Tuesday, June 26, 2007


In a metropolis like Mumbai, where the Premier Padmini cab seems primitive, take a look – you can still encounter a blast from the past, the humble bullock cart. Not carrying farm produce, mind you – they are pulling small oil tanks, supplying petroleum products like kerosene and lubricants. What could be more incongruous than to see the names of high-profile oil companies emblazoned across these tanks, even as they are being moved by emaciated cattle?
We encountered three such carts on the roads yesterday, all of them drawn by weak bulls, struggling to negotiate the Mumbai traffic. Their sedate pace changed to a strained trot whenever they received a few sharp whips – I even witnessed one of the owners reaching down to squeeze an ageing bull’s testicles to push him into a higher gear. One can fathom a farmer using draught animals to keep his overheads down, but multinational oil companies using animals for transport, that too in cities where several other transport options exist, seems really pathetic.
It looks as though these companies, some of them dubbed as the ‘Navratnas’ or nine-gems of the Public Sector, will not shy from exploiting animals to rationalize distribution costs. If they feign ignorance about this final leg of the transport chain, one starts to smell the stuff exiting from the rear ends of these very bulls.
Just as the poor camels on our beaches got some respite from the courts, can we not ban other animals from our roads? In the chaotic rough-and-tumble of Mumbai’s mean streets, why do we need a veritable roadshow of animals, from bullocks to donkeys to elephants?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tadoba - the 20-point formula

1. Take a beautiful expanse of deciduous forest, full of lakes and springs, and home to a rich array of wildlife.


2. Create a coal-mining township next to it, full of earth movers, dust columns, smokestacks, and spewing tons of carbon into the air.
3. Populate it with thousands of people, and allow them to expand their presence in all directions, with their demands for food, water and sanitation.
4. Build a tarred road right through the thick of the jungle to allow these people to travel to neighbouring towns for their needs.

5. Dam the available river to create a reservoir to supply water for the teeming millions.

6. In the process, kill the river ecosystem, and all the creatures dependent on it.

7. Condense the forest area by chopping off the trees, and level the land for agriculture - many mouths to feed, remember?

8.Realise that there is a valuable supply of timber in the forest, and declare it a protected area.

9.Succumb to public demand for escape from their dreary urban sprawls, and create dwellings and facilities inside the forest for recreation.

10. Allow mad mobs in their diesel-spewing vehicles to zip through the forest, to 'spot' the wildlife, and generally have a picnic.

11. Highlight the presence of the Tiger in the forest, and direct people towards their lairs.

12. Allow as many vehicles as possible into the forest, even 200 at a time, to 'enjoy' the safari.

13. Turn a blind eye to vehicles honking, playing 'jingle bells' on their reverse horns, racing their engines, and to their occupants screaming and yelling, yes - all this and more, barely 15 metres away from a tigress and her cubs drinking at a waterhole.

14. Allow two-way traffic on narrow tracks, causing noisy traffic jams at a prime tiger area like Bhanuskindi, where tigers resting in a stream are made to move off by passengers getting off their vehicles for a closer look.

15. Allow all vehicles to ply on the park roads, whether they are overloaded, diesel-spewers or non-roadworthy.

16. Appoint a system of local tribal guides to accompany each vehicle, except that instead of providing opportunities to the tribals, appoint relatives and associates of the Forest Department staff as guides, and to hell with the tribals.

17. Allow a noisy canteen to function in the core area, right next to the Tadoba Lake, the lifeline for animals. Call it a plastic-free zone, i.e. where you can freely dispose off your plastic.

18. Create a residential colony for the Forest Department staff right next to this lake, in the core area, wherein untreated sewage can be released - such a big lake, who cares if a few hundred litres of sewage gets dumped into it daily? Pigs eat faeces, and wild boars are pigs, right?

19. Strictly enforce the timings of entry and exit from the park, but give a couple of hours leeway for those who wish to linger - you can't ask people to rush off, can you?

20.Bemoan the fact that wildlife habitats are shrinking, the tiger is going extinct, and what can the Forest Department do with its limited resources, whine, whine, groan, ..................