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A walk around the obscure worlds of retail physical amusement –
FLIGHT OF THE NIGHT BIRDS
Soumitra Das revisits the seamy bylanes of Calcutta with their secret women to find out how they have kept pace with changing times
Red light areas are the most visible part of a city’s underbelly. Even a child’s curiosity would be aroused at the sight of a street lined with women — obviously poor and dressed in a tawdry and showy kind of way that their mothers and sisters and aunts would frown at — apparently doing nothing, but definitely waiting for something or someone. Beyond that, curiosity would turn into mystification and befuddlement, for it would be difficult for a child to figure out what is actually going on.
A child’s budding prurience is of little help when it comes to understanding the logistics of prostitution. But one thing is certain, most children would find the scene suspicious, for few, unless absolutely green, would ever talk about it to their mother. They would rather suffer the pangs of conscience in silence than reveal this guilty secret. It is their first taste of the apple of knowledge and they would instinctively realize that it was not something they could talk about with everybody.
I am speaking from experience. When we used to live in Howrah in the Fifties till the late Sixties, my elder cousins and I would often go for long walks to the Howrah maidan, unbeknown to my protective mother. On our way back home, we would sometimes stray into an alley behind the busy Grand Trunk Road. Here, next to a hole-in-the-wall cinema, I stumbled upon this shadowy world where love was up for sale, to paraphrase Cole Porter. At that age (I could not have been ten) I did not know what was being sold, but the bold stares, heavily powdered pock-marked skin, oily kiss curls, maroon mouths, worn-out bodies and soiled saris in lurid colours told their own unsavoury tale.
Prostitution is a crime in India, and the scene bore all the marks of illicitness, for although the lane was as crowded as a bazaar, these women seemed to exist in a world apart that people passing by were desperately trying to avoid. Yet it was impossible to turn one’s eyes away from them. It is in our nature to be irresistibly drawn to and be fascinated by something that is taboo.
It was only after some time that I got to know that this was the infamous Harkata gali of Howrah, and that there existed in Bowbazar, Calcutta, another such alley of the same name. In Bowbazar also, a similar business was being conducted in the maze of narrow lanes opposite the Calcutta Medical College. These lanes are regularly used by commuters either going to or coming from the Sealdah railway station.
As I grew up, I became acquainted with the secret life of Free School Street and heard all the stories of pimps-turned-snatchers from my precocious Anglo-Indian friends in school who lived so close to, as they say, where the action was. The girls were never visible, but when one walked down the pavement adjoining the Indian Museum, one was inevitably accosted by men who offered “schoolgirls who come first in class”. One could only guess the nature of their specialization.
Then there used to be this chalk-white bosomy lady in fiery red (“Alo boudi” in college parlance), who unfailingly stood in front of Chowringhee’s most famous footwear shop every evening, busily checking the time, as if she had been stood up by her beau. In those days, these night birds used to wait for the dark. Today, one sees them in broad daylight, painted women only in name. Closed factories have forced them to take to the streets. Indistinguishable from the housewife-next-door (many of them actually are so), they don’t bother to wear either a scrap of paint or even an eye-catching sari. After a few years, these faces are lost for ever. The human body burns out fast but human appetite is boundless.
Recently, not more than six months ago, I saw one of these ex-streetwalkers in the bus accompanying a tiny girl. I had seen her last about 20 years ago when she was darkly attractive. The woman had become matronly and her hair was grey. Had she turned into a maid who was chaperoning the kid to school, or was this her own baby? My blood ran cold as she got off at the petrol station next to Sonagachhi.
The increasingly visible she-men are perhaps the only ones who care for sartorial subtleties these days. They lurk on the darker stretches of Chowringhee, some of them looking elegant in stilettos and pant-suits. Only their falsettos and slim hips give them away.
In high school itself the boys would whisper the forbidden word, “Sonagachhi”. Ironically, it was the AIDS scourge that made this terra incognita more accessible to journalists like myself. The vast warren of lanes, dingy old houses with occasional glimpses of opulence and beauty turned into a market of women after sunset. As in Harkata lane in Howrah and Bowbazar, the homes of middle-class Bengalis (“This is the dwelling of a respectable family. Please do not disturb,” read the notices on doorways) exist cheek-by-jowl with houses of ill-repute. Further down Chitpur, next to Allen Market, the girls operate from a cage. This gated community is only visible through a small provisions store.
Bollywood knows no boundaries, and these days, as my bus rushes past Masjid Bari Street and Darjipara, one can catch sight of the girls shimmering like Christmas trees in spangled evening wear and low-slung jeans, their silhouettes blown out like a blimp. The neighbourhood Bangladeshi ragpicker had turned into a Kareena Kapoor lookalike before she was lost forever.
But the fly-by-night babes, who go to work well after midnight, are not fashion’s fools. Only saris for them. I could once see them from the window of my flat, dark shadows slinking out of the alleys. The bright sodium vapour lamps have driven them elsewhere. They hollered as they mingled with the drunken mob. They howled like animals as they were beaten up by customers. A female Falstaff would run for cover bellowing in delight as the men charged towards her. Perhaps she was a procuress. The other morning, when I was going to my bank in Dalhousie Square, I saw her selling cucumbers on the Currency Building pavement.
The Telegraph Calcutta India, 8 May 2008, http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080508/jsp/opinion/story_9237955.jsp
Sex workers chronicle life in Indian brothels
By Krittivas Mukherjee
MUMBAI (Reuters) – An exclusive magazine for prostitutes is offering a snapshot of life in some of India’s biggest brothels, reporting the murky world of pimps and violent customers and showcasing the dreams and talents of sex workers.
“Red Light Despatch”, a monthly publication, is full of emotional outpourings of women sold to brothels as children, personal accounts of torture and harassment, poems and essays by prostitutes, book and film reviews and advocacy articles.
Health workers and prostitutes sit together once a week in a tiny newsroom located inside a brothel in India’s financial capital to discuss stories, headlines and the design of issues.
The reporters, often themselves prostitutes or their relatives file their contribution after scouring the brothels of Mumbai, Kolkata and New Delhi and some smaller cities.
“We choose the best stories for publishing,” said Rupa Metgudd, a news coordinator and daughter of a former prostitute, sifting through reports for the latest edition. “The magazine is not a mere publication. For us it is journalism of purpose.”
Although prostitution is illegal in India, it is a thriving underground industry and voluntary groups estimate that there are about 2 million women sex workers.
Launched six months ago, the magazine is a platform for the collective memories, nostalgia and dreams of the sex worker community and an attempt to wean their children away from the profession, said editor Anurag Chaturvedi.
DREAMS AND DESIRES
In one recent edition, Sita, a prostitute from Kolkata who gave only one name, told of her violent childhood marriage that forced her to flee her home and land in a brothel.
“My dignity was torn to pieces. I used to cry a lot. But I soon learnt some things will never change no matter how much you cry,” she wrote.
Elsewhere, women wrote about betrayed love, bad marriages, their dreams of living a life of dignity, of owning a “house with lots of sky”, and about the “frightening” world of prostitution.
With a little help from a voluntary group, the magazine prints about 1,000 copies in Hindi and English and is distributed free among prostitutes and residents of red light districts.
The ragtag magazine, without any photographs, looks more like a booklet but it apparently serves the purpose.
“It’s a platform, a vent for many prostitutes who deposit their anger, hurt and thoughts on these pages,” said Anita Khude, a health volunteer associated with the magazine. “The magazine is for them and it is about them.”
If there were any doubts about the quality of the magazine staffed by people with no journalistic experience, two former journalists help edit it.
There also are plans to turn it into a more appealing tabloid in Hindi, English and Bengali.
“We have little money, but we still pay our writers small amounts so that they realise they can earn a respectable living as well,” said editor Chaturvedi.
For its reporters, getting stories from brothels is not a problem because “we are accepted as one of them”.
“When we go to people’s homes they are comfortable and they talk,” said Khude. “In the next issue we will write about how a ‘normal’ man — a poor roadside snacks seller — fought prejudices and married a prostitute he fell in love with.”
© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved
Reuters India, Mon Jul 30, 2007, http://in.reuters.com/article/topNews/idINIndia-28728520070730?sp=true
Insurance victory for Indian sex workers
Posted online: Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 1405 hrs IST
Kolkata, April 30:
Bharati Dey, a former prostitute, has been granted a life insurance cover which she says is a step forward in her campaign to legalise the profession in India.
Once practising her trade in the run-down quarters of Kolkata’s Sonagachi, one of Asia’s largest red light districts, she is now a proud holder of a policy from India’s largest state-owned life insurance company.
“The policy won’t change much in our life, but this small step is a giant leap forward in our struggle for legal recognition of sex work,” said Dey.
“We live in a no-man’s land in India where we are harassed by cops and rowdies,” added the 45-year-old.
Prostitution is still illegal in India, although it is a thriving underground industry. Voluntary groups estimate that there are about 2 million female sex workers, most of them trafficked or forced into the work by poverty.
Over the last month around 250 sex workers in the city have been given life insurance policies by the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India. Prostitutes say it is a breakthrough in their efforts to get legal recognition for their work.
Without many official documents, prostitutes are rarely able to open accounts in banks or join the financial mainstream.
Dey is a member of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (Indomitable Women’s Coordination Committee), a forum of 65,000 sex workers in West Bengal.
The committee was set up in 1995 to campaign for safe sex and the legalisation of prostitution.
Activists say legalisation could help bring prostitutes into the mainstream and help them fight poverty and discrimination.
“We are fighting for legalisation of sex work for over a decade. There are debates and a flurry of misleading promises. But this is the first time that a government company as big as LIC has recognised us as professionals,” said Dey.
The policies, which are spreading to sex workers outside Kolkata, are not the only advance for women in the industry. In Mumbai, a bank run by sex workers was set up to help prostitutes escape poverty that keeps them indebted to brothel owners.
Started by a handful of sex workers in Kamathipura, Mumbai’s red light district, it now has hundreds of clients.
Mamata Nandy, 35, a sex worker and a policy holder, said recognition by a company like LIC would only strengthen the fight against AIDS and the women’s demand for legalisation.
“I had a policy before but that was after hiding my profession,” she said.
“I never entertain any client without a condom. If we could behave responsibly and help in the fight against deadly viruses, why can’t we be recognised as workers?” she said.
The Indian Express 30 April 2008, http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Insurance-victory-for-Indian-sex-workers/303647/
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Year of the Rat
by Shabbir Ahmed
(The Statesman India – North East – Online Version, accessed 19. Dec. 2007)
(The bamboo is arguably the most useful plant on earth — it is used to make furniture, paper and several other items. It provides villagers in the North-east a livelihood and it grows abundantly. It has rightly been described as the staff of life. No household in rural India can do without it. Some hill tribes of Assam worship bamboo as their tribal god and for others it is a sacred tree around which marriages are solemnised. For the tribes of the North-east, life begins in a cradle of bamboo and ends in a coffin of bamboo.
The bamboo follows a unique pattern of growth, development and decay. It flowers and seeds gregariously once in its lifetime and dies thereafter. The cyclic flowering occurs in 30 to 60 years. The seeds, known as bamboo manna or rice, have the appearance and taste of the ordinary rice. The rice-like grain has saved the lives of thousands during famines. Its young and succulent shoots are also eaten. There are various misconceptions and superstitions surrounding this upright useful and stately plant. It is generally believed that the bamboo does not shoot until thunder and lightning come. The idea is possibly based on the fact that thunderstorms fill the air with nitrogen compounds which power the bamboo to propel its shoots.
The flowering of the bamboo is a natural phenomenon over which man has no control. But he has full control over his mind which invents ingenious explanations. The bamboo has been in the news recently in Mizoram where people are bracing for a famine-like situation, following the cyclic bamboo flowering known as mautam. It occurs every 48-50 years. The economy of Mizoram depends to a great extent on bamboo production. The state harvests 40 per cent of India’s 80 million-tonne annual bamboo crop. A variety of bamboo known as mautak constitutes about 95 per cent of the total stock which flowers during mautam. The hapless Mizos smell a rat in the bamboo flowers. The bamboo bloom triggers a boom in the rat population which leads to destruction of crops and granaries, creating a famine-like situation. The year of the bamboo flowering is characterised as annus horribilis, as it brings in its wake pestilence and starvation. The locals believe that all wild animals turn into rats and wreak havoc on humans. While the flowering season creates food scarcity for humans, it increases rodent food reserves.
The situation in Mizoram is really grim. Rats have ravaged 48 per cent of early paddy and destroyed cash crops. The nutritious bamboo seeds enhance the oestrogen and reproduction levels of the female rats.
The situation has taken a political turn. The assembly elections are due in November next year but Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga is a worried man. The opposition has accused him of mishandling the situation. Rattled by rats, the administration has pressed the panic button and a rat alert has been sounded in the state. As an emergency measure, the state government has sanctioned Rs 80 lakh to be given to villagers who would bring rat tails. Each tail would fetch two rupees. But this has not worked. Tails they lose and heads they win. There is no appreciable decline in the rodent population. Last year, about 250,000 lrats were killed yet the state lost more than 12,000 tonnes of paddy.
Rodents have the potential to demolish governments. They have done it in the past. They can still do it. They pose a serious threat to the Mizo National Front government headed by Zoramthanga. As the resentment against the MNF government grows, Mizoram Congress chief Lalthanhawla is waiting in the wings to join the rat race for the chief minister’s chair. The chief minister’s plight is really pathetic. His SOS to the Centre for relief under the agriculture ministry’s Integrated Pest Management Programme has not evoked any response as the bureaucrats in New Delhi are not sure whether rats qualify as pests.
Rats and humans have always lived shoulder to shoulder. The co-existence has not been cordial or peaceful. Though continually hostile, they have been unable to destroy each other. They have infected humans with plague and other diseases. Man’s repeated attempts to exterminate them have come to nought. Rodent populations are on the increase in many parts of the world.
Brown rats have amazing teeth that allow them to burrow through soil and even concrete. They have burrowed tunnels under the platforms of Patna junction which is being developed as a world class station without realising that this is the home station of Union railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav. One platlform caved in soon after it was constructed. The station is home to around 1,000 rats. The situation at rat-infested Lucknow station is even worse. Some platforms have almost subsided.
US researchers have done a great disservice to mankind by engineering a breed of mighty mice that can run six kilometres at a speed of 20 metres per minute for up to six hours without stopping. What is worse, the genetically engineered mice can eat 60 per cent more than wild mice. Scientists have bred 500 of the mice which show more aggression than other mice. If the transgenic mice manage to sneak into India, all hell will break loose and it will lead to a disaster of unprecedented magnitude. Scientists on the other side of the Atlantic should try to produce a superman or a super pied piper to deal with the mighty rodents.
Rats are a privileged class. The Chinese year has a cycle of 12 signs. It begins with the rat. The story goes that the ox was at the head of the string of animals which wanted to be included in the Zodiac. No one had noticed that a rat had got on to the back of the ox. When the animals were called out the rat jumped down and was taken first. The ox was relegated to the second position.
In India, rodent control is fraught with difficulties. Killing of rats is frowned upon by animal rights campaigners and religious groups. They are pampered in parks and temples. Shree Karniji Maharaj Temple at Deshnok, near Bikaner, is known as the rat temple of Rajasthan. Over 400 years old, the temple is more famous for its rats than the deity itself. More than 1,000 rats, both black and white, have made the temple their home and are considered little gods by the devotees. The rat temple is frequented by politicians aspiring for election tickets or cabinet berths.
The practice of engaging rat catchers and paying a paltry amount for each rat caught or killed cannot check the booming rodent population. An effective rodenticide is yet to be developed. Snakes kill and eat rats. It would be a good idea if non-poisonous snakes are deployed in granaries and barns to get rid of the rodents.
Many methods have been tried to save crops from the rampaging regiments of these nimble-footed and sharp-toothed creatures. An ancient Greek treatise advised farmers to keep rodents at bay through a messaging service. The farmers would send letters to the rodents appealing to them to spare their fields. James Frazer, author of the celebrated The Golden Bough, quotes the text of one such letter addressed to rodents: “I adjure you, ye mice here present, that ye neither injure me nor suffer another mouse to do so. I give you yonder field (here the field is to be specified); but if ever I catch you here again, by the Mother of the Gods I will rend you in seven pieces.”
The message, scribbled on a sheet of paper in Greek, was stuck on an unhewn stone in the field before sunrise for the rodents to read. It is not clear how the rodents responded to such messages. But one thing is clear: the rats in ancient Greece were literate and had a smattering of Greek and Latin.
(The author is a freelance contributor.)
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Poaching and Population Threaten India’s Tigers
Development, New Law on Tribal Rights Add to Pressure
By Emily Wax
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; A12
PHALODI QUARRY, India — With homemade muskets, Lakhan and his brothers tracked one of India’s endangered Bengal tigers as it slunk along the forested trails and lakes of Ranthambhore National Park, not far from Lakhan’s village. Then, under cover of night, one of them fired a bullet into the chest of the howling cat.
“Hunger,” said the wiry Lakhan, pointing to his concave stomach, which was covered by a white lungi, or skirt-like wrap. “That’s why I did it. That scenario hasn’t changed much. My heart pounds when we kill a tiger. But we have pressures.”
Lakhan has killed three tigers in recent years and has been in jail on and off for selling their thick yellow-and-black striped coats, as well as their bones, whiskers and even their glowing amber eyes. Each tiger has fetched him more money than he can earn in six months of farming sesame for its seeds. Lakhan is from the Mogya community, a poaching tribe whose people have hunted the giant felines for centuries here in the northern desert state of Rajasthan.
But just as poaching ensures the Mogyas’ survival, it might also ensure the tigers’ extinction.
In the past 100 years, tiger populations around the world have declined by 95 percent. In India, home to at least half of the world’s tigers, only an estimated 1,500 remain, a decline of more than 50 percent since 2001, according to the government-run National Tiger Conservation Authority. In the past six years, it is believed, tigers have been killed at a rate of nearly one a day.
Over the next 20 years, the tiger population could “disappear in many places, or shrink to the point of ecological extinction,” according to a 2006 report by the World Wildlife Fund and the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington.
Several factors have contributed to the decline in India, including a growing human population. There is also a demand for tiger parts from places such as China, where tiger skins priced at $12,000 and more are used for luxury clothes and wall hangings, and where equally pricey tiger bones are used in traditional medicines. Compounding the problem, wildlife activists say, is a pro-development Indian government more concerned with the economy than the environment.
The tiger is India’s national symbol, and on omnipresent tourism posters, the elegant and supple cat is shown strutting toward the camera like a supermodel. But in India there are already several tiger reserves with no tigers, leading some conservationists to wonder whether a booming nation and its tigers can coexist.
Even in the woods of Ranthambhore, known as the best place in the world to spot the elusive cat, the tiger population has dwindled to just 35. Meanwhile, the number of people living next to the park has more than tripled, from 70,000 in 1980 to 250,000 today. The new arrivals have brought construction, logging and nearly 1 million grazing livestock.
“But all the government cares about now is call centers, shopping malls and apartments. That leaves the tiger situation in a miserable mess,” said Valmik Thapar, known as India’s “tiger man” for his conservation work. “So why save the tigers? Because saving the tiger means saving every insect in the forest, and the forest itself, and that’s important not to just India, but to the world.”
In a country with 1.1 billion people, where open land is becoming increasingly crowded, Parliament recently passed legislation that will provide tribal communities with land and building rights in wildlife reserves, an opportunity that could push tigers out of their sanctuaries. Thapar worries that the legislation will also give free rein to timber and tiger poachers, who could hire poverty-stricken forest dwellers to do the work.
In July, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying it was alarmed about India’s inability to stop the illegal tiger trade.
But some government leaders say the needs of people must be considered. They say the new legislation simply recognizes the rights of traditional tribes over forest land they have occupied for generations. Tribal activists say that India’s 700 million desperately impoverished people should be more important than parks visited largely by wealthy tourists from overseas. In some areas just outside the park, they point out, fewer than 3 percent of girls can read, and treatable diseases are still a major cause of death.
Singh this year asked local governments to create a development agency for each tiger reserve. The goal is to increase participation in conservation by encouraging hotels and parks to hire local residents and by hosting more school trips to parks.
“Wherever the local population has come into the picture, the tigers are safer,” Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, has frequently said.
A prominent Rajasthani family in Ranthambhore is trying to counter the idea that parks are just gardens for the rich by ensuring that benefits reach the local population. Along with his son and other relatives, Fateh Singh Rathore, 73, India’s most iconic tiger conservationist, operates Tiger Watch, an internationally funded nongovernmental organization that is luring communities out of the forest with schools and hospitals. Its work is credited with saving the small number of tigers that are left.
Rathore, who is never seen without an olive-colored safari hat and tiger-print silk cravat, was the park’s first game warden. In the late 1970s, he relocated 12 villages, or about 10,000 families, because of concerns that they were encroaching on tigers.
“Later I thought, instead of making villains out of the poachers, let’s talk to them and try and reform them,” Rathore said, reclining on tiger-print throw pillows in his home near the park.
The wives of arrested poachers receive training in handicrafts, making tiger-print pajamas and tiger pugmark, or footprint, soap dishes out of clay. The items are popular with tourists.
“If we lock them in jail, we have to find a way for the family to go on,” Rathore said. “A son should not be punished for a father’s action. Through education, we can help turn the poachers into the protectors of the park.”
Rathore’s son, Goverdhan Singh Rathore, 42, has started similar outreach programs, opening one of the best rural hospitals in India, along with a large, airy school named for his father.
The Fateh School also encourages family planning, offering a tuition scholarship to families who have only two children.
“While the population in India is exploding, the forest is staying the same size,” Goverdhan said. “It’s not elitist to save the tiger. The larger issue here is how do we stop poverty and save the tiger.”
It often takes several days to spot a tiger from the open-topped tourist jeeps that roar up and down the park’s jungle tracks. Most tourists are told there is a 30 percent chance of seeing one.
Ranthambhore’s hilly thorn forest is home to soaring eagles, sambar deer with fairy-tale-like antlers, and sunbathing crocodiles. Indian peacocks wander in the wide shade of the banyan tree, its gray branches flowing like wild, curly hair over the forest floor. But the tiger is the most majestic, walking like royalty, prancing on leaves and waving its long tail.
It’s the next generation of the Mogya tribe that Fateh Singh Rathore hopes he can educate. On a recent day, Lakhan visited his son at the school. His boys are the first in his family to receive a formal education, and he was thrilled that they were learning to read and write, and that they were eating eggs and fruit, a better diet than their meals at home of chapati, or flat bread, and red chilies.
The principal also talked to Lakhan about a program to have the reformed poachers earn money by giving camel rides to tourists. Lakhan was skeptical of the idea but said there was a need to have a permanent occupation of some sort.
His 16-year-old son, Rajendra, said he wants to be a park ranger and protect tigers. He even jokes with his father about his line of work.
“If my father becomes a nuisance,” he said, looking up at Lakhan, “I will have to read him my nature lessons: The tiger is our national pride.”
COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE IN WASHINGTON POST
While population pressure is a significant issue for tiger conservation, we do have a set of laws that can help us to manage the human-tiger interactions – so that there is a future for tigers and people. We need to more effort put into enforcing anti-poaching rules and more funds to protect tiger habitats. There are many conservation groups out there who can help us to save tigers, but many are critically short of funds. We can save tigers, but it won’t be free – Groups like http://www.savethetigerfund.org take public contributions and target them to tiger conservation actions on the ground.
10/16/2007 3:50:34 PMRecommend (0) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
It’s pretty funny that so many people are commenting on how there are too many Indians. I think there are too many Americans…consuming like the fat lazy slobs we are. We’re five percent of the world’s population and we use 25% of the world’s resources. So lay off India unless you don’t own a car, don’t water your lawn, don’t run your AC, dishwasher/clothes washer etc., don’t buy clothes or things from places which exploit other people.
10/16/2007 2:30:24 PMRecommend (3) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
Reduce the population of India. I agree with the poster who says that the American press eulogizes the Indians too much, while demonizing the Chinese who are actually trying to reduce the population. The Indians are breeding like rats, and none of this so-called development is reducing poverty.
10/16/2007 2:20:27 PMRecommend (2) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
Corrupt bureaucracy and polluted politics in India have forced tigers on the verge of extinction. Valmik Thapar like people are rare Indians who have – so far – been successful in at least preventing the topic from getting extinguished forever – from collective memory and top-of-priority list of India.
10/16/2007 2:18:50 PMRecommend (1) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
I think the world needs a few more tigers and a few less Indians.
10/16/2007 1:14:34 PMRecommend (3) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
this article makes it seems as though the poachers are doing the most damage. I’m sure it’s not compared to the world damaging forests for “modernization.”
Guess this world will become a desert of malls, condos, & overpriced houses
10/16/2007 1:04:53 PMRecommend (1) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
This is so f’ing depressing. What do we tell our grandkids?
10/16/2007 12:26:53 PMRecommend (2) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
“Hunger,” said the wiry Lakhan, pointing to his concave stomach, which was covered by a white lungi, or skirt-like wrap. “That’s why I did it
10/16/2007 11:58:37 AMRecommend (0) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
“In a country with 1.1 billion people, where open land is becoming increasingly crowded ….”
With the exception of this reporter and a few others, it doesn’t help that the American press seems almost genetically incapable of regularly reporting on the problems of overpopulation, including in the United States (immigration generated). Disappearing Indian wildlife, Indian rivers becoming open sewers, yet I have read so many news reports about India’s booming economy, and presented as if it were the icing on the cake: “… and it looks like India will be surpassing China in population.” Oh yes, highly intelligent and insightful reporter people, a more populous India–Hooray, Hooray!
10/16/2007 10:18:59 AMRecommend (5) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
“… As for the tigers, I wonder if there is some way to remove them from Asia in order to prevent them being killed.”
10/16/2007 8:46:35 AM
Experiments in introducing tigers to Africa were documented on the telly a couple of years ago. Have hart!
10/16/2007 9:22:03 AMRecommend (0) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
Human beings are cruel and destructive to all other species. As for the tigers, I wonder if there is some way to remove them from Asia in order to prevent them being killed.
10/16/2007 8:46:35 AMRecommend (0) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
I’ve long said that we get rid of India, reduce the population to maybe 300 million, then we’ll be okay. Same with China, do we really need that many people doing bad thngs? Or nothing at all? NO!
10/16/2007 8:13:08 AMRecommend (4) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
D.N.Brola feel that poaching has been customary in India and in the World from times immemorial. People needed food and they killed animals. The two legged animal called the Man is an awkward sight for the four legged animals. With the times forest cover dwindled and the population of the animals also started dwindling. Today the total population of animals has drastically gone down, whereas the population of the Man is registering a drastic increase. On the top of it all the Poachers have been doing their job of killing animals for their gain. Poachers kill rare species because it fetches handsome amount. The Tiger is a rare animal. The population of Tiger is going down in view indiscriminate killing of this species. A vigilant public opinion coupled with Governments strict enforcement of rules is the only solution of the problem.
10/16/2007 8:12:41 AMRecommend (1) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
What is the world becoming? A desert of malls. A nightmare where all beauty is expunged.
10/16/2007 12:01:18 AMRecommend (7) Report Abuse Discussion Policy
Filed under: Uncategorized
Why are foreign tourists overcharged in India?
Foreign tourists in India often find themselves paying higher entry fees than local people at historical monuments and shelling out exorbitant amounts for curios and food.
While a foreigner pays Rs 250 at World Heritage Monuments like the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra and the Qutab Minar here, the fee for an Indian is just Rs 10. Similarly, at monuments like Hawa Mahal, where Indians pay Rs 5, foreigners are charged 20 times the amount.
“I am a guest in this country, so why am I being charged high prices at every place I visit?” asked Joseph Ramos from the Philippines who was visiting the 13th century Qutab Minar monument. It was his first trip to India.
A German tourist, Heidi Blum, said she had to shell out Rs 30 for a samosa but found out that the snack was available for as little as Rs 5 in most places.
“I can’t believe I gave six times the amount that local people pay. This is not right,” she said.
Some shopkeepers justify the high prices saying in terms of dollars or euros, it does not amount to much for a foreign tourist. But the fact remains that there is discrimination.
The issue needs to be addressed at a time when the high voltage Incredible India campaign is on to bring more visitors to the country. Nearly 4.5 million foreign tourists came calling last year.
Anshu Vaish, director general of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is responsible for the upkeep of monuments in the country, had an explanation.
“The reason for charging more from foreigners and less from Indians is because our national heritage belongs to us and locals should not pay more,” she said.
“But making or changing policy (on entry fees) is not in our hands.”
Vaish also pointed out that entry to many monuments in India was free.
“Out of 3,667 monuments in India, an entry fee is charged at only 150 monuments. The rest have no entry fees for Indians as well as foreigners,” she added.
Sudhir Kumar, a tourism official, justified the higher charges for foreigners. “The reason we charge them more is to better maintain the tourist spots and their surroundings,” he maintained.
As for exorbitant prices charged by curio shops and eateries near monuments, Vaish said the ASI had no control over it.
“We only take care of the monuments and their surroundings. We don’t know who the final authority for (licensing and controlling) the shopkeepers and vendors is,” she said.
Leena Nandan, joint secretary in the tourism ministry, echoed Vaish’s views.
“We take care of tourist spots and promote culture. We’re not responsible for the licensing of shops near the monuments,” she said.
“The sale and purchase of goods from these shops is a matter between the seller and the buyer. It has nothing to do with the ministry,” Nandan added.
As for police, they seem to turn a blind eye to foreigners being overcharged.
“I have never heard of any shopkeeper charging more than the printed price of goods. No foreigner has complained to us about it,” said a policeman posted at Qutab Minar.
17. Oct. 2007
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Saturday, January 20, 2007 (11:50:24)
Bhubaneswar: Nearly 840,000 birds have been spotted at Asia’s largest saltwater lake in Chilka in Orissa, says the bird census for 2007. A majority of these birds are migratory. “The migratory birds had started arriving since the beginning of winter in October from Siberia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Himalayas and will stay till March,” Abhimanyu Behera, the divisional forest officer of Chilka, told IANS. The 1,000-sq km lake, about 100 km from here, is spread over the districts of Puri, Khordha and Ganjam along the eastern coast and is home to some of the largest congregations of migratory birds in the country. Last year 679,533 birds were spotted at the lake. This year the figures have increased, he said. A total of 17 teams conducted the survey Jan 11-12. However, the number of birds at Nalabana, an island inside the lake, has dropped from 258,000 in 2006 to 198,000 this year, Behera said. This time more birds were spotted in the peripheral areas. An estimated 165 species of birds are found in Chilka in winter. Of these, 93 species are migratory and 72 residential. About 500,000-600,000 migratory birds visit the island every winter and this is the best season to spot the birds. “This year we sighted 171 species of waterfowl, of which 107 were migratory,” Behera said. “Last year we spotted only 102 species.” Migratory birds come from as far as Yakut in Siberia. Species like the pintail duck come from the Caspian region of Siberia; the red-crested pochard duck comes from lake Baikal, the common teal from Aast in the Kirghiz steppes and the blue-winged teal from the Kiev region of Ukraine. A number of rare species had earlier disappeared from the lake. However, some reappeared this year. These include the Indian skimmer, Baillole’s crake, Pallal’s fish eagle, broadbilled sandpiper and the spot-billed pelican, he said. Chilka was declared one of the six wetlands of international importance at the Ramsar Convention on Migratory Species of Arctic and Central Asian Waterfowl. Besides Chilka, migratory birds also flock to three other spots in the state – Hirakud dam in Sambalpur district, the Nandankanan biological park near here and the Bhitarkanika national park in Kendrapada district. (IANS)
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India: Bicycle Promotion Among Rural Women
Mobility & Quality of Life
From Literacy To Empowerment To Bicycles In Rural India
For years, fetching water for Mariamman of Siranjeni village was one of many dreary chores. When the village well dried up in summer, she had to trudge 2 km to a neighboring village to secure water. Now fetching water is far easier; all she has to do is take her bicycle. Like Mariamman, thousand of women in Pudukottai district in Tamil Nadu are using their bicycles, not just to fetch water but for a myriad utility trips. But it hasn’t always been this way.
It was novel literacy drive, launched in 1991, that has lead to 50,000 women in the 3,000 villages of Pudukottai (370km from Madras, India) to learn to ride bicycles. Originally, the scheme had four elements; literacy, arithmetic, awareness and application. Seeing an additional need, collector Sheela Rani Chungat added a fifth element — mobility. These days Pudukottai women sing “we have learnt to cycle, brother/ and with it, we have turned the wheel of our lives, brother”. As the song bears out, the results of Chungat’s initiative have far exceeded expectations.
In the harvest season, women now carry bundles of ripe stalk on a cycle, not on their heads. When the men work in the fields, their lunches are delivered to them by their wives on wheels. And sometimes, newly mobile mothers save their children long, tiring walks to and from the village.
The cycle-training program started as a no-cost affair. Villagers lent one or two cycles. Initially classes were held after dark, helping the students to get over their initial shyness and reluctance. “There were few people around to make fun of us when we fell down,” recalls Mariamman.
When some women began showing off their success on their husbands’ and brothers’ cycles, the bug caught on. Next, the program coordinators arranged for bank loans to buy bikes. Still, some women have been unable to derive the fullest mileage from their recently acquired skills. Most do not have the money to buy their own cycles and their fathers, brothers and husbands, get first preference on family bikes. There are also family-imposed restrictions — chores, sewing classes and primary health care are all right, but movies, cruising and fun outings are an absolute no-no.
[Base on an article by Nirupama Subramanian, in “India Today”.]
For details on this and other programs promoting bicycle transport write: Laxmi Narain Modi, Exec. Director., Nation Building Forum, 305 Bakshi House, 40-41 Nehru Place, New Dehli 110019, INDIA.
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Oh bother, it’s an Indian tourist!
“I have seen Indians washing their laundry and drying it on leather sofas at a posh hotel in Manhattan, NY. Some of the richest Indians stand in the lobby of the best hotels in New York and bargain for an upgrade. I have felt embarrassed on more occasions than one because of such behaviour.”
Going by a recent survey, the ugly Indian tourist is loud, untidy and doesn’t believe in tipping the waiters. DT on why the cash-rich Indians fail to score on the etiquette meter .
Indians are travelling abroad like never before. Far East, Europe, Australia – the world is their oyster. But are the people of the countries that Indians are visiting appreciating this tourist invasion too? The answer, as provided by a recent survey by Expedia .co.uk, is a clear and resonant no. According to this survey, Indians are the world’s second worst tourists, beaten to the post only by the French. The parameters for the survey included behaviour, politeness, willingness to learn the local language, trying local delicacies and spending on the local economy. Indians are least likely to attempt to learn the local language, try out the native delicacies and are also very stingy when it comes to tips. They are also said to be rude and untidy. So, are Indian tourists as ugly as this survey makes them out to be?
Washing dirty laundry in NY
High fliers from India accept this charge, and then add some of their own accusations. Says adman Suhel Seth, “I have seen Indians washing their laundry and drying it on leather sofas at a posh hotel in Manhattan, NY. Some of the richest Indians stand in the lobby of the best hotels in New York and bargain for an upgrade. I have felt embarrassed on more occasions than one because of such behaviour . Once the general manager of a foreign hotel told me, ‘I really admire the Indian success stories. What I don’t understand is why none of them give their clothes for laundry!'”
Indians also don’t have a good standing when it comes to following basic rules related to noise, hygiene etc. Says Pavan Varma, director, ICCR, “We need to work on our etiquette and mobile manners. Mostly, the demands Indians make while vacationing are unfair and the interaction is crude. Decorum often takes a backseat with the nouveau riche. But I must say, I have seen people from other nationalities behaving rudely, and taking advantage of their fair skin. Indians are not half that arrogant.”
A tip for the travellers
Heena Akhtar, the COO of a travel agency, agrees with Varma. “Indians are adaptable and take care of the protocol of other countries. Even if they behave badly in India, they improve their general behaviour when abroad,” she says.
However, there are certain issues that act as a flashpoint for Indians. “Indian travellers are very finicky about food,” says a source from another travel agency. “Indians, with their love for spicy curries, find the European food bland. Also, they find it difficult to settle for beef and pork. To make sure things go fine, some frequent fliers take cooks along.”
Another front where the Indian traveller does not score is tipping. “Indians are a hesitant lot when they have to tip at hotels or restaurants,” adds Akhtar. As a airhostess with a leading airline adds, “Sometimes, you come across Indian travellers who are looking for a freebie and consider service staff as menials.”
Some complimentary hospitality?
However, Indian travellers get a thumbs up from the Indian hospitality industry. They describe the cash-rich Indians as discerning travellers who settle for nothing but the best and can be a little fussy on that account. Parveen Chander, resident manager of the Taj Mahal Hotel says, “Indians know what they want and are very particular about getting their money’s worth. The South-East Asians are the most difficult to please. They spend a lot of time to check everything. The Britons also have high expectations and are not very easy to please.”
Kshitij Deopuria, a rooms division manager, maintains that the behaviour of Indian tourists is improving. “Sometime back, Indian travellers were known to throw their weight around but now it is not the same. They are very well-behaved, not very finicky and concentrate only on the services. However, they still look out for discounts.”
Demand for freebies is one problem that hotels here also face from Indian travellers. “Sometimes, Indian travellers demand complimentary services,” says Eros group director, Avneesh Sood, adding, “But then they also spend a lot.”
Japanese Americans Swiss
France India China
timesofindia.indiatimes.com (quoted: http://www.travelindustrydeals.com/news/3147 published May 29, 2007)