Category Archives: Eco

November 19, is World Toilet Day!


Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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“Sanitation is more important than independence.”
– Mahatma Gandhi (in 1925).

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World Toilet Day

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If you find the images used in this article nauseating, then I have made my point. For us, Indians and other Asians, this is life. We have to live with it.

In 2001, World Toilet Organization (WTO) declared November 19 as World Toilet Day (WTD). Today, over 19 countries observe WTD with events hosted by various
water and sanitation advocates.

In developing countries in Asia and Africa, poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually.

India has more mobiles than toilets

Though a majority of the world’s population has access to mobile phones, one third of humanity do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets or latrines, affecting the environment, human health, dignity and security, and social and economic development.

We all like food. We spend most of our income on food. We look forward eagerly to what we would eat today for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, do we ever give thought to what happens as a result of all that food we consume?

In our society and community, it is a taboo and not polite to talk about toilets. We do not want others to see the cleaning and sanitation products we use. So, we hide them. We even hide the sewer system beneath the ground.

Why?

Because one third of humanity (2.5 billion people), or one in three people living in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to clean, safe, and functioning hygienic toilets. Therefore, they do not bother to discuss the problem of sanitation. As such, sanitation remains a neglected issue with meager financial investments in water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.

In the developing countries, the cost of inaction on sanitation is high. Due to lack of toilets, men, women, the young, the sick and the elderly have to defecate in the open, in fields, in vacant lots, and even by the roadside during the day and at night. Almost 1 billion people continue to defecate in the open.

Excreting in India

Lack of access to clean bathrooms in schools deters many girls from pursuing their education after they reach puberty. In some regions, due to lack of toilets, girls do not go to school when they are menstruating. Improved sanitation facilities can have a particularly positive impact on the education opportunities of young girls, affected by the lack of privacy and cleanliness during their menstrual period. Also, lack of toilets in schools affect all learners from concentrating in the classrooms, as they have to wait for longer periods before being able to relieve themselves in privacy in a dignified manner.

Without toilets and proper sanitation the environment around homes, workplaces, markets, and hospitals, become sources of infection and diarrhoeal diseases due to millions of tonnes of human excretion.

Due to lack of improved sanitation almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases, the second leading cause of child deaths in the world. Diarrhoeal diseases caused by inadequate sanitation, and unhygienic conditions put children at multiple risks leading to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, high morbidity, malnutrition, stunted growth and death. Every year 0.85 million children die from diarrhoea. Poor sanitation and unimproved water cause 88% of these deaths. Studies reveal that improved sanitation can help reduce diarrhoeal diseases by about 33%.

Despite the scale of the crisis, sanitation remains a low priority for many governments.

How can we mitigate this situation?

Now, many organisations have started to discuss toilets. Investment in sanitation is becoming a priority in many international communities. Yet, because the topic of sanitation has until now been neglected to a vast extent, they wait for good solutions to the problem. New solutions and approaches to sanitation that should have been tried and tested a long time back, are starting to find support only now.

Progress depends on adequate investment and collaborative action by civil societies, multilateral agencies, academia and the private sector in developing countries by supporting national efforts to improve sanitation for all strata of their society.

To address these issues, in July 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “Sanitation for All” Resolution (A/RES/67/291) designating November 19 as World Toilet Day, aims to change both behaviour and policy on issues ranging from ending open-air defection (which 1.1 billion people practice worldwide) to enhancing water management.

 Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

On July 24, 2013, Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, issued a statement on adoption of the General Assembly resolution ‘Sanitation for All.’

I am delighted and grateful that Member States have adopted a resolution officially designating November 19th as World Toilet Day. I thank the Government of Singapore for its leadership on a crucially important global issue. This new annual observance will go a long way toward raising awareness about the need for all human beings to have access to sanitation.

Despite progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, one in three people do not have a basic toilet. Almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries.

Proper sanitation is also a question of basic dignity. It is unacceptable that women have to risk being the victims of rape and abuse, just to do something that most of us take for granted. It is also unacceptable that many girls are pushed out of school for lack of basic sanitation facilities.

This new resolution builds on the General Assembly’s “Sustainable sanitation: the drive to 2015”, agreed in 2010, and adds momentum to the Call to Action on Sanitation that I, on behalf of the Secretary-General, launched in March this year.

I urge every country to accelerate progress towards a world in which everyone enjoys this most basic of rights. I look forward to working with all partners to make Sanitation for All a reality.

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The lack of access to decent toilet is no joke for a third of the world’s people, but a matter of life and death. No other invention has saved more lives than a toilet. Without access to toilets, many women and girls are too embarrassed to go in the open to defecate during daytime and so deny themselves relief until darkness sets in. But, trips to fields or roadside at night, however, puts them at risk of physical attack and sexual violence. So, having a toilet in or near the home lowers the risk of women and girls getting subjected to violence and rape.

Toilets mean safety.

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Price of Bottled Potable Water Around the World


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Bottled Water
Bottled Water

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Drinking a good amount of water is essential to maintain our health. Water helps us to conserve energy, lose weight, and combat disease by hydration.

Though all bottled potable water cannot be deemed healthier than tap water, in most parts of the world the demand for bottled water is increasing day by day even in regions where tap water is considered safe to drink. New York City offers its residents some of the purest, most delicious drinking water on the planet. Over 1 billion gallons are brought in every day from upstate reservoirs. However, most people in NYC just buy brand-name bottled water.

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Recently, the authorities in the state of Tamilnadu, India, sealed hundreds of plants producing bottled water. Even so, many people in the state still buy bottled waters some of which do not meet the ISI standards and marketed illegally.

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Bottled Water Consumption in Ten Countries (1999 and 2004)

Americans buy an estimated 42.6 billion single-serving (1 liter or less) plastic water bottles each year. People in Western Europe consume almost half of all bottled water produced, amounting to more than 100 liters per person every year.

Bottled Water is already having significant adverse effects on the ecosystem of countries all over the world, especially in developing countries.

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The cost of manufacturing, packaging, and transporting bottled water is more expensive than tap water.

Table 1 lists countries where the average price of a 1.5 liter bottled potable water costs USD$ 1.60 (IND₹ 100.58, EUR€ 1.20) or more. The conversions are at prevailing rates of exchange.

Table 1: List of Countries where price of 1.5 Liter Bottled Water
costs USD$ 1.60 or more.

Country

USD$

IND₹

EUR€

Norway

3.32

208.24

2.49

Australia

2.84

178.24

2.13

Zimbabwe

2.75

172.55

2.06

Finland

2.60

163.03

1.95

New Zealand

2.51

157.36

1.88

Iceland

2.47

154.91

1.85

Venezuela

2.39

149.75

1.79

Guernsey

2.32

145.85

1.74

Sweden

2.29

143.88

1.72

Puerto Rico

1.97

123.61

1.48

Canada

1.92

120.19

1.44

Costa Rica

1.90

119.22

1.43

Papua New Guinea

1.83

114.80

1.37

Hong Kong

1.81

113.32

1.36

United States

1.75

109.80

1.31

Ireland

1.69

106.18

1.27

Brunei

1.61

100.80

1.21

United Kingdom

1.60

100.58

1.20

Table 2 lists countries where the average price of a 1.5 liter bottled potable water costs USD$ 0.50 (IND₹ 31.37, EUR€ 0.38) or less.

Table 2: List of Countries where the price of 1.5 Liter of Bottled Water
costs USD$ 0.50 or less.

Country

USD$

IND₹

EUR€

Sudan

0.50

31.37

0.38

Vietnam

0.50

31.37

0.38

Turkey

0.49

30.93

0.37

Afghanistan

0.49

30.50

0.36

Thailand

0.48

30.03

0.36

Hungary

0.45

28.29

0.34

Egypt

0.44

27.34

0.33

Iran

0.41

25.54

0.31

Syria

0.40

25.10

0.30

Indonesia

0.39

24.77

0.30

Tunisia

0.36

22.75

0.27

Nepal

0.35

21.91

0.26

Algeria

0.34

21.31

0.25

Bangladesh

0.32

20.19

0.24

India

0.32

20.00

0.24

Table 3 is an alphabetically ordered list of 122 countries showing the average price of 1.5 liter of bottled drinking water.

Table 3:  Price of 1.5 Liter of Drinking Water across the World

Country                                                        USD$                IND₹                EUR€

Afghanistan 0.49 30.50 0.36
Albania 0.67 41.80 0.50
Algeria 0.34 21.31 0.25
Argentina 1.28 80.60 0.96
Armenia 0.62 38.61 0.46
Australia 2.84 178.24 2.13
Austria 0.67 41.80 0.50
Azerbaijan 0.79 49.40 0.59
Bahrain 1.33 83.19 1.00
Bangladesh 0.32 20.19 0.24
Belarus 0.70 43.92 0.53
Belgium 1.27 79.42 0.95
Bolivia 1.08 67.69 0.81
Bosnia And Herzegovina 0.68 42.67 0.51
Botswana 1.17 73.52 0.88
Brazil 0.88 55.02 0.66
Brunei 1.61 100.80 1.21
Bulgaria 0.55 34.21 0.41
Cambodia 0.55 34.51 0.41
Canada 1.92 120.19 1.44
Chile 1.36 85.14 1.02
China 0.66 41.20 0.49
Colombia 1.30 81.61 0.98
Costa Rica 1.90 119.22 1.43
Croatia 1.05 65.80 0.79
Cyprus 1.28 80.26 0.96
Czech Republic 0.66 41.63 0.50
Denmark 1.43 89.65 1.07
Dominican Republic 0.91 57.00 0.68
Ecuador 1.00 62.74 0.75
Egypt 0.44 27.34 0.33
El Salvador 0.80 50.20 0.60
Estonia 1.07 66.88 0.80
Ethiopia 0.65 40.91 0.49
Finland 2.60 163.03 1.95
France 1.07 66.88 0.80
Georgia 0.60 37.65 0.45
Germany 0.67 41.80 0.50
Ghana 1.00 62.74 0.75
Greece 1.33 83.60 1.00
Guatemala 1.01 63.62 0.76
Guernsey 2.32 145.85 1.74
Honduras 1.00 62.74 0.75
Hong Kong 1.81 113.32 1.36
Hungary 0.45 28.29 0.34
Iceland 2.47 154.91 1.85
India 0.32 20.00 0.24
Indonesia 0.39 24.77 0.30
Iran 0.41 25.54 0.31
Iraq 0.75 47.06 0.56
Ireland 1.69 106.18 1.27
Israel 1.13 70.79 0.85
Italy 0.53 33.44 0.40
Jamaica 1.44 90.06 1.08
Japan 1.33 83.75 1.00
Jordan 0.58 36.57 0.44
Kazakhstan 0.78 48.97 0.59
Kenya 1.00 62.70 0.75
Kuwait 0.53 33.14 0.40
Latvia 0.85 53.54 0.64
Lebanon 0.80 50.20 0.60
Lithuania 0.77 48.43 0.58
Luxembourg 1.07 66.88 0.80
Macao 1.16 72.85 0.87
Macedonia 0.55 34.42 0.41
Malaysia 0.63 39.41 0.47
Malta 0.73 45.98 0.55
Mauritius 0.80 50.43 0.60
Mexico 0.92 57.42 0.69
Moldova 0.61 38.22 0.46
Monaco 1.05 66.05 0.79
Mongolia 0.51 32.23 0.39
Montenegro 0.67 41.80 0.50
Myanmar 0.53 33.36 0.40
Namibia 1.27 79.62 0.95
Nepal 0.35 21.91 0.26
Netherlands 1.33 83.60 1.00
New Zealand 2.51 157.36 1.88
Nicaragua 1.00 62.74 0.75
Nigeria 0.93 58.62 0.70
Norway 3.32 208.24 2.49
Oman 0.51 31.98 0.38
Pakistan 0.42 26.30 0.31
Palestinian Territory 0.85 53.09 0.64
Panama 1.15 72.16 0.86
Papua New Guinea 1.83 114.80 1.37
Peru 1.00 62.70 0.75
Philippines 0.69 43.56 0.52
Poland 0.64 40.21 0.48
Portugal 0.67 41.80 0.50
Puerto Rico 1.97 123.61 1.48
Qatar 0.55 34.47 0.41
Romania 0.75 47.20 0.56
Russia 0.93 58.08 0.69
Saudi Arabia 0.53 33.46 0.40
Serbia 0.54 33.97 0.41
Singapore 1.20 75.60 0.90
Slovakia 0.80 50.16 0.60
Slovenia 0.80 50.16 0.60
South Africa 1.17 73.44 0.88
South Korea 1.15 72.32 0.86
Spain 0.67 41.80 0.50
Sri Lanka 0.56 34.88 0.42
Sudan 0.50 31.37 0.38
Sweden 2.29 143.88 1.72
Switzerland 1.08 67.97 0.81
Syria 0.40 25.10 0.30
Taiwan 1.02 63.91 0.76
Tanzania 0.94 58.83 0.70
Thailand 0.48 30.03 0.36
Tunisia 0.36 22.75 0.27
Turkey 0.49 30.93 0.37
Uganda 1.00 62.57 0.75
Ukraine 0.73 46.02 0.55
United Arab Emirates 0.54 34.16 0.41
United Kingdom 1.60 100.58 1.20
United States 1.75 109.80 1.31
Uruguay 1.35 84.44 1.01
Uzbekistan 0.53 33.54 0.40
Venezuela 2.39 149.75 1.79
Vietnam 0.50 31.36 0.38
Zimbabwe 2.75 172.55 2.06

Source: Know : Price of 1.5 Liter of Drinking Water across the World

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Are There Snakes in Hawaii?


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Studies show that an invertebrate successfully colonized Hawaii once in every 70,000 years, a plant once in every 100,000 years, and a bird once in every million years.

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The Hawaiian Hotspots. (Image from Tasa Graphics)
The Hawaiian Hotspots. (Image from Tasa Graphics)

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Officially and technically, Hawaii doesn’t have any snakes.

Why?

All Hawaiian Islands are volcanic in origin. Over the past 44 million years the islands rose up from the ocean floor due to erupting volcanoes. Even today, the youngest island, Hawaii, is still growing from under.

Hawaii map - Distance from other countries (Source:  Padi.com)
Hawaii map – Distance from other countries (Source: Padi.com)

Hawaii is the most isolated archipelago in the world. The nearest continent, North America, is over 2500 miles (4000 km) away.

The extreme isolation of the Hawaiian archipelago makes it difficult for plants and animals to colonize its islands. The only way for wildlife species to reach the Hawaiian Islands from the rest of the world is to fly or swim across the Pacific Ocean. Chances of surviving the long journey over Pacific by air or sea is virtually small. It would indeed be a miracle to establish a reproducing population on these islands. Since there are no natural predators and diseases in Hawaii, many native plants and animals needed only a few natural defenses to evolve. Studies show that an invertebrate successfully colonized Hawaii once in every 70,000 years, a plant once in every 100,000 years, and a bird once in every million years. This is why it took over millions of years for a very distinct flora and fauna to evolve in Hawaii.

Map of the Pacific Culture Areas (Author : Kahuroa)
Map of the Pacific Culture Areas (Author : Kahuroa)

Before humans set foot in the Hawaiian paradise, there were no large animals to eat plants. Harm to the flora and fauna on the islands began about 1500 years ago when settlers started arriving from Polynesia. Mammals such as pigs, dogs, goats and plants brought by them literally devastated many native ecosystems.

It is illegal to own snakes or transport snakes of any kind to the Hawaiian islands. Anyone possessing a pet snake face up to 3 years in jail and $200,000 in fines. In Hawaii there no natural predators for snakes and large lizards, therefore, if allowed, they could pose a threat to Hawaii’s ecosystem by competing with native animals for food and habitat. Some snake species prey on birds and their eggs, and hence could pose a threat to endangered native birds.

Blind Snakes

Hawaii doesn’t officially have snakes. However, there is one snake that does live in Hawaii, the Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops hatmaliyeb) likely an import from the Caroline Islands located in Micronesia, an area north of the equator and far west of Hawaii.

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Addison Wynn, a herpetologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History who studies the blind snakes on Caroline Islands says:

“They eat termites and small ants, and there are about 240 or so known species in the world. They spend their lives burrowing so their head is blunt and pointed to push their way through the soil. Their rudimentary eyes can only differentiate between light and dark and exist as pigment spots underneath scales on their head.

These new species extend the known range of blind snakes some 2,000 kilometers out into the Pacific Ocean, into areas where we didn’t know they occurred or could ever occur. We just didn’t expect to find blind snakes out there (Caroline Islands) in the middle of the ocean.”

Some other studies that the blind snakes found in Hawaii could have come there from far off Philippines, about 5300 miles (8530 km) away.

So, other than the blind snakes, it is widely assumed that there are no snakes in Hawaii. Sadly, this is not totally true. According to a few reports some snakes have been seen in Hawaii.

Ornate Tree Snake

The Ornate Tree Snake captured at Hickam Hickam Air Force Base. (Photo by  Dr. Allen Allison, Bishop Museum
The Ornate Tree Snake captured at Hickam Hickam Air Force Base. (Photo by Dr. Allen Allison, Bishop Museum)

On May 23, 2013, Military personnel at Hickam Air Force Base captured a foot-long mildly-venomous Ornate Tree Snake (Chrysopelea ornate) in a maintenance bay near the airfield.

Since the Ornate Tree Snakes have the ability to spring from tree to tree, they are also known as ornate flying tree snakes. These snakes are native to South East Asia and related to the brown tree snakes which have devastated the ecosystem in Guam by virtually wiping out the native forest birds. Their diet consists of lizards, mice, bats and birds.

Boa constrictor 

This was a snake found ran over on the mainland. (Photo: National Parks Service)
This was the five-foot long boa constrictor found run over on Pali Highway (Photo: National Parks Service)

On September 22, 2013, a five-foot long Boa Constrictor was run over on the Pali Highway by a motorist. Several inspectors of Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) went directly to the area where the snake was found. However, they did not find evidence of any other snakes. Russell S. Kokubun, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture said:

“Any snake found in the wild in Hawaii is of serious concern. Boa constrictors may grow up to 12 feet, which is particularly troubling for nearby residents and for the environment.”

Rainbow Boa Constrictor 

A non-venomous rainbow boa constrictor
A non-venomous rainbow boa constrictor

At about 7 am on November 5, 2013, Victor Palmeri, found a live two-and-a-half foot long non-venomous Rainbow Boa Constrictor on the Nuuanu Avenue sidewalk fronting the Kukui Plaza condominium. Native to Central and South America, rainbow boas can grow up to six feet long. Rainbow boas are known for their attractive iridescent sheen on their scales in the sunlight. Their diet consists of rodents, lizards, aquatic animals, and birds.

It is not known at this time how these snake found their way to Hawaii.

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Islands in the Gulf of Mannar: Part 3 – Islands and Islets of Sri Lanka


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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The island nation of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean has several small offshore islands and islets as well as islets in its various bays and lagoons.

I have listed below, in alphabetical order, most of the known islands (and islets) lying in the waters of the Gulf of Mannar on the western coast of Sri Lanka. Please note that this list is not comprehensive.

Mannar District, Northern Province

  • Kalliaditivu / Galadi doova, 1.71 sq km, 8°56′54″N 79°54′42″E.
  • Mannar Island / Mannaram doopatha, 126.46 sq km, 9°03′10″N 79°49′42″E.
  • Puliyantivu / Kotidoova, 0.90 sq km, 8°57′19″N 79°54′01″E.

Puttalam District, North Western Province

  • Ambanttativu / Sambanda-doova, 0.17 sq km, 8°12′40″N 79°46′06″E. In Puttalam Lagoon.
  • Erumaitivu / Mahisadoova, 0.90 sq km, 8°16′07″N 79°46′44″E. In Dutch Bay.
  • Henativu / Havativu / Haavadoova, 0.78 sq km, 7°58′22″N 79°49′09″E. In the channel between Puttalam Lagoon and Mundal Lagoon.
  • Ippantivu / Ibbandoova, 0.76 sq km, 8°19′49″N 79°48′22″E. In Dutch Bay.
  • Karaditivu / Karadiva, 0.09 sq km, 7°54′42″N 79°48′54″E. In channel between Puttalam Lagoon and Mundal Lagoon.
  • Karaitivu, 8°27′45″N 79°47′15″E. West of Portugal Bay.
  • Mantivu / Maandoova, 0.38 sq km, 7°42′03″N 81°39′43″E. In the channel between Puttalam Lagoon and Mundal Lagoon.
  • Maripututivu / Maliputhu diva, 0.10sq km, 8°10′33″N 79°44′59″E. In Puttalam Lagoon.
  • Mattutivu / Maddu doova, 0.12sq km, 8°13′02″N 79°47′00″E. In Puttalam Lagoon.
  • Neduntivu / Maedundoova, 0.10 sq km, 8°14′06″N 79°46′45″E. In Dutch Bay.
  • Oddakarentivu / Uddakadoova, 0.20 sq km, 8°16′37″N 79°45′54″E. In Dutch Bay.
  • Periya Arichchal / Maha Arakgala,0.32 sq km, 8°17′59″N 79°47′45″E. In Dutch Bay.
  • Periyativu / Mahadoova, 1.10 sq km, 7°56′57″N 79°48′58″E.
  • Pullupiddi / Kotipitiya, 0.11 sq km, 8°11′21″N 79°46′40″E. In Puttalam Lagoon.
  • Sinna Arichchal / Podi Arakgal, 0.16 sq km, 8°17′02″N 79°47′32″E. In Dutch Bay.
  • Udayurputi / Udukurupoththa, 0.42 sq km, 8°10′07″N 79°48′31″E. In Puttalam Lagoon.

Mannar Island

Mannar Island. (Source:- Google Map)
Mannar Island. (Source:- Google Map)

Of these listed islands, Mannar Island is the largest having an area of 48.83 square miles (126.46 sq km). It is a part of Mannar District. It is linked to the main island of Sri Lanka by a causeway.

The island is dry and barren, mainly covered with vegetation and sand.

The main occupation of the people living in the area is fishing.

Major settlements are Mannar and Erukkulampiddi on its eastern coast, and Pesalai on its northern coast. All these towns are connected by the A14 road which leads across the bridge to mainland Sri Lanka.

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← Previous: Part 2 – The 21 Islands of India

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Islands in the Gulf of Mannar: Part 2 – The 21 Islands of India


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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The Government of India has established 18 Biosphere Reserves of India. Nine of these biosphere reserves are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, based on the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme list. This list includes the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve that covers an area of 4,054 square miles (10,500 sq km) on the south-east coast of India in the Gulf of Mannar.

In addition to protecting the flora and fauna in the region, protection is also given to the human communities who live in these regions, and to their ways of life.

Gulf of Mannar is one of the richest coastal regions in southeast Asia. It nurtures over 3,600 species of flora and fauna. Biological researchers have identified more than a hundred hard coral species. Dolphins, sharks, sea turtles and oysters abound in the gulf. Frequent visitors to the gulf are the globally endangered sea cow (Dugong dugong), a large marine herbivorous mammal. Other endangered species are the dolphins, whales and sea cucumbers. Also, the gulf has six endangered mangrove species endemic to peninsular India.

The Indian coast in the Gulf of Mannar extends from Rameswaram island in the North to Kanyakumari in the South of Tamil Nadu.

The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is a protected area of India consisting of 21 small islands in the Gulf of Mannar covering an area of nearly 216 square miles (560 sq km). It lies up to 10 km away from the east coast of Tamil Nadu, South India, stretching about 160 km between Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) and Dhanushkodi. It is the core area of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve which includes a 10 km buffer zone around the park, including the populated coastal area. The park is endowed with a high diversity of plants and animals in its marine, intertidal and near shore habitats. The park is part of the 87 miles (140 km) long and 15.5 miles (25 km) wide Mannar barrier reef. It lies between 8° 47’ to 9° 15’ N latitude and 78° 12’ to 79° 14’ E longitude.

The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve comprises the 21 islands of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, with estuaries, mudflats, beaches, forests of the near shore environment, including marine components like algal communities, sea grasses, coral reefs, salt marshes and mangroves.

The 21 islands vary from 0.25 hectares (0.62 acre) to 130 hectares. (321.2 acres). Total area of the islands is 2.41 sq miles (6.23 sq km).  Well-developed coral reefs occur around all these offshore islands which are mainly composed of calcareous framework of dead reef and sand, and have a low and narrow sandy coast.

Indian Islands in the Gulf of Mannar.
The 21 Indian Islands in the Gulf of Mannar.

The islands are listed below, southwest to northeast.

Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) group (Four Islands):

1. Vaan Tivu, 16.00 ha, 8.83639°N 78.21047°E
2. Koswari Island, 19.50 ha, 8.86879°N 78.22506°E
3. Kariyashulli Island, 16.46 ha, 8.95409°N 78.25235°E;
*4. Vilangushulli Island, 0.95 ha, 8.93815°N 78.26969°E.

*Due to excessive coral mining, Vilangushulli Island island is now 1 metre below mean low tide level.

There were two more islands named Pandayan and Punnaiyadi at 8.78075°N 78.19536°E. But these were destroyed during the construction of the new artificial deep-sea Tuticorn Port.

There are numerous other nondescript islands located close to Thoothukudi city. Of these Muyal (or Hare) Thivu and Nalla Thanni Islands attract visitors during weekends and festival seasons.

Vembar group (Three Islands):

5. Uppu Thanni Island, 22.94 ha, elevation 4 m, 9.08921°N 78.49148°E
6. Puluvinichalli Island, 6.12 ha, elevation 5.5 m, 9.10320°N 78.53688°E
*7. Nalla Thanni Island, 101.00 ha, elevation 11.9 m, 9.10667°N 78.57885°E.

*Nalla Thanni Island island was populated recently.

Kilakarai group (Seven Islans):

8. Anaipar Island, 11.00 ha, elevation 2.1 m, 9.15294°N 78.69481°E
9. Valimunai Island, 6.72 ha, elevation 1.2 m, 9.15354°N 78.73052°E
10. Appa Island, 28.63 ha, elevation 6.4 m, 9.16582°N 78.82596°E
11. Poovarasan Patti, 0.50 ha, elevation 1.2 m, 9.15413°N 78.76695°E
12. Talairi Island, 75.15 ha, elevation 2.7 m, 9.18133°N 78.90673°E
13. Valai Island 10.10 ha, elevation 3.0 m, 9.18421°N 78.93866°E
14. Mulli Island, 10.20 ha, elevation 1.2 m, 9.18641°N 78.96810°E;

Mandapam group (Seven Islans):

*15. Musal or Hare Island, 124.00 ha, elevation 0.9 m 9.19912°N 79.07530°E
16. Manali Island, 25.90 ha, 9.21564°N 79.12834°E
17. Manali-Putti Island, 2.34 ha 9.21581°N 79.12800°E
18. Poomarichan Island, 16.58 ha 9.24538°N 79.17993°E
19. Pullivasal Island, 29.95 ha 9.23699°N 79.19100°E
*20. Kurusadai Island, 65.80 ha 9.24690°N 79.20945°E
21. Shingle Island, 12.69 ha, elevation .6m 9.24174°N 79.23563°E.

*Musal (or Hare) and Kurusadai Islands were recently populated. The shallow waters surrounding these islands harbour three species of seagrass that are found nowhere else in India. Representatives of every known animal phylum except amphibians are found on this island.

Next: Part 3 – Islands and Islets of Sri Lanka →

← Previous: Part 1 – Adam’s Bridge

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Islands in the Gulf of Mannar: Part 1 – Adam’s Bridge


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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The Laccadive Sea

The Laccadive Sea or Lakshadweep Sea is a body of water that includes the Lakshadweep islands, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka.

Laccadive Sea
Laccadive Sea

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Laccadive Sea as follows:

  • On the West. A line running from Sadashivgad Lt., on west coast of India (14°48′N 74°07′E) to Corah Divh (13°42′N 72°10′E) and thence down the west side of the Lakshadweep and Maldive Archipelagos to the most southerly point of Addu Atoll in the Maldives.
  • On the South. A line running from Dondra Head in Sri Lanka to the most southerly point of Addu Atoll.
  • On the East. The southeastern coast of India and west coast of Sri Lanka.
  • On the Northeast. Adam’s Bridge between India and Sri Lanka.

The Gulf of Mannar and Adam’s Bridge

The Gulf of Mannar is a large shallow bay, a part of the Lakshadweep Sea between the southeastern coast of India and the West coast of Sri Lanka. The estuaries of the river Thamirabarani of south India and the river Aruvi Aru of Sri Lanka drain into the gulf.

Adam's Bridge separating  Gulf of Mannar from Palk Bay
Adam’s Bridge separating Gulf of Mannar from Palk Bay

An 18-miles (30 km) long isthmus composed of limestone shoals, and coral reefs, popularly known as Adam’s Bridge or Ramsethu, lies between Pamban Island, off the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar Island, off the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka.

Aerial view of Mannar Island and Adam's Bridge.
Aerial view of Mannar Island and Adam’s Bridge.

Geological evidence suggests that this bridge formerly connected India and Sri Lanka.

The Rameswaram cyclone of 1964 started with the depression that formed in the South Andaman Sea on December 17, 1964. On December 19, it intensified into a severe cyclonic storm. From December 21, it moved westwards, 400 km to 550 km per day. On December 22, it crossed Vavunia in Sri Lanka with a wind speed of 280 km per hour. On December 22-23 night, the cyclone and moved into Palk Strait and made landfall in Dhanushkodi, India. The devastating tidal waves that were 7 metres high submerged all houses and other structures in Dhanushkodi town. The death toll rose to 1,800.

In the past too, high-intensity cyclones and storms often ravaged the area around Rameswaram in India.

Records from Hindu temples say that Ramsethu was completely above sea level that could be traversed on foot, until a cyclone in 1480 AD submerged it.

A study conducted by the Geological Survey of India indicated that in 1948-49 the southern part of erstwhile Dhanushkodi Township, facing Gulf of Mannar, sank by
almost 5 meters due to vertical tectonic movement of land parallel to the coastline. As a result of this, a stretch of land of about half a kilometre wide and 7 km in length,
along North-South direction, submerged into the sea together with many roads, residential areas, places of worship, etc.

Now, some sandbanks of the Adam’s Bridge are dry, and the sea is very shallow, only 3 feet to 30 feet (1 metre to 10 metres) deep. This geographical feature of the Adam’s Bridge acts as a barrier to heavy vessels that cruise from India’s west coast to India’s east coast, and ships have to take the long circuitous route around Sri Lanka.

The chief seaports on the Gulf of Mannar are Thoothukudi (formerly Tuticorin) in Tamil Nadu, India and Colombo in Sri Lanka. These ports can accommodate deep-draft vessels, but the shallow sea in the Adam’s Bridge region allows only small shallow-draft vessels.

In July 2005, the Indian Government envisaged the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project to dredge and scrape out a deep channel to open a direct shipping route for heavy vessels to ply from the southeastern Gulf of Mannar to the northeastern Bay of Bengal and avoid the long trip around Sri Lanka. However, environmentalists have warned that the project could cause grave damage to the sea life of the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and thereby affect fisheries in both the southeastern coast of India and the west coast of Sri Lanka.

.                                                                     Next: Part 2 – The 21 Islands of India →

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Why We Should Plant More Trees …


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Here is the best ad concept for afforestation …

An add for plant more trees

The above image is a Hindustan Times Public Service advertisement for “Plant more trees.

How about these?

Dog urinating

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Problem caused by DEFORESTATION - 2

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Problem caused by DEFORESTATION - 3

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Problem caused by DEFORESTATION - 4

This long queue happens to be one of the problems caused by DEFORESTATION.

Shouldn’t we be worried?

Let us plant more trees at least for the sake of our dogs!

 

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Sterlite Industries Back in Business


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in its judgment upheld its interim order of May 31, 2013, and has allowed the Tuticorin Copper Smelter of Sterlite Industries to continue to operate.

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Sterlite’s copper-smelting unit in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. (PTI File photo)
Sterlite’s copper-smelting unit in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. (PTI File photo)

Based in Mumbai, India, Sterlite Industries (India) Limited, a unit of London-listed resources conglomerate Vedanta Resources is a diversified and integrated metals and mining group operating in Tuticorin, India. It has the country’s largest copper smelter which produces 30,000 tonnes of refined copper a month – or more than half of India’s total production. The company produces copper cathodes and cast copper rods for use in the transformer and the wires and cables industries. It markets its copper products directly to original equipment manufacturers and traders.

The company has diverse operations. It mines bauxite, and produces aluminum conductors and various other aluminum products; mines zinc ore, and produces zinc ingots and lead ingots. In addition to these products the Sterlite Industries produces various chemical products, such as sulphuric acids, phosphoric acids, phospho gypsum, hydrofluosilicic acids, and granulated slag.

Further, the company is involved in paper business as well as in trading gold. It markets its copper products directly to original equipment manufacturers and traders.

The Sterlite Industries’ copper smelter was commissioned in 1996. From the beginning, the plant has been mired in controversy. Originally it was planned to erect the plant in Maharashtra and Goa, but it faced severe opposition from the people there. However, the AIADMK regime under Jayalalithaa welcomed the project by allotting land at Tuticorin. Since then, Mr. V.Gopalswamy (Vaiko), the general secretary of MDMK party has protested against the project.

On March 23, 2013, massive gas leak, suspected to be Sulphur dioxide or trioxide, caused suffocation and panic around the Sterlite Copper plant between 5 am and 8 am. One Sterlite contract worker, Shailesh Mahadev, 35, reportedly succumbed to exposure to the gas. Following the alleged leakage of noxious gas, residents of Tuticorin town, New Colony, market area, Perumalpuram and SIPCOT area said they experienced sneezing and a few complained of asphyxiation.

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Following the incident, environmental activists blamed the Sterlite Industries. They staged a demonstration near Rajaji Park on Palayamkottai Road and sought the closure of the copper smelter. Officials from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), Joint Chief Inspector of Factories, Revenue Divisional Officer K. Latha, and Tuticorin Tahsildar Alwar reached the Sterlite company and inspected the copper smelter unit.

TNPCB officials said a sensor in the smelter’s smokestack showed sulphur dioxide levels were more than double the permitted concentration at the time emissions were reported and had “breached limits prescribed by the Board”. TNPCB ordered the shutdown of the smelter with immediate effect until further notice.

However, Sterlite Industries denied the smelter was the source a gas leak. The smelter’s general manager of projects said there were no emissions at the time because the plant shut down for maintenance from March 21st to March 23rd was starting up after two days of maintenance, not producing copper, and high readings in the smokestack were likely a result of workers recalibrating the sensors.

Ashish Kumar, Collector of Tuticorin, said that preliminary inquiries suggested that there was a leak of sulphur dioxide.

The TNPCB issued the order to shut down the plant with immediate effect and the power utility on Friday night disconnected the power supply to the plant. We are in the process of stopping operations

The process of shutting down the plant began on Friday (March 29) night with the disconnection of the power supply to the plant.

MDMK’s general secretary Vaiko, thanked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa for ordering closure in the interests of the public and to protect the environment.

National Green Tribunal (NGT), a fast-track court hearing the case on allowing the plant to reopen, set up an expert committee to measure emissions and check the working condition of machinery, among other things.

On May 31st, the NGT had, in an interim order, allowed Sterlite to commence operations under the supervision of the expert committee set up by the tribunal.

The expert committee submitted its report on July 10, 2013. “The emissions from all the stacks were well within the permissible limit prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board when the plant was in normal operation. … Upon stack sampling or ambient air quality monitoring, it is not being found that the industry was emitting sulphur dioxide gas or substances when the plant was in normal operation, which were in violation to the prescribed standards,” the report states,” said the report by P.S.T. Sai and Ligy Philip.

The apex environment court said further in its order that the expert committee had made certain recommendations to improve the working of the plant. It also noted that Sterlite Industries has agreed to comply with the recommendations within a time-bound schedule.

Justice Swatanter Kumar
Justice Swatanter Kumar

On August 8, 2013, the National Green Tribunal headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar suppressed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board closure notice served to Sterlite Industries. It upheld its interim orders of May 31 and July 15, which permitted the Vedanta Group’s Sterlite copper smelter factory in Tuticorin to resume full operations on the basis of the report submitted by the expert committee appointed by the tribunal. The National Green Tribunal gave its final clean chit to the Sterlite Industries’ copper smelter plant in Tuticorin. At the same time, keeping in mind the issues raised by the state pollution control board, the tribunal has issued a host of conditions which the factory must comply with. It has also set up a committee to check the health of people around Tuticorin and Sipcot industrial area in the district.

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Kudankulam N-plant: Safety norms gains primacy over commissioning deadline


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Indrani Bagchi

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By 

Posted on May 16, 2013 in THE TIMES OF INDIA.

Kudankulam Nuclear Plant
Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, Tirunelveli district, Tamilnadu, India

NEW DELHI: Regardless of the recent promise made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Durban about the early commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP), the government has instructed the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) that safety reviews of KKNPPshould be run with a “fine-toothed comb” without being pressured by commissioning deadline. In fact, the government had recently invited the Operational Safety Review Team of the IAEA to do an independent safety assessment of other Indian reactors, particularly RAPS (in Rajasthan).

Last week, the Supreme Court cleared the power plant, paving the way for early commissioning. Originally, the plant was scheduled to be commissioned in 2007.

A whole new set of safety checks were conducted by the AERB after four valves that came from a Russian supplier were found to be “deficient”.

Stung by a series of popular protests about safety issues in Kudankulam, which has inspired protests by a large number of NGOs, the government is keen that no stone is left unturned. If this means the Russians are less than pleased, sources said, so be it. They added that some of the supplies from Russian companies have been found to be below par.

NPCIL has that the commissioning of KKNPP would now happen only in June, after another set of checks are carried out. The company said the physical progress of the plant was 99.6% complete.

This week a group of 60 leading scientists wrote a letter to the PM, and chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala asking for more stringent safety checks of the KKNPP. They have sought “renewed study” of safety issues by an independent panel of experts. The scientists — most of them serving in state-run institutions — have expressed doubts, “particularly with reference to possible sub-standard components” used in the plant.

These are not scientists advocating against nuclear energy, but concerned about safety issues. “These safety concerns are compounded by the fact that Russian authorities arrested Sergei Shutov, procurement director of Zio-Podolsk, on corruption charges for having sourced cheaper sub-standard steel for manufacturing components that were used in Russian nuclear installations in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India,” they wrote in the letter, The arrest of Shutov, they cited, led to several complaints of sub-standard components and follow-up investigations in both Bulgaria and China.

While the AERB gave an in-principle clearance for fuel loading of the plant in April, hopes that it would be commissioned by May were dashed after faulty valves made news. In an effort to quell the protests and spiralling negative perception about the power plant, the government has been on an information overdrive to educate and be transparent. This week, minister of state V Narayanasamy said, “All nuclear power projects undergo an elaborate in-depth safety review during the consenting stages, like siting, construction, commissioning, etc. After satisfactory review during project stage, AERB issues operating licence to an NPP for a period of up to five years.”

Last week, responding to a question in Parliament, government assured that components supplied to KKNPP are “tested in an integrated manner during commissioning to verify their performance in accordance to design performance criteria. Any shortfall noticed in performance is addressed/corrected as a part of the commissioning programme”.

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Re-posted from THE TIMES OF INDIA

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On Modi’s Social Engineering


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Subhash Gatade

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By Subhash Gatade

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The system of untouchability has been a goldmine for the Hindus. This system affords 60 millions of untouchables to do the dirty work of scavenging and sweeping to the 240 million Hindus who are debarred by their religion to do such dirty work. But the work must be done for the Hindus and who else than the untouchables? - Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

Manual scavenging - 04

Whether Shit Collection or cleaning of gutters – which has condemned lakhs of people to a life of indignity since ages – could be considered a ‘Spiritual Experience.’ Definitely not. Everybody would yell. Well, Mr Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, has a different take on this, which he mentions in the book ‘Karmayog’ (Publication year 2007).

The said book is basically a collection of his speeches to high profile IAS officials. Herein he discusses the age old caste-based vocation of the Valmikis as “experience in spirituality’. He writes: “I do not believe that they have been doing this job just to sustain their livelihood. Had this been so, they would not have continued with this type of job generation after generation….At some point of time, somebody must have got the enlightenment that it is their (Valmikis’) duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods; that they have to do this job bestowed upon them by Gods; and that this job of cleaning up should continue as an internal spiritual activity for centuries. This should have continued generation after generation. It is impossible believe that their ancestors did not have the choice of adopting any other work or business.”

Looking at the fact that a section of the dalits themselves -especially its upwardly mobile and more articulate section – has joined with the Hindutva bandwagon, it was expected that there were no angry reaction to his utterances within the state. A section of the Ambedkarite Dalits and many human rights activists did protest but their voices got drowned in the cacophony of voices of Modi supporters. It is a different matter that when Modi’s remark got published in the Times of India in mid-November 2007, which was later translated in few Tamil newspapers, it resulted in a massive reaction of Dalits in Tamilnadu. Not only they staged protests for calling their menial job “spiritual experience” but Modi’s effigies were burnt in different parts of the state. Sensing trouble Modi immediately withdrew 5,000 copies of the book, but still sticked to his opinion. Two years later, addressing 9,000-odd safai karmacharis , (cleanliness workers) he likened the safai karmacharis’ job of cleaning up others dirt’ to that of a temple priest. He told them, “A priest cleans a temple every day before prayers, you also clean the city like a temple. You and the temple priest work alike.”

One was reminded of these ideas of Mr Modi, when news came in that the budget for the coming year passed by the Gujarat state assembly, has allocated a sum of Rs 22.5 lakhs for giving training in Karmkand (rituals) to Safai Kamdars themselves. The idea is to train them in scriptures so that they can perform pujas (organise worships). It is clear that the ‘new scheme’ as it was presented before the people was just a revised version of its earlier scheme wherein members of the scheduled communities were given training to become ‘Gurubrahmins’ so that they could also perform pujas . Insiders can also share with you that the said scheme has miserably failed and people who were trained to perform pujas   are still searching for jobs.

It could be asked if Modi values safai karmacharis so highly, why is it that he has begun outsourcing all the menial jobs for a very low pay, between Rs 3,000 and Rs 3,500 per month per worker. Why they are not being employed on a permanent basis? A leading Dalit poet raised an altogether different question “Why didn’t it occur to Modi that the spirituality involved in doing menial jobs hasn’t ever been experienced by the upper castes?”

It is worth emphasising that the day when Gujarat government declared its intention to train safai kamdars in Karmkand , supposedly to integrate them closely in the mainstream of Hindu society, also happened to be the period when the anti-dalit stance of the people in power was very much evident in two clear examples. The manner in which state officials tried to cover up social boycott of dalits in a village and the way they tried to save guilty police officials involved in dalit killings had already reached headlines.

Not very many people would have heard about village Galsana, Dhanduka tehsil, Ahmedabad district, which is around 100 kms from the city. The dalits in the village who are about 500 in numbers, are not allowed entry into any of the five temples in the village. The younger generation of dalits protested this ban which resulted in their social boycott. When the news last came in, the boycott was already few months old. Incidentally when officers from the social justice department visited the village, they even did not acknowledge that dalits are facing social boycott, forget asking the police to take action against the guilty.

The other news concerned the arrest of guilty police officials involved in the gruesome killings of Dalits at Thangarh.(Sep 2012) After four months cop Jadeja and other two accused police officials in Thangadh dalit massacre case were arrested on February 23 2013. It is reported that the killings at Thangarh were fallout of a minor clash between Dalits and Bharwads over auctioning of stalls at an annual fair organised by the Thangarh municipality. When the dalits filed a complaint against the Bharwads at the police station, the police refused to take any action ; the anger of the dalits spilled over onto the streets next day which saw participation of dalits in large numbers and police’s resorting to strong arm tactics resulting in the killings. Despite knowing the fact that the infamous police officer, had on earlier occasion also fired upon the dalits, without any provocation, the administration tried every trick in the kitty to save him and his colleagues. It was only because of judicial intervention that they were ordered to be arrested.

Galsana and Thangarh can be said to be tip of the iceberg as far as dalit deprivation and denial of justice is concerned. In fact much has been written about the way the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Atrocities prevention) act, 1989 is implemented in the state. One finds that the rate of of conviction of cases under the Prevention of Atrocity Act against SC/ST in Gujarat is mere 2.5 per cent while rate of acquittal is 97.5 per cent. A 23 page confidential report submitted by the state Social Justice Department to the State Chief Secretary and legal departments provides glaring examples of ‘mishandling of cases registered under Prevention of Atrocities Act against SC/ST. (Express, Sep 15, 2006).

The report provides details of how cases are not investigated properly by the police and the hostile role played by public prosecutors during time of trials.

- Act clearly stipulates that offences which are registered under this act cannot be investigated by an officer below the rank of DySP but more than 4,000 such cases have been investigated by Police Inspector or Police Sub Inspector.

- Acquittal of the perpetrator because victim not identified as member of SC or ST community. Reason, not attaching caste certificate of the victim with the case papers

- Public prosecutors false claims before the courts that act has been modified by the state government altough it is known that it is a central act

- Granting of anticipatory bails although there is no such provision in the act. Interestingly the Parliamentary Committee on SC and ST affairs had also expressed concern over such anticipatory bails granted ‘in atrocity cases in the state of Gujarat’.

In this backdrop it is worth underlining what little did Mr Modi knew about this important law and its implications. One could rather say that in Gujarat chief minister is directly responsible for the non-implementation of the Atrocity Act. As Raju Solanki, famous poet and dalit rights activists writes in his blog :

It was on 16 April, 2004, that a question was asked to chief minister Modi in Gujarat legislative assembly: “Honorable chief minister [Home] may oblige us to tell, is it true that the DSP is responsible for the appointment of an officer not below the rank of DySP as investigating officer in the offenses under atrocities act? The answer of our chief minister was shocking. He said: “No, but there is a provision under rule 7 (1) of SC/ST act, 1995 to appoint officers not above the rank of DySP to inquire into all cases booked under atrocities act. It is not the responsibility of DSP.”

In the end, one would like to put on record the way the presence of dalits in record is obliterated without any fuss. During panchayat elections, Nathu Vadla, a small village of Gujarat with hardly 1000 population had suddenly reached headlines. The panchayat election in this village was to be conducted on the basis of 2001 data. The village has at least 100 Scheduled Castes people and one seat was to be reserved as per law, but the census data has not been modified and in 2001 the population of SC was nil in the village, the election in 2013 was to be conducted on the basis of 2001 census. Here also courts had to intervene to stay elections in the village. Gujarat High Court stayed elections in the village saying that it would be ‘mockery of democracy’.

Subhash Gatade is a Writer and social activist based in New delhi. Subhash also edits a Hindi Journal Sandhan. His most recent book is “Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India” Email. : subhash.gatade@gmail.com

Re-posted from COUNTERCURRENTS.org

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