The bells chime
Known as the Sangam City, Allahabad is also home
to some richly ornate and historically significant
Rarely will you find Allahabad quoted on the same lines
as Canterbury. The two cities are divided by more than
just 7,200 kilometres of land, sea and civilization, if
not history. Their most apparent link today, however,
could be their equation as pilgrimage sites for Hindus
and Christians respectively.
But as one ambles in through the lush gardens of the All
Saints Cathedral in central Allahabad, the likeness with
Canterbury starts to show, one door at a time.
The Patthar Girja (Church of stones) as the All
Saints Cathedral is popular here, is the most distinct
figure of colonial architecture in the city. Its 240
feet by 56 feet Anglo-Gothic stone mass, with a 130 feet
by 40 feet nave, resembles most the east end of
Canterbury Cathedral in England which is the site of the
Archbishop of Canterbury, the symbolic leader of the
global Anglican Communion.
The Canterbury cathedral was founded in 597 A.D. but was
completely rebuilt in 1070-77 A.D. Following a fire in
1174 A.D., its east end was enlarged and rebuilt in the
present Gothic style.
That style was used elaborately by eminent architect Sir
William Emerson, famous for designing the Victoria
Memorial in Kolkata, when he crafted thePatthar Girja in
1871. The stained-glass murals, resembling those in
Fatehpur Sikri, and intricate designs on the marble
altar have retained their originality even today. The
Bishop's throne is engraved in the style of the Lahore
School of Art.
The Girja is also known for housing plaques,
which depict the deaths of British nationals during the
colonial era. A passionate author has gone as far as
comparing it to a peaceful coasting ship.
However, the Patthar Girja is not an aberration
to the Hindu heritage of Sangam City. Besides the first
church which was built inside the Allahabad Fort, the
city has at least 14 other churches that pay tribute to
colonial, neo-colonial, Indian, Roman, Greek and modern
The oldest one, built around 1840, the Holy Trinity
Church is another sample of Gothic sculpture. It stands
on eight pillars, each measuring 125 feet by 70 feet.
For the scholar, the church has much historical value as
it stores memorials from the Gwalior campaign (1843) and
the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. But for the common eye, its
brick and stone structure can be as thought provoking.
A similar gothic style is noticeable in the half moon
bordered clock tower of St. Joseph's Church (1884). Its
red brick and stone structure also showcases Roman
The Medhodist Church, or Lal Girja due to its
distinct red brick figure, presents a contrasting style.
With stone pillars and a tinned roof structured on the
Indo-Roman style, it can be easily identified in any
collage. The oval window on its east wall is so finely
placed that it allows the first rays of the sun to fall
directly on the prayer spot. Its tiles are similar to
the ones in St. John’s Church, and are unique in a sense
that they present a curious blend of gothic and colonial
The Indo-Roman style is also used in St. Patrick’s
Church, which is the only one here whose hall is built
in a north-south direction; its entry is from the south.
Most other churches are built in the east-west
Stone carvings in Urdu and Hindi fonts welcome you to
St. Paul's Church. Its eight pillars appear attentive
like a formation of erect bananas. Constructed in 1856,
it served as a school till 1881, when it was granted the
status of a church by England. It has a high roof of
finely laid stone slabs, with a tin shed and wooden
pillars under an iron net. On the east end of the hall,
a bell made of German silver hangs from the roof.
The Pentecostal Church, however, welcomes you
differently. A wooden portico, whose upper half is
hidden, strikes you at the entrance. If you stare long
enough, you could even estimate its original shape. This
church, built of stone and red bricks in 1840, was the
first to be built on rented property. But today, the
compound is scattered with encroached homes, leaving
behind only a legacy of architectural finesse.
Nevertheless, such diverse architecture can definitely
not go unnoticed. The Allahabad Museum, one of the four
national museums in the country, has taken note and
during Christmas last year, it hosted a 12-day photo
exhibition on the ‘Churches of Allahabad’.
“It was to highlight the architectural vividness of the
structures. And also to draw the audience’s attention to
the intricate designs and architectural beauty within
the city,” says Rajesh Purohit, the Director of
The Hindu, 1st September 2012
Report on ruins of
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Friday
submitted to the Delhi High Court a status report on the
ruins of a disputed archaeological site at Subhas Park
in the Walled City of Delhi. Some people in the area
believe the ruins to be of Akbarabadi Masjid of the
The ASI submitted the report on a direction by the
Court. The Court is seized of a bunch of petitions and
applications making claims and counter-claims on the
ruins. As a “large number of people” were present in the
Court and this prevented it from conducting the
proceedings due to the disturbance caused, the Judge
barred the public from attending the proceedings.
Adjourning the matter to September 7, the Court made it
clear that “only the counsel appearing for the parties
or the parties in person, apart from accredited
journalists, would be allowed to enter the courtroom and
attend the hearing”.
The Hindu, 1st September 2012
Stop preying on our
Allowing one community to worship in protected
monuments will open the floodgates for similar demands
The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) received a
letter from the Jamiat-ul Ulama-e-Hind. The letter
wanted 31 protected mosques to be opened for prayers.
“Although the commission was not very keen that heritage
monuments should be opened for prayers, it decided to
suggest a joint survey for ascertaining the condition of
these mosques.” Officials from the NCM, the
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Wakf Board
will carry out the joint inspection according to the
suggestion made by the commission in its letter sent to
the Ministry of Culture towards the end of July.
This reference made by the NCM needs to be looked at a
little carefully, because the issue is not likely to
remain restricted to these 31 mosques nor will it remain
confined to Delhi. The reference impinges on questions
of law and will eventually inform our attitude to the
wider question of heritage protection.
In 1958, Parliament enacted The Ancient Monuments and
Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 in order to
protect and preserve monuments, archaeological sites and
remains that had historical or architectural value and
were more than a 100 years old.
Among the provisions of the Act, it was stated that any
place of worship which was considered worthy of
protection but was being used for worship/prayers at the
time of enactment of the law would continue to be so
used. But if a place of worship, considered fit for
protection, which was not being used for prayers/worship
when the act came into force, will be taken over and
preserved as a protected monument.
The implication of this understanding was that such
monuments will not subsequently be used for worship but
would be preserved as national heritage.
It is under this law that the temples of Mahabalipuram
(Mamallapuram) Khajuraho and Konark, the caves at
Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta, the Stupa at Sanchi and
hundreds of other structures and sites have been taken
over and preserved as historical monuments where no
worship is permitted.
The mosque built by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak — the first
mosque built in Delhi — falls under the same category as
do all the 31 mosques including the Jamali Kamali
mosque, the Sher Shahi mosque at Old Fort, the Mohammadi
mosque near Siri Fort, the Neeli mosque near Hauz Khas
Market, the Begumpur mosque near Vijay Mandal Enclave,
the Khirkee mosque at Khirki Village, the
Khair-ul-Manazil mosque near the Sher Shah Gate, the
mosque at the Mausoleum of Isa Khan and the Afsarwala
The question of law that is involved is rather basic —
can the 1958 Act of protection of monuments be relaxed
in the case of mosques? Will it not open up the
floodgates for similar relaxations for a whole lot of
other protected monuments? Having once made an exception
in the case of one community, can the state afford to
refuse it to others?
And what would happen in cases where there is a dispute
with two or more communities claiming the right to pray
at the same site.
The only solution to this issue is to follow the law
uniformly for all and not to make any exception. Once
this Pandora’s box is opened, the strange creatures that
crawl out will be impossible to put back.
There is another dimension that you need to consider.
What would happen to these monuments if they were ever
to be handed over to those who are currently wanting to
use them as places of worship or to those who might
raise similar demands for other protected monuments in
There are enough examples to demonstrate the excesses
that would be visited upon these protected monuments
once they were opened for prayer/worship. Look at the
14th century Kalan Masjid in the Turkman Gate area.
Considered to be one of the most remarkable mosques to
be built in Delhi, it has been painted and repainted so
many times that it now looks more like a multi layered
cake than a mosque. Go and see the arches of the Jama
Masjid at Firozshah Kotla that have been painted a
horrible shade of green. The arches at the Nizam-ud-Din
Jama Masjid have met a fate which is not less
heartbreaking — aluminium frames and glass panes have
been fixed into the arches of this 14th century mosque.
Do not for a moment think that this strange rush to
renovate and recast structures, to an extent that they
become unrecognisable from what they were, is confined
to the buildings mentioned. Far from it.
Go and see what has been done to Kalkaji Mandir and the
temple of Yog Maya and you will see what I am talking
Our heritage is too precious to be handed over to those
who claim to speak for entire faiths and entire
communities. The protection of our heritage is a secular
act and should be left under the care of secular
institutions created for this purpose.
(Sohail Hashmi is a Delhi-based writer, film-maker
and history buff.)
The Hindu, 1st September 2012
Humayun’s Tomb back
Almost a century-old publication of the Archaeological
Survey of India describes the wall and dome of the
central dome chamber of the 17th-century Humayun's Tomb
covered with striking gilding and tile work. Later on,
seepage inside this main dome would prompt ASI to apply
cement and whitewash on the tile work. The historic
chamber is now being carefully restored in a unique
conservation project at the Mughal monument, which will
be opened for the public on Saturday after being closed
for two months.
In partnership with ASI and with co-funding from the Sir
Dorabji Tata Trust, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture
(AKTC) has been carrying out a major conservation
project at Humayun's Tomb since 2008, and has now
shifted its focus to the main hall chambers. "The 1919
ASI publication outlines the dome and chamber walls of
the central tomb with intrinsic tile work. But in 1955,
the central chamber had to be plastered with cement and
whitewash due to seepage. This not only spoilt the
historic character of the tomb but also lent a dark and
dingy appearance to the tomb chamber,'' said Ratish
Nanda, project director of AKTC.
Sources said though AKTC has carried out significant
research, experimentation and training in making of
Mughal handmade tiles, with no evidence of tile patterns
on the interior wall, the surfaces tiles could no longer
be restored to the inner tomb chamber. "Since June 2012,
trained craftsmen have been carefully scrapping off
whitewash and cement layers in the eighty-feet high dome
chamber, which for two months has been covered with a
web of scaffolding with craftsmen perched everywhere,"
said an AKTC official. Repairs using lime plaster have
also been carried out wherever required. "The material
has been covered with a 1mm thin layer of almost pure
lime plaster mixed with marble dust and egg white — used
by the Mughal builders to mimic the more expensive
marble," said Rajpal Singh, chief engineer of AKTC.
ASI officials added that during the removal of cement
layers, Mughal-era red polychromy was discovered in the
webbing of the arches; it is still found in the
spandrels of the arches and is being carefully restored.
"The red and white contrast of the exterior of the tomb
is effectively used also in the interior spaces,'' said
an AKTC official. P B S Sengar, director (monuments)
ASI, added: "The restoration of lime plaster to the
interior surface will not only significantly ensure
long-term preservation of the structure but also lighten
up in the interior space.''
The tomb was not the only monument to decay for want of
conservation in the earlier years. Experts say the
awareness of use of historic materials was so poor in
the 20th century, that cement has been similarly applied
to almost all historic buildings of Delhi. Conservation
works at Humayun's Tomb is likely to be completed by
year-end, and the team is researching for an appropriate
lamp in the central chamber as is thought to have been
The Times of India, 1st September 2012
When it's pug
marks versus footsteps
Around 60 tigers have been killed, hundreds of
villagers’ lives lost in human-tiger conflicts in Terai
region of Uttar Pradesh
It is a commonly held belief in the Terai region of
Uttar Pradesh that no tiger meets a natural death in the
jungles or in the farmlands situated on the fringes of
the forests. Human beings are instrumental in the
unnatural deaths of the feline which roams the Dudhwa
Tiger Reserve, the proposed Pilibhit Tiger Reserve,
Kishanpur Sanctuary and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary
in Lakhimpur Kheri, Pilibhit, Shahjahanpur and Bahraich
districts respectively in the Terai region bordering
But then, what could be the cause for provocation on
both sides of the human-animal divide? For the wild cat
to attack and even kill humans, and the villagers to
respond with an equally deadly effect? For the
villagers, tiger conservation serves no meaning as they
are out to avenge the killing of their livestock, or
their near and dear ones by the big cats. Four tiger
deaths in Haripur forest range in Pilibhit between May
and August, the killing of a leopard in Katarniaghat in
July and the recent fatal attack on a village woman
highlight the age-old human-animal conflict in the
region, notwithstanding the efforts and claims by the
forest authorities to contain the incidents.
In a nutshell, efforts have been lacking on the part of
the Uttar Pradesh government and the forest authorities
to create awareness among the villagers, or to involve
NGOs, or to increase the compensation for humans killed
by the feline (in U.P., it is Rs. one lakh as compared
to Rs. 5 lakh in Karnataka) in a bid to minimise
incidents of human-animal conflict. More importantly,
they have failed to address the main issues behind the
conflict. Consider the recent incidents:
1. A full-grown male tiger was found poisoned to death
in the Haripur forest range on May 24. The next day,
another tiger was found killed in a similar manner.
2. A stray leopard was beaten to death in Kakraha forest
range in Katarniaghat on May 21.
3. A third tiger death was reported in July, but the
cause of death could not be ascertained by the forest
4. In July again, a two-and- a-half year old male tiger
attacked a person working in his field in Pilbhit’s
5. In August, a carcass of an adult tiger was found
floating in a canal in Pilibhit district and was assumed
to have been poisoned.
6. Recently, a tiger killed a human being with the
forest officials quick to describe the incident as
“The first two tiger deaths in May were retaliatory as
the villagers were out to avenge the killing of their
livestock and mixed a poisonous substance with the
carcass of cattle, which was used as a bait," said Rupak
De, the Chief Wildlife Warden of Uttar Pradesh.
But even as it is difficult to curb the predatory nature
of the tiger, human behaviour can also lead to the big
cat’s provocation. “Humans tend to provoke the beast
with their foolhardy behaviour,” says wildlife
enthusiast Rahul Shukla, who runs an orientation
programme ‘Saving Men from Tigers’ to educate villagers
in the Terai region (Kheri, hahjahanpur and Pilbhit
districts). He started this voluntary programme in the
1980s in the memory of his two maternal uncles who were
killed by a tiger in Lakhimpur Kheri district in 1966.
An ‘ecological disaster’ struck in and around Dudhwa
National Park and Tiger Reserve in the 1980s when an
estimated 400 people were killed by around 30 rampaging
tigers. In 1986, 14 tiger carcasses were found around
the sugarcane fields around Dudhwa — mostly killed due
to poisoning. The tigers ate cattle carcasses laced with
pesticides BG Gamma, Parardon and Lintoff. The same
pesticides continue to be used till today to kill
tigers. Till date, it has been estimated, around 60
tigers have been killed and hundreds of villagers’ lives
lost in human-tiger conflicts in the Terai region.
“The main reason for the recurrence of the human-tiger
conflict is that there are no corridors in Dudhwa
circle, Kishenpur, Katarniaghat and Pilbhit forests.
Instead there are large fragmented forests housing the
wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves interspersed
with farmlands. The sugarcane farms served as a conflict
zone for man and tiger,” says Dr. Shukla, who is a
former Honorary Wildlife Warden of Kishenpur sanctuary
and Dudhwa National Park.
So, what compelled the big cat to venture out of their
natural habitat and prey upon livestock as was the case
with a tiger from Pilbhit forests that strayed right
till Rehmankheda on the outskirts of Lucknow in March
this year and roamed around the area for two months
before being caged and sent to Dudhwa. It did not attack
human beings but only killed cattle.
“Depletion of prey base in their natural habitat is one
of the main ‘push factors’ for the tigers to move out in
the adjoining sugarcane fields in search of food,” says
Dr. Shukla. Large-scale poaching of its chief prey base
comprising chital, sambhar, wild boar, black buck and
swamp deer, degeneration of forests, lack of buffer
zones, presence of stray dogs and cattle in the fringe
areas and human inroads into tiger habitats are primary
reasons for the conflict.
While forest authorities have brushed aside the four
tiger deaths in Pilbhit as “recent aberrations”,
fortunately the courts have been strict in dealing with
cases of tiger killings. In June, the Pilibhit District
Judge turned down the bail plea of two persons who had
poisoned the tigers in the Haripur range. The Chief
Judicial Magistrate of Bahraich had earlier denied bail
to two persons who had beaten a stray leopard to death
The Hindu, 2nd September 2012
Housing many peerless terracotta temples, Ghurisha in
West Bengal has great potential of being a tourist
destination for those who love to revisit history,
writes Somen Sengupta
In the chronology of Bengal’s terracotta temples,
Birbhum scores almost equal to Bankura as far as the
number of temples and the quality of artifacts are
concerned. There is a zone in Birbhum where at least a
few terracotta temples exist in every village. Some of
them are simply extraordinary in size and shape.
Although many of them are in dilapidation, they all are
pregnant with many unknown pieces of history.
One such village is Ghurisha. Falling under the police
station of Ilambazar, a small town which also houses
several peerless terracotta temples, Ghurisha has
enormous potential of being a tourist destination for
those we love to revisit history. The village has a rich
past. Once it was a centre of Sanskrit learning.
However, one will be disappointed if he goes to find any
such thing today. Instead he can take a terracotta tour.
Start your journey with the bigger temple, locally known
as the Gopal Lakshmi Janardhan temple. This is a massive
navaratna temple of the Bengal school standing like a
silent sentinel of a bygone era with its captivating
artifacts embellished on its walls. Every ratna (tower)
was once decorated with a metal chakra but now five of
them have vanished.
Not much is known about its founder except that some
Khetramohan Dutta, a trader who made money by doing
trading with Europeans from Ilambazar, was its founder.
The temple was founded in 1739 AD. The year sparks
curiosity among historians because it was the time when
this part of Bengal was ravaged by Maratha invaders from
the west. In such a tumultuous period, a man showing off
his wealth is little unusual.
The first thing that catches attention is the size and
shape of its panels. Based on a plinth height of 3.6 ft,
this 60-ft high temple has both covered and open
verandah. Faced on the east like most of the Hindu
temples, this piece of architecture invades your mind
the moment you stand in front of it. There is a platform
inside the garbhagriha. Here several icons are
worshiped. These include anashtadhatu-made Gopaljee, two
female goddesses called Tripurasundari and Mangalchandi,
and one image of Lord Ganesh. The large size terracotta
panels that decorate the front side of the temple are
all blending of Shakta and Vaishnava cult.
Panel-curved statues of Sri Chaitanya and Nityananda
performing religious dance and song with their followers
are seen in the front. Such a prominent statue of Sri
Chaitanya on the front side of the temple is rare in
Bengal. Even the Durga motif found on the right corner
is exceptional. The panel is big and here we find her
not with her children but with two female companions —
one on each side. They are known as Jaya and Vijaya.
On the right there is a sleeping shiva and from his
navel the booming lotus goes upwards. On the lotus a
female god is placed and there are many subordinate
statues around. Many of them have weapons in hand. We
can figure out a Vishnu with four hands in that group.
Some of the most interesting panels are on the right
side of the front wall. Although the upper rows have
vanished long ago, the remaining rows show us the social
side of that era. They capture a domestic scene where a
male is found to abuse a female. Apart from that, Radha,
Krishna and girls gossiping are curved in the section.
No one can ignore a panel showcasing Rama and Sita in
their royal chamber surrounded with subjects. This row
is on the top of the front wall. The back side of the
temple is bare and left with no terracotta panel.
In the same village there is another gem. It is small
yet captivating temple of Lord Rama. The foundation
stone tablet is still there. From this one can say that
one Raghunath Bhattacharya built this Charchala temple
in 1633 AD as a token of respect to Rama. Charchala is a
typical Bengal school temple that capsulate hut-shaped
mudhouse with slopped roof.
This temple is fascinating in its richness and detailing
of terracotta figures. Embellished with terracotta
panels covering loads of Hindu mythology and epics, it
is surprising to find no European figure or scene from
social lives. A legend that famously circulates among
the locals says that there was a gold image of Lord Rama
in the temple, but was robbed by Maratha invaders
Bhaskar Pandit and Raghuji Roa Bhonsle in the mid-18th
century. Although it is a historical fact that the
Marathas caused an unprecedented rapacity and loot in
this part of Bengal in that period, but no historical
data is available to support the legend. Interestingly,
the story charges the Marathas, who were ardent Hindus,
of looting a Hindu temple!
The 30-ft high temple is faced east-ward and there are
stairs that go down from door to plinth. The verandah is
not covered and it runs all four sides of the plinth
which is nearly four-ft high from the ground level. Like
many other temples of Bengal, this too dons war
sequences from theRamayana where we find Lord Rama
pointing his arrow towards Ravana. The front wall on the
east side contains a folded-hand Garuda. One can also
see the three avatars of Vishnu — Narasimha, Rama and
Vishnu himself. One can also find the astonishing
details of Krishna’s leelawith gopis. Next to that are
intimate physical postures of loving couples. These
figures are mostly on the back side of the temple and
are quite vivid in details.
If your eyes are meant for terracotta and you are aware
of Hindu mythology, you can also find Mahishasurmardini,
Lakshmi, Balarama, Anantashayane Vishni, Baraha, Kurmi,
and many more.
This temple was first renovated in 1964 by Rammoy
Panchatirtha. Today it is being looked after by a
Chowdhury family and the locals call it Chowdhury’s
family temple. Till now neither the Archaeological
Survey of India nor the State Archeology Department has
shown any interest to protect this temple. Although the
present condition is satisfactory, but mindless
construction around the temple is a potential threat to
Spend few hours in this dusty village and go home
enriched with something that you can cherish forever.
The Pioneer, 2nd September 2012
The Narmada fossil
When geologist Arun Sonakia accidentally discovered
South Asia’s first ancient human remains at a place
called Hathnora in the Narmada Valley one winter 30
years ago, the region came under the trowels and maps of
archaeologists and paleo-anthropologists worldwide.
Three decades on, Indian and international scientists
have turned up treasures that are slowly adding pieces
to the puzzle—how and when did early humans come here,
what were they like, and what other creatures did they
share these lands with?
No other ancient fossil has been dug up yet, at least
not one that can be definitively identified as a
specific early human species, but scores of what appear
to be stone tools used by these missing people have
certainly begun to tell us more about them, as have the
animal fossils, which range from bones of an almost
complete Stegodon, the modern elephants’ extinct cousin,
to ancient wild-dogs and wild-boars, cousins of the
modern horse, hippopotamuses and ostrich eggshells.
The stone tools are as old as 800,000 years and as young
as 10,000 years, spanning a large swathe of the
stone-age. While some believe modern homo sapiens
entered the Indian sub-continent from Africa through
West Asia between 70,000 to 50,000 years ago, the
archaeological site at Attirampakkam, near Chennai, is
believed to be between 1.07 and 1.5 million years old
and was possibly home to the pre-modern species, homo
So what happened in the hundreds of thousands of years
that fall between these time-lines—who lived in the
landmass between these regions, and was the Deccan
region a passage from north to south?
As of now, archaeologists agree they need to dig deeper
and wider in the Narmada Valley, and a team has been
formed to do that, involving experts from the Stone Age
Institute in the US, M S University in Vadodara, and
Panjab University in Chandigarh and the Deccan College
“In India, we do not know when modern human groups first
arrived, how many dispersals there were and if they
inter-bred with the pre-existing hominin groups in the
region. We don’t even know if there were any other
hominin species in India when modern humans arrived
there. But it is also possible that within the last two
million years, India was home to one or more unknown
hominin species, fossils of which we have not yet
discovered,” said Parth Chauhan, a researcher with the
Stone Age Institute and Department of Anthropology
(Indiana University) in Indiana, USA, who presented some
recent findings at the IIT-Gandhinagar this week.
Chauhan was one of eight scientists to co-author a 2009
paper in the Journal of Human Evolution that listed a
wide array of discoveries such as stone blades, flakes,
choppers, hand-axes, picks, cleavers, micro-fossils and
other fossil teeth and bones. Over two years of combing
the Narmada Valley, the team found stone tools in ten
places. Considering the mixed nature of archaeological
and fossil material dated from the deposits, the team’s
preliminary analysis suggests the “Narmada man” may be
much younger than 250,000 years as earlier believed,
maybe between 160,000 years and 50,000 years old.
Meanwhile, findings at another site called Dhansi, about
three kilometres south of Hathnora and separated by the
Narmada River, have been significant. No Acheulian
elements have been found there so far, and whatever
stone artifacts have been found there are simple flakes,
cores and a chopper. These resemble those of Oldowan,
the earliest of all stone tool technologies—existence of
which has never been “properly proven” in South Asia.
Based on the previously-dated age of the sediments here,
the artifacts are at least 780,000 years old but require
further scientific verification, the researchers say.
Until younger implements are found, the present lot
seems to suggest non-modern humans indeed lived there as
long as two million years back. Tentative archaeological
evidence from northern Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s
also suggests this.
The Indian Express, 2nd September 2012
Calligraphy comes to the rescue of dying arts and
Bahadur Chitrakar has been painting all his life. Some
might say it’s in his blood, considering his father,
grandfather and all those before them were Kalighat
painters. But to Chitrakar — a caste name derived from
his profession — it’s a parampara (tradition) that must
be ¬carried on.
Until a year ago, the 38-year-old native of Naya, a
village of chitrakars in West Midnapore district of West
Bengal, wasn’t sure how long he would be able to sustain
living on the art form. With no education and only his
art to keep him going, Chitrakar would travel across
West Midnapore with his paintings — depicting folk tales
and scenes from the Ramayana — and set up pop-up shops.
He’d also sing the stories to regale his audience, who
would enjoy his acts, but wouldn’t buy his paintings.
“They would give us rice, grains and roti for our
efforts. We would pack up and return home,” he says.
Just when Chitrakar was about to give up, he came in
touch with Jaya Jaitley, politician-social activist when
she visited his village last year. Along with 58 other
karigars — craftsmen, artisans and weavers — from 16
states and speaking 14 different languages, Chitrakar
was brought under the fold of Akshara, Jaitley’s project
that promotes indigenous arts and crafts by teaching
regional languages at the workshops it holds in
different cities. It introduces the artists to different
calligraphic styles of writing, instilling “a level of
pride” in their regional languages, and in the process,
helps promote their crafts, says Jaitley. She began
Akshara in 2007; three years later, the first exhibition
of the artisans’ works was held in Chennai. Now they are
gearing up for their second, but much larger, exhibition
— over 100 works of the artisans, with 21 different
skills, will be displayed at the India Habitat Centre in
Delhi between September 16 and 21.
Artists with Akshara incorporate calligraphic elements
into their art. Chitrakar, for example, has learned to
read and write Bengali, and uses the written word to
narrate his paintings. After attending a six-day
workshop by Akshara in Delhi last October, the painter
has written and illustrated a children’s storybook
called Amar Ma (My Mother), which has been translated
into eight languages by Pratham Books. The original
hand-bound copy of the book will be on display at the
exhibition in Delhi. This has uplifted Chitrakar’s
morale. “I want to do more storybooks and open a museum
of Kalighat paintings for the world to see,” he says.
It’s interesting how words are helping dying art forms.
Like the tradition of weaving the Hindi words “sada
saubhagyavati” on the borders of bridal saris in
Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh. Over the years, the weavers
replaced the Hindi words with the English “Welcome”.
With Akshara, Jaitley hopes to reverse the trend. “Many
craftspeople believe they are uneducated because they
don’t know English or can’t operate a computer. We want
them to appreciate literacy but not at the cost of their
skill,” she says.
Jaitley only guides the artists; they are free to use
their interpretations of calligraphy in their works.
Maqbool, a weaver from Varanasi, has woven Urdu words he
identifies with the most — kapda (cloth), karagha
(loom), kaagaz (paper) and kalam (pen) — in the form of
birds on the pallus of Benarasi saris.
Ghaziabad’s Arshad Kafeel, who is a wood-carver, like
his father, could read Urdu, but not write it. Ever
since he learned calligraphy, he has been able to
incorporate it into his works. One of the most stunning
items in his collection is a wall hanging for doors that
reads “Aana tera mubarak, tashreef laane waale” (Your
presence is good fortune). The words are etched into the
body of a peacock. “I never thought that words could add
so much depth to my work,” says Kafeel, who has now
started using Urdu calligraphy on coasters, lamps and
paperweights. “I started with small words, and have now
progressed to bigger words, even poetry. My favourite
phrase I have written is ‘Taleem ne insaan ko farsh se
arsh tak uthaya hai’ (Education has lifted a human being
from the floor to the sky),” he says.
Jaitley hopes to get in touch with UNESCO, which is
working towards preserving languages around the world,
for Akshara. This project will also help these artists
sell their works at fair prices — based on the amount of
time, effort, materials and skill spent — a tree-of-life
wall hanging in Kalamkari, for example, could cost Rs
60,000 whereas a cupboard depicting Kawad-style
paintings from Rajasthan, could cost up to a lakh.
The works on display in Delhi won’t be for sale, but the
exhibition will serve as a medium for those interested
in getting in touch with the artists. Jaitley also hopes
that the works will find a larger audience through
commercial sources. “We want Akshara to have a spill-off
effect,” she says. “Hopefully, designers will pick up on
the idea and help promote it commercially to more
The Indian Express, 2nd September 2012
Fading from the skies
The vulture’s decline in India — due to a
pain-relieving drug — has been well documented. But what
about the other birds that also seem to be on the way
In the Ramayan, it was Jatayu’s excellent vision that
helped Ram in his search for Sita. Today, however, the
vulture population is the victim of short-sightedness,
evident in policies that are destroying delicate
eco-systems. The use of the pain relieving drug,
Diclofenac, in cattle led to about 97 per cent of
vultures — that fed on the cattle carcasses — being
wiped out within a decade. The drug was then banned.
But it’s not just the vultures that are fading from our
skies. Many birds, once a common sight, are rarely seen
any more: eagles, magpies, kingfishers, owls, sparrows
and many more.
O.W. Holmes said, “A goose flies by a chart the Royal
Geographic Society could not improve.” If we acknowledge
the skill and wisdom of birds, we can solve many a
Back to Nature
Most of us want to live healthy and eat organic. But
given that our water, food and air have been poisoned,
given the lack of pesticide-free organic food and a
sleeping political will, is this even a distant
possibility? Perhaps it is. Only if a concerted effort
is made to go back to Nature. Some people use creative
methods to provide pesticide-free farming and creatures
like birds use their natural instincts to provide us
with organic food. Let’s see how.
The most prolific breeders in Nature are insects. Over
3000 species of insects are found in our country and
more are being discovered every other day.
Take a pair of chinch bugs and breed it. In a single
season, it develops 13 generations. In the 12th
generation, if we can keep them in a single line —
assuming there are 10 chinch bugs to an inch — this line
would be so long that starting from one end it would
take 2500 years to reach the other end, assuming we
travel at the speed of light.
A pair of cabbage aphid can, in a single season, become
so numerous that their weight would be three times the
weight of all human beings on earth put together. In a
3300-acre farm in South Africa, locusts laid eggs.
Almost all the eggs were dug out; they weighed 14
tonnes! If they’d hatched, there would’ve been 1250
How birds help
Insects do enormous damage to vegetation. Food eaten by
a single silkworm in 56 days is 86,000 times that of its
weight at hatching. Some flesh-eating larvae consume 200
times their own weight in 24 hours. That is the power of
In Nature, several factors work together to check the
growth of insects. The major factor is birds. Most birds
are insectivores and prey on insects, their eggs and
larvae. A pair of starlings was observed to bring food
like caterpillars, grasshoppers to their nestlings 370
times a day. House sparrows bring food to their
nestlings 260 times a day.
A German ornithologist estimated that single pair of
tits and their progeny destroyed 120 million eggs of
insects a year. An owl hunts 2-3 rats in a single night.
A pair of house rats, bred in ideal conditions, can
increase to 880 rats a year. Scavenging birds like
vultures clean the environment by devouring dead
Birds are equally important for pollination of flowers
and seed dispersal. The dodo — the modern icon of
extinction — was called a simpleton as it had no fear of
humans. It approached humans too closely and finally
died out due to excessive hunting.
With the disappearance of the bird, an indigenous tree
also died out. The connection: the dodo ate the fruits
and the hard shell dissolved in its gizzard. The seeds
were then passed out along with its excreta and sprouted
where they fell. Without the dodo, the shell of the
fruit could not be removed and germination was not
The song and flight of birds has inspired melodies,
literature, science and inventions. Birds inspired men
to fly. After World War II, when humans started to build
wide-bodied airplanes, they were unable to land them on
a short runway. They thought of vultures. Despite their
heavy bodies, they land on a small space and take off
just in a few steps. Scientists studied their landing
and take-off in slow motion and learnt to build
Overall, the population of birds in India is declining.
There are several causes for this: the most important
being destruction of habitat and nesting site.
Commercial exploitation of wetlands has resulted in the
decline of cormorants, pelicans, darters and other birds
that depend solely upon fish.
The collection of wild fruits and berries for human
consumption has caused scarcity of food for frugivorous
birds. The graminivorous birds are lethally affected by
Game birds are hunted down for meat. Some migratory
birds, which come to the Indian subcontinent, are hunted
en route in countries where hunting is permitted. The
disconnect with and apathy towards birds is so huge
that, leave aside identifying common birds like house
sparrows, we don’t even sense their decline. Neither the
education system nor the government is taking this
A swimming pool is no substitute for a lake nor is an
umbrella for a tree. An air-conditioner cannot replace
the cool evening breeze just as a pesticide cannot
replace its natural counterparts. Birds check the growth
of insects and rodents on a massive scale. The native
insectivorous birds of each region can be identified and
bred around farmlands across India. This will not only
serve as a powerful tool to control pests and reduce the
use of pesticides, but also help birds flourish.
They say that birds will be happier without humans on
earth, but humans cannot survive without birds.
The Hindu, 2nd September 2012
A queen’s magnificent
The rags-to-riches story of Begum Samru—from a nautch
girl in Delhi to Sardhana’s warrior queen—may soon be
the subject of a film by Tigmanshu Dhulia of Paan Singh
Tomar fame. Regarded as the only Roman Catholic ruler in
Indian history, Begum Samru is almost forgotten in Delhi
where she wielded significant political and social
influence in the late 18th and early 19th centuries
during the twilight years of Mughal rule.
The Begum’s house in Chandni Chowk has turned into a
bank and its adjoining area is the electrical goods
market, Bhagirath Palace. Her palace in Gurgaon, built
in Islamic style—she was born a Muslim—had survived in a
ruined state till about 2008. It has since disappeared,
swallowed up by gradual encroachment.
But in Sardhana, once her fiefdom, the Begum’s presence
can be felt with almost all the buildings she built not
just intact but also reasonably well-maintained. As one
takes the bypass from Meerut to cross the Ganga canal,
the steeples of her church come into view. A tarred road
lined with mango groves and sugarcane fields leads to
the shrine, the Basilica of our Lady of Graces.
Father George of Sardhana says the Begum’s palaces here
have been converted into schools, college and hostels.
The church is at the centre of a fair that takes place
Built in the 19th century, the church had cost her Rs 4
lakh. It was a small amount for Begum Farzana Joana, who
became the head of the prosperous Sardhana principality
and that of a mercenary army after the death of her
husband, Walter Reinhardt Sombre, a native of Luxemburg.
Samru, as Sombre’s name came to be pronounced, came to
India to join the French frigate only to change his
loyalties to the British when he saw the French losing.
After Sombre’s death, his Begum commanded his troop of
80-plus European officers and 4,000-odd soldiers. She
was regarded as a benevolent ruler and a capable leader
on the battlefield. An 1815 water colour painting by one
Sita Ram, who accompanied Lord Hastings, the Governor
General of Bengal, to a battlefield, depicts her army
camp at Narela in Delhi.
In the church is a letter the Begum is known to have
written to Pope Gregory XVI: “I am proud to say it (the
church) is acknowledged to be the finest, without
exception, in India.”
The exquisite semi-precious stone work, life-like
statues, verandah of 18 Greek columns, elevated altar
with stained glass inner dome, two spires and three
Roman domes, all add to its grandeur. She wanted it to
be similar to the grand churches of Rome and employed an
Italian architect, Anthony Reghelini, who took 11 years
to complete it. An 18-ft high edifice on the left of the
sanctuary was carved by Italian sculptor Adamo Tadolini
and sent by ship from Italy to Kolkata, transported on
boats up the Ganga and to the church on bullock carts.
Built on the tomb of the Begum who died in 1836 at the
age of 85, it depicts the queen sitting on the throne,
smoking hookah, with Europeans and Indians in audience.
In her right hand she holds the scroll from Emperor Shah
Alam II bestowing upon her the fiefdom of Sardhana after
the death of her husband. Standing below, to her right,
is her adopted son David Dyce Sombre. To her left is
minister Diwan Rae Singh, Motilal Nehru’s
greatgrandfather. The inscription is in Arabic, Latin
Father George says the church was built to ensure
Begum’s name remains permanently etched in history.
However, she may not have imagined that the shrine she
dedicated to Mother Mary would one day become one of the
19 minor basilicas of India. Her church was bestowed the
status in 1961 by Pope John XXIII and is the only minor
basilica in North India.
The Indian Express, 2nd September 2012
Bamboo trade may
open up for tribals
Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan has overruled
objections from her officials to break the forest
bureaucracy's monopoly over the annual Rs 10,000 crore
bamboo trade and declared it a 'minor forest produce'
instead of a 'tree' under forest laws.
This will allow tribals, instead of forest departments,
to harvest and auction bamboo, which is one of the major
raw materials for the paper, pulp and board industry,
from their community and private lands.
The forest ministry had for long classified bamboo as a
tree despite its scientific description as a grass. The
classification ensured that under the Indian Forest Act,
1927, fallen bamboo got classified as timber and
remained under the firm control of the forest
bureaucracy which harvested and sold it to the industry.
The tribals got a pittance on some occasions even as the
industry got bamboo at low rates over long lease
With the introduction of UPA's flagship Forest Rights
Act, the tribal affairs ministry pushed to get the fast
growing species of grass out of the control of forest
officials with the law providing that the right to
harvest minor forest produce (products not classified as
timber) grown on traditional forest lands would lie with
But the forest bureaucracy refused to alter its
regulations and classification of the species and put up
hurdles in various states based on the Indian Forest Act
and its existing rules.
Previous environment minister Jairam Ramesh too pushed
the case for relaxing the archaic and incorrect
classification of bamboo and easing the norms to ensure
that tribals got their rights under FRA but met with
only partial success.
Earlier this year, the tribal affairs ministry secured
Cabinet nod to offer minimum support price for minor
forest produce, including bamboo, to tribals through a
new scheme along the lines of the support prices
provided to farmers for major crops. The prime minister
announced the scheme in his August 15 speech as a
prominent part of UPA-2's pro-tribal measures.
But the tribal affairs ministry, in the last stages of
transferring control of bamboo to tribals and finalizing
the scheme, got a jolt when senior environment ministry
officials stuck to the line that bamboo was a 'tree'
under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and could not be
harvested, transported or sold by tribals.
Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan then stepped in
and overruled her officials and put on record that
bamboo would be classified as a minor forest produce
under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 as well.
The decision will pave the way for the tribal affairs
ministry to launch the scheme though officials still
expect a lot of resistance from state forest officials
in handing over real control to the tribals. In some
states, forest officials have blocked tribals from
selling bamboo by using other regulations like working
plans for forestlands being amended to permit the
harvest. The tribal affairs ministry believes once the
scheme is launched, the forest bureaucracy will have to
fall in line.
The Times of India, 3rd September 2012
Recently named Delhi’s ‘state bird’, the house
sparrow needs our care R. Dhanya and P.A. Azeez
House sparrows are very intimately associated with our
day-to-day life. All of us may have sweet childhood
memories linked to these chirruping beauties.
Undoubtedly, we still expect these chirpings from our
courtyards; but in vain. Our high-profile lifestyle,
sophisticated buildings, exotic gardens and pollution
made the birds’ life complicated and failed to offer
them a safe haven. But, unfortunately, it is not just
sparrows that are declining; several other erstwhile
common species show the same trend and we need to
The House Sparrow (Passer Domesticus) is a brown bird
about 15cm long and very common in human-made habitats.
They usually feed on grains, seeds, and lately more on
garbage and refuse from eateries. But the nestlings are
fed mostly animal matter, especially insects. Usually,
these birds make their nests with grass and suchlike
they find nearby, in built-up structures.
A decline in the house sparrow population across the
world has been reported for the past few decades.
Long-term monitoring of the sparrow population is
conducted by several organisations and individual
researchers. In India too, the phenomenon is reported,
although information is anecdotal and requires further
Several reasons seem likely. The suspected culprits are
lack of animal matter in the diet, lack of nest sites,
electromagnetic radiation, increased traffic, pollution,
chemicals applied on seeds and cereals and perhaps
disease. These factors would vary from place to place.
Most of these causes are aftermaths of urbanisation,
changing lifestyles and architecture. Rapid construction
activity results in local habitat destruction.
Similarly, urban gardens are being dominated by exotic
plants which may not be very hospitable to the native
insect fauna. Moreover, most urban gardens are manicured
and groomed regularly, using agrochemicals. Hence, most
such gardens would offer no ecosystem to sparrows. The
sparrow population is positively correlated with the
number of weedy patches, as they offer wild seeds or
grains. The spillover of grains from provision stores
was an important food source. Malls and departmental
stores, with neatly packed (in plastic) grocery items,
would also deprive these creatures of food. Competition
with other bird species such as House Crow, Common Myna
and Rock Pigeon can also be a reason for food shortage.
Unlike these species, sparrows are apparently much less
adept in adapting to rapid changes of urbanisation.
Architecture plays an important role. The mode of
construction draped in thick and largely reflective
glass repulsive to birds wouldn’t leave any room for
constructing nests. The tiled ground outside the
buildings would not leave a place for the sparrows to
take a mud bath. Earlier, rolling shutter-hoods served
as an important nest location. But shops in urban areas
nowadays have mostly concealed shutter-hoods, which pose
a risk for the birds.
In Spain, Everaert and Balmori conducted experiments on
the impact of electromagnetic radiation from mobile
masts. They concluded that it has a negative impact on
bird population. Urbanisation involves homogenisation of
landscape and formation of urban heat islands that could
also be possible reasons for the decline. However, such
causes need to be further explored. It seems the decline
of sparrows is because of the cumulative effect of
several factors largely associated with urbanisation,
which may be location-specific. During the initial
stages of human habitation the species actually
increases in numbers, while with higher-level
urbanisation it declines.
Being a bird closely associated with human habitations,
measures for the sparrow’s conservation should start
with citizens. It would be appropriate to maintain
bigger public spaces, water baths, nest boxes, tracks
and trails, and perhaps leave sufficient living space
for such beautiful denizens of human habitations. In
town planning, planting native flora in parks, on
roadsides and in government complexes should be
Azeez is officiating director and Dhanya a research
fellow, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural
The Indian Express, 3rd September 201
Choked Old Delhi to
get three new parking lots
The North Municipal Corporation will build three new
multilevel underground parking lots in the Walled City
area, which has some of the most congested and busiest
markets in the Capital.
Church Mission Road will get a parking lot adjacent to
the existing facility in Fatehpuri. “The corporation has
a 6,000-square-metre plot, currently used for surface
parking. A multilevel parking with space for 2,000 cars
will be built there,” a civic agency official said.
“This place was chosen because of its proximity to
Chandni Chowk, Khari Baoli, Lajpat Rai Market and
Bhagirath Palace. Thousands of traders and consumers
visit these markets every day, but find no space to park
their cars. This is one of the most commercialised parts
of Delhi,” he said.
The second parking lot will be built in Dangal Maidan,
500 metres from the proposed Church Mission Road
This underground multilevel parking lot, to be built on
metres of space, will be able to accommodate 2,000 cars.
The third one at a place close to Ramlila Maidan between
Asaf Ali Road and Jawahar Lal Nehru Marg will be the
largest - sitting on an area of 8,000 square metres.
“We proposed these parking lots to solve problems that
traders and people visiting these markets face every
day. These will, hopefully, ease the traffic congestions
in the area. Narrow roads and heavy volume of traffic in
these areas cause a lot of problems for the residents,”
Ravinder Gupta, chairman of the corporation’s works
“The parking lots will have two underground wings and
three above the surface,” he said.
The councillor said the parking space near Ramlila
Maidan would substantially cut down the chaos on the
nearby roads, witnessed during religious and political
events at the grounds.
“Moreover, those who visit Ramlila Maidan now park their
vehicles far away from the venue. The new parking lot
will help people overcome this problem,” he said.
The Indian Express, 3rd September 2012
Delhi’s last chance
to be a green city
The new areas of Delhi, categorized as 'urbanizable
areas' in Master Plan 2021, are mainly tracts of
farmland dotted with farmhouses. But now that they have
been opened up for urbanization, city-based urban
planners and architects want the government to take
steps before the developers grab the land and turn these
areas into another Gurgaon.
Planners see these areas as a "golden opportunity" to
place Delhi on the global list of eco-cities. The
opening-up of over 60,000 hectares for urbanization to
accommodate about seven million people can be a real
test for building an alternative city.
Urban planners insist on urbanizing these villages while
maintaining an ecological balance. They say that without
any guideline, real estate giants will raise huge
skyscrapers but with no security for water or power or
very less pedestrian space. There are reports of large
areas already being bought, leaving little time to make
interventions to design a better peripheral city.
Planners suggest that the Delhi government prepare a set
of guidelines that builders should abide by to create a
"It is a great opportunity to rectify what has gone
wrong. We are not talking about very expensive
technologies here. It may actually cost far less if
private and public developers adopt these technologies.
But once the city develops, there will not be any room
for change," says A G K Menon, architect, urban planner
and conservation consultant.
Planner and architect Vinod Gupta also stresses that
"The development of these fringe areas are the most
interesting aspect of Delhi today. Here we have an
opportunity to do what has not been done so far. We can
study the topography and create norms for builders that
will reduce the pressure on the environmental resources
quite a bit".
According to Menon, all buildings should compulsorily
develop rainwater harvesting structures in the building,
orient the buildings depending on the location and use
landscape to minimize energy consumption and ensure
optimum density of population in the new areas so that
the peripheral cities are less resource intensive.
"Rainwater harvesting has been made compulsory. But it
should be inbuilt in every new construction in the new
areas. Building materials are also important. Look at
Gurgaon, they have used so much glass when it doesn't
suit our environmental conditions at all. The guidelines
should specify eco-friendly building materials that
require less energy during construction and will help
reduce the cooling or air-conditioning load later," adds
Planners are also concerned about the optimum population
density. It should neither be low density, leading to
use of more resources for very few people, nor can it be
very high density as "we don't have the infrastructure
to support it. We need to know what is optimum", says
The director of Indian Institute of Human Settlements,
Aromar Revi, also bats for optimum density. "A core
principle of sustainable urban design is to plan and
incentivize condensed urbanism and contain sprawl. This
makes cities more livable because many parts are then
walkable, which reduces traffic. It also increases
access to jobs as poor people have to travel less, and
increases water and energy efficiency because these
services don't have to be delivered over long
distances." Revi also thinks many parts of core Delhi
are still low density. It will have an extensive Metro
network connecting most parts by 2016 "This will enable
people to use more public transport, leading to reduced
congestion, air pollution and GHG emissions," he says.
The Times of India, 3rd September 2012
Main entrance of
Jeypore king’s palace collapses
The brick and mortar structure supporting the main
wrought iron gate of the century-old Jeypore King’s
palace in Orissa collapsed on Sunday after being in a
dilapidated state for several years, the police said.
The Koraput district administration had recently
declared the main entrance as “unsafe” and advised the
people against passing through it, sub-divisional police
officer (SDPO), Jeypore, Utkal Das said. However, no one
was injured in the incident and steps were being taken
to clear the debris, he said.
The palace, built by King Rama Krushna Deb, is the pride
of the town and its main gate, a centre of attraction.
After abolition of the princely states by the
government, the royal family was unable to maintain the
structure properly. The only occupant in the sprawling
palace is Rani Rama Devi. The octogenarian queen’s other
surviving relations, including grand children, stay at
In 2011, after noticing that the condition of the main
entrance was in a bad shape, the Koraput district
administration had issued notice to demolish it, while
the remaining portions of the palace were said to be
safe, official sources said.
However, the Queen had assured that the entrance portion
would be repaired but the statusquo continued.
After the main entrance caved in on Sunday,
sub-collector Birendra Kerkera met the Queen and her
advocate and discussed as to what steps the royal family
was taking now.
Seeking intervention of the district administration in
the matter, the Queen gave it a free hand to take
necessary steps for restoring the entrance, Mr Kerkera
said. Mr Kerkera said personnel from Orissa Disaster
Rapid Action Force and the fire brigade were being
engaged to clear the remains of the structure.
The Deccan Chronicle, 3rd September 2012
Memories of the
Through the 1950s and 60s, Azad Hotel in Urdu
Bazaar was home to the most peculiar cast of characters
There was a rum place in the 1950s and 60s in Urdu
Bazaar called Azad Hotel where cranks and intellectuals
lived cheek by jowl with characters like the merry widow
of Najafgarh. A big contrast to her was Tyagiji, a wreck
of a man who was a Brahmin and occupied a room facing a
big pipal tree with in-transit Mullahs and Khojas from
Mumbai (headed by the glass-eyed qawwal, Firoz
Kanchwala) as neighbours. The hotel was run by a man
with multiple wives and a love for shayari.
Tyagiji did not mind eating mutton curry and chapatis
for dinner, served by the waiter Rais to him every
evening at 8 o’clock, after which, tired with the day’s
exertions, he went off to sleep and got up only in time
to attend the aarti at a temple in Esplanade Road. He
then came back for his breakfast of two slices of bread
and a cup of tea (served by Salamat) or, depending on
the money in his pocket, settled down at a dhaba in
Matia Mahal for nahari-roti. Thereafter he clutched an
old, rumpled bag under his arm and caught a bus to
Chanakyapuri, where he worked as translator in a western
Once he was asked by a young diplomat to translate Book
One of Milton’s Paradise Lost into Hindi. Tyagiji
took up the assignment in his usual nonchalant way but
as he proceeded with the work, found it difficult to
translate some passages of which he could not make head
or tail. Among these was Satan’s speech to his
fellow-fallen angels that had the famous line: “Better
to rule in hell than serve in heaven”. Tyagiji, his hair
tousled and a big frown on his face, went to the other
building of the hotel, adjacent to Jagat Cinema, and
sought out a trainee journalist, secretly in love with
the proprietor’s favourite daughter, who was quite
conversant with Milton and other English poets. The
youngster sat down and began explaining the difficult
passages to Tyagiji who had to hold several sittings
with him to get the hang of things. Even then it took
six months to complete the translation, with help from
other quarters too.
Next he was given Cleopatra, The Woman of
Passion, a novel by Henry Rider Haggard. Tyagiji did
not know a thing about Egyptian gods and goddesses and
here he was confronted by the history of Harmachis, son
of the High Priest, Amenemhat, with whom Cleopatra
hadfallen in love while Antony was away from the Queen
of Upper and Lower Egypt. Deities like Osiris, Isis,
Sethi and Ra and the underworld of Amentia and Abouthi
were quite alien to him. Since Tyagiji’s journalist
friend was leaving for his hometown for Christmas, he
introduced him to the European parish priest of St.
Mary’s Church, opposite Old Delhi Station, who had
earlier been posted in Cairo and was well versed in the
Classics. The old Italian father helped him along until
the friend returned and the novel was translated after
three months. It later turned out that the diplomat who
had assigned the work to Tyagiji did not really need the
translations. He just wanted to create work for the poor
man as there was not much else for him to do otherwise,
and that would have meant loss of his contract with the
Like Tyagiji, Sydney Bellety, an Anglo-Indian from
Kanpur, also stayed at the hotel. He used to be a good
boxer in school and, though forced to limp after a foot
injury, was still good enough to teach two sons of the
hotel owner to box as they were street hectors and in
sore need of the art of self-defence. Bellety had to tie
up their feet sometimes so that they did not run away
after getting a few punches from him. “Stand up and face
it like a man or you will not be able to protect
yourself”, he would shout in English and then repeat the
same in broken Hindi.
Then there was a dimpled peacock dance artiste, Shanta
Rani, who lived with her lanky Zamindar companion Latif
Mian and nursed a grudge against sexy vocalist Naseem
Bano, occupant of Room No. 4. Khan Sahib, who hailed
from Saharanpur, would sometimes peep at her while she
was changing costume for a performance. After losing his
job as manager of an oil mill in Nuh tehsil, he decided
to stay at the hotel and work as supplier of wines to
hotels in South Delhi. Khan Sahib was very fond of
fishing and the lovey-dovey singing duo of Anwar
Sultana, holed up in Room No. 3. He was also on very
good terms with Tyagiji who, like him, used to be
reprimanded every month by the hotel owner for not
paying his bills. Once Khan Sahib caught a big Rohu and
presented the fish to Afzal Mian, which earned him a
week’s reprieve. A sultry girl from a stranded Bombay
drama troupe, patronised by actor A. K. Hangal, sang the
then hit number, “Purva sohani aiya re, Purva” one
breezy evening which earned her party a similar
There was also a gay Eurasian dancer who lived next to
the room of the divorced wife of a Colonel and was the
butt of many a joke for “enticing the he-men” of the
area. What befell most of these characters after they
left is not known, but one of them is still around to
bear witness to the crazy happenings at what was
probably the most rummy place in Delhi some 50 years
The Hindu, 3rd September 2012
PRIYANAKA JOSHI traces the artform and history of
Madhubani paintings at a recent exhibition being
showcased at the Azad Bhavan
The geometric patterns and the intricate designs of the
Madhubani paintings have a huge fan following across the
world. The drawn lines and the patterns reflect the
aesthetic tastes, religious learnings, Nature,
appreciation for the female form and also lives of the
people. An exhibition of Madhubani paintings is being
showcased at the Azad Bhavan ICCR.
The exhibition features works by four artists who come
from the town of Simri, Madhubani, Bihar. The exhibition
began on the August 31 and is on till September 5.
Event organiser Srikanta Paul commented on the occasion,
“Our target is to develop Simri as an artistic rural
hub, which in turn will become a tourism destination.”
This art of Madhubani painting in its traditional style
developed in the Mithila region, in and around the
villages near Madhubani, Bihar.
Artist Vidyanath Jha, whose works have also been
displayed at the exhibition said, “Madhubani art is now
being used as a commercial art. It’s now being done on
paper, cloth, and also the interiors of a house. This
style of painting is very different from the others. The
figures in these paintings are inspired from nature and
mythology. They are adapted to suit the Madhubani
style.” Painters of Simri also use their art to create
awareness about developmental issues. They have painted
the walls in their village with themes on environmental
protection and bios-conservation. The art form is a
potential tool for social communication.
These paintings are available in different themes and
sizes. One of the artists from Simri, Ratneshwar Jha
said, “The themes and designs that are widely employed
are Hindu deities such as Krishna, Rama, Shiva, Durga,
Lakshmi, Saraswati. The sun and the moon, tulsi, darbar
and wedding scenes are also seen widely in our works.
Apart from that we fill up the gaps in the painting by
using floral animal motifs and geometrical designs.
There is hardly any empty space in this style.”
The skill is handed down generation from generation,
hence the traditional designs and patterns are widely
maintained. Nature is at the core of this art form.
Kalyani Devi informed, “we use cotton wrapped around a
bamboo stick to work as a brush. And for the colours we
use natural pigments and dyes. Black colour is obtained
by mixing soot with cow dung, yellow from turmeric,
pollen or lemon is added to the milk of banyan leaves.
Blue is obtained from indigo, red from thekusum flower
juice and also red sandalwood. The green is from the
leaves of the apple tree, white is from rice powder or
choona ( lime stone powder) and orange from the Palash
flowers. And for the painting to last for a long time we
spread the liquid extracted out of squeezing the
cowdung. We spread this water on white handmade paper.”
The colours are applied flat on the surface. There is
normally a double line drawn for the outlines, the gap
between the lines filled by cross or straight tiny
lines. In a linear painting, no colours are applied.
Only the outlines are drawn. Meera Devi, another artist,
from Simri said, “We drew the paintings on the walls of
our home, as an illustration of our thoughts, hopes and
dreams. With time, the paintings have become a part of
the festivities and special events.”
We trace the origin of the artwork as Jha informed, “The
first reference to the Maithili paintings of Bihar dates
back to the time of Ramayana, when Janaka ordered these
paintings to be created for Sita, his daughter’s
The Pioneer, 4th September 2012
J&K forest land
Much to the chagrin of Union Health Minister
Ghulam Nabi Azad, a Jammu based social activist has
brought to light factual details of land records
confirming the fact that Rehmat-Ullah Bhat, son of
Khizar Joo Bhat, had illegally occupied the State forest
land measuring 10 kanals and 2 Marlas at village
Sunjwan, Bathindi in Jammu district and also constructed
a palatial house in gross violation of J&K Forest Act
and Forest Conservation Act.
The social activist Prof SK Bhalla also served a notice
through Sheikh Najeeb Ashraf upon Chief Secretary J&K,
Commissioner/Secretary Forest Dept, Principal Chief
Conservator of Forest, Chief Conservator of Forest Jammu
and Divisional Forest officer Jammu seeking eviction of
the encroachers from the aforementioned forest land.
In May 2012 Prof Bhalla had moved a RTI application to
ascertain the status of land under occupation of Rehmat
Ullah Bhat. Prof Bhalla received the RTI reply from the
office of Deputy Commissioner, Jammu on September 1
which categorically mentioned that Rehmatullah Bhat has
been recorded in the revenue record as illegal occupant
(Kabza Najaiz) of the land.
The Pioneer, 4th September 2012
Ram Sethu: Centre gets
six weeks to convey its stand
The Supreme Court granted six weeks’ time to the Central
government to communicate its stand on the Sethusamudram
project. A Bench of Justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad
accorded more time to the government after Solicitor
General Rohinton Nariman said the Union Cabinet required
to discuss the issue and take a decision.
In July too, the Centre was given two months to analyse
the Pachauri panel report and convey to the court its
decision on how did it propose to go about the project.
The panel, set up after a bunch of petitions reached the
apex court against execution of the project because of
possible damages to the mythological Ram Sethu, had
opined that an alternative alignment was not
economically and ecologically feasible.
The matter was adjourned amid indications that the
Centre was contemplating to reject the Pachauri panel
report and set up a new committee to re-examine
‘Alignment 4A’, as suggested by the Supreme Court, and
have an alternative route that avoids Ram Sethu.
As reported by The Indian Express on Monday, the
Ministry of Shipping has recommended that a new panel of
experts analyse Alignment 4A with respect to its climate
and environment impact and suggest ways that this could
The Sethusamudram project aims to create a shorter
navigational route around India’s southern tip, between
India and Sri Lanka, to allow large ships to get to
India’s east coast from the west without navigating
around Sri Lanka, as they do now.
The Pioneer, 4th September 2012
experts to make heritage dossier
Majuli Islands, hill forts of Rajasthan, Shantiniketan
and Qutub Shahi monuments — all of them have been pushed
by the Archaeological Survey of India for Unesco's
coveted world heritage tag. But all have missed it due
to either incomplete dossiers or technical faults in
drawings. To make sure that Delhi doesn't meet with a
similar fate with its final nomination dossier for the
world heritage city tag, INTACH Delhi Chapter has
engaged international consultants.
The dossier, being prepared by INTACH, is likely to be
re-named 'Capital Cities of Delhi' from the earlier
'Imperial Cities of Delhi' and will feature Lutyens
bungalow zone (LBZ) and Shahjahanabad.
"We want to show Delhi's uniqueness that cannot be found
in any other city. LBZ and Shahjahanabad are 350 years
apart and represent two contradictory periods of Delhi.
The Mughal rule in Shahjahanabad and the British regime
in LBZ have contrasting lifestyles, architecture,
culture and represent the intellectual highpoints of two
opposing empires," said INTACH convener A G K Menon.
ASI had submitted the tentative nomination dossier to
Unesco last year, and the capital now features in the
list along with 20 other Indian sites/properties
awaiting the prestigious tag.
One of the experts brought in by INTACH specializes in
drafting guidelines for world heritage nominations,
while another is a former Unesco official who was
involved in the selection of nominations for the final
inscription. A third consultant works in a specialized
heritage body, which, along with an NGO, evaluates
nominations from various countries. "We have to consult
widely to ensure our dossier meets all the parameters
and fulfills all the criteria outlined by Unesco," said
Menon. The final dossier needs to reach the Unesco
headquarters in Paris by February 1, 2013.
INTACH has set a deadline of September 30 to finish the
dossier. It will then be examined by a number of experts
and government bodies, which will also make their own
suggestions. "The dossier will also have to be approved
by the world heritage apex committee that was set up
recently by the Centre to examine Indian nominations to
Unesco following a series of rejections," said an
After Ahmedabad's nomination to gain the heritage city
status in 2011, Delhi's nomination, the second such
proposal from India, appears in the tentative list
updated by the UN organization on May 22, 2012.
Each country can finally nominate two sites every year
for inscription under the natural, cultural or mixed
categories. "It will be a fight to make Delhi one of the
two nominations to be submitted to Unesco by ASI next
year as there are 20 sites on the tentative list,"
In the past five years, the only Indian additions to the
Unesco heritage list are Jantar Mantar in Jaipur,
Rajasthan, and the Western Ghats.
The Times of India, 4th September 2012
Heed the call of the
wild for protection
The Supreme Court’s directive to ban tourism in core tiger reserve areas for now
has triggered a national debate on conserving wildlife. Unfortunately, a lot of
that discussion is based on half-information
The recent order of the Supreme Court directing the notification of ‘buffer
zones’ has brought the terms ‘core or critical tiger habitat’, ‘buffer zone’,
‘critical wildlife habitat’ and ‘eco-sensitive zone’ into sharp focus. With
little clarity amongst the elected representatives, the media and even some
officials, the prevailing state of affairs has created a fertile breeding ground
for rumour-mongering and mis-information campaigns by vested interests to create
uncertainty and fear of displacement amongst communities living around tiger
Before the situation slides further, the implications of these and more
specifically how or whether it affects local communities, must be clearly
explained. In order to do this, it would be necessary to elaborate what each of
these terms means.
First, a tiger reserve includes a ‘core or critical tiger habitat’ and a ‘buffer
zone’ around its immediate periphery. ‘Core or critical habitats’ of tiger
reserves were constituted by issuing an overlapping notification to existing
sanctuaries and/or ‘national parks’, with highly endangered tiger populations.
This was done under the provisions of Section 38-V of the Wildlife Protection
Act after an amendment in 2006. These have to be managed as ‘inviolate’ areas
(meaning no incompatible human activity) to protect breeding populations of
tigers and their prey.
‘Buffer zones’ on the other hand are immediately adjoining the core areas where
a lesser degree of habitat protection is required. Even though several CTHs were
notified, ‘buffer zones’ were not created. The Supreme Court is now insisting
that States complete the notification process of ‘buffer zones’ in a time bound
Core and buffer zones: The law allows for resettlement of people living
within core areas subject to certain conditions. The question of unilateral
eviction does not arise, as all tribal forest-dwellers who were in occupation of
land as on December 13, 2005, are eligible for and can opt for a voluntary
resettlement package of Rs 10 lakh, including alternative land, housing and
‘Buffer zones’ typically comprise reserved forests, protected forests, deemed
forests and even unencumbered Government land contiguous with the ‘core area’.
As against the ‘inviolate’ paradigm in ‘core areas’, ‘buffer zones’ are to be
managed under a ‘co-existence’ paradigm. Therefore the bona fide rights of
people within revenue enclosures of such forests will continue. So, the fear
that the notification of ‘buffer zones’ will lead to displacement of people or
curtailment of recorded rights is baseless.
Can buffers include villages? Not
really, but in some States, the forest departments are attempting to notify
privately-owned agricultural landscapes including entire village limits without
any forest areas, as ‘buffer zones’ and even imposing some controls. This may
lead to serious conflicts because the law is abundantly clear that a ‘buffer
zone’ is also an integral part of a tiger reserve. A plain reading of the
following legal provisions illustrates why private lands and villages should not
be included in the buffer zone.
Section 38-V (2) clarifies that the provisions of Sections 18(2), 27(2), (3) &
(4), 30, 32 and 33 (b) & (c) of the Wildlife Act apply to a tiger reserve as
they apply to a sanctuary. These sections impose restrictions on littering the
grounds of a ‘buffer zone’; causing or kindling a fire and use of injurious
chemical substances. They also empower the chief wildlife warden to take
measures for improvement of any habitat and enforce ecologically compatible land
uses in the ‘buffer zones’.
On the ground, this may well translate into preventing farmers from burning of
land after cropping, prohibition on the use of pesticides and imposition of
prescriptions on changing cropping patterns.
It would, therefore, be prudent to leave out private lands and villages not
encompassed within forests from the purview of ‘buffer zones’ even if this means
the buffer does not fully wrap around the core.
Critical tiger habitat vs Critical wildlife habitat: There is huge
confusion on this issue as well. While a CTH is notified under the provisions of
Section 38-V(4)(i) of the Wildlife Act, a CWH is constituted under Section 4(2)
of the Forest Rights Act. While there are differences in the provisions under
the two laws, there is one important similarity, which is that both CTH and CWH
are to be constituted by notifying ‘national parks’ and sanctuaries that qualify
to be treated as inviolate for the purpose of tiger/wildlife conservation based
on scientific and objective criteria.
Even in these areas, the preferred strategy rightly being adopted is voluntary
and incentive-driven resettlement and not forcible eviction as is often
portrayed by some activists and elected representatives to whip up public
sentiment against notification of new areas.
Eco-sensitive zone: In order to ensure the integrity of the landscape around
sanctuaries and ‘national parks’ and create a transition zone from highly
protected areas to other areas that require lesser degree of protection it is
now mandatory to notify an ESZ under Section 3 of the Environment Protection
Act. This could extend up to 10km and even beyond if required. Activities in an
ESZ are classified under three regimes: Prohibited, regulated and permissible.
Mining and large hydel projects which destroy habitat integrity come under the
prohibited regime. However, all ongoing agricultural and horticultural activity
are in the permissible category and can continue unhindered. More importantly,
acquisition of land or resettlement is not envisaged in these ESZs.
Is it realistically possible then to have a large core fully surrounded by
forested ‘buffer zones’ and an eco-sensitive zone? Most reserves in India have
convoluted boundaries and hard edges abutting highways, agricultural lands and
villages. The reality, therefore, is to recognise ‘core areas’ are not encircled
fully by other forest lands which then gradually merge into farm lands and human
dominated areas. In most landscapes this goal may remain a utopian dream.
So, what’s the way forward? A practical strategy could be to first notify
‘buffer zones’ comprising only contiguous forests and un-encumbered Government
land while simultaneously constituting ESZs of appropriate width around ‘core
areas’ through a site-specific approach. This will synergistically operate to
provide the necessary cushion to the ‘core areas’ to absorb shocks and prevent
fragmentation of habitat.
Another innovative strategy could be to encourage tourism companies to forge
equitable profit-sharing agreements with local communities/panchayats to convert
farm lands immediately adjacent to reserves into viable buffer areas over a five
to 10-year period. This could be feasible around many reserves, particularly in
the Western Ghats.
While we continue to debate this important issue, there is an immediate and
urgent need for elected representatives, officials and NGOs to reach out to
local communities living in the periphery of tiger habitats and reassure them on
why a ‘buffer zone’ or an ‘eco-sensitive zone’ will not lead to displacement or
disruption of their bona fide agricultural activities. This will be crucial to
minimise hostility and ensure success of this vital conservation strategy to
secure wild landscapes — and not just small islands called tiger reserves.
The Pioneer, 5th September 2012
Metro’s Sarai Kale
Khan Station under Phase III runs into ‘green’ trouble
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation’s (DMRC) request for land
at Millennium Park near Nizamuddin Bridge, for
construction of entry and exit structures of the Sarai
Kale Khan station, has not gone down well with Delhi
Development Authority (DDA).
According to sources, the land agency has raised
objections to construction of some portions of the
station in this green belt.
Both the agencies have been in discussion over the
matter, sources said. The Sarai Kale Khan station is
supposed to come up as part of the Mukundpur-Yamuna
Vihar corridor under Phase-III. The Millennium Park was
developed by DDA and is spread over 20 acres.
“A recent meeting was held and certain issues were
raised over DMRC’s request to construct part of their
Sarai Kale Khan station in Millennium Park. DDA has
raised objections as they feel that any construction by
DMRC will ruin the green cover,’’ said a source.
DDA officials say the construction of the Nehru Place
station has taken away from the beauty of the Astha Kunj
Park, which is located near the station, to validate
The Mukundpur-Yamuna Vihar corridor is one of the
longest under Phase-III and will run almost parallel to
the Ring Road.
DDA spokeperson Neemo Dhar said: “This matter is at a
very preliminary stage of discussion and nothing
concrete can be said about it.”
The DMRC, meanwhile, said they only require a small
portion of land in Millennium Park to ensure integration
of the Metro station with the Sarai Kale Khan ISBT,
which is to be upgraded soon.
“At present, we will only construct the entry and exit
points to the station in Millennium Park. The
construction of a station near this area is necessary
for integration of Metro services with the Sarai Kale
Khan ISBT,’’ said a DRMC spokesperson.
According to the DMRC, they have had several discussions
with the Transport department over these integration
plans. Similar integration plans have also been taken up
near Kashmere Gate ISBT.
Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure
(Planning and Engineering) Center (UTTIPEC) had recently
taken up the matter of integrating ISBTs with other
modes of transport in the surrounding areas to ensure
optimal use of public space and proper amenities.
The Indian Express, 5th September 2012
Virasat series 2012 features classical exponents
like Rama Vaidyanathan and Teejan Bai. Ila Sankrityayan
speaks to Kiran Seth, chairman of SPIC MACAY, on an
It can be credited for bringing the traditional arts to
the otherwise restless youth of the country. SPIC MACAY
stands true to its name. It is the perfect platform
where Indian classical music and dance is combined to
the best formula. They have brought together stalwarts
like Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Birju Maharaj,
Pandit Rajan and Sajan Mishra together on one platform.
Virasat series 2012, starting today, will continue till
December 20. Workshops in folk and classical arts,
literature, crafts, talks, theatre and yoga would be a
part of the series. Films by cinematic geniuses like
Satyajit Ray, Akira Kurosawa and Charlie Chaplain will
also be screened. About 3,500 programmes will be
organised in Delhi and other parts of the country in the
next four months.
“We started this festival 34 years back with an aim of
popularising Indian classical dance and music amongst
the youth. And we have achieved a lot of success in
Delhi. Now we want to reach the interiors of the country
and are planning to cover about 17 lakh institutions by
2020 in the states like Bihar, Rajasthan, Arunachal
Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. We are organising it in
Jhumri Telaiya of Jharkhand and other small cities,”
said SPIC MACAY chairman Kiran Seth.
He continued, “For achieving our goal we have made
certain structural changes. Those who were associated
with us for part time, are now devoting their full time
to SPIC MACAY .”
He added, “You will see artistes like Teejan Bai an
exponent of Pandavani. We also have craft workshops
about Madhubani, Patua, Patachitra and others. Apart
from this we will offer the students food from different
parts of the country.” The main motive behind the
festival is to establish close relationships and
facilitate interactions between students, artistes and
Virasat will begin with the performances by Girija Devi
(vocal) and Malavika Sarukkai (Bharatanatyam). Malavika
Sarukkai said, “Classical music and dance takes one to a
different level. Even if you don’t understand the ragas
or movements, its the impact that is long-lasting. As an
artiste, we have to handle this art carefully,” she
Malavika stressed on including classical music and dance
as an extra-curricular activity in school.
The Pioneer, 6th September 2012
Weaving the nation
Gandhi Jayanti will be celebrated on October 2 as World
Melody Day by dozens of Veena maestros and professors in
universities who will play the ancient musical
instrument in different parts of the globe with the
objective to usher in peace and harmony.
As a tribute to the Apostle of Peace, Mahatma Gandhi,
accomplished Veena players in Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore,
Hyderabad, Mumbai, Mysore and Thiruvananthapuram besides
overseas will play their favourite instrument which
“represents the confluence of the science of musical
sounds and the Indian philosophy of harmony and
Violin legend T. N. Krishnan will be honoured with the
prestigious Sangeetgyan Tatwagyan at Bharatiya Vidya
On that day, Veena will reverberate in the auditorium as
noted Veena players Saraswati Rajagopalan, C.
Balasubramaniam, S. Radha Krishnan, Uma Balasubramaniam
and Aishwarya Lakshmi will give separate performances.
Saraswati Rajagopalan, a top-ranking Veena player at All
India Radio, says she was one of the founding members
when the event started seven years ago. “I have been
performing every year. This year I am giving the main
performance. Through this festival, we want to propagate
the need to have world peace.”
Noting that the long history of Veena is a magnificent
saga of innovation in science, culture and art of music,
Veena Foundation Secretary-General V. Raghurama Ayyar
says: “Let us pledge ourselves to the cause of Veena so
that the Ganges of our divine music may flow through the
resonance of Veena from the South to the North to
reinforce national integration. The Veena has been
lovingly dedicated by maestros to express the music of
the spheres and to establish communion with the Supreme
Being. Veena recitals will be a unique and momentous
celebration of the ancient acoustic innovation and the
musical sound and resonance of India.”
Mr. Ayyar says the event to celebrate Veena is basically
aimed at fostering harmony among the people cutting
across religions, castes and man-made artificial
The event is in memory of former Indira Gandhi National
Centre for Arts Trust president and Veena Foundation
founder L. M. Singhvi.
Chennai will celebrate the birthday of the Father of the
Nation at Sri Krishna Gana Shabha. N. Ramani (flute),
Alepey Shri Venkatesan (vocal), Padmavati Anathagopalan
and Jayanti Kumaresh (Veena), T.C.A. Sangeetha (veena),
Revati Krishna (veena) and Jeyraaj Krishnan and
Jeyashree (veena) will play.
Violin maestro L. Subramaniam will inaugurate the show
at National Institute of Advanced Sciences in Bangalore.
Prof. Visweswaran will play in Mysore. Kalyani Sharma
and disciples, and Bhagwati Mani and disciples will play
The musical prayer will start from Melbourne, Sydney and
continue daylong to end in San Francisco, US, travelling
through Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and sarod centres in
India and Europe.
Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt will play Mohan Veena in San
Francisco. The famous Iyer Brothers – Ramnath and
Gopinath – will play in Melbourne and Malathi Nagarajan
The Hindu, 6th September 2012
NBWL meet strategises
on reducing wildlife deaths
The meeting of the National Board For Wildlife (NBWL),
on Wednesday, presided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
for the first ever since its reconstitution two years
back, considered several proposals including measures to
check wildlife deaths due to linear infrastructure and
diversion of CAMPA funds for conservation purposes among
No decision was, however, taken on subjudice issues
related to eco tourism, import of cheetah or relocation
of lions in Kuno Palpur reserve in Madhya Pradesh from
Gujarat. According to well-placed sources, all the
agenda lined up for the meeting was discussed. Stressing
on the importance of wildlife and bio-diversity, the PM
said additional funds would be provided for their
The members raised the issue on the use of CAMPA funds
for voluntary relocation from Protected Areas. They also
called upon the need to review the National Wildlife
Action Plan (2002-2016) and reminded on the impending
amendment of the Wildlife Protection Act.
The meeting noted with concern the rising number of
wildlife deaths in the wake of linear infrastructural
projects in the country. The PM assured that he would
write to the respective ministries of power, irrigation
and surface transport to consider the proposal of
mitigation fund that can be used to tackle such
emergencies. The issue of bringing important wildlife
corridors and Elephant Reserves under the purview of the
Standing Committee of NBWL was also discussed. The
members stressed on the need to send such diversion
proposals to SC-NBWL for approval. This, they pointed
out, was as per the National Wildlife Action Plan
(2002-2016) and Wildlife Conservation Strategy-2002 that
clearly state that there can be no diversion of
forestland for non-forest purposes from critical and
ecologically fragile wildlife habitat.
The Pioneer, 6th September 2012
Legal cover for
elephant corridors soon: Jayanthi
Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan told the
National Board of Wildlifemeeting on Wednesday that a
committee had been set up to review the eco-tourism
guidelines. She also announced that the government would
amend the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 to provide
legal cover to elephant corridors and look at covering
other wildlife corridors which remain only as scientific
concepts at the moment.
In what turned out to be a relatively mute affair
compared to the excitement generated by moves of the
non-official wildlife experts in the run-up to the
meeting, Natarajan noted that several of the agenda
issues - eco-tourism, safeguarding lions and the
introduction of cheetah -- were sub-judice and the
government could not give any commitments at the
She also pointed out that in her tenure, the ministry
had approved 18 of the projects that had gone before the
standing committee of NBWL and committed to work closely
with the ex-official members in future.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, "The increase in the
number of protected areas carved out from forest areas
identified as potentially rich wildlife habitats is a
welcome step. But we have the responsibility to
safeguard the livelihoods of local communities dependent
on forest resources."
Several non-official members had run parleys over
several days in an attempt to raise concern about
alleged violations by the ministry, as well as other
contentious issues like tribal rights. They had
discussed writing a letter to the PM against the
functioning of the ministry which could be used later
against the government in the apex court.
Conservationist Valmik Thapar, who had got the
eco-tourism issue put on the NBWL agenda, noted that he
was only concerned about the process by which guidelines
were dealt with. He did not reflect his strong, publicly
held views at the meeting that lasted a bit over an
one-and-a-half hour though some others did make comments
including Karan Singh on the chaos caused by tourism in
The letter in work by the non-official members against
the ministry too did not materialize and neither did
members raise concerns about tribal rights as they had
Natarajan said the eco-tourism committee would hear all
stakeholders before taking a decision on the issue and
presenting its report to the Supreme Court. The PM also
referred to the tourism issue indirectly and said,
"Proper utilization of natural resources by promotion
and adoption of non-invasive livelihood options can go a
long way in supporting socio-economic development of our
forest dependent communities, including tribal
The Times of India, 6th September 2012
Wildlife Protection Act
to get more teeth, says PM
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said that the
government would bring in amendments to the Wildlife
Protection Act, 1972 to make it stringent and increase
its penal provisions for wildlife crimes as well as
introduce roles for the gram sabhas and the panchayats
in the declaration and management of protected areas.
“We hope to approve these amendments soon and introduce
a Bill in Parliament,” the PM said at the sixth meeting
of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL).
Singh said a proposal for expanding the number of
regional offices, field units and forensic labs of the
Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is under process as is the
creation of a national database on wildlife crime and
“I would advise that the Ministry of Environment should
strengthen its regional offices by inducting wildlife
experts in these offices not only to monitor the
implementation of wildlife schemes, but also to ensure
strict adherence to conditions of wildlife clearances,”
Contentious issues like eco-tourism in protected areas,
especially tiger reserves, could not be discussed
because they were sub-judice, sources said.
Sources said Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan
told the meeting that the NBWL was not a “clearing
house’’ and that during her tenure, there had been three
meetings of its standing committee in which out of 14
projects considered, only three were private projects.
And that she deliberately postponed a fourth meeting
only to give the members more time to read the proposals
before taking a decision.
The sources said some of the NBWL members had the
contention that around 40 projects was cleared at a
meeting that did not happen during the present
The Hindu, 6th September 2012
come full circle
Seventy years was what it took for the British-built
Connaught Place to show signs of ageing. But the newly
‘refurbished’ Connaught Place seems to have grown old in
merely two years. Despite all modern techniques and
materials, the NDMC project has still failed to match
the standard set by the British in 1932.
One can see paint beginning to peel off and window panes
starting to fall apart in the blocks restored before the
Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2010. Moreover, the green
buffer zone, which had eaten up a lot of space and
money, has almost dried up and serves as parking lots.
Incessant delay and missed deadlines apart, experts are
also questioning the method used in the restoration work
of the Capital’s premier business district. Many believe
that the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and
stakeholders have done a shoddy job.
“Not only has the agency compromised on the façade
restoration work but even the pavements and roads are
suffering due to the poor quality of work and materials
used. They should have stuck with the traditional
material to restore the market. But clearly they
sacrificed quality for completing the work quickly,”
said AK Jain, heritage expert and author of the book
Lutyens Delhi. “Whenever a heritage building is
restored, a lot of care goes into preserving its
original look. But in this case, the work has been
slipshod,” he added.
Experts are also concerned about the methods used to
restore the building. “Connaught Place’s restoration has
been a victim of poor craftsmanship. The planners
obviously tried to beautify the place. What they failed
in achieving was to conserve the exterior of the
original structure,” said AGK Menon, a heritage expert.
It was in 2005 that the need to restore the market was
first felt as the structure had started to show signs of
deterioration with time. Initially what the planners
wanted was to give a mere facelift to the market. It was
only later that the NDMC decided to go the whole hog and
develop the entire Connaught Place area, including
subways, while preserving its British architecture. The
plan boomeranged, rather badly.
Traders now complain that even in blocks where façade
restoration has been completed, the contractor has not
provided an outlet for rainwater to flow from the
rooftops. Also, due to a tunnel being bored in the
Middle Circle, the drainage of a few blocks has been
affected causing massive waterlogging in the corridors.
“CP has weathered so many storms, yet its corridors have
remained dry during the heaviest of rainfall. But this
year was different. Because of the modification in the
slant of some of the roofs, water started collecting in
the corridors this monsoon, making it difficult for
people to walk,” said Sunita Dahiya, one of the
And now that Diwali season is round the corner, the
shopkeepers are a worried lot. The façade restoration
work in some of the blocks is being carried out now. “We
don’t want to miss out on the upcoming festival season
so we have asked the authorities to take up one block at
a time and finish all the work, so that at least some
portion of CP is complete,” said Atul Bhargava,
president of New Delhi Traders’ Association.
The Hindustan Times, 7th September 2012
Safety focus in Khan
Market spruce-up plan
Khan Market is set to wear a new look with
uniform facade, more parking space, wide walkways and
alleys for emergency exit — key features of the
redevelopment plan made by New Delhi Municipal Council
(NDMC). The plan was presented at the first meeting of
the stakeholders and NDMC on Thursday.
Fire safety gets due importance in the plan as, traders
say, the present mechanism is not adequate for a
large-scale emergency. NDMC plans to construct a metal
platform on the first floor with 14 collapsible ladders
on both sides of the middle street. Shops on the
first floor will be asked to make provision for a fire
exit, which will open onto the metal platform. S e c o n
d fl o o r shops will have to keep the front veranda
open to sky and provide fire exits bet we e n t wo flats
on the parapet wall.
Utilities like Prith electricity and telecom cables, AC
units etc will be shifted from the middle street to make
room for the emergency exit alley. At present, AC units,
especially of ground floor shops, are installed in the
middle street. The plan is to shift all units to the
rooftop and officials say shops on the ground and first
floors have agreed to this.
Calling the meeting a success , Sudhir Vohra, urban
planner and consultant architect for the project, said,
"The redevelopment plan was well received by all
stakeholders. All agreed to discuss the plan and explore
means by which issues related to shifting of AC units
and other services can be worked out."
The plan also proposes increase in the floor area ratio
(FAR). But traders say there will be legal issues as FAR
should be equally divided between ground and first
floors. "They want us to take our AC units to the
rooftop. This is possible only if we get legal rights to
the rooftop from the owners. Increase in FAR should be
divided between traders on ground and first floors,''
said Sanjiv Mehra, president of Khan Market Traders
With almost all residential areas here being put to
commercial use, the plan proposes to change the land use
of the area to commercial. But a decision on the
conversion of residences on first and second floors is
pending before the Supreme Court, as Environment
Pollution Control Authority is studying the matter.
"Since the matter is pending before the SC, conversion
is out of the question,'' said a trader. Vohra said:
"Whatever change in H a m u y n u R building use is
proposed will be subject to scrutiny and clearance from
Traders have largely agreed to
the basic plan. Sources say NDMC secretary DS Pandit had
proposed a common effluent treatment plant and traders
accepted it. "The proposal has got an inprinciple
approval from us. We will work on the feasibility of the
project. We have asked traders to submit their
suggestions in two weeks,'' said a senior NDMC official.
Welcoming the redevelopment plan, Arjun Kapoor,
president of Khan Market Welfare Association, said, "We
will cooperate with the civic agencies as the market is
in need of upgradation."
Vohra said work on the project will start after the
proposal is approved. "We have to carefully plan the
execution of the project so that market activity is
The Asian Age, 7th September 2012
Rosy apples and snowy
Kotgarh, a charming little hamlet nestled in the hills
of Shimla, is a dream destination for those who want to
enjoy their time in the lap of nature. Just 16 km from
the national highway that heads into the valley through
Rampur and Kinnaur, Kotgarh offers magnificent views
both of the snow-clad Himalayan peaks above and the
mighty Sutlej 1,800 metres below.
Kotgarh and the adjacent areas of Thanedar are famous
for their world-class quality of apples. August to
September is the apple season when the whole place comes
alive with activity.
The first crop was cultivated in 1919 by Samuel Adams
Stokes, an American social worker and philanthropist,
and later a member of the All India Congress committee.
Son of a Quaker millionaire from Philadelphia, Stokes
arrived in India in 1904 to volunteer in a leprosy home
in Sabhathu, Shimla. Later he moved to Kotgarh and built
his remarkable house named ‘Harmony Hall’ at Thanedar.
He married a local Christian girl named Agnes and worked
endlessly for the welfare of the local people. The
couple later converted to Hinduism and changed their
names to Satyanand and Priya Devi Stokes. Their house
still stands strong amidst the apple orchards planted by
the owner. It is an architectural delight, with a
charming mix of local overtones in the wooden beams and
dressed stone harmonised with western influences in the
high chimneys and big windows, woven as if into one
St. Mary’s Church at Kotgarh built in 1872 is an
interesting landmark in this town. It is located in the
premises of the Gorton Mission School and bears
testimony to the Christian legacy in Himachal Pradesh.
The rugged terrain and the apple trees in the area
complement the Gothic structure with its apse and tower
Mailan Devta Temple is just two kms from Kotgarh and it
is constructed in the splendid shikhar style and is the
abode of the Deota, the most powerful God of the hills.
He is the family god of the Kotkhai chiefs and the
Thakurs of Karangla.
On the other hand, the Parmjyotir Temple was built in
the pahadi style architecture by Stokes at Barubag, on
the ridge at Thanedar. There is a Havan Kund in the
temple where a sacred ceremony was attended by Stokes
every morning and a fire was lit amidst chanting of holy
Winter brings in heavy snow and it is a popular
destination for many skiing enthusiasts, who revel in
both the adventure of the sport and the beauty of
nature. At the top is the revered Hattu Mata temple
where many worshippers present their wish lists, sealing
them with red-gold cloths tied at the entrance. The
magnificent Himalayas can be viewed in their glory and
splendor from here.
May is the month of joyful festivities, and the spring
fair held every year attracts visitors in large numbers.
Kotgarh offers everything that a nature lover would wish
for, the tranquility and also access to the local gods
in their temple abodes, and you can’t resist making a
wish that you are able to visit this Shangri-La again
The Asian Age, 7th September 2012
Letters and beyond
Akshara, a week-long exhibition, combines calligraphy
and crafts from across India to celebrate the power of
the written word. Founder Jaya Jaitly speaks toEktaa
Malik about it
There is nothing more permanent than the written word.
There is something very concrete about it. Celebrating
that very permanence is Akshara an exhibition crafting
Indian scripts. It will bring to the fore extensions of
the languages and the scripts into various artforms and
scripts. From weaves, paintings, wooden artefacts,
jewellery and jugalbandi of dance with scripts, this
exhibition will present Indian scripts in a new light.
It begins from September 16 at the Indian Habitat
With 22 official languages and equal number of scripts
India is indeed a rare treasure in terms of linguistics.
“With such a strong presence of languages and scripts,
why do craftpersons feel that they are illiterate and
uneducated? Is it because they are not familiar with
English? That means something has gone wrong some where.
We have some of the oldest languages and scripts in our
country, then why do we still need the stamp of English
as a validation point? We are champions at undermining
ourselves,” shared Jaya Jaitly whose organisation, The
Dastkari Haat Samiti, is spearheading the project.
For Akshara Jaitly has used 14 of the 22 official
languages. She visited many artisans, some came to Delhi
and there was a lot of back and forth happening — with
the ideas and the concept.
“This exhibition will be a display of how calligraphy
can be a part of almost every thing. Be it a sari, with
saubhagyavati bhav woven on the pallu or Kabir’s jhini
chadariya painted on a wooden screen”, informed Jaitly.
Calligraphy traditionally has been part of the Chinese
and Persian cultures. “But look at out languages. Even
if one can’t read Tamil, Telugu or Gurmukhi, it’s
beautiful to look at. We have used letters from those
languages as motifs,” added Jaitly.
“No matter how important English is today, given the
context of globalisation and what not. But now one can
undermine the relevance of our regional languages which
are our mother tongues. I am angry at my mother, that I
can speak fluent French but not Malayalam, my mother
tongue. I can speak Hindi fluently, given my politics
but I cannot give a speech in Malayalam”, said Jaitly.
The exhibition will also see the release of the book
which is a visual journey into the art of calligraphy
and how its being used in multiple crafts.
A documentary film Aksharakaaram-Meditations In
Calligraphy and Dance, will also be screened during the
Apart from Kalamkari which has a visible influence of
calligraphy, there are also other artforms that use
calligraphy as part of their art. Gita Govinda by
Jayadev has been painted on a mirror in the Kangra style
of painting. There are duvet covers which have
inscriptions in Tibetan. And they are not just
meaningless words strung together, they also impart
wisdom of the ages.
“These are expressions of a larger cause. The artisans
also learn. Who couldn’t read and write, can now
inscribe their name on the products that they themselves
have made. And those who can read and write they help
with the designing and idea of the craft,” said Jaitly.
The exhibition will be a showcase alone, where people
can come and see the products. “We would be very happy
if people come and place large orders. The craft persons
would be demonstrating their skills. We are sowing a
seed and then it’s up to anyone to take it forward,”
The Pioneer, 7th September 2012
Ministry bats for
endangered island bird
Takes side of conservationists fighting for survival of
300-odd Narcondam hornbills
The Environment Ministry has taken the side of
conservationists fighting for the survival of 300-odd
Narcondam hornbills, threatened by a Coast Guard plan to
set up a radar surveillance system on the tiny island in
the Andamans where the birds make their home.
On August 31, the Ministry of Environment and Forests
issued an order rejecting the proposal, suggesting that
the Coast Guard explore other options, “like
installation of off-shore structures and several other
viable options…which can spare the unique habitat of
Narcondam Island from disturbance,” pointing out that
“there is no such option available for the hornbill
whose survival may get seriously threatened if the
establishment of proposed radar is allowed on the
The island in question spans less than seven square
kilometres, and its mixed tropical forests are the only
place in the world where these colourful birds are
found. During the time of egg-laying and chick-rearing,
the female birds shed their flight feathers, rendering
them as vulnerable as the now-extinct — and similarly
flightless — dodo.
Conservationists had raised a red flag after the Coast
Guard asked for the diversion of a little more than
half-a-hectare of forestland, to set up a static radar
sensor unit as part of a chain of similar units all
along the coast for remote monitoring.
When the proposal was taken to the National Board for
Wildlife last year, member A. Rahmani was asked to carry
out a site inspection. His report recommending that the
Coast Guard’s proposal be rejected was submitted in
June. The final decision has now been announced by the
Ministry, much to the delight of conservationists.
“Scientifically and ecologically, rejecting a project on
Narcondam is fully and entirely defensible,” says Neha
Sinha of the Bombay Natural History Society. “But it is
also the romantic notion — of helping an island endemic
species with no ‘other place to go’ — that also seems to
The Coast Guard has now been asked to set up an expert
committee to “study and explore other alternatives like
aerial, satellite, off-shore, ship-based or land-based
surveillance systems at other islands, for ensuring the
defence and economic security of the country.”
The Hindu, 7th September 2012
A splash of tribal
art and colours
She came in contact with tribal folks while
studying drought conditions in Rajasthan, and this
association led her her to study their ancient art
Noida-based artist Hansa Nyati has now used the
traditional tribal art forms in her mix-media works at a
three-day exhibition which opened at India Habitat
Centre’s Experimental Art Gallery in New Delhi on
Friday. Titled “Fusion”, the exhibition displays over
two dozen mix-media works, predominantly in 3D,
including five paintings. They depict the myriad facets
of tribal folks’ day-to-day life.
Explaining her interest in the subject, Hansa says while
pursuing her M.Phil. in Economics she travelled to
Banswara district of Rajasthan where tribals welcomed
her with open arms and showed her how they create Dhokla
art. Interestingly, the tribals in the district were not
apprehensive at finding a stranger in their village.
Not a stranger among tribals
Moreover, Hansa, whose hometown is Udaipur, was familiar
with the customs, rituals and way of life of the
Adivasis in Rajasthan. She used her past experience to
get friendly with them. “Tribal art exemplifies
simplicity. The tribals use their creativity in
producing art works from natural products. Their art
gives a glimpse of their culture and way of life and
they excel in producing desert motifs and sand dunes.”
During her association with them in 1990s, Hansa found
the tribals full of life. “They celebrate life in its
different manifestations and one of them is channelising
their creativity in producing a wide array of art
works,” she says.
Tribals are born artists
“Sadly, they have not been able to commercialise their
art forms. They are extraordinary artists who have never
been to an art school. When their work is on display one
is mesmerised. Unfortunately, they are not good in
marketing themselves,” she adds.
Inaugurating the exhibition, veteran theatre personality
Arvind Gaur said tribal art forms have a unique role to
play in both traditional and contemporary contexts.
“Hansa’s ingenuity lies in the use of diverse natural
material drawn from mother Earth as has been the
tradition among tribal people. She adopts a methodical
approach in merging two diverse forms and choosing the
colours to make the sculptures in the foreground.”
A part of proceeds from the exhibition will be used by
Hansa to disburse funds among underprivileged children
living in Noida Sector 50 to purchase crayons, water
colours and sketchbooks. “I give classes to children of
maids living in Noida. They derive more creative
satisfaction from drawing on paper rather than
Warli arts, Dhokra metal works and Rajasthani
traditional folk are the notable tribal art forms
depicted by Hansa in her 25 works displayed at this
The trademark stick-like figures painted in white ink
against a background of earthy colours like brick red,
henna, indigo and black are beautifully depicted in
Hansa’s mix-media works in clay and natural colours.
According to Hansa, a few delicate gestures of limbs and
head can be easily modified to symbolise any movement,
be it a lady dusting with a broom or a young mother
carrying her child to the fields. “This is the
simplicity of Warli which makes an immediate connect
with not only the discerning art lovers but also the
most naive viewers.”
The Hindu, 8th September 2012
‘MoEF, Assam failed in
The Union environment ministry and the Assam government
were apparently "unaware" of the proliferation of
illegal industries in the no-development zone around the
Kaziranga National Park, drawing a scathing observation
from the National Green Tribunal that they had "totally
failed in their duties".
When Assam-based activist Rohit Choudhury filed a
petition before the tribunal against rampant development
near park, it emerged that the environment ministry
could not even trace its 1996 notification which had
banned industrialization around the Numaligarh Refinery
and the park. The tribunal bench had to ask the ministry
to collect it from the petitioner's lawyer, Ritwick
In an embarrassment for the ministry, its wildlife
division had claimed it was unaware of any industries in
the restricted belt. For the Assam government, there was
worse in store when it was discovered that the state had
even notified an industrial zone — Bokakhat Mini
Industrial Estate — over 10 hectares for saw mills,
stone crushers, steel fabrication units, hotels and
guest houses in the same no-development belt.
The Central Pollution Control Board was tasked to report
on the situation and it found that 64 industrial units
were functioning within the no-development zone with
impunity. The board presented a scathing report on the
industries functioning around the park which is famous
for its one-horned rhino.
"We are of the opinion that the MoEF and the state
government of Assam have totally failed in their duties
with respect to implementation of the provisions of the
1996 notification and due to the callous and indifferent
attitude exhibited by the authorities, (a) number of
polluting industries/units were established in and
around the no-development zone of Kaziranga," the
tribunal's bench of Justices A S Naidu and G K Pandey
In 1996, while giving the nod to the Numaligarh Refinery
near Kaziranga, the central government had declared a
no-development zone in a 15-km periphery. The
notification said no extension of the existing
industrial area, township, infrastructural facilities
and other such activities which could lead to pollution
and congestion would be allowed within the prohibited
zone, except with prior approval of the central
The Times of India, 8th September 2012
Novartis chief to gift
Indian sculpture collection to Mumbai museum
A treasure trove of ancient Indian sculptures is headed
back to the country thanks to an unlikely donor. Swiss
pharmaceutical group Novartis’s chairman Daniel Vasella
will be gifting his entire personal collection of Indian
sculptures and other art work to Mumbai’s Chhatrapati
Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya, sources told The
Novartis, incidentally, is fighting India’s patent laws
in the Supreme Court over a cancer drug. Vasella is
credited with turning around the pharmaceutical company.
Over 800 bronze sculptures collected over time by
Vasella may be transferred to India. Novartis officials
were not willing to comment on the issue till the
transfer process gets the go-ahead of the Indian
“These are ethnographic pieces. Most date back to the
1930s, so while these are not ancient works, they are
quite interesting and well maintained. The Novartis
chairman expressed his desire to bring back the
collection to India and our trust accepted the proposal.
We have sought that Customs duty be waived and the
Ministry of Culture is at work to facilitate the
transfer,” an official at the museum said.
Vasella is said to be quite keen that the transfer goes
through as early as possible and the sculpture
collection is reportedly already at a shipping warehouse
for transportation to Mumbai. All that’s needed is a
duty exemption certificate from India. However, the
Customs can give that only after the Archaeological
Survey of India (ASI) completes a valuation and issues a
certificate. The certification process is on, sources at
the Culture Ministry and ASI said.
The wait also means that the consignment is attracting
demurrage charges. Novartis’s India office is said to be
coordinating with the Ministry of Culture.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya, which
will house the sculptures, was earlier called Prince of
Wales Museum of Western India and was founded in 1905.
The Indian Express, 9th September 2012
Craft and calligraphy
Akshara attempts to link two of India’s crucial
cultural properties — language and crafts — and energise
them in unusual ways.
The richness of Indian crafts and its many languages
come together as a powerful idea in Akshara: Crafting
Indian Scripts, a multi-faceted crafts project with an
exhibition conceptualised by Jaya Jaitley, founder and
president of Dastkari Haat Samiti, which has worked for
the economic and social development of traditional
craftspersons since 1986. The effort aims to reveal the
knowledge and beauty embedded in India’s many scripts
through the skill of fine craftsmen who are often
unlettered. As a part of the project, the principles of
calligraphy were shared with skilled craftspersons who
were then encouraged to extend them to various regional
scripts, as they fashioned a range of products.
“The idea of Akshara began with the knowledge that
craftspeople are not widely literate and feel a lack of
self-worth when the world around them is going the
English-speaking and computer way,” says Jaya Jaitley.
“Also, we have a great civilisational history involving
scripts. We have 22 official languages and hundreds of
dialects. But we do not respect and preserve them as an
important part of our culture. Combining these two
aspects I thought of exploring letters, scripts and
calligraphy through the many wonderful skills of our
craftspeople who are rooted in the vernacular culture.”
Treating the scripts as design entities gives
“unlettered” craftsmen a wonderful way to establish
their presence in contemporary India. The project also
reinforces the great need for Saaksharta or literacy, a
critical factor in India’s development story, with
Over 140 museum-worthy exhibits will be mounted at the
Visual Arts Gallery. Three years in the making, the
Akshara project involved 58 producer-groups, 13
languages and scripts and 15 craft, textile and art
forms covering 16 states. The exhibition will be
accompanied by a host of cultural presentations that
strengthen its central theme. These include a film made
by Kalpana Subramaniam showing the connection between
calligraphy and dance. Six dancers explore movement with
an emphasis on the abstract. The film, choreographed by
Navtej Johar and Justin McCarthy, will be shown at the
exhibition. An art book, written by Jaya Jaitley and
Subrata Bhowmick, highlighting the use of Indian scripts
on crafts in the past and cataloguing the exhibits of
the Akshara exhibition will be published by Niyogi
Books. Diverse musical forms and concerts will also be
organised to underscore the cultural plurality suggested
by the range of scripts and crafts.
Among the products are saris combining the artistic
doodles and poems of Tagore handcrafted by a weaver and
kantha embroiderer, papier-mâché art on kalamdaans,
imitating newspapers, clocks, and wooden door handles
with hidden messages like ‘welcome to the person who
enters’. Also on display are stoles with calligraphy
motifs, jewellery with letters, painted cupboards and
screens, wall panels, and the last handwritten newspaper
in the world, produced in Chennai.
Akshara: Crafting Indian Scripts
When: September 16-21
Where: India Habitat Centre, Delhi
The Hindu, 9th September 2012
Out at Sambhar Lake,
watching Flamingos, Greater and Lesser
As gossamer clouds enveloping the surrounding hills got
washed down by intermittent showers, the day out to
Sambhar Lake turned out to be a brine-full of nature
expedition to observe a good number of birds amid
increasing growth of salt manufacturers all around this
largest natural depression in India known as “playa”.
Thousands of water-fowl at the Phulera wetland came as a
surprise as these migratory species have reported a bit
early for the season. Almost all the Northern Shovelers
were in sub-adult plumage with hundreds of Pied Avocets,
some Little-ringed Plovers, and a handful of
Black-tailed Godwits -- all found engrossed feeding at
this shallow lake having a healthy aquatic vegetation.
The resident River Terns flew over them as if to provide
Both Greater Flamingos ( Pheonicopterus ruber )
and Lesser Flamingos ( Phoenicopterus minor )
appeared in their finer hues. Sambhar Lake received
about one-foot-deep water this season; therefore, they
turned up almost in time – a couple of thousand so far.
“The Greater Flamingo is considerably larger than its
cousin, the Lesser. Its neck is longer, the larger bill
is less prominently kinked, bit more banana-shaped.
There were many immature or sub-adults with them showing
off graying shades,” said eminent conservationist Harsh
Vardhan, who happened to visit the wetland, some 75 km
from Jaipur, on the same day along with WWF-India
Director Parikshit Gautam.
“Sambhar and some other water bodies in Rajasthan play
host to these domestic species of Flamingos which fly
long distance annually, reaching as far away as Point
Calimere in Tamil Nadu -- to return to their breeding
grounds in the twin Ranns of Kutch in Gujarat,” noted
WWF–India has come out with a rather scary report titled
“Sambhar – a Dying Lake”. Dr. Gautam toldThe Hindu ,
“The salt manufacturing around Sambhar has increased
manifold. Hindustan Salts Ltd is a public sector unit
but more salt is extracted by private entrepreneurs who
have sunk tube-wells to extract groundwater and spread
it over their enclosures to extract salt – about 74 per
cent of illegal salt pans are located within one
kilometre of the lake’s core area”.
“After Sambhar was declared a Ramsar Site wetland in
1990, the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests
designated a 240 sq. km area of the lake but it could
not be substantiated without reference to lake water
level contour. The lake boundary would have to be
demarcated,” said Dr. Gautam.
The WWF-India report seeks no further water obstruction
to the rivers. “The salt production has to be regulated;
firm licence regulation has to be introduced with
increased cess. This amount needs to be spent over
Sambhar’s conservation,” it says.
The Sambhar Lake, held by the British for long, and the
adjoining township coveted by the kingdoms of Jodhpur,
Jaipur and Kishengarh, have a recorded history of
conservation. As Mr. Vardhan pointed out, R. M. Adam,
the British Salt Commissioner posted at Sambhar during
70s of the 19th Century, recorded the presence of 244
species of birds at this lake.
“In his report, he has acknowledged the founder of
Indian National Congress and an ornithologist of great
eminence, A. O. Hume, saying, ‘Mr. (A.O.) Hume has
kindly revised the nomenclature and identified all
doubtful birds’. He has mentioned having ‘shot’ both the
flamingo species – Greater and Lesser – in order to take
their measurements,” Mr. Vardhan pointed out.
“The report scripted by him said ‘Dense masses of
flamingos are to be seen everywhere swimming or wading
in the lake-bed, bearing the rich hues of all glorious
things….all wagging their down-bent heads in search of
the animalcules with which the brackish water abounds’,”
said Mr. Vardhan.
“Mr. Hume mentioned the average out-turn of salt from
this lake as ‘about 1,400,000 maunds (one maund is about
40 kg), or 51,420 tons.’ The price varied from 8 annas
(half a rupee) to Re.1 per maund (40 kg),” said Mr.
Vardhan, an ardent admirer of Mr. Hume as an
ornithologist, as the velvet clouds melted away into
light showers creating soft ripples in the lake.
The Hindu, 9th September 2012
hand over Tagore houseboat replicas
The replicas of the famous houseboat extensively used by
poet Rabindranath Tagore to inspect his family estate
and to pen some of his works in an area now in
Bangladesh would be handed over to India next week.
The replicas would be handed over to the Vice
Chancellors of Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata
and Visva-Bharati University in Bolpur by Bangladesh
Information and Culture Minister Abul Kalam Azad at
separate functions on September 12.
The houseboat occupied a key part of Tagore's life as he
used the vessel to sail along the Padma river, carrying
out his managerial duties for the Tagore family's
estates in Silaidah, Shahzadpur and Patisar for a decade
from 1890 and enjoying the breathtaking beauty of rural
Bengal which inspired so many of his compositions.
Azad arrives here on September 10 for a four-day visit
to India and will have separate meetings Information and
Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni and Culture Minister
Selja the next day.
The visiting minister will be accompanied by two singers
The Hindu, 9th September 2012
Modernity pierces fort
It is a classic case of how increasing urban demand has
gnawed at an ancient causeway to facilitate the modern
The Mehrauli-Badarpur Road has pierced the ancient stone
wall at the entrance of the 14th century Tughlaqabad
Fort. It used to be a causeway connecting the fort with
the tomb of Ghias-ud-Din Tughlaq — the architect of the
fort town of Tughlaqabad, the third city of Delhi —
across the road.
The Gazetteer of Delhi published in 1912 provides a
picturesque description of the then surroundings.
“It is situated in the midst of an artificial lake, fed
by the overflowing of the Hauz Shamshi and by a lot of
natural drains, which flowed into the base of the fort
and which at one time must have formed one of its
natural defenses. It is connected with the fortress by a
causeway 600 feet in length, supported by 27 arches.”
There was a kuchcha road running below the arches. “I
remember cycling to the school on the barely 20ft wide
kuchcha road passing below the causeway,” said Ramesh
Bidhuri, a resident of the ancient village of
Tughlaqabad and an MLA from the area.
He also recalls how the area to the south of the fort
was rocky terrain and during rains, brought silt flowing
towards a nullah that flowed below the causeway,
parallel to the road, flowing towards the Yamuna.
Over the years, layers piled upon layers increasing the
height of the road, which has ultimately resulted in the
The Hindustan Times, 9th September 2012
Absence of heritage
bye-laws leaves people, agencies in fix
It has been more than two years after an amendment in
the archeological act but heritage authorities have yet
to come up with heritage bye-laws for even a single
protected monument in the city. Delhi has 174
Archeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monuments,
part of the list of more
than 3,500 such monuments across India.
The Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and
Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act 2010 mandates
that monument-specific heritage byelaws be prepared so
as to regulate construction activity near ASI-protected
The amendment prohibits any new construction within 100
metres of the monument and puts several restrictions for
construction between 101-300 metres. Every single
individual and even public agencies need to get a nod
from the National Monument Authority (NMA) for any
construction and/or public utility work. In absence of
heritage bye-laws, the NMA is clearing proposals
resorting to the emergency clause.
The Hindustan Times, 10th September 2012
Old Delhi faces hammer
North Delhi Municipal Corporation is all set to demolish
unauthorised constructions in Old Delhi. According to
sources, Commissioner of north corporation PK Gupta
passed the order to start the demolition process on
Saturday. Usually, demolition teams of the municipal
corporation spare the City zone consisting of Chandni
Chowk and Daryaganj because the lanes are too narrow for
demolition vehicles to ply. The houses are also tightly
packed, which makes it difficult to demolish an
unauthorised building without harming the adjoining
However, in view of the complaints coming from the area
about unauthorised constructions, the corporation has
decided to act.
"To overcome the problem of narrow lanes, we will seal
those premises which cannot be demolished. The
commissioner said that unauthorised construction must
either be removed or sealed. He also warned that action
will be taken against those who do not comply with the
orders," said a senior official of the north body.
The decision comes after several building collapses were
reported from the city due to unauthorised construction.
In September 2011, a building in Chandni Mahal had
collapsed, killing seven people.
The city zone is also known for its old buildings, many
of which are structurally unsafe. To tackle them, the
corporation is conducting a survey to identify the
structures and ask the residents to carry out retro
fitting to strengthen them.
Taking a cue from its north counterpart, the East
Corporation too has decided to conduct surprise visits
from next week to check sanitation and unauthorised
construction. At present, the commissioner's office
intimates areas where visits are scheduled.
The Hindustan Times, 10th September 2012
Bharatpur’s Keoladeo National Park is still
spellbinding though Siberian cranes no longer visit
For me, the charm of the Keoladeo National Park in
Rajasthan has not diminished a bit although it is no
longer graced by the migratory, and highly endangered,
Siberian cranes as it used to nearly a decade ago. The
bird sanctuary was once so identified by the Siberian
cranes that you could hear people speculating whether
they would come this year or not? Sadly, it still
remains a favourite guessing game for the locals. During
our brief visit to the park recently, our
rickshaw-puller-cum-guide Charan Singh pointed at a tree
in the middle of a brown patch of land, “I saw a
Siberian crane there. Now, we pray each year for both
the rains and Siberian cranes to visit this parched
land.” Both still elude the once thriving sanctuary.
For the uninitiated, the Keoladeo National Park is a
very popular bird sanctuary, much revered by both Indian
and international birdwatchers. It was declared a
protected sanctuary in 1971 and is a World Heritage
Site. This is not only a home for many birds but a
wintering ground for many that are rare and highly
endangered and come from places as far away as Siberia
and Central Asia. Approx 230 is the count that we are
told by the guides — Siberian crane being the most
desired of the visitors.
India is a wintering ground for the gorgeous Siberian
cranes who fly nearly halfway across the globe from
Siberia to reach India via Afghanistan and Pakistan. But
of late they are poached by gunmen in these two
countries. The Siberians haven’t been spotted for nearly
Unlike other protected areas where your only mode of
transport to navigate the jungle is a jeep or a canter,
here you are free and have access to almost all areas.
Thanks to Mr Tiger’s unavailability, you can choose to
cycle the length or walk the route — and the lazy ones
like me can hire a rickshaw. We opted for Charan Singh’s
rickshaw and were slowly peddled into the park.
The view was spellbinding — painted storks dotted the
kikar trees on both sides of the road. You could catch
the young ones getting flying lessons from their hyper
and enthusiastic parents. The birds appeared like white
cotton spread over the horizon. It was a pleasure to be
inside the park.
Below, ducks such as shovellers, spotbills, pintails
swam aimlessly from one end to another and ducked
sharply in the water for an occasional fish, emerging
with it dangling in their beaks. It was their prize
catch. But the water appeared scanty.
According to a news report, the park, plagued by
unending water problems and poaching, is fighting an
elephantine battle to retain its status as a UNESCO
heritage sight to protect the world heritage status of
the Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary. The chief minister Ashok
Gehlot has ordered the Bharatpur city administration to
ensure a regular flow of water from Pachna Dam to the
dried up lake within the sanctuary.
Our guide, offering a vital piece of information that is
becoming an old joke, said “Madam, the only way to
distinguish between the male and female of the species
(of sambar) is that male is horny and female is not
horny.” I couldn’t control my laugh and said to myself,
isn’t it true for all species?
Frustrated at not being able to set my eyes or my
‘binoculars’ on any new bird species, I was ready to
bribe the rickshaw-puller. Totally unethical in the book
of bird watching ethics and I am sure many of my bird
watching peers will disown me or maybe dismiss me with
“Here goes another one…”. But I feel everything is fair
in love and bird watching. The deal was that my
rickshaw-puller would ride slowly and look under
different trees to spot birds. He asked me if I wanted
to see the Collared Scops Owl.
Rs.50 was all I could spend for an owl, a species I was
dying to explore. I have only seen one, the Spotted
owlet. Utterly cute they are, but quite common.
Charan Singh propped the rickshaw like a Formula 1
driver but there was a speed restriction we needed to
obey. We saw a group of people hungrily eyeing a palm
tree. Maybe they had spotted the species. We stopped
only to be told that they were staring at a parakeet
pair while the second group was busy photographing the
antler deer, I started yawning and gave Charan Singh a
mean look. To make up for the lost time, he shared some
trivia: An owl can rotate its head 360 degrees. We moved
on. He decided to check out at a deserted route. And I
told myself this better be the moment else I am never
returning to Bharatpur. He whistled and signalled to me
to leave the comfort of my rickshaw I dragged myself
out. And the next thing I knew, I was staring right into
the eyes of the Collared Scops Owlet.
I was in a trance. It was the most beautiful species I
had ever seen. It was a pair and probably trying to
catch a wink or two — they didn’t move. But I could see
their ears. The pair camouflaged perfectly with the
browns. I could have stayed under the tree the whole
day. And asked myself, when am I coming again? Bharatpur
with or without Siberian cranes is thriving and I hope
it will continue to do so. We have to take care of what
we have and ensure good conditions for those species to
thrive and breed and return again, again and again.
Maths in the jungle
The rickshaw-pullers charge a fee of Rs.70 for an hour
to show you around inside the park. But for some reason
the final bill never comes to less than 250. Even if you
spend an hour and a half.
The Hindu, 10th September 2012
Portraits of a City
An exhibition by French photographer Manuel Bougot
captures the various facets of Chandigarh — Le
Corbusier’s architecture in the city, its people and
During a visit to Neuilly — a suburb near Paris —
photographer Manuel Bougot came across a building that
changed his perspective on architecture forever. Known
as the Jaoul Houses, the building — consisting of modest
brown structures — was designed by Swiss-French
architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le
Corbusier. Something in its “rigid simplicity and modern
functionality” got Bougot to embark upon an expedition
to Chandigarh, where Le Corbusier had worked in the late
’40s at the invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru.
At the opening of his exhibition titled “Chandigarh:
Portrait of a City” at the Photoink gallery in Delhi on
Saturday, Bougot said, “These are the pictures I took
during my two trips to Chandigarh — one in January 2009
and the other in January 2010.” The collection of 75-odd
works portray various aspects of the life in the quiet
city — portraits of government officials, long shots of
buildings by Le Corbusier and even the interiors of a
local cinema hall. One particularly interesting shot is
of the back entrance of the Legislative Assembly in
Chandigarh. Taken in the soft lighting during the winter
of 2010, the picture is composed of three horizontal
layers — a garden, the building and its parking lot.
However, Bougot insists that what started as an
experiment to shoot Le Corbusier’s works evolved into a
profile of the city itself. “I realised that along with
shooting the buildings, I was also interested in
shooting its people and their lives,” he says. For
example, his picture of the Panjab University’s boys’
hostel in Sector 14 — a long shot of the red brick
building with clothes hanging out to dry on various
terraces and a student studying in the sun — throws
light on the simple student life in Punjab.
Thoroughly charmed by the Punjabi hospitality, Bougot
intends to travel to Chandigarh again some day. “To
begin with, I’m planning to hold a small exhibition of
my works there, as a small thank you to the warmest
people I’ve met,” he says.
“Chandigarh: Portrait of a City” is on at Photoink,
Jhandewalan, till October 27. Contact: 28755940
The Indian Express, 11th September 2012
Day out at the village
Hansa Niyati’s works are a tribute to the tribal
arts of India
Using folk art like Warli and Dokra in citadels of
corporate India, be it on the bottle of software majors
or as murals on public walls, has made them the stuff of
urban chic. The recent exhibition,Fusion, by Hansa
Niyati at India Habitat Centre, is one such experiment.
The artist has not only reinterpreted Warli but has
recorded her interactions with the tribals and her
understanding of this ancient art form through her
A professor of economics from Rajasthan, Niyati learnt
of Warli after she met tribals of Banswara district.
“Most of them are nomads who keep travelling from one
place to the other and have some temporary huts. But
even these mobile homes are so well-decorated with
natural colours and beautiful paintings. It is their way
of maintaining a diary of their social life. So these
paintings describe their daily chores, the lives of
women and even plant and animal life. The most
interesting part of Warli is that they use earth basics
like limestone, clay, mud, flower dyes and henna,” says
the artist who has combined some items of Warli with
Dokra metal art.
“I did an extensive study and research on the tribal
arts in India and I found Dokra, metal casting using the
low wax techniques, really interesting. Many artists
have taken inspiration from Dokra and come up with
interesting sculptures. I decided to put them in frames
and in certain cases emboss them,” says Niyati.
The artist was simply mesmerised by the power of
simplicity of stick-like figures.
“In Warli art, you never get to see the expressions of
each figure but even in their facelessness, they share
an indescribable joy and togetherness. Also, a few
delicate gestures of limbs and head are all that are
required to symbolise any movement, be it a lady dusting
with a broom or a young mother carrying her child to the
fields,” explains Niyati.
The Pioneer. 11th September 2012
30-year-old Okhla tree gets new life
It is a fully grown Mulberry tree but a massive termite
infestation had left it completely hollow. Two weeks
earlier, Jayati Sharma moved to an office right across
the road from this tree in the Okhla Industrial Area and
decided that it needed urgent help. Recalling an earlier
story on tree surgeries she had read in The Times of
India, Sharma searched for the NGO, Green Circle of
Delhi, which had been involved in the previous
operation. On Monday, this 30-year-old tree was given
another chance at life.
"The tree was completely hollow and could have collapsed
at any moment. I tracked down the Green Circle officials
and they came with an NDMC team on Monday and performed
a tree surgery. Hopefully the tree will recover and live
on for many more years," said Sharma.
Suhas Borker, founder member of Green Circle of Delhi
said that recently, while the pavementon which the tree
is located was being revamped, a JCB machine had hit the
tree and partly broken one branch. "The tree is next to
a wall and was resting partly on it. Under the impact,
the tree turned slightly and is now leaning towards the
road. To bring about a balance, we had to saw off the
broken branch. Once that was done, we realized just how
massive the termite infestation was as the tree was
completely hollow," he said.
The surgery was carried out by the city's only tree
ambulance, which is operated by NDMC. The
joint-operation by NDMC and South Delhi Municipal
Corporation took a few hours as not only did the branch
have to be axed, the resultant hollow had to be treated
and filled up again in a bid to make the bark regrow.
"The hollow that was created by removing the branch was
first washed with water and then sprayed with an
insecticide to kill all the termites. This cavity was
then stuffed with cotton, thermocol and sponge to
provide support to the tree. Once completely packed, the
opening was then sealed off with a wire mesh, plaster of
paris and cement. Within the next 10 days or so, the
wood will start growing again," said sources.
Till now, more than 50 trees have been operated upon by
the tree ambulance. However, since NDMC is the only
agency with such a service, most trees are located in
these areas. Borker said that there was an urgent need
to have such ambulances all civic and land-owning
The Times of India, 11th September 2012
Old Lutyens bungalows may finally be
demolished to build new ones?
Union Urban Development Ministry preparing Cabinet note
to move ahead Structurally unsafe and a huge drain on
the exchequer, nearly 600 bungalows in the Lutyens
Bungalow Zone here in the Capital need to be razed,
refurbished and replaced with new constructions, the
Union Urban Development Ministry has assessed.
The Ministry is preparing a Cabinet note on the demolition
of these old bungalows in the LBZ built between 1920 and 1935. A proposal to
raze the old to pave the way for the new has been hanging fire for a long time.
The issue came up for review after an increase in
complaints from occupants about seepage, cracks in the walls and arches, rundown
facades and other deterioration of the structures. “There are about 600
bungalows of Type VI and those above that which have been identified as
structurally unsafe. Most of these are old and there is a lot of money that goes
into their maintenance. In the past six years, the Government had spent about
Rs.25 lakh to Rs.35 lakh (one-time expense) on their aesthetic up-gradation and
improvement. This is in addition to the annual maintenance that is carried out,”
said a Ministry official.
Not earthquake resistant
The bungalows, which are home to senior Ministers, Members
of Parliament, party offices and senior bureaucrats, are not
earthquake-resistant and there have been periodic demands for building new
lodgings in their place.
“A decision to undertake the construction rests with the
Union Cabinet. But the proposal has been pending for a long time. Former Prime
Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called for replacing the old bungalows with
new and modern dwellings way back in 1999. Subsequently it was decided that the
work will be carried out in a phased manner,” said the official.
The Central Public Works Department, which is responsible
for the maintenance of these buildings, was asked to carry out a fresh survey
this past year to identify the bungalows that have become decrepit and the
interventions that need to be carried out. The CPWD also suggested carrying out
construction of new bungalows and refurbishing the old ones in a phased manner.
The cost of the project, which would be spread over 10-15 years, was pegged
around Rs.3,000 crore.
Signs of age
“Most of these buildings are showing signs of age; they
were built at a time when mud and mortar were used for construction. The roof of
these buildings is especially not very strong. Besides, most of them have
outlived their utility. We often get requests from MPs and Ministers for
construction of an additional room, or utility services, because they find the
space in the old bungalows inadequate,” the official said.
Another reason why the Ministry is keen to pull down the
old structures is the pressure of finding space for new houses. With land in
short supply in the LBZ area, the Ministry wants to make the best possible use
of the existing land.
The old bungalows are spread over three to four acres of
land with large tracts being used as lawns and kitchen gardens. Over the years
the Ministry has received suggestions to use the additional, vacant space for
construction of new bungalows.
“As for maintaining the aesthetics of the area, the
bungalows can be built using the original drawings, with modifications to
accommodate the needs of the occupants. Given the age of these buildings and the
extent of wearing away there is a need to speed up work related to the sanction
and construction,” the official said.
The Hindu, 12th September 2012
Pelicans may lose
New notification excludes
considerable land from Kolleru sanctuary limits
Only two acres will be left for the
Pelican Paradise at Atapaka in Krishna district out of the
260 acres in which the wildlife division of the Forest
Department developed the eco-tourism destination.
In Atapaka village on the
outskirts of Kaikuluru, the winged visitors will be
left with only two acres that will be in the
possession of the department if the disputed 7,600
acres are distributed to the poor.
The exclusion of three villages in
the notification for the Kolleru Bird Sanctuary has
given scope for vested interests to claim that some
land within the limits of these villages and
surrounding areas are not included in the sanctuary.
While the line connecting 11
villages on contour 5+ marked the boundary of the
lake, three villages - Pillipadu, Nutchumilli and
Takkellapadu - in Kaikaluru and Mandavalli mandals
were omitted in the notification for the bird
The Grey Pelicans which populated
Kolleru lake disappeared from there with large-scale
encroachment of the Ramsar site for aquaculture.
The birds returned to the lake to
nest after a considerable gap only after the Forest
Department erected iron stands on an experimental basis.
Environmentalists saw the return of the pelicans to
Atapaka as the first step towards reviving Kolleru’s
The locals call the Atapaka part of Kolleru lake as
‘Pittala Doddi’ (Bird Compound). After the return of the pelicans, the locals
who saw their tourist potential in the birds changed the name of Pittala Doddi
to ‘Pelican Paradise’.
The Forest Department argues that the omission of the three
villages does not matter because the line connecting the dots was still the
same. The dispute came to the fore again when Krishna Collector Buddha Prakash
Jyoti asked Wildlife Division officials to demarcate the land.
The Hindu, 12th September 2012
proving fatal to riverine species
Great Indian Bustard,
White-bellied Heron on the brink
The White-bellied Heron, the Great Indian Bustard,
the Peacock Tarantula and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper of India are
among the 100 most threatened species of the planet and “closest to
The Javan Rhino and Sumatran Rhino —
considered extinct in India — are also present in the list
compiled by scientists of the Species Survival Commission
(SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature
(IUCN).The list was released by the Zoological Society of
London and the IUCN at the World Conservation Congress being
held in the Republic of Korea.
Experts feel that “the list of 100
species, from 48 different countries, are first in
line to disappear completely if nothing is done to
The population of the
White-bellied Heron, a.k.a. the Imperial Heron,
is estimated to be between 70 and 400. The
species is “known from the eastern Himalayan
foothills in Bhutan and north-east India to the
hills of Bangladesh, north Myanmar and,
historically, across west and central Myanmar,”
according to BirdLife International. It is
primarily found in small or large rivers,
usually with sand or gravel bars, often within
or adjacent to subtropical broadleaf forests,
says the IUCN Red list.
The destruction of habitat
due to the development of hydel power
projects has been identified as the cause
for the falling numbers. SSC experts have
suggested “development of captive rearing
and release programme and elimination of
adverse uses of riverine habitat” for
bringing the species back from the brink.
The habitat of the Peacock
Tarantula, found in the Reserve forest
between Nandyal and Giddalur of Andhra
Pradesh, is “completely degraded due to
lopping for firewood and cutting for timber.
It is under intense pressure from the
surrounding villages as well as from
insurgents who use forest resources for
their existence and operations.”
In the case of the Great
Indian Bustard - estimated to number between
50-249 mature individuals - the habitat loss
and modification due to agricultural
development have proved near fatal. The
“establishment of protected areas and
community reserves and realignment of the
Indira Gandhi Nahar Project” are the
possible measures for saving the birds, it
population of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper
of India is roughly equivalent to
240-400 mature individuals. Trapping on
wintering grounds and land reclamation
are matters of concern for the species.
Hunted for its
horn, which is used in some
traditional medicines, the Sumatran
Rhinoceros has been reduced to
around 250 individuals worldwide.
The species was earlier reported
from the foothills of the Himalayas
in Bhutan and north-east India.
The Hindu, 12th September 2012
Study to cut Taj,
Ajanta burden may cost Rs 65L
What is the “carrying
capacity” of the fragile Taj Mahal and Ajanta Caves,
which are witnessing around 50,000 footfalls every day
during the tourist season?
To assess the stress caused by the
visitors and take steps to protect the two renowned
heritage sites, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)
has roped in the Nagpur-based National Environmental
Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).
“This is the first-of-its-kind a year-long scientific
study to be conducted in any monument in the country. It will be kicked off
from Thursday when NEERI scientists will start doing their job
simultaneously on the two monuments,” says a senior ASI official.
The aim is to ensure that we have adequate plans in place
including regulating the visits if required before pressure takes its toll
on them. The structures need long-term plan for long life, the official told
The study cost has been estimated at around Rs 65 lakh.
The two monuments are on the list of
over 3,600 protected monuments of the ASI and figure on
the World Heritage List of the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
“The Government research agency will conduct study of four
seasons including the peak period when the footfall is at the maximum at the
The scientific study is to be done simultaneously at the
two historical sites on levels of atmosphere, temperature and humidity
caused by the regular flow of the visitors, the official added.
The 17th-century Taj Mahal, India’s white-marbled monument
to love topped the list of Agra circle monuments with 41,81,228 domestic
tourists and 6,23,944 foreign tourists in 2010-11.
“No doubt footfalls are indeed a major pressure on the
monument but our major concern is the white platforms in the main mausoleum
which is bearing the major brunt of high temperature and humidity due to
human presence,” the official said. The measures may include regulated
visits as has been done by France in cave of Niaux located in its
The ASI is also worried at the increasing human
load on the 1,500 years old Ajanata Caves in Maharasthra. These caves
are rock-cut cave monuments dating from the second century BCE,
containing paintings and sculpture considered to be masterpieces of both
“Buddhist religious art” and “universal pictorial art”. Though
time-to-time steps have been taken to control the visits, a lot remains
to be done.
More such studies in other monuments will be conducted
depending on the recommendations from the NEERI.
The Pioneer, 12th September 2012
INTACH to make dossier
for UNESCO tag
The Delhi government is making a
pitch for the capital to be declared as a UnescoWorld
Heritage City. The cabinet has given nod to the tourism
department to appoint India National Trust for Art and
Cultural Heritage (Intach) for preparing the nomination
dossier for the Unesco tag.
"It may be recalled that in 2008, Intach
was entrusted with the task of preparing a conceptual report
for this purpose. The report has been prepared. A nomination
dossier is to be submitted to Unesco through ministry of
culture. Hence, Delhi tourism has been allowed to enter into
an agreement with Intach for preparation and submission of
the final dossier," said senior officials.
The Times of India, 12th September 2012
Heritage tag for Delhi
Delhi’s dreams of
becoming the country’s first world heritage city are now
officially on fast track.
The Delhi Cabinet has given a green signal
to an MoU between the Indian National Trust for Art and
Cultural Heritage’s Delhi Chapter and Delhi Tourism
Department to finalise a nomination dossier for inscription
of Delhi as “world heritage city” so that it could be sent
The tourism department is the
coordinating agency appointed by the Delhi Government to
prepare the nomination dossiers. The department roped in
INTACH to execute the work.
The INTACH will assist it and conduct study of Lutyens’
Delhi and Shahjehanabad areas for preparing the final dossier to make Delhi
a world heritage city.
Earlier, the amount was fixed at Rs 40.07 lakh for
finalising the contents of the tentative documents which was revised to Rs
95.10 lakh which will be payable to INTACH for its service. To date, India
has never applied for a world heritage city tag and this year both Ahmedabad
and Delhi are contenders. They also appear on the ‘tentative list’ updated
by UNESCO on May 22, 2012.
With three world heritage sites, Qutab Minar, Red Fort and
Humayun’s Tomb, 173 protected monuments and hundreds of listed heritage
structures to the city’s credit, conservationists have for years been
pushing for Delhi’s nomination for a world heritage city tag. The final
nomination dossier will include six volumes which contain intricate details
on every aspect of Delhi. It may be recalled in 2008, INTACH was entrusted
with the task of preparing a conceptual report for this purpose. The report
has been prepared. A nomination dossier is required to be prepared for
submission to UNESCO through the Ministry of Culture.
According to the MoU, both Delhi Government and INTACH will
abide by the principle to protect, conserve and promote the cherished
architectural environment and living (social and living) heritage resources of
the capital. The INTACH will also provide expertise and consultancy to the
Government for grooming Delhi into a world heritage city for a period of five
years and assist it in formulating heritage related architectural and urban
designs schemes and policies for various parts of the city. The INTACH will also
formulate a comprehensive plan for beautification and lighting monuments and
appurtenance areas of the monuments and heritage precincts in time.
The ASI had earlier forwarded a proposal for inscribing
Delhi as ‘World Heritage City’ to UNESCO. The proposal was withdrawn by the
Ministry of Culture and an advisory committee was constituted to examine the
tentative listing document. The proposal of Delhi as a world heritage city was
brought before the Advisory Committee on January 20, 2012 and the same was
approved by the committee of the world heritage matters.
According to the officials of the Tourism Department, if
the city is given the status of ‘World Heritage city’, it will be a boon for the
tourism industry in the Capital. The Government can then obtain funds from the
World Heritage Fund to maintain heritage structures.
The Pioneer, 12th September 2012
A boost for bamboo
The Tripura government is
trying to revive the dying art of fine bamboo weaving
that can perk up employment in the State
It was at the Agartala Central Jail that Krishna Das Pal
learnt the craft of ‘fine bamboo weaving’. As a ‘jail police’, as local
craftsmen refer to him, he fine-tuned the craft to such an extent that he has
become a legendary name in the field. The Central Government also recognised his
talent and honoured him with the President’s Medal.
However, this fine art of bamboo weaving is on its way out.
In just four decades, the art form developed, flourished, waned and is now
dying. The reason for this is that the children of such weavers are taking to
other modern-day professions, and for others too it holds little promise.
“There are just three practitioners of this art form. Apart
from my elder brother Krishna Das, my nephew Shukesh Pal has also learnt it,”
said Moti Babu, who is a Master Craftsman with the Tripura government.
In this form, bamboo is shaved real fine and a die is
cast of the structure to be made – usually these are masks or idols of
deities like Ganesh and Durga. Then the mask is woven around the dye through
the fine bamboo, said Mr Babu.
In these images, cane is also used for weaving the
structure and for providing the background. The face is made of fine
bamboo shavings, which give it a natural smooth, flowing and glossy
“It was in 1976 that I started working on this art
form. All three of us hail from Masterpara, about four kilometres from
Agartala. Our village got its name due to the large presence of teachers
who taught at a nearby school.”
Today, Moti Babu is trying hard to keep the
tradition of fine bamboo weaving alive. “In our village of over 5,000
people, there are just eight engaged in bamboo weaving. About
seven-eight persons help us, but they have not picked up the skill to
the extent we would have liked,” he lamented.
The work is painstaking, time-consuming but not so
paying. “A normal mask takes about a week to prepare and making it costs
Rs 700 to 800. It is sold by the artisan for around Rs 2,500 and further
retailed for around Rs 3,800. The five-feet tall statues sell for around
Rs 45,000 in the market.”
Interacting with the media during a familiarisation
tour of the North East organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce
(ICC), the North Eastern Council (NEC), and the Ministry of DoNER,
recently, Moti Babu insisted that there are about 2,200 artisans now
gainfully employed in bamboo work in and around Agartala.
The Hindu, 13th September 2012
to get India's healing touch
Pashupatinath Temple has
been in the news lately. First, was the move to bring
the temple’s finances into the public domain, which was
seen as a positive step towards modernising this ancient
institution. Now Nepal has sought India’s help to
protect Kathmandu’s famous 5th century temple on the
Listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the historical
wooden gates and pillars of the temple have been damaged by moisture and
termites, and are on the verge of collapse.
The main temple was first renovated by the Malla King
Bhupatindra Malla in 1700 BS (1643 AD) and later by the hereditary Prime
Minister Chandra Shumsher Janga Bahadur Rana some 100 years ago. There
is a need to immediately renovate the temple which has not been
renovated for more than a century.
Sources in the Union Culture Ministry said the
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is studying a proposal in this regard
from the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust (PADT).
The holy shrine, which is visited by large numbers of
Hindus as well as Nepalese, among others particularly during festivals like
Shivratri, was built in 516 BS (1459 AD) by Lichhavi King Mandev.
However, with the passage of the time, the weathering
effects have started showing on the centuries-old structure especially on
its four main wooden doors. The western door has a statue of a large bull or
Nandi, covered in gold.
When contacted, Narottam Vaidya, treasurer of the PADT,
confirmed that they have approached ASI through the Indian embassy in Nepal
to study the damages caused by the seepage on the wooden gates and pillars
of the temple.
“The wooden structures are in a
dilapidated state and can crumble any time. Since it is the
protected site of the UNESCO, we cannot treat this askance. We
believe that the ASI has enough expertise in restoring such
structures,” Vaidya told The Pioneer over the phone.
“To begin with, we want the ASI to prepare a project report
detailing the cause and extent of the damage to the wooden structures,” Vaidya
said, adding, “once we get the report, we will initiate repairs and renovation
of the abode of Shiva as per international standards for which we are banking on
The world-famous temple’s daily earnings stand at around Rs 1,35,000 on average.
Excluding festivals and special occasions, the yearly income of the sacred
temple could be at least Rs 50 million, according to various reports.
Meanwhile, the sources said that the ASI is seriously considering the proposal.
“Fund and logistics needed for the job is being worked out. Final decision is
yet to be taken.”
The temple has special importance for India as the priests
always have been from south of the Vindhyas, a tradition that is believed to
have been started by Adi Shankaracharya in 6th century, who sought to unify the
different states of Bharatam (Unified India) by encouraging cultural exchange.
If given the green signal, it would be not be the first
time that the ASI would be showcasing its acumen in the neighbouring country.
Way back in the 70s, the ASI has conducted exploration and carried out important
excavation in the Terai region of Nepal.
In the recent past, the ASI has successfully carried out
various archaeological activities abroad from time to time including
explorations and excavations of ancient sites and conservation and scientific
preservation of monuments on the request of the respective countries.
To name a few are the structural conservation of Ta Prohm
Temple in Cambodia and Wat Phou Temple in Laos, structural conservation and
chemical preservation at famous Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, Angkor Wat in
Cambodia and The Ananda Temple in Myanmar.
The Pioneer, 13th September 2012
New Delhi Municipal
Council, traders’ body discuss CP revamp
With less than three-and-a-half months left for the
completion of the Connaught Place redevelopment project,
theNew Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and New Delhi
Traders' Association (NDTA) held a special review
meeting on Wednesday.
NDTA discussed problems faced by traders due to the ongoing work and suggested
some changes in the original plan. NDMC officials say the suggestions made by
NDTA will be discussed with the chief designer and necessary changes will be
In the meeting, NDTA stressed on the need to
construct narrow footpaths in the middle circle. As per the present
plan, NDMC is constructing 7-foot wide footpaths on both sides of
the middle circle. "It is pointless to construct such wide footpaths
on both sides of the road. Nobody is going to use these footpaths.
Moreover, this will reduce our parking space. As it is there is a
serious parking problem in the area. And with the construction of
these footpaths, there is going to be a parking mess in Connaught
Place,'' said Atul Bhargava, president of NDTA.
Another suggestion by NDTA was to do away with
the proposed sitting arrangement in outer circle and radial
roads. "They have constructed concrete benches in the inner
circle. These benches are mostly used by hawkers to sell their
goods. There is no point in making a similar arrangement in
Outer circle and radial roads," said Bhargava. The traders
association also pointed out that wire loops are protruding from
When contacted, NDMC official said, "The project is for
their (traders) benefit. We have to take into account their concerns. We
have heard their suggestions and would discuss it with the designer of the
project. If it is feasible, we will incorporate the changes."
The Times of India, 13th September 2012
New panel to ready
tiger tourism norms in 10 days
Another panel has been set up by the ministry of
environment and forests to decide eco-tourism guidelines
in core areas and peripheral buffer zones of tiger
reserves, and submit a report within 10 days.
The panel's creation comes on the back of ministry's
commitment to the Supreme Court that it would review its proposed norms on
eco-tourism and get back to the SC with a final version by September 29.
The new panel includes two wildlife scientists K Ullas
Karanth and Wildlife Institute of India's Y V Jhala. Also, there are Brijendra
Singh, considered close to the Gandhi family and a member of the National Board
of Wildlife, Raghu Chundawat, a tiger expert and a resort-owner in Madhya
Pradesh, Shekhar Dattari a wildlife filmmaker, Swathi Sheshadri of Equations, an
NGO that works on tourism, Tushar Das of NGO Vasundhra, which works on tribal
rights, and Arun Bhatnagar, a retired bureaucrat. In addition, the committee
will have representatives from tribal affairs, tourism and panchayati raj
ministries, besides chief wildlife wardens of MP, UP, Rajasthan, Karnataka and
The member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation
Authority will serve as convener on the committee.
The committee been tasked to "prepare a comprehensive set
of guidelines for tiger conservation and tourism as provided in section 380 (c)
of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972". It has been asked to keep all existing
laws in mind, including the Forest Rights Act, while drawing up the guidelines.
While the apex court had put a complete but interim ban on
tourism in the core of tiger reserves, the ministry had earlier recommended only
partial tourism in the core run by communities. The ministry's suggestions had a
rider. It sought to put stringent conditions including a cess on revenues of the
resorts around tiger reserves to fund conservation. Several tour operators and
resort owners had opposed both the court's interim order and government
guidelines. Several states, too, had opposed a complete ban.
The Times of India, 13th September 2012
PM calls for
preservation of South Indian art forms
Extols composite and
diverse culture of Kerala
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for added
efforts to preserve traditional art forms of South India.
He was addressing the gathering after
laying the foundation for the South Indian Performing Arts
Museum on the premises of the Kerala Kalamandalam Deemed
University for Art and Culture here on Wednesday.
“The South Indian canvas is endowed with a wide variety of
traditional performing arts, including ritual, folk and classical. Some art
forms have vanished unfortunately; while others need to be protected and
supported,” he said.
“The South Indian canvas is endowed with a wide variety of
traditional performing arts, including ritual, folk and classical. Some art
forms have vanished unfortunately; while others need to be protected and
supported,” he said.
Dr. Singh stated that the proposed museum was expected
to lead to a greater and renewed interest in the art and
culture of the region, and reinforce the country’s
pluralism and harmonious co-existence of diverse
cultures and sub-cultures.
He extolled the composite and diverse culture of Kerala
that had been enhanced by the synthesis of a large variety of influences over
centuries, and its tradition of religious tolerance and respect for diverse
philosophies. “It is not, thus, a coincidence that the earliest mosque, church
and synagogue in the country were all established in the blessed land of
Kerala,” he said.
Dr. Singh acknowledged the role played by Kalamandalam in
promoting art forms. “Founded by the great poet Vallathol Narayana Menon in
1930, Kalamandalam has a special place on the cultural map not only of Kerala
but also of the country. I understand that it is the first public institution to
impart training in traditional performing arts of Kerala, especially Kathakali,
Mohiniyattom, Koodiyattom, and Thullal. From its humble beginnings, it has today
established itself as a symbol of Indian cultural renaissance and has attained
global fame,” he added.
Cultural Affairs Minister K.C. Joseph made a fervent plea
to the Prime Minister to grant classical status to Malayalam.
“Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada have been accorded classical
status. Malayalam, which has a 1,500-year-old history, too should be granted the
status. A request to the Department of Culture in this connection is pending
settlement. The Prime Minister should intervene in the matter,” he said.
Governor H.R. Bharadwaj, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, and
Kerala Kalamandalam Vice-Chancellor P.N. Suresh spoke.
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Mullappally
Ramachandran,Union Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahmed, P.K. Biju,
MP; and K. Radhakrishnan, MLA, were present.
Kalamandalam executive member Pandalam Sudhakaran presented
‘Krishna Mudi’ (headgear worn by Kathakali actors playing Lord Krishna) to the
Dr. Singh watched a cultural show, comprising the Kathakali
sequence, ‘Gitopadesam,’ acted out by maestro Kalamandalam Gopi and
Krishnakumar, and a Mohiniyattom choreography depicting eight aspects of Goddess
Mahalakshmi. Artistes led by Annamanada Parameswara Marar and Cherpulassery
Sivan played Panchavadyam, a traditional ensemble of Kerala, to welcome the
The Hindu, 13th September 2012
For the love of
For 34-year-old Manjusha Das, painting was always been a
passion. It started as a playful act with the brush
during her school days and made her win many awards and
competitions later in life. But it was only in the year
1996, when Das was 18-years-old, that she decided to
take formal training in
art. “I learnt oil painting and portrait in Istanbul. My
husband was posted there at that time,” says Das.
Her formal training gave her a new high and she started
painting more regularly. After some time, her cousin
sister, Bharti Dayal, also Das’ guru, introduced her to
Madhubani art. “It was so refreshing to learn a new art
form. Dayal introduced me to Maithila paintings or
Madhubani art — as this form is popularly known.”
Devotional in theme, the Madhubani paintings by Das
depict scenes from ancient epics and are rich in vedic
and tantrik symbolism. But it’s the Krishna leela that
attracts Das the most in Madhubani. “This form has many
variations and I love the use of natural colours in it.”
Das has also exhibited her work in Istanbul, Copenhagen
and Tehran. As a diplomat spouse, had ample time to
learn from reputed artists from different countries. Das
is also a trained fashion designer, having participated
in many fashion exhibitions.
Having perfected the art, Das is now trying a fusion
form in Madhubani art. “I am trying Madhubani with oil
colours, which is very unusual. As opposed to natural
colours, oil colours take a long time to dry.” Her work
is currently priced between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 25,000 and
can be viewed at Bihar Emporium, Baba Kharak Singh Marg.
I am trying Madhubani with oil colours, which is very
unusual. As opposed to natural colours, oils take a long
time to dry,"says Manjusha Das, artist.
The Hindustan Times, 13th September 2012
Cabinet nod for
campaign to get Delhi World Heritage City status
Delhi to be considered for the title only in 2014
The “World Heritage City” tag for the Capital seems less
elusive now with the Delhi Government approving the
Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage’s
campaign in this regard. Armed with the title “Imperial
Town Planning Traditions of Delhi”, INTACH Delhi Chapter
is all set to prepare the final dossier to be submitted
“The Delhi Tourism & Transportation Development
Corporation have been asked to sign an agreement with us
and fund our preparation of the final dossier,” said
INTACH Delhi Chapter convenor A. G. K. Menon. “This way
we do not need to cut any corners since we have the
government’s support,” he said, adding that the move is
also evident of the government’s intention to protect
However, Delhi will be considered for the tag only in
2014 and not next year. “UNESCO put us on the tentative
list only on May 22 this year and to be considered we
have to stay on the list for a year. This means we will
be considered only in 2014,” said Mr. Menon.
This gives the team at INTACH more time to work on the
final dossier that will promote both Shahjahanabad and
Interior New Delhi (Lutyens’ Delhi) as World Heritage
cities. “We are still debating which criteria to apply
under since each criterion has to have evidence from the
ground,” he said.
Earlier INTACH was only going to apply under Criteria 4
– (an outstanding example of a type of building,
architectural or technological ensemble or landscape
which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human
history) but is also considering Criteria 1 (to
represent a masterpiece of human creative genius).
INTACH to submit final dossier to UNESCO
Will promote Shahjahanabad and Interior New Delhi
(Lutyens’ Delhi) as World Heritage cities
The Hindu, 13th September 2012
A connecting shot
As an exhibition showcasing some of his timeless
images opens in the city today, ace lensman Raghu Rai
tells us how a picture happens.
Raghu Rai moves back and forth in time as he, immersed
neck-deep in his future projects, takes our call to talk
about his earlier work, an exhibition of which has been
organised by Tasveer in collaboration with Vacheron
Constantin. Titled “Divine Moments”, the exhibition
opens tomorrow at The Stainless Gallery in the Capital.
Rai tells us that the 35 frames to be exhibited in the
show have been extracted from his major retrospective
mounted at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New
Delhi, in 2008.
And though the works date back to several years,
memories of the day, the incidents that led him to
freezing a particular moment, are clearly etched in
Rai’s mind. “That misty morning of December had such a
spiritual feeling about it. With the man and the animal
together in perfect harmony in the picture, it brings
out the irony that the world can be so unpredictable. It
was Ayodhya the day before,” recalls Rai referring to
the image titled ‘The Day Before – Ayodhya, 1992’ in
which a sadhu is extending an offering to a passerby and
a monkey perched on a wall. Working for a news magazine
back in 1992, Rai was sent to cover the Ayodhya riots.
According to Rai, these moments are god-gifted and rare
because nobody has manufactured or designed them. “These
are the moments when you work keeping out the editorial
needs. But even when you are assigned a job and you have
to listen to the dictates of editorial needs, you just
take off,” elaborates the celebrated photographer when
asked if the work shown here would classify as being
different from the rest of his oeuvre in terms of
Remembering another shot, ‘Stilled by the rain,
Gurgaon’, which he clicked while going to his village,
the lensman says, “It was drizzling and I was driving
towards my village. The bull just wouldn’t move. The
stillness of the rain had a meditative effect all over.
In such weather, you can feel either elated or
depressed.” A picture that speaks to you, he feels, is
produced when body, mind and spirit come together in
that one moment, and the exhibition offers several such
gems where you can witness the moment.
Moving forth Rai reveals about his forthcoming book on
trees, titled “Whispers”, which he plans to release by
the end of this year. “I am editing it currently. I
think it will be one of my best works,” says Rai, adding
that with another book on clouds and monsoons scheduled
to be released next year he is drifting towards nature.
(The exhibition is on at The Stainless Gallery,
Ground Floor, Mira Corporate Suites 1 & 2, Old Ishwar
Nagar, Okhla Crossing, Mathura Road, New Delhi, from
September 15 to 25.)
The Hindu, 14th September 2012
Sepia tinted India
The forthcoming United Art Fair brings rare works
of Raja Deen Dayal, one of the country’s earliest
photographers. E Malik checks out
Delhi is so seeped in history, that we sometimes ignore
other places. That will all change.
The forthcoming United Art Fair brings to the fore the
exhibition, Raja Deen Dayal, the pioneer of Indian
Photography. It includes 30 works from the private
estate of the photographer, along with others. Little
did Lala Deen Dayal (1844-1905) know, that being
educated as a draughtsman and head estimator would be
the stepping stone to his becoming India’s first
He picked it up when his college in Roorkee introduced
photography during his final year. “We personally knew
the estate and people who run it. That’s where the idea
came from,” explained Anurag Sharma, director, United
“Many pictures of Raja Deen Dayal were never exhibited
before. This is our way of getting them to the masses.
If you look at pictures he took, and real monuments of
Hyderabad today, there is a sea of difference. That’s
the idea behind the project. To get people to come and
see for themselves. If you look at the pictures of the
Red Fort of around 1880s, and now, you will notice this.
Over time, the originality has gone, given the forces of
nature at work. The repair and renovations that keep
going on at these places. With these pictures, one can
see the originalnakkashi and ornate designs on the
palaces and the other royal buildings,” shared Anurag.
One sees pictures of Charminar reflected on the water,
like a mirror reflection. The Water Palace is also
captured in full royal splendour. So are Lord and Lady
Curzon, with a tiger lying at their feet.
A result of their many hunting expeditions. One also
observes a rare candid shot of the young Prince of
Baroda — Fateh Singh Gaekwad. The Royal procession in
full regalia, is also outstanding.
“We had a clear vision of what kind of pictures we
wanted for the exhibition. Deen Dayal documented the
culture of that time. It reflects how he negotiated the
context of the subject and his own vision, then brought
forward all these together in his pictures,” added
Lala Deen Dayal was commissioned by the royal family of
Hyderabad to document happenings and day-to-day affairs.
“It was the kind of patronage he got, that enabled him
to do this work. The title of ‘Raja’ was bestowed on him
by the Royal family. He worked on silver bromide plates.
And whenever he worked, it was like shifting his entire
studio,” added Johny ML, who curated the exhibit.
Deen Dayal was also appointed photographer to the
Viceroy of India and Queen Victoria in 1887. “One could
create copies from the master negative that he clicked
on. That concept doesn’t exist any more, with digital
photography. Because the moment you transfer the picture
from the camera to the computer, there is no master file
left,” explained Johnny.
These rare pictures will be shown at the United Art Fair
which opens from September 27-30 at Pragati Maidan, Hall
No 12 and 12A. “One has to differentiate between a
public museum and democratic space. As Althusser said of
repressive state apparatuses. Museums are such places.
An art fair is democratic and done in a mela like way,
achieving what a state made institution like a museum
cannot. The same people who throng India Gate, will not
step in a museum. But they will comfortably saunter in
at a fair like this to have a look at the pictures,”
The Pioneer, 14th September 2012
redevelopment plan in the offing
The first phase of Transit Oriented Development (TOD)
announced by Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath, a
fortnight ago, is all set to kick-start.
The Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure
(Planning & Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC) has prepared
an initial plan, which would be implemented along the
Nehru Place Phase III Metro corridor. The new
redevelopment plan based on the paratransit mode will
not only look at the interest of the pedestrians but
also aims at making the public transport system more
efficient and sustainable.
In the proposed TOD, the UD Ministry is aiming to create
a public transport system which will provide the last
mile connectivity. The arterial connectivity of the
Capital continues to remain poor even after start of
Metro and the BRT corridors.
As per the Multi Model Integration and Connectivity
System the area from 300 metres to two kilometres has
been marked along the Metro route for redevelopment.
The UTTIPEC in its proposal has divided the area into
three zones. The bigger radial at two kilometres,
followed by 800 metres and then at 300 metres. "The idea
is to have a well connected network from the residential
areas to public mode of transport," said Ashok
Bhattarjee, director UTTIPEC. The proposal that aims to
encourage the use of public transport will have the
colonies connected to the Metro station through the
facilities, including sharing auto-rickshaws and
eco-friendly mode of transport from areas falling within
two kilometres. For the areas coming under 800 metres
radius will have a well laid pedestrian walkway and
In the areas falling within the radius of 300 metres,
public buildings, multi gyms, green buildings will be
developed. The Government has also given a green signal
to the change in the land use pattern of the area and to
increase the floor area ratio on the area adjoining the
Metro stations. The proposal also aims at redeveloping
the unused and under utilised land into structures which
will not invite too many cars on the stretch.
The new plan also discourages the parking spaces along
the Metro stations. In the TOD the residential areas be
connected with the Metro stations by means of public
transport network as such the park-and-ride facility
from the Metro station will be discouraged. In the
general body meeting of the UTTIPEC that took place
earlier this week, the proposal has been approved.
While the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is known
to be carrying out its own construction work meeting its
deadline, the UTTIPEC is now roping other agencies to
expedite the process so that the multiple agencies work
in sink with one another. "The idea is to bring about a
paradigm shift in the transport mechanism of the city
and to create modes that are sustainable and in the
interest of general public at large and not just the car
owners," added Bhatarjee.
After successfully implementing it along the Phase III
Metro line, the UTTIPEC will take it forward to all the
existing Metro routes.
The Pioneer, 14th September 2012
melting rapidly in some regions
Glaciers in the eastern and central regions of the
Himalayas, appear to be retreating at alarming rates,
while those in the western parts are more stable and
could be even growing, says a new report.
A study report from the National Research Council
examines how changes to glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan
region, which covers eight countries across Asia, could
affect the area's river systems, water supplies, and the
South Asian population.
The mountains in the region form the headwaters of
several major river systems-including the Ganges,
Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow rivers, which serve as
sources of drinking water and irrigation supplies for
roughly 1.5 billion people.
The entire Himalayan climate is changing, but how this
change will impact specific places remains unclear, the
committee that wrote the report, said. The Tibetan
Plateau and the eastern Himalayas are warming, and the
trend is more pronounced at higher elevations.
Study models suggest that desert dust and black carbon,
a component of soot, could contribute to the rapid
atmospheric warming, accelerated snowpack melting, and
glacier retreat. While glacier melt contributes water to
the region's rivers and streams, retreating glaciers
over the next several decades are unlikely to cause
significant changes in water availability at lower
elevations, which depend primarily on monsoon
precipitation and snowmelt. Variations in water supplies
in those areas are more likely to come from extensive
extraction of groundwater resources, population growth,
and shifts in water-use patterns. If the current rate of
retreat continues, high elevation areas could have
altered seasonal and temporal water flow in some river
The Times of India, 14th September 2012
Going, going, gone
So many species are nearing extinction
As if the frequent portents of an eco-system devastated
and denuded by the relentless march of civilisation and
threatened flora and fauna are not unnerving enough,
comes the news that four Indian species figure in the
list of the 100 most threatened in the world.
The Great Indian Bustard, the White Bellied Heron, the
poisonous vibrant blue hued spider Gooty Tarantula and
the Batagur Buska, a rare species of turtle, are now
quite literally the stuff for textbooks on nature — to
be only written about and read. This is alarming, but
not surprising, given that over the years the sighting
of these small but no less exotic creatures has become
as rare as the interest and efforts about their
conservation, spurring the International Union for
Conservation of Nature and the Zoological Society of
London to place them in their list of most endangered
species. The Great Indian Bustard once crowded the
landscape in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and
Karnataka. And Ooty boasted of an amenable habitat for
the Tarantula. Highlighting the plight of these
endangered species across the world, the IUCN has
criticised respective Governments for denying them due
attention. But India has no reason to gloat over the
fact that a mere four species, among the many of once
plentiful fauna, which are extinct or facing a certain
demise, figure in this list. Over the years serious
concerns have been voiced by wildlife lovers and
conservationists about the declining number of vital
fauna and flora in the country. The plight of the
‘gravely endangered' species, paucity of funds and an
ineffective implementation of the Special Programme for
Recovery of Critically Endangered Species have all
conspired to stymie the feeble conservation efforts in
the past. Ironically, the news, gloomy as it is, may
well serve the cause of these small creatures, just like
that of the other species, the almost-on-the-brink of
extinction chirpy house sparrow, which was recently
accorded the status of ‘State Bird' of Delhi.
The question therefore is: Is it because these small
species lack the ‘charisma’ of the bigger endangered
animals like the tigers, rhinos, the elephants and the
pythons that they have failed to garner enough public
attention or conservation attempts? Wildlife experts
have complained of meagre allocation of funds to protect
the last remaining habitats of India's most critically
endangered species. These include the rare Kashmir stag
Hangul, the snow leopard and the Manipur deer. The fate
of the gharial, the Gangetic river dolphin and the
near-extinction of the vultures and their impact as
nature's most efficient scavenger are well known. Yet,
little has been done to create awareness about
conservation of the environment and our wildlife. Every
species is crucial to the eco-system. People must be
made aware that to make this planet safer we need to
make it a safe world for all creatures, big and small.
The Pioneer, 17th September 2012
Of what King Vishala
left behind in Bihar!
Various types of antiquities, including a gold
bead with the terracotta naga figurines and a pendant in
terracotta depicting image of Vishnu, have been
recovered during the excavation at Raja Vishal Ka Garh
in Vaishali district of Bihar.
Other than a gold bead and a pendant, antiquities like
terracotta human, animal and bird figurines, plaque,
beads, sling balls, sealing, skin rubber and stamp were
also found during the excavation. Among the stone
objects are beads of semi-precious stone (Carnelian,
Jasper, banded agate), pestle, sharpener, bone points,
beads, antler, hair pin, metal objects like coin (copper
cast coin), iron nail, spear head and knife.
Superintending Archaeologist of Archaeological Survey of
India, Patna Circle, Dr Sanjay Kumar Munjal told The
Pioneer that the Vishal Ka Garh was located at Vaishali,
about 60 km north of Patna.
According to the tradition, the site is associated with
King Vishala of epic fame who is believed to be the
founder of Vaishali. The nature of the site denotes a
fortified city having rectangular on plan with the
evidence of an ancient tank within it.
Munjal said that a fortification wall, running
north-south orientation erected over the mud rampart of
the Sunga period has been found. This wall can be
ascribed to the Kushana and further raised during Gupta
period in the three successive phases.
One of the wall has been identified with the Kushana`s
period which is sealing the exposed ring well, which has
altogether 18 rings, he added.
Large quantity of ceramic fragments belonging to NBPW
period has been recovered during the excavation, These
ceramic fragments are categorized under black and red
ware (vase), NBPW (dish and bowl of copper, golden,
silver and steel grey in colour) and grey ware (dish and
bowl), black-slipped ware (dish, bowl, small/miniature
pot), red ware (vase, handi, miniature pot, basin, pan,
bowl, dish). Little quantity of pottery, belonging to
the Sunga period has been found from mud rampart area in
limited operation and from the cutting of a particular
layer. Among the wares are NBPW, black slipped ware,
grey ware and red ware. The shapes are bowl, dish,
lipped pan, vase and others.
The Pioneer, 14th September 2012
Beyond all borders
The people outside the palace gates felt disowned: They
were once Malayalis, but when the Kanyakumari district
shifted states, they came to be called Tamilians.
Perhaps on the days they wanted to belong to Kerala,
they’d step inside the Padmanabhapuram Palace and the
six-and-a-half acres it stands on. For the palace
complex still belonged to Kerala, holding within it the
tales of the centuries of kings who once lived there,
prominent among them Marthanda Varma.
It was in 1550 AD that the first of the palace buildings
was built, says my guide Rajeshwari as she takes me on a
tour of the palace. Extensions were made on all sides
over the years until the rooms numbered 127. Like most
ancestral homes in Kerala, the palace opens with a
poomukham (reception area). The importance of the number
nine in architecture is seen at the poomukham itself,
with the roof bearing 90 flower designs. The councillors’
chamber upstairs bears nine lotus flowers on its
ceiling; another room has 63.
The most popular ruler to take up residence in the
palace was Marthanda Varma, and legends say that he
fought several attempts on his life to ascend the
throne. A hall full of paintings attests to the king’s
story: From his early days of hiding from the Ettuveetil
Pillamar (an opposing group of nobles) to his becoming
the king and killing them all. It was his nephew, the
next ruler — Dharma Raja Karthika Thirunal Varma — who
last ruled from the Padmanabhapuram Palace. He shifted
the capital of Thiruvithamkoor, then a princely state,
from Padmanabha-puram to Thiruvanantha-puram.
Numerous they might have been, but every room in the
palace had a purpose. The councillors’ chamber was where
the king and his ministers would discuss important
decisions. Two large halls, called oottupura, were built
for annadaanam — the serving of lunch to 2,000 poor
Brahmins every day. The upparika malika that housed the
king’s room had the treasury on its lower level, and the
meditation and puja rooms on the floor above. “The idea
was that money always comes last, and God first,”
Today visitors from near and far enter, and leave, the
palace. The centuries have changed the old borders and
brought new ones. What was once 186 acres of Travancore
rule has been reduced to 6.5 acres of tourism.
The Asian Age, 15th September 2012
“A city the earth needs”
Auroville is an experiment that works, says Mark
As the Capital hosts the first ever Auroville Festival,
Sir Mark Tully, well known writer and Chairman,
International Advisory Council, Auroville Foundation
speaks to The Hindu about the unique character of the
city near Pondicherry and its importance. Excerpts:
What is the reason for holding the Auroville
festival in New Delhi?
Delhi is a hub for international diplomats and
audiences. The Auroville Festival is aimed at showcasing
the city’s achievements so far. We want to draw people’s
attention to Auroville’s role in the world, so our first
step is a series of talks on the city: its experiments
in urban design and architecture, afforestation and
environmental concerns. Auroville’s approach to the
economy is unique. The seminar we are holding will throw
light on the city’s education, art, literature and
crafts as well as collaboration with the local
We have also brought several artists from Auroville and
abroad, their products that include paintings,
sculptures, pottery and photographs will reflect their
lifestyles, skills, and innovations in different fields.
You are projecting Auroville as a model city,
especially in terms of urban development and
environment. How is it different from other cities?
Yes. Innovative architecture and environment-friendly
building technology are two hallmarks of Auroville. We
are developing the city in seven steps. When Auroville
was founded 40 years ago, it was barren land… Now it is
green with over two million trees and shrubs.
The people there make and use half-baked bricks for
buildings. These are compressed earth blocks, made with
soil mixed with a small amount of cement. These are
cured and baked in the sun reducing the use of large
amount of fired wood, thereby saving forests… The
citizens have developed a hand-operated machine to make
these bricks. These are used to construct buildings
faster and create local employment too.
Auroville houses are uniquely shaped. They play with
space and serene designs beautifully. Now our focus is
on the building of the city itself. India’s foremost
architect B. V Doshi is involved in the infrastructure
To be more environment-friendly, the city is also
experimenting with solar pumps, and solar energy. It’s a
home to the largest concentration of renewable energy
technologies in India. Remarkable contribution from
Auroville is a solar boat – one of the biggest in the
Auroville’s lifestyle is idealistic. Could you
elaborate a bit on the philosophy of the people who live
Idealistic, yet it is working fine. The reason is that
the city is habitated with just 2,300 people. And it has
50 different nationalities, including a large number of
Indians. So, there is no domination of any one religion
or country. We aim at making it 50,000 inhabitants’ city
for now. The USP of the city is that it is a bridge
between rationality and superamental consciousness. The
mother coined this term and Aurobindo was a bridge
between Mother’s thought of superamental consciousness
and his own teachings. Auroville aims at becoming a
model city of the future.
The Matra Mandir is our biggest divine centre. It can be
a great tourist attraction. At Matru Mandir, soil of 124
nations and all the states of India was put in an urn in
the centre of the planned township four decades ago. It
marked a beginning of the collective adventure in human
With such idealistic living, what role does money
It may be interesting to note that Auroville believes in
a cashless economy. This is another experiment based on
the city’s spiritual aspirations. Auroville collects
together the resources produced by the community and
makes them available to all as per their need without
any exchange of money. So far it seems to be working,
but visitors/tourists in the city need to open an
I see people fighting for landed property across the
world, but in Auroville the land has no private
ownership. The entire land belongs to the Auroville
Foundation which holds it in trust with humanity as a
whole. One can build a house but ownership will remain
with the Foundation.
You say Auroville is self sustainable….
Largely yes. Auroville has the only Indian made
mud-brick press which sells bricks all over India and
exports to Africa, Sri Lanka, USA and Europe as well.
Auroville also boasts of several farms and 150
commercial units ranging from architectural services to
handicrafts, handmade stationery, incense candles,
essential oils, food processing, garment manufacturing,
metal working etc. It employs some 5000 people. These
units contribute to the economy of Auroville. But the
best part is that members of the community are supposed
to contribute one-third of their earnings in running the
economy, which they religiously do.
The Hindu, 15th September 2012
The Khirki mosque in the Capital is yet another
monument on government land that is being encroached
Some weeks ago, on July 28 to be precise, this column
carried a story about a daring attempt to encroach upon
an archaeological find that had been revealed because
the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) had begun
digging in the Daryaganj area despite Archaeological
Survey of India (ASI) protests that the DMRC tunneling
was likely to damage the foundations of the Akbarabadi
mosque. The mosque was known to be located beneath the
Subhash Park and plans to reveal and conserve them had
already been discussed among conservationists. The DMRC
paid no heed to the protests and only after
conservationists had raised Cain and after a communally
surcharged situation had begun to develop that the Delhi
High Court ordered the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD)
to vacate the encroachment and hand over the land to the
The MCD shows no signs of removing the encroachments but
that is not surprising as it has not taken any action on
another order of the Delhi High Court that had directed
the MCD to remove all encroachments from Jama Masjid.
This order had come in 2010 and a deadline had been set
by the Supreme Court for September 15, 2010. Today is
the second anniversary of the expiry of the deadline and
there is no sign of any action from the MCD that could
suggest that they have any intention of following
These two are not the only instances of encroachments on
historically and archaeologically important mosques. All
kinds of people are in the process of encroaching or
have successfully encroached upon all manner of places
of worship. The places encroached and those encroaching
do not necessarily belong to the same side of the
denominational divide. In fact encroachment on places of
worship, especially archaeologically and historically
important structures, is an extremely secular and
universally followed practice in India.
Another blatant encroachment that has been going on for
years, slowly, systematically and to a fairly well laid
out plan that is even now being implemented can be seen
in operation at the Khirki mosque opposite the swanky
and utterly incongruous Select City Walk and other malls
near Saket. The mosque was built in the second half of
the 14 century by Khan-e-Jahan Juna Shah Telangani, the
prime minister of Firozeshah Tughlaq.
The monument is in the process of being so enclosed from
all sides that soon no one will ever know that a
beautiful mosque, architecturally probably the only one
of its kind, ever existed in Delhi.
The mosque is a two storey building. There used to be a
tehkhana or a cellar on the ground floor, probably built
to escape the summer heat and the floor above was for
prayers. The mosque is roofed over with four openings to
let in light and has 89 domes. This feature and the fact
that it is perhaps the only mosque that is fully roofed
over, gives it its unique architectural value.
Though the entire mosque is built with Delhi quartz
stone, held together with crushed brick and lime stone
mortar and then plastered over, its walls are broken
with perforated windows carved out of Sandstone. It is
this attribute that gave the mosque its name Khirki
mosque and the village that subsequently developed near
the mosque came to be called Khirki as well.
In the aftermath of partition, this village, inhabited
then by Muslim Jats, lost most of its population to
riots and migration and was subsequently settled by
those who had been able to escape to Delhi from what was
now Pakistan. The new arrivals began to build all around
the mosque and by the time we got around to passing the
1948 law for protection of monuments, much land had been
encroached upon to the east, west and north of the
mosque. The south face of the mosque that overlooked the
road somehow escaped this building frenzy.
It is now the east face that is under assault. The open
ground has sprouted little make-shift temples on all
four corners of the ground and recently an Indian
Academy of Judo and Yoga (Registered) has fixed its
board on the ground. It will not be surprising if one
finds a local real estate agent with his grubby finger
in this spiritual pie.
The ASI lodged a complaint with the police, but nothing
happened. Nothing normally happens in cases like this,
the standard police response is lack of staff and other
responsibilities. The fact is that police does not want
to take sides with the ASI and antagonize the local
elements that they have to deal with on a daily basis.
The fact that many of the encroachers are either
politically active or have political patrons also helps
to de-motivate the police. The status as of now is that
ASI has begun proceedings to acquire this land, except
that they do not have the ready cash and meanwhile, the
builders of the pracheen temple and future
judokas and yogis continue to flex their muscles.
The fact that despite all the efforts of ASI nothing
much is being done against the encroachers has
emboldened those who live on the other three sides and
hectic building activity in the last two months has
seen, with most houses adding a floor or two. And this
has happened after the restriction on renovation,
alteration and additions to any existing building within
300 meters of a protected monument has come into force.
One wonders if those capable of initiating action
against encroachment actually care a whit. Why does the
police have to wait for a complaint, can’t they see that
government land is being encroached upon?
The Hindu, 15th September 2012
The loss of Loktak
In Manipur, an indigenous people and their way of
life faces threat in the name of development
The stillness of the waters is compelling. A few stray
boats glide across the surface in the distance but the
waters remain unbroken by the passage. The silence of
the present is in stark contrast to the dynamism of the
lake in the past. Not many months ago, thousands of
fisher folk used to manoeuvre their narrow boats through
the phumdis or floating biomass, but are now being
evicted from the lake.
The Loktak Lake in the heart of Manipur, is the largest
freshwater lake in north-eastern India and touted as the
only floating lake in the world due to the phumdis. The
wetland, spread over 286 sq km area in three districts
of Imphal west, Thoubal and Bishnupur, is designated as
a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar
Convention. For centuries, the local human populace has
coexisted with the lake in harmony. But today, it bears
an eerie quietude that is evocative of the destruction
of the indigenous tribe and culture that is taking
Salaam Mani Masa, wife of Salaam Tomba, from the Sendra
settlement around the lake in Moirang is afraid of what
awaits them. “We have been fishing for generations. I go
fishing, my husband goes fishing, my daughter also goes
fishing. If we are not allowed to fish anymore, how will
A typical day for people in the area begins early in the
morning with a member from each family taking a boat out
to the lake for fishing. Once into the water, the
communities meet and fish till late evening, and
sometimes even well into the night. There was a time
when they were able to earn Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 from
selling their catch in the market in one season alone,
but the trade has been suffering of late, not helped by
security personnel swooping down on the lake to flush
out insurgents. The population of migratory birds was
reportedly affected and the ecosystem of the place
disturbed by hovercrafts making their way into the
Once upon a time agriculture used to be one of the main
occupations in the region, but a hydro electric project
raised the water levels leading to flooding of the
farmlands.. It was then that people took to fishing, but
now are being stopped from pursuing that too.
Many families have already been evicted from the lake
settlement and the Salaam family knows that there isn’t
much time before its turn to go will also come. The
police have been dismantling homes and though the
evicted have been promised compensation, not much has
reached them yet.
“The government may have announced Rs 50,000 but by the
time all the officials and people in between take their
cuts, the amount that reached us residents was Rs 5,000.
How is a family supposed to start life afresh with that
amount?” asks a resident who has been evicted and is
temporarily taking shelter in his brother’s house.
Before the phase-wise eviction of the concrete houses
started, the Loktak Development Authority had burnt down
temporary bamboo shelters built by fisher folk on the
lake waters. The fisher folk used to stay on the bamboo
structure for days and even a week sometimes to catch
fish in the phums (ponds). To disable the few who
continue to fish in the lake, the government is trying
to remove the phumdis that forms on the lake surface.
The fisher folk create cage farms from these naturally
floating water plants to catch fish. “So much money is
being wasted for removing the phums. But they will keep
coming back. Because it is nature,” asserts Laishram
Macha, a fisherman.
He rattles off the names of around 15 varieties of fish
that thrive in the lake. The Keibul Lamjao National Park
on the lake is the only remaining natural habitat of the
endangered brow-antlered deer or the dancing deer,
locally known as Sangai. A few years ago, around 2,000
cattle egrets were said to be sighted near the village,
but now their numbers have dropped to below 70.
The fisher folk fear eviction any time now but want a
clear cut plan for their rehabilitation. “What we really
want is that even if we are evicted, we should be
allowed to fish in a designated area of the lake. We
hear that they want to number the boats to be able to
collect tax. Our livelihood has become difficult by the
day but it should not be taken away from us,” says
Laishram. It is being said that the lake, which is
already reeling under pressure from the hydro electric
project and filth that flows in from the rivers, is
being made people-free for developing tourism around the
Yet again, a way of life is being brought to an end to
make way for so-called development.
The Hindu, 16th September 2012
100 species at risk of
The spoon-billed sandpiper , three-toed sloth and a
long-beaked echidna named after Sir David Attenborough
are among the 100 most endangered species in the world,
according to a new study.
The list of at-risk species has been published as
conservationists warn that rare mammals, plants and
fungi are being sacrificed as their habitats are
appropriated for human use.
More than 8,000 scientists from the International Union
for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission
(IUCN SSC) helped compile the list of species closest to
extinction, which was published by the Zoological
Society of London (ZSL).
Conservationists fear the species in 48 countries may
die out because they don't offer obvious benefits to
humans. The list is headed by the "weird and wonderful"
spoon-billed sandpiper which breeds in Russia and
migrates to Bangladesh and Myanmar. There
are just 100 breeding pairs of the birds left in the
wild with that number declining by a quarter annually.
There are also just 500 pygmy three-toed sloths left on
the uninhabited Isla Escudo de Veraguas , 10 miles off
the coast of Panama. They are half the size of sloths
found on the mainland and are the smallest and slowest
sloths in the world. But their numbers are declining
with fishermen and lobster divers "opportunistically"
hunting the small animals, the report said.
Zaglossus attenboroughi, or Attenborough's echidna,
named after the eminent naturalist and BBC wildlife
expert, is one of just five surviving species of
monotreme, ancient egg-laying mammals found in Australia
and New Guinea 160 million years ago. Today the mammal's
home is the Cyclops Mountains of the Papua Province of
Indonesia but it has been listed as in danger due
to the destruction of its habitat by loggers,
agricultural encroachment and hunting.
Professor Jonathan Baillie, the ZSL's director of
conservation, said: "The donor community and
conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a
'what can nature do for us' approach, where species and
wild habitats are valued and prioritised according to
the services they provide for people.
"This has made it increasingly difficult for
conservationists to protect the most threatened species
on the plant. While the utilitarian value of nature is
important , conservation goes beyond this. Do these
species have a right to survive or do we have a right to
drive them to extinction ?"
The ZSL's Ellen Butcher, who co-wrote the report, said:
"All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable .
If we take immediate action we can give them a fighting
chance for survival. But this requires society to
support the moral and ethical position that all species
have an inherent right to exist."
Most Endangered | facts and figures
Araripe Manakin, Antilophia Bokermanni Found in: Brazil
Numbers left: 779
Dicerorhinus sumatrensis Found in: Malaysia, Indonesia
Numbers left: 250 individuals
Pygmy three-toed sloth
Bradypus pygmaeus Found in: Panama Numbers left:
Eurynorhynchus pygmeus Found in: Russia, Bangladesh &
Burma Numbers left: 100 breeding pairs
Tonkin snub-nosed monkey
Rhinopithecus avunculus Found in: Vietnam Numbers
-- The Independent
The Times of India, 16th September 2012
Urban water system: a
tale of inefficiency
While India is preparing to launch the $40-billion
second phase of Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM)
with a significant focus on water and sanitation, a lot
of ground needs to be covered before every Indian city
can boast of non-stop water supply.
Considering that a majority of urban population still
does not have easy access to water, it is time that the
second phase of JNNURM tackled this problem
Urban planning experts say that water supply is one of
the most glaring urban problems and is available for
less than three hours in a day on an average across
Indian cities and towns. According to the 54th National
Sample Survey, 70 per cent of urban homes have access to
taps, while 21 per cent are dependent on tube well or
hand pump for their water needs.
Experts are of the opinion that waste water recycling
and reusing the same for various purposes does not
figure in our water management system. This is happening
when almost 50 per cent water is wasted due to the lack
of efficient water management. In almost all Indian
cities, both the water supply system and the waste water
system or sewerage is in a bad shape.
Experts emphasise that we need managerial and policy
changes to handle the water issues. The policymakers
seem to be oblivious of the fact that there is a
considerable gap between the amount of water put into
the distribution system and the amount of water billed
to the consumer. Experts say that technically, this is
non-revenue water (NRW).
A large amount of non-revenue water reflects the poor
management of water utilities in our cities which lack
governance, autonomy, accountability and managerial
skills. The total cost of NRW worldwide is pegged at
$14billion per year, with a third of this accounted for
by the developing world.
While availability of water is a persistent problem,
most Indian cities also face the problem of disposal of
waste waters. During the rains the cities get flooded,
hampering the economic activity and causing substantial
loss to the nation.
Usually, the focus of improvement in water supply and
sewerage is on creation of new assets, rather than
management of existing ones. India ‘s water sector is
long overdue for appropriate reforms, better management
and accountability and a prioritised as well as focused
In the second phase of the JNNURM, it is important that
the policymakers insist on time-bound action by all the
states so that water is saved and managed better. As a
developing nation we cannot afford to waste an important
and depletable resource like water because of
inefficient and obsolete water management system.
The Indian Express, 16th September 2012
Not just a river, but
In the 2014 electoral battle, the plight of the
Ganga should become the trigger for change, cutting
across regional and religious lines. Associating the
name of this sacred river will lend a moral high to the
If there is one national symbol close to the heart of
every Indian, or at least a majority of them, it is the
river Ganga. The river has been the cradle of
civilisations and has sustained generations of Indians
not only with life giving aqua but also instilled in
them a hope for the life after. While there may be
divergence of opinion in different parts of the country
on other aspects associated with Hinduism including the
consumption of beef, inhabitants in no part of the
country have any dispute whatsoever on the sanctity of
In fact, the great grandchildren of indentured labour
who were taken by the British as far as Mauritius and
West Indies still revere the river, building replicas
and even naming their children after the mighty Ganga.
A majority of the people in the country, including the
highly educated ones, believe that bathing in the river
causes not only the remission of sins but also
facilitates eternal liberation from the cycle of life
and death. From the kin of politicians to businessmen,
film stars and the aam aadmi, all traverse long
distances to immerse the ashes of their beloved ones in
the holy waters of the Ganges, bringing their spirits
closer to mukti or nirvana. There may hardly be a Hindu
household, poor or rich, which does not keep a jar
containing waters from the ‘holy river’. These waters
are family treasures which are used from birth to death
and for worship on special occasions. Ganga is thus a
great social leveller as well.
Several centres of pilgrimage sacred to Hindus lie along
the banks of the river Ganga, including Gangotri,
Haridwar, Rishikesh, Allahabad and Varanasi. It is known
by different names in different cities and even
countries. Thus, the river also serves as a great
Ganga is not just sacred for Hindus. It is equally
sacred for the adherents of other Indian origin
religions. During the Loy Krathong festival in distant
Thailand, candlelit floats are released into waterways
to honour Buddha and the goddess Ganga for good fortune
and washing away sins.
Ganga has nurtured the much talked about Ganga-Jamni
culture and hence has over the centuries become a bridge
between the country’s two prominent communities.
This was reflected recently when Muslim religious
leaders came forward to extend a helping hand to sadhus
and seers who are campaigning for conservation of river
Ganga. According to Maulana Saeedur Rehman, principal of
Centre of Islamic studies, while it is well known that
Ganga is associated with the faith of Hindus it is no
less important for Muslims. Terming the drive to clean
the river as a “holy campaign”, Mr Rehman said he would
not only extend support to it but would do whatever was
required in achieving it. In the words of Maulana Khalid
Rashid Firangimahli, member of the All India Muslim
Personal Law Board, Ganga is a national river and it is
not just the Hindus but also the Muslims who live on its
banks and earn livelihood. Hence, it is the duty of all
to protect and save it.
Over the centuries, the river has thus become a great
symbol of national unity.
However, the miserable condition of the river, the ever
increasing pollution and the massive corruption involved
in cleaning it has also come to symbolise the decadence
in national polity, ethics and character.
Unfortunately, while many Hindu organisations have
attempted to make it an emotional issue, no political
party, including those who have governed States through
which the river passes, has shown any sincerity
whatsoever in preserving and saving the river. On the
contrary, they have been active partners in colluding
with vested interests and the mafia to exploit the river
to the hilt.
The Ganga Action Plan has over the years become the den
of rampant corruption. In the past four years alone,
over `10,000 crore have been spent on Save Ganga works,
but the condition of the river has gone from bad to
worse. According to the National Evironmental
Engineering Research Institute, oxygen and other vital
contents in the Ganga are getting destroyed gradually
It is in this context that the proposed Ganga Samagra
Yatra of the BJP assumes significance. Beginning from
Ganga Sagar on September 20, it will pass through five
States, with special emphasis on Uttar Pradesh where
party leaders would offer prayers and hold public
meetings at 54 places along the river to appeal to the
people to save Ganga from pollution and highlight the
Centre’s neglect of the river.
However, as is being widely speculated, the yatra should
not become just a cosmetic exercise to project any
particular leader (Ms Uma Bharti’s name is being widely
discussed) or woo a couple of backward castes such as
the Lodhs and the Nishads.
The river with all its past and present symbolisms has
the potential to serve as a catalyst for change at the
Here, one would recall that the 1857 uprising against
the British was, literally, triggered by a gun, the
Pattern 1853 Enfield rifled usket. To load the new
rifle, soldiers had to bite the cartridge, open and pour
the gunpowder into the rifle’s muzzle, then stuff the
cartridge case, which was coated with some kind of
grease to make it waterproof, into the musket as
wadding, before loading it with a ball.
Whether by design or coincidence, the cartridges were
allegedly greased with lard (pork fat) which was
regarded as unclean by Muslims, or tallow (beef fat),
regarded as sacred to Hindus.
Roti, symbolising the basic need of the common man and
lotus flowers, reflecting the eternal values of Indian
culture, began to circulate in large parts of India,
motivating people to rise against the alien rulers.
A striking feature of the War of 1857 was that both
Hindu and Muslims assiduously organised the front
against the foreign rulers. Hindu-Muslim unity was
visible among soldiers, people as well as among leaders.
“Sanjhi Virasat and Sanjhi Shahadat” (Common Legacy and
Common Martyrdom) became the mantra.
Significantly, the Nauchandi mela of Meerut, the
birthplace of the uprising, is a rare symbol of communal
harmony with Hindu and Muslim shrines — Nauchandi temple
and the dargah (shrine) of Muslim saint, Bala Mian —
lying close by. Visitors pay obeisance at both the
shrines irrespective of the religion they belong to.
In the 2014 electoral battle, the plight of the Ganga
should become the trigger for change, cutting across
regional and religious lines. Associating the name would
lend that much needed credibility and moral high to the
Powerful symbolisms have been agents of change world
wide. If the BJP hopes to herald a change, it would have
to sincerely take up the cause of Ganga, to appeal both
to its core and wider constituency. The trinity symbol
of lotus, bread and Ganga has the potential to change
the socio-political character of the nation.
But then, it would require a Bhagiratha Prayatna
(Herculean effort) and not just another yatra.
(The author is a Delhi-based senior journalist)
The Pioneer, 17th September 2012
explores art of calligraphy
Simply speaking, calligraphymeans beautiful writing. But
an exhibition that just opened in the city explores the
art form in all its dimensions, and takes it far beyond
common perception. Akshara, the exhibition at the Indian
Habitat Centre, will continue till September 21 and
includes over 140 diverse exhibits ranging from
calligraphy engraved on stones to that weaved in fabric.
The project, which involved 58 artists from 16 states
and highlights 21 art forms, took three years to
complete. By bringing together calligraphy and
craftsmanship, it aims to give literacy a new meaning.
"It's liberating to be able to read and write, and many
rural artisans feel inadequate without the knowledge of
English or the computer," says Jaya Jaitly, president,
Dastkari Haat Samiti, which organized the exhibition.
For people to understand the concept behind calligraphy
and its application, they conducted a six day workshop
last year, where senior graphic designers and craft
designers helped translate regional scripts into
contemporary design. The results are on display now. As
you step into the Visual Arts Gallery, there is an array
of calligraphic art work - Jharna Patachitra paintings
and terracotta lamps from West Bengal, papier mache wall
clocks from Jammu and Kashmir, inscribed stoneware from
Tamil Nadu, leather work from Andhra Pradesh, and
Tagore's poems weaved on cloth, among others.
Some artists have created special items for retail at
the exhibition, so visitors can take a bit of their
experience back home. There are shawls, jewellery,
cushion covers, miniature kavad art pieces, dupattas,
clipboards, files, and notebooks for sale at the
Experimental Art Gallery.
"I made dupattas with zari motifs of Kabir's dohas,"
says Maqbool Hasan, an artist from Varanasi, whose
family has been practicing the art for around 200 years.
Artist Abdulrazak Mohmed Khatri from Gujarat has put up
calligraphy printed with natural colours on cotton
sheets. Vijendra Bharti from Jaipur has made miniature
paintings with stone colours and gold foil, some on old
post cards as well. For the exhibition, however, he
created an ambitious wooden divider with Kabir's
couplets, "I worked 10 hours a day for a month and a
half," he says.
The interactive aspect of the exhibition at Open Palm
Court Gallery is a film combining calligraphy and
choreography. They have also released a book, written by
Jaya Jaitly and Subrata Bhowmick, which not only
catalogues the exhibition, but also shows calligraphy in
open spaces - painted on walls as advertisements or on
The Times of India, 17th September 2012
Delhi: ASI to examine
antiquity factor of Quran copy worth R 1cr
Pulled up by a court here, the Delhi Police has
requested the Archaeological Survey of India to
determine the antiquity factor of a copy of the Quran
seized from a man who tried to sell it for Rs 1 crore.
In a report filed before the court of Additional Chief
Metropolitan Magistrate Manish Yaduvanshi said, Delhi
Police said it has requested ASI to determine how old
was the Quran.
"Investigation officer informs that request has been
made to ASI to re-examine the seized holy Quran
regarding its age," the court noted.
The judge, however, pointed out that the report does not
mention how much time will it take for further probe to
ascertain if the book has been in existence for more
than 75 years and if it has any literary or aesthetic
The report was filed by Joint Commissioner of Police,
Crime, in pursuance of the court's earlier order by
which it had pulled up the cops for first seizing the
scripture and getting it deposited with the National
Archives of India (NAI) on court's order saying it was
an antique piece, and later seeking its release saying
it is not an antique as it is not more than 100 years
"The Investigating Officer (IO) seems to have hastily
arrived at the conclusion that since the holy Quran is
not more than 100 years old, it is not covered under the
Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972, and therefore,
no offence (is made out)," the court had then said.
The case involving the holy book dated back to July 6,
2011, when the Crime Branch got a tip off that old Delhi
resident Azaz Ahmed Shakil would be selling his antique
piece of Quran for Rs 1 crore to a person at Rajghat.
The Pioneer, 17th September 2012
Heritage by laws for
city in a year
The Intach Delhi Chapter has sent a proposal to
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) that it will
prepare all heritage bylaws for the 174
centrally-protected monuments in the city within a year.
National Monuments Authority (NMA) can't decide on
applications for no-objection certificates for many
projects till these bylaws are ready, sources said.
ASI is yet to respond to the proposal, but
sources in India National Trust for Art and
Cultural Heritage (Intach) said they had unofficially
begun the work for monuments like Agrasen ki Baoli and
"First, ASI has to approve the bylaws prepared by Intach
for 13 typologies of ASI monuments across the country.
These cover about 50 monuments in total across all types
of situations like urban/rurual settings, living
monuments etc. Once approved, these will serve as case
studies while preparing bylaws for all other monuments,"
said an official. Intach is likely to submit its report
for the 13 typologies to ASI by the end of this month.
Many projects in the city, especially large public
projects like Delhi Metro's heritage line or the K G
Marg parking, are waiting for an NOC from NMA. Sources
said a final decision on these projects would largely
depend on the bylaws. "An entire process has to be
followed. First, ASI has to sign an agreement with
Intach to make bylaws for all 174 monuments. Then the
bylaws prepared by Intach have to approved by ASI and
sent to NMA for notification," said an official. While
NMA has given clearances to few projects on a
case-to-case basis, officials said larger projects would
require more time to be cleared and could largely depend
on the heritage bylaws.
In Delhi, the bylaws for Sher Shah Gate and Khairul
Manzil have been prepared on a priority basis and are
pending notification. The bylaws for monuments like
Begumpuri Masjid and Bijai Mandal have also been drafted
and are part of the 13 typologies identified by ASI and
Intach. These are yet to get ASI's clearance.
The Times of India, 17th September 2012
For coal blocks,
Chhattisgarh dropped elephant reserve plan
On June 4, 2008, Arvind Jain, chairman of CII
Chhattisgarh, wrote a letter to the divisional forest
officer, Korba, saying that since coal blocks of a few
companies fell in the area of a proposed elephant
reserve in the district, “the reserve should be shifted
to some other location”. The companies, Jain mentioned,
included JLD Yavatmal Energy Ltd of Nagpur-based Dardas,
now named in a CBI FIR in coal block allocations.
Subsequently, the state government decided to drop the
450 sq km proposed reserve in Lemru, Korba district,
without informing the Centre even though it had already
received clearance from the Ministry of Environment and
Forests for the reserve on October 5, 2007.
North Chhattisgarh has a substantial elephant population
in Jashpur, Surguja, Raigarh and Korba districts, which
also have rich coal blocks. Leaders from both the BJP
government and Congress have been seeking protection of
elephants in the region. The then CII chairman’s letter
said that the since proposed elephant reserve will
“block at least 40 million tonnes of coal production per
annum in future”, it may be shifted to some other
Defending the move to drop the Lemru reserve, the
Chhattisgarh government says it hadn’t notified setting
it up till Jain sent the letter and hence there was no
question of scrapping it. “An elephant reserve in Lemru
was just an initial concept. The state government had
already proposed to strengthen three traditional
elephant habitats in the state — Badalkhol, Tamarpingla,
Semarsot. These had to be declared as elephant reserves
and the area in between as habitat management corridor.
The government did not find a reserve in Lemru feasible
as then the total area under elephant reserves would
have become too big and unmanageable, affecting hundreds
of villages,” government spokesperson N Baijendra Kumar
told The Indian Express.
Asked whether the government had given in to CII
demands, he said: “Anybody has the right to make
demands. We decided against Lemru as it was found
non-feasible. It had nothing to do with coal blocks or
Arvind Jain’s letter to the divisional forest officer,
Korba, said four blocks —- Nakia, Seyang, Fatehpur and
Fatehpur East —- fell within the 10 km radius of the
proposed sanctuary. Of these Syang block had been
allotted to AES Chhattisgarh Energy Pvt Ltd, Nakia to
Chhattisgarh Captive Coal Mines Pvt Ltd, a consortium of
five companies, Fatehpur to SKS Ispat and Power Ltd and
Prakash Industries Ltd, and Fatehpur East to Visa Power
Ltd, JLD Yavatmal Energy Ltd, Green Infrastructure Pvt
Ltd, RKM Powergen Ltd and Vandana Vidyut Energy Ltd.
Incidentally, when Nakia coal block was allotted to
Chhattisgarh Captive Coal Mines Pvt Ltd, K K Shrivastava
was director (Personnel) of South Eastern Coal Fields
Ltd, a subsidiary of Coal India Limited under Ministry
of Coal. He would have sat in for a meeting of the
screening committee at the Centre on the allocation.
After retirement, Srivastava took over as CEO in
Chhattisgarh Captive Coal Mines Ltd.
Contrary to its claims now of Lemru having been
“non-feasible”, the Chhattisgarh government had laid out
its benefits while seeking the reserve a few years
earlier. In April 2005, then principal secretary
(Forest) P Joy Ommen had written to the Centre for
creation of an elephant reserve saying Chhattisgarh had
around 100 elephants and in the absence of a proper
zone, man-animal conflicts were on the rise. He had also
mentioned “a resolution passed by the state Assembly”
seeking a reserve in Korba.
In October 2007, Chhattisgarh received a letter from the
Union Ministry of Environment and Forests approving
Lemru for the reserve. Subsequently, on November 6, the
principal chief conservator of forests wrote to the
forest conservator, Bilaspur/Surguja circle, to take
necessary steps for notification of the reserves. The
letter read “Lemru (Korba), Badalkhol (Jashpur),
Tamorpingla (Surguja) are under elephant reserves” and
unless the elephant corridor links all these areas, “it
will not be effective”. Lemru was clearly considered an
integral part of the elephant corridor.
“We talk of sustainable development, but do nothing.
Lemru was part of a no-go area in Korba, still given to
companies,” said noted activist Sudeip Srivastava.
Interestingly, the state did not inform the Centre about
its Lemru reserve move. So on July 29, 2009, replying to
a question in the Lok Sabha, Minister of Environment and
Forests Jairam Ramesh said the Centre had granted
permission to create two elephant reserves in Lemru and
Badalkhol Manora-Tamarpingla in Chhattisgarh — nine days
after the former had been scrapped.
The Indian Express, 18th September 2012
Scapes that time
A lovely exhibition at Delhi Art Gallery takes us
through the pre and post-colonial history of this
country through paints. By Shana Maria Verghis
There’s a considerably large body of work on landscape
art by Indians, dating back as early as the latter part
of the 18th century. Though he better known names only
emerged in the latter part of the 19th century.
Some of its been shown at the ongoing Indian
Landscapes, The Changing Horizon, exhibition in Dehi
Art Gallery. This will be on till September 29.
Nightscapes, costumes, architecture, flora and fauna
from another age, have all been captured for posterity.‘
From times when Indians have few visual records to
imagine their past, through the eyes of one of their own
People might be familiar with early colonial artists
like William Hodges. And the Danielles, after whom the
Tavern at the Imperial Hotel is named.
Or a Robert Grindlayz, a soldier, who went on to found
But there are many Indians who painted landscapes in
Like Sujatha Kejriwal. Sen was hugely influenced by
Nicholas Roerich. (DAG had some Roerichs, but Kishore
Singh, who curated this show rued the fact that they
were all sold).
AndKejirwal was one of the few women landscape artists.
The reason being, Singh hazards a guess, “that because
of social norms like purdah, they were rarely allowed
outside the four walls of their home or courtyard.”
Till the Company School of Artists came to the country,
Indian artists were mainly doing miniatures.
The British (pre-dating them were some Dutch artists,
but the gallery did not have much information on them),
were initially painting for their leiges. Or the local
British rich people. And when the East India Company
came into the picture, the Company School became their
propoganda tool to advertise the might of Empire.
As local artists faced competition from the foreigners,
it is suggested that they quickly adapted to new
techniques like watercolour and oil, and even the topics
they chose were similar, though somewhat bizarre. As one
perspective of steps beside a river bank by a nameless
Indian artist suggests. And some of the landscapes by
Indians “had no source of light,” Singh pointed out.
Moreover they were also usually painting for rich
rulers, who would have been, in turn aping the
The exhibition is also a historical chronicle, because
landscape art fell out of favour over a century ago.
Mainly because of the development of photography.
The Gallery, which usually brings out extensive research
material to accompany their shows, has done the same
this time. There are examples of works of the
modernists, and people like Kishore Khan who later
migrated to Lahore in Pakistan.
The earlier Indian landscapes, (we’re talking late 19th
and early 20th century), belonged to groups like the
Bombay Art Society, and the tradition them was to give
medals to those who did particular kinds of work.
Initially these were influenced by the colonisers. So if
landscapes were the ‘thing’ if them, such was the case
with Indian artists. There was a lot of sucking up going
on, but in the post-landscape period, cronyism continues
to dog the politics of art.
The contemporary Indian artists, include Manu Parekh,
known for his Banaras series. A subject that engrossed
him for years. Ram Kumar, Raza, Souza, Akbar Padamsee
and others also fit in with occasional images of rural
and urban scenes, like Bikash Bhattacharya’s Kolkata
“Landscapes are not fashionable any longer, so you don’t
find most of the major artists doing them
today,”explained Singh, adding that, “Paramjit Singh is
one of the rare few who still does.”
Some of the artists specialised in seascapes. But the
show does not have too many. Apart from aquatints by a
handful of British artists, made available through a
slide show, the other special treat is a 70mt something
It’s by an Indian artists and is a long story on people
that begins with nature, forests and animals, then winds
up with festivals and people. Community life is
beautifully conveyed, and after this, there is more
Several of the Indian canvases depict pilgrimage spots.
And perspectives of historical monuments. The earlier
work is cruder, and imitationary.
But the latter is stronger, and even has a sense of
pride. This might have to do with the sense of
nationalism that was sweeping the country,
And with that the landscape artists from Indian could
reclaim their land from the people who had tried to
stamp their own impression on it. However these are
readings that one does between the line. As some art
student, or follower of art schools might.
But if nothing else, the exhibition does hold a candle
to an important period. And its captured in some kind of
chronological order in the books. Though the randomness
of the show, might make the history behind it more
confusing to understand.
However its worth it just to wade through the books,
which they have kept nearby on a table. And believe us
it won’t be the least waste of time at all. This is a
The Pioneer, 18th September 2012
Of Mughals, masjids
A politician’s demand to revive the Akbarabadi
Mosque is the latest in a series of instances of using
Islamic historical sites to assert religion in public
space. For instance, Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays to
Do not be surprised if Shoaib Iqbal, the Lok Janashakti
Party MLA from Matia Mahal, soon asks for the revival of
Masjid Kashmiri Katra, sufi shrine of Sheikh Kalimullah
Jahanabadi, the imambara built by Maulavi Muhammed Baqar
etc. in addition to persisting on his demand about
reviving Akbarabadi Mosque.
Mr Iqbal just needs to go through the letters of poet
Mirza Ghalib, who rued the post-1857 restructuring of
Delhi’s walled city by the British. The restructuring
included the demolition of not merely religious building
but residential edifices and urban landmarks as well.
These included Sadat Khan ka katra, the haveli of
Mubarak Begum and the haveli of Sahib Ram.
The magnificent palaces of the nawabs of Jhajjar,
Bahadurgarh and Farrukhnagar as well as that of the Raja
of Ballabhgarh, who was hanged for his role in the
uprising, were also grounded. The caravanserai of Shah
Jahan’s daughter, Jehan Ara was demolished and the Town
Hall was built in its place. William Dalrymple mentions
these demolitions in his critically acclaimed book, The
Last Mughal — The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857 (page
I was about to dismiss the Akbarabadi Mosque as a myth,
when the Dalrymple reference made me revise my opinion.
I immediately e-mailed the author asking for his opinion
on Shoaib Iqbal’s demand.
Prompt as ever, Mr Dalrymple replied that he was not
aware of the chanced discovery of alleged ruins of
Akbarabadi Mosque (by Delhi Metro Railway Corporation
Limited). But with the mosque being clearly marked in
pre-Mutiny maps of Delhi, it would not be difficult to
test Mr Iqbal’s claim. He referred to the ‘Map of 19th
century Shahjahanabad’ published by Ehlers & Krafft.
I found Ehler & Krafft distinctively mention about the
Akbarabadi mosque built by Nawab Akbarabadi Begum. It
lay to the west of a square (chowk) in Faiz Bazar
(possibly now called Faiz Bazaar Nukkad).
Shahjahanabad rested on two boulevards, which were the
two axis of the city. The larger one was Chandni Chowk
running from Lahore Gate to Fatehpuri Mosque. The other
was Faiz Bazar running north-south from Akbarabadi Gate
of the fort to Delhi Gate. The square (chowk) at the
northern end of Faiz Bazaar was 160 yards long and 60
yards wide and had a pool and fountain in the centre.
Whether the discovered ruins belong to that of the
Akbarabadi Mosque, remains to be established. The
Archaeological Survey of India is the best agency to
handle the task. It may consult both pro-mosque and
anti-mosque parties. But the studied silence of Imams of
Jama Masjid and Fatehpuri Masjid show that Akbarabadi
Mosque is a personal agenda of the Lok Janashakti Party
MLA from Matia Mahal.
Hardly have any Muslim scholars joined the issue. In the
case, now sub judice in the Delhi High Court, the Hindu
Mahasabha has produced an authenticated map of the
Walled City prepared by the British Military
Intelligence after the recapture of Delhi in September,
1857. The highly detailed map reportedly shows no mosque
at the place corresponding to where DMRC made the
Mr Iqbal’s theory that Akbarabadi Mosque was destroyed
as a punitive measure for being the hub of 1857 uprising
need to be taken with a pinch of salt. By all accounts
of the Mutiny, the historic Jama Masjid was the hub of
the anti-British mujahideen consolidation.
As per Munshi Jiwan Lall’s diary, a vital document on
the Mutiny, it was in Delhi on May 19, 1857, that the
banner of jihad was raised by the Muslims in the Jama
Masjid. On May 20, 1857, Maulvi Mohamed Said met the
king Bahadur Shah-II ‘Zafar’ and informed that the
standard of jihad had been unfurled to inflame the minds
of Muslims. Zafar opined that jihad was impossible,
besides being impractical, because a bulk of the Purbeah
rebel soldiers were Hindus and fully armed.
At any rate, it was patently illegal for the Matia Mahal
MLA to impose an unauthorised structure near the site.
It might at best be called the Shoaib Iqbal mosque and
not Akbarabadi Mosque — a compliment the sitting MLA may
not publicly prefer. The move apparently stems, not from
any love of history of Shahjahanabad, but from an agenda
to strew India more and more with Islamic sites.
This is reflected in the growing trend of performing
namaaz at ASI-protected monuments. It’s an oddity to
perform namaaz before a mausoleum like Taj Mahal and
Safdarjung’s Tomb. But for the last one decade the
ritual Friday prayers are being performed in front of
the Taj Mahal.
While until 1990s, entry used to be free on Friday, it
now remains closed on that date to accommodate the
namaazis. In 2005, there was a strong demand to declare
the Taj as a Wakf property. It has less to do with
history and more to do with Islamic assertiveness.
It will be interesting to know if Mr Iqbal applies the
same standard to scores of Hindu temples demolished by
the Muslim invaders.
The Hindustan Times, 18th September 2012
Clean river bed, green tribunal tells UP
Six months after it directed Delhi and UP governments to
stop dumping solid waste on the Yamuna river bed, the
National Green Tribunal on Monday issued fresh
instructions to the UP irrigation department to
immediately remove all the debris from the river bank.
The order, issued by a bench of expert member Dr G K
Pandey and acting chairperson Justice AS Naidu, has
asked the irrigation department to "remove all the
debris lying in the banks of Yamuna, within their
jurisdiction, irrespective of the fact as to who has
dumped it, more so because presence of debris in the
locality not only causes pollution but is also hazardous
to river eco-system and flow of water".
The NGT order has given seven days to the ministry of
environment and forest, Delhi government, DDA, DPCC, and
Yamuna River Development Authority (YRDA) and the
irrigation department to stop encroachment and dumping
of solid waste on the riverbed.
"Dumping of debris has more or less stopped after the
order, but authorities were not clearing the mess. In
fact, UP irrigation department said that the debris has
not been removed so far due to the monsoon," said Manoj
Misra, the petitioner.
The land in question, where tonnes of construction
debris have been lying for the past several months,
falls within the geographical boundary of Delhi but is
owned by the UP irrigation department.
"We saw massive debris deposition along the Yamuna
Pushta near Geeta Colony in the latter part of 2011. We
wrote to the LG and YRDA to take action. The LG also
wrote to agencies concerned and issued orders to DDA,
PWD, irrigation and flood control and other civic
agencies to ensure that no waste was dumped on the river
bed but the agencies failed to react. Some measures to
prevent trucks from entering the area were taken, but
they were inadequate," said Misra.
While DDA had said that it would not be able to clean
the area since the land belonged to the UP irrigation
department. The latter had said that it would wait for
the UP elections to get over. Now, it is waiting for the
monsoon to end.
The Times of India, 18th September 2012
Delhi-based artist and photographer Sunil Gupta’s body
of work called “Sun City” — which is inspired by French
film La Jetee — is the latest entrant to the ongoing
Francophonie Week at Alliance Francaise de Delhi. The 25
works displayed in the form of an exhibition called “Sun
City and Other Stories”, include 16 works from “Sun
City”, which is a pictorial narrative that takes off
from the nuclear apocalypse scenario of the original
film, replacing it by the real and ongoing “holocaust”
of HIV/AIDS. The work was commissioned in 2010 by Centre
Pompidou in Paris and was on display there last year as
a part of Franco-Indian collaboration called
‘Paris-Delhi-Bombay’. “It is due to this French
connection that I decided to bring this body of work to
this event,” says Gupta, adding, “There are three
stories though. Apart from these 16 works, I have
brought selected works from “Mr Malhotra’s Party” (2007)
and “Heaven in Earth” — a series about Japan.”
“Mr Malhotra’s Party” is a series of portraits of, what
he calls, “real people” in Delhi who identify themselves
as “queer”. The whole series of 25 works on display,
however, conveys a unifying theme. “It depicts three
different ways to look at the idea of narrative
stories,” concludes Gupta.
The exhibition is on from March 24 to April 15 at
Galerie Romain Rolland, Alliance Française de Delhi
The Indian Express, 19th September 2012
Slam dunk in Ajmal
Khan Park, in the comfort of an AC stadium
The North Municipal Corporation has decided to revive a
stalled project to build a modern indoor basketball
stadium in Ajmal Khan Park, where the dilapidated
40-year-old Master Prithvinath outdoor basketball court
Ravinder Gupta, Works Committee Chairman of the
corporation, said a budget of Rs 8.5 crore has been set
aside for the stadium, which will meet international
standards and set the ball rolling for a professional
league that is in the works for some time.
“There was an outdoor court with stands in Ajmal Khan
Park. It was a dilapidated stadium. The municipal
corporation decided to build a modern stadium there and
the foundation was laid in 2008. But construction was
stopped in 2009 after an NGO filed a petition in the
Delhi High Court, saying the AC plant in the proposed
indoor stadium will harm the environment in and around
the park,” Gupta said.
“But in 2010, the Supreme court ruled in favour of the
stadium. We had to draw our plans afresh and allocate
money for the stadium,” he said. Work would now begin in
the next three months, the councillor said.
Officials said there would be seats for 2,000 spectators
in the centrally air-conditioned, 28-foot high stadium —
to be built in an area of 1,500 square metres.
“It will have changing rooms with modern gadgets, 10
restrooms for players, a modern gym for the players to
work out before matches and a row of toilets with
auto-flush for spectators,” Gupta said.
Officials said work would begin once the budget for
installing the power lines and electronics is fixed.
The North corporation has also drawn up plans to build a
gymnasium and swimming pool at a primary school in
Shalimar Bagh with a budget of approximately Rs 2 crore.
The Indian Express, 19th September 2012
Delhi to get another
bridge across river Yamuna
The fast expanding boundaries of the capital city and
rapidly increasing number of vehicles has made public
works department (PWD) to plan yet another bridge across
the river Yamuna.
The new bridge, said PWD engineers, is being planned in
northern most part of the city where people have to
drive 25-30 kilometres to reach the other side of the
The PWD has appointed a consultant to carry out a
feasibility study for the proposed bridge. The
consultant, said an engineer, would carry out the
traffic survey and feasibility studies of the bridge.
According to a senior PWD engineer, the new bridge is
being planned between Karawal Nagar in north east Delhi
and Alipur in north Delhi.
The bridge, said engineers, would come up several
kilometres upstream the Wazirabad bridge, which is the
only bridge that provides connectivity between north
Delhi and north east Delhi.
"Delhi city is geographically divided into two parts by
the river Yamuna. There are very limited number of
bridges over the Yamuna while the corresponding traffic
is too high. There is an urgent need to increase the
number of bridges for a better interlink between the two
sides of the river especially towards the northern part
of the city," a senior PWD engineer said.
There are currently eight bridges on the Yamuna—Wazriabad,
Shastri Park, Old Bridge, Geeta Colony, ITO, Nizamuddin,
DND and Kalindi Kunj. While the construction of
Signature Bridge just adjacent to Wazirabad Bridge is
going on, the Noida Authority is planning a bridge
parallel to the Okhla Barrage. All the bridges, said
officials, carry more vehicles than the capacity.
PWD engineers said the construction of a bridge between
Alipur and Karawal nagar would facilitate traffic that
moves between Haryana and UP.
A large number of commercial vehicles from Haryana enter
Delhi through Singh Border on their way to UP and pass
through GT Karnal Road, outer Ring Road, Wazirabad and
Bhajanpura, thus putting a lot of pressure on Wazirabad
The Hindustan Times, 19th September 2012
question utility of KG Marg parking
Heritage and transport experts have raised questions
about the utility of the multi-level parking project
near Kasturba Gandhi Marg, pending for over two years,
and also warned about the depleting water table in the
area, which lies near the Ugrasen ki Baoli. The National
Monument Authority (NMA) has asked the private
concessionaire to get a heritage impact assessment done
for the project as it falls within the regulated area
(101-300 metres) of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-protected
baoli, a traditional water harvesting system.
Heritage experts pointed out that the water table in the
area has continuously decreased over the decades,
especially in the past 20 years due to several
big-ticket infrastructure projects in the area.
Yet another project in the catchment area of the baoli
will further create problems, they said.
Recalling the time during late 1960s and early ’70s when
sub-surface water had to be pumped out from several
areas under New Delhi Municipal Council, AK Jain, a
heritage expert and author of the book Lutyen’s Delhi
said, “There is a need for a comprehensive study of such
projects on ground water.”
The baoli needs to be restored and revived, Jain said
adding, “In present conditions, rainwater does not reach
it anymore. The entire catchment is concretised."
Traffic and transport experts said that in view of the
fact that other multi-level parking projects near
Connaught Place remain highly underutilised, the need is
to objectively think whether or not another such project
PK Sarkar, transport expert from the School of Planning
and Architecture said, "There is the state government
policy of promotion of mass public transport. In view of
the holistic scenario vis-à-vis the emergence of Rajiv
Chowk metro station as a major hub to reach Connaught
Place, we may not need large scale parking projects."
Sarkar said that the multi-level parking, if at all it
comes up, may pose problems for disbursal of vehicles as
the approach roads are too narrow.
In the meanwhile, since the work was stopped after March
2010 amendment in the archaeological act, officials of
the DSC Ltd, the private concessionaire, said, they got
in touch with conservation NGO INTACH.
"INTACH told us that the heritage bye-laws for the Baoli
will take care of the issue and there is no need for
heritage impact assessment," DSC officials said.
However, a senior NMA official countered, "INTACH is
preparing heritage byelaws but it cannot decide if this
report is needed or not. We have not yet heard from the
Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains
Act 2010 bans any new construction within 0-100 metres
(prohibited area) of a centrally protected monument and
puts several restrictions on construction within 101-300
metres (regulated area).
The Hindustan Times, 19th September 2012
DIAL, Govt lock horns
on Nilgais straying
The issue of blue bulls straying on the Delhi
airport premises has become a ‘sticking point’ between
Delhi Government and the Delhi International Airport
While the airport operator has claimed that the straying
of these protected animals on the roads connecting the
airport has posed hazards to the commuters, the
Government has sought detailed explanations as the
operator was unable to establish its claims.
Sources informed that the matter was discussed at a high
level meeting chaired by the Secretary of the
Environment Department, Delhi Government on September
18, in which the private operator of IGI was asked to
furnish details establishing their claim. “The DIAL had
asserted that the blue bulls trespassing in the airport
premises are a cause of concern and can lead to mishaps.
However, the company was unable to furnish details on
the incidents resulted due to the supposed straying of
these animal on the roads connecting the airport. To
validate the claims, the Forest Department has been
asked to conduct its own survey on the airport’s
premises,” said a senior Delhi Government official.
“They claim that due to Nilgai starying on the roads
leading to the IGI Airport, they had no records of any
mishaps caused due to wandering of these animals. The
meeting was unable to reach a conclusion and the
decision in the matter can be taken once the survey of
the area is completed,” added the official.
Sources inform that the airport operator has sought
assistance from the Delhi Government as it has no
experience in tackling the problem. Blue bulls, which
are in plenty in the adjacent ridge areas, somehow gain
entry to the peripheral areas of the airport.
However when contacted, DIAL denied any instance of
hampering of operations due to straying of these
animals. “IGIA is equipped with the best in Class 4
level PIDS which includes eight feet walls made of
reinforced cement concrete topped with 1.5 feet of razor
type barb wire. Thanks to this impenetrable boundary
wall, no Nilgai (or for that matter any other large
animal) has ever been sighted or apprehended in any of
the operational areas,” said a DIAL spokesperson. Blue
bull is a protected animal under the wild life Act, so
shooting it is prohibited.
The Pioneer, 20th September 2012
Papyrus claim is
exciting, says scholar
A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity
School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says
was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains
a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus
said to them, ‘My wife ...’” The faded papyrus fragment
is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one
side — in black ink legible under a magnifying glass.
Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the
papyrus includes a second provocative clause that
purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple”.
The finding was made public in Rome at an international
meeting of Coptic scholars by the historian Karen L.
King, who has published several books about new Gospel
discoveries and is the first woman to hold the nation’s
oldest endowed chair, the Hollis professor of divinity.
The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and
its owner has asked to remain anonymous. Until Tuesday,
Ms. King had shown the fragment to only a small circle
of experts in papyrology and Coptic linguistics, who
concluded that it is most likely not a forgery. But she
and her collaborators say they are eager for more
scholars to weigh in and perhaps upend their
Ms. King gave an interview and showed the papyrus
fragment, encased in glass, to reporters from The New
York Times, The Boston Globe and Harvard Magazine in her
garret office in the tower at Harvard Divinity School
She repeatedly cautioned that this fragment should not
be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was
actually married. The text was probably written
centuries after Jesus lived, and all other early,
historically reliable Christian literature is silent on
the question, she said.
But the discovery is exciting, said Ms. King, because it
is the first known statement from antiquity that refers
to Jesus speaking of a wife. It provides further
evidence that there was an active discussion among early
Christians about whether Jesus was celibate or married,
and which path his followers should choose.
“This fragment suggests that some early Christians had a
tradition that Jesus was married,” Ms. King said. “There
was, we already know, a controversy in the second
century over whether Jesus was married, caught up with a
debate about whether Christians should marry and have
Ms. King first learnt about what she calls “The Gospel
of Jesus’ Wife” when she received an email in 2010 from
a private collector who asked her to translate it. Ms.
King (58) specialises in Coptic literature, and has
written books on “the Gospel of Judas”, “the Gospel of
Mary of Magdala”, “Gnosticism and women in antiquity”.
The owner took the fragment to the Divinity School in
December 2011 and left it with Ms. King. In March, she
carried the fragment in her red handbag to New York to
show it to two colleagues, both papyrologists: Roger
Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the
Ancient World, at New York University, and AnneMarie
Luijendijk, an associate professor of religion at
They examined the scrap under sharp magnification. It
was very small — only four by eight centimetres. The
lettering was splotchy and uneven, the hand of an
amateur, but not unusual for the time period, when many
Christians were poor and persecuted.
It was written in Coptic — an Egyptian language that
uses Greek characters — and more precisely, in Sahidic
Coptic — a dialect from southern Egypt, Ms. Luijendijk
said in an interview.
What convinced them it was probably genuine was the
fading of the ink on the papyrus fibres, and traces of
ink adhered to the bent fibres at the torn edges. The
back side is so faint that only five words are visible,
one only partly: “my moth [[er]]”, “three”, “forth
“It would be impossible to forge,” said Ms. Luijendijk,
who contributed to Ms. King’s paper. Mr. Bagnall
reasoned that a forger would have had to be expert in
Coptic grammar, handwriting and ideas. — New York
Times News Service
The Hindu, 20th September 2012
While Allahabad’s sprawling Khusrau Bagh stands as
a shadow of its eventful past, there is an attempt being
made to convert it into a National Eco-Knowledge Park
To prove that their amazing escapade in Kafiristan
was true, Peachey shows Rudyard Kipling, who was seated
in his Pioneer newspaper office in Allahabad, his friend
Dravot’s head, still wearing the golden crown.
This epic scene based on Kipling’s audacious novella
The Man Who Would Be King fairly evokes the
tragedy of Khusrau Mirza.
Like Dravot, Khusrau, the eldest son of Salim (later
Emperor Jahangir) and the grandson of Emperor Akbar was
the man who would be the king. However, fate meant that
he died young, isolated to an insignificant corner of
Distraught over Salim’s indulgence in wine and opium,
Akbar had considered the unlikely option of entrusting
the amiable Khusrau with his throne. And when Prince
Salim revolted and started holding court in Allahabad in
1599, Khusrau was driven into an incongruous conflict
with his father to be Akbar's successor.
Soon after and shortly before Akbar’s death, Salim was
made Emperor and Khusrau was placed under strict
surveillance at Agra. He escaped from there with 350
horsemen, eventually to be captured on April 27, 1606.
In his biography, Jahangir notes: “Kingship regards
neither son nor son-in-law. No one is a relation to a
king.” Following a futile attempt to escape, Khusrau was
blinded, consequently disqualifying him from the throne.
He was then transferred to the custody of Asaf Khan,
brother of Nur Jahan and father-in-law of Prince Khurram
(later Emperor Shah Jahan), the third son of Jahangir.
In 1622, Khurram had Khusrau killed.
His body was brought to Allahabad and placed in a
sandstone tomb, in a large quadrangle garden — Khusrau
Bagh, enclosed by a high masonry wall and a labyrinth of
Two other tombs were later built — one belonging to his
mother Shah Begum, while the other was made at the
instructions of his sister Nithar Begum, but never to be
used as a cenotaph.
At first sight, the three tombs appear identical. But
after readjusting your lenses, you will observe the
major and minor differences, and that flawless Mughal
A Hindu princess, Shah Begum (originally Man Bai), was
the daughter of Raja Bhagvan Das of Amber. Troubled by
the bitterness between Salim and Khusrau, she committed
suicide by swallowing tiryaq (opium). Her tomb,
designed in 1606 by Jahangir’s chief artist Aqa Reza,
has a three-storied terrace plinth but is without a main
mound. Experts have compared it to the construction in
The Begum’s cenotaph stands under a large chahtri, which
is surmounted on the plinth. The floral Arabesque
inscriptions on the tomb were carved by Jahangir's
greatest calligrapher Mir Abdullah Mushkin Qalam.
Next to her tomb is Nithar’s tomb, architecturally the
most elaborate and vivid among the three. It stands on a
high platform, adorned with panels containing a
scalloped arch motif. Inside the plinth, there is a
small room whose ceiling is painted vividly with stars
arranged in concentric circles. This decoration is
repeated on the ceiling of the central room while the
walls are painted with Persian cypress style plants and
The third in line and relegated to a corner is the tomb
of Khusrau himself. The mausoleum has some high quality
fretwork windows. The tomb of his mare gives him
Apart from the elegant tombs, the bagh is lacking
in the grandeur one would associate with a Mughal
garden. The greens outside the tomb area look no better
than unkempt hair on an anxious head. The tall palm
trees do little to fill that void. This can be
attributed, to some extent, to the low footfall as
visitors prefer the livelier Chandra Shekhar Azad Park
and Anand Bhavan. A spontaneous survey of the bagh
revealed five types of visitors; the list is not
First are those who consider the tombs just “too pretty
to let go” without clicking a portrait. The second is a
clan of students, who find solace and good study
atmosphere under the palm trees. The third and the least
interested in architecture are couples seeking privacy
in some corner of the bagh.
The fourth lot are those suffering from indolence; those
for whom the large structures provide ample shade for an
afternoon nap on a sultry day, especially after a good
quantity of litti. The final and the largest
category consist of those who confuse Khusrau with the
Sufi great Amir Khusro.
And if locals are to be believed, vagabonds make up the
Taking view of the neglect and to give the bagh a
greener look, district authorities recently announced
that it would plant more than 50 bottle palm saplings,
among other things to convert the bagh into a
National Eco-Knowledge Park.
Drip irrigation system would also be introduced to
provide optimum water supply, especially since the
famous Allahabadi red guava is cultivated here. While
efforts are being made to improve the bagh’s
appeal, its relevance in the Indian freedom movement is
also not so well-known.
During the First War of Independence or the Revolt of
1857, when several battalions revolted against the
British, Maulvi Liyakat Ali took over charge as the
Governor of independent Allahabad and made Khusrau Bagh
his headquarters. The bagh, however, was
recaptured within two weeks.
As for Prince Khusrau, remove the beautiful tomb and the
huge garden, and he will be just a man who was blinded
by his father and killed by his brother.
The Hindu, 22nd September 2012
Encroachments at heritage buildings continue
unabated in Delhi, even in posh colonies where people
are well aware of the law of the land
The historical remains that one comes across in Delhi
can broadly be divided into two categories -- those that
figure on some kind of conservation list and those that
do not. Some of those that are not protected, are in use
traditionally as places of worship or veneration, like
the temples of Jogmaya and Kalkaji, the Kalan Masjid,
the Jama Masjid of Basti Hazrat Nizam-ud-Din, the Dargah
of Shah Turkman Byabani and the Jama Masjid of
Shahjahanabad among others. Except for the Jama Masjid,
all the others in the list above have been renovated out
One could argue that those using monuments of
historical, architectural or archaeological importance
should not be allowed to interfere with the appearance
of these structures. But to actually put this into
practice would need a protracted period of educating and
sensitizing those who are in possession of these
buildings. Unfortunately, it is thought that any attempt
to educate those involved would be met with resistance
and so things are allowed to continue as they are.
Aside from these two sets of structures, we also have
structures that are not on any list. There are several
lists in Delhi -- official, quasi official and non
official; there is an ASI list, another list prepared by
the State archaeology department and a list that the MCD
has been preparing for as long as one can remember. Now
with MCD trifurcated, this list too will be trifurcated,
when will it ever be completed is anyone’s guess. Each
one of these bodies is expected to look after the
monuments that appear on its list and God takes care of
those left over. There is a comprehensive list of the
built heritage of Delhi brought out by INTACH, but that
unfortunately has no legal status because it has not
been prepared by an official body and so the list is
treated more as a point of reference and not as an
The result is that there is enough to go around for all
potential encroachers. A stone pillar, covered with
Quranic verses in incised plaster in a beautiful
calligraphic style prevalent during the sultanate
period, that had been standing guard near Andhria Mor
for centuries was threatened with imminent oblivion as
the DMRC began to drive its pillars close by. Here was
an opportunity not to be missed, overnight a mosque
sprung up around the pillar.
A sultanate period tomb was cannibalized and converted
into a temple during early 1981. This did not take place
in some remote corner of the city but on a very busy
road -on Africa Avenue located in an open field between
Mohammadpur Village and St. Thomas Church and now the
dome is a full-fledged temple with its own gate and a
high enclosing wall.
Opposite Qutub Minar, behind the newly sprung up
Crescent Mall, in Lado Sarai, there is a largish
structure, probably belonging to the Mughal period, it
now houses a car garage.
A building known as Lal Mahal located within Basti
Nizam-ud-Din is believed to be the former residence of
Ibn-e-Batuta, who stayed here during 1330s when he was
appointed Qazi of Delhi by Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq. That
building, though damaged, stood its ground till a couple
of years ago, it was supposed to be on either the state
list or the MCD heritage list, no one knew which,
meanwhile someone sold the building to people who began
to demolish the structure to build a mosque instead. The
new owner was eventually stopped when conservationists
created a big campaign but by that time more than half
the structure had been pulled down, meanwhile someone
had made a lot of money by selling property that did not
belong to him, but that is something that no longer
troubles anyone’s conscience.
On a prominence inside a park opposite W block in
Greater Kailash Part I there is a mediaeval dome.
The dome is sealed with crude steel doors with swastika
marks soldered on each door and a large swastika and
‘OM’ stuck atop the dome, this combines with other
additional detailing to make the structure look like a
temple. A few kilometers away another mediaeval dome
enclosed from all sides with a couple of
air-conditioners fixed in its bricked up arches now
houses the offices of the Defence Colony Welfare
One could perhaps explain away the transgressions of
those who live in Mohammadpur, Lado Sarai and Andheria
more as acts committed by people who perhaps are unaware
of the laws of the land or perhaps have no understanding
of the value of heritage and its preservation. One could
argue that this was an attempt to create a source of
income and ensure survival. But how does one explain the
conduct of the residents of GK I and Defence colony.
They can surely afford not to encroach on heritage
structures; they can surely afford to build their own
temples or offices. These are people who set the
parameters of civilized behavior for others, should they
not take the lead in protecting the heritage of this
city. It is their heritage as well.
The Hindu, 22nd September 2012
Poetry in stone
Odisha’s Konark temple may not be even the shadow
of what it actually was when it was constructed during
the 13th century, but it still is a work where the
‘language of stone surpasses the language of man’,
writes Somen Sengupta
Not even a drive of two hours from Bhubaneswar, the
capital of Odisha, will take you to the ruins of a sun
temple built in 1200 AD. Despite being in a state of
dilapidation, it remains a magnum opus of architecture.
More than hundred years ago when Rabindranath Tagore
visited this site it was still lying in debris beneath
wild bush and vegetation. Still its magical composition
of stone made him so captivated that Tagore wrote: “Here
the language of stone surpasses the language of man.”
Myth vs history
Yes we are talking about Konark, which is derived from
two words: Kona means corner and Arka stands for Sun.
So, the term literally means the corner of Sun beam.
Konark is more about myth than history. Mythology says
that more than 5,000 years ago, Shambha was cursed by
his father Krishna to suffer from leprosy. His crime was
that he once entered into the pleasure chamber of his
father while he was enjoying a bath with his consorts.
With Shambha’s entry, young consorts were attracted to
him and they all rushed towards him, leaving his aged
father alone. This made Krishna angry and he cursed his
son. Shambha reached the banks of Chandrabhaga and
entered into a 12-year-long penance in a jungle called
Mitravana to please the Sun God. Satisfied by his
hardship and sacrifice, the God set him free from the
curse. A day after he was cured from leprosy, while
taking bath in Chandrabhaga, Shambha found an image of
the Sun God made by Vishwakarma. This inspired Shambha
to set up what is today known as the Konark temple.
If Abul Fazl is to be believed, the temple was built by
a king belonging to the Kesri dynasty in the ninth
century. Most historical documents, however, support the
case of Narshima Dev I of the Ganga dynasty who built
this temple between 1243 and1260 AD as mark of his
victory over Bengal. At least 12,000 craftsmen worked
incessantly for 12 years to give the temple its shape.
One Sibai Samantaray’s name is recorded as a chief
engineer of this architectural marvel. Another name,
Bishu Maharana, too emerges as chief engineer.
Even after 12 years of hard work when the temple work
showed no sign of getting over, the king became
agitated. He issued a stipulated period of time to
complete it. History says that chief architect Bishu
Maharana was in deep trouble because placing of the
final copping stone atop of the temple was a gargantuan
task. At that time his 12-year-old son Dharmapada, who
was there by chance, offered a solution. No wonder,
people began talking about Dharmapada for his superior
engineering skills and Bishu Maharana’s reputation came
under cloud. Soon, the dead body of the young boy was
found on the banks of Chandrabhaga. It is believed that
he committed suicide by jumping from the top of the
temple to save his father’s reputation.
The temple, however, was not destined to exist in all
its grandeur for long. Soon it was lost into oblivion
after a series of Muslim invasions ravaged the region.
This remained the case till the beginning of the 20th
century when archaeologists, backed by Lord Curzon,
salvaged the temple.
The present day Konark temple is not even a shadow of
its past. The original temple was gigantic. Built in
accordance with the Kalinga school of Architecture, it
has three parts: The Natmandir or Nritya Mandir was the
first complex; the Jagmohan was the middle complex; and,
the Biman or garbhagriha was the place where the deity
resided. The Jagmohan of Konark, which is the only
signature left today, is 120 ft tall. The Biman, which
no longer exists, was no less than 227 ft tall. It was
taller than the illustrious Jagannath temple in Puri.
Yet Konark remains matchless. First, constructing a
gargantuan temple in the shape of a colossal chariot
with 24 wheels and pulled by seven horses is a
breakthrough idea. We have seen many Sun temples in
various places but nowhere such an epoch-making
creativity was showcased.
Again, the 24 wheels and seven horses were related to
the Sun God. The seven horses are nothing but the seven
days of a week while 24 wheels represent 24 hours of a
day. Each of the stone wheels has one hub and eight
spokes which are eight prahar of a single day. Even on
each spoke various human activities are soulfully
depicted — from showcasing a royal woman waking up from
bed at the break of dawn to her aggressive sexual
activity with her lover in the midnight.
There are nearly 2,000 figures
of elephants decorating the entire Jagmohan. The
incalculable numbers of humans, horses, elephants, birds
and geometrical designs reflect the carnival of life.
Once no less than 22 subsidiary temples existed around
the main temple. Of these, only two are still remaining
— Vaishnava temple and Mayadevi temple. Mayadevi is one
of the wives of the Sun God as per Hindu mythology.
On the main entrance just before of the Natmandir exist
two huge lion statues along with dead elephants. It
symbolises the dominance of Hinduism over Buddhism as
lion and elephants are the symbols of Hinduism and
Buddhism respectively. The entrance gates of the
Natmandir was built in such a way that the first ray of
Sun at the break of dawn passes through its gate and
hits a diamond placed in central complex. This way the
idol placed there used to get illuminated every morning.
The impact used to last for a few moments.
LOST AND FOUND
In 1806, the Marine Board first suggested salvaging this
temple from complete destruction. The suggestion was not
taken seriously by the East India Company considering
huge cost involved in it. However, the Magistrate of
Cuttack put a ban on the removal of stone from the site.
But the loot continued. At that point of time the king
of Khurda took away many slabs and statues from its wall
to decorate his own palace. His laborers used to throw
slabs from the top of the temple and many masterpieces
were destroyed forever. The stupid king destroyed three
gates of this temple.
Historical records tell us that the height of the main
tower started reducing with each passing year. The
height of the main tower recorded in 1837 by historian
James Fergusson is lesser than the one recorded in 1825.
It again got reduced by 1838 and a storm in 1848 did an
immense harm to it. Except the middle part, known as
Jagmohan, the entire temple with its 227-ft Biman was
destroyed by 1869.
In 1901, the Bengal circle of the Archeological Survey
of India (ASI) took a project to salvage Konark. It was
none other than Lord Curzon who took personal initiative
to save this wonder. By the end of 1905 Mukshashala and
Natmandir were repaired. In 1906 plantation of trees
towards the sea was completed to minimise the impact of
sea wind. By removing sand the Mayadevi temple was
unearthed in 1909. Till 1939 the restoration work was
done by PWD under the supervision of ASI. From 1939
onwards ASI undertook complete responsibility of the
The temple is now a part of UNESCO’s world heritage
site. Although ASI has done an outstanding job to
protect this temple, nature is taking its toll on it.
Sea winds are gradually causing erosion on its oxidised
sandstones. So before it is too late let your eyes
witness the wonder called Konark.
The Pioneer, 23rd September 2012
Subjected to plunder and deforestation for years,
people are finally waking up to the role mangrove
forests play in containing erosion, de-polluting air and
maintaining a healthy marine ecology
Just as the Olympics are conducted once in four years,
environmentalists across the globe also hold their mega
meeting once in four years. While the more dramatic
Olympics grab headlines, the ‘green guys’ do not get any
publicity on that scale, even though the proceedings on
natural science directly impacts all living creatures,
including mankind. This year, the World Conservation
Congress was held in Korea in the quest to use nature
for resolving the growing list of economic and social
issues. Conducted by IUCN — International Union for
Conservation of Nature, from September 1 to 15, its
agenda was to find pragmatic solutions to environmental
and developmental challenges in the world.
One of the major decisions taken in the congress was to
prepare the Red List of Ecosystems that will harmonise
the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and other IUCN
knowledge products. When used together, ecosystem and
species red lists will provide the most informative
indicator of the status of biological diversity at
national and global levels. Also in focus are the
sensitive mangrove ecosystems which are unique but
underrated and one of the least considered of all the
ecologically niches until the world shattering tsunamis
of 2004 and 2011 happened. Thankfully, mangroves are now
credited for taming the tides against tempests and
safeguarding valuable wildlife and sensitive shorelines.
Mangroves are unique jungles and one of the most
productive wetlands on earth. Yet, these coastal
tropical forests are among the most threatened habitats.
They may be disappearing faster than tropical
rainforests, and so far, with little public notice.
Lavishly growing in the inter-tidal areas and river
mouths between land and sea, mangroves provide critical
habitat for a diverse marine and terrestrial flora and
fauna. Healthy mangrove forests are key to a healthy
marine ecology and wildlife that thrives in this
breathtaking wonderland. Endowed with 7517 km long
coastline, the Indian subcontinent is rich in mangrove
forests, but it is being ruthlessly plundered.
However, management of mangroves in India is also slowly
picking up, especially in the west coast, on the east
coast and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. According to the
government in 1987, India lost 40 per cent of its
mangrove area in the last century. Rapid
industrialisation, pollution and increasing population
has resulted in degradation of mangroves. Even though
legal protection exists to protect this ecosystem under
the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, are the people
actually aware of this?
Very few citizens are responsive to mangrove forests and
even fewer have ever seen them. Even those who have seen
them will not appreciate their splendour at face value,
until the nuances are explained.
On a visit to Andaman Islands, just before the 2004
tsunami, mangroves skirted the islands but nobody spoke
of the greenery. We were only told of the beautiful
beaches and blue lagoons. Nevertheless, on my more
recent visit to Sundarbans in West Bengal, the forest
that lies snugly in the vast delta on the Bay of Bengal,
there seems to be more respect for this remarkable
jungle of undergrowth. Formed by the confluence of many
rivers, the Sundarbans is often flooded with a mixture
of freshwater and seawater. The interplay of low tide
and high tide is one of the miracles of mangroves where
tiny islands are created everyday and vanish the next
day. It is rated as the most dynamic and dramatic
landscape on earth.
The Sundarbans mangrove covers 10,000 sq km
f which about 6,000 sq km is in Bangladesh and rest in
India. Due to its vital wealth and statistics, it was
declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
This exceptional water world is an amalgamation of
creeks, canals and serpentine rivers of varying width
from a few meters to several km.
Travelling in a watercraft for two full days from sun up
to sundown and gazing at the amazing maze of jungles
made me dizzy. The wealth of vegetation was so
astounding, that even my two decades of nature watching
did not help me recognise even a single species of
plant. I was merrily shooting to capture flora and fauna
specially adapted to this unique landscape as visual
Hemant Karkhanis of Godrej Marine Ecology Centre from
Bombay says that mangroves not only act as buffer zones
between the land and sea but also protect the golden
sands from constant erosion.
They are perfect breeding and nursery grounds for a
variety of marine animals, good source of timber, fuel
and fodder. They also purify the water by absorbing
impurities and help us to breathe cleaner air by
absorbing the pollutants in the air. In the future, they
are a potential source for recreation and tourism.
The Hindu, 23rd September 2012
At Sultanpur, it’s
literally a walk on eggshells!
Bird lovers will have to wait for 10 more days to
have a look of their favourite birds at the Sultanpur
With several birds mainly Sarus Cranes out laying and
hatching its eggs on the visitors’ pathways inside the
sanctuary, the Gurgaon Wildlife Department has decided
not to allow public movement in the area for at least 10
more days. The sanctuary usually opens on September 15
every year but now it is likely to open from October 1.
Cranes had laid the eggs on the visitors’ pathway and
had been hatching them there itself. The crane generally
lays its eggs in the nest that it makes inside the
water. “However this year, the water level in the
sanctuary had gone down as a result the bird could not
build its nest and so the bird has laid its eggs on the
pathway,” said curator of the sanctuary Suresh Kumar.
The bird sanctuary shuts down in the month of May and
reopens for public viewing from September 15. However,
since the bird was hatching eggs on the visitors’
pathway, the Gurgaon Wildlife Department decided to let
the sanctuary remain closed till the eggs were hatched
and the young ones could start moving. “If we allow
visitors inside the sanctuary, the birds would get
disturbed and their eggs would get damaged,” added
“The sanctuary is for birds and protection of their
interest is our first priority. We have the permission
from our senior officials to do so,” said Kulvinder
Singh Khattar, Divisional Wildlife Officer.
The official said two young ones of the cranes were
already hatched on September 19 and remaining would be
done in a week or so. “They are very small and cannot
move. It takes about a week for these birds to fly. By
the time the sanctuary opens these birds will be on
their own,” added Kumar.
Interestingly, besides the cranes, Grey Heron, Egrets,
Cattle Egrets and Peafowls are also breeding at the
sanctuary. “In a way closing of the sanctuary has come
as a blessing in disguise for other birds as well. While
the other birds are breeding inside the water islands,
absence of human movement in the area will give them the
required peaceful zone,” Kumar added.
The bird lovers, too, have welcomed the decision of the
sanctuary management. “It is a wise decision. The
sanctuary is first for the birds and then the bird
watchers. We can wait for a few days,” said Raj Surin,
Bird watcher and photographer.
The Pioneer, 23rd September 2012
Prepare road map to
protect sparrows: Dikshit
After declaring sparrow ‘State Bird of Delhi’,
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has asked the environment
department to prepare a road map to protect sparrows and
to save the species.
The move will also aim at enhancement awareness about
their life and habitat among Delhiites. This was decided
at a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Sheila
The good old house sparrow, which is becoming rarer day
by day, was declared as the “State Bird of Delhi” by
Delhi Government last month. Interestingly, the
Government is yet to come out with a notification in
this regard. The move seems to be a part of a new
campaign to save the species and enhance awareness about
their life and habitat.
Sources said that the meeting was called to discuss a
road map to create environment to attract sparrows to
the city. According to sources, the Government decided
to involve eco clubs of schools in this project. The NGO
which is involved in protecting sparrows will publish a
booklet and circulate it in schools. Beside this, green
patches of nest box will be created to attract sparrows.
The meeting was attended by secretary (environment),
Delhi chief secretary and other senior officials. “The
knowledge about the status, population and distribution
of common birds will help in timely conservation
measures that can save these birds from extinction, and
help create conservation interest among the masses,”
The Delhi Government would now consider incorporating
common bird monitoring in the school curriculum to make
schools and other organisations sparrow and bird
friendly. The Nature Forever Society will be providing
all help and resources to the Delhi Government in this
However, bird lovers praised the desperate attempt of
the Government to save sparrows. They said the campaign
would require sincere efforts to conserve these
diminutive birds as sparrows are hardly visible nowadays
and are near extinct.
The Pioneer, 23rd September 2012
stones of legacy
They say that the tomb looks different every time you
visit. This time the visit was on a hot and sunny
September morning, not the best time for venturing
outdoors. The experience, however, was worth the trouble
because of the compelling story behind the fading red
sandstones, the story of a man who worked and fought
hard but died too young -- the story of an emperor.
It was at the Humayun’s Tomb that the motley crowd of
heritage enthusiasts, history buffs, eager school
children armed with notebooks and curious on-lookers
gathered on a bright Sunday morning. They were following
heritage consultant Navina Jafa on a heritage walk
through time and cultures, and trying to see the human
story behind the ruins.
The first stop was a small tomb, a little distance away
from the western gates. “This is the tomb of a noble
from the court of Sher Shah Suri, it was here some 20
years before the greater tomb was built. Sher Shah Suri
sat on the seat of Delhi, while Humayun suffered untold
misery travelling through Kabul, Lahore, Iran and Persia
fighting battles, overcoming betrayals and finally
coming back to Delhi to capture his rightful place in
history after the death of Sher Shah Suri,” says Dr.
Jafa, before telling the story of how his little son was
born when the king was a man without a kingdom or a roof
over his head.
“When his son was born, he opened the kasturi flower and
inhaling the sweet smell emanating from it, blessed his
son and hoped that his life would be like the pervading
scent of the flower, that goodness would follow him
everywhere. That son was later to become the greatest
emperor of the Mughul dynasty, Akbar the great, and he
would also be responsible for building this final
resting place for his father.”
Although, the tomb was done with the money and power of
Emperor Akbar, the idea was all Hamida Begum’s, the
mother of Akbar and Humayun’s beloved wife. “Hamida
wanted to build an enclosed Paradise Garden surrounding
the tomb, which would reflect the concept of paradise
according to Islamic cosmology. This had never been done
in India, although it was a common practice in the Arab
Next on the list was “Arab Sarai” – a housing colony to
keep the hoards of artisans brought by Hamida Begum to
build the tomb. There are wells and remnants of a horse
stable. “Water” played a key role in the fortunes in
many an empire and the Mughuls were no different. There
are several water channels all over the tomb, some of
which appear to be disappearing beneath the tomb and
appearing on the other side. Natural water-courses from
the Yamuna have been cleverly utilised and water was
said to have been flowing throughout the gardens many
waterfalls, without the help of modern technology.
“There are four squares or water channels that intersect
in the “Paradise Garden” and are meant to reflect the
four rivers said to be flowing in the Islamic heaven.”
The entrance-way by the western gates is entrancing.
“Look, the last window of Humayun’s tomb can be seen
from here,” says Jafa. The tomb is not meant for Emperor
Humayun alone, he is surrounded by at least 100 unnamed
souls and only after many chambers are traversed that
one can reach the innermost chamber. The ceiling work is
still being restored, so one cannot see the stunning
inlays and paintings that are said to be there. There
are elements of Rajasthani handiwork in the marble
canopies that surround the central dome. “See here the
latticed windows, a window to heaven perhaps?” says Ms.
Jafa, before ending the tour. The walk was organised by
the Delhi Government’s Shahjahanabad Redevelopment
Corporation for free. The organisation also takes school
children on regular heritage walks and even has a
The Hindu, 24th September 2012
The ghostly trail
R.V. Smith turns his discerning eye towards the
ghosts that haunt Delhi
Delhi is a spooky place – or so it is believed. Now the
Indian Paranormal Society, and a travel company, Let’s
Get Packing, have decided to explore haunted places in
the Capital and also Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore. Last
week they organised a tour, Creatures of the Night which
took tourists to Jamali-Kamali’s tomb, the Mehrauli
Archaeological Park and Nicholson Cemetery. How many
ghosts they contacted is not known but their K-2 meters
were able to record some unusual things, like the smell
of sandalwood at Balban’s tomb (possibly a Thursday
ritual agarbatti for the slave king who was a
quite a scrooge) and a shining red triangle at a mosque,
to quote a story in a daily. But the ghost-busters were
silent on what happened at the cemetery. They expected
to see the headless spectre of Gen Nicholson who was
shot near the Khari Baoli during the British assault on
Mori Gate by a sniper standing at the window of a
double-storeyed house. A marble tablet still marks the
site. Though mortally wounded, he breathed his last only
after Delhi had been retaken, with the words, “Thank
God, I can now die in peace”, or something to that
The story about the headless soldier is associated with
another site – the Delhi Gate, where a British sentry
shot himself after the woman who swept the road every
morning, with whom he had fallen in love, got married.
The yarn is that he walks from the gate right down
Daryaganj street and later disappears into the nearby
Lothian Road Cemetery, where he was presumably buried.
The pipal tree at the Delhi Gate is also said to be
haunted by a banshee (wailing churail) who sometimes
troubles passers-by late at night by making a jingling
sound with her anklets. Incidentally, the Lothian Road
Cemetery, the oldest existing one in Delhi, is believed
to be the most haunted as many of those who were killed
in 1857 are buried there. Even during the day the
cemetery looks a spooky place with tumbled-down tombs
all around and a weird middle-aged woman sitting under a
tree to quench the thirst of stray visitors in the
Another story would have us believe that every Thursday,
the last Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and his begum Zeenat
Mahal, lead a procession of their courtiers, and members
of the harem, out of the Red Fort and back into it. This
is surprising since both Bahadur Shah and Zeenat Mahal
died in Rangoon (now Yangon) and were buried there.
Ghosts are never known to cross such long distances as
the one between Delhi and the Myanmarese city, where
Zafar is honoured as a pir who grants wishes to those
who light candles and joss-sticks at his mazaar, though
he poetically mourned that there would be none to do so
after his death. Many years ago the Custodian of the Red
Fort, Asghar Ali Khan, reported seeing the ghosts of
Mughal princes and princesses during his nightly rounds
of the fort. Later a photographer of a daily spent a
night there photographing paranormal activity but his
pictures showed either blobs of light or some weird
skeletal images of which nothing much could be made. The
Army authorities of the fort tried to bring the issue to
an end saying some soldiers used to frighten the
custodian by pretending to be princes and princesses but
the matter did not die down so easily, with Asghar Ali
Khan holding his ground and swearing that he was not so
naïve. It later emerged that the Army authorities were
trying to put an end to the ghostly yarns as they were
hurting its image in the public eye.
Students of paranormal happenings can also try their
luck on the Ridge, where some of the bloodiest events of
1857 took place. As a matter of fact, young doctors of
Hindu Rao Hospital, which was once a British mansion,
reported seeing firangi “bhoots” while going to a
canteen for tea during night duty or biking down in the
dark to the hospital. Panchkuian Road cremation ground
and its roundabout are also said to spring a ghostly
surprise now and then, like a motorist who honked to get
a man out of the road one night and unable to stop,
drove right through him. On looking back he saw the man
strolling on Link Road just as before, unmindful of
another approaching car. C.P. and Bhadur Shah Zafar Marg
also have their own phantoms.
Fashion-cum-cine journalist Amir Rajpal, who died on
Sept 7, was an early ghost-buster and spent a night at
the Martyrs’ Cemetery in Agra. He managed to get some
spooky photos for Sun magazine in the 1970s which
created quite a stir in Delhi’s Fleet Street. But the
group sponsoring Creatures of the Night tours would be
well advised not to go looking for a headless Nicholson,
for he was buried with his head quite intact, and there
is no evidence of his grave ever being dug up.
The Hindu, 24th September 2012
'Oxford of the East'
Allahabad University is the fourth oldest varsity
in the country
Allahabad University, the fourth-oldest university in
the country, turned 125 on Sunday.
The occasion was marked by a cultural event and the
showcasing of a 125 feet-long painting canvas. The
Central University, once known as the “Oxford of the
East,” was established on September 23, 1887. However,
Viceroy of India Lord Northbrook, on December 9, 1873
laid the foundation stone of the Muir Central College,
named after Sir William Muir, then Lt. Governor of the
United Provinces. With the promulgation of the
‘Allahabad University Act of 1921,’ the Muir Central
College merged with the university.
The building was designed by eminent architect Sir
William Emerson, in a unique mix of Indo-Saracenic,
Egyptian and Gothic styles.
Over the following years, the university lost some of
its glory, but after a sustained campaign, it regained
its Central University status in 2005.
It has had on its rolls a host of distinguished people,
including one President and two Vice-Presidents, three
Prime Ministers (one, acting), several Chief Ministers,
Union and State ministers, and four Chief Justices of
The university’s Senate Hall, also a national heritage
site, celebrates its centenary this year.
The Hindu, 24th September 2012
15 renovated sites await
Fifteen monuments that underwent a massive facelift by
Intach Delhi Chapter are still waiting be notified as
protected under the Delhi Ancient and Historical
Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act,
2004. Sources in the government said the chief
minister's office had requested for some clarifications
that had delayed the process but it was expected to take
place soon. This includes monuments like Bara Lao ka
Gumbad, Badarpur gateways, Gol Gumbad, Darwesh Shah ki
The project was conceived in 2008 to bring relatively
obscure monuments to government's attention and restore
them before the Commonwealth Games. These monuments were
turned into prime tourist attractions and another list
of monuments that needed to be protected was drawn.
Bringing them under government protection helps them
receive similar attention like the 174
centrally-protected monuments under the Archaeological
Survey of India.
While the first phase of monuments is still waiting for
notification, the MoU between Intach and Delhi
government which lapsed in October, 2011 is yet to be
renewed. State archaeology officials said that the
matter was expected to come up in the cabinet soon, and
this time they were looking at a five-year MoU.
"Currently, maintenance of 17 monuments is with Intach,
and in addition to that 16 more will be taken up after
cabinet notification," said a senior official.
While phase I still awaits final notification, 18
monuments have been identified for conservation in phase
II already. The list has been sent to the
lieutenant-governor's office for preliminary
Conservationists claim that the delay in notifying the
monuments was only making them vulnerable to vandalism
or encroachment. "Many of these monuments are located in
congested lanes and crowded areas. They can only be
protected against encroachment if they are notified as
soon as possible. The delay will only exacerbate
problems," said a source.
The Times of India, 24th September 2012
Heritage tower in
Hampi destroyed for 'treasure'
Thieves on Sunday damaged a 15-foot-tall tower atop the
Malyavanta Hill in Hampi under the belief that it had a
treasure chest. The miscreants damaged the heritage
structure by digging the three-storey Gaali Gopura for a
Inspector of police Venkateshulu said four pillars of
the gopura were found damaged. The thieves had cut the
branches of the eucalyptus trees close to the tower to
climb the gopura. "We have recovered tools used by them
to dig the gopura,'' he said.
Tourism minister Anand Singh, who visited the spot,
said: "It's an unfortunate incident. I have asked police
to step up the security at the Hampi sites and ensure
such incidents are not repeated."
The minister said he has directed the archeological
department officials who earlier visited the site to
take measures to restore the damaged tower.
According to mythology, Malyavanta Hill, which hosts a
Raghunatha temple, is associated with Lord Rama. It is
believed that he once stayed on top of this hill.
History has it that Sri Krishnadevaraya, the
Vijayanagara emperor, frequently visited Malyavanta Hill
to view the sunset.
The Times of India, 24th September 2012
Raj Kapoor’s Pak home
to be museum
Bollywood’s greatest showman Raj Kapoor’s
ancestral home in this walled city will be converted
into a museum, reports Express Tribune of Pakistan.
The walled city of Peshawar has a stronger Bollywood
connection than many would expect. The roots of three
B-town legends can be traced back to its bustling
streets — Dilip Kumar (Muhammed Yusuf Khan), Shahrukh
Khan and Ranbirraj ‘Raj’ Kapoor.
The house is situated in Mohallah Dhaki Munawar Shah,
inside the walled city, where on December 14, 1924, Raj
Kapoor was born in a house owned by his grandfather D
Bashisharnath. His father, Prithviraj Kapoor, played his
first lead role in Indian film “Cinema Girl” in 1929.
Shaikh Amjad Rasheed, the chairman of IMGC Global
Entertainment in Pakistan, has taken the initiative of
renovating the haveli and converting it into a museum.
“We are planning to renovate Prithviraj Kapoor’s
five-storey house and turn it into a museum. We are in
continuous interaction with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
government and hope that we will soon get the green
light to acquire the house from its present owners as
soon as possible,” he told Express Tribune.
Minister for Culture Mian Iftikhar Hussain said anyone
such an initiative was “more than welcome”.
The house still stands in its original condition in
Ander Shehr, but its illustrious inhabitants, Raj Kapoor
and Prithviraj ji, moved to Mumbai a long time ago. Back
then, the film stars were Peshawar’s exports to the
Rasheed explained that the house was of great historical
significance and a source of pride for the inhabitants
of Peshawar and should be rightfully preserved and
dedicated to Raj Kapoor. Renovations will take place so
that the house is appropriately rehabilitated, keeping
its original structure intact. He claims that the plans
for the upcoming project have also been shared with Raj
Kapoor’s grandson, Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor, who,
Rasheed says, was “extremely happy” to hear the news.
Rasheed also says that the young actor expressed a keen
desire to visit Peshawar along with his family for the
inauguration of the museum.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government had granted the
‘national heritage’ status to home of Dilip Kumar. It is
situated in the narrow alleys of Mohalla Khudadad near
the historic Qissa Khwani Bazaar (Market of
The Deccan Herald, 25th September 2012
Treasure hunters pull
down monument at Hampi
Treasure hunters looking for gold and silver coins at
the Hampi world heritage site in Karnataka have
destroyed a Vijayanagar-era (14th to 16th century)
structure next to the Malyavanthi Temple dedicated to
Lord Ram. Police said a group of people pulled down the
Gali Gopura Mandap on Saturday night, going by popular
lore of riches being buried under the pillars of the
The treasure hunters dug around one of the four pillars
of the mandap and tried to lift it, causing the entire
structure to collapse.
Police have found farming tools used for the digging at
the site in Bellary district, around 372 km from
State tourism minister Anand Singh said, “I have
directed the officials of the Archaeological Survey of
India to rebuild the mandap and keep all the materials
of the collapsed structure in a museum.” Singh said he
had asked the police to nab the culprits.
Hampi Mahesh, a member of the Hampi Hitha Rakshan Vedike
which fights for protection of the heritage site, on
Monday said treasure hunters were repeatedly trying to
steal antique pieces.
The Hindustan Times, 25th September 2012
Art panel opposes
vertical growth in New Delhi, heritage zones
The government and urban planners certainly aren't on
the same page on the question of going vertical. While
Union urban development minister Kamal Nath and various
government agencies have been making a case for building
more high-rises in the capital, the Delhi Urban Art
Commission (DUAC) has shot down several significant
Recently, the commission, which advises the government
on preserving, developing and maintaining the aesthetic
quality of urban design in Delhi, rejected three Central
government projects to build high-rises for housing
around 10,000 employees. DUAC members, including many
eminent architects, not only criticized the design of
the proposed 14-storeyed high-rises — projected to cost
Rs 4,000 crore — but also called them vertical slums
that would ruin Delhi's image as a green and
Two other high-rise projects — Delhi high court's
expansion and a residential development project at the
Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station in Civil Lines — also hit
a hurdle as the commission thought them unsuitable for
their heritage zone settings.
Last month, the Centre had presented concepts of three
development schemes for 'general pool' residential
accommodation covering 165 acres at Kidwai Nagar,
Sriniwaspuri, Mohammed Park and Ramakrishna Puram in the
middle of Delhi. "The projects involved 150-feet-high,
generally repetitive 70 blocks in the middle of New
Delhi," said DUAC chairman Raj Rewal. "DUAC objected as
they would have destroyed the character of New Delhi,
one of the few capitals of the world that retain the
ideal of a garden city".
Rewal cited the example of Paris, where buildings taller
than seven or eight storeys are not allowed in the
centre of the city. "Every city has a character. Such
repetitive blocks of high-rises will completely ruin
The projects' likely ecological impact also influenced
DUAC's decision. Architect and DUAC advisor Romi Khosla
said, "We are best guided by what has happened in
Gurgaon. Can Delhi Jal Board supply water to so many
high-rises? We do not have enough water. Schemes like
rainwater harvesting can only add 10% but we will still
be short of supply". Khosla said it was strange that the
government wanted to make so many blocks for its
employees when the poor were languishing in slums
without any utilities.
The HC project on Sher Shah Suri Marg was shot down as
DUAC felt the "architectural grandeur" of the existing
high court building should be respected and the
elevations of the existing blocks should not be changed.
It also opposed any additions to the existing main
block. "The architect could accommodate the FAR
presently proposed on the existing block within the new
block proposed (Block C). The existing architectural
character of the complex should be respected. Since the
site is next to the protected monuments of Lal Darwaza
and Khair-ul-Manzil mosque, the clearance of
Archaeological Survey of India may be obtained,'' said
As part of the project, the HC's current C block would
have been demolished to build a new complex with bigger
registries and more courtrooms. An auditorium and a new
block for lawyers' chambers were planned on a plot
abutting Zakir Hussain Marg. At present, the highest
building in the court complex — the lawyers' chambers —
is 32 metres high. Portions of C Block fall within 300
metres of Purana Qila.
The commission also shot down the Vishwavidyalaya Metro
station project a second time as the height of the
proposed blocks made them look out of place in their
"In the alternatives now presented, the architects have
attempted the combination of blocks with height
variation up to 26 floors, 29 floors, 33 floors, 41
floors etc. The commission observed that the architects
have attempted to reduce the height of the blocks but
considering the height of structures existing in the
surrounding areas the blocks proposed still look out of
context and are not doing justice to the site,'' said a
DUAC member. Architects have now been advised to attempt
lowering the height of buildings.
As regards the Vishwavidyalaya Metro project, the
private party had submitted a building plan for a multi-storeyed
group housing society to the erstwhile MCD. Located
right behind the Metro station, the land was initially
to be used for parking. However, a few years ago, the
Union urban development ministry changed the purpose of
the land from institutional to residential. Delhi Metro
later auctioned the land to a private party which plans
to build a high-rise there. "But the MPD-2021 restricts
tall buildings in Lutyens' Bungalow Zone, Civil Lines
and North Delhi Campus,'' said a source. DUAC also took
into consideration Delhi Univeristy's objections to the
high-rise development at the site while scrutinizing the
DUAC members say the city's Master Plan 2021, which
approves trebling the building volumes, may not be
suitable for Delhi. "We have seen in many cases that
high density low-rises are better for accommodating
people. We have to factor in environmental issues," said
DUAC member Ashish Ganju
The Times of India, 25th September 2012
Using textiles, an exhibition explores questions
of labour, colonialism, capital, trade and politics
Many years ago, the areas in central Mumbai -- now
called Parel, Byculla and those around them -- were
collectively known as Girangaon and housed more than 100
textile mills, primarily cotton. In Marathi, the word 'Girangaon'
literally translates to 'the village of mills'. Workers
came from various parts of the state around Mumbai and
lived in one-room tenements while they worked in these
mills. After the Great Bombay Textile Strike of 1982,
however, the number of mills dwindled rapidly and not
very long after, became the malls and restaurants we
know them as today.
Located not many feet away from the erstwhile Girangaon,
Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Byculla East, presents an
exhibition titled Social Fabric which, among other
things, explores the impact the international textile
trade had on our local mills and workers. The show
centres around two works – a 2001 painting by the
Mumbai-based artist Sudhir Patwardhan titled Lower Parel
and an installation by the German artist Alice Creischer
titled Apparatus for the Osmotic Compensation of the
Pressure of Wealth during the Contemplation of Poverty –
while UK-based Celine Condorelli features alongside.
Mumbai-based Archana Hande's paintings on scrolls, which
are also part of the exhibition, show the progression
(and simultaneous degradation) of India over the years
as it has developed.
For many years, Patwardhan has been closely associated
with the plight of the mill workers, having lived in the
Lower Parel area when he first moved to Mumbai from
Pune, a time when the mills were still flourishing.
While little continues to be said about the mills, the
artist believes the exhibition has great relevance.
“There are lots of struggling groups of people and their
work (or lack of it) needs to be highlighted. That is
one of the things the exhibition is doing.”
That his work on display, Lower Parel , was done in 2001
means it depicts the area from that day, which is a
stark contrast to what it has become today. It shows
people mulling about on the streets, standing before a
large building and a bridge, appearing lost, so to
speak. “When I first moved to Mumbai, I used to depict
the working class,” he remembers. “After the strike (of
1982) my interest has been to depict what happened to
these people, and the painting shows what they were
doing then (in 2001).”
While Patwardhan's work draws from his personal
experiences, Creischer's is a global look at the economy
and colonialism. The former's painting is accompanied by
a number of newspaper cut-outs and images of the strike,
mill workers, the mills of yesteryear and Lower Parel of
today while the latter's installation includes sheets
explaining the relevance of the work – which viewers are
recommended to read so as to not be overwhelmed by the
sheer amount of information the work puts forth.
Before progressing into the rooms of the museum that
house these exhibits, however, viewers would do well to
first take a look at the exhibit on the ground floor –
samples from the Collections of the Textiles
Manufactures of India by Forbes Watson, from the
museum's collection. In the second half of the 19th
century, Watson was Reporter on the Products of India at
the India Museum in London, which meant his job was to
catalogue Indian products. Comprising 18 volumes, the
Collection documents perhaps every sort of textile that
was available in India at the time. In 1855, samples of
these various textiles were collected and put on display
in Paris at the Paris International Exhibition to create
awareness about Indian textiles. It was after this that
the British began bringing industrially manufactured,
and thereby cheaper, fabric into India, severely
hampering the efforts of the Indian workers. They did so
in other colonies, too, similarly affecting the efforts
of locals workers.
The Indian Express, 26th September 2012
at a height
The Great Himalayan National Park is a hotspot for
biodiversity and is home to some of the most vulnerable
and endangered species. In all, there are 375 recorded
faunal species within the park. We must protect them
It was only a few years ago when I literally stumbled
into the Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh and found
myself at a gateway leading to one of India’s ‘youngest’
national parks — The Great Himalayan National Park. A
pair of White Capped Red Starts flitted along the banks
of the Tirthan river which kept me company as I walked
the 10 km stretch to the park entrance from where all
the treks begin.
The park was officially declared in 1999, and has over
the years expanded by incorporating adjoining ‘protected
areas’ and wildlife parks into its fold, bringing the
total area under administration to 1,171 sq km.
More recently, in 2010, both the Sainj and Tirthan
Wildlife Sanctuaries were also added to the GHNP, but
will only be formally incorporated once the process
known as ‘settlement of rights’ is completed. Covering a
large area, the GHNP is contiguous with the Pin Valley
National Park (675 sq km) in Trans-Himalaya, the Rupi
Bhabha Wildlife Sanctuary (503 sq km) in Sutlej
watershed and the Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary (61 sq km).
Such a large, unbroken and protected expanse of
wilderness is like an Eden for flora and fauna to
flourish. Geographically speaking, the park seems to
encompass almost everything from dense oak and walnut
forests, alpine valleys and meadows to patches of high
altitude pink rhododendrons which finally give way to a
treeless rocky and glacial terrain at 6,100 metres at
it’s highest point.
The GHNP is a hotspot for biodiversity and is home to
some of the most vulnerable and endangered species. In
all, there are 375 recorded faunal species within the
park, a number which is likely to increase, as research
and studies indicate. These include the Snow Leopard,
the Himalayan Black and Brown Bear, the Royle’s Vole,
the Himalayan Tahr, the leopard, the Himalayan Pit
Viper, the Musk deer, the Monal and the Western Tragopan,
to name just a few.
The Western Tragopan, which is also on the logo of the
GHNP, is considered to be the rarest of pheasants in the
world. Juju Rana, as it is locally known, literally
translates as the king of birds. According to local
legend, when the creator was making the world she
decided to make something special. So she asked all the
birds to give one feather each and from that she created
the Juju Rana. It is this biodiversity and its
uniqueness that has got the GHNP nominated to the status
of a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Unesco will be evaluating the national park this coming
month and consider awarding it the status of a World
Heritage Site — a status which earlier this year the
Western Ghats was awarded, but was declined by the Goa
and the Karnataka Governments, presumably owing to the
gigantic mining mafia that exists in the region. It is
ironic that the very minerals and metals the human race
is after are below the most pristine and ancient
forests. To open up a forest to be scraped and gouged
for mining is to seal not only the fate of the forest,
but also everything around it and connected with it.
The GHNP has been nominated specifically under two
criteria. The first criterion is that the site should
contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of
exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
The second condition is that it should contain the most
important and significant natural habitats for in situ
conservation of biological diversity, including those
containing threatened species of outstanding universal
value from the point of view of science or conservation.
The nomination itself is testimony to the fact that GHNP
is amongst the top most biologically diverse and vital
natural habitats on our planet.
Unfortunately, it is this very fact which is also one of
the reasons why the GHNP is threatened. The forests with
their diversity in both flora and fauna, have long been
used by the communities that have lived in and around
them. Local village communities used the meadows and
wild lands to graze domestic cattle and sheep, collect
forest produce, especially medicinal plants, and to hunt
for wild meat in a sustainable manner.
The second half of this story is not new. Commercial
gain comes sweeping in and turns everything inside out.
Accelerating development, including mining, tourism,
hydro-electric dams, timber/forest encroachment and even
military use, are taking a toll on this protected
habitat. One other activity which began small but has
grown disturbingly fast to a vast scale is the illegal
collection of medicinal plants.
During my time at the GHNP, I was told about how the
demand for these medicinal plants comes from the cities
and how then these plants are exported out of the
country. The locals are shown photographs of the plant,
fungus or root that is in demand, given a rate and sent
out in hordes. The entire pipeline is extremely
organised and run by a mafia.
The biggest demand these days is for a plant locally
called Naag Chhatri. It is the root of the plant that is
sought after. Needless to say, to harvest it the entire
plant is killed. The plant itself is extremely medicinal
in nature and is apparently used as a cure for
everything — from fever to high blood pressure. The
exact number of people involved is not known, but the
quantities extracted from the forest are reportedly
huge. So huge that it poses a very real threat to
actually cause a local extinction of the species.
The GHNP is also a major source of water for the rural
and the urban centres of the region. Four major rivers
originate from its glaciers: Tirthan, Sainj, Jiwa Nal
and Parvati flow through and out of the park. Not too
long ago, a hydro-electric project was planned in the
Tirthan Valley. The impact of the dam would have
devastated the area. It was the initiative of a few and
the support of the people that led to protests.
Thankfully, the project has been abandoned.
The biggest challenge here, like for any other forested
area, is that of protection. The Government and forest
department appear geared up to meet it, though they need
to do a lot more than they have so far.
Many efforts and initiatives have been made, and made
most successfully, to create opportunity and livelihood
for the communities around the GHNP. With options given
to neighbouring residents to earn extra income legally,
and those options exercised, pressures on the forest
What will continue to protect the GHNP is the sheer
inaccessibility to many areas of the national park.
There are no motorable roads that closely approach the
national park, and it requires at least a half-day trek
to reach the entrance.
Many peaks and high altitude meadows have never had a
human footprint. In a crowded world bursting at the
seams this is perhaps hard to imagine, but a hotspot
like the GHNP is still slowly revealing its secrets.
Medicinal plants, insects and even previously
undocumented mammals lie hidden. Earlier this year,
after two years’ worth of efforts in collaboration with
the forest department, we managed to get the first video
documentation of the Western Tragopan in the wild in
India. There are now reports of the existence of the
Himalayan Serow, an extremely shy creature that is more
of a mix between a goat and antelope. Giant flying
squirrels, martins, leopards and bears roam freely
through these great forests, a safe haven for now.
In a fast changing world where the true value of a
single tree may have been lost along the way, we need to
build a brave new world to hold on to these treasures
before they are lost forever.
The Pioneer, 26th September 2012
Vertical growth will
stress resources in Delhi
Even as Union urban development minister Kamal Nath
continues to push for vertical growth in Delhi, urban
planners and experts say the city's most basic
infrastructure — power, water and parking — is already
stretched, and could collapse under the pressure of
The city's planners estimate future infrastructure needs
keeping population projections in mind, but the
experience of the last two master plans shows population
projections are not reliable. In 2001, for instance, the
population was 1.38 crore against a master plan
projection of 1.28 crore.
Over the years, such unforeseen population growth has
resulted in severe shortage of power and water. Although
a mid-term review of Master Plan 2021 is intended to
address the present shortages, experts fear a shift to
the high-rise, high-density urban model will again upset
the balance. TOI does a reality check on three
With an average annual increase of 25% in electricity
demand, discoms are gearing up to meet a peak demand of
6,400MW next summer. This year, the May-July period saw
new demand records set every other day. "In the last
year or two, the demand has surpassed all expectations.
More and more consumers are using air conditioners all
day. However, growth of Delhi's own power generation has
failed to keep pace. Apart from Pragati power station
that was commissioned in 2002, the only additions
generation capacity are the Bawana plant and Tata's
Rithala plant — both suffering due to gas shortage,''
said a power sector expert.
Delhi's dependence on power from outside led to a severe
crisis this year after the Northern Grid collapsed on
two occasions. "If you promote high-rise development,
power demand is also going to increase and discoms may
not be prepared to meet the surging demand. Demand is
set to surge after almost 900 unauthorized colonies are
regularized and discom infrastructure is far from ready
to support the enhanced load,'' said a senior official.
BSES Rajdhani CEO Gopal Saxena added: "The moment you
encourage high-rises, power demand goes up. Earlier, we
had planned for a load of 5kW per house but it has
already gone up to 11 kW per house. To feed high-rises,
we also have to identify places for right of way and
allocate space for laying equipment like distribution
transformers and sub-stations.''
Delhi also sources much of its water from neighbouring
states. Its only internal source — groundwater — is in
short supply, and highly contaminated at many places.
Already, there is a shortage of more than 200 million
gallons per day, and this does not even take into
account people surviving on unregistered tube wells or
"Delhi's water supply infrastructure is old and was not
planned for the extensive population growth of the last
few decades. DJB is constructing underground reservoirs
for a more equitable distribution but the fact is that
our water supply is limited. To add to the problem,
people use online boosters that considerably reduce
pressure in supply lines, leading to poor supply at
tail-end areas. Yet, new housing schemes are being
launched," said a senior DJB official.
Unable to cope with the stress on its system due to
existing multi-storey buildings, DJB CEO Debashree
Mukherjee wrote to DDA recently, asking for a change in
building by-laws so that buildings more than two storeys
high are required to have underground tanks, and the
board's responsibility is limited to feeding these
tanks. Although it has been criticised by civic agencies
for the "unrealistic" plan, DJB says it has no choice if
it is to ensure equitable supply across the city.
Shortage of parking space has already reached crisis
levels due to a massive increase in personal vehicles.
Brawls over parking space have become common as vehicles
eat up space on roads, sidewalks and open grounds. In
Delhi, cars require about 11% of the urbanised area for
parking when 80% of the population still does not own
The government is now trying hard to work out a suitable
policy. Advocacy group Centre for Science and
Environment says providing for regulated and organized
parking of vehicles and putting restraints on the use of
public spaces for parking should be the key to a good
A Central Road Research Institute study found an average
car spends only 400 hours a year in traffic. The
remaining 8,360 hours are spent parked.
The Times of India, 26th September 2012
Better planning for
Flash floods and landslips that have followed unusually
sustained rainfall since September 17 have left a deadly
trail in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. In Sikkim,
following a cloudburst in the Chungthang region, homes,
bridges, and stretches of highways were washed away.
Among those hit were personnel of the Border Roads
Organisation and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. No less
than 70 landslips left whole regions cut off in the
mountainous terrain. In Arunachal Pradesh, over two lakh
people were affected in a wave of floods in five
districts. An unusually heavy spell of rain is also
threatening the stability of the famed Tawang Monastery
in Arunachal Pradesh, precariously perched on a
cliff-face, not far from the border with China.
Meanwhile, more than 17 lakh people have been hit in 16
districts of Assam in a third round of floods this year.
Assam’s human tragedy has been aggravated by the fact
that in the Kaziranga National Park, some 75 per cent of
the rhino habitat was submerged. The animals were forced
to take shelter on high platforms or move across to the
hills of Karbi Anglong district. The Pobitora Wildlife
Sanctuary also remains substantially submerged. In the
Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Tinsukia district, noted
for its endangered animal species and wet evergreen
forests, elephant calves were swept away by flood
waters. Majuli, Asia’s largest inhabited river island in
Jorhat district, is almost entirely submerged. It is cut
off from the mainland with the ferry service across the
Rescue and relief work undertaken by the Army, the Air
Force, the National Disaster Response Force and the
State Disaster Response Force have provided some
comfort, but the scale of the task remains stupendous.
The Brahmaputra and its tributaries are a blessing, but
also a bane for the region. The river leaves the region
fertile and irrigated, even aids mobility by hosting a
thriving water transport system. But in its fury, the
mighty and meandering hydraulic system has undone and
effaced efforts over a long period of time to check and
tame it. Lives and livelihoods, crops and infrastructure
come under threat time and again. There is, of course,
no telling how and when nature will vent its fury.
Nevertheless, a clear plan of action based on the
science of water management needs to be rolled out for
the long term to mitigate damage and help people through
what has effectively become an annual round of trouble
for the region with the least possible discomfort.
Working with the State governments concerned, the Centre
should step in to ensure this.
The Hindu, 26th September 2012
Will not vacate
existing memorials, Centre tells Supreme Court
The Centre on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that it
would not be legally possible to evict memorial trusts
which have occupied big bungalows in the capital's posh
Additional solicitor general P P Malhotra told a bench
of Justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi that the Union
government had taken a decision and formulated
guidelines in 2000 banning conversion of government
bungalows in future into memorials for departed
"But it will not be possible to evict the existing
memorials as the government has entered into agreements
with trusts which run the memorials allowing them to
occupy the bungalows for a specified period. Evicting
the memorials prior to the expiry of the lease period
will breach the agreement," he said.
The bench reserved judgment on the petition, which the
court had converted into a public interest litigation
given the rampant unauthorized occupation of official
accommodation by functionaries in the executive,
judiciary and legislature. The bench indicated that it
would examine the necessity of framing guidelines on
Amicus curiae and senior advocate Ranjit Kumar had given
several suggestions to the court including eviction of
memorials occupying prime government properties as well
as allocation of official bungalows to journalists,
eminent artists, NGOs and freedom fighters from the
Malhotra said the government had formulated guidelines
based on a 1997 judgment of the apex court and had
allotted residential accommodation to these categories
from under 5% discretionary quota. "Let these allotments
be not disturbed," he said.
The Times of India, 26th September 2012
Centre submits new
guidelines on core areas of tiger reserves to SC
Two months after the Supreme Court banned tourism in
core areas of tiger reserves after relying on the
existing guidelines, the Centre Wednesday submitted
revised guidelines, permitting up to 20 per cent of core
tiger habitats as delineated tourism zone.
“Current tourism zones where only tourist activities are
permitted and there are no consumptive uses, tiger
density and recruitment does not seem to be impacted.
For this reason, permitting up to 20 per cent of core
tiger habitat as a tourism zone should not have an
adverse effect on the tiger biology needs, which is
subject to adherence to all the prescriptions made in
the guidelines,” read the guidelines by the Environment
and Forest Ministry.
Saying regulated tourism results in enhanced awareness,
the guidelines favoured permission for “non-consumptive,
regulated, low-impact” tourism within the core areas
without compromising the spirit of tiger conservation.
“With this importance of tourism in tiger conservation
in mind, it is recommended that a maximum of 20 per cent
of the core tiger habitat usage not exceeding the
present usage for regulated, low-impact tourist
visitation may be permitted,” said the guidelines which
will be taken up by the Supreme Court Thursday as it
resumes hearing a PIL by conservationist Ajay Dubey.
The guidelines contradict the Centre’s previous stand of
gradual phase-out of tourism-related activities in tiger
reserves. Based on that stance, the Supreme Court had on
July 24 ordered that core areas in the 41 tigers
reserves be kept out of bounds for tourists till it
finalises guidelines for such areas. The core area is
the central part of a reserve and should have minimal
human disturbance. The buffer zone usually constitutes
fringe areas upto 10 km around the core.
Some time after the ban, the Centre sought the court’s
permission to “further review” the guidelines, citing
concerns that the ban would result in loss of livelihood
to local populations and endanger wildlife and forests.
The court allowed the Centre to revise its guidelines.
The new guidelines say that no new tourism
infrastructure should be created in core areas while
existing residential infrastructure should be strictly
regulated. “Permanent tourist facilities inside core
areas being used for wildlife tourism should be phased
out in a time frame decided by the Local Advisory
Committee,” it said.
The LAC comprises the divisional commissioner, local MLA
and district collector.
The ministry has also said tourism plans for each tiger
reserve will be site-specific and ratified by the Chief
Wildlife Warden of the state.
Steps For states
The Environment Ministry has recommended that states
enact their own legislation in sync with these
guidelines. Besides, states should charge a
“conservation fee” from the tourism industry and use the
money to conserve wild life and provide livelihood to
local inhabitants. It also wants 10 per cent of the
revenue generated from pilgrim centres located in tiger
reserves to be used for development of local
The Indian Express, 27th September 2012
Vandals of heritage
‘Treasure hunters’ must be hunted down
The shocking destruction of a part of the historic Hampi
ruins by a group of vandals must not only be condemned
in unequivocal terms but equally importantly the
incident must also serve as an opportunity to ask how
much India, as a country truly respects its much-touted
Sure, it is easy to gloat about one's rich legacy and
diverse civilisational history and how it all goes back
several thousands of years, but what about putting in
the effort and the resources necessary to protect and
preserve that glorious past? Take the incident at Hampi
as an example. ‘The Group of Monuments at Hampi’ is a
Unesco- designated World Heritage Site. It is an
integral part not only of Indian history but also of
world history — and its conservation, therefore, is not
just a national responsibility but also of interest to
the global community. And yet, there were not enough
security procedures in place to prevent a group of
miscreants seeking ‘treasures’ from doing something as
outrageous as blowing up with dynamite a three-storey
watch-tower located at the entrance of the 16th century
temple atop the Malayavantha Hill. That there will
always be anti-social elements, driven by an insatiable
desire for material wealth, willing to plunder thousands
of years of heritage to make a quick buck and further
narrow personal goals, is a given, which is why they
have to be checked.
Think of the likes of Subhash Chandra Kapoor, the
antique smuggler who was arrested in October 2011 for
selling idols, including one from the Chola period, to
well-known museums across the world. Or even the
politicians who blatantly violate building norms around
the historical structures. For instance, constructions
by the Delhi Government around Jantar Mantar have
rendered the famous sun dial defunct while the West
Bengal Government's plan to build a new administrative
building in Dalhousie Square threatens the architectural
harmony of the area. Or even for that matter consider
the non-descript tourist who thinks nothing about
defacing several centuries old structure. They are all
guilty of damaging national heritage. And they exist not
just in India but all over the world — from the
Guatemalan city of Mirador where looting of Mayan
artefacts is a huge threat to preserving the cradle of
that ancient civilisation to the little known Turkish
city of Ani that tells the tale of the once-powerful
Armenian empire but now lies in ruins, endangered by
vandals and encroaching settlers. The focus here then
must be on how to protect national heritage. There are
already laws in this regard, but are unfortunately too
rarely implemented. This needs to change and now.
International smuggling rackets must be clamped down
upon; extensive security measures must be put in place;
misbehaving tourists must be fined; politicians who
believe they are above the law must be reined in. If
not, we shall lose forever the symbols of our rich
The Indian Express, 27th September 2012
Raj remains get
More than half the work in the multi-crore, ambitious
project to give Coronation Park a makeover is complete.
The site, in North Delhi’s Burari area, is where King
George V announced the shifting of imperial India’s
capital from Calcutta to Delhi in December 1911.
Spread over 56 acres adjacent to a forest, the park has
been teeming with construction workers, stone-carvers,
artisans and heavy machinery ever since the Delhi
Development Authority (DDA) and the Indian National
Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) took up the
project in 2011 to give this historical site a modern
Cleared in 2009 with an initial budget of Rs 20 crore,
the redevelopment plan includes intricately built
“chhatris” at specific places, statues of historical
figures, a heritage interpretation centre, a restaurant,
a flagpost, an amphitheatre and a lake. Besides,
landscaping will add to the aesthetics.
Chhatris are dome-shaped canopies widely used in palaces
and forts. These were originally attributed to
Rajasthani architecture and later adapted as a standard
feature in Mughal architecture.
Red and white sandstone and marble have been brought
from Rajasthan and Agra for the chattris, walls around
the statues and the meandering footpaths.
The park will have two entry points, one of which will
be reserved for VIPs.
The path from the VIP gate will have the flagpost and
the amphitheatre to its right. Leading to an obelisk at
the centre, this pathway will be flanked by four
chattris on each side.
The entrance for the masses will be close to an heritage
“Almost 90 per cent of work on the pathway is complete.
A small portion of the forest was cleared to build a
jungle trail. A rose garden is coming up near the
heritage interpretation centre. Craftsmen are working on
the walls around the statues. These will be engraved
with information on the history of the place,” an
The park has the tallest statue of King George V on a
pedestal. It was brought to the site in 1960 from its
earlier location at India Gate. “Conservation of the
statue is being done by INTACH,” the official said.
A highlight of the park will be the heritage
interpretation centre, which is essentially a museum.
Siddhartha Chatterjee, consultant at INTACH, said the
centre will showcase the key moments of the past 150
years in the area around Kingsway Camp, apart from
providing information and anecdotes on the Coronation
Durbar of 1911.
“Events from the past will be viewed through the
perspective of India in, say, 2012. This will reflect
our diverse past and heritage, including the present-day
legacies. We intend to provide an opportunity to the
people to recognise and think about the many influences
that have come to shape Delhi and our lives,” he said.
Tracing the growth of the city, the exhibition at the
centre will cover events since the 1857 Mutiny, the
three imperial durbars held at the park, the building of
New Delhi, post-Partition history and the changing
ecology of North Delhi and the Ridge.
Developments during Mughal-era Delhi will also be part
of the exhibition.
All these events will be linked to the larger story of
colonialism, nationalism, Independence and the
aftermath, Chatterjee said.
Visual material is collected in the form of government
accounts, records, maps, archival photographs and
illustrations, quotations from historical accounts and
reports, newspapers and journals published in Hindi,
English and Urdu to showcase the city’s rollercoaster
ride through history.
Though work hasn’t stopped ever since “the first bunch
of workers moved in with tools in hand”, officials said
small, niggling problems have delayed the project. It
has already overshot its deadline of March this year and
could, probably, run beyond the revised December date.
Officials at the site said the low-lying parkland was
flooded with rainwater in the monsoon. “As a result,
pumping out water has taken more time than digging and
putting pipes to build an underground water-disposal
system. To deal with the flooding, four water tanks had
to be constructed in the park. Around 75 per cent of the
underground drainage system is ready and the remaining,
weather permitting, will be completed soon,” an official
This is good news for the ground crew doing the
landscaping at the site.
But, the official said the floodwater — pumped out and
stored — cannot be used on the plants because of high
salinity. “Water for the gardens will come from the
Delhi Jal Board’s treatment plant located nearby,” he
King George V announced the shifting of imperial India’s
capital from Calcutta to Delhi in December 1911 at this
site in Burari, North Delhi
3 coronation durbars — 1877, 1903 and 1911 — held
A plaque at the gate proclaims:
“This memorial was erected to commemorate the Coronation
Durbar of King George V and Queen Mary held in December
1911. On this occasion the King announced the transfer
of the capital of British India from Calcutta to Delhi.”
What to look for
30-metre-long iron flagpost, towering above the 20-metre
Chhatris, or dome-shaped canopies with intricate Mughal
jaali work or fine trellis work, at specific places
Statues of King George V and historical figures. The
49-foot marble statue of King George V, designed by Sir
Edwin Lutyens, is opposite to the obelisk commemorating
the durbar. This statue was at India Gate until 1960
A heritage interpretation centre or museum that will
take people on a trip down Delhi’s history
A lake and landscaped gardens
A jungle trail
Raj Kapoor’s Pak home to be museum
Bollywood’s greatest showman Raj Kapoor’s ancestral home in this walled city will be converted into a museum, reports Express Tribune of Pakistan.
The walled city of Peshawar has a stronger Bollywood connection than many would expect. The roots of three B-town legends can be traced back to its bustling streets — Dilip Kumar (Muhammed Yusuf Khan), Shahrukh Khan and Ranbirraj ‘Raj’ Kapoor.
The house is situated in Mohallah Dhaki Munawar Shah, inside the walled city, where on December 14, 1924, Raj Kapoor was born in a house owned by his grandfather D Bashisharnath. His father, Prithviraj Kapoor, played his first lead role in Indian film “Cinema Girl” in 1929.
Shaikh Amjad Rasheed, the chairman of IMGC Global Entertainment in Pakistan, has taken the initiative of renovating the haveli and converting it into a museum. “We are planning to renovate Prithviraj Kapoor’s five-storey house and turn it into a museum. We are in continuous interaction with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and hope that we will soon get the green light to acquire the house from its present owners as soon as possible,” he told Express Tribune.
Minister for Culture Mian Iftikhar Hussain said anyone such an initiative was “more than welcome”.
The house still stands in its original condition in Ander Shehr, but its illustrious inhabitants, Raj Kapoor and Prithviraj ji, moved to Mumbai a long time ago. Back then, the film stars were Peshawar’s exports to the world.
Rasheed explained that the house was of great historical significance and a source of pride for the inhabitants of Peshawar and should be rightfully preserved and dedicated to Raj Kapoor. Renovations will take place so that the house is appropriately rehabilitated, keeping its original structure intact. He claims that the plans for the upcoming project have also been shared with Raj Kapoor’s grandson, Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor, who, Rasheed says, was “extremely happy” to hear the news.
Rasheed also says that the young actor expressed a keen desire to visit Peshawar along with his family for the inauguration of the museum.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government had granted the ‘national heritage’ status to home of Dilip Kumar. It is situated in the narrow alleys of Mohalla Khudadad near the historic Qissa Khwani Bazaar (Market of Storytellers).
The Deccan Herald, 25th September 2012
Treasure hunters pull down monument at Hampi
Treasure hunters looking for gold and silver coins at the Hampi world heritage site in Karnataka have destroyed a Vijayanagar-era (14th to 16th century) structure next to the Malyavanthi Temple dedicated to Lord Ram. Police said a group of people pulled down the Gali Gopura Mandap on
Saturday night, going by popular lore of riches being buried under the pillars of the structure.
The treasure hunters dug around one of the four pillars of the mandap and tried to lift it, causing the entire structure to collapse.
Police have found farming tools used for the digging at the site in Bellary district, around 372 km from Bangalore.
State tourism minister Anand Singh said, “I have directed the officials of the Archaeological Survey of India to rebuild the mandap and keep all the materials of the collapsed structure in a museum.” Singh said he had asked the police to nab the culprits.
Hampi Mahesh, a member of the Hampi Hitha Rakshan Vedike which fights for protection of the heritage site, on Monday said treasure hunters were repeatedly trying to steal antique pieces.
The Hindustan Times, 25th September 2012
Art panel opposes vertical growth in New Delhi, heritage zones
The government and urban planners certainly aren't on the same page on the question of going vertical. While Union urban development minister Kamal Nath and various government agencies have been making a case for building more high-rises in the capital, the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) has shot down several significant projects.
Recently, the commission, which advises the government on preserving, developing and maintaining the aesthetic quality of urban design in Delhi, rejected three Central government projects to build high-rises for housing around 10,000 employees. DUAC members, including many eminent architects, not only criticized the design of the proposed 14-storeyed high-rises — projected to cost Rs 4,000 crore — but also called them vertical slums that would ruin Delhi's image as a green and well-planned city.
Two other high-rise projects — Delhi high court's expansion and a residential development project at the Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station in Civil Lines — also hit a hurdle as the commission thought them unsuitable for their heritage zone settings.
Last month, the Centre had presented concepts of three development schemes for 'general pool' residential accommodation covering 165 acres at Kidwai Nagar, Sriniwaspuri, Mohammed Park and Ramakrishna Puram in the middle of Delhi. "The projects involved 150-feet-high, generally repetitive 70 blocks in the middle of New Delhi," said DUAC chairman Raj Rewal. "DUAC objected as they would have destroyed the character of New Delhi, one of the few capitals of the world that retain the ideal of a garden city".
Rewal cited the example of Paris, where buildings taller than seven or eight storeys are not allowed in the centre of the city. "Every city has a character. Such repetitive blocks of high-rises will completely ruin Delhi's character.
The projects' likely ecological impact also influenced DUAC's decision. Architect and DUAC advisor Romi Khosla said, "We are best guided by what has happened in Gurgaon. Can Delhi Jal Board supply water to so many high-rises? We do not have enough water. Schemes like rainwater harvesting can only add 10% but we will still be short of supply". Khosla said it was strange that the government wanted to make so many blocks for its employees when the poor were languishing in slums without any utilities.
The HC project on Sher Shah Suri Marg was shot down as DUAC felt the "architectural grandeur" of the existing high court building should be respected and the elevations of the existing blocks should not be changed. It also opposed any additions to the existing main block. "The architect could accommodate the FAR presently proposed on the existing block within the new block proposed (Block C). The existing architectural character of the complex should be respected. Since the site is next to the protected monuments of Lal Darwaza and Khair-ul-Manzil mosque, the clearance of Archaeological Survey of India may be obtained,'' said the commission.
As part of the project, the HC's current C block would have been demolished to build a new complex with bigger registries and more courtrooms. An auditorium and a new block for lawyers' chambers were planned on a plot abutting Zakir Hussain Marg. At present, the highest building in the court complex — the lawyers' chambers — is 32 metres high. Portions of C Block fall within 300 metres of Purana Qila.
The commission also shot down the Vishwavidyalaya Metro station project a second time as the height of the proposed blocks made them look out of place in their surroundings.
"In the alternatives now presented, the architects have attempted the combination of blocks with height variation up to 26 floors, 29 floors, 33 floors, 41 floors etc. The commission observed that the architects have attempted to reduce the height of the blocks but considering the height of structures existing in the surrounding areas the blocks proposed still look out of context and are not doing justice to the site,'' said a DUAC member. Architects have now been advised to attempt lowering the height of buildings.
As regards the Vishwavidyalaya Metro project, the private party had submitted a building plan for a multi-storeyed group housing society to the erstwhile MCD. Located right behind the Metro station, the land was initially to be used for parking. However, a few years ago, the Union urban development ministry changed the purpose of the land from institutional to residential. Delhi Metro later auctioned the land to a private party which plans to build a high-rise there. "But the MPD-2021 restricts tall buildings in Lutyens' Bungalow Zone, Civil Lines and North Delhi Campus,'' said a source. DUAC also took into consideration Delhi Univeristy's objections to the high-rise development at the site while scrutinizing the proposal.
DUAC members say the city's Master Plan 2021, which approves trebling the building volumes, may not be suitable for Delhi. "We have seen in many cases that high density low-rises are better for accommodating people. We have to factor in environmental issues," said DUAC member Ashish Ganju
The Times of India, 25th September 2012
The Textile Movement
Using textiles, an exhibition explores questions of labour, colonialism, capital, trade and politics
Many years ago, the areas in central Mumbai -- now called Parel, Byculla and those around them -- were collectively known as Girangaon and housed more than 100 textile mills, primarily cotton. In Marathi, the word 'Girangaon' literally translates to 'the village of mills'. Workers came from various parts of the state around Mumbai and lived in one-room tenements while they worked in these mills. After the Great Bombay Textile Strike of 1982, however, the number of mills dwindled rapidly and not very long after, became the malls and restaurants we know them as today.
Located not many feet away from the erstwhile Girangaon, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Byculla East, presents an exhibition titled Social Fabric which, among other things, explores the impact the international textile trade had on our local mills and workers. The show centres around two works – a 2001 painting by the Mumbai-based artist Sudhir Patwardhan titled Lower Parel and an installation by the German artist Alice Creischer titled Apparatus for the Osmotic Compensation of the Pressure of Wealth during the Contemplation of Poverty – while UK-based Celine Condorelli features alongside. Mumbai-based Archana Hande's paintings on scrolls, which are also part of the exhibition, show the progression (and simultaneous degradation) of India over the years as it has developed.
For many years, Patwardhan has been closely associated with the plight of the mill workers, having lived in the Lower Parel area when he first moved to Mumbai from Pune, a time when the mills were still flourishing. While little continues to be said about the mills, the artist believes the exhibition has great relevance. “There are lots of struggling groups of people and their work (or lack of it) needs to be highlighted. That is one of the things the exhibition is doing.”
That his work on display, Lower Parel , was done in 2001 means it depicts the area from that day, which is a stark contrast to what it has become today. It shows people mulling about on the streets, standing before a large building and a bridge, appearing lost, so to speak. “When I first moved to Mumbai, I used to depict the working class,” he remembers. “After the strike (of 1982) my interest has been to depict what happened to these people, and the painting shows what they were doing then (in 2001).”
While Patwardhan's work draws from his personal experiences, Creischer's is a global look at the economy and colonialism. The former's painting is accompanied by a number of newspaper cut-outs and images of the strike, mill workers, the mills of yesteryear and Lower Parel of today while the latter's installation includes sheets explaining the relevance of the work – which viewers are recommended to read so as to not be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information the work puts forth.
Before progressing into the rooms of the museum that house these exhibits, however, viewers would do well to first take a look at the exhibit on the ground floor – samples from the Collections of the Textiles Manufactures of India by Forbes Watson, from the museum's collection. In the second half of the 19 th century, Watson was Reporter on the Products of India at the India Museum in London, which meant his job was to catalogue Indian products. Comprising 18 volumes, the Collection documents perhaps every sort of textile that was available in India at the time. In 1855, samples of these various textiles were collected and put on display in Paris at the Paris International Exhibition to create awareness about Indian textiles. It was after this that the British began bringing industrially manufactured, and thereby cheaper, fabric into India, severely hampering the efforts of the Indian workers. They did so in other colonies, too, similarly affecting the efforts of locals workers.
The Indian Express, 26th September 2012
Precious treasures at a height
The Great Himalayan National Park is a hotspot for biodiversity and is home to some of the most vulnerable and endangered species. In all, there are 375 recorded faunal species within the park. We must protect them
It was only a few years ago when I literally stumbled into the Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh and found myself at a gateway leading to one of India’s ‘youngest’ national parks — The Great Himalayan National Park. A pair of White Capped Red Starts flitted along the banks of the Tirthan river which kept me company as I walked the 10 km stretch to the park entrance from where all the treks begin.
The park was officially declared in 1999, and has over the years expanded by incorporating adjoining ‘protected areas’ and wildlife parks into its fold, bringing the total area under administration to 1,171 sq km.
More recently, in 2010, both the Sainj and Tirthan Wildlife Sanctuaries were also added to the GHNP, but will only be formally incorporated once the process known as ‘settlement of rights’ is completed. Covering a large area, the GHNP is contiguous with the Pin Valley National Park (675 sq km) in Trans-Himalaya, the Rupi Bhabha Wildlife Sanctuary (503 sq km) in Sutlej watershed and the Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary (61 sq km).
Such a large, unbroken and protected expanse of wilderness is like an Eden for flora and fauna to flourish. Geographically speaking, the park seems to encompass almost everything from dense oak and walnut forests, alpine valleys and meadows to patches of high altitude pink rhododendrons which finally give way to a treeless rocky and glacial terrain at 6,100 metres at it’s highest point.
The GHNP is a hotspot for biodiversity and is home to some of the most vulnerable and endangered species. In all, there are 375 recorded faunal species
within the park, a number which is likely to increase, as research and studies indicate. These include the Snow Leopard, the Himalayan Black and Brown Bear, the Royle’s Vole, the Himalayan Tahr, the leopard, the Himalayan Pit Viper, the Musk deer, the Monal and the Western Tragopan, to name just a few.
The Western Tragopan, which is also on the logo of the GHNP, is considered to be the rarest of pheasants in the world. Juju Rana, as it is locally known, literally translates as the king of birds. According to local legend, when the creator was making the world she decided to make something special. So she asked all the birds to give one feather each and from that she created the Juju Rana. It is this biodiversity and its uniqueness that has got the GHNP nominated to the status of a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Unesco will be evaluating the national park this coming month and consider awarding it the status of a World Heritage Site — a status which earlier this year the Western Ghats was awarded, but was declined by the Goa and the Karnataka Governments, presumably owing to the gigantic mining mafia that exists in the region. It is ironic that the very minerals and metals the human race is after are below the most pristine and ancient forests. To open up a forest to be scraped and gouged for mining is to seal not only the fate of the forest, but also everything around it and connected with it.
The GHNP has been nominated specifically under two criteria. The first criterion is that the site should contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
The second condition is that it should contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation. The nomination itself is testimony to the fact that GHNP is amongst the top most biologically diverse and vital natural habitats on our planet.
Unfortunately, it is this very fact which is also one of the reasons why the GHNP is threatened. The forests with their diversity in both flora and fauna, have long been used by the communities that have lived in and around them. Local village communities used the meadows and wild lands to graze domestic cattle and sheep, collect forest produce, especially medicinal plants, and to hunt for wild meat in a sustainable manner.
The second half of this story is not new. Commercial gain comes sweeping in and turns everything inside out. Accelerating development, including mining, tourism, hydro-electric dams, timber/forest encroachment and even military use, are taking a toll on this protected habitat. One other activity which began small but has grown disturbingly fast to a vast scale is the illegal collection of medicinal plants.
During my time at the GHNP, I was told about how the demand for these medicinal plants comes from the cities and how then these plants are exported out of the country. The locals are shown photographs of the plant, fungus or root that is in demand, given a rate and sent out in hordes. The entire pipeline is extremely organised and run by a mafia.
The biggest demand these days is for a plant locally called Naag Chhatri. It is the root of the plant that is sought after. Needless to say, to harvest it the entire plant is killed. The plant itself is extremely medicinal in nature and is apparently used as a cure for everything — from fever to high blood pressure. The exact number of people involved is not known, but the quantities extracted from the forest are reportedly huge. So huge that it poses a very real threat to actually cause a local extinction of the species.
The GHNP is also a major source of water for the rural and the urban centres of the region. Four major rivers originate from its glaciers: Tirthan, Sainj, Jiwa Nal and Parvati flow through and out of the park. Not too long ago, a hydro-electric project was planned in the Tirthan Valley. The impact of the dam would have devastated the area. It was the initiative of a few and the support of the people that led to protests. Thankfully, the project has been abandoned.
The biggest challenge here, like for any other forested area, is that of protection. The Government and forest department appear geared up to meet it, though they need to do a lot more than they have so far.
Many efforts and initiatives have been made, and made most successfully, to create opportunity and livelihood for the communities around the GHNP. With options given to neighbouring residents to earn extra income legally, and those options exercised, pressures on the forest have reduced.
What will continue to protect the GHNP is the sheer inaccessibility to many areas of the national park. There are no motorable roads that closely approach the national park, and it requires at least a half-day trek to reach the entrance.
Many peaks and high altitude meadows have never had a human footprint. In a crowded world bursting at the seams this is perhaps hard to imagine, but a hotspot like the GHNP is still slowly revealing its secrets. Medicinal plants, insects and even previously undocumented mammals lie hidden. Earlier this year, after two years’ worth of efforts in collaboration with the forest department, we managed to get the first video documentation of the Western Tragopan in the wild in India. There are now reports of the existence of the Himalayan Serow, an extremely shy creature that is more of a mix between a goat and antelope. Giant flying squirrels, martins, leopards and bears roam freely through these great forests, a safe haven for now.
In a fast changing world where the true value of a single tree may have been lost along the way, we need to build a brave new world to hold on to these treasures before they are lost forever.
The Pioneer, 26th September 2012
Vertical growth will stress resources in Delhi
Even as Union urban development minister Kamal Nath continues to push for vertical growth in Delhi, urban planners and experts say the city's most basic infrastructure — power, water and parking — is already stretched, and could collapse under the pressure of high-density housing.
The city's planners estimate future infrastructure needs keeping population projections in mind, but the experience of the last two master plans shows population projections are not reliable. In 2001, for instance, the population was 1.38 crore against a master plan projection of 1.28 crore.
Over the years, such unforeseen population growth has resulted in severe shortage of power and water. Although a mid-term review of Master Plan 2021 is intended to address the present shortages, experts fear a shift to the high-rise, high-density urban model will again upset the balance. TOI does a reality check on three essentials:
With an average annual increase of 25% in electricity demand, discoms are gearing up to meet a peak demand of 6,400MW next summer. This year, the May-July period saw new demand records set every other day. "In the last year or two, the demand has surpassed all expectations. More and more consumers are using air conditioners all day. However, growth of Delhi's own power generation has failed to keep pace. Apart from Pragati power station that was commissioned in 2002, the only additions generation capacity are the Bawana plant and Tata's Rithala plant — both suffering due to gas shortage,'' said a power sector expert.
Delhi's dependence on power from outside led to a severe crisis this year after the Northern Grid collapsed on two occasions. "If you promote high-rise development, power demand is also going to increase and discoms may not be prepared to meet the surging demand. Demand is set to surge after almost 900 unauthorized colonies are regularized and discom infrastructure is far from ready to support the enhanced load,'' said a senior official.
BSES Rajdhani CEO Gopal Saxena added: "The moment you encourage high-rises, power demand goes up. Earlier, we had planned for a load of 5kW per house but it has already gone up to 11 kW per house. To feed high-rises, we also have to identify places for right of way and allocate space for laying equipment like distribution transformers and sub-stations.''
Delhi also sources much of its water from neighbouring states. Its only internal source — groundwater — is in short supply, and highly contaminated at many places. Already, there is a shortage of more than 200 million gallons per day, and this does not even take into account people surviving on unregistered tube wells or illegal supply.
"Delhi's water supply infrastructure is old and was not planned for the extensive population growth of the last few decades. DJB is constructing underground reservoirs for a more equitable distribution but the fact is that our water supply is limited. To add to the problem, people use online boosters that considerably reduce pressure in supply lines, leading to poor supply at tail-end areas. Yet, new housing schemes are being launched," said a senior DJB official.
Unable to cope with the stress on its system due to existing multi-storey buildings, DJB CEO Debashree Mukherjee wrote to DDA recently, asking for a change in building by-laws so that buildings more than two storeys high are required to have underground tanks, and the board's responsibility is limited to feeding these tanks. Although it has been criticised by civic agencies for the "unrealistic" plan, DJB says it has no choice if it is to ensure equitable supply across the city.
Shortage of parking space has already reached crisis levels due to a massive increase in personal vehicles. Brawls over parking space have become common as vehicles eat up space on roads, sidewalks and open grounds. In Delhi, cars require about 11% of the urbanised area for parking when 80% of the population still does not own cars.
The government is now trying hard to work out a suitable policy. Advocacy group Centre for Science and Environment says providing for regulated and organized parking of vehicles and putting restraints on the use of public spaces for parking should be the key to a good policy.
A Central Road Research Institute study found an average car spends only 400 hours a year in traffic. The remaining 8,360 hours are spent parked.
The Times of India, 26th September 2012
Better planning for floods
Flash floods and landslips that have followed unusually sustained rainfall since September 17 have left a deadly trail in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. In Sikkim, following a cloudburst in the Chungthang region, homes, bridges, and stretches of highways were washed away. Among those hit were personnel of the Border Roads Organisation and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. No less than 70 landslips left whole regions cut off in the mountainous terrain. In Arunachal Pradesh, over two lakh people were affected in a wave of floods in five districts. An unusually heavy spell of rain is also threatening the stability of the famed Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh, precariously perched on a cliff-face, not far from the border with China. Meanwhile, more than 17 lakh people have been hit in 16 districts of Assam in a third round of floods this year. Assam’s human tragedy has been aggravated by the fact that in the Kaziranga National Park, some 75 per cent of the rhino habitat was submerged. The animals were forced to take shelter on high platforms or move across to the hills of Karbi Anglong district. The Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary also remains substantially submerged. In the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Tinsukia district, noted for its endangered animal species and wet evergreen forests, elephant calves were swept away by flood waters. Majuli, Asia’s largest inhabited river island in Jorhat district, is almost entirely submerged. It is cut off from the mainland with the ferry service across the Brahmaputra suspended.
Rescue and relief work undertaken by the Army, the Air Force, the National Disaster Response Force and the State Disaster Response Force have provided some comfort, but the scale of the task remains stupendous. The Brahmaputra and its tributaries are a blessing, but also a bane for the region. The river leaves the region fertile and irrigated, even aids mobility by hosting a thriving water transport system. But in its fury, the mighty and meandering hydraulic system has undone and effaced efforts over a long period of time to check and tame it. Lives and livelihoods, crops and infrastructure come under threat time and again. There is, of course, no telling how and when nature will vent its fury.
Nevertheless, a clear plan of action based on the science of water management needs to be rolled out for the long term to mitigate damage and help people through what has effectively become an annual round of trouble for the region with the least possible discomfort. Working with the State governments concerned, the Centre should step in to ensure this.
The Hindu, 26th September 2012
Will not vacate existing memorials, Centre tells Supreme Court
The Centre on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that it would not be legally possible to evict memorial trusts which have occupied big bungalows in the capital's posh Lutyen's zone.
Additional solicitor general P P Malhotra told a bench of Justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi that the Union government had taken a decision and formulated guidelines in 2000 banning conversion of government bungalows in future into memorials for departed political leaders.
"But it will not be possible to evict the existing memorials as the government has entered into agreements with trusts which run the memorials allowing them to occupy the bungalows for a specified period. Evicting the memorials prior to the expiry of the lease period will breach the agreement," he said.
The bench reserved judgment on the petition, which the court had converted into a public interest litigation given the rampant unauthorized occupation of official accommodation by functionaries in the executive, judiciary and legislature. The bench indicated that it would examine the necessity of framing guidelines on this issue.
Amicus curiae and senior advocate Ranjit Kumar had given several suggestions to the court including eviction of memorials occupying prime government properties as well as allocation of official bungalows to journalists, eminent artists, NGOs and freedom fighters from the discretionary quota.
Malhotra said the government had formulated guidelines based on a 1997 judgment of the apex court and had allotted residential accommodation to these categories from under 5% discretionary quota. "Let these allotments be not disturbed," he said.
The Times of India, 26th September 2012
Centre submits new guidelines on core areas of tiger reserves to SC
Two months after the Supreme Court banned tourism in core areas of tiger reserves after relying on the existing guidelines, the Centre Wednesday submitted revised guidelines, permitting up to 20 per cent of core tiger habitats as delineated tourism zone.
“Current tourism zones where only tourist activities are permitted and there are no consumptive uses, tiger density and recruitment does not seem to be impacted. For this reason, permitting up to 20 per cent of core tiger habitat as a tourism zone should not have an adverse effect on the tiger biology needs, which is subject to adherence to all the prescriptions made in the guidelines,” read the guidelines by the Environment and Forest Ministry.
Saying regulated tourism results in enhanced awareness, the guidelines favoured permission for “non-consumptive, regulated, low-impact” tourism within the core areas without compromising the spirit of tiger conservation.
“With this importance of tourism in tiger conservation in mind, it is recommended that a maximum of 20 per cent of the core tiger habitat usage not exceeding the present usage for regulated, low-impact tourist visitation may be permitted,” said the guidelines which will be taken up by the Supreme Court Thursday as it resumes hearing a PIL by conservationist Ajay Dubey.
The guidelines contradict the Centre’s previous stand of gradual phase-out of tourism-related activities in tiger reserves. Based on that stance, the Supreme Court had on July 24 ordered that core areas in the 41 tigers reserves be kept out of bounds for tourists till it finalises guidelines for such areas. The core area is the central part of a reserve and should have minimal human disturbance. The buffer zone usually constitutes fringe areas upto 10 km around the core.
Some time after the ban, the Centre sought the court’s permission to “further review” the guidelines, citing concerns that the ban would result in loss of livelihood to local populations and endanger wildlife and forests. The court allowed the Centre to revise its guidelines.
The new guidelines say that no new tourism infrastructure should be created in core areas while existing residential infrastructure should be strictly regulated. “Permanent tourist facilities inside core areas being used for wildlife tourism should be phased out in a time frame decided by the Local Advisory Committee,” it said.
The LAC comprises the divisional commissioner, local MLA and district collector.
The ministry has also said tourism plans for each tiger reserve will be site-specific and ratified by the Chief Wildlife Warden of the state.
Steps For states
The Environment Ministry has recommended that states enact their own legislation in sync with these guidelines. Besides, states should charge a “conservation fee” from the tourism industry and use the money to conserve wild life and provide livelihood to local inhabitants. It also wants 10 per cent of the revenue generated from pilgrim centres located in tiger reserves to be used for development of local communities.
The Indian Express, 27th September 2012
Vandals of heritage
‘Treasure hunters’ must be hunted down
The shocking destruction of a part of the historic Hampi ruins by a group of vandals must not only be condemned in unequivocal terms but equally importantly the incident must also serve as an opportunity to ask how much India, as a country truly respects its much-touted ancient heritage.
Sure, it is easy to gloat about one's rich legacy and diverse civilisational history and how it all goes back several thousands of years, but what about putting in the effort and the resources necessary to protect and preserve that glorious past? Take the incident at Hampi as an example. ‘The Group of Monuments at Hampi’ is a Unesco- designated World Heritage Site. It is an integral part not only of Indian history but also of world history — and its conservation, therefore, is not just a national responsibility but also of interest to the global community. And yet, there were not enough security procedures in place to prevent a group of miscreants seeking ‘treasures’ from doing something as outrageous as blowing up with dynamite a three-storey watch-tower located at the entrance of the 16th century temple atop the Malayavantha Hill. That there will always be anti-social elements, driven by an insatiable desire for material wealth, willing to plunder thousands of years of heritage to make a quick buck and further narrow personal goals, is a given, which is why they have to be checked.
Think of the likes of Subhash Chandra Kapoor, the antique smuggler who was arrested in October 2011 for selling idols, including one from the Chola period, to well-known museums across the world. Or even the politicians who blatantly violate building norms around the historical structures. For instance, constructions by the Delhi Government around Jantar Mantar have rendered the famous sun dial defunct while the West Bengal Government's plan to build a new administrative building in Dalhousie Square threatens the architectural harmony of the area. Or even for that matter consider the non-descript tourist who thinks nothing about defacing several centuries old structure. They are all guilty of damaging national heritage. And they exist not just in India but all over the world — from the Guatemalan city of Mirador where looting of Mayan artefacts is a huge threat to preserving the cradle of that ancient civilisation to the little known Turkish city of Ani that tells the tale of the once-powerful Armenian empire but now lies in ruins, endangered by vandals and encroaching settlers. The focus here then must be on how to protect national heritage. There are already laws in this regard, but are unfortunately too rarely implemented. This needs to change and now. International smuggling rackets must be clamped down upon; extensive security measures must be put in place; misbehaving tourists must be fined; politicians who believe they are above the law must be reined in. If not, we shall lose forever the symbols of our rich culture.
The Indian Express, 27th September 2012
Raj remains get Delhi makeover
More than half the work in the multi-crore, ambitious project to give Coronation Park a makeover is complete. The site, in North Delhi’s Burari area, is where King George V announced the shifting of imperial India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi in December 1911.
Spread over 56 acres adjacent to a forest, the park has been teeming with construction workers, stone-carvers, artisans and heavy machinery ever since the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) took up the project in 2011 to give this historical site a modern makeover.
Cleared in 2009 with an initial budget of Rs 20 crore, the redevelopment plan includes intricately built “chhatris” at specific places, statues of historical figures, a heritage interpretation centre, a restaurant, a flagpost, an amphitheatre and a lake. Besides, landscaping will add to the aesthetics.
Chhatris are dome-shaped canopies widely used in palaces and forts. These were originally attributed to Rajasthani architecture and later adapted as a standard feature in Mughal architecture.
Red and white sandstone and marble have been brought from Rajasthan and Agra for the chattris, walls around the statues and the meandering footpaths.
The park will have two entry points, one of which will be reserved for VIPs.
The path from the VIP gate will have the flagpost and the amphitheatre to its right. Leading to an obelisk at the centre, this pathway will be flanked by four chattris on each side.
The entrance for the masses will be close to an heritage interpretation centre.
“Almost 90 per cent of work on the pathway is complete. A small portion of the forest was cleared to build a jungle trail. A rose garden is coming up near the heritage interpretation centre. Craftsmen are working on the walls around the statues. These will be engraved with information on the history of the place,” an official said.
The park has the tallest statue of King George V on a pedestal. It was brought to the site in 1960 from its earlier location at India Gate. “Conservation of the statue is being done by INTACH,” the official said.
A highlight of the park will be the heritage interpretation centre, which is essentially a museum. Siddhartha Chatterjee, consultant at INTACH, said the centre will showcase the key moments of the past 150 years in the area around Kingsway Camp, apart from providing information and anecdotes on the Coronation Durbar of 1911.
“Events from the past will be viewed through the perspective of India in, say, 2012. This will reflect our diverse past and heritage, including the present-day legacies. We intend to provide an opportunity to the people to recognise and think about the many influences that have come to shape Delhi and our lives,” he said.
Tracing the growth of the city, the exhibition at the centre will cover events since the 1857 Mutiny, the three imperial durbars held at the park, the building of New Delhi, post-Partition history and the changing ecology of North Delhi and the Ridge.
Developments during Mughal-era Delhi will also be part of the exhibition.
All these events will be linked to the larger story of colonialism, nationalism, Independence and the aftermath, Chatterjee said.
Visual material is collected in the form of government accounts, records, maps, archival photographs and illustrations, quotations from historical accounts and reports, newspapers and journals published in Hindi, English and Urdu to showcase the city’s rollercoaster ride through history.
Though work hasn’t stopped ever since “the first bunch of workers moved in with tools in hand”, officials said small, niggling problems have delayed the project. It has already overshot its deadline of March this year and could, probably, run beyond the revised December date.
Officials at the site said the low-lying parkland was flooded with rainwater in the monsoon. “As a result, pumping out water has taken more time than digging and putting pipes to build an underground water-disposal system. To deal with the flooding, four water tanks had to be constructed in the park. Around 75 per cent of the underground drainage system is ready and the remaining, weather permitting, will be completed soon,” an official said.
This is good news for the ground crew doing the landscaping at the site.
But, the official said the floodwater — pumped out and stored — cannot be used on the plants because of high salinity. “Water for the gardens will come from the Delhi Jal Board’s treatment plant located nearby,” he said.
King George V announced the shifting of imperial India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi in December 1911 at this site in Burari, North Delhi
3 coronation durbars — 1877, 1903 and 1911 — held
A plaque at the gate proclaims:
“This memorial was erected to commemorate the Coronation Durbar of King George V and Queen Mary held in December 1911. On this occasion the King announced the transfer of the capital of British India from Calcutta to Delhi.”
What to look for
30-metre-long iron flagpost, towering above the 20-metre obelisk
Chhatris, or dome-shaped canopies with intricate Mughal jaali work or fine trellis work, at specific places
Statues of King George V and historical figures. The 49-foot marble statue of King George V, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, is opposite to the obelisk commemorating the durbar. This statue was at India Gate until 1960
A heritage interpretation centre or museum that will take people on a trip down Delhi’s history
A lake and landscaped gardens
A jungle trail
The Indian Express, 27th September 2012
City’s oldest ISBT is ready with new look
Kashmere Gate Phase-I of renovation almost complete, will be ready for ops next month
After putting scores of passengers through hardship, the Maharana Pratap ISBT at Kashmere Gate is all set to greet passengers with an air-conditioned waiting lounge, food court, glass elevators and escalators from next month.
According to Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) officials, the Phase-I of the renovation project — after missing the deadline thrice, since it began in June 2011— is finally complete and the operations will resume from next month.
“The interior area is being be given an international look. Keeping in mind passenger facilities, we have already put in place the escalators, lifts, an enquiry booth and improved ticket counters. The toilets, which were in a dilapidated condition before, have been renovated to match international standards. The work on the escalators, lifts, ticket booths, apart from the granite flooring, have been completed,” a DIMTS official said.
The passengers will now be greeted with a spacious enquiry counter, occupying a central space at the terminal. LED display boards, showing the arrival and departure time of buses, have also been put up.
As part of the project, structural strengthening and retrofitting of the existing building against earthquake have also been carried out.
“We have taken all steps to ensure maximum security of passengers, since enhanced security was a major part of the renovation project,” the official said.
A door-frame metal detector, which will be manned by two security guards round the clock, has been installed at the entry point.
“We have installed high-resolution CCTV cameras across the terminus. These are rotating cameras and can be controlled by police personnel stationed in the control room. Other security equipment such as boom-barriers and an access-controlled system for buses have also been put in place,” the official said.
The DIMTS official said the work on the building management system and the public information system was yet to be completed.
The building management system monitors and controls all machinery in the building such as the ACs, pumps and seweage treatment plant.
“Though the LED display boards have been set up, work on installing the machinery to announce arrivals and departure of buses and public help desks is still going on.
“The monsoon led to a delay in the work that requires wiring. We are now laying electrical wires by using trench-less technology. Since extra power is required to run sophisticated machinery, including the escalators and lifts, we have contacted discoms for extra power supply. Once this is done, the terminal will be fully functional,” the official said.
The installation of a rainwater harvesting system and a fire-security system is also underway. “Currently, the cleaning and polishing work is on.
The Indian Express, 28th September 2012
Digging their heels in tiger land
With bauxite mining operations breathing down its neck and the possibility of a deep drilling project, Maharashtra’s Sahyadri Tiger Reserve is under threat
While the Maharashtra government says it is the first in the country to notify core and buffer areas in all its four tiger reserves in the State, in a recent affidavit to the Supreme Court naturalists have pointed out that the tiger habitats are under pressure from poaching and bauxite mining. They are also concerned about a deep drilling project to study seismicity in the Koyna region falling in the core area of the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR).
The STR, notified in 2010, is beset by bauxite mining within one km of the boundary of the Chandoli National Park in Kolhapur district which forms part of the reserve, in violation of existing norms. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) gave environmental clearance for two mines in December 2006. One of them is located on 254.52 hectares of private land with a capacity of 60,000 tonnes per annum (tpa).The other mine was permitted to extract 3.37 lakh tpa and mine lease area was 776.78 hectares — 586.76 hectares of which was forest land.
In the clearance letter to both the companies, namely M/S Prakash Anandrao Gaikwad and Swati Minerals, it was stated that the Chandoli National Park is located at a distance of 10 km from the mine just outside the buffer zone.
However, Nana Khamkhar and Rohan Bhate of Creative Nature Friends toldThe Hindu that the issue was taken up with the Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court, saying that the two bauxite mines were located within one km of the park and the MoEF’s environmental clearance was based on incorrect facts. Mr. Khamkhar said there was a Supreme Court order of 2006 which clearly says mining was not permissible within one km of the boundary of national parks. The National Board for Wildlife has to clear proposals for mining within 10 km of national parks.
The other concern for wildlife conservationists is the proposal for deep drilling in the Warna reservoir, which is part of the core area of the STR. Located in Chandoli National Park, this area is acknowledged by the Forest Department to be a breeding area for tigers and cubs have been sighted here, Mr Khamkhar said.
Dr. Purnachandra Rao, senior principal scientist from the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, however, said, “The proposal for the deep drilling project will take us right to the spot where earthquakes are happening. Drilling will have to be done for six to seven km and the 10-year study could help answer a lot of questions remaining on earthquakes.” The Koyna region experienced a massive quake in 1967. The proposal will study intraplate earthquake mechanism in the region which is prone to tremors. There is a two-fold interest for the NGRI since there are two reservoirs — Warna and Koyna — in the vicinity, Dr. Rao said
This was an internationally important programme spearheaded by the NGRI which had approached the Maharashtra Forest Department two months ago. “We are sensitive to issues and there is no cause for panic,” Dr. Rao added.
Principal Secretary (Forests), Praveen Pardeshi, said that the bauxite mines were given permission before the restriction of the 10 km limit came into being. They had the required clearances, he said.
However, Assistant Conservator of Forests, Chandoli National Park, Sitaram Zure said that after complaints of mining, the Forest Department had informed the MoEF in February about the permission for two mines being given on false information that they were located 10 km away from the National Park boundary. Mr. Zure said the National Tiger Conservation Authority had also examined the matter and sent a report. He said that notices have been issued to the two companies by the Mining Department.
Regarding the deep drilling project, Mr. Pardeshi said the proposal was to drill in the Warna reservoir, which fell in the core area of the STR. The NGRI had only sent a letter, there was no formal proposal as yet and it would be first considered by the State Wildlife Board before approval by the National Board for Wildlife. He was of the opinion that the study should be permitted in the interest of science.
Mr. Bhate opposed the study saying it would require new roads and places to stay in the reserve and the noise levels due to drilling would be very high.
The four tiger reserves in Maharashtra are Melghat Tiger Reserve in Amravati district, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur district, Pench Tiger Reserve in Nagpur district and Sahyadri Tiger Reserve spread over Ratnagiri, Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur districts. The State government approved the inclusion of Chandoli National Park and the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary to the Sahyadri in 2010 to create a tiger reserve spread over 741.22 sq km. Later, the STR’s area was expanded to 1165.56 sq km by providing 424.34 sq km as additional buffer area, in the interest of tiger conservation.
Melghat is the oldest of them, having been declared a tiger reserve in 1974. The Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve was notified in 1995, Pench in 1999 and Sahyadri Tiger Reserve in 2010.
The Hindu, 28th September 2012
CBI probe ordered into attacks on rhinos
Army to be deployed in Karbi Anglong hills; Centre takes serious view of situation
Two more rhinoceroses were shot at by poachers in the Kaziranga National Park on Thursday in two separate incidents. These took place in Karbi Anglong district, one near Kuthori around 4.15 a.m. and the other around 12.30 p.m. in the Jagadamba tea estate. The poachers took away the horns of the rhinos.
In the first incident the rhino was found dead, while in the second, the victim was found battling for life, bleeding and writhing in pain. Both mammals had strayed out of flooded areas of the national park, which is also a World Heritage Site, and were moving in the foothills outside the notified area of the park.
Following these two incidents, which occurred a day after poachers shot at a female rhino and made off with its horn, the Assam government ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into all incidents of rhino poaching in the State in the last three years. The government has also decided to deploy the Army in the hills of Karbi Anglong adjacent to the Kaziranga National Park areas, as it suspects militants could also be involved in poaching.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi ordered the CBI probe and announced a cash award of Rs. 5-lakh to anyone who gave information on poachers.
Environment and Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain said a team of veterinary and wildlife experts was attending on the two injured rhinos.
Among other measures aimed at curbing poaching were elevation of the post of director of the Kaziranga National Park to Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) rank from the existing rank of Conservator. N.K. Vasu, an IFS officer, was appointed new director of the park. He earlier served as director of the park when he was a conservator.
The Minister said the strength of the front line staff in the park had now increased to 562; 11 sections of the Assam Forest Protection Force (AFPF) are now deployed there. Besides, 34 new appointments in Forester grade I and 64 forest guards will take place soon. The Environment and Forests Department is also procuring 200 SLRs as part of its plans to equip the AFPF personnel with modern and sophisticated weapons.
Since January, 15 poachers have been apprehended. In 2011, three poachers were killed in an encounter with forest guards, while nine others were arrested and five weapons seized. In 2010, nine poachers were killed and 15 arrested.
Meanwhile, a protest rally was taken up by activists and supporters of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and several other organisations in Kaziranga and other places. They demanded the resignation of Mr. Hussain for failing to protect the rhinos.
Priscilla Jebaraj reports from New Delhi:
Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan has ordered an immediate investigation by a team of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau into the incidents of poaching of rhinos which are fleeing the flooded areas of Kaziranga. She said the investigation should be completed in a week, and the perpetrators brought to justice. Ms. Natarajan has also written to Mr. Gogoi seeking all assistance in this regard and to prevent future incidents. The team comprises C. Behra, Regional Deputy Director, Eastern Region, Kolkata; A.K. Jha, Assistant Director (Intelligence), BHO, Delhi; L. Kuruvilla, Assistant Director, Southern Region, Chennai; and K.K. Sarma, Wildlife Inspector, Northern Region, Delhi.
The Hindu, 28th September 2012
Endangered even more
Rhinos in Kaziranga are becoming soft targets
From being an abode to the famed one-horned rhino, the Kaziranga National Park is fast turning into a killing field for these rare and endangered species. The high-security Kaziranga, a Unesco World Heritage Park, is Assam's pride, playing host to two-thirds of the world's Great One-horned Rhinos. Indeed, the wildlife reserve has been touted as one of the greatest success stories in the country's conservation efforts. But of late, that reputation has been sorely tested. The reasons have varied from natural calamity to man-engineered catastrophes. Currently, the national park is in the throes of severe floods. The surging waters have inundated more than 80 per cent of the park killing nearly 22 animals, including four rhinos. Assam's worst-ever floods in June this year saw over 600 animals of the park including rhinos and elephants perish.
But the more disquieting news and cause for greater alarm is the rising incidence of poaching. Poachers constantly on the prowl, inside and outside parks, have taken advantage of Kaziranga's inundation to go on a rampage on Wednesday. Two rhinos, which had strayed out of the park to escape the floodwaters, fell prey to the poachers. The killings were as gruesome as they were ruthless. The poachers mindful only of their own pelf and security, sawed off the rhino's horn even as the animal lay bleeding and alive, before making good their escape. It was easy, because along with the animals, the floodwaters had reportedly washed away more than 100 anti-poaching camps of the forest guards inside the park. The incident was a re-run of a similar poaching of a female rhino in January 2008 and happened barely 48 hours after the recovery of a rhino carcass without its horn in the park. Although, forest officials claimed that the carcass was an old one, the missing horn points to poaching. The park has lost four rhinos within a span of a week. The death toll due to poaching has reached 14 this year alone.
While it is frustrating that poachers could so easily kill rhinos in the high-security park, the incident also points to the flourishing of — despite many crackdowns by the authorities — organised poaching syndicates. Although the rhino’s horn has no proven medicinal effect on humans, myths about its aphrodisiac qualities and medicinal worth in curing cancer thrive, especially in many South-East Asian countries, making the sale of horns a highly profitable trade. The incident also highlights the loopholes in the existing security mechanism and the failure of the State Government to plug them. Furthermore, a strong intelligence network with the locals is necessary to keep tabs on the movement of poachers. Had there been a stronger security in the peripheral areas of the park, such deaths could have been at least preventable.
The Times of India, 28th September 2012
Delhi’s first royal tomb lost to shrubs and goats
It may have been identified as anarchaeological park under Master Plan of Delhi 2021, but the area surrounding the early 13th-century Sultangarhi tomb — the first royal tomb in Delhi — is far from being a tourist attraction. Lack of proper signage and pathways, and the obscure location of the approach road have made it difficult for visitors to access the site in the city's southwest. The only people who pay the occasional visit to the ASI-protected tomb are
The master plan defines an archaeological park as "an area distinguishable by heritage resources which has the potential to become an interpretative educational reserve for the public in addition to being a tourist attraction". However, the definition on paper only remains a vision. A reality check showed that the park is nothing but a neglected green area which could have become a major tourist destination had the Archaeological Survey of India and Delhi Development Authority paid some attention to its upkeep. The other two archaeological parks identified under the master plan are at Tughlaqabad and Mehrauli.
Located in the midst of the green area, Sultangarhi tomb is on ASI's list of 10 ticketed monuments but statistics reveal that the body earns no revenue from the tomb. A lone ASIguard sits at the gate clutching a bundle of tickets, ready to welcome the rare visitor. The ticket counter was burnt down by locals a few years ago.
only people who visit the spot are local villagers who come to offer prayers. For others, it is impossible to get here from the main road as the approach road is difficult to locate," said the guard. While the tomb itself is in a good condition, the ruins surrounding it are marred by moss-covered walls. A Tughlaq-era well located a stone's throw away has also been neglected for decades.
"Some years ago, Intach had undertaken conservation work on the ruins and put up information boards. But over the years, the ruins have been vandalized and encroached upon," said an official.
Sources add that the lack of proper pathways and presence of anti-social elements in the vicinity act as a deterrent for visitors. More importantly, awareness on the park's historical significance is missing. Also, there are no security personnel to safeguard the premises.
Inky portions of the green area were identified as the archaeological park but boundaries have not been carved yet, said a DDA official. Urban experts say that outlining boundaries is crucial for the park's maintenance otherwise encroachments are bound to crop up.
"What DDA needs to do is place on record what is the significance of defining a green area as an archaeological park and implement a proper management plan to preserve the park's historical character as well as to keep the green belt alive. Facilities have to be created so that the park is ready to receive visitors," said an expert.
The Times of India, 28th September 2012
Courting the cotton culture
The Capital will inaugurate an exhibition on traditional handloom khadi and malkha to coincide with Gandhi Jayanti
From the villages of India to the prêt collections of international designers, Malkha, a mix of malmal and khadi has travelled a long distance. Paying a tribute to this wonderful fabric, the National Archives of India is hosting a Khadi & Malkha exhibition from October 2 to 11 in the Capital.
India has had an interesting journey with cotton -- it has grown, spun, woven and worn cotton and clothed other nations in it for over 200 years now. The looms run on in the 21 century, with almost no industrial pollution and depredation of the earth’s resources.
“The Indian cotton textile industry has outlasted the industrial revolution’s challenge, and today provides an environmental, ecological alternative to energy-intensive mechanical production, providing employment to millions of people in the different processes of cloth production from the carding, spinning, warp laying, sizing of the warp, the weaver and the maker of tools for all these. Making cotton cloth entirely in rural areas links the small and marginal farmers of cotton to the cloth that is made from their harvest,” say the organisers of the exhibition.
Not to forget the patronage khadi received from M K Gandhi, who used it symbolically in the fight against the colonisers.
The interest in khadi has never faded in India and has even reached foreign shores. What makes khadi and malkha popular are its slubbed texture and draping qualities.
The Hindu, 29th September 2012
Walk through the pages
Navina Jafa's book elaborates on the art of preserving and presenting heritage. She spoke to Ektaa Malik
With a megaphone in hand, she is a familiar fixture on the city’s historical and cultural circuit.She often makes people wake up at early hours and enlightens them on Delhi’s monuments. Navina Jafa knows their stories like the back of her hand. Her mother was worried she would grow up to be angrez, because Jafa was brought up in the West Indies. But there was nothing to be afraid of.
Navina took her Indian heritage seriously. She is a Fullbright Scholar with a PHD in history and trained in Kathak. The heritage walks she organises are well attended. She elaborates, “I wanted to balance my western education with Indian culture, visualising Bharat versus India. I attended lectures by Kapila Vatsyayan. Did art history and art appreciation courses at NGMA and elsewhere. But I wondered why I felt asleep at lectures, when I loved history. That’s why I’ve organised the walks.”
She continues, “I remember attending Dussehra celebrations on the lawns of Red Fort and circuses being hosted there. Look at it now. The monument has become isolated, inaccessible by the general public. I am trying to bring people closer to that aspect of our cultural heritage. I maintain, that higher the Taj Mahal goes in its stature internationally, the more people will get alienated.”
Jafa has produced a book, Performing Heritage, Art of Exhibit Walks (Sage Publications).
It required the impossible task of sitting in one place and facing the computer. “I am a performer and have always been active. To sit still constantly and labour over words was tough.”
Jafa’s is in her element during walks, dramatically pausing to elaborate on stories humanising characters.
She doesn’t bore attendees with just dates and architectural information.
“A performance dies when it is over. But when you write, its immortal. I tried to make the legacy of these monuments live through the book. And I tried to highlight that presenting monuments is an art.”
When she takes people to Humayun’s Tomb she speaks about a caretaker of Afsar ki Sarai. “I speak of him as Romeo Caretaker who would come to his work, teasing and eyeing women on the way.People might forget Humayun, but they relate to Romeo. To her the monuments are not just stone. She talks as if of a favourite child. “They are living entities. I involve the local economy and experts. They might not have a degree but they know the place like their home.” The book is written in simple language, sans academic jargon. Its similar to her walks.
The Daily Pioneer, 29th September 2012
Sparrow all set to get official bird tag
The Delhi government is ready to notify the sparrow as the Capital’s first official bird.
On August 15, chief minister Sheila Dikshit had made a declaration and launched a “rise of the sparrows” campaign. “We’re working on an action plan. Efforts are being made to sensitise
people, especially children. The notification may be issued next week,” government sources said.
“The chief minister, who heads the environment ministry, is keen on protecting sparrows and bringing them back, besides raising awareness about their life and habitat,” said a senior official.
Mohammad Dilawar, founder of Nature Forever Society, has set up an online portal, Common Bird Monitoring of India (CBMI), where people can register and monitor the birds.
“We have tied up with the government in this conservation project. We’re drafting guidelines for the creation of more habitats and getting these birds back to Delhi,” Dilawar said.
“In our food chain, this bird, like many others, is a bio-indicator. We’re saving this bird because it means we have made our environment better,” he said.
A forest department official said, “In Lutyens’ Delhi, we have not spotted these birds in the last two-three years. Methyl nitrate, emitted by vehicles, is one reason why these birds are becoming extinct. Vegetable production along the river, which used to attract sparrows, is also becoming a thing of the past.”
The Hindustan Times, 29th September 2012
Green the dirty drains
Rather than turning their faces away from ganda nalas that happen to be essential to Delhi’s drainage system, authorities and residents should try protecting and greening them
There is hardly any town in the country that does not have its ganda (dirty)nala (drain). In many places the ganda nala has become a part of the city’s psyche and even the city’s directional landmark. Delhi today boasts of 22 such major drains and both Meerut and Saharanpur have at least one each.
Look closely and you will find that each one of them is the combined output of a network of many such smaller nalas, some of which might even be originating from your own house, housing complex or the locality. Ever given a thought to these nalas, their origin and if they were always ganda?
The fact is that most, if not all, are the creation of the natural topography of the place in question and originated as storm water drains that carried the high flows during monsoon rains to either yet another drain or to a nearby water body or a river. In case of Delhi, it is the river Yamuna that has acted as the end destination of the city’s high flows. Thus these nalas were essential features of the natural drainage system of a town or city. Also in olden times, most of them acted as the town’s greenways and sites of recreation. It was much later and mostly during the last and the present century that we as part of our ‘development’ process converted them into ganda nalas.
Anything that is ganda abhors us and we have a tendency to wish or shoo it out of sight. It is also a fact that many of these ganda nalas exhale nauseating stench and become a source of vector borne diseases, especially when water in them tends to stagnate. No wonder there is a frequent clamour from affected people to seek their covering and concretisation.
But is it the ganda nala which is at fault deserving to be ‘fixed’ by the municipal authorities? Travel to a ‘developed’ western nation, and one is hard put to locate such ganda nalas? Surely they exist there, too, but have mostly been ‘fixed’ either under a road, a culvert, a parking site or into pipes. But if that was the correct ‘solution’, then why is there now, a growing clamour to “daylight” such infrastructure?
“Day lighting” or a ‘greening of grey (concrete) infrastructure’ is the process by which cities like Philadelphia in the U.S. endeavour to ‘green’ themselves, by rediscovering their lost or hidden streams and storm water drains and then expose them back to the elements. This is taken up even when the costs for such reversal prove prohibitive as a lot of effort, including enabling science, technology and legislation is required to re-nature such sites.
Not many might recall that in the year 1996, a dissertation by researcher Pallavi Kalia at the TVB School of Habitat Studies, New Delhi looked at the drainage system in the city of Delhi and then tested successfully the following hypothesis:“ The natural drainage channels, existing as a part of a city’s fabric, if developed through capitalising on their inherent characteristics, can be transformed from being corridors of filth and squalor, into means of reinforcing the imageability of the city, apart from making it functionally more efficient and ecologically more sustainable.”
While the referred study had focussed primarily on the Barapula drainage sub-system in Delhi, its applicability to the rest of the city was found to be obvious.
Now as Delhi bids for a heritage city and a world class city status, it would be best advised to not limit its ‘green city’ claim to just the tree cover that it has justifiably achieved. How it protects and suitably develops its natural drainage channels and reclaim those that it has already lost shall be the litmus test of its claim to a world class city. And since the tentacles of its natural drainage system spreads to every nook and corner of the city, it shall as much be the responsibility of the State authorities as of every resident of this city to work towards protection, preservation and improvement of its natural drains.
The role of the city’s residents and their associations (RWAs) in transforming every filthy drain in the city into a welcome greenway is immense. For where does the ‘filth’ that clogs the drains actually emanate from? Secondly, does it not make much better sense to appreciate, value and work together to clean and green our drains now, rather then spend a fortune at a later date to “daylight” them, a la many cities in the West?
(The writer is the Convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan)
The Hindu, 29th September 2012
Another Monument of Neglect
The question of how do we in India relate to our heritage is very easy to answer. By and large we do not relate to our heritage in any way, unless what we do to them can be construed to mean that we treat them as our own. This is especially true of the built heritage scattered all around us whether in metropolitan agglomerates, million plus cities, small towns or in remote villages. Our attitude is the same - supreme disdain and callousness.
Whether this attitude is the product of a people who have become inured to heritage because they have had a surfeit of it or because they only have a distorted sense of a Hindu past and a Muslim past is difficult to say. Unless we can turn a building either into a mosque or a temple we do not seem to care much for it, the moment we can convert a heritage structure into a place of worship we begin to repair and refurbish it and keep at it till we remove all vestiges of history and antiquity from it.
Those structures that cannot be so converted into places of worship seem to leave us cold and untouched and we treat them as a ‘no man’s land’ and therefore easy pickings for all comers. Some of the uses that we put heritage monuments to include driving nails in the walls to hang kitschy calendars, to attach wires to dry our daily wash and to stretch cables to our houses. We use the courtyards for playing cricket, for sleeping in, for drying our grains. We paint the walls in hideous shades of green or saffron to erect shrines along the periphery. We encroach upon entire structures and convert them into extensions of our houses, or to conduct our businesses from. Using the niches under monumental structures for starting bicycle or auto repair shops, for storing construction material or using them for rearing poultry or pigs etc are all part of our daily routine. The number of monuments that have been used as public conveniences is too large to be enumerated.
Except for downright encroachment, one can witness many of these activities in and around Masjid Moth, located inside the Masjid Moth village that derives its name from the sultanate period mosque that is now a protected monument. One corner next to the exterior of the west wall of the mosque has been converted into a reserved parking lot for some elected representative, there are two cars with the Delhi Assembly stickers parked in this reserved lot, the sticker on one of them at least expired on December 31, 2011. The owner must be someone powerful with scant respect for the law, considering the expired sticker and the land grabbed for parking.
The mosque has been in the news recently ( To be or not to be, Metroplus, The Hindu, September 22, 2012) because the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is building a hostel for its staff within the prohibited 100 metre limit for construction next to a protected monument. One wonders how were the builders given the NOC by the competent authority appointed by the National Monuments Authority.
Vikramjeet Singh, an IT professional and enthusiastic photographer of historical monuments, and I went to Masjid Moth to do our own investigation. The hostel under dispute is certainly within the 100 metre prohibited limit. We measured it through Vikramjeet’s Tablet that has GPS on it. Measuring distances has never been easier, you do not even have to be on site, open Google Map, identify the two points, tap them and the actual linear distance between them is displayed.
Open and shut case, one would be inclined to say, but things are not so easy on the ground, the hostel is coming up behind another AIIMS hostel built earlier than the mid 1990s. This structure is five storey high and is less than 50 meters from Masjid Moth. A Sai Mandir has come up between the monument and the older hostel building. The temple was certainly not there, not in its present dimensions in any case, when I used to work with BiTV that operated from Uday Park close by.
Now even if this new hostel comes up and even if it is a couple of floors higher than the earlier hostel, it will not be a visual hindrance because the line of vision is already obstructed by the earlier structure. To my mind, the AIIMS hostel issue is actually a red herring that is being dragged through the debate of violation of the 100 metre prohibition in order to divert attention from the large scale constructions going on within 10 to 15 meters of the monument and it is these that the ASI has to do something about.
One learns that complaints have been lodged about recently concluded or ongoing construction in house nos. 108, 137 and 139 aside from two dozen others. MCD staff did arrive for a survey but they were obstructed by those involved in breaking the law and their supporters. We were also told that the local MCD councilor arrived and convinced the MCD staff to go back. Work goes on at frantic speed and would be a fait accompli before anyone can take cognizance of the offence.
We need to accept that heritage preservation cannot be done without involving and educating the population that lives in the neighbourhood, it cannot be done through laws that are sought to be applied mechanically and it cannot be done if we continue to treat the people as adversaries and enemies.
The Hindu, 29th September 2012
Gali, nukkad, chauraha...joys of Old Delhi
All India Radio’s series on the galis of the old city sheds light on their rich heritage, says R. V. Smith
“Par Kaun Jaye Zauq Dilli ki gallian chhod kar.” How true this observation was by the ustad of Bahadur Shah Zafar (when he declined an invitation from the Nizam to settle down in Hyderabad) is manifest even today. People working on good jobs in New Delhi prefer to stay in the galis and kutchas of the Walled City, rather than moving out to the posh colonies, despite the dirt and squalor surrounding them. To bring home this point and focus on the historical aspects of these places, All India Radio’s FM channel has started a programme, Gali Gali Gold. The first to be covered was Kucha Patriram in Sitaram Bazar. Patriam is believed to have been a wealthy trader and astrologer who gave his name to the locality, which has as its neighbourhood Koocha Pandit— where the Kashmiris settled down during the reign of Shah Jahan after he moved his capital to the newly-built Shahjahanabad.
The Pandits earlier used to live in Agra’s Kashmiri Bazar, before moving to Chillint Ghatia (when dancing girls took over that place) where the Rainas, Kauls, Kunzrus, Dars and Nehrus made their abode. Motilal Nehru was in fact born in nearby Maithan after his father moved there from Delhi in the aftermath of the war of 1857. Later the family went away to Allahabad where Jawaharlal Nehru was born in Anand Bhavan. The Kashmiris rubbed shoulders in Chillint (so named as most of the houses in it were built of small chiselled bricks) with resident families like the Kakkers, Mathurs and Sarins. The latter two were families of hereditary medical practitioners (like the Bagchis) the most famous among them being Dr. Mukand Lal, the first MBBS of Agra, who was appointed assistant civil surgeon after he had taken his degree from then distant Calcutta. Dr. Mukand Lal was a fascinating person. He was standing in front of his clinic one day when he saw a woman being taken for cremation. On inquiring the cause of her death, he was told that she had died before delivering her child while still in the pangs of labour. That set him thinking and taking his gun he accompanied the mourners to Taj Ganj Ghat where just before the body could be set alight, he fired his gun. The “dead woman” gave a shriek and delivered her baby. The mourners returned home singing and dancing with the revived woman and her bonny child.
Another incident relating to him was the opening of a grave, supposed to be of the family of Abul Fazl, in Bagh Ladli Begum. When the grave was opened a body wrapped in green cloth was discovered but soon disintegrated on contact with fresh air. In the succeeding days several members of the family of the Seths of Mathura, who had bought the deserted bagh died one by one. The incident was reported in The Pioneer, then published from Allahabad, with Rudyard Kipling on its staff and later Winston Churchill as its war correspondent. Mukand Lal’s son was Dr. Bhupendra Shankar, who is still remembered as the mercurial “Dr. Bhup”— an ardent Shikari to boot.
Nehru got married in Sitaram Bazar, Old Delhi. The AIR team of Archana Ralhan Shefali, Vijay Singh and five others has also covered Suiwalan, where needles were once made for zari work; Masjid Khajoor got its name from a Khajoor (date palm) tree planted in a mosque by a man who had returned from Haj after seeing such trees in Arabia and; Gali Imli was named because of the big tamarind tree in it. Katra Khushal Rai was the place where St. Stephen’s College was first opened and where the famous playback singer Mukesh is said to have been born before his family moved to Daryaganj.
Besides Bhowani Shanker (Namak Haram) ki kutcheri, there are more galis still to be covered, among them Gali Imam Wali or Imamia where the Bokhari family came and settled down from Bokhara during Shah Jahan’s time and took over the hereditary imamship of the Jama Masjid. Then there is Gali Pahari which leads to Bhojla Pahari— an inhabited hill, Gali Dhobian— the abode of washermen, Paranthewali gali, Gali Telian— where oil sellers lived and Gali Cheetian in Sadar Bazaar (probably the lane was plagued by too many ants). More famous however are Gali Saqqewali — where the watersellers, who sold water filled in skin mashaqs, reside; Gali Kababian— or lane of kabab sellers, where the original Karim restaurant is situated and, the gali of royal cooks (Shahi bawarchis) in Matia Mahal who take orders for weddings now but were earlier attached to the royal kitchen in the Red Fort. Other galis abound too, the names of some of which are lost in antiquity.
According to the AIR survey, which will presumably cover the kutchas (like Katra Neel, Katra Ustad Hamid and Ustad Hira) of Chandni Chowk, “The residents of the localities are losing interest in their past. They are not sure how their street got its name… But they are nevertheless conscious that the old city is fast losing its charm because of the ‘builder mafia’ and the sorry state of civic amenities. However, religious harmony is one thing that is still vibrant in Purani Dilli along with its delicious khana.” Last Saturday the team covered Naughara. The programme is fast picking up on the popularity chart and you could tune in to AIR FM Gold (radio frequency 106.4 MHz) every Saturday from 7.10 to 8.00 pm to get an insight into Old Delhi life and manners.
The Hindu, 29th September 2012
A chirpy haven
Since 2002, birds started abandoning the once-attractive marshlands of theKeoladeo National Park. So did regular visitors. Thankfully, revival efforts have once again made it a birdwatchers’ paradise.A Wildlife Week special....
The best restaurant for birds in Asia has just started reviving after a seven-year subjected sabbatical. Known as the Keoladeo National Park (KNP), its expanse is merely 29 sq km, one of the smallest in India, yet it contains the richest feed for birds. Copious rains and a 100-km pipeline bringing water from the Chambal River to Bharatpur this year has brought back fortune. As India celebrates Wildlife Week in the first seven days of October, KNP in Bharatpur, too, has woken up to a bright new era after desperate days, mourning months and years of despair.
Often called Bharatpur bird sanctuary, KNP has numerous degrees to its credit. The first one was acquired almost 290 years ago when the then Maharaja of Bharatpur qualified it to build a bund at the confluence of rivers Ghambhir and Banganga. Thereafter, the combined flood waters and lush vegetation attracted thousands of wild waterfowl. As nature and history were conniving to create vistas of wilderness, KNP got its second degree as the most magical marshland. The third incident was its formal inauguration by the then Viceroy of India as the best duck shooting reserve in 1902. Droves of ducks were ruthlessly shot dead by trigger-happy British and Indian royalty every winter as pastime. It was murder most foul; killing hapless fowl and today a row of stone slabs graphically depict the potshots. One etching blatantly illustrates that on a balmy November of 1938, an unbelievable 4273 birds were shot on a single sortie!
Thankfully, between 1977 and 1980 a protective masonry wall came up encompassing the entire sanctuary, a first of its kind in the country. The KNP was declared a Ramsar site, a criterion given only to select marshlands in the world.
Thereafter, it was upgraded to a national park in 1981 and finally declared a World Heritage site in 1985.
The deserving degrees did help the park flourish as millions of migratory birds from across the world descended in dollops desperate for food and fortitude. Local Indian birds also congregated after monsoons creating a breeding and feeding frenzy. An assortment of babblers to warblers, peacocks to pelicans, pigeons to wigeons, barbets to buzzards all thrive in their own preferred plots and slots. Hence KNP is also called a ‘bird paradise’ by wildlife enthusiasts.
Known the world over as a sanctuary for a bevy of birds, nearly 400 species have been recorded so far. KNP also has mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. Over 400 species of flora have also been researched by botanists. Many Indians and foreigners make yearly pilgrimages to KNP, not merely as bird watchers, but to capture beautiful birds with cameras. On my numerous trips to KNP, I have noticed foreigners armed with portable parabolic antennas and zealously encapsulating melodious birdcalls.
Though it is endowed with a matrix of grasslands, scrublands, woodlands and marshlands, KNP heavily depends not only on abundant water but also on human interventions. The splendours of seasons fabricate monsoons, winters and scorching summers by changing the demeanour of the landscape ever so often. Sometimes it is slush with lush vegetation or bone dry with shrinking pools and puddles.
KNP in the past did have its quota of conflicts and challenges. Forest fires ravaged the park in the late 70s and in early 80s as villagers went on rampage when cattle’s grazing was banned. Plenty of problems cropped up and suitable solutions were found but the vital ingredient — water — the real nectar of life was missing. Since 2002, birds started abandoning the once-attractive marshlands, so did regular visitors, tourists from abroad and even diehard fans like me were looking elsewhere. Local wildlife also vanished and there was the danger of KNP losing its World Heritage tag.
This year as Wildlife Week celebrations begin across the nation from October 1-7, KNP is overflowing with millions of fish fingerlings. On my visit last week, I met Kailash Navrang, a journalist at Bharatpur, who has been taking bird pictures for over three decades. He said, “We are pleased that the park has rejuvenated after many years and we are certain of an excellent season ahead. Presently, 2000 pairs of cormorants, herons, storks, etc. are busy making nests to bring up their progeny as they have assured water and food. Winters will bring in more migratory birds and we are back in business.”
The Hindu, 30th September 2012
A gate in the city wall
For scores of Delhiites, especially the Generation Next, the name Kashmere Gate has come to represent one of the busiest Metro stations. Several others associate the name with the inter-state bus terminus (ISBT). Unfortunately, not many know about the origins of the
Kashmere Gate was one of the 14 gates of the city wall of Shahjahanabad. Needless to add, the name is derived from the fact that it opened north and started a road through it leading towards Kashmir.
Incidentally, it was a September many monsoons ago that changed the face of Delhi.
"On the 14th September 1857, the British force stormed Delhi. It was after sunrise on that day that the undermentioned party advancing from Ludlow Castle in the face of a heavy fire and crossing this bridge, which had been almost totally destroyed loaded powder bags against and blew in the right leaf of this gate thus opening a way for the assault column," reads the memorial plaque at the gate. Soon after, the Mughal rule gave way to the British Raj.
With increasing population, change was inevitable. But after Independence, it was far more rapid.
"Earlier, traffic passed through the arches of the Kashmere Gate. Gokhale Marg started from opposite Ritz cinema and went right up to Mori Gate roundabout. There was no ISBT, it was St Stephen's cricket ground then," said Sameer Anand, whose family is in the area since the early 1970s.
The Hindustan Times, 30th September 2012
Heritage project loses direction
The Delhi government's initiative to protect heritage buildings by installing metal signage on the main thoroughfare of Chandni Chowk has come a cropper. About 30 metal signboards, which were put up by Intach in Chandni Chowk area in 2003, are conspicuous by their absence. The few signboards which can still be seen are either coated with bills or advertisements, or are used by traders to hang clothes and slippers.
While some of the boards are broken, others have been uprooted and filched, according to the traders and residents. The remaining boards serve as hangers. "It was a good initiative marred by lack of maintenance. The government comes up with so many initiatives for protecting heritage buildings, but they are still crumbling," said Sanjay Bhargava, general secretary, Chandni Chowk Sarv Vypar Mandal. "The State Bank of India building, which has been declared a heritage building, was revamped, though it is not allowed. As no civic agency took action, the face of the building has changed," said an exasperated Bhargava.
The broken pavements and unclean surroundings speak volumes about the neglect. "Nobody cares about the signage. Why should they, when the buildings themselves have fallen into disrepair. For instance, the waste dumped in front of Chunnamal ki Haveli, another heritage building, has not been picked up for almost five months," said Rashid Rehman, a trader.
Intach officials said responsibility of maintaining the signboards did not lie with them. "We were entrusted with one-time installation by Delhi Tourism, but maintenance was not our responsibility. The idea behind these boards was to make the public aware of the value and significance of heritage buildings. In 10 years, many boards have been damaged and some civic agency needs to maintain these boards. Since these boards have been uprooted or broken, we will replace them. Many people object to the boards in areas they call private property. However, our main problem is funds, as we don't get money for maintenance," said an Intach official.
Interestingly, during Commonwealth Games, Archaeological Survey of India put up red sandstone boards in front of heritage sites, as it believed they would last longer than metal signboards. North Delhi Municipal Corporation has been apprised of the issue but to date no action has been taken. "These roads were with Public Works Department till Wednesday. It's been only three days since we got a copy of the order giving us back the roads. This thoroughfare is one of them. We will make arrangements and maintain the boards properly," said P K Gupta, commissioner, North corporation. In April this year, about 499 roads with width of 60 feet and more were transferred to PWD from the municipal corporations. But due to this transfer, the Chandni Chowk redevelopment plan of the corporation took a hit.
The Times of India, 30th September 2012