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Kaziranga’s circle of life: How forest department, vets and villagers join hands to fight flood fury

With 95 per cent of the World Heritage Site submerged and thousands of animal struggling to say afloat, meet the bunch of people who dive in to save the day.Since the floods struck Assam on July 8, CWRC located at Borjuli Tiniali, around 7 kms from Bokakhat town, is the only place in Kaziranga where injured or orphaned animals are treated. (Source: IFAW/WTI)To evade the rising water level in Kaziranga National Park (KNP), a female adult rhino along with her four-year-old calf had embarked on the treacherous journey to the Karbi Hills. However, she missed a step and fell 500 feet below to her death.“The incident happened in an area called Hatikhuli. The rhino got stuck between two big rocks. When we reached, it was stressed out and panting heavily. Soon, it died. It was heartbreaking to see the calf just 500 meters away from the mother’s carcass,” says Dr Samshul Ali, Veterinarian at Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation jointly run by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), Assam Forest Department and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).Ali has had a busy day. After the Hatikhuli incident in the morning, he got a call from Haldibari, where a rhino calf drowned to death. Then in a third case at Salmara, his team rescued a rhino calf and brought it to CWRC in the evening for further treatment.A female adult rhino along with her four-year-old calf had embarked on the treacherous journey to the Karbi Hills. However, she missed a step and fell 500 feet below to her death. (Source: IFAW/WTI) Among the animals which have died, there are 38 hogThe veterinarian — who has worked with animals for seven years — has not gone home for the last four days.Preparing For the DelugeSince the floods struck Assam on July 8, CWRC located at Borjuli Tiniali, around 7 kms from Bokakhat town, is the only place in Kaziranga where injured or orphaned animals are treated. Since its inception in 2002, the centre has handled around 4,500 cases and has released 60 per cent of the animals back to the wild.Many in Kaziranga refer to the annual flood as the ‘necessary devil’ which bolsters the Park’s eco-system every year. At the same time, it also threatens the lives of the park’s prized biodiversity. In such a scenario, an intrepid bunch of people from the forest department, CWRC, fringe villages, NGOs and civil administration join hands to save these helpless animals.deers, five rhinos, one elephant, three sambars and four wild boars. (Source: IFAW/WTI)The forest department plans well in advance to counter the calamity. P Sivakumar, Director of KNP says, “We start preparing for flood right after Bihu. We hold meetings with the police, civil administration, NGOs, local villagers on counter-strategies. We carry out health check-ups of our frontline staff, ensure that drinking water facilities are in place in the camps.”With 85 per cent of the park submerged now, boats are the prime mode of transport for the department. Sivakumar informs that there are more than 200 country boats in the camps along with 11 speed boats or bhotbhotis. There are also 50-60 vehicles inside the park. However, it is the huge manpower of KNP which helps to execute every plan on the ground efficiently. Rohini Saikia, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), KNP says, “Nearly 1800 people are working day in and day out during flood to save our wildlife. Among them, 1400 are our own staff and rest are volunteers, eco-development committees, NGOs and villagers.”Vehicles speeding through NH-37 have contributed significantly to the number of casualty of animals this year. As per forest department reports, 12 animals including 11 hog deer and one sambar have been killed in road accident during flood so far.Saikia says, “We have the system of time card issued to drivers passing through the park. Many drivers caught driving above the speed limit of 40 km/h, have been fined Rs 50,000.”Survival of FittestThe official death toll in the park at the time of writing this report is 51. However, the park officials maintain that once water starts receding, many more carcasses might be found.Among the animals which have died, there are 38 hog deers, five rhinos, one elephant, three sambars and four wild boars. On casualty among hog deers being highest, Dr Panjit Basumatary of the CWRC says, “There are more than 30,000 hog deers in the park. With their population being so high, so will the death toll. Also, they are nervous animals which make them more prone to danger.”But which are the ones that survive and why?“Survival of the fittest,” explains Sivakumar referring to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, “The unhealthy animals get eliminated first. Fit animals generally survive unless it is very high flood.”The Mantra of RescueAbout 33 new highlands constructed by the forest department along with the earlier 111 ones have played a major role in reducing the number of casualties. “However, not every animal use highlands. They are mainly used by rhinos and hog deers. Elephants and tigers mostly avoid it. In fact, a tiger has been spotted taking shelter on the rooftop of a house in Moabari”, says Dr Bhaskar Choudhury, a veterinarian working for WTI.Many in Kaziranga refer to the annual flood as the ‘necessary devil’ which bolsters the Park’s eco-system every year. At the same time, it also threatens the lives of the park’s prized biodiversity. (Source: IFAW/WTI)The inundated house was vacated by its inhabitants a week ago.Sivakumar insists that the conservation effort this year has yielded much better result because of the involvement and awareness of people living in the fringe villages of Kaziranga. “Many locals are doing a commendable job in conservation of wildlife,” he says.One of them is Manoj Gogoi, from Bochagaon village in Kohora, is a well-known wildlife rescuer and has rescued 25 animals including hog deer, snakes and birds like Yellow Footed Green Pigeon, Asian Barn Owl and Asian Quail during this flood. Gogoi says the mantra of rescue is one should learn when actually an animal needs rescue. “Most of the times, wild animals don’t need to be rescued. Unless they are stuck somewhere or are injured, they shouldn’t be rescued. We need to make space for them and they will find a way out.”Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/assam/kazirangas-circle-of-life-how-forest-dept-vets-and-villagers-join-hands-to-fight-flood-fury-5835129/
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Beyond Duty: IAS Officer Admits Prison Inmate’s Daughter in International School

Sanjay Kumar Alang, the District Collector of Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, was doing the annual inspection of the city’s Central Jail. While he was checking and discussing the personal details of the inmates, their concerns, and how well the police officers are maintaining the jail, he came across a scene that took him by surprise. A young girl sat among a group of women inmates. The playful girl warmed the IAS officer’s heart resulting in him admitting her in an International School!It was beyond Alang’s call of duty but within his voice of conscience to inquire about the girl. When Alang ensured that the little girl got quality education, he did not know that this kind act would trigger socially responsible people and organisations helping several other children in the jail.Some things in life can only be called destiny. In the case of Khushi (name changed), where fate landed the innocent child in jail, the same fate led her to the benches of an esteemed International School in Bilaspur.“There was something adorable about her that begged me to inquire how she had landed in jail. As it turns out, her mother had passed away due to jaundice when Khushi was just 15 days old. Her father, convicted of a serious crime, has been in the jail for five years now and Khushi had to shift there with him because the kid had no one else to take her responsibility,” Alang told The Better India.According to norms, children of female convicts are allowed to live with their mothers in jail. In cases like Khushi, where the child is motherless with no one else to take care of them, the child lives in prison with their father until they are six years of age.Tigga, the jailer at Bilaspur Central Jail shares some insight about this rule. “Kids of inmates are kept in jail until they are six years of age. In the case of this Central Jail, 2-3 kids were born in prison. Here, the women inmates take care of the children until they are of age. After they turn six, they are either handed over to their relatives or given to the government-run creche. Usually, the children are also enrolled in government schools to ensure they are not deprived of the opportunities,” he said.While inquiring about Khushi’s family, Alang asked the little girl what she wanted to do in life. “Khushi told me that she wanted to study in a good school, so once the inspection was over, I started asking around about her admission prospects.The Jain International school came forward to fund her education and accommodation up to class 12, and I am delighted to tell you that the admission process has been completed. The kids living in the jail premises neither study nor have a set schedule for activities. All for no fault of their own,” Alang tells us.Soon after, Khushi visited the school, awestruck at the classrooms where she will now be studying, the campus where she will now be playing. Tigga tells us that currently, 17 children are living with their mothers in the Bilaspur jail. Taking a cue from Alang’s initiative, many NGOs have come forward to help the other kids secure admissions in various schools that promise quality education and facilities.We hope such good turn gets translated into several similar initiatives. Keeping the kids in jail with their convicted mothers is a highly debated topic in India. We may not arrive at a consensus soon, but the children should not miss out on opportunities for no fault of theirs. Alang has set the wheels in motion, and we wait to see if others will follow the lead.Source: https://www.thebetterindia.com/187799/ias-hero-chhattisgarh-daughter-bilaspur-jail-school-inspiring-india/
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Collector Ritu Sain turned a stinking Chattisgarh into the cleanest small city

Ritu Sain, a 2003-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, can’t forget the first sight that greeted her when she entered Ambikapur city, in Surguja district of Chhattisgarh, in February 2014.“There was a big signpost welcoming people to the municipal corporation of Ambikapur, and bang opposite that was a huge open dumping yard. The stink was unbearable. I thought to myself, what kind of impression the city would create if this was the first thing a person saw after entering,” she said.Sain had just taken charge as Ambikapur collector. Even before she reached her official residence, she knew what her first priority was going to be. “There was no looking back since that day. I was clear about what I wanted to do,” Sain, now Chhattisgarh’s additional resident commissioner in Delhi, said. “It was a challenge. The city with a population of 1,45,000 had meagre funds and hardly any capacity to take up the cleaning task. I knew whatever I did would have to be participatory, viable and replicable,” Sain, who studied international relations from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said.Long brainstorming sessions with all stakeholders followed and, within two months, Sain was ready with the road map. Initially, the solid and liquid resource management model was started on a pilot basis in one ward. Women from self-help groups (SHG) were engaged. A three-member team comprising SHG workers was formed. Each team was assigned 100 households, where they would have to go door to door collecting waste after segregating it at source.A garbage clinic was opened in the ward, where the women again segregated the collected material into 24 categories of organic and inorganic waste. A third and final round of micro segregation was done, after which the refined and cleaned waste was sold to scrap dealers. By May 2016, all 48 wards in the city were covered. The municipality also fixed a user charge for door-to-door collections. Currently, 447 women work from 7am to 5 pm daily at the 48 garbage segregation centres. All of them are provided safety gear such as jackets, aprons, gloves and masks. They also undergo regular health screening.The result is there for all to see. The 16-acre open dumping yard has been converted into a sanitation awareness park. The 200 overflowing community dustbins have been replaced by just five. “It’s a self-sustaining model. Each woman gets to earn Rs 5,000 per month from user fee and sale of recyclables. We have spent Rs 6 crore to put the entire infrastructure in place and have already earned Rs 2 crore. The money earned is being spent on the sanitation workers,” Sain said.Ambikapur was declared the cleanest small city in the 2018 cleanliness survey by the Union housing and urban affairs ministry. “It’s very fulfilling to see that something we started has come so far and is sustaining itself,” Sain said.The story has been extracted from: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/the-collector-who-recycled-a-stinking-chhattisgarh-town-up-swachh-rankings/story-bNegEPISYLQ9AtCaAMgacL.html
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Hindus & Muslims unite to shift shrines, pave way for a highway

Jhansi:In an exemplary show of cooperation and amity, signaling the importance and precedence of infrastructure and development over faith and belief, locals from two communities agreed to relocate two temples, a mosque and three mazars (enshrined tomb) in Jalaun to pave way for the Lucknow-Jhansi national highway. The shrines had been impeding the work since last 14 years.The structures were taken apart on Saturday amid heavy deployment of security forces without a single incident of protest.The decision to relocate the shrines was taken after the district administration, led by Jalaun district magistrate Mannar Akhtar and SP Arvind Chaturvedi, held dialogue with the leaders and members of the two communities for over six months in what is being termed as ‘Operation Cooperation’.Officials told TOI that there were two temples — one of Lord Shiva and one of Goddess Durga — three mazars and a mosque — all 50-100 years old structures — that came in the way of the highway. As a result, there was a daily traffic jam on the stretch to up to three hours.The DM said the places for relocation of the six structures have already been identified and the National Highways Authority of India has taken the responsibility to rebuild them.The relocation work started on Saturday simultaneously at all the places. BJP city head Amit Pandey said, “Almost 130 people died in accidents because of this traffic bottleneck. It is indeed a big step towards development.”Source: https://epaper.timesgroup.com/Olive/ODN/TimesOfIndia/shared/ShowArticle.aspx?doc=TOIDEL%2F2018%2F09%2F09&entity=Ar01202&sk=F9652AA0&mode=text#=undefined
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The Boat Clinics of the Brahmaputra

2,500 Estimated number of islands that form a vast and extraordinary network along the 891 km course of Brahmaputra through the state of Assam. Chars or saporisas - as they are called locally, the islands are found along the river from the state's northern border with Arunachal Pradesh to the southwest where the Brahmaputra enters Bangladesh.2.5 million Estimated number of people live on these chars (islands), comprising 8% the state's population of around 30 million. The chars have one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the state. In the absence of emergency medical services, it takes 4 to 6 hours for a patient from a char to reach a district hospital for treatment.In the year 2004, local NGO, the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES) launched 'Boat Clinics', or 'Akha' as they are called locally, to provide much-needed medical services to the area, which can only be accessed by boats. The unique initiative focuses on the immunisation of children, women's health, family planning counselling and other basic medical needs of the char communities.Boat clinic functional in the districtsAverage staff size is 15 in a Boat Clinic - 2 medical officers, 3 nurses, 1 pharmacist, 1 laboratory technician, 3 community workers and 4 boat crew. The Boat Clinic is also equipped with OPD, mini laboratory, and pharmacies. On average 20,000 people treated for free, in a month. The state government, National Rural Health Mission and UNICEF now fund the initiative that has become a lifeline for the people living on these river islands.Solar panel installed for the energy requirments of the clinicIn the year 2006, C-NES signed an agreement with the Bangalore-based SELCO Foundation in order to power the clinics with solar energy. Prior to use of solar power, the boats equipped with medicines and laboratory equipment were running on kerosene powered generators, which led to frequent power interruption. This caused vaccine spoilage, interruption in the use of essential medical and diagnostic devices, and lack of even the most basic lighting and communication for maternal delivery and emergency procedures. 3 lakh lives are saved every year due to the prevention of spoilage of vaccines due to the use of solar power, according to Kakoli Kalita, the Outreach Coordinator of SELCO Foundation while talking to the Sentinel.A fully functional boat clinic15 Boat Clinics that operate in 13 districts along the Brahmaputra river. Solar system installation through a partnership between C-NES, SELCO Foundation, Envo Business Solution and TATA Trusts. 18 villages have been served by Boat Clinic Tinsukia. The boat reaches out to around 900 people through 4-5 camps per month across these villages, including Amarpur in Sadiya and forest villages like Laika and Dodhiya. The service was launched through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with the National Health Mission (NHM), Government of Assam. 25 villages have been serviced by the Dibrugarh Boat Clinic which reaches out to around 8,000 people in villages that include Mesaki, Loukiali, Mohannamukh, Udaipur, Ram Singh, Seraali, Singapur, Charkalia, Bishnupur, Vaishali, Seriali, Sakia, Dhadia Kuli Gaon, Sari Suti Tengabari, Karmi Suk, Kopita, Romai and Aichung.The story has been extracted from: https://numerical.co.in/numerons/collection/5d1177b8c217e1b42b3f4e19
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Revamping Schools To Curb Child Marriage: How An IAS Officer is Transforming Rajasthan

Rajasthan has witnessed major social evils like child marriage, dowry, untouchability, lack of education for girls, and so on… for many decades now. Ironically, all these malpractices continue to prevail in many parts of the state even to this day. In the Dalit community, most girls are not allowed to go to school, while on the other hand, most of the upper caste families prevent their daughters from studying further after completing primary and secondary education. Sadly, the spectre of child marriage is still haunting most of the SC, ST and OBC communities. Rampant discrimination against Dalits and payment of dowry in marriages across castes continue even in the 21st century. However, several social activists and young administrators are working towards overcoming these social evils today. Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district is one such district where things have been changed dramatically ever since a young IAS officer, Athar Aamir Khan, took charge as the SDM of the newly created Badnor subdivision.A Kashmiri-born 26-year-old, Athar Aamir Khan, became a household name after he secured the second rank in civil service exam in 2016. Last year in December, Athar assumed position as an SDM in Badnor, which is around 80 Km away from Bhilwara district. While speaking to the people of Badnor, I came to realize how lucky they are to have Athar as an SDM in their tribal-majority area; the latter is working on several fronts, to curb the prevalence of child marriage, reform the education system, put an end to illegal encroachment and maintain panchayat discipline. However, his prime focus is to build a new educational environment, which is of course very commendable. Sunil Mali, who is from Badnor, praised Athar’s remarkable job stating that the way he tackles the angry mob is absolutely remarkable. “I have never seen Athar in an annoyed mood. He is a very calm and cool officer. Athar’s first priority seems to reform the education system and promote girls education in our area. With his conscious efforts and contribution from locals, almost all our government schools have got study furniture in our subdivision. He often holds meetings with teachers and asserts to improve education and bring awareness to fight against child marriage in their respective areas. His effort towards transforming government schools and encouraging child education is like a metamorphosis in our zone,” Sunil said. Child marriage is a longstanding problem in Rajasthan, and Bhilwara is one of the worst affected areas all over India, where more than 50% of girls are married off before reaching the age of 18.Athar has directed all the police stations in the district to keep an eye on the occurrence of child marriages and ordered appropriate action to be taken against this harmful practice and the accused families. He has also set up a control room which is monitoring incidents of child marriage. Sharing the details of one such incident, Sunil said that recently Athar had secretly arrived at a marriage function and not only did he immediately stop the marriage and free the minors from the shackles of the wedding, but he also fined the accused families under The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.Athar has shared his own stories on social media many a time. While sharing his campaign against child marriage, Athar wrote the following Instagram post, “This time of the year is marriage season in Rajasthan and also, unfortunately, the time when child marriages peak. As a part of our campaign to end the menace of child marriage, we are holding these meetings and interactions with people in every gram panchayat of our subdivision to bring awareness about the issue. We have also set up a control room and are monitoring all GPs round the clock. Though the issue is very complex and has not just one but a number of root causes we hope with motivation and strong enforcement of law we will be able to make a dent this time around!!”An IAS aspirant, Monika Rajpurohit, who hails from Badnor, said, “We are lucky to have such a great officer like Athar in our newly created subdivision, whose tireless efforts have significantly changed many things in our life. We have been seeing a poor education system, lack of school infrastructures, gender inequalities in schools, but now students are getting study tables, books, computers and even libraries are being made for the public. Things are changing gradually and we are very thankful to Athar for working towards a better future of our generation.”The article has been extracted from: https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2019/06/reforming-education-to-curbing-child-marriage-how-an-ias-officer-transforming-tribal-area/
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Coimbatore Agri Engineer grows crops out of thin air and less water

Prabhu Sankar, an agricultural engineer based in Coimbatore, was deeply concerned about the dwindling returns of farmers. That, coupled with a desire to get a toehold in the corporate scene, prompted this engineering graduate from the Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth in Pune to look for innovative ideas in corporate farming.Thanyas Organic Pvt Ltd, the start-up he founded with a few friends, has perfected farming techniques that can increase the productivity of a piece of land by at least 10 times with substantially less water and nutrients. The start-up is being incubated at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University’s (TNAU) Agri Business Directorate in Coimbatore. “The beauty is that the entire farm can be managed remotely using the internet of things (IoT),” says R Murugesan, Director of Agriculture Business Development at TNAU, who heads the incubation centre. The technique can be used to grow vegetables, flowers, medicinal plants and spices, he says. Thanyas’ 30,000 sq ft experimental farm, which the start-up uses to test out various protocols, is located at Palladam, in Tirupur district.Cloud-Based FertigationUsing a cloud-based server, Sankar, sitting 40 km away in Coimbatore, can not only schedule a fertigation session, but also actively monitor the plants every day. “We will use similar procedures for a 10,000 sq ft pilot farm that we are putting up for Rallis India, a Tata concern, in Lonavala, near Pune,” says the 45-year-old Sankar. Thanyas’ Palladam farm produces nearly 80 types of vegetables. The farm is based on aeroponics, an advanced version of soil-less agriculture, in which water and nutrients are sprayed on the suspended roots of the plants.While the technique has been evolving since the 1970s in the West, developing similar protocols for the tropics and sub-tropics is a tough job, says Sankar. The plants are grown on raised beds that stand a few feet from the ground, making it possible to cultivate several rows on either side of the bed. “Such aeroponics-based vertical farming offers several advantages over conventional farming,” says Sankar. “Unlike in its technological cousin hydroponics, the roots of plants grown in an aeroponic system are suspended in the air and the spraying of water and nutrients leads to an oxygen-rich, misty environment,” he explains.Also, the enhanced oxygen availability at the root zone leaves disease-causing pathogens dormant, improves uptake of minerals by plants and development of healthy root systems. “This leads to a multi-fold increase in plant metabolism, which in turn results in a vast increase in production from a unit area,” says Sankar, who worked in agriculture extension for two decades before turning entrepreneur. “We have shown that there can be a 10-20 fold increase in production while water consumption goes down to 10 per cent of what is required in conventional farming. The increase in output happens also because the cropping cycle is reduced,” he adds.Spreading rootsNABARD has contacted Thanyas for a small demonstration facility at its Lucknow campus. According to TNAU’s Murugesan, the Prince of Qatar has evinced interest in an aeroponics-based vertical farm in his kingdom. “Initially it will be on a 2.5- or 5-acre land; if successful it may get extended to 250 acres,” he says.The article has been extracted from: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/coimbatore-agri-engineer-grows-crops-out-of-thin-air-and-very-little-water/article23776834.ece
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