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BASIC nations back India on climate

New Delhi: Ahead of the crucial ministerial level climate talks in South Africa, India has convinced the other three BASIC countries — Brazil, South Africa and China — to endorse its stand on equity, intellectual property rights and green trade barriers.

The BASIC countries approved the Indian proposals, which had taken some strong negotiations to be put back on the table in the UN climate talks despite resistance from the developed countries.

The meeting of the BASIC ministers in Brazil was to be attended by environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan but she missed it owing to the Anna Hazare crisis on the domestic front. India was represented by its senior negotiators.

At the last formal talks, India had taken the lead in putting back on agenda the discussions on equitable share of atmosphere, the need to cut intellectual property rights on green technologies and banning trade barriers advocated by developed countries using green indicators such as carbon footprints of products as trigger.

The BASIC countries face a difficult time at Durban where the Europeans are expected to pound more pressure on emerging economies to formally agree to binding emission reduction targets in future.

At the two-day meeting in Brazil, the BASIC countries backed the demand to keep Kyoto Protocol alive beyond its first phase which ends next year, but the four key emerging economies also discussed how far the developed countries are likely to go with their threat to withdraw from Kyoto Protocol unless emerging economies commit to hard targets to cut down greenhouse gases.

They stated their position against the rich countries junking Kyoto Protocol claiming they were doing so to list their commitments under a new regime. “It is hardly conceivable that a country would leave the Kyoto Protocol to do more,” their statement read. They said such a move smacked of reduced political will in developed countries to cut emissions.

Armed with this, Natarajan would be now attending the ministerial round called by the hosts South Africa as a precursor to the super jamboree at the end of the year.
 

1 September 2011, Times of India


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Jantar Mantar misses honour

Protests, High-Rises Around Dim Chances Of Unesco Tag Richi Verma TNN

New Delhi: Frequent protests at Jantar Mantar have hurt its standing as a monument of historical value. Sources say the 18th-century astronomical observatory missed the chance to become the Capital’s fourth Unesco World Heritage site — after Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb and Red Fort — last year, as experts expressed concern over the agitations held around it. The honour, instead, went to Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar last August.

Archaeological Survey of India, the Central agency that looks after the astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, had sought Unesco recognition for four of them in a serial nomination in 2009-10 that was declared International Year of Astronomy. The Delhi Jantar Mantar is the oldest of the five observatories built by Jai Singh while the one at Jaipur is the largest.

Sources said a consultant was asked to prepare nomination dossiers for the four observatories and it was subsequently decided to nominate Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar first, followed by those in Delhi, Varanasi and Ujjain. “At the time the dossiers were being prepared, a number of concerns were raised over the agitations, meetings, protests, rallies and strikes held around Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, and it was felt that these concerns would go against it. The presence of several high-rise buildings which overshadow the observatory in Delhi was another issue,’’ said a source.

Senior officials from ASI, however, say that being first in a serial nomination is not important and Delhi’s Jantar Mantar will be nominated next. But the concerns that led to its relegation on the list still remain. Experts say, to make a strong pitch for Jantar Mantar’s inclusion in the Unesco list, a ban on demonstrations and protests around the complex is essential.

ASI had admitted in Lok Sabha a few years ago that the historical observatory has been overshadowed by surrounding high-rise buildings which has rendered useless the archeological marvel of the sun clock. “No permission was given by us for these buildings,’’ said a senior official.

But the protests at Jantar Mantar are a big concern. Although all agitations are held outside the monument complex, there have been some incidents of protesters forcing their way inside and damaging the structures. ‘‘We have written to the government two three times to prohibit use of Jantar Mantar for protests and demonstrations. They need to take a stand,’’ said a senior ASI official.

 

1 September 2011, Times of India


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Spirit of the Letter

This was the time when the Great Uprising of 1857 was at its peak. On September 10, four days before the British stormed into Delhi, in one of their first successful actions to regain control of India, Nahar Singh, the king of the princely state of Ballabgarh, penned a letter to Lord Ellenborough, the Governor General of India from 1842-44. He sought refuge. Offering his services to the East India Company, he promised “to explain many unspeakable matters and unsupportable calamities into which India is involved”.

More than a century later, that letter, handwritten on a neat sheet bordered with a floral pattern in gold, is up for auction. It will go under the hammer at the Bonhams’ “Photography and Travel: India and Beyond” auction in London, on October 4 and is expected to fetch an estimated £ 1,000-1,500.

“The owner of the letter approached us. We regard this as the most important sale of its type since that of the collection of photographs of Kanwardip Gujral in 2008,” says Francesca Spickernell, a book specialist at Bonhams. Gujral was a Hamburg-based businessman and his collection comprised of 420 photographs from the 1850s to the 1940s. “The letter,” a press release issued by the auction house, notes, “it seems was written as a ruse to deceive the British in the event of his capture... as he was fully committed to the cause of Indian Independence”. Nahar Singh is remembered as the right-hand man of Bahadur Shah Zafar, who was declared as the Emperor of India by the rebels.

The letter is one of the 550 lots on sale at Bonhams. The other highlights include one of the first printed depiction of the Taj Mahal, which appears in a volume of aquatint views of India by William Hodges, who travelled through the country in the 1780s. His drawings were executed on the spot.

The books are estimated to fetch around £ 35,000. A rare set of photographic albums of the Dutch East Indies by the pioneering Victorian photographers, Walter Woodbury and James Page — featuring 248 images, including portraits of notable Indonesian figures, ethnographic studies, Dutch colonial life and topographical views from Sumatra to The Moluccas — is estimated to go at £ 40,000-50,000.

 

1 September 2011, Indian Express


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Capital story: Managing a New Delhi

Construction of New Delhi, the new capital of India, was one of the biggest construction endeavours in the world at that time. The Capital was inaugurated in 1931 and then began the new challenge: Managing the new city. Many government departments had shifted to the secretariat buildings a decade before the official inauguration but even by 1930s, New Delhi was a dead town by night with government employees returning to their homes in the old city. With the construction of housing for employees near the Gole Market area, the real population of New Delhi grew exponentially during World War II. New Delhi needed a civic body to take care of its growing needs.

The beginning of a municipal body for New Delhi took place way back in 1913, when the Imperial Delhi Committee was formed. The British deemed it necessary that instead of the Delhi Municipality, the control of construction and management of the Capital should be with a central authority. In 1916, the Raisina Municipal Committee was formed. The new Capital was christened New Delhi in 1927 and that is when the committee was named New Delhi Municipal Committee.

In 1916, the municipality's responsibility was limited to catering to the sanitation requirements of the construction workers building the Capital. By 1931, the committee was expected to take care of buildings, roads, sewers, medical and public health arrangements.

NDMC's major function remained providing facilities to government buildings. House tax formed a major part of its revenue. It also earned sizeable rents from the shops at Baird Road Market and Connaught Place and by leasing cricket, football and hockey grounds.

After the Capital's inauguration, its roads were widened for the growing traffic and arterial roads like Lower Ridge Road, Hailey Road, outer and inner circles of Connaught Place, Hanuman Road etc. were strengthened.

To keep the city clean, 11 trucks used to pick garbage and dump it at the Jor Bagh nursery. The sewerage used to be drained at the farmhouses in Kilokari.

In 1932, electricity distribution and water supply also became the civic body's responsibility. Soon, it became one of the few municipalities in the country to have its own power generation plant. Water was supplied to government offices and 'clerk quarters' from a reservoir at Talkatora.

Public transport, however, was in private hands as people relied mainly on tongas and the bus services of the Gwalior and Northern India Transport Company.

 

1 September 2011, Hindustan Times


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For posh hotel room in prime Delhi location, contact IGNCA

Often accused of doing less than its full potential for promoting art and culture, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts has now taken another step back from its mandate by allowing a part of its prestigious campus near Rajpath to be turned into a private 24-room boutique hotel.

The Indravan, already open to select customers, will be formally launched in September. Room rates start at Rs. 8,500. Full occupancy – a near certainty given the prime location and shortage of rooms in Delhi – will bring in approximately Rs. 70 lakh every month. In return, the hotel's promoters need to pay IGNCA only Rs. 10 lakh per month.

Occupying a prime location over 23 acres at 1, Janpath – minutes away from the National Museum and India Gate — the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts was established in 1987 as a centre for research, academic pursuit and dissemination in the field of the arts. The autonomous institution originally came under the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development; today, it is under the Union Ministry of Culture.

A quarter of a century after opening, the Centre's academic and cultural activities remain at a low level. And its premises are now being used to host the Indravan hotel, run by Sewara Hospitality and Development. The group also runs the Lodi Garden Restaurant in Delhi, apart from resorts in Rajasthan and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Sewara claims it has the marketing rights to run the Indravan hotel on government land for the next five years. However, according to the IGNCA Trust Deed signed between by the Centre's trustees and the Government of India, the land was given to IGNCA on a lease of 99 years for purely cultural and academic activities.

Under the sub-head “Use of Trust Fund”, the Deed clearly says: “The income and property of the Trust, howsoever derived, shall be applied solely towards the promotion of the objects of the Trust.” The objects listed in the Trust include research in arts, humanities and cultural heritage, creating tribal and folk art collections, bridging modern and traditional art forms, developing linkages with international art and culture centres, and serving as a resource centre and forum on Indian art, and producing an encyclopaedia on the subject. Nowhere do the Trust's objectives allow for commercial activity such as a hotel.

The IGNCA seems to be exploiting a loophole in the Trust Deed which only prevents its property from being leased for a period of more than ten years. Under the sub-head ‘Disposal of the IGNCA Property', the Deed says: “No immovable property (such as land and buildings) of IGNCA shall be sold, leased for a term exceeding 10 years or given out on hire or otherwise disposed of by the Trust without the prior written approval of the Government of India.”

Given these rules, the Memorandum of Understanding signed by IGNCA and Aresko Estates representative Inderpal Singh Kochchar, who is the managing director of Aresko's subsidiary company, Sewara, on July 1, 2010 only refers to the “IGNCA guest house.”

It gives Sewara the job of “managing, running, operation and maintenance of the guest house” of IGNCA and makes it clear that Sewara will not be allowed to use this “guest house” for marriage or birthday functions, commercial functions, functions which may cause noise or those which don't get clearance from IGNCA. The MOU says the “guest house” may be used by Sewara for “meetings of national and international societies, conferences of national and international standards, small gatherings of art and culture or associated professional clubs, and art exhibitions and related functions.”

However, on www.sewara.com, the Indravan is clearly termed a “boutique hotel”, not an “IGNCA guest house” and there is no mention that potential guests need to be part of any conference or meeting. Online reservations are open, and the hotel has been listed on international travel reservation and review sites. It also offers three conference rooms and eight committee rooms as business spaces, which may violate the explicit “no commercial functions” clause of the MoU.

“The grand opening of the property, which is now ready, will happen during the first week of September,” confirms Sewara Group representative Premjith Endassary. He says unknown “guests on special references who couldn't be refused” have already been staying there frequently. For the ordinary public, however, rooms will be available after the inauguration. In fact, the Sewara website seems to be allowing bookings only from October 1.

The building in which the Indravan is located used to be the “Scholars' Residency” meant for academics attending IGNCA functions, and was turned into a guest house a few years ago. Now it has undergone a complete internal design makeover to transform it into The Indravan, even while the exterior remains the same.

The standard, deluxe and suite are called the Harappa, Mughal and Golden Era rooms respectively, with furnishings and decor to match the art and culture of that particular period in Indian history. The daily tariffs have been fixed at Rs. 8,500, Rs. 10,500 and Rs. 15,000 respectively. A club room and multicuisine restaurant on the premises will also be operated by Sewara.

The rate card itself seems to violate the MoU signed with IGNCA, which stipulated tariffs of Rs. 3,800, Rs. 4,200 and Rs. 5,000 for the three types of rooms.

Sewara has agreed to some concessions to cater for IGNCA needs. Under the MoU, IGNCA will have access to the hotel's rooms at 40 per cent of the tariff rate for up to 50 days every year.

IGNCA joint secretary Pyare Lal – who is an appointee of the Union government – initially denied the existence of a hotel on IGNCA grounds. “IGNCA is a trust on the government property, how can a hotel come up there? There is no question of a commercial activity happening there. IGNCA is a research and cultural activity institution. Even if we run a hotel here, we will be at a risk because we will not get tax exemption on this land. We have nothing to hide. There is no ‘hotel' being run within the premises of IGNCA,” he asserted.

When presented with specifics by The Hindu, he backtracked, saying that he had joined IGNCA only six months ago and still does not understand all the rules and regulations. In a subsequent email, he admitted: “There is a Guest House Block in the IGNCA which is a part and parcel of the overall Building Plan of IGNCA. It is not yet operational. It consists of 24 rooms … IGNCA, being an organization with no experience in operating and maintaining a Guest House, decided to invite Expression of Interest through newspapers (dated 16.10.2009) from the eligible entities/vendors/operators for management, maintenance, operation and running of the Guest House Block of IGNCA. The job was entrusted to one M/s. Aresko Estates Pvt. Ltd. [that is, Sewara's parent company] who was the successful bidder after completion of the entire process and evaluation by a duly constituted committee.”

Mr. Lal said the handing over the “guest house” to Sewara was not a problem since the IGNCA's current activities did not pose a “substantial” requirement for rooms. “The Guest House Block containing 24 rooms has been designed as part of the overall … complex of 8 buildings, including Concert Hall, National Theatre, etc. At present, only one building … has been completed. Therefore, the present requirement of rooms is not substantial and the optimum utilization can be achieved only after all the remaining buildings … have been constructed and made operational”.

But even if the Sewara lease is “temporary”, former Additional Secretary Basant Kumar — who has been associated with IGNCA since its inception — alleges that the Delhi Master Plan does not allow for a hotel on the IGNCA premises. Kapila Vatsayayan, a founding trustee of IGNCA who worked to build the institution to its academic and cultural zenith in the late 1980s, moans about its decline from those glory days. “I was thrown out of IGNCA by police forces eleven years ago so I don't go there anymore. I can only say that the Trust Deed doesn't allow any commercial activity on its premises,” she says.

Curiously, the current trustees also seem to have been kept in the dark about the commercial activity on the premises. “I don't know what is (The) Indravan at IGNCA,” says Chinmaya Gharekhan, president of the Board of Trustees. “As far as I know, The Indravan is not a hotel. It was modelled on India International Centre in its soul,” says another IGNCA trustee, Salman Haider.

Citing “legal” issues, Sewara MD I.S. Kocchar and the public relations agency representing him declined to answer questions. A few days after The Hindu started working on the story, the signboard displaying the hotel's name at the IGNCA was quietly removed. Its absence today is a hint that everything is not above board.

 

1 September 2011, Hindu


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Delhi Police: With you, for you, since 1911

The Delhi Police had its beginnings in a humble ward system in the hands of the assistant of a British ‘resident’ in 1803. More than a century later, in 1911, things changed drastically for the force.

At that time, its policemen wore khaki shorts and were equipped with Brown Bess rifles, rattles and bicycles provided to it by its erstwhile masters, the East India Company. But in 1911, its administration, just like the city it policed, was formally taken over by the Imperial British Crown. The Delhi Police even assisted its new masters in organising the opulent Delhi Durbar.

So far, the Crown had considered Delhi a mere provincial town. The police functioned from six stations and a handful of scattered outposts on arterial roads. However, given the novel status that the city would soon enjoy, this too was about to change.

“The very concept of Delhi being a seat of colonial power, as illustrated by the shifting of the Imperial capital, is wedded to it being a city of VIPs,” said Deepak Mishra, a 1984 batch IPS officer. Mishra was on the advisory committee of the coffee table book ‘Delhi Police: History and Heritage’ and is currently posted as Special Commissioner of the Delhi Police (Operations).

Those wielding imperial power, said Mishra, were required to reside in physical proximity of each other, not only for security but also to maintain “a horizontal network allowing free intermingling of administrative ideas for an emerging metropolis”.

Till the end of 1911, about 78 officers stationed at six ‘major’ police stations, carried forward from the Mughal era, had augmented the strength of the British Indian Army, albeit in the slightest manner. It was the British Indian Army that was chiefly responsible for maintaining law and order in the city at that time, and had played a minor role in policing an estimated population of about five lakh people.

Before New Delhi became the capital, there had been successful attempts at assassinating the local wielders of Imperial power — William Fraser, the first Divisional Commissioner and head of the police had been murdered by a local Nawab in late 1834. However, it was an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Viceroy Lord Hardinge on the ‘perfect morning’ of December 28, 1912, that changed the way the Capital was viewed, and policed.

This spurred the nascent British-Indian administration to increase the strength of the police to around 1,152 officers of varying ranks till the end of 1912 — the year when Delhi was formally detached from the Punjab and placed under the charge of a Chief Commissioner to ensure that it met the ‘requirements of the imperial Capital’. The chief commissioner was also, though informally, the ex-officio Inspector General of the police.

Between 1912 and 1926, alongside a steady increase in the numbers of the force, the Birmingham-made police whistle had replaced the rattle, the Enfield .303 rifle had taken the place of the Brown Bess. New police stations — including the New Delhi Police Station (now called Parliament Street police station) which came up to ‘protect’ the Raisina Hills in 1913 — were also set up.

The others were Daryaganj (1913), Shahdara (1914), Delhi Cantonment (1915). Tughlak Road and Mandir Marg police stations followed in 1941 and 1944, respectively.

The existing strength, that of two head constables and nine foot constables previously on duty at the Raisina Hills police post, was augmented over the years. Delhi Police started recruiting and promoting its own men instead of drawing them from the Punjab.

Meanwhile, the beat system of policing in the city became firmly entrenched in the policing system. Mounted on bicycles, horses, and a handful of motorcycles, the policemen went to the rural pockets around New Delhi, noting the particulars, criminal records of the villagers and their perception of the police in their Village Crime Register.

In 1935, the Kotwali police station was subdivided and one of the station’s chief tasks was to maintain a notebook of the city including details of its size, population and, most important of all, the ‘names of the influential persons’ residing in it. That same year, Hugh Oitway de Gale, Delhi’s Superintendent of Police, suggested the force should have a branch of female officers.

Four years later, it became the first force in the country to have its women police battalion.

As per an HT report published on January 14, 1931, Delhi Police had conducted at least four mock drills by detaining and searching ‘Indian Passengers’ on tongas. The cars belonging to VIPs like members of the Executive Assembly, however, got flags with red dots in the middle to prevent them from being stopped ‘unnecessarily’.

The Viceroy’s House was inaugurated and occupied by Lord Irwin on January 23, 1931. And the officers protecting the Viceroy’s House were the first ones to get their hands on .455 bore revolvers as early as 1939 as the papers of the time treated the slightest incident to be reported from the ‘Vice-regal household’ special. These ‘special’ incidents could range from the murder of the house’s chowkidaars, the accidental toppling of roof(s), and thefts of items ranging from spoons to gold watches from Connaught Place.

The Delhi Police formally got its own traffic branch, with its own radio control cars and trucks, in 1950. A strength of 212 officers was formally detached and rechristened Traffic control men to manage a vehicular population of a surging 19,321 even as the city got its first traffic lights between 1950 and 1952.

 

2 September 2011, Hindustan Times


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Past Continuous

A host of unseen photographs, posters and memorabilia from film historian Bhagwan Das Garga’s collection will take us back to the vintage era of cinema

In the summer of 1913, Dhundiraj Govind Phalke (Dadasaheb Phalke), a draftsman with the Archaeological Survey of India and assistant to noted painter Raja Ravi Verma, sold his wife’s jewellery to make Raja Harishchandra, India’s first feature film. The film, based on the story of the righteous king who sacrifices everything to honour his promise, was screened at Mumbai’s Coronation cinema. A huge crowd gathered to watch this little miracle that had been shot with a moving camera.

Only two of its four reels are now available with the National Film Archives of India, and even the authenticity of those is in question. Pune-based private collector Subhash Chedda claims that “those are the prints of a 1917-remake”. But all is not lost. Some stills from the original film, photographs retrieved from negatives and those of Dadasaheb Phalke at work, which are part of 3,000 pieces of memorabilia, were carefully locked up in the old-fashioned cupboards in noted film historian and documentary filmmaker Bhagwan Das Garga’s sea-facing house in Goa. Along with them were other equally important historical photographs, slides of some short films, books on world cinema, magazines, handbills and a series of posters.

The Pandora’s box is now open. A project, initiated by the Delhi-based Indira Gandhi National Centre for Archives (IGNCA), aims to preserve and digitise this collection over the next few months and make it available for research and display. IGNCA has bought it from Donabelle Garga, the historian’s wife.

“Given the environment, there was a constant fear of damage. However, the meticulous man that Garga was, he had carefully stacked everything in cardboard boxes and done all he could do to take care of these, be it the material from Indian cinema or world cinema,” says Basharat Ahmed, Controller, IGNCA, pointing at a 1952 edition of a rare book on Charlie Chaplin. Ahmed assisted the committee that went to Goa to value the collection. A sum of Rs 2 crore has been paid to Garga’s wife for it.

Garga, who assisted V Shantaram on a series of projects, made over 50 documentaries and worked with various film units in Europe in the 1950s. He also served as the member of the Indian Film Advisory Board. His efforts to screen the second part of Russian film, Ivan the Terrible, are still considered admirable, as the film was banned by Stalin.

This meticulous collection was also sought by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and a host of other museums abroad. “This collection is 60 years of work put together. It was used as a reference point for his writing and filmmaking. I know it was wanted by many museums abroad but my husband wanted the collection to stay in the country,” says Donabelle, who has also donated 10 cartons full of photos and other memorabilia to the Satyajit Ray Archive. The latter was housed at Nandan in Kolkata, and has now been moved to the Centenary Building there.

The restoration work is at the cataloguing stage right now. Before display, some footage from the collection, will go through physical and chemical cleaning to get rid of the dust on the film.

“We will be responsible for the preservation of the collection once the restoration is done,” says Ahmed, who is also excited about the possible surprises that the cataloguing process could throw up. “There might be some unseen photos, books and magazines,” he says.
 

2 September 2011, Indian Express


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Winter party for birds

Our dream of visiting the Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur came true during our third day stay at Agra, the city of Taj Mahal. We boarded a taxi from Agra to Bharatpur at 4 am on a cold wintry morning and found ourselves at the Keoladeo Ghana National Park at the break of dawn.

The beauty of mother nature was casting a magical spell on us in the entire route. The entire area was draped in a thick cover of mist, and continual calls of peacocks echoed in the air. Birds chirped and flew around us in all directions. Our rickshaw-wallah doubled up as a guide.

This fantasy of feathers has exceptional scope for birding and is the country’s best water bird sanctuary for serious ornithologists, bird watchers, naturalists, wildlife photographers, landscape painters, and writers on nature and researchers. It is also an ideal getaway for honeymooners to get lost in the pristine beauty of natural wonders.

The park is home to pythons 10 feet in length, our guide told us. Blue bull, feral, cattle, spotted deer, jackals, hyenas, civets, cats and mongoose also inhabit the park in large numbers, not to mention the lizards and other snakes. Migratory birds from Central Asia and different parts of the world visit it in large numbers. These include ducks, larks, eagles, cranes, flycatchers, hawks, geese, pipits, pelicans and warblers. It is the second home of the rare and highly endangered Siberian cranes in winters. The local birds like the cormorants, herons, snakebirds etc., build their nests in August in the park. At least 400 species of birds can be seen in the winter season.

The park has wetland systems with varying types of microhabitats having trees, mounds, dykes and open water with or without submerged plants.

It has three major seasons: wet monsoons, cold winters and hot summers. During monsoon, water is released into the park through a canal. It brings life forms at various tropic levels, making the reserve reverberate with activity. During the post monsoon and early winter periods, the park resounds with the cacophony of the voracious chicks. The nesting of the herons, cormorants and storks progresses and simultaneously the number and variety of birds of prey increases. Thousands of migratory waterfowl arrive for wintering in September and it is filled with maximum bird population.

You can see diverse species of birds and animals at different times of the day. Water birds prefer broad daylight but if you wish to see night birds like owls, you have to stay after sunset.

As we continued our trek inside the park, little parakeets fluttered around us unmindful of our presence. Far ahead, a group of white ibis birds were sitting on their eggs. The lakes were full with a host of water birds. Large migratory birds like pelicans had also arrived in large numbers.

Keoladeo Ghana National Park is the only sanctuary of our country that was created artificially. Initially it was only a natural depression that was flooded. Maharaja Suraj Mal, the then ruler of the princely state of Bharatpur, had constructed the Ajan Bund (west of the park) in 17th century.

The inundation resulted in the production of large aquatic vegetation, which attracted a very large number of migratory birds. The marshes of Bharatpur soon developed into a duck shooting reserve and it was formally inaugurated in 1902 by the then Viceroy of India Lord Curzon.

On 12 November 1938, a shooting party headed by the then Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, shot many birds in the park. Keoladeo Ghana was notified as a bird sanctuary in 1956. Hunting rights remained with the Maharaja of Bharatpur, his guests, and a few state guests till 1965. Conservation efforts initiated by ornithologist Dr Salim Ali yielded fruit and the area was deemed a national park in March 1982. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1985. The Park is open throughout the year. August-October is the breeding season, so the birds are best left alone then. The best season for visiting this place is from October to February when the migratory birds come to visit this park from all over the globe.
 

2 September 2011, Asian Age


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IGNCA issues notice to hotel group

Under attack for renting out part of its sprawling premises for running a hotel, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), one of the top-most cultural institutions of the country, on Thursday sent a notice to the private hotel operator for violating the terms of their agreement.

IGNCA, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Culture, said it was surprised to see reports that the hotel group it had asked to run its “guest house” had been advertising room rates that were more than double of what was explicitly mentioned in their Memorandum of Understanding.

“We have come to know that the hotel group has been making claims on its website that are in violation of the MoU it has signed with us. We have therefore sent them a notice asking them to explain,” IGNCA joint secretary V B Pyarelal said. He did not specify what were the violations apart from the rents.

Pyarelal said provision for a guest house was included in the original building plan. The idea was to have a decent boarding facility for scholars and academics coming to the IGNCA for their research work. But since IGNCA did not have any expertise in running a guest house, it decided to give it to a private party.

“We had earlier approached the ITDC (India Tourism Development Corporation) and the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) but their offers were not good. We then had to invite a private party through a transparent bidding process. This is not meant to be like other commercial interests,” Pyarelal said, quoting the MoU.

The MoU, however, does not explicitly debar the hotel operator from renting its rooms to the general public. It does prevent it from letting the hotel host marriage or birthday parties, or any other function that is likely to create noise, or any activity that IGNCA objects to. IGNCA maintained that the hotel had not started its operations and no guests had stayed there till now.

Sources in the IGNCA said the hotel was part of the institution’s plans to raise its revenue. They claimed that the Trust that governs IGNCA had last year decided to take steps to increase its revenue on its own.

The Culture Ministry said it was not in the picture since the IGNCA was an autonomous body and managed its own affairs. “If there is any misgiving, we are confident that the IGNCA will quickly take remedial action,” Culture Secretary Jawhar Sircar said.

Sometime back, the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), a strategic thinktank funded entirely by the Defence Ministry, had also faced criticism for involving a private firm to run ‘IDSA-Residency Hotel’.

 

2 September 2011, Indian Express


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1.76-mn year-old stone tools are world’s oldest

A rare haul of picks, flakes and hand axes recovered from ancient sediments in Kenya are the oldest remains of advanced stone tools yet discovered. Archaeologists unearthed the implements while excavating mudstone banks on the shores of Lake Turkana in the remote north-west of the country. The largest of the tools are around 20 cm long and have been chipped into shape on two sides, a hallmark of more sophisticated stone tool making techniques probably developed by Homo erectus, a long-dead ancestor of modern humans.

The stone tools, made for crushing, cutting and scraping, gave early humans a means to butcher animal carcasses, strip them of meat and crack open their bones to expose the nutritious marrow. Researchers dated the sediments where the tools were found to 1.76 million years old. Until now, the earliest stone tools of this kind were estimated to be 1.4m years old and came from a haul in Konso, Ethiopia. Others found in India are dated more vaguely, between 1m and 1.5m years old.

Older, cruder stone tools have been found. The most ancient evidence of toolmaking by early humans and their relatives dates to 2.6 million years ago and includes simple pebble-choppers for hacking and crushing. But the latest collection of stone tools from Kenya belong to a second, more advanced generation of toolmaking. Known as Acheulian tools, they are larger, heavier and have sharp cutting edges that are chipped from opposite sides into the familiar teardrop shape.

Most Acheulian stone tools have been recovered from sites alongside fossilised bones of Homo erectus. Writing in the journal Nature, a team of researchers led by Kent’s colleague Christopher Lepre describe finding the stone tools in a region called Kokiselei in the Rift Valley. The site is close to where several spectacular human fossils have been found, including Turkana Boy, an early human teenager who lived 1.5 million years ago.

 

2 September 2011, Hindustan Times


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Reserve for hornbills near Dandeli

The protection of the Great Pied Hornbill and the Malabar Pied Hornbill has received a boost with the State government declaring an area of 52.50 sq km in Uttara Kannada, connecting Anshi Dandeli tiger reserve, as a conservation reserve for the birds.

Since the launch of the hornbill trail by the Tourism department three years ago, the wood depot located in Dandeli midtown attracts hundreds of tourists every day. This will now be a part of the conservation reserve to protect the rare birds characterised by their long, down-curved bill.

“We can sight these birds all along this stretch. They are the residents here and over a hundred roosts (a branch of a tree, where birds rest or sleep) have been recorded here,” says Manoj Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), Mysore, who began the process to declare it a conservation reserve during his posting at Dandeli.

The reserve is aimed at protection, propagation and development of flora for the breeding and survival of these birds. According to the Forest department, the hornbill reserve will be the first of its kind in the country.

Four species of hornbills — Common Grey Hornbill (Tockus birostris), Malabar Grey Hornbill (Tockus griseus), Malabar Pied Hornbill (Anthracocereros coronatus) and Great Pied Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) — are sighted in Dandeli. Among the four species in the State, the Great Pied Hornbill and the Malabar Pied Hornbill are protected under the Wildlife Act (Schedule One).  The Malabar Pied, endemic to the Western Ghats, has also been declared near-threatened by the Birdlife International — a body that lists the endangered and red-listed birds across the world. Declared as a reserve on May 31 this year under Section 36(A) of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, the boundary of the reserve spreads across the two taluks of Joida and Haliyal of the district.

The L-shaped reserve starts from the Supa dam and extends to Kali near Mavaling village and again extends up to Kali river, Dandeli town, Dandeli timber depot and Dandakaranya. Along the eastern boundaries, it starts from Dandeli-Kulgi Road, reaches Kulgi Circle and touches Dandeli- Anshi tiger reserve until Phansoli and the Supa dam.

The region, according to Manoj Kumar, is full of fruit-bearing trees and suitable for roosting and survival of the birds.  This is the second conservation reserve in the State after the Bankapur Peacock Sanctuary.

Apart from the four sighted in the State, nine species of hornbills are found in India. 
The White Throated Brown Hornbill, the Rufous Necked Hornbill, the Wreathed Hornbill and the Indian Pied Hornbills are found only in Northeast India and the Gangetic Plains.

 

2 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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Monumental problem for world heritage tag

Delhi’s master plan lists nine heritage zones; but heritage body Intach has only marked four in the tentative dossier to be submitted to Unesco for putting the city on the world heritage map. Only Shahjahanabad, Nizamuddin, colonial-era Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone and Mehrauli comprise the four areas nominated in the dossier, which, sources said, is now with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Intach officials said it was difficult to nominate the entire area as not every part of Delhi is historic. “The master plan lists nine heritage precincts, but we followed expert advice and nominated four areas only. It was essential to nominate areas already notified to avoid legal hassles,” said Intach convener Professor A G K Menon.

Jahanpanah, Chirag Dilli, Tughlaqabad and Sultan Ghari have been left out, while Mehrauli Archaeological Park has been incorporated in the Mehrauli zone nomination. “Areas like Civil Lines are also rich in heritage; but as this is not a notified heritage area, we couldn’t incorporate it. Areas like Jahanpanah and Tughlaqabad are also historical, but they are also symbols of lost heritage. We were advised not nominate too many areas, so we narrowed it to the more significant zones,” said an Intach official. The nominations were submitted to ASI in July, after incorporating a number of changes and suggestions made by ASI officials in the peer review held earlier. With Ahmedabad submitting a tentative list of heritage areas to Unesco for the same ‘world heritage city’ tag, Delhi is under pressure.

Earlier, the Delhi government appointed the tourism department as the coordinating agency for preparing the nomination dossier. The department then roped in Intach.

The first nomination dossier includes an overview of Delhi's historical monuments, the master plan, urban planning, etc. It took six months to prepare the draft. “In the review meeting with ASI, they asked for certain changes to be made in the dossier, like including original historical names of places, like Dinpanah for Purana Qila, King’s Way instead of Rajpath, Queen’s Way instead of Janpath and Jahanpanah instead of Vijay Mandal. We’ve made the changes and submitted the dossier to ASI,” said an Intach official. The final nomination has to be submitted to Unesco by January-end. Once the nomination is accepted, a team will be delegated to visit the city in June-July 2012, after which the final list will be released by Unesco.

 

5 September 2011, Times of India


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Shades of humanism

It is hard to imagine the Mumbai art scene without the frail, smiling Jehangir Sabavala. A painter of his reknown could well have stayed aloof, adding to the aura of fame, but his deep engagement with the art fraternity and in particular with younger artists, singled him out as perhaps the most remarkable humanist of his generation of artists.

Jehangir was always at the many art talks and discussions that have become so popular in Mumbai, till his health prohibited his attending. I met Jehangir at such a talk in the early 1990s when I moved back to Mumbai from London, fresh with a degree in modern art and an urge to explore India’s yet nascent contemporary art scene. It was a discussion at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) on contemporary forms of representation, and I remember expressing a view divergent from Jehangir’s. It was a cordial exchange and I introduced myself after the talk. A few days later, I received a handwritten note commenting on what I had said. Jehangir had thought about it and wanted to further the exchange. That’s how our friendship began. I was young and green and he was by then famous and much-acclaimed. I was profoundly touched by his gesture. It did not matter that we disagreed. What mattered was his willingness to be open, to understand the other, to accommodate a different point of view, something that is increasingly unusual in our day.

I will not dwell on Jehangir’s art and his career as much has already been said about it, except to say that the controlled precision of his line and the sometimes brooding, sometimes luminous, colours were an extension of the man himself. He stayed true to his inner vision even where many others were influenced by the changing times. I had presented him with a catalogue of avante garde Asian art at the Asia Pacific Triennale in Brisbane. In his letter thanking me, he wrote: “Whilst browsing through the catalogue — I came to a definite conclusion — that the ‘Frame’ is very far from dead, despite today’s ‘vogue’ and what the ‘elaque’ both here and abroad have to say. My own beliefs and strengths (such as they are) were reinforced — and I felt that I was on the right track, always struggling to try and paint a ‘fine painting’. To evolve in depth, and say what I have to say in my own way — irrespective.”

The letter goes on to talk about his commitment to the “Desi” scene which brings me to another legacy that Jehangir left us that, sadly, unlike his art, has faded almost into oblivion — the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Mumbai. Built as the Cowasji Jehangir Hall by his maternal grandfather, Jehangir, along with gallery owner Kekoo Gandhi, was instrumental in giving Mumbai the much-needed place to showcase modern and contemporary art. Jehangir was a member of the committee supervising the makeover of the building and would spend many hours ensuring the finishes were right and the work moved on. It took almost 20 years for the NGMA in Mumbai to come up and it is a sad comment that in the city, where modern art was born, this legacy languishes unheeded. Jehangir was deeply troubled by the decay of the institution. Perhaps it would be a fitting memorial if the Mumbai art community could rededicate the building to those who struggled so valiantly to give it birth.

In the foreword to a 1972 exhibition catalogue, poet Adil Jussawala notes, “With Sabavala, the end of the journey is clearly in sight even as it is begun. Each of his paintings is a carefully worked out approach to a predetermined goal... Another goal lies beyond some of the paintings and it is not at all easy to define it. In part at least, it would seem to be metaphysical, with the paintings as steps in a difficult, highly formalised pilgrimage towards a metaphysical ‘truth’.” Jehangir Sabavala was a rare artist but he was an even rarer human being. As the colloquial goes, they don’t make them like that anymore.

 

5 September 2011, Indian Express


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W Ghats heritage panel meet in B’lore on Sept 15

Karnataka’s outright rejection of the Western Ghats being included in the World Heritage list, which ''partly contributed'' to the Ghats not bagging the World Heritage status during the Unesco convention in Paris this year, has compelled the Western Ghats Natural Heritage Management Committee (WGNHMC) to hold its third meeting in Bangalore on September 15 at Aranya Bhavan.

The Committee will make efforts to help Karnataka “dispel” apprehensions about the World Heritage status. It will also work on updating India’s dossier for the serial nomination of the Western Ghats and chart out the follow-up actions listed by Unesco’s World Heritage Committee.

The Committee which was constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on August 31, 2010 has the Additional Director General of Forests (wildlife) Jagadish Kishwan as the chairman; with members being the Chief Wildlife Wardens of six states – Gujarat, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu; Advisor to MoEF and Member Secretary, Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel Dr G V Subrahmanyam; representatives of ATREE; Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore; and Director, Wildlife Institute of India, Dr V B Mathur.
According to Mathur, Karnataka’s fears are unwarranted.

“We want to ask the government what the problem is and to reiterate there is no legal regime by Unesco once the status is granted. The Forest Act, Forest Rights Act and Wildlife Act are already in place, and these are the only rules that will have to be adhered to. If need be, the Committee will hold discussions with the elected representatives,” he said.

MoEF also came under criticism for not holding proper consultations with the locals of the Ghats. The information to be now submitted by India pertains to governance and administrative mechanisms for the 39 serial sites in the Western Ghats once they are included; review of recommendations, if any, of the Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel chaired by Dr Madhav Gadgil pertaining to the 39 serial sites, among other things.

 

5 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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Hampi's Bazaar Street Row

Over 200 families in Hampi last month relived the saga of what the Vijayanagar capital went through several centuries ago, when the town was razed to the ground by the rulers of the Deccan Sultanate.

Structures that have been deemed as encroachments, which included homes of several who have been living here since the 1950s, were demolished. The Hampi bazaar suddenly looks empty and embodies the spirit of the ghost town.

Villagers and tourists were taken by surprise when the demolition drive began. Most villagers complained that they hardly received any notification and it was mostly verbal. While the authorities maintained that they were only following a Court order and they were cleaning up the areas around the Virupaksha temple from “the unholy practices and products” sold around in the area.

Locals have, of course, retorted that they were only selling soft drinks and tender coconut water besides knick-knacks and souvenirs. In the 15th century, the Hampi bazaar, housing the nobility was painted as a lively and dynamic market. With Hampi becoming one of the World Heritage Sites, an overall plan to revive the market was created with the intention of restoring it. But the entire clean-up drive has come in for criticism from writers, archaeologists, historians art historians, researchers from all over the world.

They called the method as unscientific as several structures around the Hampi market have been apparently damaged as well. Several others feel that a far more sustainable approach integrating the villagers should have been planned. ASI officials however added that a rehabilitation plan was in the progress.

The ASI however is excited with the discoveries that they claim have been found under the rubble. “What was a demolition is now an excavation,” says an ASI official. He adds that a kirti mukha from the Hoysala period has been found and one can now see the original floor of the Hampi bazaar underneath the rubble. “We have to wait and watch and see what else we can unearth,” he concludes.

 

6 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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Wisdom, etched on a palm leaf

Called the Government Oriental Library or Jubilee Hall because it was built to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1887, the Oriental Research Institute in Mysore will complete 125 years in 2012. It houses 33,000 palm-leaf manuscripts and 35,000 books, reports Preethi Nagaraj

Just as one gets close to the imposing building, built in classic European style, the smell of lemon tea sends a strong message to your olfactory nerves. You are almost on the verge of ‘beg, borrow, or steal’ this delicious-smelling-aptly-sweet citrus tea when you come face to face with a man in his late fifties, seeking to know the reason behind a stranger’s presence in the premises, his voice almost sure that you are here by mistake.

The citrus smell lingers on and you tell him you came looking for the Oriental Research Institute, the 125-year-old institution that houses some of India’s best kept manuscripts and is still continuing to do great work. Still looking puzzled, the man leads you into the place where manuscripts are neatly arranged and preserved. The smell gets progressively thicker.

Source of the aroma
Under the lights, a woman sits with a bowl of dark oil beside her, dips the brush and lightly applies the oil on the palm leaf that has something engraved on it. So, the citrus tea aroma is actually the bowl of dark oil, called citronella oil.

The letters are visible when she wipes it with cotton as the oil settles into the grooves, and darkens the letters. From experience, she can say whether it is Kannada, Sanskrit, or Devanagari or Nandinagari or even Tamil, Telugu or Malayalam. Further interpreting it is the job of a research scholar. The manuscript is then set aside, awaiting the arrival of its reader.

This century-and-a-quarter-old institution is home to some of the most priceless palm and paper manuscripts in the country, including Kautilya’s ‘Arthashastra’ (discovered and brought in 1909) and Jayantha Bhatta’s ‘Nyaya Manjari’ (on judiciary),  Though the precise number of manuscripts and books still remains a big question, currently the institute is said to house about 33,000 palm-leaf manuscripts and about 35,000 books.

All of these have been collected and collated by researchers and scholars who travelled the length and breadth of India to make this institute richer with passing time and adding to its trove of priceless treasure.

Renamed twice
Established by the Mysore Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar as Oriental Library in 1891, the institute was later renamed Victoria Jubilee Institute. In the 1940s, courtesy University of Mysore, it was renamed the Oriental Research Institute. Legend has it that most manuscripts were given to the institute by rulers of Mysore, the Wodeyars. Versions differ with the circumstances under which Vid S Shamashastry discovered, interpreted and edited ‘Arthashastra’ before publishing it later.

While one says ‘Arthashastra’ was part of the manuscripts brought in from the Amba Vilas Palace, given by the Wodeyars, another version says the original manuscript was discovered by Shastry in Tamil Nadu.

Sometimes called the Government Oriental Library and the Jubilee Hall owing to its history of being built to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1887, the building was opened in 1891. Standing distinct in the otherwise flat surfaced surroundings, ORI, which also housed the Department of Archaeology, saw well-known historian B L Rice working on its premises. It was during the tenure of Rice that 9,000 inscriptions in 12 volumes of ‘Epigraphia Carnatica’ were published.

The Institute continued to be under the wings of the Department of Education till 1916. With the setting up of the University of Mysore, the institute was handed over to the university for better administration. The monument served as the library for the university during its early years. In 1966, ORI shared works pertaining to research in Kannada. As the Kuvempu Institute of Kannada Studies was set up, Kannada manuscripts were transfered.

Even now, ORI has kept its doors open for both scholars and the general public (with a fee) to use the resources amidst a stringent framework. “We had to put our foot down since some of the rare books were borrowed by people who didn’t return it,” says the current Director Vidwan M Shivakumara Swamy.

125 years; 125 books
With grandiose plans of publishing 125 books to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the institute next year, Director Shivakumara Swamy is striving hard with a set of select scholars to achieve that goal.

Urging that the institute needs to sharpen its focus and be better equipped to preserve all the manuscripts for future generations, the Director also feels the need to get the younger generation interested in this trove of knowledge.

“At ORI, we collect, collate, edit, preserve and conserve the manuscripts and rare printed books. Research is also carried out on literary texts across south Indian languages,” he says. The institute also welcomes donations of rare manuscripts preserved by families or institutions.

The institute will then carry out the due process to save the priceless piece from being spoilt by the march of time. The institute has departed from its conventional method of preserving manuscripts and now captures them on microfilm, which then necessitates the use of a microfilm reader, for both viewing or studying. Digitisation of manuscripts is currently a work-in-progress at ORI.

 

6 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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With semi-precious stones and mirrors, Red Fort hopes to return to Mughal era

Visitors at the Red Fort will soon get to see the 17th Century World Heritage Site in its original Mughal setting, with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) implementing a comprehensive conservation plan. Inlay work on several of the Mughal structures that were lost over a period of time are now getting back the semi-precious stones that adorned the walls. The water channels and fountains too are in the process of being rejuvenated.

The historic fort is abuzz with massive conservation activity with traditional artisans working overtime at the site. Chemical conservation work at the site has thrown up interesting findings at Naubat Khana, where after removing layers of plaster, Mughal-era paintings are being revealed on the inner arches of the dome. Officials said that the paintings were concealed as over the centuries several changes were made by the British to the structure as part of repair work.

Mughal structures such as Sawan and Bhadon Pavilions had intricate inlay work but had lost the semi-precious stone fittings, now being refitted. The Rang Mahal, that consists of a large hall, originally painted on the interior, from which it derives its name, meaning the “palace of colour”, too is getting a massive facelift with inlay work near the fountain and the ceiling and walls being conserved.

The structure is divided into six compartments by engrailed arches set on piers and the walls and ceilings of the two apartments on its northern and southern ends were originally embedded with tiny pieces of mirror, which were lost over the years. As part of the conservation, the walls and ceilings are once again being redone with pieces of mirror to recreate the original look.

KK Muhammed, Superintending Archaeologist, Delhi Circle, ASI told Newsline: “The inlay work is being redone using semi-precious stones like topaz, agate, jade, jasper, malacite and onyx. The work at Rang Mahal around the fountain and Sawan Pavilion is complete while work at Bhadon Pavilion is still on and will take a little more time. The larger plan is to revive the Mughal setting of the monument and for that we are taking up work in a phase- wise manner.”

In an effort to revive the overall setting of the monument the gardens, fountains and water channels across the site are also being rejuvenated. Muhammed said that work on this is expected to take another six months while the conservation work on the heritage structures will take a little more time.

Over 30 unwanted structures that had come up in the British period and post-Independence have already been demolished. The ASI, in its Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan for the site, had identified around 100 such structures that had no historic relevance to the monument and recommended their demolition. The structures include garages, toilets and rooms.

According to plans, the War Memorial Museum and the Mumtaz Mahal Museum would be shifted to the colonial-era barracks to offload the pressure from Naubat Khana and Mumtaz Mahal respectively.

As part of an effort to conserve the monument, the ASI had commissioned the Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative, an agency working towards heritage conservation, to prepare CCMP.
 

7 September 2011, Indian Express


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Illegal mining poses threat to jumbos

Former Environments and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh had stated that the rapid growth of illegal mining activities in some Indian States has caused loss of corridors for elephants, resulting in isolation of their population.

Ramesh had also raised concern over the issue, blaming illegal and unplanned mining as the main cause of elephant habitat destruction. According to Secretary to Ramesh, R Vineel Krishna, Ramesh has identified coal mining and iron ore mining as the two “single biggest threats” to elephant corridors in central India.

Jharkhand Principal Chief Conservator of Forest AK Singh admitted that Ramesh earlier mentioned that mineral rich states like Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh are suffering from illegal mining in the elephant corridor areas.

Singh believes that the resources should be extracted without disturbing the elephant population and corridors. The future of elephants is constantly under threat in the State as almost half of their traditional corridors have been occupied by human beings.

According to Wildlife Warden AK Gupta, “Jharkhand is one of the mineral rich states but it also has a high number of elephant corridors in the country. The traditional corridors have been disturbed by mainly two reasons, first the Operation Green hunt and secondly the coal mining and iron ore mining.

Singh added that one of the major threats to the Indian elephant is a destruction of its habitat by humans. Elephants need extensive grazing grounds and most reserves cannot accommodate them. There is also a serious poaching problem, as elephant ivory from the tusks is extremely valuable. Environmentalists have long been raising concerns over decreasing numbers of the Asian elephants, but they have largely failed.

Gupta mentioned about a documentary film on elephants which had shown that trucks carrying iron ore in Jharkhand state were often stopped by a tusker for some food.

Indiscriminate mining in these states has destroyed hills, forests and bodies of water in the area, forcing wild beasts to go out and beg.

After the monsoon, herds of wild elephants move out to the nearby forests and migrate out to Odisha, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh. There are fourteen intra and inter-State migratory routes of the tuskers. The elephants return to the region during the months of February-March in search of food. In the quest of relocating themselves in the jungles of higher latitudes of the state i.e. in Hazaribagh district of the State are causing maximum man elephant conflict.

Singh said sufficient water is available for the elephants in the sanctuary. “We have also conducted deepening of the 50-60 seasonal water holes. Along with their water supply, adequate quantity of salt also has been spread at strategic locations inside the sanctuary,” he added.

 

8 September 2011, Pioneer


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Priceless tusks adding to ‘beauty’ of elite homes

The remains of national heritage animal are continuing to make way to adorn the living rooms of the elites. In two consecutive raids, intricately carved statues of ivory and long tusks valued in crores have been found and worse still, stools made of chopped legs of jumbos have also been recovered much to the shock of animal lovers.

And all this even after it has not only been bestowed with the National Heritage animal status but also enjoys protected status of Schedule 1 species. Two arrests have been made in this regard under Sections 9, 39, 44, 49b and 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

The raids were carried out by the People For Animals (PFA) with support from local police. Of the two houses raided in Delhi, one was that of former diplomat.

Former environment minister and animal activist Maneka Gandhi expressing shock said, "while ivory items were known, the stools from the legs of jumbos is truly shocking heading the raid team, of all the items raided, stool made of elephant feet was not common". About two-three feet of the leg had been chopped, the flesh, bones etc cleared and the hide alongwith the claws were used for the leg of the stool, said Saurabh Gupta, Wildlife Officer PFA, heading the raid team.

To add to the above at least four statues about three-four feet tall and at least six carved tusks have also been found. The raiding team also laid hands on zebra skin, remains of lion and endangered species of ducks.

Maneka regretted that the jumbos continue to be poached unabated despite all the protected status they enjoy. Not to mention of the rampant deaths caused due to electrocution or train accidents.

For the elites it is still considered a status symbol to put on display articles of such priceless ivory. This has given rise to a well organized ivory trade extending from India to other countries across the world, pointed out Maneka. "It is time that the future of the animal be seriously considered beyond just giving it a series of glorifies tags and status", she added.

 

9 September 2011, Pioneer


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SC orders eviction of encroachers in Tughlaqabad Fort

The Supreme Court has cleared the decks for removal of encroachment from Tughlaqabad Fort by vacating a 10-yearold Delhi high court order restraining the demolition of unauthorized structures. An SC bench vacated the interim stay ordered by the HC after hearing the counsel for Archaeological Survey of India.

 

11 September 2011,Times of India


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Could Delhi be a world heritage city?

Michael Turner, vice chairman of UNESCO world heritage committee, tells Ritika Arora that the National Capital has the potential, owing to its historical background, monuments and culture

He lives in Israel. But his heart rests in India. He is passionate about Indian architectural heritage and this makes him visit the country again and again. Michael Turner, vice chairman of UNESCO world heritage committee was in the Capital recently to conduct an interactive session with students learning architecture. On historic Delhi — exploring its deserving future, he said, “India and Israel, both ancient civilisations gained Independence at the same period. Vibrant democracies, both countries are looking at the future, striving towards mutually acceptable solutions to a vast array of challenges. The strengthening of this relationship will not only benefit the two societies but will also foster freedom and stability in the region.”

Turner, who also heads the UNESCO Chair in Urban Design and Conservation Studies at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, claims he has been to numerous historic sites and archaeological sites across India. “I have read a lot of about Indian history, architecture, its culture and traditions. Some of the places that really interest me are Old Fort, Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Taj Mahal, the old streets and market at Chandni Chowk and the Nizamuddin Dargah. I am greatly impressed with the history behind the sites. Apart from Delhi, I always visit cities like Mumbai and Ahmedabad,” he informed.

Could New Delhi be a world heritage city? Turner said, “Delhi has tremendous potential and the expertise. There are very interesting historical facts associated with the sites and the famous pillars, like iron pillar at the Qutub complex. Then, the Parliament constructed by the Britishers, the temples, market places and monuments speak of the history that makes the city. It’s where people of different castes, creeds and religions stay together in peace and harmony. The city invites and loves one and all.”

Turner, however, feels there are a few heritage sites in Delhi that are losing the charm. Some are crumbling with time. He added, “There is a need for maintaining and preserving heritage sites in Delhi. The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) is doing a fantastic job, but the public needs to show its concern towards heritage. People, especially youth, should understand its relevance and importance. They should have comprehensive knowledge on heritage, authenticity of texts, drawings and religious manuscripts. They should be able to identify related facets and aspects.”

 

11 September 2011, Pioneer


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Ancient woolly rhino points to Himalayas

Researchers in the Himalayas have uncovered a woolly rhinoceros fully a million years older than the ones that roamed Europe and Asia in the ice age.

The discovery, in an area known as the Zanda Basin in modern Tibet, is described in the current issue of the journal Science. It suggests that the woolly rhino, and other giant ice age mammals, may have originated in the Himalayas.
The rhino dates to the Pliocene period, 3.6 million years ago.

“Previously we had no idea where the ice age megafauna came from; now we know at least some of them probably came from Tibet,” said an author of the study, Xiaoming Wang of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. “They basically had a competitive advantage when the ice age came along — they were adapted to cold climate and high altitudes.”

Dr Wang and his colleagues unearthed a very complete skull of the rhino, along with a bit of the neck and a few limb bones.

The rhinoceros probably had long fur to keep it warm and a flattened horn to sweep snow out of its way.

In addition to the rhinoceros, Wang and his colleagues discovered fossils of an ancient snow leopard, a three-toed horse, a sheep, a badger and 23 other kinds of mammals.

The origins of the giant mammals of the ice age have not been well studied. Some scientists have suggested they came from the Arctic. But the new fossils tell another story.

“We can call Tibet a cradle of the ice age, or at least ice age megafauna,” Wang said. SINDYA N. BHANOO

 

11 September 2011, Indian Express


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Vivid, colourful stories on cloth

Bent over a small canvas spread over a wooden table, brush-like pen in his hand, Subramaniam is a picture of intense concentration.

The rays from the sun are streaming in from the window behind him and lighting up his work area as he skillfully makes fine lines on cloth. The outlines take shape and gradually unfold as goddess Lakshmi’s figure and a lotus on which she is seated.

He looks up finally and acknowledges our presence. “Now that I have finished this part of my work, I can talk,” he says with a smile. There are indeed several parts to his work, we soon find out. The world-famous Kalamkari work of Srikalahasti involves several painstaking stages of production and requires a high degree of skill and experience.

Kalam means pen in Telugu and kari translates to work, hence this name for the exquisite 3,000-year-old art of painting with pen on cloth. These paintings find expression in scrolls, wall hangings, bedspreads, tablecloths, kurtas, dupattas, kurtis and sarees, all in silk and cotton.

They are also used on bags, desktop objects, stationery items and hordes of décor objects. Besides, strips or large stretches of Kalamkari are picked up by established designers and boutique-owners across India.

Subramaniam explains the various stages of art to us, taking us around his modest home in Srikalahasti near the famous Srikalahasti Temple, which draws lakhs of pilgrims to this small town in southern Andhra Pradesh. There are no retail showrooms or formal schools for the art here. Kalamkari is taught, practised and sold from homes of about 350 artistes like Subramaniam.

Kalamkari, as practised in this town, is an elaborate, laborious and slow process involving several stages — resist-dyeing, sketching and hand painting. Much of this time is taken up by the treatment required on the fabric before and after the painting is completed. The staple colours are red, black, blue and shades of brown including ochre, yellow and mustard. Only thick-woven cloth is used as only this can withstand repeated washing, often in boiling water, that the making entails.

Pochampally and Mangalgiri, the famous weaves of Andhra Pradesh, and raw silk are the popular base materials. Nowadays, Mysore crepe silk, Kanchipuram, Peddapuram and Dharmavaram silks are also used, explains senior artist S Narasimhulu.

These products find their way to big showrooms and boutiques in metros. Individual customers also bring in their fabrics for customised creations. No chemicals are used, which makes this art all the more valuable but a little difficult to maintain. Kalamkari uses vegetable dyes sourced from tree bark, flower and root. Mango bark, myrobalan (karakkai), pomegranate seed or Indian madder root, jaggery and rusted scrap-iron are some of the raw materials. Kalamkari expert, teacher and one of the few Indian craftsmen to have won a Padma Shri (besides several other honours) Jonnalagadda Gurappa Chetty says: “It is no doubt a very painstaking process but the beautiful end result is our reward.”

Kalamkari has another school where art by the same name is made, but using a different process — block printing. It is used in Machilipatnam (aka Bandar) in western Andhra Pradesh. These products are comparatively cheaper.

Kalamkari products were originally created for temples as narrative murals. They narrated stories from epics — the wedding of Rama-Sita and Shiva-Parvati, and Krishna’s exploits were (and still are) popular themes. Being a port, Machilipatnam’s work was heavily influenced and this art acquired more general and nature-inspired motifs under Dutch and later, British rule. Another difference, which is blurring now, at Machilipatnam are the motifs used in the art such as trees, creepers, flowers and animals as well as birds like peacocks and parrots.

Srikalahasti products reveal a greater religious influence considering the town has the eponymous Shiva temple and is close to one of the world’s most-visited temples, Tirupati. To add to it, a plethora of smaller temples in the area. This also explains why many bedspreads and table-cloths were traditionally made in Machilipatnam since they sported ‘non-religious designs’, while the religious motifs of Srikalahasti were considered inappropriate for such purposes, so here, one found more of scrolls and wall hangings.

These non-Hindu elements were used in the art form in the early 20th century when Christian missionaries commissioned artists to do murals based on the life of Christ. Soon, even Persian themes like the famous Tree of Life besides exotic birds and fanciful fish motifs got included. Today, you will see even Egyptian princesses and Chinese-style lanterns and figures on the Kalamkari products of both schools.

Like many traditional Indian crafts, Kalamkari is a family occupation passed on from one generation to another. Therefore, often, you find entire families involved in the business. Despite the products’ high price tags in glitzy showrooms and the increasing interest among fashion designers, artisans here have a modest lifestyle as they lack basic education. They are even exploited by middlemen.

Also, till a few decades ago, Kalamkari was a dying art. This was due to the artisans’ lack of marketing skills and the apathy of the government. The very nature of the art itself — use of vegetable dyes and an intricate, complex process of dyeing which resists mechanisation — also made it difficult to sustain.

Fortunately, a few social workers like Anitha Reddy of Dwaraka are helping these artists improve their living conditions. They have realised that Kalamkari artists are immensely talented and all they require is marketing and financial know-how to help sell their products better.

 

11 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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Documenting Delhi

In a dimly lit room near Turkman Gate, 19-year-old Megha rehearses her lines, taking her audience through the bylanes of Shahjahanabad, narrating their history pieced together from folklore. Megha’s audience for the rehearsal is a group of 12 other volunteers, all residents of the Walled City, who have their parts neatly chalked out and take turns to chip in for what is called ‘qissa-goi’, a traditional storytelling form.

The group— TALENT (Team and Association in Learning Education and Natural Theatre)— brought together by local youth Irshaad Alam Khubi, has been working over a decade now, compiling the living history of Old Delhi. After years of anonymity, the vast corpus of information compiled by Irshaad and his team, now forms an integral part of documenting the intangible heritage of Old Delhi in the nomination dossier for the UNESCO’s World Heritage City status for the Capital.

The nomination dossier, which has been drafted by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), on behalf of Delhi Tourism, and is slated to be submitted to the UNESCO by the Archaeological Survey of India in a week’s time, is the first step towards applying for the World Heritage City status. While drawing out different heritage zones in the city and their universal significance, the dossier aims to bring out the tangible and intangible heritage of the Capital.

“An important part of documenting the heritage of these demarcated zones, one of which is Shahjahanabad, is cultural mapping of the zones. When we got to know of TALENT and the vast corpus of information that they had compiled over the years, right from the detailed maps they had drawn out for the area to the tales they narrate through qissa-goi, we decided to incorporate a major part of their documentation in the dossier,” said a INTACH official working on the project. “However the documentation done by Irshaad and his team is informal and needs to be structured. The maps, though are detailed and quite accurate, need to be put into the requisite computerised format. Similarly the other components of the cultural mapping done by them such as recording the trades, food, customs and languages spoken in the traditional households, all need to be structured and put into a format for the dossier.”

TALENT, with members ranging from Irshad's three-year-old nephew (the youngest member of the team) to Irshad (31) himself, has brought together invaluable pieces of history in terms of centuries old coins, folklore from nonagenarian great grandparents and sometimes jostled through the same narrow congested bylanes to be able to chalk out an exact route map.

Isha Bhargava, 23, who dropped out of school after Class X because of financial reasons and joined Irshad’s team hoping to gain hands on knowledge of computers, let open her house near Chandni Chowk that operates as TALENT’s heritage centre. The centre anchors heritage walks, workshops and rehearsals for qissa-goi and other documentation work.

The team has also documented the many dying traditional forms of work in the Old City. “In order to build awareness of these crafts, youths get a firsthand look at how some fields are still being practised. These are vocations such as katibs (calligraphers), gharisad (makers of custom-made watches), kalaysaaz (blacksmiths), atkaree (artisans whose fine embroidery embellishes clothing and footwear), jiltsaazi (bookbinders who put together pages by hand) and traditional sweet makers,” explains Irshad, who conceptualised TALENT over a decade ago.

Members of the team have all pieced together folklore from their grandparents and other elders in the community and compiled ‘Qissay Hamari Galiyo Ke’ (Stories From Our Streets). “The content was then dramatised into a performance of qissa-goi. The setting for this performance being Shahjahanabad and the stories explore the historical sites and characters that were central to the area’s past,” says Irshad.

The team’s initiative has now been extended to 50 Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) schools in the City Zone, where workshops are held by TALENT team members, to familiarise school children with the lost traditions of Old Delhi.

 

11 September 2011, Indian Express


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Steeped in history

Millions of devotees throng the famed shrine of Balaji in Tirupathi every year. But, how many do take time to visit the historic fort at Chandragiri that's hardly 11 km away?

Or, how many even know of it is a point to be pondered over. For, this nondescript town in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh has a hill fortress steeped in history.

According to a popular legend, Chandragiri, which translates as ‘Hill of the Moon’, was named so after the Moon God undertook a penance here to please Lord Shiva. But the historic account of the place is more recent and eventful.

The fort was built in 11th century, during the reign of Yadavarayas, who ruled for nearly three centuries. By 1367 AD, the kings of Vijayanagar empire shifted their capital here from Penukonda which was attacked by the Golconda sultanates. Chandragiri thrived under the rule of the Saluva lineage of Vijayanagar kings, especially Saluva Narasimha Raya, who by virtue of his able and wise administration earned the title of Mahamandaleshwara. This was the golden period when the empire reached its zenith.

The fort was reinforced and new structures were added to make it one of the most powerful bastions. The granite hill, rising to 183 meters with the upper fort, was well protected from attacks by building an enclosure for the lower fort in which the Raja Mahal and the Rani Mahal for the king and queen respectively were built.

To guard it further from intruders, a cyclopean wall and a deep moat were also constructed all around the fort. In 1646, the fort was annexed and held by the Golconda chiefs who lost it to Mysore rulers subsequently. Hyder Ali took control of the fort in 1783 and 10 years later it was ceded to the British.

Thereafter, the importance of the fortress waned and it went into oblivion. But the imposing and attractive edifices built by the kings of yore have stood the test of time as monuments of history. Being connoisseurs of art and architecture, the Vijayanagar rulers had also built as many as eight temples, some Shaivite and some Vaishnavite, within the precincts of the fort.

Today, the cynosure of the place are two structures, viz., the Raja Mahal and the Rani Mahal. Raja Mahal, as the name suggests, was the palace where the kings lived. Constructed with lime, mortar and brick with minimal usage of timber, the three-storeyed palace was raised in an Indo-Saracenic style with the façade lined with pointed arches. The pillars too were decorated with stucco images and leafy designs which are intact even today. The roof is crowned with three-stepped pyramidal towers.

Though its historical significance faded, the palace began to gain more importance when the Archaeological Survey of India converted it into a museum. The three floors house various artifacts from vases to weapons to coins and costumes. True to the name of the palace, the Durbar Hall houses the life-size image of the illustrious Vijayanagar king, Sri Krishnadevaraya, with his consorts, Chinnadevi and Tirumaladevi.

A few galleries are earmarked to exhibit stone sculptures and historic documents. In fact, documents regarding the granting of a site at Fort St George in Chennai to the British East India Company was signed here. The museum collection has been enriched with numerous artifacts like microliths, pottery shreds excavated from nearby sites and idols made from bronze and panchaloha, an alloy of gold, silver, copper, brass and lead.

Outside the museum is an array of herostones, sculptures and cannons. The two-storeyed Rani Mahal, though meant for the queens, appears more like a stable with its upper floor being the commander’s quarters. This is less extravagant in appearance. A small tank with boating facility and sprawling lawns have made this a picnic spot too. The sound and light show in the evening will surely take one back in time.

 

11 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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Zoo may reopen today

The Delhi Zoological Park, which had to shut its doors indefinitely for visitors on Saturday due to excessive waterlogging, is expected to open on Monday. Friday’s heavy downpour forced the zoo to close its doors for the first time in its history since it was set up in 1959.

The Zoo records the highest number of footfall during the weekends. Riaz A Khan, curator of the Delhi Zoological Park said, “Over 5,000 tourists visit the park during weekends during which the zoo was forced shut. This has resulted in loss amounting to lakhs. We might open it on Monday, if the weather conditions are normal. Right now, all the excess water has been flushed out from the zoo premises.”

Khan blamed the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and Delhi Jal board (DJB) for the mess created. He said, “Our pumps can handle the water that collects in the zoo. However, since last year, water from the nearby areas like Bapa Nagar and Sunder Nagar has been trickling into the low-lying areas of the zoo, which gets difficult for our pumps to handle. Compounding the problem is the overflowing of the DJB’s sewer channels running parallel to the zoo’s premises that connect to Okhla.”

He added that the zoo officials have been holding meetings with MCD every Monday since several months, but the problem is yet to be addressed. “The MCD is preparing a drainage system, which will still take a few months to be completed. We had provided the requisite space long time back to get relieved of the waterlogging issues,” he said.

Blame game was apparent when MCD officials were contacted for the issue. Deep Mathur, director, press and information, MCD said, “It is the zoo authorities who should be blamed for such a mess. We had cautioned them way in advance to install water pumps to handle such problems. We are working on a stormwater drain for the area, which will solve the drainage problems. But that will take four to five months and zoo officials will have to manage till then.”

 

12 September 2011, Pioneer


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2 new species of fish found in Arunachal

Itanagar: Scientists at the GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development have discovered two new species of fish in rivers of Arunachal Pradesh.

“The discovery of two new species of catfish — Erethistoides Senkhiensis and Glyptothorax Dikrongensis was made by the institute’s staffers Lakpa Tamang and Shivaji Chaudhry at Senkhi stream and Dikrong River in Papum Pare district, Institute’s northeast unit incharge, Dr Prasanna K Samal told reporters on Monday.

The new species which were named after their Arunachalee sources are ample proof the rich flora and fauna of Arunachal Pradesh, Samal said. Besides publishing about the discovery of Balitora brucei, Glyptothorax telchitta and Pseudolaguvia shawi, 88 species of freshwater fishes have been assessed and evaluated by the institute for the Red Data Book for International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Samal informed.

 

13 September 2011, Times of India


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Resolve Hampi issue in a week: HC

The High Court on Monday directed the State and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to take a week to ascertain the bona fides people entitled to rehabilitation at Hampi.

Making a submission, the State government said 314 people had been driven out for encroachment in and around the Virupaksha Temple, but around 70 of them were not eligible for rehabilitation, as the shops they had put up were illegal.

A tug of war between ASI and the State government surfaced as the ASI claimed no proposal had been submitted to them by the State on the money required for rehabilitation, while the State claimed it had given the report to the ASI some time back and had not received any reply.

A Division Bench headed by the acting Chief Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice A.S. Bopanna sought to know the difficulties faced by the Central government in granting Rs 9 crore for the rehabilitation.

Earlier, the Bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar had expressed unhappiness over the delay in releasing Rs 18.5 crore meant for rehabilitation of the displaced, when the State was spending huge amounts for the annual festival.

Around 236 mantapas on ‘ratha beedhi’ (car street) in front of the Virupaksha temple had been encroached upon and 80 per cent of the people had obtained khatas in their name.

Unesco, which had included a 41 sq-km area in Hampi and its surroundings in the World Heritage list, had recommended that encroachments and unauthorised buildings in the area be cleared. Failing which, the heritage status would be withdrawn, Unesco had said 12 years ago.

The HC had also ordered that the encroachments be cleared.

 

13 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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Arches at main entry points to Mysore

Five permanent welcome arches at all the main entry points to Mysore will be built to commemorate four centuries of Dasara festivities and the centenary year of Mysore Palace scheduled next year, S A Ramadas, Minister for Medical Education said.

Addressing the mediapersons here on Monday, Ramadas, who is also the district in-charge minister of Mysore, said the design and estimate of the arches would be finalised soon.

Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda will lay the foundation for the arches during the first day of festivities. The arches will be completed in time to celebrate 100 years of the Mysore Palace in 2012, he added. He said the government has completed the formalities of constituting sub-committees to organise programmes for the Nadda Habba. Gowda has convened a high-level meeting on September 15 in Mysore to review the preparations for Dasara festivities.

Dasara Authority
He reiterated that the government is keen to constitute a Dasara Authority to plan and organise the festivities in an orderly manner and give a greater thrust to tourism, culture and heritage of the region.

The role of the authority would not just be confined to preparing for Dasara but also similar events elsewhere in Mysore division. It is proposed to bring tourism, heritage, art and cultural components too under its ambit, he said.

A separate enclosure for foreign tourists will be set up near the Palace gates to watch the Dasara procession, he said.

The district administration had commenced the task of identifying heritage buildings in the city, he added.

Rural dasara will be inaugurated on September 28 much before the main event, he said.

 

13 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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40 fresh water fish species under threat, finds study

Pilikula Nisargadhama plans Rs nine-crore conservation project

As many as 40 fresh water fish species in Karnataka are under 'threat' and urgent conservation measures are needed to ensure their survival, says a study by Environment Management and Policy Research Institute (EMPRI).

However, the number of species under serious threat due to anthropogenic interferences could be higher, as numerous reports indicate decrease in numbers as well as diversity in various river systems. As a response to the problem, Pilikula Nisargadhama at Vamanjoor near Mangalore has come up with a Rs nine-crore conservation project to protect the fresh water fish species of the Western Ghats range.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Pilikula Nisargadhama Society Executive Director J R Lobo said the project would be implemented in two phases. The first phase, called ‘Conservation of Western Ghats species and display,’ will concentrate on creating an artificial eco-system for collecting fresh water species and these will also be displayed for the public.

An area of two acres has been allotted on the banks of the Pilikula Lake for the project. Aquariums, artificial ponds and flowing water would be combined to create the breeding atmosphere. The tender for the first phase will be floated within a fortnight and the project is likely to begin by January 2012, he said.

The Nisargadhama intends to complete the project by end of next year, informed Lobo. The first phase will cost Rs one crore and the funds have been allotted by the Centre, he added.

Phase II of the project will have aquariums for various species and will concentrate on breeding fish. The proposal will be sent for approval by this year end to the government, says Lobo. He adds this phase will continue for a span of three years and will cost Rs eight crore. As many as 201 fresh water species of fishes have been recorded from rivers, lakes and wetlands of Karnataka according to EMPRI (in 1999).

The fish will be collected by experts from different fresh water bodies using non-destructive shore seine nets to have minimal damage on the fish. Minimal numbers will be collected and any undesirable fish and non-required sizes will be released back into the habitat, Lobo said.

Benefits
Lobo says, the project will give an insight into the biodiversity of the habitat in protected areas, lead to probable discovery of new fish and plant species, give an insight on anthropogenic effect on the habitat and help in identifying the presence of invasive species. Based on the success of the project, an annual ranching programme of the fish could be undertaken to boost the species’ population in the wild, he says.

 

13 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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Of loyalty & betrayal

Kodava King Lingarajendra was assisted by his trusted soldier Thathanda Subbayya on several hunting expeditions to please British officers. A famous painting, depicting the king offering Subbayya a gold bracelet, a gun and a sachet of gold coins, is still in the ancestral home of the Thathanda family, discovers C P Belliappa

Lingarajendra was not meant to be king. However, a series of lucky breaks landed him on the throne of Kodagu in 1811.

It was a combination of luck and chicanery that propelled him from being the timid younger brother of Dodda Veerarajendra to finally usurping the kingdom of Kodagu by cleverly dislodging the eleven-year-old daughter of his brother who had been named successor to the throne.

After the demise of Dodda Veerarajendra, Lingarajendra started asserting himself, and within a short time took complete control over his domain.

He was wise in maintaining good relationships with the powerful British who had established a strong presence in neighbouring Mysore after overthrowing Tipu Sultan.

One of the attractions Lingarajendra offered the British officers was organising elaborate hunting expeditions in the dense forests of Kodagu, which had abundant wildlife. As a protectorate of the British, there was no external threat to his kingdom. He diligently presented two elephants every year to the East India Company as a tribute.

Lingarajendra had a very loyal and trusted lieutenant in a young Kodava soldier called Thathanda Subbayya. Lingarajendra, though short in stature, was physically very tough. Also, he was very agile and athletic. He was an excellent horseman, a sharp shooter and an able archer. Subbayya was one of the few who could match him in marksmanship. This brought the two closer and Subbayya was Lingarajendra’s constant companion on every hunting trip of the raja.

Thathanda Subbayya rose rapidly in the court of Lingarajendra and was promoted to the post of kariakara which was equivalent to the position of an Army Commander. In a well-documented hunting trip of Colonel Welsh and Lieutenant Williamson in March 1811, it was Thathanda Subbayya who was in charge of all the arrangements for the elaborate shikari. Colonel Welsh who later became a General was extremely pleased with the sizeable booty of trophies he collected after the hunt. He promised all support for Lingarajendra and also requested the raja for another hunting adventure during October the same year.

After the departure of the guests, an immensely pleased Lingarajendra presented Subbayya with a gold bracelet, a gun and a sachet full of gold coins. He then announced a gift which was awarded only to very special subjects. It was to be painted in a portrait along with Lingarajendra.

This painting depicting a reverential Subbayya in front of Lingarajendra is still in existence at the ancestral home, or the aynmane of the Thathanda family in Kukloor village near Virajpet. When I visited the aynmane, the present residents allowed me to take a photograph of the painting which is placed in a recess of the wall next to the traditional hanging lamp known as thook bolucha. This is a sacred place in Kodava homes meant for offering regular obeisance to ancestors.

Taming the tiger
All the attention that kariakara Subbayya was receiving generated great envy amongst other members in the court of the raja. They felt threatened, and feared Subbayya would soon be promoted above some of the senior officers.

Few of his rivals waited for an opportunity to damage the reputation of Subbayya in the eyes of Lingarajendra. A few months later, Lingarajendra received an appeal from nearby villagers about a tiger that was terrorising the area and they wanted the raja to help them eliminate the beast.

Lingarajendra asked Subbayya to make all the arrangements and also set up a machaan (platform on a tree) for him to stalk the tiger. A live bait was tied in the vicinity to attract the big cat.

Subbayya who was an expert in setting up machaans immediately got on to the job and made all the necessary arrangements for the hunt. His foes took advantage of this event to discredit Subbayya. They surreptitiously sent their men to sabotage the machaan on which Lingarajendra was to camp overnight. The ropes used to tie the machaan were cut half-way to make it weak and unsafe.

Subbayya’s sacrifice
Lingarajendra got on to the machaan and Subbayya sat on another machaan set up atop another tree. A little after midnight, the tiger made its appearance where Lingarajendra sat waiting. There was no escape for the tiger with Lingarajendra’s accurate gunshot.

But, with the recoil of the powerful gun, Lingarajendra’s machaan gave way as the weakened ropes snapped. It was entirely the agility of the raja that enabled him to hold on to a branch and get down using the rope ladder.

Lingarajendra was furious and wanted Subbayya to be brought to him immediately. Subbayya who heard the gun shot got down from his machaan and was walking towards where Lingarajendra camped. He met the soldiers on the way who were looking for him. The soldiers narrated what had happened.

Subbayya who knew the raja’s explosive temper was sure he would be killed on sight. He told the soldiers that he would follow them. He then sat under a tree and shot himself in the chest with the gun that Lingarajendra had presented him months earlier.

When Lingarajendra learnt about Subbayya having taken his own life, he was most upset. He had complete faith in Subbayya and had no intentions of harming his loyal kariakara. He vowed to investigate the incident and punish the culprits.

Subbayya was still a bachelor and was planning to get married soon. He was a rising star among Kodavas at the time. Lingarajendra bitterly grieved Subbayya’s untimely demise. He built a memorial (in Lingayat style) in honour of his trusted kariakara in Kukloor village. This monument is well-maintained by the Thathanda family even to this day.

Lingarajendra ruled Kodagu for nine years. The economy of Kodagu improved during his tenure and there was no threat of war. For the battle-weary citizens of Kodagu, this period of peace came as a great reprieve.

Lingarajendra, however, turned despotic during the later part of his reign. His son and the last raja of Kodagu, Chikka Veerarajendra succeeded him in 1820. In 1834, the British dethroned the unpopular Chikka Veerarajendra and Kodagu came under the direct rule of the East India Company. Chikka Veerarajendra was ingloriously exiled to Benares.

13 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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Narayan’s Mysore house now a heritage building

The house owned by renowned English writer late R K Narayan in Mysore has been declared a heritage building by Mysore Urban Development Authority (MUDA). The ceiling of the house in Yadavagiri, built by Narayan in the early 50s when he wanted to move away from his residence at Laxmipuram, purchased by a realtor, was partially demolished recently to make way for a multi-storeyed apartment.

However, in the wake of public outcry, MUDA had last week halted demolition of the residence where he penned his masterpieces, conjuring up the fictional town of Malgudi.

Narayan, regarded as one of the greatest Indian English novelists, had lived in this 100 x 120 foot structure from 1950 till he moved to Chennai in 1990s due to ill health.

The writer penned his masterpieces from the oval-shaped ‘bay-room’ with massive windows that gave a full view to the inspiring greenery outside.

A group of writers, who had visited the house during a seminar held on his birth centenary in October 2006, suggested it be converted into a museum.

 

14 September 2011, Indian Express


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Named after a Duke, the heart is in the right place

Designed by Robert Tor Russell, Connaught Place, the Capital’s grandest and most famous shopping complex, was completed in 1933. In fact, originally, the idea for a central plaza in the new Imperial capital came from WH Nicholls, the chief architect to the Government Of India. But Nicholls soon left India and finally, Connaught Place — inspired by the Royal Crescent in Bath, England — was designed by Russell.

The new Imperial capital was centred around Connaught Place (CP), which was named after the Duke of Connaught, an uncle of King George V, who visited India in 1921. Ever since, Connaught Place has been the heart of the city.

Surprisingly for one of the most expensive commercial spaces in the city today, CP did not have many takers when it was ready for occupation in 1933. In fact, most traders of the Walled City joked that the big shops of CP will end up serving as horse stables and car garages.

Property dealers and shops owners, most of whom wanted to rent out their shops, had a hard time convincing prospective tenants.

Initially, some well-known traders from the Walled City and neighbouring states such as Uttar Pradesh and Punjab opened shops in CP.

By the early 40s, the reputation of the shops here began to spread far and wide. In fact, CP had some iconic shops, which could easily give high-end shops in many European high streets a run for their money — in terms of quality of goods, display and salesmanship.

In fact, some of these shops were run by British nationals. A few such shops were the Empire Stores, Army and Navy store (both general stores), Ranken and Company, Phelps (both tailors and drapers) Hamilton and Company (jewellers), B Lila Ram and Sons (sari merchants), RS Bhola Ram and Sons (wine merchants).

In 1935, New Delhi Traders’ Association was set up, with Seth Ramchand Lila Ram as its first president. It was the first traders’ association akin to a chambers of commerce, with members drawn from various trades.

 

14 September 2011, Hindustan Times


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Monumental makeover

The Shaheed Minar, earlier known as the Monument and located on the Maidan, is set for a makeover. The government will spruce up the war memorial, one of the major landmarks of Kolkata and built in 1848 by Major-General David Ochterlony to commemorate the victory of the East India Company’s armed forces in Nepal (1814-1816). It was renamed Shaheed Minar in 1969 by the then United Front government in memory of martyrs of the freedom movement. The present government has decided to illuminate the tower during evenings and allow visitors to the top. The last persons who went up there were former governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi and his family.

15 September 2011, Indian Express


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ASI plans 'Rediscover India' exhibit for 150th anniversary celebrations

The year-long celebrations for ASI's 150th year anniversary will kick-off with an exhibition, Rediscovering India, which will highlight the achievements of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The ASI, which completes 150 years in December this year, plans to showcase its achievements including excavations, popular monuments and successful conservation projects carried out from 1961 till 2011. The organisation had held a similar exhibition in Delhi in 1961, when it completed 100 years.

The main inaugural function will be held in the last week of December in Delhi.

Before that, on December 1, a modest function will be organised for the foundation stone laying ceremony of ASI's headquarter building on Tilak Marg.

The custodian of India's built heritage takes care of 3,675 heritage monuments and archaeological sites across the country, including 174 in Delhi.

Sources said that a national level committee had been holding weekly meetings to plan the celebrations, which will feature three international seminars in Delhi and five regional level seminars across India. Besides this, various circle offices across the country will also hold exhibitions during the yearlong celebrations.

"The international seminar will be held on the themes of Archaeology of Buddhism in Asia, Agro-Pastoral Communities and Indo-Islamic Architecture," said Dr BR Mani, spokesperson, ASI.

16 September 2011, Hindustan Times


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India no to binding climate agreement

Rejecting demands that India’s voluntary actions on climate be brought under an international legal framework, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said the first necessary step towards negotiating a global climate agreement must be to extend the Kyoto Protocol for a period beyond 2012 when it is currently slated to expire.

At an informal ministerial meeting in Pretoria, South Africa, last week, Natarajan said negotiating the legal framework for an agreement whose contents were not yet finalised was akin to “putting the horse before the cart”.

Natarajan, attending her first international climate meeting, insisted that the targeted result from the annual climate conference, to be held in December, should be to extend the Kyoto Protocol, which puts legally-binding emission cut targets on about 40 rich and industrialised countries that are responsible for the bulk of emissions in the past 150 years.

“There can be no guarantee of effective stabilisation (of temperature rise) unless the developed country parties who have the largest share of historical stock of emissions agree to reach their peak. Stabilisation of climate is based on the actions taken to reduce the stock of emissions,” she said.

Many of these countries want nations like India and China, which have emerged as big emitters in recent years, to also take targeted emission cuts even though they are not mandated to do so under the Kyoto Protocol, or to place their voluntary actions — both have announced targets for reducing emissions — under an international legal framework. Both, and many others, have refused.

Natarajan clarified that Jairam Ramesh’s remark at the Cancun climate meet last year that “all countries must take on a binding commitment under an appropriate legal form” — this had led many to believe India was ready to place voluntary actions under a legal framework — must be seen in the “context of balanced and comprehensive outcomes” from negotiations on a global climate agreement. “The second commitment period (beyond 2012) under the Kyoto Protocol is a very important part of this balance,” she said. “The issue of legal form should therefore be addressed after we have reached a consensus on the outcomes (in negotiations).”

16 September 2011, Indian Express


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Cafes give art a chance, guests eye candy

NEW DELHI: From upscale art galleries where the work of renowned artists are critically evaluated over wine, cheese, and hors d'oeuvres , art has now seeped into the realm of day to day public life. And in some of the city's most frequented restaurants and cafes, young artists have found their place.

Tucked away in Hauz Khas Village is laidback and cosy Flipside Cafe . The music is rock and roll, specials are written daily in chalk on a blackboard, and the walls are painted in bright red, yellow and blue. On these walls are street and scenic photographs by two upcoming artists, one Indian and the other international.

"We promote the work of young artists, whether it is photography, painting, or installations. We change the exhibits every few weeks and so even we get a new look for our restaurant," said Raavi Choudhury, owner of Flipside Cafe , and an artist himself. In the same vicinity there is another bohemian lounge, T.L.R. Cafe and Kitchen, comfortably furnished with sofas, couches, bean bags, and recliners. To support the arts they display the works of different upcoming artists, and change exhibits every month or so to keep things interesting.

"The exhibitions receive a lot of interest from our customers, and we sell quite a few pictures. We like to support new artists, and don't charge them for space or ask for a commission " said Harsh Chaturvedi, event manager at TLR Cafe . But once the exhibition is over, they do get to keep two artworks of their choice.

Even Kunzum Travel Cafe in Hauz Khas allows amateur photographers to display their work.

The foyer in front of India Habitat Centre's flagship restaurant Delhi O Delhi has also been turned into an informal gallery to promote Indian photography and display it. A pivotal space, the lobby sees a lot of footfall, as it not only leads to the restroom and the bar 'Past Times' , but is also where customers wait before they are seated.

"It's nice to give people access to art in their everyday lives without them having to make a special effort . We don't interfere in the commercial aspect of the exhibition, and those interested in the pieces can contact the artist directly," said head of programmes at India Habitat Centre, Vidyun Singh.

Linda de Goederen, owner of Bagel's Cafe , also encourages artists to hang their paintings and photographs on the stark white walls at the different branches of the cafe . They don't need to be established, rich, or have influential contacts. Their work just needs to appeal to her taste.

"When I opened the first restaurant two years ago I decided I wanted to do something for young, upcoming Indian artists, and that's when I thought of giving them a platform to display their work. I display their work for eight weeks, and don't charge them anything. It's a concept that I believe is working out as I receive a lot of enquiries, and some exhibitions have almost sold out," said de Goederen.

And while most agree that the informal exhibitions may not be massive commercial hits or even showcase their work to influential art critics , they at least put them in the public spotlight. "There is a mass cultural movement in the city that aims at making art accessible to the common man and providing an outlet for young artists to express themselves. Cafes serve as a good platform for this, and although exhibits there don't give artists much sales revenue, they get recognition and exposure," said photographer Fahad Moti Khan.

Photographer Chandan Gomes, who has put up his work in a group show with students Arani Chaudhary and Vishwanath at TLR Cafe , is thrilled at the exposure the weekold exhibition has already given him and his friends. "Cafes are excellent venues for talented amateurs as galleries usually want more established names. A gallery also has its own rules and discipline, and work displayed needs be more cohesive, which takes much more time," he said. Still, he does maintain that people don't concentrate much on art in a cafe . If artists want critical and undivided attention displaying their work at galleries is a better bet.

It is this lack of attention that drives away some artists who feel that displaying at cafes takes away from the prestige of their work. "I would prefer a more exclusive place to display my work instead of at a cafe where people aren't really focused on art. As an upcoming artist, where I display my work is a very important aspect of building my profile," said a photographer on condition of anonymity.

18 September 2011, Times of India


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200 freshwater species face extinction in W Ghats

Close to 200 freshwater species in the Western Ghats, including fish, flies and snails, are facing extinction and the threat is maximum in the southern part of the Western Ghats, including Karnataka.

Close to 16 per cent of the 1,146 freshwater species are threatened with extinction, whereas a further two per cent can be categorised as near-threatened, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said on Friday in its latest assessment, which covers major river catchments such as Tapi, Krishna, and Cauvery systems.

The southern portion of Western Ghats including Kerala, Tamil Nadu and southern Karnataka has the highest freshwater species richness. But the area also has the highest number of threatened species.

The endangered Deccan Mahseer (Tor khudree) is one of the most sought-after food fish in the region. But due to over-harvesting, invasive species and pollution, it has declined massively in the past decade.

Another iconic fish species, Miss Kerala (Puntius denisonii), is also classified as endangered as it is targeted and collected indiscriminately for ornamental fish trade. Its habitat is also being threatened by water pollution from plantations and urban areas.

The report projects freshwater fish as the most threatened group in peninsular India with more than a third – 37 per cent to be exact – at risk of global extinction.

Aquatic plants and fish are the most utilised freshwater species. According to the assessment done by IUCN, along with two other international ecological outfits Species Survival Commission and Zoo Outreach Organisation, as many as 28 per cent of the aquatic plants are harvested for medicinal purposes, whereas 14 and 13 per cent are used as food by people and animals respectively.

Incidentally, the assessment comes days after an India ecological panel headed by Madhav Gadgil, ecologist of the Indian Institute of Science, submitted its report on the Western Ghats to the Union Ministry of Environment, which will have to take a call on the future of many developmental projects based on the Gadgil panel recommendations.

The IUCN report suggests more than half of all fish species are harvested for human consumption and there is a growing tendency of using captured fish for aquarium trade. Of late, 37 per cent of the fish species are caught for aquarium trade. Eighteen percent of mollusc species are used as food by humans.

The threats include pollution, fishing and aquarium collection, construction of dams, invasion by alien species, energy production and mining. The worst impact, however, is by the urban and domestic pollution.

“This biodiversity hotspot contains the greatest number of threatened species in peninsular India, pointing to an urgent need to give higher priority to environmental sustainability in economic development,” said Kevin Smith, an IUCN officer.

 

24 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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Phulkari blooms again

It’s only a stitch done with a silk thread that creates intricate floral patterns on cotton cloth.

Phulkari — phul (flower) kari (growing) — is a traditional embroidery art form from Punjab. It covers its base material so densely that you cannot see the cloth underneath and it transforms a simple, plain cloth into a baugh, which means garden in Punjabi. In Punjab, it is believed that even if you don’t want to wear jewellery, you can still adorn yourself with phulkari, which is equally ornamental. No wonder it is likened to growing flowers.

Created with an unspun silk thread called pat, the colours of phulkari revive the magic of emerald green rice fields that you can still find scattered around rural Punjab and smiling yellow mustard fields trembling in the winter breeze, wafting in from neighbouring Himachal. Besides all the paeans sung to its rustic beauty, the phulkari also acquires a divine sanctity as an art form because it forms the canopy over Guru Granth Sahib, the religious book of the Sikhs.

While the origin of phulkari has never been traced, it has been immortalised in poet Waris Shah’s epic poetry that recounts the romantic story of Heer-Ranjha, the doomed lovers of Punjab, who have also inspired Sobha Singh’s paintings and the sweet and sentimental folk songs of Asa Singh Mastana and Biwi Surinder Kaur.

While some say that the embroidery was brought to Punjab  by Gujar nomads from Central Asia, others insist that the alabaster-skinned, sharp-nosed Persians, who settled in Kashmir, are responsible for it. It is believed that the embroidery became famous in the 15th century, during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. But it was not for sale at that time. The art form was passed on from mothers to daughters in households just like any other skill or family heirloom. Women used to embroider these dupattas at home for themselves, and they were an integral part of the bridal trousseau.

Traditionally, each of the marriage ceremonies in Punjab is connected with wearing a particular type of stitch. A baugh or phulkari, therefore, is not only a beautiful art but a part of culture and tradition, which makes it really special. By the 19th century, the accomplishment of the bride and her mother as well as the affluence of the family were judged by the number and finesse of the phulkaris that she received as a part of her trousseau.

Phulkari is traditionally done on handspun khadi cloth with simple darning stitches using the unspun silk floss yarn called pat. Single strand threads are used for the purpose. Horizontal, vertical or diagonal stitches are used to impart shading and variation to the design. Technically, phulkari consists of long and short darning stitches. It is a unique method of embroidery that is worked entirely on the wrong side of the cloth and the pattern takes shape on the other side. The design is neither drawn nor traced.

A variety of phulkari styles are used for different occasions and purposes. Chope is the phulkari done on a red cloth with embroidered borders. It is presented to the bride by her grandmother before the wedding. Vari-da-baugh (garden of the trousseau) is a pattern of golden yellow flowers done on a red cloth to symbolise happiness and fertility, ghunghat baugh has a small border on all four sides while bawan (52 in Punjabi) baugh has as many geometrical patterns on it.

After long being ignored, phulkari is once again being promoted in Punjab. Hand-embroidered phulkari works from villages like Thuha are making it big on foreign shores. A few years ago, a cluster of 12 villages, under the Patiala Handicraft Workshop Co-operative Society Industry Limited, in collaboration with the Khadi Village Industry Commission, launched a project on phulkaris aimed at women’s empowerment. Today, they are exporting the phulkari to China, France, England and even a few Arab countries. Phulkari is blooming again in the land of mustard fields.

 

25 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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Delhi’s first step towards Heritage City: Dossier ready for UNESCO

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is ready with the final draft of the nomination dossier for putting Delhi on UNESCO’s World Heritage City list. The document is expected to be sent this week.

The national capital will now be in the run to become one of the first Indian cities to get the status of World Heritage. At present, UNESCO has 226 cities on its list of World Heritage Cities list, none from India.

Given Delhi’s historicity and international importance, it has often been compared to cities like Rome, Cairo and Damascus — all on UNESCO list.

A 91-page nomination dossier, drafted by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), on behalf of Delhi Tourism, was submitted to the ASI. The ASI will now forward it to UNESCO, Joint Director General of ASI B R R Mani told Newsline.

Though the nomination is for Delhi as a World Heritage City, four areas have been shortlisted — Shahjahanabad, Nizamuddin, Mehrauli and Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone — for the heritage tag.

A G K Menon, convenor of INTACH (Delhi chapter), said, “Initially we had worked out nine zones as nominated areas, but when their outstanding universal value had to be determined, only four qualified. The application marks out in detail how Delhi has been the centre of a syncretic culture, both in terms of tangible and intangible heritage.”

“Syncretism is explained through markers such as Indo-Islamic and Indo-Saracenic architecture, town planning, evolution of Urdu language and Sufism,” he said.

According to the final dossier, “Two significant aspects that caused the syncretism of cultures are: Successive waves of invaders who made Delhi their capital and brought with them new ideas and technologies to build their forts, palaces and religious edifices.... Secondly, the sustained interaction over a long period of time, between various cultural communities, mainly Rajputs, Gujars, Turks, Afghans, etc, and to some extent the British, which produced a syncretism of cultures.”

Underlining the importance of the four zones of Delhi, the dossier states: “Material manifestations of the legacy of many centuries live on in Delhi in several historic precincts. Four urban zones of Delhi that exemplify this legacy are being nominated as the World Heritage city of Delhi.”

Meanwhile, seminars and conferences have been planned in the city starting October 4, where various stakeholders and experts will be invited to develop the concept of Delhi’s “outstanding universal value”.

In March, the nomination for Ahmedabad was sent to the UNESCO for World Heritage City status.

 

26 September 2011, Indian Express


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Dossier compares Delhi to Rome, Cairo, Damascus

As Delhi makes a case for itself for encryption in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Cities, the dossier supports the nomination by making comparisons to the historic cities of Rome, Cairo and Damascus. They are all capital cities chosen due to their proximity to a river and followed a similar path of evolution. Officials say though there are no tangible benefits of the heritage tag, it will help put Delhi on the international cultural map.

“The WHC status does change the cognitive image of the city at the local, national and international level. Statistics show that currently Delhi is treated just as a transit place by tourists, who on an average spend only one night in the city and move on to Agra or Jaipur. To be able to make it a tourist destination, it has to be put on the international cultural map, which the heritage tag will do,” A G K Menon, convenor of INTACH (Delhi chapter) told Newsline. “All World Heritage cities have shown a marked increase in tourism after being encrypted on the UNESCO’s list.”

Menon says there are other intangible benefits like “inculcating pride and ownership in each resident and thereby creating a more inclusive city, providing a catalyst to spur decision makers to conserve Delhi’s heritage and providing a platform for visionary strategies for city planning”.

Delhi and historic center of Rome
The dossier points out how both the cities have legends associated with their inception taking them back to almost 1000 BC. “Rome was, according to legend, founded by Romulus and Remus in 753 BC while Delhi, was the legendary city of Indraprastha.... Islam was introduced in Delhi and it went on to become an important centre of Sufism. Similar parallels can be drawn with the Historic City of Rome which has been continually linked with the history of mankind. Rome was first the centre of the Roman Republic, then of the Roman Empire, and it then became the capital of the Christian world in the 4th century.”

The series of monuments in Rome exerted considerable influence on the development of architecture and monumental arts throughout the centuries in a large part of the Christian world. In a parallel fashion are the key structures in Delhi, like Humayun’s Tomb that was said to be the template used when constructing the Taj Mahal, which came up 60 years later.

Delhi and Egyptian city of Cairo
Delhi is comparable to the Egyptian city of Cairo, which is also the present day national capital and was chosen as the capital city by many ruling dynasties because of its proximity to a river. The Islamic Cairo illustrates the Fatimid concept of urban planning, which encourages the integration of monuments as well as their artistic quality. In Delhi, the oldest and almost intact urban morphology is the Mughal Walled City of Shahjahanabad, which illustrates Iranian concepts of urban planning integrated with Hindu guidelines of the Vastu Shastras.

The centre of Cairo still has numerous streets and older dwellings grouped together, thus maintaining the traditional urban fabric, forms of human settlement. A parallel can be drawn to Shahjahanabad.

Delhi and ancient city of Damascus
Damascus, too, is the national capital of Syria and was historically important, both at the religious and politico-commercial level.

Covered markets, caravan enclosures, palaces, minarets and cupolas testify to the Islamic origins of Damascus. Similarly, the Walled City of Shahjahanabad, with its many domed mosques, katras and havelis, still has a very Islamic character.

 

26 September 2011, Indian Express


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Destination Delhi?

Tunis, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Rome, Bruges, Cracow — just the names of these splendid old cities exert a certain sorcery. They are all UNESCO-stamped “world heritage cities”, acknowledged as part of the world’s cultural and historical legacy — a list that Delhi is now preparing its own case to belong in. It has picked four areas in the city — Shahjahanabad, Nizamuddin, Mehrauli and the Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone — for the dossier, and hopes to demonstrate the melding of Islamic and older Indian traditions in town-planning architecture, in Sufism, in the Urdu language. There’s no direct prize money, but there’s a lot of prestige in being picked.

After world heritage sites are catalogued by UNESCO, it’s accepted that conserving and safeguarding them is an international concern. There are already several world heritage sites scattered across Delhi, like the Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb. While the UNESCO imprimatur works by indicating these places are special and eligible for global stewardship and restoration money, and can spur local pride and tourist interest, actual tourism numbers depend on the city’s own commitment. Though the WTO figures reveal that nations that are home to world heritage sites are among the top 10 tourist destinations, India is the one exception — it figures in the top 10 countries in terms of world heritage sites, but is nowhere close in terms of tourist figures.

Right now, Delhi is still a stop on the way to Jaipur or Agra, not a destination in itself. It needs to make a pitch for the world’s imagination rather than patronage, and it needs to build businesses that support tourism. As the ASI makes a fat file to position Delhi for the UNESCO committee, the city also needs to tell people what makes it so special.

 

27 September 2011, Indian Express


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Heritage City

City of clock towers
Mysore has hundreds of historical structures, including its landmark clock towers. Situated near the Town hall, opposite Chamarajendra Circle near Balarama Gate of the Mysore Palace is a 75-ft-tall clock tower built in 1927 to commemorate 25 years rule of the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV.

This ‘Dodda Gadiyara’ (big clock) is said to have been built in the Indo-Saracen architectural style. The dial with Kannada  numerals is the notable feature of this heritage clock. One more heritage clock, known as ‘Chikka Gadiyara’ (small clock) is located atop the two storied Devaraja Market constructed in 1880 in memory of Devaraja Wodeyar. The lock tower was built in honour of Lord Dufferin, who was the Viceroy of India for four years from 1884-1888.

Regional railway museum
Mysore Railway Museum which celebrated its silver jubilee in 2004 was the first regional Railway Museum founded by the Indian Railways. This museum started in the year 1979 has two popular galleries named Chamundi Gallery and Sri Ranga Pavillion. Chamundi Gallery has a good collection of paintings, photographs and exhibits showcasing the development of the Indian Railways beginning from pre-Independence years.

The Sri Ranga Pavilion has many exhibits of heritage value like the royal train compartments in which the Mysore Maharaja used to travel. Another feature of the Museum’s Pavilion gallery is the Maharani’s salon carriage, the royal luxury coach with elegantly designed kitchen, bath room and also a dining car unit.

 

27 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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Heritage city tag: Dossier submitted

The Archealogical Survey of India has officially submitted the tentative nomination dossier for the ‘world heritage city’ tag to Unesco. With this, Delhi joins other Indian cities like Chandigarh and Ahmedabad to battle it out for getting the tag, which will mark Delhi’s historical status on par with cities like Athens and Rome.

Atop ASI official said the dossier, prepared by the heritage body India National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) and funded by Delhi Tourism, was submitted to Unesco on September 12. “This is a huge step for Delhi and now all attention is on the final nomination which will still take several months to be ready. Getting Delhi on the tentative listing for world heritage city inscription is not that difficult and the most challenging task is still in front of us,” said ASI joint director-general B R Mani.

The 91-page dossier was submitted by Intach to ASI in July after incorporating a number of changes suggested by the apex body. The suggestions included changing the names of places to their original names, like Queen’s Way instead of Janpath.

Officials said a number of preparations would have to be made even after the final nomination dossier was finally submitted to Unesco. While the first nomination dossier comprised of less than hundred pages, the final dossier is expected to be six thick volumes with details on tangible and intangible heritage of Delhi.

Four zones of Delhi — Mehrauli, Nizamuddin, Lutyens Bunglow zone and Shahjanabad — have been narrowed down from the nine heritage zones listed in the Master Plan to make for the nomination dossiers.

 

27 September 2011, Times of India


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Help delayed, neighbours led rescue

Dust was still rising from the collapsed building, 833, when neighbours and other volunteers started tearing away at the debris to find survivors. Neither blocks of brick and mortar nor heavy household effects like room coolers could deter the effort. Every able-bodied man in the locality had rushed out to help the moment the three-storey building in Old Delhi’s Chandni Mahal locality came down with a rumble.

While the majority of rescuers rushed to remove the debris and save lives, others succored the survivors with water, or lit up the rescue site with torches as the power supply was turned off to avoid electrocution in the jumble of wires and twisted metal.

Rehman, 25, a tailor living two houses away from the collapsed building, rushed to help with two of his friends. “There was a deafening sound. I rushed out to see what had happened. I saw dust flying everywhere and the building reduced to a heap. We rushed to help in whatever way we could,” said Rehman.

He said the rescue operations were held up for around 15 minutes due to fears about possible electrocution. “We could not move into the building as metal parts of it were charged and the overhead wires had caught fire. We waited for the power to be cut off before moving in,” said Rehman.

Locals said government rescue teams reached the spot after about an hour. “The area is too congested during the evening and is located in the interior. It was the neighbours and people nearby who provided the initial relief,” said Mohammed Salim, another resident of the area.

Till the time of going to press, five persons were reported killed and 31 injured. Sources said around 40 people resided in the building. However, many passersby and vendors sitting below it were also trapped in the debris.

Besides the immediate neighbours, people from even a kilometre away joined the rescue effort. Zubair, 20, came with six of his friends. “I saw the news on TV and got my friends together to come here,” he said. Zubair and his friends had formed a human chain to control the crowd that was pouring in from every end of the street. Hundreds of volunteers from groups like Civil Defence and Shah Satnam Ji Green Swell Force, too, joined the relief operation.

 

28 September 2011, Times of India


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Ill-equipped tourism dept fails to showcase Haveri heritage

On World Tourism Day on Tuesday, the district tourism department seemed to be lacking in its zeal to promote distinct tourist attractions.

Reason: Shortage of staff and poor infrastructure.

The department has not been able to exploit the district’s potential of tourism, 14 years after Haveri was carved out of Dharwad district.

It doesn’t have even a building of its own and functions from the deputy commissioner’s office premises. It has only an in-charge officer and a clerk.

Ill-equipped, the department has not been able to initiate development of the tourist spots across the district.

An almirah, a table and a chair are all that the department has as its paraphernalia.

Assistant director of the tourism department of the Karwar district has been appointed in-charge officer. He visits the department once in three or six months and leaves, unable to do anything.

Cultural heritage
Haveri has a rich natural and cultural heritage. The district that shares the features of both the lavish green Malnad and the plains of dry-land area, is unique for its diverse flora and fauna.

Each of the seven taluks — Hanagal, Shiggaon, Savanur, Haveri, Byadagi, Hirekerur and Ranebennur — has a share of the distinctive features of the district.

Haveri, the district headquarters, is famous for oil, cattle and cotton markets. Heggeri lake in the taluk hosts birds migrating from different countries during winter.

Byadagi is known for its chilli, and Bankapur of Shiggaon has a sanctuary for peacocks, a rare in the State. Rattihalli in Hirekerur taluk has the famous Kadambeshwara temple.

Popular as the thousand-pillar Jain ‘basadi’, Nagareshwara in Bankapur, the 12th-century Purasiddeshwara temple, Galaganatheshwara temple with its unique architecture, Tarakeshwara temple in Hangal, Mukteshwara temple in Chowdadanaiahpura, add to the district’s cultural and historical significance.

Ranebennur houses a blackbuck sanctuary with over 6,000 blackbucks, wolf, wild boar, fox, jackal, mongoose, hare and pangolin.

Kaginele is known for Kanakadasa, the saint-poet of the Bhakti tradition, Abalur for the philosopher-poet Sarvajna and Shariefgiri of Shishuvinala that became famous because of the mystic poet Shishunala Sharief.

Literary heritage
Starting from one of the early Kannada novelists and pioneers of Kannada nationalism, Galaganatha, to the 20th century poet Subbanna Ranganatha Ekkundi, the district has its share of literary heritage.

The government has spent crores of rupees on developing these heritage centres as tourist spots.

A Rock Garden which has been set up to showcase the vivid cultures and traditions of rural areas has recently become a major tourist attraction. Even a handbook on tourist places in the district has been published. But the absence of a full-fledged tourist department has made the facilities inaccessible for tourists. There is not even a signboard or a map to direct the tourists to these destinations.

 

28 September 2011, Deccan Herald


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Noida plan to choke Yamuna

Officials Say Embankment To Control Flood, Greens See Red

Another proposal to usurp a substantial part of the Yamuna floodplain has raised the hackles of environmentalists. An RTI query has revealed Noida Authority is planning to build an embankment on the left bank of the Yamuna, stretching from NH-24 to the Chilla Regulator. While the proposal to the Yamuna Standing Committee claimed it is a flood control measure, senior officials of the Authority accept that it is only a bid to reclaim land.

Interestingly, the Authority has not even decided what to do with the over 15-lakh sqm land that it will gain through this. “It will take about three years for the embankment to come up and only then will we decide how to use the land. Flood control measures are not required as the Noida link road serves that purpose. The project is under consideration,” said a senior official. He was unable to explain why the Authority is eyeing the land even though it has no use for it at present.

The proposal was mooted by the UP government in August 2008 and sent to the Yamuna Standing Committee in 2009. The committee cleared it conditionally, asking the government to ensure that all required environmental clearances were obtained before work started. The Authority has already marked the area on ground using poles and barbed wire.

“It was by sheer chance that we learnt about the project. We first managed to access the minutes of the YSC meetings through RTI and then applied once more to get details of the project. The LG has been apprised of the situation and we hope some action will be taken,” said Manoj Mishra of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan.

The project report states that the length of the embankment would be about 4km, stretching from 280m at NH-24 to 660m at the Chilla Regulator in width. The embankment will be 6m high with a 6m width on top and about 40m wide base.

“The project is worth Rs 92.1 crore. The area under consideration is the only relatively secure floodplain we have in Delhi and it is highly important for groundwater regeneration. In the 2010 floods, there was 3-4m water in the area. The right side of the river has already been concretized under Commonwealth Games Village and the Akshardham Temple. This will be the death of the river,” added Mishra.

 

28 September 2011, Times of India


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Many schools buildings in Walled City are over 50

The plaster is chipping away, and the walls have cracks. The building of this school is in a decrepit state.

As children run up and down the narrow stairs, the principal and teachers look concerned. In fact, students have been advised to walk slowly on these stairs.

The Fatehpuri Muslim Senior Secondary School at Ballimaran in Old Delhi is in a dilapidated state. And Tuesday’s building collapse has the parents and staff worried.

“This school building is almost 80 years old. There are cracks on the walls and pillars,” said a teacher of the government-aided school. “Yesterday’s incident is a grim reminder. God forbid, if anything untoward happens, many lives will be lost.”

The weight of the two newly constructed classrooms on the first floor has lead to new cracks on the pillars.

The school was established in 1929.

Most schools in the Walled City are situated in congested areas and the buildings are in a decrepit state. Not much has changed for these schools, even though the government launched a Roopantar Scheme, for the beautification and upgrade of school buildings.

In another corner of Old Delhi is the 60-year-old Shafiq Memorial Senior Secondary School at Bara Hindu Rao in Chandni Chowk.

“We have asked the government to improve the building. It is in a bad shape,” said a parent whose child is a student at the school.

Adding to the worry of the teachers and parents are the electric wires that hang low over these school buildings. According to MCD records, there are more than 40, 000 buildings in Old Delhi area that are more than 60 years old. This includes the school buildings as well.

Another government-aided school at Ajmeri Gate, Anglo Arabic Senior Secondary School, has similar problems. No construction work has taken place on the building since long.

Although fire safety equipment has been installed, no other safety measures are in place. The school principal Islam-ud-din could not be reached for comment.

The only school in Old Delhi area where some action was taken by the government is the Government Senior Secondary School that was running out of the Old Cheshma Building in Ballimaran. The PWD had declared the building unsafe and renovation work was started on the school. The school building was more than 60 years old, according to residents.

 

29 September 2011, Indian Express


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PM visits quake-hit Sikkim, grants 1,000cr in relief

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday announced a relief package of Rs 1,000 crore for quake-hit Sikkim. The PM made the announcement after making an aerial survey of the affected areas during his visit to the state. He asked the Sikkim government to spend the money on reconstruction of infrastructure, historical monuments and monasteries. Singh said the Centre would also release funds for completing central schemes. On his arrival in Gangtok, Singh went to Sir Tashi Namgiyal Memorial Hospital to meet quake victims and later attended a review meeting.

 

30 September 2011, Times of India


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