extent to which many governments can actually support their farmers: for example, 8 to 10 per cent in India and Vietnam. Middle-level exporting countries like India are trying to obtain agreements which will maintain their own existing levels of support while reducing the levels allowed to developing countries."

The findings of the study point towards small-holder farmers suffering competition from cheaper imports than their own products. "Opening up sections of agricultural markets to liberalised trade led to a 55 per cent fall in cotton prices in India between 1996 and 2003 in the face of competing imports from subsidised producers like the USA. Many destitute cotton farmers have been driven to suicide," Schneegans writes.

Scientists have predicted that with growing populations, there will be a growing competition for water. "Under current water-use practices, increases in population and changes in diet will increase water consumption in food and fibre production by 70 to 90 per cent. Between now and 2020, the amount of water available per person in East and South Asia and the Pacific, for instance, will drop to one-third that in 1950, or even less," the report warns.

They also caution: one of the key factors causing the current food crisis is the global homogenisation in eating habits. "Many countries have abandoned their traditional foods in favour of a more Western model with its focus on a handful of cereals and a copious consumption of meat and sugar," Calvo said, adding, "this had created an enormous dependence on overseas markets. If countries don't maintain a rich agricultural biodiversity, they risk a growing dependence on a shrinking choice of cereals."

The investigators also say that "the current food crisis is a wake up call, a warning that a sporadic food crisis could turn into a chronic crisis if nothing is done to change modern agricultural practices in the days and months to come."