Saturday, August 22, 2009

BMM rocks!

I am just back from a guest lecture at Sophia for BMM students. All the charming girls from 1st, 2nd and 3rd year BMM were there attentively listening to what all I said on the relevance of PR and the PR-Media relationship.

I Discussed with them the evolution of PR as a professional input from errand or courier boys to strategic advisors and partners. Told them how we distributed sweets and arranged expensive gifts at Corporate bigwigs’ media meets. And, also told them how the new generation journos do not accept any gifts.

Also explained the flow of news traffic, traffic jams and challenges for PR in catching the reporters early on.

The girls asked me:

You were a reporter during the Emergency? What kind of changes do you see now, as compared to 1975?

Are PR professionals part of media planning and buying to influence publishers (God, what a question?!)

Challenges for PR professionals in meeting their organisations’ requirements?

Ethics in PR vis-à-vis journalism – How do you tackle the apparent clash of interest?

New age media – the credibility aspect?

Mind blowing – right?

I was absolutely stunned and at the same time was pleasantly surprised about the awareness levels of the future communication professionals.

They know about NDTV 24x7 as well and India News. They are not just flipping through Bombay Times. They do read the front page of TOI and the Ambani brothers war.

So, fellow professionals watch out the new communication brigade coming up. I understand that there are close to 100 colleges in Mumbai alone that teach mass communication!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Worry among New Era School parents over children’s safety

It is a strange feeling! While there is happiness among students and their parents that New Era School reopens on Monday ( August 3), there is also an element if fear lingering among them.

The question that is on top of the mind for many a parent is: How safe with the students attending classes in the 77-year-old building which has been declared “unsafe”.

While the government apparently relied on a BMC report that the building is safe, independent structural engineers have tested and reported that it is not only unsafe, but should be demolished.

For instance, Mahimtura Consultant cautioned that its lives of people inside the building would be in danger. “It is not advisable and practical to keep the school activity functional during the proposed reconstruction of the school building. Hence, we hereby recommend the existing building structure should be demolished and reconstructed.”

Another consultant Shashank Mehendale & Associates also recommended demolition of the building rather than endangering the lives of the students. They have even carried out ultra sonic pulse velocity test and said the quality of concrete is doubtful. They recommended to the school management not to take risk of using this structure particularly as School premises particularly many children would be affected in case of an emergency.

It is shocking that these reports were not taken into consideration and the government came out with an order to reopen the school in the old building apparently as a result of emotions generated during the Rasa Roko agitation by a section of the parents and even some political leaders using children as pawns in the game.

However, Many parents have also expressed their concern over safety in view of the reports from independent structural engineers that the building is not safe for occupancy.

Leading Mumbai Shaina NC opposed to the agitation by parents and subjecting students to torture on the roads. She also said safety of the children is very importance. She asked: Who will be responsible if something goes wrong tomorrow?

Meanwhile, one of the parents said all concerned should learn a lesson from the Delhi Metro project accident. The pillars of a bridge under construction collapsed even after the engineers certified it. He asked: “How can we endanger the lives of our beloved ones by allowing them to attend classes in the old building at Gowalia Tank?”

Some parents said they cannot really blame the school management because they have already said that the building is unsafe.

Friday, July 31, 2009

New Era Crisis

Mumbai, meri jaan!

The Rasta Roko agitation by some parents and students (led by politicians) on Tuesday makes me think again about Mumbai Meri Jaan!

The issues that led to the traffic chaos are no doubt important. Parents are undoubtedly concerned about the future of their children. For instance, SSC students were missing their classes with the uncertainty element hanging in the air. How will they be able to cope with their exams if their curriculum is not completed?

The State Education Director, on the orders f the Supreme Court, has heard the school management as well as the aggrieved parents and his decision was awaited.

But the unrest among parents began to rise and with an opportune politician jumping into action, the fire caught on. The agitation was painted to be a spontaneous one. But look at what happened during the “show of strength”.

The students were made to shout slogans (which I am sure they have never done in their lives, other than watching on TV news bulletins!). Ask any one of them if they knew the meaning of any slogans “xxxx hai hai”.

You do not need a psychologist to tell you that this kind of ambience created for students would definitely impact their minds and general behaviour. I will not be surprised if some of the students would shout slogans against their parents if they do not get money for going to McDolands or for a pizza party!

Now that the school will open on Monday, another question that arises is – who will be responsible for the safety of the students. The management has been saying that the building is not safe. Some experts have already recommended demolition of the old building.

New Era parents hold City to ransom

The Rasta Roko agitation by some parents and politicians on the New Era school issue has disturbed traffic and caused a lot of inconvenience to people who are not concerned with either the school.

Even those who are concerned with the school and who live in South Mumbai have also been subjected to a day-long torture on the roads.

While on the one hand, the traffic jams swelled into various areas clogging the roads all over, it has thrown life out of gear on the other.

The questions that arise now are: whether the agitators or their political leaders have any business to hold the city to ransom in this manner? Is it right to subject children to such a treatment on the roads?

What are we trying to teach our children, the citizens of tomorrow? Stop traffic on any issue. We were thankful that the days of strikes and bands were over and that the city could breathe easy. But with this kind of a culture being perpetrated, we are not sure as what would happen tomorrow when the students who grow up in such a culture of agitations?

New Era School issue may demand attention. But is the Rasta Roko the only way out? Couldn’t the parents or leaders of the agitation have adopted other means like negotiations?

We read from newspapers that the Supreme Court has directed the State education Director to look into the issue. We also read in the papers that the Director of Education has heard the concerned parties. His was awaited. Why, why on earth then the parents and leaders did not wait for the decision to come out?

Mumbai deserves answers to these questions.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Aaapla Manoos Kiritbhai, see you in Delhi!

Dr Kirit Somaiya, who has been championing the cause of the common man, will have a smooth sailing in the Lok Sabha poll from Mumbai North East.

From the lower middle class families to the small investor have all have only praise for Dr Somaiya, fondly called “Aapla Manoos”.

Meet any one a cross the constituency – and every one has only thing to say: “Kiritbhai should win and he will”. The popularity for Dr Somaiya can also gauged from the discussions in crowded local trains, bus stops and in shopping malls. “Kiritbhai ka toh jawaab naheen,” said Ramnik Lal Mehta, a senior citizen. “Yes, he will win,” said a young college student Tripti Kulkarni returning from her tutorials.

Dr Somaiya’s election meetings have all been a massive success. His own mass contact rallies, meetings at street corners and railway stations have all aroused such a huge response that the rivals seem to have begun to worry if they will be able to save their deposits, leave alone coming close to Dr Somaiya’s numbers.

With BJP ally Shiv Sena leadership and cadre mobilizing support for Dr Somaiya, his victory is a foregone conclusion, political analysts say.

“This is one clear cut case where massive crowds at election rallies will definitely convert into votes for Dr Somaiya,” said a veteran political journalist of a leading media group. “You do not need election experts to say this; it is all there in front of us. I know the pulse of the people here,” he said.

It is based on issues that concern the voter and they selfless manner in which Dr Somaiya has been relentlessly fighting that has caught the imagination of a cross section. Among the issues that Dr Somaiya has been focusing on are: the sugar scam that has resulted in its price rise, the continuous load shedding that has inconvenienced the people and the Mithi river project.

Although the project has been delayed due to non-receipt of sufficient funds from the Centre and the ongoing infighting among the various government agencies, Dr Somaiya asserts that “My aim is to get the Mithi River project completed by 2012”. The massive flooding in the Mithi River during the worst deluge in the history of Mumbai on 26 July 2005 had claimed 450 lives out of the total deaths of 550 across the metropolis.

A Man of Action, Kirit has been active in various segment of socio-political life, on the issues and problem of Mumbai, fighting for Small Investors, active in health awareness. He is the founder President of Investors’ Grievances Forum, an organization having ISO 9001-2000, which gave birth to Small Investors’ Protection movement.

His Yuvak Pratishthan, a 25 years old NGO, has been doing commendable work in Slum welfare, Health, TB and AIDS control programmes. The Yuvak Pratishthan also got ISO 9001-2000 in the year 2005.

Many in the constituency recall that as a Parliamentarian, Dr Somaiya who had represented the area in the13th Lok Sabha during 1999 – 2004 echoed Mumbai’s voice in Delhi. In fact, he holds a record for submitting the maximum number of petitions to Parliament i.e. 11 (out of 27 total petitions presented in 13th Lok Sabha) during his tenure in Lok Sabha.. He has also submitted more than 500 questions in Parliament during his tenure in the 13th Lok Sabha.

“Mumbai needs MPs like Dr Somaiya,” says Shiv Sena leader Udhav Thackeray. And he is not wrong!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Official infighting sabotaged Mithi project, says Kirit

The Mithi River Rejuvenation project will be completed in the next couple of years, a confident Dr Kirit Somaiya, who has been campaigning in the Mumbai North East Lok Sabha constituency to enter the Parliament for the second term as the BJP candidate, claims.

Although the project has been delayed due to non-receipt of sufficient funds from the Centre and infighting among various agencies, Dr Somaiya asserts that “My aim is to get the Mithi River project completed by 2012”.

The massive flooding in the Mithi River during the worst deluge in the history of Mumbai on 26 July 2005 had claimed 450 lives out of the total deaths of 550 across the metropolis.

The 2005 flooding of Mithi river following unprecedented rainfall of 944 mm over Mumbai in 24 hours between 26-27 July, accompanied by high tides, causing havoc in the metropolis.

Dr Somaiya initiated efforts to launch the “Mithi River Rejuvenation” project to avoid repetition of the disaster during the future monsoons. In fact, he has been engaged in a campaign on a war-footing to make Mithi pollution free.

The project is one of the ten-point mission and commitments of Dr Somaiya as he sweats out in the Assembly segments under the Mumbai North East Lok Sabha constituency for the second term in the Parliament.

He said the on going infighting between the State Government, the Centre, Mithi Authority, MMRDA, SRA has resulted in literally “zero progress” on Mithi since June 2006.

The MMRDA, in a recent communication to Dr Somaiya, has stated that only Rs 41 crores had been spent since 26 July 2005 out of Rs 570 crore on the Mithi River Project proposal under the MMRDA jurisdiction. Of this Rs 41 crores, Rs 38 crores was spent till June 2006.

The total cost of Mithi Project, as per the Government’s submission to Bombay High Court, is Rs 1,200 crores. According to MMRDA, 35% of this amount was to be contributed by the Union government and 15% from the Government of Maharashtra. But nothing has come till now. Actually, the Government of India has turned down the Project.

Dr Somaiya has strongly condemned the apathy of the Maharashtra government and the Government of India. “It is a sheer insult of Mumbaikars and nothing else”. The differences and infighting between various Government agencies are the major reasons for the meager work on Mithi in the past 30 months.

He said that the BJP has demanded an explanation from the Congress Governments for cheating the people of Mumbai on Mithi rejuvenation work.

Mithi river, a confluence of tail water discharges of Powai and Vihar lakes,
originates at Powai and meets Arabian sea at Mahim Creek flowing through residential and industrial complexes of Powai, Saki Naka, Kurla and Mahim over a distance of about 15 km. This river, for years, is being treated like an open drain by the people residing on its banks and discharge untreated sewage, industrial waste and garbage unchecked.

Besides this, illegal activities of washing of oily drums, discharge of unauthorized hazardous waste are also carried out along the course of this river. The organic waste, sludge and garbage dumping has reduced carrying capacity of the Mithi river. The water with mixture of sewage and Industrial waste is a threat to marine life and the river is showing sign of total loss of such support system. Preliminary survey indicates that the pollution levels have reached an alarming stage.

Mahim bay area, where Mithi river meets Arabian sea, is a nominated bird sanctuary called “Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary” where migratory birds come for nesting. This part is full of mangroves and this fragile ecosystem requires considerations from pollution point of view, so that it is not destroyed.

Now, with Dr Somaiya working seriously on the Mithi Project, there is a hope for the City.

Monday, April 20, 2009

India worried over grim security in Pak

Defence Minister AK Antony has said the grim security scenario in Pakistan is not only a source of worry for the region but also for the international community.

Addressing the top brass of the Indian Army at the Commanders’ Conference at New Delhi today, Antony said the terror attacks in Mumbai have gravely undermined peace and security in the region. He said, despite being provided with irrefutable evidence, the Pakistani Government has not displayed the sincerity and decisiveness in dealing with the perpetrators of such attacks.

“Terrorism and religious fundamentalism continue to pose a threat to global and regional security. The terror attacks on Mumbai have gravely undermined peace and security in the region. Despite being provided with irrefutable evidence, the Pakistan Government has not displayed the sincerity and decisiveness in dealing with the perpetrators of such attacks. In fact, it continues to pursue the policy of State-sponsored terrorism and either refuses to, or is incapable of, dismantling the terror infrastructure. The grim security scenario in Pakistan ought to be a source of worry for the region and the international community. Time will tell whether Pakistan has the requisite will to transform its outlook vis-à-vis India. On our part, we have to maintain eternal vigilance to pre-empt such threats and respond to these challenges. We are firmly committed to safeguard the lives our citizens at any cost and have taken several measures to beef up the security, particularly in coastal areas”, he said.

The Defence Minister said the recent developments in SWAT and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan are ominous signs not only for the region but the entire world. The security of our personnel deployed for various projects in Afghanistan is our primary concern. He said our strategic location has paradoxically led to India facing potential threats from our immediate and extended neighbourhood. The threat clearly appears to be aimed at subverting the only vibrant democracy in the region.

As far as Sino-Indian relations are concerned, Antony said the scope for cooperation and competition exists in equal measure. He said “though we desire peaceful relations between the two nations, we must constantly upgrade our military and economic capabilities; we cannot afford to be complacent”.

Referring to the situation in Sri Lanka, he said, the ethnic conflict there has a potential spillover effect in our country. “India and indeed the entire south Asian region stand to gain from a political solution and restoration of peace in the island nation”.

Antony said the successful conduct of free and fair elections in Jammu & Kashmir is a tribute to the success of democratic process in our country. “It reflects the strong desire of the people of J&K to move towards economic development and progress. The peaceful atmosphere in the state must be maintained and our security forces must ensure that the gains are not frittered away. The ‘moral ascendancy’ over terrorists must be maintained to further improve the situation. Upholding human rights remains the cornerstone of our anti-terrorist operations”.

Antony called for greater synergy and reduction in procedural delays among various headquarters and departments to achieve the objective of modernization of the Armed Forces. He also called for Jointness in operation, training and administration to keep pace with technological changes, geostrategic imperatives and for tackling changing nature of conflict. “The jointness of approach must address areas such as common defence communication network, missile programme, exploration of space and integrated logistics”, he said. Shri Antony asked the top brass to develop appropriate doctrines and vocabulary to institutionalize the process while retaining the pluralistic, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual fabric of the society.

The Defence Minister paid glowing tributes to the Jawans and Officers, who laid down their lives in the service of the nation.

The four day conference will focus on macro level issues pertaining to military strategy, operational logistics and matters impacting the welfare and enhancement of satisfaction level amongst all ranks.

During the session the conference will address in specific and strategic restructuring and reorganizing of Indian Army, review on the existing scales of accommodation and futuristic recommendations, review functioning of military farms and also improvements to the existing Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Naka Bandi nuisance

Of late Mumbai has become a City of Naka Bandis!

Each time a motorist crosses, rather tries to wend his way through the turns and twists, he wonders as to what the hell the cops are going achieve by this avoidable harassment of law abiding citizens.

I for one would like to ask:

- How man y timed could the police catch any criminal, or for that matter, any questionable character through Naka Bandis?
- What is the record of seizures, if any, at Naka Bandis?
Cops stop mostly taxies, by the side. What do they find objectionable le with the cabbies?

I drive along the BPT private road, paying Rs 30 as toll tax for each trip. But I do not get any relief.

First, the Naka Bandis at Shiwree, BPT gate and then the slowing down of traffic due to endless construction.

To add to this are the stupid speed breakers. They are unscientific and they harm vehicles and passenger. I nearly broke my back while cross one such speed breaker.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Vulture is a patient bird! But its fast disappearing

by Kalpana Palkhiwala*

The Parsee community in Mumbai has been deeply worried about the last rites of their departed near and dear ones since the late 1990s. The Parsees, a small community in India follow the Zoroastrian faith. In keeping with tradition, they cannot cremate, bury or submerge their dead in water because a corpse is considered impure and Zoroastrianism does not permit defiling the elements with it. The Parsees practice sky burials wherein the bodies of the dead are placed on platforms atop Towers of Silence where vultures, kites and crows dispose of them in no time, leaving only dry bones. Once, when the community went to place another one of their dead, to their horror they found the previous corpse in a decomposed state. The community and the city of Mumbai noticed the first signs of disappearing vultures!

Vultures are not disappearing only in India. In many parts of Africa, communities depend on vultures to dispose livestock carcasses because no carrion removal system exists. People in African communities also noticed carcasses strewn everywhere outside their villages for days on end. Similar situation was observed in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos too. Dead vultures were found in Nepal and Pakistan, and this heightened concern. The absence of vultures reproduces ecological imbalance, pollution and health dangers. Gypsophils (vulture enthusiasts) are crying themselves hoarse that the stately bird is vanishing. Increasing urbanization, rampant use of pesticides in agricultural fields, mounting pollution and wide-scale killing of vultures are all contributing factors to vulture endangerment.

Vultures in Mythology In southern Africa, the name of a Nubian vulture is synonymous with the term applied to lovers because these vultures are always seen in pairs, mother and child remaining closely bonded together. Pairing, bonding, protecting, and loving are essential attributes associated along with the vulture’s size and its ability to soar high in the sky. The Egyptians considered the vulture to be an excellent mother, and the wide wingspan was seen as all-encompassing and providing a protective cover to her infants. In the Hindu epic Ramayana, there appear two demi-gods who had the form of vultures, Jatayu and his brother Sampaati, with whom are associated stories of courage and self-sacrifice.When young, the two used to compete over who could fly higher. During one such instance Jatayu flew so high that he was about to get seared by the sun’s flames. Sampaati saved his brother by spreading his own wings and shielding Jatayu from the hot flames. It was Jatayu who informed Rama in which direction Sita was being taken by the rapacious Ravana.

Physical Characteristics A particular characteristic of many vultures is a bald head devoid of feathers. Research has shown that the bare skin may play an important role in thermoregulation. Vultures seldom attack healthy animals but may kill the wounded or sick. A group of vultures is occasionally called a venue, and when circling in the air a group of vultures is called a kettle.Vast numbers have been seen upon battlefields. They gorge themselves when prey is abundant till their stomach bulges, and sit, sleepy or half torpid, to digest their food. They do not carry food to their young in their claws, but disgorge it from the crop. These birds are of great value as scavengers, especially in hot regions. Vultures have a vital role to play in the environment. They are the hardiest of all creations and have been called nature’s own disposal squads. Carcasses are a vulture’s typical diet and its scavenging habits are an important link in checking and containing the spread of infectious diseases among animals and human beings. Whenever there are occurances of cattle epidemics during natural calamities like floods and droughts, vultures cleanse the earth of putrid carcasses and prevent deadly germs from spreading. Botulinum toxin, the toxin that causes botulism, an acute gastrointestinal and nervous disorder due to consumption of poisonous and rotten food does not affect vultures, and they can eat rotten flesh containing anthrax and cholera bacteria. Dr Salim Ali in his Book of Indian Birds described vultures as God’s own incinerators which cannot be replaced by even the most sophisticated ones which humans may invent. A flock of vultures has the ability to dispose of an ox in just 30 minutes. With the rapid decline in the vulture population, we are loosing a critical link in the food chain.

Reasons for Disappearance There are multiple explanations for the declining population of vultures. Experts believe that they are dying due to rapid habitation. Refuting this, an expert from World Wildlife Fund says,” They do not belong to cities. It is the faulty disposal system of municipal waste which led vultures coming to cities.” In Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, elaborate traps are laid out by number of tribes to kill vultures because vultures swoop and lift their livestock. Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) cites the rampant use of pesticides in farming and DDT, aldrin and dieldrin as a major factor leading to vulture deaths. The accumulation of these chemicals in the food chain adversely affects vultures’ reproductive system and causes almost 20% thinning of egg-shells which results in high mortality. According to experts, vultures are hostile to vultures of other species. This is evident at vulture gatherings near slaughtering houses. This means there is no cross-mating. Inbreeding reduces fertility and survival chances of newly hatched babies.

Just two decades ago, there were 85 million vultures in the country. They are now estimated to number just a paltry 3000 to 4000. India, Nepal and Pakistan have lost 95 % of their population of vultures in the past 10-15 years. Dr Asad Rahmani, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), also noticed a vulture decline at the famous Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. Vultures were also reported to be dying in the Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan. A much smaller threat is aircrafts which hit the birds at high altitudes.

Flying towards Extinction BNHS (Bharat Natural History Society), the Royal Society for the protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK, the Zoological Society of London and Peregrine Fund in the U.S.worked together to find out what was responsible for this sudden decline. In Pakistan, the Peregrine Fund traced the cause to an anti-inflammatory drug called diclofenac. If cattle, buffaloes, sheeps or goats injected with diclofenac which is a commonly used pain-relieving drug die of natural causes and are consumed by vultures, it causes the birds to suffer from dehydration when uric acid forms.This leads to gout in viscera and eventual kidney failure and death. It does not lead to accumulation of chemicals in the body like DDT, even a one-time ingestion can prove fatal to the vultures. Scientists show that even if 1% of carcasses contain diclofenac, it can lead to such a precipitate decline in this raptor population.BNHS’s examination of 1800 samples from around the country showed the actual prevalence of diclofenac in carcasses is ten times higher. India has nine species of vultures in the wild. These are the Oriental White-backed Vulture (Gyps bengalensis), Slender billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris), Long billed Vulture (Gyps indicus), Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Red Headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), Indian Griffon Vulture (Gyps Fulvus), Himalayan Griffon (Gyps himalayensis), Cinereous Vulture (Argypius monachus) and Bearded Vulture or Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus).

Of the nine species of vultures, the population of three species i.e. White-backed Vulture, Slender billed Vulture and Long billed Vulture in the wild has declined drastically over the past decade. The decline of Gyps genus in India has been put at 97% by 2005.

Different species of Indian vultures in Salim Ali’s The Book of Indian Birds:

White-backed Vulture [Gyps bengalensis]. The most common of all vultures found in cities near dumps and slaughter houses. This is one of the endangered species.

Indian King Vulture [Gyps calvus]: Black vulture with scarlet neck. It’s population is dwindling sharply in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Cinereous Vulture [Aegypius monachus]: Big blackish brown vulture with pinkish neck. A tree nesting variety. Spotted in Assam, Himalayas, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala. Gradually becoming rare. Indian Long-billed Griffon [Gyps indicus]: A common Himalayan vulture covered with brownish hair life feathers. It’s sightings have reduced considerably in Gwalior, Pachmarhi, Delhi, Agra, Bareilly, Jodhpur and several areas in North-East India.

Indian Griffon [Gyps fulvus]: Massive brown vulture with head covered with whitish-yellow hair. A common sight in cities but now gradually disappearing.

White-backed Vulture [Gyps bengalensis]: The most common of all vultures found in cities near dumps and slaughter houses. This is one of the endangered species

The Government announced an Action Plan for Vulture Conservation in India in April 2006. Phasing out the veterinary use of the Diclofenac and setting up Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centres are its major initiatives. Diclofenac has been banned in India. It is cheap and is used by thousands of poor herders. There are some 25 companies that formulated this drug and 110 companies that marketed Rs 25 crore worth annually. The companies claimed that the drug did not form a major part of their operations and could cooperate, provided the government subsidized their switch-over to a substitute called meloxicam, which is used in the West. Meloxicam is harmless but it is two-and –a –half time more expensive.

The first Vulture conservation breeding centre at Pinjore in Haryana and the second breeding centre in Rajabhatkhawa, Buxa Tiger Reserve, West Bengal are already fully operational .A third centre at Rani in Assam has been approved and construction work is now underway. Over 170 vultures of all three species are now held in the centres, including the only known population of slender-billed vultures in captivity. Despite successful captures of wild vultures continuing decline in all species is presenting an increasing challenge to the capture teams to actually locate vultures. Pinjore hosted a workshop to discuss the best husbandry practices for the vulture programme with experts in raptor care attending alongside representatives from states and facilities in India. This proved to be a very successful meeting in the revision of the husbandry manual and presented a great forum for staff to discuss some of the challenges they face. It also generated considerable interest in some of the senior staff from states in India planning to develop their own breeding centres. Besides these three centres, the Ministry of Environment and Forests through Central Zoo Authority has felicitated establishment of four Rescue/breeding centres in zoos at Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), Bhubaneshwar (Orissa), Junagarh (Gujarat) and Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh). Breeding population of vultures have been reported from the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharahtra,West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Assam.

Based on the survey and monitoring conducted by BNHS, estimated population of Slender-billed vulture is about 1000, white-backed around11000 and 44000 long –billed vultures. (PIB Feature)

*Deputy Director, Press Information Bureau, Delhi

Friday, January 23, 2009

40 new locals on WR

MUMBAI: As a Republic Day gift, the Western Railway is starting 40 new suburban services from 26th January, 2009. With the induction of 2 more new hi-tech EMU rakes, the services are being increased of which 32 are for Virar sector.

Of the above, 5 are in peak hours. 80 per cent of services to be introduced are for the Virar sector. Every effort is being taken by WR to ease the load on trains on Borivali-Virar sector and this is one step to provide relief to the commuters of this sector. Virar sector services, thus, will go up from 370 to 402 and 12 car services from 612 to 652.

Care has been taken to bridge the gaps between the Virar trains.

It is noteworthy that in November 2008 twenty three services were introduced and now with this addition, the total number of services on WR will reach to 1196 per day.