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!