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The Japanese Sendai Nuclear Plant Threatened by the Sakurajima Volcano


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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The lithosphere is the rigid, outermost shell on Earth. It comprises the crust and the part of the upper mantle that has an elastic behavior on, timescales of thousands of years or greater.

The scientific theory of plate tectonics describes the large-scale motion of Earth’s lithosphere. The geoscientific community accepted the theoretical model of plate tectonics developed during the first few decades of the 20th century based on the concept of continental drift. The concepts of seafloor spreading developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

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The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century.
The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century.

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The Earth’s lithosphere, the rigid outermost crust and upper mantle, is broken up into seven or eight major tectonic plates and many minor plates.

These massive slabs of the earth’s crust forever creep, slip, lock up and then jolt again. The typical annual lateral relative movement of the plates varies from zero to 100 mm.

Almost all creation of mountains, earthquakes, volcanic activity, and the formation of oceanic trenches occurs along these tectonic plate boundaries.

The islands that compose the Japanese nation sit on or near the boundary of four tectonic plates: the Pacific, North American, Eurasian and Filipino plates.

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The Pacific Ring of Fire
The Pacific Ring of Fire

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Also, Japan lies on the “Ring of Fire” also known as the circum-Pacific belt.  –  The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe-shaped band of fault lines in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, associated with a continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and  tectonic plate movements.  It has 452 volcanoes and has over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. A large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in this region.

Sendai Nuclear Power Plant

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The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant (Source: power-eng.com)
The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant (Source: power-eng.com)

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The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant, owned and operated by the Kyūshū Electric Power Company, is in the city of Satsumasendai in the Kagoshima Prefecture.  It is located near five giant calderas, a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption, with the closest one about 40 km away from the plant.

Before the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, and the nuclear disasters that resulted from it, Japan had generated 30% of its electrical power from nuclear reactors. It had planned to increase electrical power production to 40%.

Nuclear energy was a national strategic priority in Japan, but there had been concern about the ability of Japan’s nuclear plants to withstand seismic activity.

The earthquake and tsunami of on March 11, 2011, caused the failure of the cooling systems at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.  Japan then declared its first-ever nuclear emergency. This caused the evacuation of around 140,000 residents within 12 miles (20 km) of the plant.

On May 6, 2011, Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered the shutdown of the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant as an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or higher is likely to hit the area within the next 30 years.

Also, many other nuclear power plants, including the Sendai plant stopped  generating electricity.

In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, Japan set new safety standards for its nuclear reactor plants.

On September 10, 2014, the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) declared the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant safe for operation.

On August 11, 2015, Kyushu Electric Power Co., restarted its operation by bringing online the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai power station according to the new safety standards. Now it is providing power to the nearby towns again. Sendai is the first of Japan’s nuclear power plants to be restarted.

The Sakurajima Volcano

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View of Sakurajima from mainland Kagoshima in 2009
View of Sakurajima from mainland Kagoshima in 2009

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Sakurajima is an active composite volcano (stratovolcano) 990 km southwest of Tokyo. It is a former island in Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan. It is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and erupts all the time. The lava flows of the 1914 eruption caused the former island to be connected to the Osumi Peninsula. The volcanic activity still continues, dropping large amounts of volcanic ash on the surroundings. Earlier eruptions built the white sands highlands in the region.

The Japan Meteorological Agency  on its website said that it believes that a larger than the usual eruption could be in the offing since it detected multiple earthquakes in the area on Saturday morning.  So, on Saturday, August 15, 2015, the agency raised the warning level for the volcanic island of Sakurajima from Level 3 to an unprecedented Level 4 (red). It has warned the residents in the villages on Sakurajima and has advised them to evacuate since stones could rain down on areas near the mountain’s base.

The Kagoshima prefectural government has formed an emergency response team.

The Kyushu Electric Power Company says a possible eruption on Mount Sakurajima will not affect the operation of its Sendai Nuclear Power Plant. The company made the comment after raising the alert level to 4. They said that they will collect the relevant data while proceeding with work to increase output as planned.

The Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) also says any possible eruption of the Sakurajima volcano will not affect the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant.

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The Awesome Monolithic Kailasanatha Temple at Ellora, India.


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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The village of Ellora lies 18 miles (30 km) northwest of Aurangabad in the state of Maharashtra in India. It is an archaeological site well-known for its monumental caves that are epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture.

Historians and archaeologists conjecture that the Rashtrakuta dynasty built the temples found there. Ellora is also known as Elapura in the Rashtrakuta Kannada literature.

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Map of the 34 Ellora Caves (Source: wondermondo.com)
Map of the 34 Ellora Caves (Source: wondermondo.com)

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There are 34 caves at Ellora, excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills, extending more than two kilometers. There are 12 Buddhist caves (1–12), 17 Hindu caves (13–29), and five Jain caves (30–34). All the caves are in proximity revealing the religious harmony that prevailed in the region during this period. Now, the Ellora cave complex is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India and is a World Heritage Site.

From written records, we learn that travelers from outside India, often visited the Ellora caves. The 10th-century Arab historian and geographer Al-Mas‘udi was one of the early visitors. In 1352, Sultan Hasan Gangu Bahmani visited the caves. The other historical visitors were: Persian historian Firishta (1560 – 1620),  French traveler Jean de Thévenot (1633 – 1667), Italian writer and traveler Niccolao Manucci (1639 – 1717), and Sir Charles Warre Malet (1752 – 1815), the British East India Company’s Resident at the court of the Peshwa Mahrattas.

The Kailasanatha temple

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The Kailasnatha Temple, Ellora (Source: rediff.com)
The Kailasnatha Temple, Ellora (Source: rediff.com)

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Among all the cave temples at Ellora, the unrivaled centerpiece is Cave 16 – the Kailasanatha temple, designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. It is also known as Kailasa temple. It is an unrivaled work of rock architecture, a monument that has always excited and astonished travelers.

Some historians and archaeologists presume that the majestic Kailasanatha temple was created before any other temple in the Ellora cave complex.

Fragment of Old Kannada inscription (765 AD) from Hattimattur village of Rashtrakuta King Krishna I (Source: Epigraphia Indica and Record of the Archæological Survey of India, Volume 6).
Fragment of Old Kannada inscription (765 AD) from Hattimattur village of Rashtrakuta King Krishna I (Source: Epigraphia Indica and Record of the archeological Survey of India, Volume 6)..

 

As attested in Kannada inscriptions of 775, King Krishna I of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty who ruled from 756 –774, responsible for building 18 Shiva temples, commissioned the building of  the Kailasanatha temple.

The temple encompasses Dravidian architecture. It does not contain any of the Shikharas common to the Nagara style. It was built similar to the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal in Karnataka. King Krishna I employed architects from the Pallava kingdom in South India. The walls of the temple have marvelous sculptures from Hindu mythology, including Ravana, Shiva, and Parvathi while the ceilings have paintings. At first, white plaster covered the walls of the Kailasanatha temple to simulate the snow-covered Mount Kailas in Tibet.

Though the Kailasanatha temple looks like a freestanding, multi-storied temple complex, it is, in fact, a monolithic structure carved out of one single rock.  It is the largest monolithic human-created structure in the world. It covers an area of over 42,500 square feet (3,948 square metres). The Kailasanatha Temple  is 276 by 154 feet (84 by 47 metres) wide. It has a larger area than the Parthenon temple on the Athenian Acropolis, in Greece. Measured at the stylobate, the dimensions of the base of the Parthenon are 228 by 101 feet  (69.5 by 30.9 metres) or 23,030 square feet (2,140 square metres).

The Kailasanatha temple is notable for its vertical excavation. Carvers started at the top of the rock and excavated downwards. In all the other temples and caves in the rest of the world and even in Ellora, the carvers hewed out rock from the front and carved as they went along using the rock cutting technique called “cut-in monolith“.

It was only at Kailasanatha temple the architects used the exact opposite technique called “cut-out monolith“. They  worked downwards and hewed out all the unnecessary rock. After that, the sculptors chiseled the sculptures and intricate designs. This work would have required extreme planning and precision work to avoid damage to the completed work. Just imagine the colossal amount of rock removed to create this pillar.

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Ground plan of Kailashnatha Temple at Ellora Caves, India. From "A handbook for travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon."  Author John Murray (Firm)
Ground plan of Kailasanatha Temple at Ellora Caves, India. From “A handbook for travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon.” Author John Murray (Firm)

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All the carvings on the Kailasanatha temple are on more than one level.

The temple structure begins with a two-storied gopuram or gateway. It serves to screen the sacred temple from the outside world.

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Columned arcade at the Kailasanatha Temple carved out of the surrounding cliff face punctuated by sculpted panels, and alcoves. (Source: campoamor-photography.com)
Columned arcade at the Kailasanatha Temple carved out of the surrounding cliff face punctuated by sculpted panels, and alcoves. (Source: campoamor-photography.com)

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On entering the temple premises, we come to a U-shaped courtyard edged by a columned arcade three stories high, punctuated by huge sculpted panels, and alcoves with enormous sculptures of deities.

In the middle of this courtyard are two hewn out two-storied monolithic temple structures, each about 23 feet (7 metres) high.

The first structure is the Nandi Mandapa – the traditional Dravidian Shivaite shrine housing the bull “Nandi“.

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One of the dhwajasthambhas, obelisk-like monolithic carved pillar at Kailash temple (Source: wondermondo.com)
One of the dhwajasthambhas, obelisk-like monolithic carved pillar at Kailash temple (Source: wondermondo.com)

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Two 50-feet-high dhwajasthambhas, obelisk-like monolithic carved pillars that dwarf the humans standing beside them, flank the Nandi Mandapa. Decorated with frieze carvings, it would have taken years of work to create such huge structures.

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Shiva lingam at Kailash temple - (Source - Sanjay Acharya - Wikimedia Commons)
Shiva lingam at Kailash temple – (Source – Sanjay Acharya – Wikimedia Commons)

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Then comes the central main Shiva temple housing the lingam, a symbol of the energy and potential of the Hindu god Shiva.

The vimanam (steeple), that crowns  the Garbhagriha, the Sanctum sanctorum of the temple rises to a height of about 90 feet., and about 120 feet (36.6 metres) high.

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Life-size elephants carved on the base of the Shiva temple (Source: wondermondo.com)
Life-size elephants carved on the base of the Shiva temple (Source: wondermondo.com)

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Elaborate illustrative carvings decorate the lower storeys of both the Nandi Mandapa and the Shiva temple. Life-size elephants carved on the base of the Shiva temple give us the impression that the elephants are holding the structure aloft.

In the early days of construction, stone flying bridges connected these galleries to the central buildings, perhaps to remove the debris chiseled out from the columned arcades, galleries, the central buildings, etc. Those flying bridges must have collapsed or removed after constructing the temple.

There are no records of the monstrous task of constructing the Kailasanatha temple. Most historians and archaeologists presume it took 26 years between 757 and 783 to build the temple, during the reign of King Krishna I and nine years after his death.

To find out if historians could be right about the 26 years of construction of the temple, let us do a simple arithmetic calculation. A colossal amount of rock, about 400,000 tons was hewed out. Some writers state the amount of rocked hewed out as 200,000 tons.

Let us just focus only on the removal of rock from the site. We will assume the workers toiled 12 hours per day, for 26 years to remove 400,000 tons of rock as the historians claim. So, 15,384 tons of rock had to be removed every year. This means that 42 tons of rock were removed every day, which gives us 1.75 tons of rock removed every hour. An impossible task which no groups of humans could have done at that time.

From the chisel marks found on walls of this temple, archaeologists assume that the carvers used three types of chisels pointing to three different periods of the Rashtrakuta dynasty.

Inscriptions on the Kailasanatha temple itself range from 9th to 15th century. So, we can conclude that it would have taken not 26 years, but centuries of human labor to create the Kailasanatha temple.

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An Angel Saves a 2-year-old Baby Girl


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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This video of rescuing a child that fell into a borewell may be three years old. It made a great impression and still inspires me.

In the village of Bebera in Romania, a 2-year-old baby girl, Alina, fell into a five meters deep borewell. Rescuers spent almost six hours to save the child. But all their efforts seemed futile.

Then, an angel from the watching multitude, stepped forward. She volunteered to help retrieve the child that had fallen in the borewell. The angel was a teenager named Fornica. Her thin frame just fitted the 15-inch diameter mild steel borewell casing.

After securing her with ropes, the rescuers directed her into the borewell, head first.

The first attempt was a failure.

The undaunted brave teenager volunteered to plunge into the borewell a second time.

While the whole nation was watching and praying, the brave teenager made her second attempt and succeeded in retrieving the 2-year-old Alina, safe and sound.

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The Recent Incidence of Rape in Pungudutivu, Jaffna, Sri Lanka


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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The incidents that happened over the last twelve days in Jaffna have been given ethnic and political hues by the media in Sri Lanka.

Pungudutivu (Tamil: புங்குடுதீவு) is an islet composed of a few villages, west of the Jaffna Peninsula in Sri Lanka.  The Dutch colonial rulers named the islet as “Middleburg” during their occupation of Ceylon.

In 1990, when Pungudutivu came under the control of the LTTE, the rich and the educated inhabitants left the islet for safety and greener pastures. Some shifted to Colombo while others left Sri Lanka.

After the Government forces recaptured Pungudutivu from the LTTE, about one third of its former inhabitants returned to the islet. Many found their abodes in a dilapidated state. As of now, this islet is a paradise for smugglers of Sri Lanka and South India. Many of them indulge in the lucrative trafficking of heroin.

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17-year-old Vidhya, the rape victim (Source: lankaenews.com)
17-year-old Vidhya, the rape victim (Source: lankaenews.com)

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On May 13, 2015, Sivayoganathan Vidhya, a 17-year-old Advance Level student of Pungudutivu Maha Vidyalayam did not return home after school. The worried family members contacted her school and her friends. They learned that Vidhya had not attended school that day.

The family members went to the police station to lodge a complaint. The police told the family to search for the girl on their own.  A policeman in a nonchalant manner blurted out a pithy stock and irresponsible rejoinder, “Don’t worry. She must have eloped with her lover. She will return in a few days.

The following morning, Vidhya’s brother went out searching for her. He followed the route she takes from school to her home. He found one of his sister’s slippers. From there, he followed the trail to a remote jungle area and found the mutilated corpse of his sister. It was a gruesome sight – her hands tied above her head with her school tie, her legs spread apart and tied to two trees, her mouth gagged with a piece of cloth.

Vidhya’s brother shouted and soon some residents gathered at the scene. Police arrived and sent the teenage girl’s corpse for postmortem examination.

According to the police reports, sometime ago, S. Saraswathi, the mother of the rape victim had witnessed a robbery committed in a doctor’s house by three brothers. After that, she had appeared at the courts and testified against them. Suspecting that they might have committed the sordid crime to avenge her, the police arrested the three brothers as suspects.

Based on the statements of the three brothers, the police arrested five others on the following day. One of them worked in the Pradeshiya Sabha office in the area and the other four employed in Colombo.

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Five of the 9 rapists (Source: 247latestnews.com)
Five of the 9 rapists (Source: 247latestnews.com)

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On the day of the incident, the five suspects had arrived in Pungudutivu from Colombo. After the gang rape and murder of Vidhya, they left for Colombo. They came again to Pungudutivu and attended Vidhya’s funeral. After the funeral, before they could return to Colombo the police arrested them.

The nine apprehended suspects revealed that a person named Mahalingam Sivakumar alias Kumar was the leader of their gang that raped, tortured and murdered the teenager. Sivakumar, a resident of Pungudutivu, a heroin baron and one who engages in other illegal activities is a Swiss national of Sri Lankan Tamil origin. He had recently returned to Sri Lanka from Switzerland.

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Mahalingam Sivakumar, the Pungudutheevu rapist. (Source: lankaenews.com)
Mahalingam Sivakumar, the Pungudutheevu rapist. (Source: lankaenews.com)

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That night, residents of Pungudutivu seized Mahalingam Sivakumar and tied him to a pillar. After venting their rage by humiliating him, they handed him over to the police. Hitherto, the police had not received any complaints against Mahalingam Sivakumar.

The deputy minister of women’s affairs for the area intervened for the release of Mahalingam Sivakumar.

According to the media, Dr. V.T. Tamilmaran, the Dean of the faculty of law at the Colombo University, is a relative of Mahalingam Sivakumar. Tamilmaran is one of those among the educated who left Pungudutivu earlier. Now, he aspires to contest the Pungudutivu electorate at the next election.

The website lankanews.com reports that that according to information seeping from within the police itself, and according to stories doing the rounds across the whole of the north, Dr. Tamilmaran approached his friend, the senior DIG Lalith Jayasinghe in charge of the North. He told the DIG that Mahalingam had returned only recently to Sri Lanka from Switzerland. He stressed that Mahalingam Sivakumar was innocent. Some sources say that the senior DIG Lalith Jayasinghe had reportedly taken a bribe of four million rupees to release Mahalingam Sivakumar, the prime suspect.

Some media sources say that Mahalingam Sivakumar, the prime suspect was set free by the police.

Some other media sources say that on the instructions of the senior DIG Lalith Jayasinghe, arrangements were made for Sivakumar to escape while taking him to the hospital for treatment for the wounds he had incurred when the residents of Pungudutivu seized and humiliated him. Sivakumar then fled to Colombo.

The people of the North were shocked, provoked, furious and enraged over the escape of the prime suspect even after the residents of Pungudtivu helped the police by apprehending and entrusting him to their custody.

Mahalingam Sivakumar rented a room in a lodge in Wellawatte, Colombo. The lodge owner noticing the bruises on Sivakumar’s body informed the Wellawatte police. So, on May 19, 2015, the police arrested Sivakumar the second time inadvertently and not through efforts initiated by them. If the lodge owner had not informed the police, the rapist-murderer would have escaped from Sri Lanka.

Some media reported that on May 19, 2015, the residents who were in an explosive and justifiable rage, held Dr. Tamilmaran, his London-based daughter who is in Sri Lanka on a holiday, and a few others as captives. They demanded that the police should apprehend the criminal Mahalingam Sivakumar immediately. About five and half hours later, the police informed the people that Sivakumar was in the custody of the Wellewatte police. Though the people did not trust the information, they nevertheless released Dr. Tamilmaran and others.

If we look at the other side of the story, Dr. V.T. Tamilmaran, told Ceylon Today that Pungudutivu  being his hometown, he had gone there to assess the situation over the brutal killing of Vidhya. He said:

“I am very much aware about the misconduct of one of the 10 suspects who returned from Switzerland. The suspect M. Kumar visited Pungudutivu on and off, and whenever he arrived there he created big problems to the people in the area. In fact I sought Police assistance in arresting the suspect. However, the guy had managed to escape while he was in the Police custody.”

Dr. Tamilmaran also added that when he attended a meeting on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, over the incident in Pungudutivu there were some men who were under the influence of liquor shouting in abusive language against him. He said that certain political elements were behind tarnishing his image following the recent speculation of his entry into politics. He also said that he was much disturbed over the incident in his village Pungudutivu , which had produced several eminent personalities in the field of education, and many leading businessmen in the country hailed from his village.

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Protesting students  (Source - Naangal Yaalpaanam on Facebook)
Protesting students (Source: Naangal Yaalpaanam on Facebook)

The news of the sordid crime spread among the people of the north like wildfire.

Students, teachers and staff of the nine schools in Poonguditheevu, the staff of the Department of Education, and the general public from all walks of life gathered on the grounds of the Maha Vidyalaya. There they staged a protest against the rape and killing of the 17-year-old student.

On May 21, 2015, the business community in the North staged a hartal to protest against the alleged rape and killing of the teenager. All shops in the North remained closed and people stayed away from their workplaces.

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Protesters gathered around the court house. (Source - icaruswept.com)
Protesters gathered around the court house. (Source – icaruswept.com)

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Protesters gathered  in the vicinity of the  Magistrate Court and the Police Station in Jaffna.

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The 8 arrested suspects brought to court (Source: 247latestnews.com)
The 8 arrested suspects brought to court (Source: 247latestnews.com)

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Out of anger and hate, people protested. Fearing the Police would let the suspects off the hook, the violent mob attempted to harm the eight arrested suspects while the police escorted them. The mob also attacked the police personnel who tried to save suspects from being assaulted.

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The protesters pelted the court premises with stones. . (Source: bbc.com)
The protesters pelted the court premises with stones. . (Source: bbc.com)

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When the protesters found that the main suspect Mahalingam Sivakumar was not brought to the  court, the mob turned restive and pelted the court premises with stones.

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Police fire tear gas shells to disperse Jaffna mob (Source - icaruswept.com)
Police fire teargas shells to disperse Jaffna mob (Source – icaruswept.com)

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The police responded by firing tear gas shells to disperse Jaffna mob. Around 130 suspects were remanded on charges of unlawful assembly and stoning the Jaffna Courts Complex.

On May 22, 2015, the Jaffna court issued an order banning all demonstrations in Jaffna. The order was issued to Janatha Balaya Organisation, Jaffna Women’s organization and Northern Provincial Councillor Anandi Shashidharan.

The media as usual focussed on the public protests rather than focussing on the reason behind it, namely rape.

 Mahalingam Sivarkumar, the main suspect  (Source: Naangal Yaalpaanam/Facebook))
Mahalingam Sivarkumar, the main suspect . (Source: Naangal Yaalpaanam/Facebook))

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There are suggestions that Mahalingam Sivakumar, the main suspect in the rape cum murder case, is well-connected as can be seen in the following photographs that I came across on Naangal Yaalpanam/Facebook.

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One of the rapists with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. (Source: icaruswept.com)
One of the rapists with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. (Source: icaruswept.com)

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The above photo circulated in the media of Mahalingam Sivakumar, posing with former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse is morphed for political gains. In the original photograph, it was ‘Swiss Ranjan’ an opponent of the LTTE, now residing in Switzerland.

There is always a blessing that springs out of any adversity. Sri Lankans are now reacting to this incident not as Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims, Burghers, or Malays, but as one people of a country unified in its disgust and horror on learning about the raping of the 17-year-old Tamil maiden.

On Friday, May 22, 2015, Wijedasa Rajapakshe, incumbent Minister of Justice shamed a racist media person in public by retorting:

… we’re not Tamil, Muslim or Sinhala, but simply human.”

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Parkour: A Holistic Training Discipline


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj
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Last week, I came across an action video on Facebook. The participant’s smooth movements on a hazardous course clearing obstacles, climbing walls in a jiffy faster than Spider-Man, traversing walls by jumping from one to another, jumping down from heights with ease, etc., just amazed me.

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Parkour, the art of motion, is a holistic training discipline. The term “Parkour” derives from the French phrase “parcours du combattant“, the classic obstacle-course method of military training proposed and developed by Georges Hébert, a pioneering French physical educator, theorist and instructor.

Georges Hébert (April 27, 1875 – August 2, 1957)

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Georges Hébert   (Source: ihpra.org)
Georges Hébert (Source: ihpra.org)

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Before the First World War, Georges Hébert was an officer in the French Navy. In 1902, when stationed in the town of Saint-Pierre, Martinique, a volcanic eruption occurred in Mount Pelée. Hébert coordinated the rescue of about 700 people from the catastrophe. This incident reinforced his belief that courage and altruism must go hand in hand with athletic skill.

Georges Hébert traveled far and wide throughout the world. He was impressed by the movement skills of indigenous peoples living in natural surroundings in Africa and elsewhere.

When Georges Hébert returned to France, he became a physical education tutor at the college of Reims for the French marines in Lorient. He defined the principles of his own system of physical education, the “méthode naturelle” (natural method). He created ten fundamental exercises: walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing, balancing, throwing, lifting, self-defense, and swimming.

Être fort pour être utile” (“Be strong to be useful”) became his personal motto.

He wrote:

“The final goal of physical education is to make strong beings. In the purely physical sense, the Natural Method promotes the qualities of organic resistance, muscularity and speed, towards being able to walk, run, jump, move on all fours, to climb, to keep balance, to throw, lift, defend yourself and to swim.”

Here is how Georges Hébert defined the guiding principles and fundamental rules of his Natural Method:

“With regard to the development of virile qualities, this is obtained by the execution of certain difficult or dangerous exercises requiring the development of these various qualities, for example, while seeking to control the fear of falling, of jumping, of rising, of plunging, of walking on an unstable surface, etc.”

Hence Georges Hébert is considered one of the proponents of “parcours“, an obstacle course, now the standard in French military education and training. His teachings and methods of instruction spread between and during the two World Wars. This further led to the development of civilian fitness trails and confidence courses.

Georges Hébert was critical of the physical inactivity imposed upon women by the contemporary European society and was an early advocate of the benefits of exercise for women and criticized the fashion of women wearing corsets.

Modern day Parkour

Modern day Parkour, the holistic training-discipline using body movements was developed in France, primarily by Raymond Belle, David Belle, and Sébastien Foucan during the late 1980s. The name of their method was eventually changed to “le Parkour“.

Now Parkour includes running, climbing, swinging, mantling, vaulting, jumping, rolling, quadrupedal movement, and the like, depending on what movement is deemed most suitable for a given situation.

This is a set of 5 Parkour silhouettes of people doing Parkour tricks. All tricks are named. (Source: occasionallyxxx.deviantart.com)
This is a set of 5 Parkour silhouettes of people doing Parkour tricks. All tricks are named. (Source: occasionallyxxx.deviantart.com)

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A practitioner of Parkour called a traceur (feminine: traceuse) aims to move from one place to another in the most efficient way possible to using body movements and the surroundings for propulsion. The traceur trains to maintain as much momentum as possible while still remaining safe.

Raymond Belle

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Raymond Belle
Raymond Belle

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Raymond Belle, a French soldier and firefighter is considered one of the originators of Parkour. He was born on October 3, 1939 to a French doctor and a Vietnamese mother. His father died during the First Indochina War. Raymond got separated from his mother during the division of Vietnam in 1954.

The French Army in Da Lat took Raymond Belle into its care and gave him military education and training. He trained himself harder than everyone else to become strong to survive and never be a victim. At night, when others were asleep, he would sneak out of the dormitory to run, climb trees, and use the military obstacle courses without the knowledge of the officers. To test his endurance, strength and flexibility he created exercises on his own.

When the Battle of Dien Bien Phu came to an end, Raymond was repatriated to France, where he completed his military education in 1958.

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Logo of Sapeurs-pompiers.
Logo of Sapeurs-pompiers.

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At age 19, Raymond joined the Paris’ regiment of sapeurs-pompiers (military firefighters). With his unique physical fitness and athletic ability, he became the champion rope-climber of the regiment. He was inducted into its elite team composed of the unit’s fittest and most agile firefighters. The peerless elite team members were often called upon to take on the most difficult and dangerous rescue missions.

Noted for his undaunted courage and keeping cool in any circumstance Raymond was lauded for his spirit of self-sacrifice.

He played a key role in the first ever helicopter-borne operation of the regiment of sapeurs-pompiers. His many rescue exploits earned him a large number of medals and a reputation of being an exceptional pompier. He inspired the next young generation of firefighters.

Raymond Belle dedicated his life to physical well-being. He followed the teachings and the disciplines laid out in Georges Hébert’s book “Méthode Naturelle“. He used climbing, jumping, running, balancing, etc., for his personal advancement in athletics. He referred to his interpretation of Hébert’s methods as “le Parcours” to encompass all his training methods.

Raymond learned how best to overcome obstacles in a fluid manner in a natural environment. His extraordinary athleticism and physical ability, was nothing less than a ‘force of nature’. He was a role-model for athletes, especially to his son David Belle and Sébastien Foucan.

Raymond died in December 1999, but his memory and the record of his many acts of bravery live on, just as valid now as they were in his heyday. With his charisma and his human qualities, he left his mark on his comrades. Raymond Belle will forever embody the iconic ideal of the military firefighters of Paris.

Now, thanks to David Belle (son of Raymond Belle) and his friend Sébastien Foucan, Parkour as a sport has spread around the world. It has both a great number of male and female adherents in many countries, among the young generation.

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The Pallikaranai Wetland in Chennai: Part 2 – Now It Is a Concrete Jungle!


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Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj
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Why am I interested in wetlands and writing about them?

Because I am concerned.

My home in Jalladianpet in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai wetland. Now, this once pristine idyllic wetland and many other smaller wetlands, pasture lands and patches of dry forest in Chennai are being transformed into concrete jungles!

That is why I am concerned.

I am not an environmentalist per se. I am just a layman. I seek protection of our natural environment from changes made by harmful human activities. I yearn for improvement in the quality of our surroundings worldwide for the benefit of our present and future generations.

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 My home in Jalladianpet is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai marsh.
My home in Jalladianpet is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai marsh.

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The Pallikarani wetland serves as nature’s primary aquifer recharge system for Chennai city. It harvests rainwater and the flood water during monsoons and thereby mitigates the desolation and suffering that floods could cause in low-lying areas in Chennai.

Four decades ago, this pristine idyllic wetland had a water spread of approximately 5,500 hectares estimated on the basis of the Survey of India toposheets (1972) and CORONA aerial photographs (1965).

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A large area of the Pallikaranai marshland is now a dump yard (Photo:  anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)
A large area of the Pallikaranai marshland is now a dump yard (Photo: anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)

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Lamentably, over the years, the Chennai Metropolitan authorities without giving any thought to the future recklessly chose to dump almost 2,600 tonnes of garbage per day, which is over one-third of the garbage of the ever-growing metropolis, here in this climatic marshland.

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Pallikaranai marsh (Photo: Simply CVR)
Pallikaranai marsh (Photo: Simply CVR)

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Now, the water spread has shrunk to one-tenth its size due to indiscriminate dumping of city refuse; discharging of sewage; disgorging toxic waste products, etc.

Many nature lovers have photographed the current palpable and saddening state of the Pallikaranai wetland. On June 8, 2013, The Hindu published the article “The mired marsh” by Shaju John. He has augmented his article with photographs captured by him in the post-Photo file: The mired marsh.

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A significant chunk of non-biodegradable waste is lost in the heaps.( (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)
A significant chunk of non-biodegradable waste is lost in the heaps.( (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

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Thousands of tonnes of trash of all sorts containing non-biodegradable waste find their way to the wetland amidst the dumped refuse each day.

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Fires, lit to dispose off the garbage, are a regular and major health hazard.  (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)
Fires, lit to dispose off the garbage, are a regular and major health hazard. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

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While traveling along the roads around the Velachery wetland one encounters the unbearable stench emanating from the decaying garbage hillock. Despite the widespread clamour to stop burning rubbish in the dump yard that stifles the air and impairs visibility of commuters, the incessant burning goes on.

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The smoke from the garbage heaps chokes the air for miles around.  (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)
The smoke from the garbage heaps chokes the air for miles around. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

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Despite the toxic smoke rag-pickers, mostly children living in inhospitable slums, frequent the garbage dumps.

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The burning continues despite widespread clamour for alternatives. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)
The burning continues despite widespread clamour for alternatives. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

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Air samples from the Perungudi garbage dumping yard registered the highest number of chemicals found in any Indian sample. The air contained cancer-causing and other harmful chemicals.

People living miles around the Pallikaranai wetland continually inhale the omnipresent malodorous virulent air. They suffer the stifling smoke. They have no other alternative than to use the polluted and poisoned ground water. These factors subject them to major wheezing and carcinogenic health hazards.

On June 15, 2012, a concerned Jaison Jeeva uploaded the following video on YouTube. It shows the fire accident that happened at the garbage dumps in Pallikaranai. The incident caused physical and mental disturbance to the people in the vicinity.

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There is an incredible rate of development in the Pallikaranai wetland. The sanctioning of many IT parks has resulted in countless high-rise office and residential buildings.

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A high rise building (Cognizant Technology) on Velachery Tambaram Road.  (Photo - T.V. Antony Raj)
A high rise building (Cognizant Technology) on Velachery Tambaram Road. (Photo – T.V. Antony Raj)

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The campus of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Engineering and Dental Colleges, and Hospitals have been built on the marshland.

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One of the flyovers constructed  in the midst of the marshland (Photo credit: N. Lalitha and C.R .Sivapradha)
One of the flyovers constructed in the midst of the marshland (Photo credit: N. Lalitha and C.R .Sivapradha)

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Velachery MRTS Railway station (Photo - Simply CVR)
Velachery MRTS Railway station (Photo – Simply CVR)

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All these encroachments have led to building infrastructures such as the Velachery MRTS railway station, the flyovers, the road connecting old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram, etc., in the midst of the marshland.

Sadly, all these rampant developments have shrunk the water spread.

With policies in place to crack down on encroachment, illegal waste disposal, and poaching, there is still hope for saving the Pallikaranai wetland.

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Pallikaranai marsh, which was once a scenic wetland has lost its charm, mainly on account of rapid urbanisation. (Photo:  M. Karunakaran)
Pallikaranai marsh, which was once a scenic wetland has lost its charm, mainly on account of rapid urbanisation. (Photo: M. Karunakaran)

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In 2007, to protect the remaining wetland from shrinking further, 317 hectares of the marsh were declared by notification as a reserve forest by the State of Tamilnadu.

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Road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram over Pallikaranai Marshland, Chennai, (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)
Road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram over Pallikaranai Marshland, Chennai, (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

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Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve  showing the road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh
Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve showing the road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh

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Even so, it is the opinion of the scientists and researchers involved in the study of the wetland that an additional 150 hectares of undeveloped region located on both sides of the road connecting old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh should also be declared a forest reserve.

An official release on Friday, June 9, 2006 the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) underscores the need to protect the rare species of fauna and flora in the ecologically important wetland of Chennai.

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Dumping sewage into the Pallikaranai marshland.
Dumping sewage into the Pallikaranai marshland.

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To retain the groundwater recharging potential the TNPCB banned the dumping of garbage and discharge of sewage and industrial effluents into the Pallikaranai marshland. The TNPCB directive states that untreated sewage should be discharged only into the sewage treatment plant operated by Metrowater at Perungudi. The TNPCB warned that violators of its directions would be Penalized without prior notice under section 15 (1) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

On June 10, 2006, The Hindu in an article titled “Dumping banned in Pallikaranai marsh” said:

The punishment under this section involves imprisonment for a term, which may extend to five years or with fine, which may extend to Rs.1 lakh, or both. In cases of repeated violation, the penalty involves additional fine, which may extend to Rs. 5,000 for every day during which the contravention occurs, after the conviction for the first violation.

Further, if the violation continues beyond a period of one year after the date of first conviction, the offender is liable to be imprisoned for a term that may extend to seven years. According to the press note, the basis of the directive is a routine inspection of the Perungudi dump site and the marsh zone by the TNPCB, which found that unsegregated garbage along with other wastes emptied into the marshland by the Chennai Corporation and other local bodies as well as private agencies. This garbage is burnt by ragpickers, causing nuisance to the residential areas and setting off air-pollution. The inspection also observed that untreated sewage collected from nearby areas in tanker lorries was being discharged into the marshland.

The TNPCB has also constituted a Local Area Environment Committee to protect the marsh. The public can refer any complaint on discharge of sewage or solid wastes into the marsh area by any agencies to this committee through the District Environmental Engineer, TNPCB, Tambaram (Phone 22266239). The Pollution Control Board’s announcement comes just days after a non-governmental initiative released the results of a recent study on air quality.

In April 2008, the Madras High Court directed the State Government of Tamilnadu to remove all encroachments on the Pallikaranai marshlands. The Madras High Court also directed the Chennai Corporation not to allow the four municipalities – Pallavaram, Madipakkam, Kottivakkam and Valasaravakkam – to dump garbage at Perungudi after April 30, 2008.

On April 3, 2008, The Hindu in an article titled “Court directive on Perungudi garbage dump” said:

Passing interim orders on two writ petitions, the Bench said the State Government should not permit any construction activity on the marshlands. The court appointed a six-member expert committee, with Sheela Rani Chunkath, Chairperson, TIIC, as its convener to inspect the Perungudi Municipal Solid Waste Yard, CMWSSB treatment plant and the surrounding areas and submit a report regarding the suitability of the present site for usage and the continuance as a municipal solid waste ground and sewage treatment plant; to review compliance of various legislations, guidelines, rules and regulations in relation to dumping of solid waste and discharge of sewage; to review the earlier studies done by various agencies, and the measures taken and proposed to protect the Pallikaranai marsh and render suggestions for restoration and protection of the marsh.

The committee would also suggest measures for remediation of the land, ground water, flora and fauna in the marsh and Seevaram, Pallikaranai, Thoraipakkam and Perungudi villages. It would also consider the cumulative aspects of dumping of garbage, discharge of sewage and conversion of the marshlands to other use and suggest scientific alternative methods of dumping of garbage and discharge of sewage in the light of the methods in other countries.

The committee would conduct public hearing to ascertain the views of the residents of the four villages. The report should be made within six months, the Bench said.

Pending receipt of the report, the Chennai Corporation was directed not to permit their trucks to dump garbage on either side of the road and to remove the garbage already dumped on either side of 60 Feet Road abutting the residential areas and also the 200 feet road, within four weeks. It should demarcate the area of 200 acres which had been allotted to it by CMWSSB and further demarcate 106 acres which was actually used for dumping waste. Security at the dumping site should be increased to prevent incidents of fire. Appropriate scheme for segregating biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes should be evolved and submitted to the court within three months.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in its report in respect of the landfill at Perungudi submitted that the Chennai Corporation had not complied with the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.

Seven years have passed since then, but even now, dumping of garbage and sewage in the Pallikaranai marshland by the Chennai metropolitan authorities goes on unabated.

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← Previous: The Pallikaranai Wetland: Part 1 – Flora and Fauna

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Do You Have Dutch Courage?


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Sipping off the ‘head’ of a liqueur at Wynand Fockink. (Source: whatsupwithamsterdam.com)
Sipping off the ‘head’ of a liqueur at Wynand Fockink. (Source: whatsupwithamsterdam.com)

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What happens to a person after he or she consumes any form of alcohol?

First, it gives the drinker the gift of the gab if he is not dumb. Then it gives him ‘Dutch courage’ also called ‘liquid courage’ or potvaliancy  that makes him feel brave enough to become boisterous and violent.

Dutch courage may also be used as a synonym for Jenever, the juniper-flavored national and traditional liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium, from which Dutch gin evolved. Even now, Jenever is famous in Holland as an “old man’s drink”.

Jenever became popular in England during the time of King William III, better known as William of Orange (1650-1702), who also governed as Stadtholder over Holland, Zeeland, Gelderland, Utrecht, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic.

A few entomologists claim that the term ‘Dutch courage’ was first referred to in Edmund Waller’s Instructions to a Painter (1666):

The Dutch their wine and all their brandy lose,
Disarm’d of that from which their courage grows.”

During the Thirty Years’ War, the English soldiers  noted Jenever’s bravery-inducing effects on Dutch soldiers and dubbed it “Dutch Courage”. In turn, the English soldiers believing Jenever’s warming properties on the body in cold weather and its calming effect drank it before going into battle. English speakers knew the famous spirit as “Dutch gin”.

According to some other entomologists, the origin of the phrase “Dutch courage” dates to 1805-1815 almost two centuries after the relevant wars.

But no matter the level of intoxication that alcohol induces, most people would not dare to pick a fight with an elephant unless Dutch courage sets in.

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A tusker in the  Kruger National Park in South Africa (Source: gardenwebs.net)
A tusker in the Kruger National Park in South Africa (Source: gardenwebs.net)

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The Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in South Africa. The following video shot there shows a drunkard challenging a wild elephant with Dutch courage. Surprisingly, the tusker retreats.

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But, this was not the case recently when a drunkard consumed by Dutch courage ignoring the pleas of the horrified onlookers infuriated an elephant in the Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka. That is pure Dutch courage. See what happened!

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Video: “I Will Fight Back”


Myself . 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Stop violence against women

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Easy access to the internet in the current decade has allowed women to start online activism and empower themselves. They use social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. The internet allows women freedom to voice their opinions and organize campaigns for equality rights.

On May 29, 2013, three women started an online campaign to take down various misogynistic pages on Facebook that spread hatred toward women. In just one week, the campaigners roused hundreds of thousands of supporters who are part of the “great feminist revival.” The social networking giant Facebook caved into pressure. The campaign succeeded where many previous efforts failed. Facebook took action over contents that celebrated rape and domestic violence.

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I Will Fight Back.
I Will Fight Back.

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The following video titled “Woman Empowerment – I will fight back” by Unseen Passage Pictures is an eye opener. It carries the message that if women do not empower themselves, then nobody will.

While many praise the audacity of the young woman there are a few detractors, as expected, with their sarcastic, derogatory remarks. Some even insinuate that the video is a concocted one implying that the woman is an actor with makeup for bruises for the ‘skit’, and lying.

Whatever it is, the video impressed me.

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Here is a transcription of the young woman’s rendering of the incident.

Hi,

I usually don’t talk like this. It’s because my tooth is broken.

Actually, yesterday I went shopping with a friend to Sarojini Market. I love street shopping, but you know how crowded it is.

We were checking out some dresses in a shop. Suddenly, somebody touched me from behind. I felt very  uncomfortable. I screamed out of fear and everybody around got to know what just happened.

It was very embarrassing. But that guy was simply walking away with his friends, laughing at me. I thought somebody would catch hold of them; somebody would take an action against them. But everyone was staring at me only as if I had done something wrong. Some people were even laughing. But then, an uncle stepped forward and showed some courage and he said:

“Dear, they are mannerless people. Nobody can do anything about it. They are incorrigible. You better take care of yourself and try wearing decent clothes.”

No. No. I didn’t wear a bikini to go shopping. I was just wearing a jeans and a sleeveless shirt. But, I am just another helpless woman, isn’t it? So, obviously everybody had to judge me only like they always do.

Whenever I am alone at the bus stop waiting for the bus or when I come late from the office and my colleague drops me, when I am with a guy, when I ask for help, or when I wear western clothes, and also when they feel like judging, they judge.

But, I am just another helpless woman. So, I said: “Uncle, it’s okay. I will handle.”

I called the woman helpline and told them my current location. Then, I ran behind them, grabbed him by his collar and slapped him hard. They hit me back. Then, people around came to help me and beat them up badly. You should have seen their wounded faces. They all are behind the bars now charged with ‘Women Harassment’.

Then, I understood one thing that in our country, it is very important to take your own stand. If we didn’t empower ourselves, then nobody will.

Take your own stand. Only we are responsible for ourselves.

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Mr. Yo: “The Boss of Cleaning”


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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A smoker walking in front of you throws the cigarette butt on the sidewalk. The teenager seated on the park bench crumbles the chocolate wrapper and throws it on the grass. The satiated taxi driver throws the parcel of leftover food through the window of his cab for the stray dogs, creating a mess on the street.

These are incidents we see daily around us.

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Garbage not going anywhere (Source: thehindu.com)
Garbage not going anywhere (Source: thehindu.com)

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 Now, what will you or I do? Usually, we just ignore these litterbugs and will let the tossed items accumulate as garbage for the municipal garbage workers to pick them up the following day.

Omar Faruk, a 20-year-old Bahraini youth produced the video I have included here titled “Millionaire Garbage Man” and uploaded it on YouTube. The video which has received an overwhelming response online shows that “actions speak louder than words.” It features a Korean picking up trash in the suburban neighborhood of Seef in Manama, the capital of Bahrain.

The Korean do-gooder identifies himself thus:

“I have two names. My first name is Yo. My second name is ‘The Boss of Cleaning‘.”

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Mr. Yo - The Boss of Cleaning (Custom)

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Korean-born Yo, a millionaire investor living in Bahrain for the past 11 years is not only interested in keeping the streets clean, but also strives to keep it so. He wants everyone to enjoy living in a clean and healthy neighborhood devoid of litter. Every morning he wakes up before dawn. His first task of the day is clean up the streets in his neighbourhood. He also sorts out the garbage he collects, making it easier for recycling.

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Mr. Yo - A role model for the present-day youth.
Mr. Yo – A role model for the present-day youth.

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Yo is a simple, modest person and is a true role model for the present day youth to follow.

There is a lot of garbage and this makes people sick. It causes problems,” explains Yo.

The recycling bags Yo uses are from Korea.

Yo speaks Arabic. He says:

I’m just cleaning the place I’m living in. It’s my right...”

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The Five Days of December 1952 When the Killer Smog Blanketed London.


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Smokestack belching dense dark smoke.
Smokestack belching dense dark smoke.

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The modern fight against environmental pollution around the world owes much to the tragedy that befell Greater London, about 63 years ago. The haphazard use of coal brought the country to the brink of a frightening black disaster on December 5, 1952.

During the Industrial Revolution, from about 1760 to around 1840, there was a transition to new manufacturing processes. The main factor in this transition was the change from wood and other biofuels to coal.

Indiscriminate use of coal drove Britain, the most powerful empire in the world. Tall smokestacks became the symbols of the industrial age in Britain. The appalling use of coal in industries, for generating electricity, heating homes, for cooking, etc., was frightening. Trains, boats, iron, steel, everyday items used coal. In London, it was like millions of micro-volcanoes erupting all at once. It was as if London was eating coal to survive.

People were burning large quantities of poor quality coal and emitting pollution at low elevations. The pollution from home chimneys was double the amount of the industries.

In the Victorian era, London was well known for its romantic fog that covered the city for 90 days each year for decades. But as the years passed by, this romantic fog and the smoke and fog turned into a poisonous cloud of smog (smoky fog) during each winter. In his book “Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (18591930) wrote:

In the third week of November, in the year 1895, a dense yellow fog settled down upon London. From the Monday to the Thursday I doubt whether it was ever possible from our windows in Baker Street to see the loom of the opposite houses. … But when, for the fourth time, after pushing back our chairs from breakfast we saw the greasy, heavy brown swirl still drifting past us and condensing in oily drops upon the windowpanes, my comrade’s impatient and active nature could endure this drab existence no longer. He paced restlessly about our sitting- room in a fever of suppressed energy, biting his nails, tapping the furniture, and chafing against inaction.

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A view  of Battersea Power Station in 2012 from River Thames.
A view of Battersea Power Station in 2012 from River Thames.

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Construction of the first phase, the A Station of the Battersea Power Station, began in March 1929. It first generated electricity in 1933, but was not completed until 1935. The total cost of its construction was £2,141,550. It burned approximately 10,000 tons of coal each week to supply one fifth of the electricity for the entire city of London.

Washing off the accumulated soot in London.
Washing off the accumulated soot in London.

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Slowly, with time, London became completely covered in soot.

In late 1952 an unusual cold cinch had gripped London for weeks. On December 5, 1952, the day the disaster began, Londoners awoke to find a clear sky, but coal fireplaces worked overtime to fight the chill in the air. As the day progressed, a light veil of fog began to blanket the city. In the afternoon, the fog mixed with the thousands of tons of soot being pumped into the skies of London by million or more coal stoves, home chimneys, from local factories and industrial smokestacks began to turn a sickly shade of yellow and settled in the London basin.

Smog was nothing new for Londoners, but on that day, this thick sulfurous yellow “pea souper” quickly thickened into a poisonous brew, unlike anything the city had ever experienced before. A high-pressure system parked over London caused a temperature inversion. The air about a thousand feet above the surface, warmer than that at ground level kept the smog under the clouds and prevented it from rising. And, there was no breeze to disperse and dissipate the soot-laden soup.

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The Killer Smog That Blanketed London, 63 Years Ago (Source: history.com)
The Killer Smog That Blanketed London, 63 Years Ago (Source: history.com)

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For five days from Friday, December 5 to Tuesday, December 9, 1952, the Great Smog paralyzed life in London. Poisonous smog closed down all establishments.  Day became as dark as night.

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People found it difficult to breathe the murky air.
People found it difficult to breathe the murky air.

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People found it difficult to breathe the murky air. The smog was so dense that residents of the Isle of Dogs section of the city reported they were unable to see their feet as they walked. It was as if they needed a blind person to lead them home.

The dense smog crippled all transportation. Boat traffic on the Thames came to a halt. Bus conductors holding flashlights and torches walked in front of the double-deckers to guide drivers. Flights were grounded, and trains canceled. Only the Underground was in service.

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The ambulance drivers had to rely on the police and people holding live burning torches s to show them the way.
The ambulance drivers had to rely on the police and people holding live burning torches s to show them the way.

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London was completely silent. Only sirens of ambulances which brought those whose lives were in danger to the hospitals was heard. The ambulance drivers had to rely on the police and people holding live burning torches to show them the way.

Even at mid-noon, automobile drivers and motorcyclists turned on their headlights. They hung their heads out the windows in a futile attempt to inch ahead through the yellow gloom. Many abandoned their vehicles.

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Traffic police used large lamps to light themselves up to avoid getting hit by vehicles.
Traffic police used large lamps to light themselves up to avoid getting hit by vehicles.

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Traffic police used large lamps to light themselves up to avoid getting hit by vehicles.

A greasy grime covered exposed surfaces. Pedestrians with their faces and noses blackened by the smog tried not to slip on the greasy black ooze that coated the sidewalks.

People wore face masks to go to shopping, to walk their dogs. Students wore face masks to go to school.

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People wore face masks even to kiss.
People wore face masks even to kiss.

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People wore face masks even to kiss.

Fearing the children might get lost in the smog, authorities advised parents not to send their children to school.

Fearing the children might get lost in the smog, authorities advised parents not to send their children to school.

Criminals emboldened by the thick dark smog resorted to purse snatching and burglaries and then vanished into the cloaking darkness.

Birds lost in the fog crashed into buildings.

Breeders fashioned improvised gas masks for their cattle by soaking grain sacks in whiskey. Eleven prize heifers brought to Earls Court for the famed Smithfield Show choked to death.

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All weekend soccer matches were canceled.
All weekend soccer matches were canceled.

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All weekend soccer matches were canceled. However, Oxford and Cambridge, carried on with their annual cross-country competition at Wimbledon Common. As runners materialized out of the thick haze, the track marshals shouted continually, “This way, this way, Oxford and Cambridge.”

Since the smog seeped even inside closed buildings, movie theaters closed down as the yellow haze made it impossible for the audience to see the screen. The opera houses too put up their shutters as the audience could no longer see the performers on the stage due to the acrid smog.

The unparalleled admissions to hospitals and the great number of pneumonia reports overwhelmed the medical authorities.

Sadly, the Great Smog was not only a nuisance, it was also lethal for those with respiratory and cardiovascular problems, the elderly, the babies and the infants. Amidst coughing and the wheezing, death came silently to London. The smog literally choked thousands to death. Deaths from bronchitis and pneumonia increased more than sevenfold and the death rate in the East End increased ninefold.

Eventually, the siege abated on December 9, 1952 when cold winds from the west swept the toxic smog away from London and carried out to the North Sea. Yet, the detrimental effects lingered on, and death rates remained above normal into the summer.

Initial reports estimated that upwards of 4,000 died prematurely in the first week of the Great Smog. The mortality rate remained high for a couple of months after the Great Smog. People realized the impact of the deadly Smog when the undertakers ran out of caskets and the florists out of flowers and bouquets.

There were 12,000 unexplained deaths and additional deaths during the episode and in the two months after the abatement of the peak smog.

A preliminary report not finalized yet attributed these later deaths to an influenza epidemic. New evidence shows that only a fraction of the deaths could be from influenza.

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The lungs of the dead confirmed that they died due to prolonged exposure to black carbon.

The lungs of the dead confirmed that they died due to prolonged exposure to black carbon.

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Thorough examination of the lungs of the dead confirmed that they died due to prolonged exposure to black carbon, a by-product of burning coal and a short-term overexposure to a high concentration of fine particulate matter containing heavy metals.

Initially, the British government was reluctant to act in the wake of the Great Smog.

The Coalition for Clean Air calculated the concentration of pollution in London at the time. They concluded that it might have surpassed the current pollution in China by a large margin even though PM2.5 was not measured at the time. During the Great Smog, the concentration of sulfur dioxide was 190 times higher than the WHO standard.

Following the investigation, the British Parliament passed the Clean Air Act of 1956, which restricted the burning of coal in urban areas. The Act authorized local councils to set up smoke-free zones.

The public received grants to convert from coal stoves to alternative heating systems.

It took years, for London to transit from its primary source of heating coal to gas, oil, and electricity. During the transition period, deadly smogs occurred periodically, such as one that killed 750 people in 1962. But none of them reached the scale of the Great Smog that descended upon London on December 5, 1952.

In the 1960s, after the Great Smog in London, other countries began to reduce and control their use of coal.

Now, India, a country suffering from severe air pollution is also on a similar footing. Soon, India will become the world’s second largest consumer of coal. Yet, as of today, India has not yet set standards for emissions of important pollutants in its industries.

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