Thursday, December 13, 2012

#11. Of Birds

Sunbird has long curved beak which is idea for sucking honey out of tubular flowers. Tecomea is one such flower. This morning I was able to capture a sunbird frolicking and sucking nectar on a Tecoma bush.

Smaller birds perch and roost on trees which are safe from predators. They could be thorny (like babool) or high up from the ground (like bamboo). I hope you will enjoy the snaps.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

#52. Petrol vs. Diesel and LPG: Food for Thought

The government has been merrily granting permission  to petroleum companies to peg  petroleum  prices to the current prices prevailing in the world market. I remember that when petroleum prices were controlled by the government and were in the category of administered prices,the government raised the prices once or twice in the year, and that also invited criticism from the media and the people who had to bear the additional burden, that is the consumer. Now  the prices increase every few weeks, Yes, it decreases also,, but the decreases are much smaller than the increases. And the price rise is generally restricted to petrol and LPG. Diesel is often left untouched or the price  increase there is much smaller. The argument given is that diesel price rise would lead to all round price increase because the railway uses diesel, the road transport  
uses it , and so also the agricultural machinery. Petrol is used by the affluent, and so its price rise affects only a limited percentage of population which is able to absorb the shock. 

Now who uses petrol? The two wheelers, three wheelers and the four wheelers. The villager uses two wheelers, though the cream of it, the urban middle class in their bikes, and the lower middle class in the mopeds and low-powered bikes. Four wheel owners use petrol but most cars in the cheaper brackets are driven by the typical urban middle class who is just a shade better off. So the myth explodes. It is not black and white: the rich use petrol and the poor diesel or the products they use have a component of diesel in the transport therof. No Sir, petrol is used by the typical middle class. 

About LPG the ceiling of 6 cylinders per annum suffers from the wrong assumption that a family uses on the average 6 cylinders per year, any use beyond that can be made more expensive. However, an aerage family in India uses one cylinder for 25 to 30 days. No wonder some State governments realised this and quickly added another 3 cylinders to the limit. Print media does publish the consoling news sometimes that this ceiling may be raised by the central govt. However , we have not heard anything. The other problem is the harassment of the gas connection holder by compulsory deposit of KYC at the distributor's office under the threat that supply of cylinders will not be resumed till they are so deposited by a certain date. Why couldn't this e done at the time the cylinder is delivered at home? Or, at least the form could be given at that time which could be sent back by the customer by post or courier?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

#51. Chambal Gharial Sanctuary and Sand Mining

I am a keen bird watcher, and try to visit Chambal river every year (see my blog on Chambal Cruise).  Chambal has good sand, although in Gwalior the best sand comes from the river Sindh, a tributary of Chambal (or Yamuna) which has a confluence with it at Pachnada. Chambal has a confluence with Yamuna at Bhare and then at about 10 km ahead in Pachnada Yamuna meets Sindh, the latter before that  has confluence with Kuari and Pahuj rivers a short distance away.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Coming back to sand, there is Chambal Gharial Sanctuary which is in about  435 km length of the Chambal in M.P. The Sanctuary has about 18 km upstream, and  further 142 km. downstream in Rajasthan . There are several stretches in 435 km of M.P. where Rajasthan and U.P. are on the other bank.  Fishing and mining are restricted in the entire length. After the sad incident where a young police officer was run over by a tractor trolley laden with sand, the Forest, Revenue and the Police depts. have become strict on the mining activity of sand mafia. Sand is an essential ingredient in building construction, and the price of sand has shot up to about Rs. 4000 per trolley (100 cft) which is about twice of what it was about a couple of years back. Sand mining is restricted in the Sanctuary as it will destroy the eggs of gharial and turtles which normally lay their eggs in the sand, and cover it up . The intentions are holy, and every year significant number of gharial and turtle eggs are taken out by the Sanctuary officials,  hatched in the incubators, reared for a few months and released in the water.
However, I am told that the gharial and the turtle lay their eggs in certain specified stretches of  the river which are about 16-17, and of which 6-7 are major. Nadigaon, Barotha, Dangbasai, Tighri-Rithora, Pureni, Daljitpura, Barenda, Kaner, Mahua, Bijora, Chilonga and Gyanpura are some of the nesting sites, from what  I could gather.  So restricting mining in a  limited area which I don’t think will be more than 15-20 km will serve the purpose of aquatic reptile conservation and the balance stretch can be thrown open for sand mining. It is reasonable to presume that such action would substantially reduce the price of sand prevailing in Gwalior-Chambal divisions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

#50. Further on Bhang, Ganja, Charas etc.

Further on Ganja, Bhang, Charas etc.

Times of India of 11 November 2012 has given detailed information  on the subject.
 Cannabis indica leaves, buds and flowers give what are commonly known as bhang, hashish (charas),
And marijuana (grass or ganja), also known as pot, weed, hash etc. Two American
states, Washington and Colorado, have decided to  legalize recreational use of
marijuana(ganja). 19 US states have already  legalized marijuana for medical
purposes. India for millennia  have used them for recreational purposes, but
succumbing to US pressure in 1985 enacted the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic
Substances Act which clubs marijuana, hashish and bhang with hard drugs like
smack, heroin, cocaine, and crack, and banned them all. This poorly thought out act
has led to corruption and harassment of ordinary people.  It is also thought that this act has has pushed the entire trade from peddling grass to smack, and worse to higher profits, and creating a real drug problem which was not there  earlier. A respectable opposition leader  who has been a Minister in the Union government served (diluted) opium water to the guests who came for a marriage ceremony at his place. The matter did not get worse that it was soon discovered that
what was done was a customarily done thing in that part of the country. Whereas I am not
carrying a brief for opium as it is addictive, but certainly for cannabis products as they
are neither addictive nor harmful. Tetrahydrocannabino and cannabidiol affect certain brain regions causing relaxation, introspection,lowering of worry and leads to hunger and sleep. The effect reportedly lasts for 2 to 3 hours if it is smoked (charas and ganja) and upto 24 hours if ingested (bhang). It is also the third most consumed recreational drug after alcohol and  tobacco.

Marijuana has been found to have positive effects in diseases like migraine, multiple sclerosis, asthma, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, alcoholism, insomnia glaucoma, and obsessive compulsive disorder.   

Please do not be misled into thinking that the large scale use of bhang during Holi  or  the bhang which is sold by almost all the thandai-sellers in Varanasi is illegal. NDPS Act 1985 excludes leaves and seeds of cannabis from the ambit of illegality. Thus even for hashish and marijuana, if it is proved that it is made from leaves and seeds of the plant, it will not attract the penal provisons of the Act. It can be said however, that for the Narcotics
Control Board or the local police it is  difficult to prove the use of buds and flowers as the plant  grows wild in many parts of the country, especially the terai region of the Himalayas. In both Dehradun and Darbhanga I have seen it growing wild in open lands. 

TOI report has also given three lists: the first of those countries that have decriminalized, and relaxed either partially or fully the use of cannabis products. This contains Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela and the United States (?). The second list is of States which still have cannabis in the illegal category. These are, Austria, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Denmark, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Sweden. The third list is of  the countries where the use is illegal, but infringement  tolerated, viz, Egypt, Finland, Italy, Jamaica, INDIA, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, and UK.

Considering that about 119 to 224 million of adult world population (2.6 to 5 per cent)  use cannabis, it is high time that India also  comes in the first category, especially when even the US which pressurized India to enact the Act is also veering round to relaxing the penal provisions against cannabis products. Bam Bhole!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

#49. The Height of Naivete

The height of naivete

After the petroleum prices in India became a joke having been reduced to the level of vegetable prices, now was the turn of the railway fares. .Our venerable CEO and  his VP (Railways) do not seem to be aware of the jocular saying: ‘zor ka dhakka
dhire se’. True that fares had not been increased by the earlier Ministers for the last 9 years, and there was a genuine need for increasing that, the hike could well have been spread over a span of 2-3 years. Why it didn’t strike them is a little surprising.
And I think nobody  wanted a low profile sincere minister like Mr.Trivedi to be the martyr to the cause. Was PM  not aware of the fit the mercurial lady will have by this once-and-for-all attempted hike to deliver railways of all the trouble it is in? And when passenger fares constitute only  a small percentage of the railway revenues.

Life goes on and this will also be soon forgotten. Long live Indian democracy. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

#48. Oh world! oh life! oh times! On whose steps I climb

Bachcha the cousin  closeset to me died yesterday. He passed away in his
sleep in the night. Probably the best type of death you can have. Not like some
who shit and pee in bed for months together before they decide to leave this world.
This closes a  chapter in my life. Barring another cousin I am now the seniormost
male member in my family. During the last one month itself my uncle and my  cousin passed away. Was it only a coincidence that both of them a few days before they died spoke to me on phone, and not for any special puropose, but just like that? Did they know that they were leaving this world soon? Was it some kind of premonition or sixth sense or was it just coincidental? A few months back I met an old class mate of mine Laxmi Narain Pastore in Jhansi after more than 40 years. I remembered that he was living in Jhansi after retirement. With some effort I could find his place, stayed with him for an hour or so. Only a couple of weeks later his daughter rang me and informed that he passed away after being in diabetic coma for a few days. I don’t know whether that should also be called coincidental! I cannot but remember Kabir:

माली आवत  देख कर कलियाँ करें पुकार 
फूल फूल को चुन लिया काल हमारी बारि
‘Seeing the gardener the buds cry that today he will take away the ones that have bloomed, and tomorrow it will be their turn.’

Or Firaq when he said:
सब मरहले हयात के तय कर के मैं फ़िराक 
बैठा हुआ हूँ मौत में ताखीर देख कर मैं
‘I have covered all milestones in the world, and now I am sitting with my feet dangling in the grave as the death is delayed.’

Not that I am afraid, but yes , I certainly want that I should have as peaceful a death  as Bachcha.

Several memories haunt me. The one I remember most vividly is the long walk we used to have in the morning when he used to visit Ghazipr, my native place. It was from our place to Bheeta (our old farmhouse developed lovingly by my great-grandfather, and which was later sold by one of my uncles) and then on to Badrinath ka Pokhra. This last lap we  used to cover running.  I think this walk was about 4 km, half of it on dirt road. That reminds me of those who used to return from Dadri ka Mela, in the nearby district of Ballia. If you saw a person totally covered in dust from head to foot with clothes having the same  hue and state you immediately recognized that he was Dadri returned. Mela is interesting relic of olden days which has continued to   this day at several places. The most famous  in North India is Sonepur ka Mela . To accommodate the rush of passengers coming by train for the Mela, the British made the longest railway platform in the country at Sonepur railway station. It was meter guage at that time and I hope it is broad guage now. It was a congregation of men and animals, with several shops which traveling salesmen used to take from place to place. Sonepur is easily the biggest cattle fair in the country where you can buy anything from elephants and horses to bullocks, cows and water buffaloes. Almost all the Melas were at the harvest time, and they were basically cattle fair. The famous Gwalior mela started as a cattle fair only. It is held in December-January every year.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

#47. Suburban Living and the Birds

After my retirement from a government job, I moved into this house in the outer extremity of the municipal corporation of Gwalior in 2007 summer, and in spite of curses from the better half everyday for choosing this place and area as my
final abode, I have never regretted a day living here. Only this afternoon there was the rustle of leaves  disturbed by the winter wind,and the constant chirping of the birds roosting in the bamboo thicket. There was pin-drop silence and the sun was in full glory giving much-needed warmth all around, and I thought I would mention it here. I have a borewell, and though the water is barely sufficient for my multifarious needs, I surrounded myself in greenery in no time. Greenery means insects and insects attract birds. Young trees and a full grown Tecoma tree which for some unexplained reason
died, and turned into a snag, the bamboo thicket and the acacia nilotica tree in the  next plot just across my boundary wall have turned into a readymade roost for the sparrows and bulbuls. Here is the checklist of all the birds  I have seen here
during these years:

  1. House crows (very rarely)
  2. Grey hornbill
  3. Blue green pigeon
  4. Green pigeon
  5. Common dove
  6. ring dove
  7. Spotted dove
  8. Common  mynah
  9. Brahminy mynah
  10. Pied mynah
  11. Red-vented bulbul
  12. White-cheeked bulbul (only once recently)
  13. Coucal
  14. Babbler
  15. Tree pie
  16. Drongo
  17. Grey hornbill
  18. Blue Rock Pigeon
  19. Green Pigeon
  20. Blue-tailed  bee eater
  21. Blue-cheeked bee-eater
  22. White breasted Kingfisher
  23. Red wattled Lapwing
  24. Black-winged stilt
  25. Small egret
  26. Lesser whistling teal (one pair during the rains
  27. when there is a pond near my plot)
  28. .Shikra
  29. Indian robin
  30. Magpie robin
  31. Babbler
  32. Koel