Monday, April 18, 2011

Did ‘oral orders’ drive range forest officer to his death?

DNA / Jumana Shah / Sunday, April 17, 2011 10:15 IST

The freak suicide of Yadvendrasinh Chauhan has exposed the deep-rooted rot of corruption in government systems in general and in the prestigious Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation in particular.

The story so far has been that Chauhan, a DFO in GEER had demanded reimbursements for work he'd done for the organisation.

Officials at GEER, he claimed in his suicide note, had demanded bribe to release the money legitimately due to him. An FIR has been filed in Adalaj police station against director Bharat Pathak and two other officials.

The amount in question is to the tune of Rs10 lakh, of which Rs7 lakh had been paid to him over the past one year and the remaining Rs 3lakh was due. The question that arises is why there was such a hullabaloo over Chauhan's claim for work that was officially assigned to him?

Because, parts of the tasks assigned to him were done 'orally'.For a senior officer to 'give oral orders' refers to assigning important tasks to subordinates without a written sanction.This is an unaccepted practice in government departments, but, as this case has exposed, often used by senior officers.

In fact, highly placed sources confide that lately this practice has been rampant in the department. Most importantly, these 'irregularities' have been pointed out to all the officials in the forest and environment department and the chief secretary by the Gujarat Forest Services association on several occasions.

But absolutely no action has been taken. Shocked by the death of Chauhan, his former colleagues and peers in the services believe that he has been a victim not of the greed of one or two officers, who allegedly demanded bribe from him, but of a deep decay of massive corruption in the system which is being conveniently ignored by the government.

Significantly, GEER Foundation is headed by the chief minister directly and all communication in this matter has been marked to him. But, sources claim there never has been any response from the CMO to letters shot by the association over corruption charges.

“The CM office on the other hand has received international awards for prompt response to any communication with them,” they put rather acidically.

The copy of one such letter written in early 2009, in possession of DNA, clearly states that this practice of giving oral orders was being followed and tasks and expenses out of the purview of the organisation was being undertaken.

The letter states that officers would refuse to sign documents when approached for official sanction. Additional principal chief conservator of forest CN Pandey held the post of director at GEER for a-not-very-common seven long years between 2004 and 2010.

"Senior officers orally give instructions to execute an ambitious project. This is typically done to put showcase projects, like the butterfly park in this case, on the fast track, to impress the powers that be. The responsibility for theproject is with the lower rung officials but the power to sanction the money continues with top bosses," said a reliable source, refusing to be identified for fear of backlash. Not deciding the contours of the project at the outset itself leads to submission of exaggerated claims by executing teams. "For example, work worth Rs1 lakh would be claimed as Rs10 lakh. As there was no sanction to begin with, documents would be forged to clear these claims.Irregularities galore. This is a very very common practice in the entire forest department," said a forester, underlining 'very' several times over.

"Mind you, this is all tax-payers' money," he smiles. In Chauhan's case, this is clearly what has happened. "Because he was under pressure to execute an ambitious project, though orally assigned to him, he perhaps went as far as to pour money from his own pocket to finish it. He was assured by his seniors that the money will be 'adjusted' and granted to him. But that didn't happen and there was a change of guard. The new officials were in the process of 'regularising' the processes, when Chauhan lost patience and committed suicide," he elaborated.

Former director of GEER foundation CN Pandey, however, said he was not aware of the letters written by GFS association and refused to be quoted on the issue.

Chauhan's case, another source adds, is merely the tip of the iceberg. The question is why has the government not taken action to control the rot in the system?"Prosecuting one or two officials is not going to help. No one man is responsible for 'abetting' Chauhan's suicide. It is the corrupt system that has claimed his life," says the veteran officer with firm conviction.

Minister of state for environment and forest Mangubhai Patel refused to comment on the allegations of corruption in GEER or any action to be taken for internal irregularities. He dismissed the question by saying, "I am in Navsari right now and I don't know anything about it (the allegations of corruption). I am aware that an RFO has committed suicide and police are doing their job. I have nothing to add," he said.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Kumble's no cub in wildlife conservation

Kumble's no cub in wildlife conservation
TNN, Apr 11, 2011, 10.45pm IST

MYSORE: Former cricketer and State Board for Wildlife vice-chairman Anil Kumble has proved that hes no cub when it comes to wildlife conservation. He got 119-year-old Mysore Zoo two Asiatic lions from Gujarat which were put up for public view on Monday. With this, Mysore Zoo has become the third in the country to house Asiatic lions after Delhi and Hyderabad.

Anil Kumble had struck a deal with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. This is the first time Gujarat, the habitat for Asiatic lions, has sent the big cat outside its state in the past 10 years.

Kumble inaugurated the lions enclosure after a pooja and christened the duo as Shankara and Gowri. And adopted Shankara in his childrens name at Rs 1 lakh for one year. The certificate was in the name of his children Aaruni, Mayas and Svasti. Kumble also extended the adoption of Giraffe calf Lakshmi by a year by paying Rs 40,000.

Talking to reporters, Kumble said the efforts are on to provide world-class facilities at the zoo. He also promised to rope in more cricketers for conservation of wild animals through the adoption scheme. Zaheer and Srinath have supported the cause, he added.

Mysore Zoo did not have Asiatic lions for 21 years after a pair of them had died. The Asiatic lion is smaller in size compared to African lion, which is regarded as a hybrid breed. Three hybrid lions were relocated to Shimoga Zoo to facilitate housing of Asiatic lions. The lions were quarantined for four weeks before put on public view. With this, the number of lions in the Mysore zoo has now gone up to four and the total number of species is 165.

Zebra from South Africa

Mysore Zoo is likely to get zebras from South Africa and birds from Germany. Talks are under way to exchange animals from the zoos of Hyderabad, Zoo Authority of Karnataka chairman M Nanjundaswamy told reporters.

Four cheetahs

Four cheetahs, which came from a Germany zoo in March, are yet to recover from jet lag. They will be shifted to enclosures in 10 days, said zoo executive director K B Markandaiah.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Can they tell us more about global warming ?

Saturday April 9, 2011

Brainy birds

Do birds confer and make wise decisions? Can they tell us more about global warming? A visit to Jamnagar, Gujarat, proves interesting.

I had always thought that twitchers (committed bird-watchers) were just one step up from train-spotters on the ladder of moronity, so when invited to attend a birdwatching conference in Jamnagar (Gujarat, India), I couldn’t help wondering whether this would be just another dork fest or a meeting of real significance.

Fortunately, enlightenment came in the imposing form of His Highness Jamsaheb Shatrushakyasinhji Jadeja, Maharaja of Jamnagar and an outstanding ornithologist and wildlife expert. Speaking at the Global Birdwatching Conference in Jamnagar, the Maharaja predicted that bird migratory patterns would in future be among the leading predictors of climate change.

Above and below: Painted storks in Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary.

“Do birds have intelligence?” he asked.

“We give too much credence to instinct — but what about their innovative ways in life and powers of communication? We should study changes in bird habitats. All these changes are for a reason, and they can be forward indicators of transformations about to happen in the world,” he argued.

It soon became apparent why Jamnagar had been chosen as a conference venue. The adjacent Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary and Narara Marine National Park, which are right on the Indo-Asian Flyway for migratory birds, host over 250 species of birds. The 600ha sanctuary is a unique wetland ecosystem, with freshwater, brackish water and saltwater habitats right next to one another. Pelicans, cranes and flamingos (among many others) use the reserve for roosting and nesting.

Brushing the cobwebs out of my eyes I joined an early morning visit to Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary, along a raised bund-road that divided the fresh and saltwater habitats. The diversity of birdlife at the time was not exactly overwhelming — maybe the birds had been out raging the previous night and it was too early for them. But the soft light of pre-dawn, gleaming off a pristine lotus pond, provided a superb backdrop for the Painted Storks, Crested Grebes, Bulbuls and Cranes that had ventured onto the scene.

And in marshlands on the other side of the road, another phalanx of waterbirds was starting to stir. A later sunset visit revealed yet more birds, with egrets and herons stalking the wetlands in impressive numbers.

Nikanth Patel, now 21 years old, grew up in Khijadiya village.

“I’ve seen so many species of birds disappear since I was young”, he said. “I don’t know why this has happened.”

But the group Birds of Gujarat did have an answer.

“Species are disappearing because of human activities,” they said. “At the moment, 192 birds are classified as critically endangered as a result of habitat loss, hunting, pollution, climate change, human disturbance and other reasons.”

Sunset over the sanctuary.

Despite species losses, Gujarat is still one of the best places to see birds in their natural habitat, with the state boasting over 50 bird wetland reserves including Khijadiya, Nalsarovar, Porbandar and Thol Lakes Bird Sanctuaries. Although it is just 5% of India’s land area, Gujarat is either a home or a stop-off point for around 30% of the country’s 3,200 bird species, representing 70 of the 76 bird families found in India.

The state is also said to have Asia’s biggest area of grasslands (the Banni grasslands of Kachchh) as well as the Little Rann of Kutch, which in season becomes the world’s largest breeding ground for flamingos.

A visit to Narara Marine National Park is also a “must-do”. Its mangrove forests, coral reefs and 42 offshore islands promise an outstanding nature-feast. But at the time of my visit, disappointment was on the agenda.

“Sorry, there’s an unusually low tide, so we can’t launch the boats!” said a Park official.

Egrets and herons stalk the wetlands of Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary. — GRAHAM SIMMONS

Still, we got to take in the park’s excellent new interpretive centre and then explore the extensive sand-flats with their hordes of sandpipers and waders. In the heat of the day, I took shelter under the low mangroves, which were surrounded by surreal-looking gardens of mangrove shoots poking their heads through the sand.

Later, I caught up with Dr Naranbhai Karangia, of Jamnagar’s Kennedy village. Dr Karangia, a former farmer, has since his childhood been a passionate rescuer of injured peacocks. Each year, he sponsors temporary feeding centres for over 1,000 peacocks; these are set up for about three months just after the monsoons, when the fields have been harvested and there is consequently little food left for the birds.

Dr Karangia, with his humble and unassuming manner, has become something of a legend around Jamnagar.

Sadly, it was soon time to leave Jamnagar and hit the road to Porbandar — the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. But sanctuary or no sanctuary, it soon became apparent that the whole of this region was a bird hotel without peer. Egrets in vast numbers took to the water of a drainage pond, while a roadside bird hide looked out over an island that provided a roosting ground for thousands of migratory birds. Porbandar even has its own bird sanctuary, attracting Curlews, Flamingos, Little Cormorants and other species.

I soon came to lament my own limited skills in understanding and maybe learning from bird behaviour. As yet, I felt I was still little more than a twitcher, a dorky type whose only claim to being part-human is the ability to tick off bird names on a list. Gujarat is a well-known transit stop for the Bar-tailed Godwit; is it also a visiting place for the Western Halfwit, whose only desire is to collect “sightings” or camera images rather than developing a real empathy with the birds.

Once again, a story told by the Maharaja of Jamnagar at the Global Birdwatching Conference shed some light on the wonders of the bird world. The Maharaja spoke about the intelligence shown by the Barrow’s Golden Eye, a diving sea duck found in Iceland.

A few years ago, due to a shortage of the ducks’ staple food, the Black-eyed larvae, the birds met and apparently arranged for 600 non-breeders among the flock to emigrate so that there would be enough food left for the rest. These 600 were later found in the Hudson’s Bay area of Canada.

“The point is that the birds studied the situation, conferred and came up with a solution,” said the Maharaja. “That derogatory term ‘birdbrained’ could not be further from the truth.”

The birds conferred? Does this sound absurd?

The Maharaja’s words called to mind Farid Ud’din Attar’s Sufi epic The Conference of the Birds, that 12th Century spiritual allegory that I am far from even beginning to understand. Birdwatcher Linda Liu, who recently reviewed Attar’s work on her blog, Wings Spirit, said that “after becoming a serious birder, (I found) a revisit of this book brought me to a higher level of realisation.”

“You need to read this book like tasting a good wine,” continues Liu. “And you will swallow its essence only when you understand life should be embraced with love not hate, with peace not war”.

So, maybe birds really ARE smarter than humans. Perhaps scientists trying to find answers to global warming and other world problems should urgently seek their advice!


Jamnagar is about seven hours by road from Gujarat’s biggest city, Ahmedabad.


Hiring a car with a driver and guide is highly recommended. Contact, for example, JN Rao Travel Consutancy Services (tel +91 79 2640 2875, see:

Budget around RM200 per person per day (twin share), all-inclusive (that is, premium accommodation plus meals, car, driver and guide).

Of this, the cost for the driver is just RM25, so do the right thing and buy your driver a meal or two, or three! Alternately, catch a train to Jamnagar (six to eight hours) and then get around by inexpensive local taxi.


About 12km from Jamnagar. The best times to visit are at sunrise and sunset.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

उसे हमारा और हमें उनका भरोसा है,

उसे हमारा और हमें उनका भरोसा है,
उना के जुड़ वडली गाव में शेरनी बच्चे समेत किसान परिवार के खेत में दो महीने से रहती है

जी न्यूज़ संवाददाता हनीफ खोखर की एक खास रिपोर्ट,
जूनागढ़, गुजरात. १२ अप्रैल २०११
कहेते है के किसी भी जंगली जानवर और इन्सान आसपास में और एक साथ रहते है तो उनके बिच दोस्ती का रिश्ता कायम हो जाता है, फिर वोह चाहे सब से खूंखार जानवर क्यों न हो, जी हा ऐसा ही एक किस्सा सामने आया है गुजरात के गिर के जंगल के इलाके में जूनागढ़ जिले के उना तहशील के जुड वडाली गाव के एक किसान के खेत में एक शेरनी ने पिछले दो महीने डेरा डाला हुवा है,
क्यों की इस शेरनी ने खेत में तिन बच्चो को जन्म दिया है वैसे तो बच्चोवाली शेरनी ज्यादा गुस्सेइली और हमलावर बन जाती है मगर किसान के परिवार को न तो शेरनी शे कोई डर है और न तो शेरनी को किसान परिवार से कोई डर है क्यों की शेरनी पिछले दो महीनो से खेत में अपने बच्चो को साथ रह रही है और बच्चो को बडा कर रही है

गुजरात के जूनागढ़ जिले के उना तहेशील के जुड़ वडली गाव के सरपंच कांतिभाई लवजीभाई उकानी के खेत में एक अजीबो गरीब सामने आया है, कांतिभाई उकनी के खेत को एक शेरनी ने दो महीनो से अपना आशियाना बना लिया है, क्यों की शेरनी ने इस खेत में तिन बच्चो को जन्म दिया हुवा है, हैरत की बात यह है की जब भी शेरनी बच्चे को जन्म देती है तब बच्चो की सुरक्षा के लिये ज्यादा गुस्सेइली और हमलावर बन जाती है, इंसानों से ठीक अपने परिवार से भी दूर चली जाती है मगर, यहाँ शेरनी और उनके ३ छोटे छोटे बच्चे किसान कांतिभाई उकानी के परिवार के साथ घुल मिल के रह रहे है, कांतिभाई उकानी के बच्चे महक और आदर्श और उनके दोस्त का बेटा प्रीत हर रोज शेर के बच्चो के आस पास खेलते रहते है, मगर शेरनी कभी भी किसी पर हमला नहीं करती, हा. एक दुरी जरुर बनाई रखनी पड़ती है, मगर फिर भी शेरनी खुछ नहीं करती और यह सब पिछले दो महीनो से चलता है, अब तो बचे बड़े होने लगे है फिर भी शेरनी बच्चो को लेकर खेत में इधर उधर घुमती रहती है, बच्चे कहते है हमें शेरनी के छोटे छोटे प्यारे बचो के सामने खेलना बहोत अच्छा लगता है,
जुड़ वडली गाव के सरपंच कान्ति भाई का खेत बिल कुल गाव के पास में ही है और गिर के जंगल से बहोत ही करीब है ९० बीघा के इस खेत में गन्ना की खेती है और केशर आम का भी बड़ा बगीचा है इस लिए शेरनी पूरा दिन आम के पेड़ के निचे आराम करती रहती है और बच्चे अपनी मासे मस्तिय करते खेलते रहते है रात को बच्चो को गन्ने के खेत में छिपा कर शिकार करने के लिए चली जाती है, क्यों के इस इलाके में तेंदुवे की भी बड़ी आबादी है इस लिए शेरनी को तेंदुवे से भी बच्चो को बचाना पड़ता है, इसी लिए तो दो महीने से इस खेत को ही अपना आशियाना बना लिया है, महेमन बनी इस शेरनी को भी विश्वास हो चूका है की उनके बच्चे इसिही जगह सुरक्षित है, इतना ही नहीं शेरनी जब भी शिकार के लिए आसपास में जाती है तब बच्चो को अकेला छोड़कर जाती है, कांतिभाई उकानी का परिवार और गाव के लोग शेरनी का बहोत ही ख्याल रहते है, इस खेत के मालिक कांतिभाई का कहेना है की जब से शरनी हमारी महेमन बनी है तब से खेत में भरी नुकसान हो रहा है, कोई भी अकेला खेत में जा नहीं सकता, क्यों के शेरनी कहा होती है उसका कोई पता नहीं चलता, कभी गलती से आमना सामना हो जाये तो शेरनी बच्चो की सुरक्षा की खातिर हमला भी करसकती है, इस लिए खेत के अन्दर फसलो को पानी पिलाने के लिए या दुसरे कामो के लिए हमने जाना बंध कर दिया है, हमारा नुकशान चाहे कितना भी हो मगर हम नहीं कहते की शेरनी हमारे खेत से चली जाये हम कहते है की शेरनी हमेशा हमेशा के लिए यहाँ रहे और उनके बच्चो को बड़ा करे.

यह घटना पहेलिबर नहीं हुई इस खेत में पहेले भी कई बार शेरनी जंगल छोड़कर बच्चो को जन्म देने के लिए आई है, कांतिभाई के पिता लवजीभाई और उनके ८० साल के बुजुर्ग पिता भवानभाई तो २४ घंटे खेत में ही रहते है उनपर भी कभी शेरनी ने हमला नहीं किया, भवानभाई का कहेना है की यह सिल सिला कई साल से चला आ रहा है, शेरनीया हर साल हमारे खेत में और आसपास के इलाके में बच्चे को जन्म देने को आती है, शेरनी खेत में बच्चो को छोड़ कर आसपास में मवेशिका शिकार करने चले जाती है और बच्चे यहाँ खेलते रहते है, और में उनकी देखभाल करता हु, हमें उनसे कोई डर नहीं लगता क्यों की हमें उसका भरोसा है उसको हमारा भरोसा है

गिर का जंगल दुनिया का अकेला जंगल है जहा एशियाई शेर का निवास हे, गुजरात के इस गिर के जंगल में 2010 में शेरो की हुई आखरी गिनती के अनुसार कुल मिलके 411 शेर है और पिछली मेटिंग शीजन में 30 % शेरनी गर्भवती थी उनमे से ज्यादातर शेरनी ने दो से तिन बच्चो को जन्म दिया है, एशियाटिक शेरो के बारे जानकर हनीफ खोखर का कहेना है की वैसे तो शेरनीया शेरो के जुंड (प्राइड) के साथ में ही रहेती हे मगर जब उसको बच्चो को जन्म देना होता है तब शेरनी अपने जुंड से अलग हो जाती है और शेरनिया बच्चो को ऐसी जगा जन्म देने चली जाती हे जिस जगह के बारे में कोई भी जंगली जानवर को पता न चले या किसी को भी शेरनी और बच्चो के बारे में कोई भनक तक न हो इस तरह से दूर दराज के इलाको में या ऐसे खेतो जैसी सुरक्षित जगहों पर ही रहेकर बच्चो को बड़ा करती है, जबतक बच्चे बड़े न हो जाये तब तक शेरनिया अपने जुंड से अलग ही रहती हे, नहीं तो अपने ही जुंड के शेर या दूसरी शेरनिया ही बच्चो को मार देता है या तो तेंदुवे, लकड़ बघ्घे जेसे जंगली जानवर मार देते है. इसी लिए शेरनिया जंगल के बाहरी इलाको में चली जाती है,

इस अनोखी घटना के बारेमे जब वन विभाग को पता चला तो गिर फोरेस्ट सेंचुरी के प्रिंसिपल चीफ वाइल्ड लाइफ कंजरवेटर आर. एल. मीणा ने ख़ुशी जाहिर करते हुवे कहा की गिर के शेरो की सुरक्षा तो यहाँ के गाव के लोग और मलधारी कर रहा हे लोगो को तेंदुवे से दर जरुर लगता है मगर शेर से कोई खतरा नहीं हे, शेर भी इंसानों का ख्याल रख रहे है और इसी लिए गिर में शेरो की संख्या बढ़ी है, कांतिभाई और उनके परिवार की तारीफ करते हुवे मीणा ने कहा की यह किसान परिवार शेरनी और उनके बच्चो की अच्छी सुरक्षा कर रहा हे इस लिए हम यह कहते है की अय्से लोगो को प्रोत्साहन देने के लिए वन विभाग द्वारा उनको सन्मानित करने का सोच रहे है क्यों के गुजरात वन विभाग के कर्मचारी तो शेरो की सुरक्षा का जिम्मा उठाते ही हे मगर असलमे शेरो की सुरक्षा यहाँ के लोग ही कर रहे हे यही सब से बड़ी ख़ुशी की बात है.

जूनागढ़ जिले के उना तहेशील का यह जुड़ वडाली गाव गिर के जंगल के बहोत ही करीब है और और श्र के जुंड अक्षर इस इलाके में आते रहते है मगर शेर कभी भी किसी पर हमला नहीं करते दूसरी और यहाँ के लोग भी शेर से इतना घुल मिल गए है की शेर को छेड़ना तो एक तरफ शेरो का संरक्षण करते है, कभी कभा शेर और इंसानों का अचानक आमना सामना हो जाता है तब हमले की घटना बनती है मगर ऐसे किस्से बहुत ही कम सामने आये है, ज्यादातर तो इसी किस्से की तरह शेर और इंसानों के बिच दोस्ती के किस्से ही मशहूर हुवे है, इस सच्ची कहानी में भी इन्सान और जंगली जानवर के बिच प्यार और निर्भयता साफ दिखे देती है. और इन्ही वजह से गुजरात के इस गिर के जंगल में शेर सुरक्षित है और उनकी संख्या बढ़ रही है,