Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Poacher trio named, hunt on

Ranchi, Feb. 28: Forest officials are on the trail of three accomplices who have been named by a villager held on Saturday with the skin of a leopard they had poached in the Palamau Tiger Reserve.

Amarka Singh, who was arrested while trying to strike a deal with smugglers at Satbarwa on the Jharkhand-Bihar border, has confessed that he was aided by his nephews Krishna and Chatur Singh and Rajeshwar Singh, also a relative.

“During interrogation, Amarka revealed that brothers Krishna and Chatur killed the leopard. Rajeshwar was in charge of identifying buyers while Amarka was the transporter,” said divisional forest officer (core) Premjit Anand.

The forest department is preparing a case against Amarka who has been sent to Latehar jail. “We will leave no stone unturned to prepare a strong case against him,” he said.

Amarka told officials they (the four) were involved in poaching animals, including deer and cheetal, in the reserve for years. “They recently killed a deer and were looking for buyers. However, Amarka told us he wasn’t aware of where the skin was. We are trying to trace it,” said the DFO.

The seized leopard skin was estimated to fetch more than Rs 5 lakh in the international market. The poachers trapped the animal before firing at it. 

“When you trap an aggressive wild animal like the leopard, there are chances of severe injuries. The skin that we recovered had the portion of a leg missing. It bore holes, which suggested that bullets had pierced the leopard’s body,” Anand said.

The nails of the leopard were also missing. Forest officials suspect the nails were also sold off along with some other body parts.

“Unlike the skin, nails aren’t priced high and buyers are easy to get. Nails are used in making accessories such as lockets and bracelets. These find takers, as many believe that evil spirits are kept at bay if one wears lockets made of tiger and leopard body parts,” the DFO explained.

All four involved in the poaching are from Phulwari village in Palamau. Officials are keeping a close watch on the village to trace the absconding trio.
As per norms, the leopard skin along with photographic evidence and the statement of Amarka have been sent to court. Once the court puts its stamp, the forest department will reclaim the skin from judicial custody and arrange for its disposal.

“According to government of India rules, wildlife trophies can no longer be kept in museums. They have to be burnt or destroyed to prevent their misuse or smuggling,” Anand clarified.

Gaushalas in India

by Maneka Gandhi

In my constituency in Bareilly I find cows being taken regularly and openly to Rampur to be killed illegally. I have made squads of boys and they started catching the trucks. The cows were given to a local gaushala. This gaushala is on land given by the government and is run by a committee of traders, lawyers and society bigwigs. They are given donations by the local market associations to look after the cows. No one ever checks their work,

One day, I asked the boys to check the health of the cows we had put into the gaushala. They didn’t find them. There were some milking cows in a shed. A sweeper told us that the animals were regularly sold to the butchers of Rampur - the people we were saving them from in the first place. There was no doctor, only a few people whose job was to milk the cows and distribute the milk to the traders. The money from the market association went into the pockets of the committee members -as did the thousands of rupees from the cow sale.

These are good Hindus. The ones, who have little mandirs at home, go to the ramlilas and keep the nauratna fasts. I was furious. I asked the District Magistrate to investigate. No registers of entries were found, slips of sale, registers of food bought, milk taken out, salaries given. The place was filthy. The DM ordered the committee to be removed and punishment after a formal investigation. They paid the Chief Veterinary Officer who in any case would have given them a clean chit as he had never done his duty by going to the gaushala so he said the cows had probably died. Hundreds of them, and only the non milking ones? The committee members approached the local MLA who kept asking for them to be let off as “everyone makes mistakes”. The DM surrendered and said that the Gaushala committee of Lucknow should take a decision. I had an official brought out. She was fed and sent back and till today has not written a report. These worthies are still there. The selling may have stopped - but now they have found another way to steal money. They simply refuse to take in animals.  I will deal with them after the elections.
This is the story of 75% of gaushalas in India.

One of the worst cases is the gaushala in Agra. I have films and photographs of dying cows, their eyes pecked by crows. 500 animals pushed in there. No one makes it beyond a week. The committee has made a marriage house on part of the land and rent it out every day. Huge amounts of noise and filth and the smells of meat emanate from it. The committee pockets the money, takes the milk and the animals die of food, overcrowding and filth.  There is a small enclosure for milking cows and the two employees’ only job is to milk them and deliver the milk to the committee members. Repeated complaints to the Agra Commissioner, inspections, have all resulted in nothing because the head of the committee is the owner of the largest selling Hindi paper in Uttar Pradesh.

In some cases the gaushala is run by the administration themselves as in Indore and the cows do not last more than 2 days. They are caught by the local municipal employees who drag them by their legs into tractors and throw them into the enclosure where they lie there with broken legs till they die. There is no food or water as the man on the desk pockets the amount. The government gaushala in Jaipur during the BJP regime killed 33,000 before the press found out. No one has been penalized till today.

 I have received many serious complaints about the Srikrushna Goshala in Jharsuguda, Orissa. The Committee has sold part of the government land for a market complex and pocketed 78 lakhs. Some part has been made into a marriage hall. The cows are not given water and their feed is old. On one day 87 cows died from eating fungus filled chara.  Old cows which are supposed to be kept by the gaushala are thrown on to the road or sold to butchers. In 2005 the gaushala was given Rs 8 .7 lakhs for making a cowshed. Till today the gaushala has no sheds and the cows are exposed to sun and rain. From Kutch I have received a detailed list of irregularities on the hundreds of gaushalas dotting Gujarat. These gaushalas are supported by the state government and receive generous grants from Gujaratis all over the world.

Here are some of the points: I enumerate them because the gaushala in your area probably does the same
1. The gaushala refuses to take sick and disabled cows or to use an ambulance to rescue these.
2. The gaushala refuses to take buffaloes even though they are exactly the same as cows in giving milk etc. They refuse to take bulls or bullocks.
3. The institution will not keep registers of animals. If they are government aided they increase the number in order to get more grants. If they are unaided, they couldn’t be bothered to record their animals
4. Most sell animals supposedly to villagers but these are really middlemen for butchers.The gaushala people pretend that they do not know where the animal is going No entries are made in any registers about the adopters. Money goes into their pockets.
5. No medical facilities are available. Most gaushalas just have a few attendants. If an animal collapses, it is left there till it dies. Some gaushalas use government vets who come when they have time.
6. No cleaning is done. If the cow dung is sold, it is picked up; otherwise the animals stand in their faeces and urine leading to foot rot.
7. No proper food is given. No one knows how to mix dry hay and green fodder. The gaushala operates on whatever it gets free or least expensive. Thousands of animals die in agony of bloat. Much of the hay is fungused because it is kept for months in unclean godowns. Water is given sparingly and many die of thirst.
8. The gaushala is an overcrowded prison for cows. The cows are kept out in the heat and cold. They die of heat stroke or cold. The sheds are few and used for milking cows only.
9. Most gaushalas convert part of the land given to them into commercial premises and appropriate the money. That is why there is such competition to sit on a gaushala committee.
10. Many companies enter into deals with gaushalas and pretend to contribute vast sums to get the income tax deduction under 80 G  or 35 AC. Most of the money is then returned to the “donor” with a small amount kept as transaction fee by the gaushala committee. Many institutions set up gaushalas simply to convert their profits and avoid taxes.
11 Gaushala take agricultural land from the government to grow fodder for the cows. This is either not done or it is used for non agricultural purposes

12. Many gaushalas have luxurious marbled living quarters used by the management and as guest houses. They are made out of donations. 13. Many gaushalas take their old cows out supposedly for grazing and then abandon them there. The cows wander into the fields or villages.

When I was minister I made a law that no gaushala was allowed to milk cows. Milking cows would be put with motherless calves. But the gaushalas in Haryana are all large dairies with milking cows and missing calves- which means they have been sold to the butchers. There is a Haryana person who goes from gaushala to gaushala and takes money to inject old cows with a mix of hormones which he guarantees will make them give milk again. He has a line of customers. Are there any Hindus left in India?

Lab tests now on computers

Educational institutes and aspiring medical students can now conduct lab experiments on a software through computer software.
This first-of-its-kind software named ExPharma Pro has been introduced by Elsevier Health Sciences, India at the ongoing World Book Fair in Delhi. The software is priced at Rs 30,000 as an introductory offer for a year.

“Availability of animals for experimenting is decreasing per day and opposition by animal rights groups against animal cruelty while performing experiments in schools, universities and other educational institutions is a major concern. We devised this software to overcome these issues and have got approval from the Medical Council of India and the Pharmacy Council of India.

The matter is derived from the council's curriculum,” said Rohit Kumar, Managing Director, Elsevier, South Asia.  Kumar added that a University in Punjab is their first client. Doctors say they cannot do away with experimenting altogether as it is essential for medical students to understand how live tissues are affected or react to different drugs.

“Conducting experiments on animals has become a controversial and costly affair. This software will help in ensuring safety of animals and the students will also not have to be worried about victimising animals, preventing loss of life,” said Vidhu Goel, director of Clinical Education and Reference Division, Elsevier.

The software gives you an option of simulating five essential experiments on four animals dog, rabbit, frog and a guinea pig. Students can select from the list of drugs and conduct their experiment. 

The application will present a graph in front of the students which will help them to analyse their results and record their observations. The teachers can judge if students are learning or not. The software automatically tests students based on their answers.

Dr Chaitanya Koduri, science policy advisor, PETA believes that non-animal methods are humane, cost effective and have proved to be better. “Using these methods instead of purchasing animals every year would save universities an enormous amount of money and would better equip our nation’s future doctors in performing their duties. These alternatives last longer even after repeated use and will be an asset for any organisation and future doctors in the long run,” he said. 

Naveen Gaur, physics professor with Dyal Singh College echoed similar views: “This is a good effort. We will spend less and create an advanced learning environment for students.”

‘Allowing beef exports not plan panel’s view’

NAGPUR: The Planning Commission has allayed fears of animal welfare activists on the recent working group report on animal husbandry and dairying (2012-17) recommending to lift ban on beef exports from India.

"The recommendation should not be considered as the view of plan panel," said Surinder Singh, adviser to the planning commission, while talking to TOI from Delhi.

On Monday, Abhishek Kadyan, animal welfare activists led by media adviser of the UN-affiliated International Organisation for Animal Protection (OIPA) in India, and others delivered a protest petition to Singh against the working group's recommendation lifting ban on beef exports.

Singh said there are over 100-150 working groups for various sectors that keep on making various recommendations. "It is not necessary that the plan panel accepts all such recommendations," Singh made it clear.

"Once the group's recommendations are accepted, a plan document is prepared. It is then forwarded to the steering committee of the government before being forwarded to the National Development Council (NDC) consisting of state chief ministers," Singh said.

Kadyan says the Constitution clearly underlines the importance of cow and its protection. Article 48 under the directive principles of the state policy for agriculture and animal husbandry reads: "The state shall endeavour to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds and prohibiting slaughter of cows and calves and other milk and draught cattle."

Monday, 27 February 2012

The New Indian Pariahs: Vegetarians

 An Indian butcher chops meat at a mutton market in Mumbai. Indians are consuming more meat than ever before, despite a tradition of vegetarianism.

India has been home to vegetarians for centuries. Many Hindus and most Buddhists do not eat meat, but commentator Sandip Roy says in today's India, meat is what's for dinner.

When my friend Lakshmi, a lifelong vegetarian, went to America as a student more than 20 years ago she knew she was in for a hard time. Vegetarian dorm food meant a lot of cheese pizza, french fries, pasta and if she was lucky, grilled vegetables.

After 10 years in San Francisco's vegetarian mecca, when she returned to live in India a few years ago, she had an unexpected identity crisis. "I am the new Indian pariah — the vegetarian," she told me.

Yes, even though there are some 300 million vegetarians here, in the new affluent urban India, meat has become a status symbol. In the U.S. vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice. In India, once, it wasn't even an "ism" — it was just the way some of us were brought up for generations, a part of our cultural DNA.

Now, says Lakshmi, hostesses need advance warning before she shows up for dinner. And unlike in America, where they would apologize and run to the kitchen to whip up some pasta, she says, "Here it is a no-win situation where you think your not eating meat is such a huge burden on the hosts. Meat is the food. You don't have a nice meal without meat. The latest thing is — you don't have any meal without meat."

I come from a meat-eating family. My comfort food, something I have had every time I left for America, is my mother's goat curry with rice. But even I am a little taken aback by the mountains of flesh on display in a country where heart disease has become the No. 1 killer.

All-you-can-eat chicken kebabs. Mutton biryani. Lamb shanks. Fish fingers. Some restaurants even serve steak. Sitting at a farmer's market in Mumbai with his bag of organic greens, food writer Vikram Doctor says vegetables, in comparison, are just a little homely. "People eat vegetarian at home, so they look down on it to some extent. People feel if they have to celebrate they have to eat meat, which is ridiculous," he tells me.

Even many lifelong vegetarians turn non-veg as soon as they eat out. Restaurants almost never serve the vegetables your grandma used to cook, says Vikram.

Bohemian, an eatery that opened recently in Calcutta, serves nouveau Bengali food. But not the kind of Bengali greens my mom makes. Chef Joy Banerjee serves his kolmi greens in exotic delicacies like crab baked with cheese. The vegetarian menu is limited. He says, "My experience has been that most cooks can't make vegetarian food. Especially Bengali vegetarian food has a lot to do with timing and understanding of ingredients."

One place to find vegetarian food, oddly, is Kentucky Fried Chicken, which serves veggie strips and garbanzo snackers cooked, it promises, on a separate stove with its own pots and pans.

It's not that no one eats their vegetables anymore. They do. It's just that Indian food used to be about tradition. Now it is about aspiration — the more exotic the better. Taking off next — a chain of emu-based restaurants. Get ready for some emu biryani.

Bengali spinach stir fry with crunchy lentils

Sandip's mother, Reba Roy Chowdhury, still likes to make some vegetarian staples.
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1-2 dried red chilies
1-2 medium potatoes scrubbed and cut into small cubes
1 bunch spinach washed and chopped finely
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon oil
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon bodi (small lentil dumplings available at Indian grocery stores) (Optional)

Heat the oil. When it is hot add the red chilies and mustard seed. As the seeds pop and the chilies darken, add the cubed potato. Fry the mixture until potatoes are lightly browned, then add the finely chopped spinach. Lower heat and cover for a couple of minutes. Water should come out of the spinach. Remove the cover and add the frozen peas. Stir the dish, and let the water dry up. The spinach should have a slightly fried look. Add salt and a pinch of sugar.

If you are using the bodis, fry them separately until they are crisp. Drain them on paper towels and then crumble them, sprinkling them on top of the stir fry.

My take

The earliest record of vegetarianism comes from ancient India. Vegetarianism in India stemmed from the belief of non violence towards animals. Unfortunately this is changing today with the growing influence of the west making meat a status symbol. At the same time there is growing awareness on veganism, not at the pace where you see a drastic change but hopefully will get there.

Pet-iquette: Cat’s licking is a sign of anxiety

by Maneka Gandhi

My cat has been licking his lips as if he has dry mouth. He’s been doing it for a couple of days. Is something wrong?
Licking of lips can be an indicator of a range of different problems. It could be a sign of mild anxiety; an allergy of some sort (especially if they are licking another area of his body); or a sign of an obstruction somewhere in the digestive process (he may have swallowed an object or piece of string). In rare cases, this could be a sign of something more serious such as Chronic Renal Insufficiency where the kidneys aren’t functioning properly. CRI also includes symptoms like increased thirst/urination and nausea, so it’s unlikely to be the cause if that’s the only symptom.

What breed of dog is known not to bark when left alone?
It has more to do with the owners than it does the breed of dog. If you fulfil the dog’s instincts, the dog, no matter the breed, will be less likely to bark. I know there are some breeds that may have a tendency to bark more then others, but it really has more to do with the human behind the dog. A restless dog is more likely to bark more. A dog who is well exercised and secure is going to bark less.

Dogs are starving on the road. Isn’t it better to put them out of their misery and kill them?
Children are starving as well. The old, the sick, the crippled, the ones who are alone, criminals, bankrupts, jobless….most people lead a life of misery, whether real or imagined. Trees have a terrible life stuck in one place, their leaves and branches cut, urinated upon etc. Shall we cut them all down? Shall we use this method for all beings?

How can you tell if your dog is not feeling well?
Sick can mean he has the runs and isn’t quite himself, or sick can mean sudden lethargy, dehydration, and fevers. Issues such as diarrhoea or vomiting can be either issues relating to your dog’s health or it could mean that your dog is sick. Symptoms of dehydration and fever require vet care. These can both be an indication of infection or serious illness and treatment should not be delayed. Alternatively, lethargy and listlessness can be either a sign of illness or emotional distress. A pup can go on a hunger strike over a change of food or environment, or can lose his appetite when he is sick. You have to look at the other symptoms of dehydration — moisture from the eyes, a dry nose, hot ears and stomach.

Is there any law that protects monkeys from madaris and insures their welfare?
No private person in India is allowed to capture, own, buy, sell, train or show any wild animals for public exhibition. The animals that are used by madaris; i.e. monkeys, snakes, bears, mongooses, parakeets are all protected by the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Section 22 of the Performing Animals Rules of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, is also applicable. Since, both are cognisable offences, the madaris can be arrested on the spot, and the animal handed over to the Wildlife Dept, Zoo or a Local Animal Welfare Shelter. In the case of healthy snakes, mongooses or birds, the animals should be released in a jungle.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Here Comes the Hotstepper

Buffaloes walk the ramp in Haryana.

The ramp was thrown open for the best-shaped, best-looking and best-performing (or milk-yielding) bovine models. At a ramp walk of buffaloes in the country — organised by the department of animal husbandry, Haryana, in Jind — some 30 murrah buffaloes from across the state showed up.

 Transported to Arjun stadium from their villages for the “Murrah on Ramp” show, they fetched their owners cash prizes totalling Rs 2.2 crore. “We want to send out the message that Haryana’s murrahs are the largest contributors to milk production in India,” said Dr KS Dangi, director general of the department. 

The participating buffaloes were among the “best” in the state, having won several competitions over the years. Like Golu, a bull that won the national livestock show (which judges bulls on their masculinity, like alertness, stoutness of neck, and testicle size) several times. Golu’s owner, Narender, of Didwari village in Panipat, earns over Rs 5.7 lakh per year from his bull’s insemination. There was also Dhanno Rani, owned by Hoshiar Singh, a retired teacher of Singhwan village in Hisar. Dhanno is known as “Haryana’s beauty queen” for having won the state-level murrah beauty contest four times in a row since it began in 2009. At Murrah on Ramp, she came on to the stage in her shiny black skin (oiled for a week; hair trimmed and shampooed a day before), with a red belt fastened around her mouth, and the gold medals that she won in the past adorning her neck. 

The two-hour ramp walk was witnessed by about 20,000 farmers. Buffaloes, with their respective owners, walked up and down a sloping 80-feet-by-8 feet ramp for two minutes each, during which large screens showed the buffalo walking, with a commentary on its achievements. “We want to tell farmers that dairy is a viable occupation,” said Dangi. 

A true murrah, he said, has a thinskinned, muscular and jet-black body. The only spot of white is a two-inch tuft of hair on its tail switch. Its horns are so curly that even a 25 paise coin can’t pass through it. A female murrah should also have “good udder placement” and good milk yield. The highest recorded milk yield by a murrah is 31 kg in one go. The department holds yield tests through the year; state winners then contest at the national level. 

A murrah is costly. An average murrah, which gives 15 kilos of milk at one go, costs Rs 6,000 per kilo of the yield (or Rs 90,000). Beyond that, there’s no fixed rate. Dhanno, which yields 23 kilos at one go, costs Rs 15 lakh.
Beauty does come at a price.

Dog days in Hyderabad

Indian dogs suffer appalling cruelty on the streets while expensive foreign breeds in urban homes live in air-conditioned rooms. Those who adopt the ‘phoren’ breed then complain of stray dog problems. Why this double standard?
When man came out of the forest, dog followed him. While all other creatures were sceptical of the crafty biped, the dog’s trust in him was total and unconditional. The association continues into the 21st century.

But (here’s the billion dollar question) has man repaid the trust? Not by a long shot. His love for the animal has been discriminatory at best — dividing the poor animal into unfair categories as stray, low pedigree, exotic breed, high IQ, low IQ and what not. As if this were not bad enough, man began cross breeding the animal and even forced it to behave like a human! So we have the mountain terrier languishing in a 5×5 cage, cattle dog lying indolent on the veranda and a Chow Chow dozing its days off in a 10th floor apartment.

Today, every city in India is infested with the street dog menace or shelterless dogs that pose a danger to public health. More tragic is the fact that the solution to this problem is very much in the hands of man and yet he does not heed it. Animal lovers point out that if one out of every five Indians adopts one Indian dog, the stray dog issue will be solved forever. Instead, an overwhelming majority of urban Indians rear expensive, overseas breeds while the ethnic dogs go around suffering hunger, torture and insult on the streets.

The problem is more accentuated in Hyderabad where every gated house seems to prefer a foreign breed to a local variety, and consequently, the street dog population is growing at an alarming pace. In 2010, Hyderabad is estimated to have had 3.5 lakh street dogs as against 1.5 lakh in 2000. In other words if even one out of 4,000 people in the City adopt one street dog or a puppy the scourge of stray dog problem could be worked out in Hyderabad.
The only other care we must take is to ensure prompt disposal of solid waste (not dumping garbage but setting up treatment plants) because growth of street dogs and pests are directly proportional to the growth of rotting dumps.

However, Dr Pandurangan, a leading veterinarian attached to Raseell Aluwalia Dog Sanctuary, says people are now waking up to the reality that Indian dogs have distinct advantages over the exotic breeds. “Some 32 to 40 per cent of my clients rear Indian varieties. They have a better immunity, fewer dermatological problem and are more affectionate.” Then, why do people still opt for foreign breeds?

“Fashion. There are two types of dog owners — one for fashion and the other for passion. It’s the passionate that don’t go by pedigree. For many an expensive but ill-suited foreign breed is an addendum to the riches like an expensive car, a mansion, and antiques.” Dr Rangan says the City ought to have an electric crematorium for dogs. “Abandoning the pet in its old age is the cruelest thing one does.”

Dr Rashid Koker, a veterinarian and animal lover, put it more bluntly, “I subscribe to the view that when you rear an expensive foreign breed you are guarding it, when you rear an Indian dog it guards you.”

Need to say what the wise will choose? “My Diana,” says Shalini Talwar, an architect in Kondapur, “was taken off the street two years ago. I found this white cutie at my doorsteps one day. Well, if she has come calling, so am I ready for her, I thought. She is part of my family today.”

The GHMC has five pounds and has schemes for adoption. Chief Veterinary Officer Venkateshswar Reddy swears culling is not done now. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) too advocate rearing ethnic variety. “Indian community dogs are loving, fiercely loyal, resilient and robust and are also well-suited to the local climate. When you adopt one from a shelter, not only will you save a life, you’ll also make a friend for life. So take Trisha’s advice by pledging to adopt one!” says PETA launching cine star Trisha-led campaign for adopting the Indian dog. Silently setting another example, leading actress Priyamani has adopted eight street dogs.
What makes a dog the best companion
  1. They are always happy to see you.
  2. They do not judge you by your success at work.
  3. They are satisfied with whatever food you give them.
  4. They do not expect you to remember their birthdays.
  5. They will forgive you for playing with other dogs.
  6. They will not complain if you are not properly dressed.
  7. They give you unconditional love and service.
  8. They will not judge you by your looks or abilities.
Why the Indian dog
  1. Better suited to Indian climate and conditions.
  2. Usually short haired, hence easy to maintain.
  3. More affectionate and alert.
  4. Longer lived than large breeds such as Great Danes, Dalmatians and Mastiffs.
  5. Higher level of immunity to canine diseases.
(Courtesy: Blue Cross Hyderabad)

Many ignorant about wildlife trophies

A 55-year-old housewife was recently arrested by the Haveli police for possessing horns of a bison without obtaining a licence. The incident has brought to light, the issue of registering wildlife trophies all over again. Forest department officials say no new wildlife trophies have been registered since 2005 and blame ignorance of people for it. 

Anita Ramchandra Raskar, a resident of Dhayari, was arrested by Haveli police on Wednesday for alleged involvement in possessing horns of a bison. Raskar was using the bison horns to decorate her house. 

The police say Anita, in her statement, told them that she bought the bison horns for Rs550 during a trip to Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. They say they took action against Anita after a tip-off. The action was taken because Anita had not registered the wildlife trophy with the authorities. 

However, Anita may not be the only one failing to register the wildlife trophies with forest department. There could be many like her in Pune

According to the deputy conservator of forest (wildlife) RS Kadam, “Registration of wildlife trophies is not happening any more. The registrations were being made only till 2005.’’ 

Kadam says, “Different situations involving wildlife trophies can attract different actions. There are many cases where the reason of non-registry of such items is genuine or just plain ignorance.’’ 

The possession of items related to animals listed in from schedule I and II of the Wildlife Protection Act are treated equal to the crime of poaching.
“We confiscate the trophies and punish the people as per the law, but in the recent past, there has been neither such registry nor any action was taken against anyone,” adds Kadam

In Raskar’s case, the trophy in question was a pair of bison horns in her house. The Gaur or Indian bison (Bos gaurus) is a scheduled animal figuring in List 1 of mammals in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Name mess: MP allowed cheetah ‘hunting’ even after extinction

The admission of guilt may have come a little late in the day, yet it’s worth taking note of. For 18 long years after the cheetah was officially declared extinct in the country, Madhya Pradesh continued to issue notifications allowing its hunting. 

All because the fastest land animal was known in common parlance as the panther, and the gazetteers carried the confusion to the record books.The embarrassing revelation was made in the Assembly by the government, which admitted that limited hunting of the cheetah was officially allowed in MP till 1970. 

The last cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) in India was killed in 1947 and it was officially declared extinct in 1952. Forest Minister Sartaj Singh told the Assembly in a written reply that the cheetah in the gazettes was actually the panther (Panthera pardus). The panther, the cheetah and the Hindi term “tendua” were used as synonyms. He claimed the then officials were aware that the carnivore had been declared extinct. 

The question was asked by BJP MLA Premnarayan Thakur, who wanted to know what steps, if any, the government had taken to arrest the decline in numbers.
He was told that “over hunting” and lack of prey base coupled with growth of agriculture in its habitat were the reasons behind the animal getting extinct. 

Fittingly enough, two sites in MP, the Kuno-Palpur and Nauradehi wildlife sanctuaries, have been chosen for re-introduction of the animal. The third possible site is the Shahgarh landscape in neighbouring Rajasthan. 

Saturday, 25 February 2012

NGOs slam report to plan panel on allowing beef exports

NAGPUR: The United Nations (UN) affiliated International Organisation for Animal Protection (OIPA) in India along with People for Animals (PFA) and NGOs working for animal welfare have slammed the working group report on animal husbandry and dairying for the 12th Five Year Plan, which includes recommendations to lift a ban on beef exports from India.

The working group on animal husbandry and dairying (2012-17) recently submitted a report to the Planning Commission on present performance of livestock sector and its contributing factors including development programmes and policies pursued in the recent past. It suggested a road map for achieving the targeted rate of growth during the 12th plan while ensuring its sustainability and inclusiveness.

Sukanya Kadyan, OIPA's event director in India, flayed the recommendation in the report which says, "There is an existing ban on beef exports. Therefore, it is necessary to revise the EXIM policy to allow beef exports."

The OIPA and even local NGOs like Sukrut Nirman Charitable Trust and People for Animals (PFA), Nagpur, have demanded the report be withdrawn and government should apologize to the nation before 'religious and nationalist people' pour out into the streets in protest.

"Export of beef will not only butcher cows but will also amount to murder of the Constitution and dharma, on which country's foundation has been based," said Naresh Kadyan, India's OIPA representative. The report was more inclined to slaughtering animals rather than protecting them. The matter has been taken up with the President and plan panel, he added.

Quoting directive principles under Article 48 of the Constitution, Kadyan said these clearly prohibit slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle. "We cannot tolerate slaughter of cows or its family at any cost," he remarked.

Kannubhai Savadia, chairman of Sukrut, said his NGO has been sending representations to the Planning Commission for the past four years against meat exports, but strong lobby of traders backed by politicians appears to have prevailed upon the government. Meat exports were basically to boost foreign exchange but now that the country has sufficient forex reserves, why promote such exports, Savadia asked.

"Allowing beef export would lead to massive slaughter of cows, which is already being carried out clandestinely. Our agriculture ministry is supposed to protect and promote cows instead of slaughtering them," Savadia added.

"The government should stop playing with the religious sentiments of the people. The recommendation exposes double standards. On one hand, cows are revered and students are taught about its importance and protection, while on the other promotion of beef exports is spoken about," said Karishma Galani, city chief of PFA.

Allowing beef exports would lead to farm and food crisis. As per the cattle census conducted in 2007, cattle population has already dwindled. "So why is a need being felt to promote beef exports?" Galani asked.

Friday, 24 February 2012

To Kolaba fort, a cruel ride

Horses at Alibaug beach navigate their way through waist-deep seawater to ferry tourists to the fort
Horse owners in the popular holiday destination of Alibaug believe it is an innocuous way to earn their livelihood. But animal lovers describe it as cruelty in the garb of tourism and have lodged a complaint with district authorities of Raigad, leading to an inquiry. Horses at Alibaug beach are being forced to ferry tourists through waist-deep sea to and from the Kolaba fort. 

After receiving a tipoff from some tourists, the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) wrote to authorities, along with photographic evidence showing two horses at Alibaug beach pulling a cart full of people from the beach, navigating their way through waist-deep seawater to reach the fort.

 “The current abuse of horses at Alibaug is absolutely unethical and cruel. Such activities are detrimental to the promotion of tourism in the country,” Arpan Sharma, convenor, FIAPO, said in the letter, seeking an immediate end to the activity.
When Newsline visited the spot, 30 to 40 horse carts — each with two horses — were found to be operating on the Alibaug beach stretch. Built in 1600s, Kolaba Fort — once a chief naval station during Shivaji’s time — lies in the sea at a distance of over a km from the beach. The retreat of water during low tide makes the fort accessible by foot. 

Activities at the beach begin around 2 pm, when the low tide sets in, and go on till dark. “For many years, since Chowpatty came up in 1984, tourists crossed the sea on foot to reach the fort because the water does not go above the waist during the low tide. These rides started only about five to six years ago,” said Gharat Kalsi, who has been riding horse carts for 15-20 years. 

The wobbly ride to the fort lasts about 15 minutes, during which horses are whipped periodically as they try to make their way through the seawater, which at one point, reaches dangerously close to nape of the horses’ neck. 

Horses make an estimated 10 such trips a day, earning the owner Rs 150 per person for a return ride. Drivers insist that they ply no more than five people at one time but Newsline witnessed many violations of this self-imposed rule, with a child or two ‘extra’ on each cart. Though boats are available, the horse ride seems to be more popular among the tourists. 

Experts say horses are good swimmers and take naturally to sweet water but not saline. “The salt water cause dryness of the hoof, resulting in cracks on their wall and subsequently rendering the horses lame,” Dr Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs, PETA said. 

Additionally, horses panic when they cannot see the path in front of them. “When they are forced to walk through water they are unable to see the depth and height of the ground. A misjudgment by the horse may result in fatal injuries,” Valliyate said. External injuries to the horses can also cause laminitis, a foot condition causing acute pain. 

Thane Society of Prevention of Cruelty to animal’s equine expert, Dr Suhas Rane, who visited the spot, said, “The health of the horses is not up to the mark. According to preliminary observations, some horses showed signs of the beginning of a skin infection due to the saline water. Also, from what I gathered from speaking to the horse owners, the animals are not getting proper nutritious diet, which the cart owners cannot afford.” 

Rane observed that although the horses did not show signs of acute distress or disease, the activity must be put to stop. “Entering the sea water regularly can be detrimental to the horses. Also, carrying such heavy load into the water is an abuse,” he said. 

The complaint weighs heavy even from a legal stand point, say experts, with FIAPO rightly pointing out that it is in contravention of Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act 1960. 

Anjali Sharma, legal advisor to the animal welfare board of India (AWBI), argued that cruelty to animals does not only mean denying nourishment or causing phsyical abuse but also mental trauma.” The tenet of the law is that every animal should be allowed to express itself and do what comes naturally to it. This is not natural. Why do something so peculiar when other options like boats are available? In trying to offer a novel experience, horse owners are exploiting the animals,” she said. 

Taking cognisance of the complaint, Raigad district collector H K Jawale has initiated an inquiry. “The complaint has been officially forwarded to the animal husbandry department, chief executive officer of the zilla parishad as well as the superintendent of police to investigate,” resident deputy collector Jagannath Veerkar said.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Airlines meet dietary needs

Airline food has come a long way from the limited options of beef or chicken that once used to be the norm.

When traveling internationally, customers today have many meal options suitable for a wide variety of diets, from vegetarian to medical and religious persuasions.
I always wanted to write about my experience flying and the meals served in airplanes. Last year, my family traveled on Qatar Airways to India and we were very pleased with the service and hospitality. So we chose to fly Qatar again on our recent visit to India.

Qatar offers a variety of menus from which to choose, and this was especially good for us, as my husband is a strict vegetarian. (He did receive the wrong tray by mistake, though, but it was corrected after our request).

We had traveled 20 hours with a short break at Doha, the capital city of Qatar. Airline meals have always been notoriously unhealthful, but I actually had a nice meal. I had many delicious options to choose from, from appetizers to dessert.
If you are flying and require a special meal, there are many options, such as vegetarian, kosher, halal, diabetic, low-fat, low-sodium, carbohydrate–free, lactose-free, peanut-free and gluten-free meals.

Keep in mind, though, that special meals, such as vegetarian meals, must be ordered in advance when you book your ticket. There should be a note on your boarding pass indicating that you have ordered a special meal. When you are in the plane, you should inform the flight attendant that you have requested a special meal and let him or her know your seat number.

To meet the needs of its customers, most international airlines have a selection of special meals that include:
Religious meals: Asian Vegetarian Meal (AVM), Vegetarian Jain Meal (VJM), Hindu Meal and Muslim Meal.

Other special meals: children’s meal, baby meal, vegetarian oriental meal, raw vegetable meal and seafood meal.

Medical and dietary meals: bland meal, diabetic meal, fruit platter, gluten-free meal, low-calorie meal, low-fat/low-cholesterol meal, low-sodium meal, lactose-free meal, vegetarian meal, lacto-ovo vegetarian meal, nut or peanut allergy meal.

Many airlines are aware their customers want healthful food choices and they seem to be working on it. So if you plan on booking a flight, make sure to request a meal in advance that fits your special diet.

Devon's former Bond girl heads to India on charity trek

 Carolyn Seaward from Newton Abbot is a former Miss UK and starred in Octopussy

A former Bond Girl from the south west is off to India to take part in a charity trekking adventure. Carolyn Seaward from Newton Abbot starred in Octopussy with Roger Moore which was released in 1983.

Many locations for the film were staged and shot in various parts of India.
Now Ms Seaward will be revisiting the film's locations to raise money a charity which cares for working animals in some of the world's poorest countries.

The former Bond actress, who was a Miss UK and the runner up in Miss World, will be trekking on horseback to see the work carried out by the Brooke charity.
The organisation, which was set up in 1934, is an international animal welfare charity which improves the lives of working horses, donkeys, mules and their owners.

Ms Seaward said: "We're going to be out in the sticks. The last time we stayed in the Lake Palace Hotel in the middle of a lake. "This time we're going to be in tents and roughing it a bit, hence the challenge."

India snake charmers have identity crisis

A few lucky ones got their cobras and other serpents ID-chipped before the deadline. Others will have to lie low, which won't be hard because their profession is as endangered as some of their snakes.

Pali Nath, a snake charmer in the outskirts of the capital, New Delhi, shows off his most prized possession, a cobra called Reshma. (Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times / January 16, 2012)

Pali Nath has a high-tech advantage in performing an ancient ritual. The snake charmer's cobra is computer chipped and ready to dance. Well, almost. It's winter in northern India, and the beast isn't terribly energetic.

So as Nath waves his flute, striking up a brisk tune, a listless Reshma briefly lifts her head before retreating into her basket and semi-hibernation.

Nath, 52, is one of only 10 Delhi-area snake charmers whose serpents have semiconductors embedded under their skin by the Delhi government. The chips act as name tags that legalize ownership and help ward off officials threatening to fine, extract a bribe or jail Nath under laws designed to protect wildlife.

This gives Nath a big advantage over competitors. "I'm sure they're jealous," he says in this dusty community half an hour from the capital. Dressed in a traditional saffron robe and cap, he says, "They're unemployed, and I'm making money."

Which should make him happy. But working in a profession that's as endangered as some of its snakes weighs on him. Tastes are changing as India's middle class explodes. Children who once followed the sound of his flute, Pied Piper fashion, now barely glance up from their portable Game Boy consoles.

"We're losing our culture," says Nath, whose sixth-grade education puts him ahead of his mostly illiterate compatriots, arguably why his four cobras, rattlesnake and king cobra are on the right side of the law.

Bureaucrats didn't really publicize the snake-chip program, in effect a one-time amnesty for a lucky few because all snake charmers are technically in violation of the country's wildlife act. And, truth be told, the authorities wouldn't mind if the charmers gave up their snakes for good.

Charmers have long been suspected of using their art as a cover for selling snakes to smugglers who supply the lucrative Chinese traditional medicine trade.

The microchips — which cost the government about $20 per snake, including implanting — are embedded below the skin to survive the snake's molting process. The idea is to ensure that a specific snake actually belongs to a charmer.

Nath learned of the program only after reading a newspaper article two days before the deadline to comply. He rushed to Delhi's Department of Forests and Wildlife office with his six snakes in a bag, where a worker took them into another room to be chipped and gave him a document attesting to his legal status.

Media, animal lovers and the government criticize charmers like Nath for confining the snakes to tiny baskets and ripping out their fangs — done periodically because they grow back — leading to infection and death. But Nath strongly disputes this, arguing that his snakes sleep with him and eat better than he does.

"We treat them like our children," he says, jamming 5-foot-long Reshma into a basket the diameter of a dinner plate.

India had about 800,000 unlicensed snake charmers in 2007, according to a recent survey by the Snake Charmers Federation of India. Those now caught without a license face up to seven years in jail under Indian laws that aim to safeguard biodiversity by banning the possession, sale or trading of wild animals. Among the most affected, other than smugglers, have been traditional showmen: charmers, monkey grinders and trick-bear keepers.

In reality, though, enforcement is spotty, and it's more likely that offenders' animals will be confiscated, which is still a huge deterrent.

Nitin Sawant, the zoologist at Goa University who implanted the microchips into the 42 now-legal snakes in mid-2011, has a dim view of how charmers treat their scaly moneymakers. "Almost all were defanged and they were kept in very small traditional containers," he says. "The health of all the snakes was very pitiful."

But it's the charmers who are seeking pity these days, as they recall a golden age when tourist officials directed wealthy foreigners their way to experience a cliche of Indian mysticism, alongside elephants and maharajah.

Even their simple presence on the streets was auspicious then, they say. According to Hinduism, the snake-loving god Shiva sent 12 devotees named Nath to all corners of India, which is why "Nath" is such a common name in the charmer community.

It is often noted that a biographer of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) mentions that Indians worshiped a 105-foot snake (an exaggeration, no doubt) with eyes "as large as Macedonian shields." At one point, snakes were even included in dowries.

But growing environmental awareness and exploitation — at the peak in the 1960s, India exported 10 million snakeskins a year to foreign fashionistas for belts and purses — led to passage of the 1972 wildlife law that authorities started to enforce only in recent years.,0,4949783.story

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Agony of the winged mimics: Parrots form 50% of wild bird trade in the country

NEW DELHI: Did you know that keeping that ubiquitous mitthu at home is illegal ? Indian wildlife laws state that trading in and keeping native birds is against the law. But ironically, it is absolutely legal to keep exotic birds in captivity. India has 12 species of parrots, of which eight are regularly traded. In fact, parrots form roughly 50% of the wild bird trade in India.

Chicks are captured across the country in winter and traded between December and June ; the adults are traded throughout the year. The most common species is the rose-ringed parakeet while the most preferred species for trade is the Alexandrine parrot, as it has a superior ability to mimic humans and can adapt well to captivity.

Abrar Ahmed, consultant with Traffic India, says rescuing a bird is pointless since once a chick is separated from its parents, it rarely survives. "It is important to stop trade of the bird at the grassroots level. When being transported, the chicks are force-fed and treated in absolutely inhuman ways. Some die even before reaching the market. It is essential that the trade is stopped," he says.

Since May last year, there have been at least five reported seizures of parakeets in and around Delhi. More than 1,000 birds have been rescued ; but rehabilitation schemes hold no promise for their survival. Most of the birds were rescued while they were being transported in state transport buses. "It is important to treat bird trade as an inter-state and international racket. Random occasional raids are not helpful at all. These cases cannot be seen in isolation. In fact, these occasional raids have only made the entire trade go underground," says Samir Sinha of Traffic.

Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Patna, Lucknow and Kolkata are the hubs of this trade. Delhi plays two roles in the illegal bird trade : while its bird market in Chandni Chowk is an important point where people from various states come to purchase, the city is also a major stopover for birds in transit. Ahmed says Mumbai receives a large part of the consignment as it is the hub for Middle East. "However, Gujarat is also becoming an important centre and several seizures have been carried out in Ahmedabad. Many birds are being supplied to other countries from here," he says.

The Nicobar parakeet, Long-tailed parakeet and Derby's parakeet have been listed as 'near threatened ' in the International Union for Conservation of Nature list. "Parrots usually nest in tree hollows, but monoculture plantations, lopping of old trees and plantation of exotic species are depriving them of nesting spots, leading to a sharp drop in their numbers. Unless demand for the birds stops, the trade will continue unabated," Ahmed adds.

Vitashine- Distributor Announced for Indian Market

ESB Developments have announced the appointment of Fullife Pvt Limited as the exclusive distributor of Vitashine products for the Indian market.

Nottingham, United Kingdom, February 08, 2012 --( Vitashine Vitamin D3 the only Vegan Society registered form of Vitamin D3 is to be distributed into the Indian Market by Fullife Pvt, Limited Mumbai.

The agreement signed in Mumbai just last month, grants Fullife exclusive rights to this unique plant source of Vitamin D3, for all of India. Vitashine is the only plant source of Vitamin D3 available in the Indian market.

Commenting on the agreement, ESB Sales Director Mark Broughton said, "With such a large population of vegetarians in India, Vitashine is well placed to become the number one choice for vitamin D in the region, Fullife have an excellent technical understanding of our product and commercial reach into the Indian market to facilitate significant sales development. Vitashine finally provides a non animal source of Vitamin D3 to the Indian market."

Sales and distribution of the Vitashine product range will commence over the coming weeks as technical transfer of the products are completed.

About Fullife: Fullife have a strong partnership and reach into the Indian market as well as numerous partners in South East Asia.

ESB Developments Ltd, Glade Business Centre, Nottingham, UK, is a research and development organisation specialising in the creation of advanced health and beauty products, offer clear differentiation and specific consumer benefits. All enquiries to Sales Director Mark Broughton Phone: +44 115 9771054 or email Web:

Sterilisation: 700 monkeys dead

The state government’s move to sterilise monkeys in Kangra district has claimed the lives of about 700 monkeys. The poor animals are losing their lives due to poor upkeep and unprofessional handling in captivity. 

The high mortality rate of monkeys at the Gopalpur sterilisation centre of the Wildlife Department has evoked criticism from animal activists. The activists alleged that the Wildlife Department was violating provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals Act by meting out such a treatment to monkeys being brought here for sterilisation.

Sources in Gopalpur told The Tribune that wildlife officials were earlier burying dead monkeys at the sterilisation centre. However, after religious advice, they were now cremating them.

Villagers said on condition of anonymity that they had repeatedly sought the shifting of the centre from the area. They had complained against the brutal treatment being meted out to monkeys brought to the sterilisation centre.

A visit to the centre revealed that many monkeys had been locked in small cages. In some cages, monkeys were lying dead. Stains of blood could be seen in other cages due to sterilization procedures.

Satish Gupta, DFO, Wildlife, who is the in charge of the sterilisation centre, admitted to the death of monkeys. He, however, claimed that most of the deaths of monkeys were being caused due to mishandling by people who were delivering them to the Forest Department.

The government had announced a reward of Rs 500 for anyone who caught and brought a monkey to the Wildlife Department. Due to this, many people were catching monkeys. After catching monkeys, they kept them unfed for many days. Monkeys were already in a poor state when they were handed over to the Wildlife Department. This caused mortality at the sterilisation centre, he said.

Vijay Bharti, the veterinarian who carries out sterilisation operations at Gopalpur, admitted that there was a mortality rate of about 6 per cent in monkeys being brought to the centre. He, however, said the mortality rate due to sterilisation was just about 1 per cent. Even in that 1 per cent, other conditions in which monkeys were brought to the centre were responsible for the deaths.

He claimed that the centre had the facility to house just 170 monkeys. However, generally at any given point of time there were about 400 monkeys at the centre. Some monkeys might have also died due to overcrowding and trauma in cages. The doctor claimed that most deaths at the centre were pre-operative rather than post-operative.

The sources said sterilisation of monkeys was being carried out in an unscientific manner. According to statistics, there are about 35,000 monkeys in Kangra district. The centre at Gopalpur alone claims to have carried out the sterilisation of 11,000 monkeys.

Illegally traded birds in India

Rosy ringed Parakeets are most common illegally traded birds in India. Every other week scores of beautiful Indian parakeets are rescued by People For Animals volunteers and brought to Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre. They are taken off trains and tops of buses, hundreds cramped into square cane boxes with split levels. The bottom layer is barely 6 inches tall and the birds are squatting, many of them with broken legs and wings covered with the faeces of the top layer birds. The boxes are covered by gunny bags and many die from suffocation.

Many will never fly again – if they recover. Every month lakhs of parakeets are taken from their nests and transported all over India. Only 10 % remain alive after a month. This is a vicious and illegal trade and within a few years there will be no parakeets left in India. When the parakeet goes, so will much of our Indian heritage.

Today’s children have no idea what a sparrow is, so the word “chidiya” evokes no images. The wild boar, once considered a scourge, is gone: I have not seen one for ten years though state government keep bringing out illegal fiats asking people to kill them. The vulture is as legendary as the dinosaur.  And now it is the turn of the Rosy ringed and the Alexandrine Parakeet.

In Hindu mythology, Kama is the god of love, a beautiful youth riding on a parakeet. Its green feathers represent fertility. Its red beak represents the earth before the rain and the green feathers represent the green earth after the rains. Red represents unfulfilled desire and green represents joy and fulfilment.  In Uttar Pradesh, the village love songs call the parakeet Sua or Suganva and request them to carry message from distant lovers. In many folk songs, girls request their lovers to bring them Sua pankhi (parrot green) odhni (veil/chunni). In many South Indian temples, the Goddess holds a parakeet in her hand. This is the gentle form of Devi, a contrast from her more fierce form where she is associated with tigers and lions. Both Kamakshi of Kanchi and Meenakshi of Madurai, forms of Parvati, hold parakeets.  In this form she is the love-goddess or enchantress who charms Shiva and transforms the hermit-god into a householder, thus ensuring a participation of god in worldly life.

The parakeet has strong romantic connotations. Small wonder then, that one of the earliest collections of erotic stories in India is known as Suka-Saptati or 70 tales of the parakeet. 

Like the one thousand and one Arabian Nights of Scheherazade, spent in telling stories to the sultan Shahayar to save her life, Suka Saptati are the tales told by a parakeet to a lonely wife.   Before leaving on a trading expedition across the seas, a merchant asked his wise mynah to take care of his wife. The wife, Padmavati, lonely and influenced by a wanton woman, decides to take a lover. As she prepares to leave the house, her pet mynah admonishes her for behaving so. Enraged, the wife wrings the mynah’s neck.

The parakeet uses a different tactic. He begins by approving her intention, saying that pleasure is indeed a goal of life and in the absence of her husband she should take a lover.  But he asks, should she be caught with her lover, does she have the brains to get out of the situation?  Intrigued, Padmavati asks the parakeet what she should do.  The parakeet tells her a story about adulteresses and Padmavati stays home. This continues over 70 nights, until the merchant returns. Prompted by the parrot, Padmavati confesses to her husband, who forgives her and the parakeet extols the virtue of understanding and forgiveness.

The story Suka-saptati has been translated in many languages. In Persian, it is called Tuti-nama or parrot-tales. In one version, the husband returns after being informed of her adultery by the self-righteous and vengeful mynah. He kills his wife, not realising that, thanks to the parakeet, she has never cheated on him. In despair, he becomes an ascetic. The stories even reached Europe. In one Italian version it is said that the parrot turns into a prince and seduces the merchant’s wife.

For me, the soul of India is the monsoon, the mango tree, the shimmery green parakeet and the rice field, the call of the koel, the mud of the river Ganges in full spate. Take any of these away and I will feel widowed again, lost in an alien land. Please don’t buy the parakeet. Report all sellers to the police and free the birds after beating up the illegal sellers as you would an anti-national terrorist caught setting fire to your area.