Monday, 30 December 2013

Grand farmer Nammalvar no more 

Chennai, December 30: Monday was a black day for scores of  environmentalists and farmers. The death of ‘Iyarkai Vinayani’ Nammalvar(75) came as a shocker at the end of 2013. Well-known for his fight against pesticide farming and multi national seed firms, Nammalvar was the sought after expert in national and international conferences on agriculture. Even on his last day, he participated in the protest in Pattukottai, against the coal bed methane exploration project planned in delta districts.
While several scientists conducted trails on pesticides and hybrid seeds, Nammalvar quit the cushy government job as an agricultural scientist within three years and started his voluntary work in organic farming. He worked with experts like P.R.Dominic Pyre as agronomist and conducted trails in organic farming. His ‘Vanagam’- a voluntary organisation in Karur district, had inspired several IT professionals and young people from various sectors to take up agriculture.
Though I first met Nammalvar for an interview in 2009 as a part of my work, I became his fan and he became my friend. After the first meet, I called him many times not just for interviews but also to share my views and also to widen my knowledge. Whenever I rang him up, he remembered my articles and encouraged me to write more on organic farming. I was gifted with an opportunity to proof read one his books early this year.
I recall his last talk that I observed in a public meet. Here goes: We are proud that India, as a developing nation, exports all consumer goods ranging from car to T-shirts. But we have to think why the importing countries couldnt  produce these goods on their own. These importers want to keep their water sources clean and buy products from us. They protect their environment clean and green and we exploit the same.
Many times he stressed in his speech that we have to get back to agriculture from agribusiness. “You dream for bumper profits in agri business; but in agriculture- you attain good and healthy life for your family, your society and the country. Agriculture is sustainable not agri business,” he said.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

From my book shelf

In this section, I am writing notes which I took from the following book.


Preface- Page number –12
British historians and archaeologists working in India in the nineteenth century were quick to blame the eclipse of Buddhism there on the Muslim conquests. For seven centuries zealots did indeed inflict horrendous human and cultural damage on India in the name of Islam, yet the fact is that Buddhism in Indi was in terminal decline long before Mahmud of Ghazni first crossed the Indus in the year 1008CE. Already by the ninth century Buddhism practised by its adherents in India had become so esoteric, so isolated from the wider community as to be unable to compete with revitalised, devotional Hinduism promoted by the ninth-century reformer Adi Shankaracharya and his followers. However, there is another equally important reason for the failure of the Buddhism in India- one that few followers of the Hindutuva nationalist movement (which believes that the only good Indian is a Hindu Indian) are prepared to accept: Brahmanical intolerance, which at times was an unbending in its hatred of heresy and heretics as later Muslim hardliners were in their jihads against unbelief and unbelievers.

Page number -13
The politicians who in 1991 egged on the mob that destroyed Babur’s mosque at Ayodhya on the grounds that it was built over the Hindu warrior-god Rama’s fort may be surprised to know that some of the most famous Hindu temples in India almost certainly began as Buddhist structures, often incorporating Buddhist icons, either in the form of images of deities or as lingams. Four likely examples- selected simply because they come from the four corners of the subcontinent- are the Badrinath shrine in the far north Garhwal Himal, the Jaganath temple at Puri on the east coast, the Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala in Kerala and the Vithalla Shrine at Pandharpur in Western Maharastra.


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Final day of UN confernece looked like an Indian fish market

Warsaw, November 24: It resembled a typical Indian fish market. The last leg of the UN climate change summit turned out to be a marathon session of almost 40 hours of hard bargaining in high decibels by the environment ministers from across the globe, who mostly pushed their national agendas rather than the health of Mother Earth.

It was a mix of joy and pain for the global media—there were hundreds of journalists covering the summit—to watch and report on the proceedings that took unexpected turns every other minute. As the talks that should have been over on Friday spilled over to the whole of Saturday, many delegates appeared agonised. Some African delegates already left the COP19 stadium to catch flights back home.

Fiji and Philippines won their match against the super rich nations that ultimately agreed to provide funds for the loss and damage in poor countries hit by natural calamities. With India and China pecking at the polemical issue-- timeline for the climate finance--the US, UK, Australia, Singapore and Canada gave up dodging and agreed to put some
money in the loss and damage fund basket.

Earlier, the UN Chair- Poland minister Marcin Korolec and executive secretary of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Christiana Figueres found it difficult to knit up the climate fabric as the countries kept demanding for redraft of the agreements on finance and emission targets.

After some three to five hours of hard bargain, the developing nations agreed to announce the emission targets in early 2015. That was a celebrating moment for the UN Chair because there is no text in the UNFCCC that has a word “all parties (countries)”. For all these years, only the rich nations had been asked to come up with targets. This was
the first time that all the countries, both the developing and developed nations, are on the same page.

Then came the finance drama. The rich nations were reluctant to give away money for the countries that suffer extreme weather events because of climate change. The rich nations, which have their pockets full of historical responsibilities, were obliged to give as they had polluted the earth since the 18th century with the industrialisation. The UN Chair announced a 15-minute huddle to arrive at a final conclusion on finance. The clock ticked on to over 50 minutes when the rich finally gave in and agreed to pay for the disasters.

The UN Chair immediately announced that loss and damage funds could be distributed from the current year itself. Philippines, which lost 5,000 lives in Typhoon Haiyaan just a fortnight back, took the opportunity and announced its application would be put up immediately. Source said Philippines climate change commissioner Yeb Sano, who
fasted for the last 13 days to observe solidarity with the people back home starving for food, broke the fast; and danced.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Philippines and India on the same platform : Yeb Sano, climate commissioner, filipino

YEB SANO, Philippines climate change commissioner

Warsaw, November 22: India and Philippines stand on the same platform in terms of cyclone damage, says, Philippine climate change commissioner Yeb Sano. Mr Yeb Sano has been fasting for the last 12
days to observe solidarity with the people in his country, who are struggling for food after the recent typhoon Haiyan. He stole the attention at the UN summit on the first day two weeks ago as the
cyclone killed more than 10,000 people.

Speaking to me about the final day of the climate change summit, Mr Yeb Sano said, “I came from my country after seeing huge devastation. Even now, several of my relatives and neighbours are yet to be traced.We were shattered and reached this summit with lots of hopes. As the talks have not reached any conclusion  till late evening of the final day, I am afraid for the outcome.”

He added that there was a glimmer of hope on funds for the loss and damage due to natural calamities in his country. “I am worried but still have a little bit of hope on this last day. In that case, I see India and my country standing on the same platform. Though the loss of lives might differ, both of us are on the same page,” he said.

Stating that developed nations should support poor countries, he said,“There are heated discussions but the talks are dragging. The loss and damage mechanism was accepted in the last Doha 2012 climate talks. I
think many rich countries favour delay."

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Rich countries dodging; Poor countries demanding

Warsaw, November 19: The developing countries including India have asked the developed nations to come out with timeline to provide the green climate fund (GCF)without any delay. There are expectations that they would urge the rich countries to provide at least a small percentage of the allotment before winding up the UN climate change summit in Warsaw. Negotiators said they do not want the Warsaw summit to end like yet another talk game. They said they would push the developed nations to finalise the road map for issuance of the GCF.

Speaking to me one of the negotiators of India said, “The whole game of providing US $100 as GCF by developed countries to developing nations before 2020 should not go on and on. We want them to arrive at road map of giving away the money. We will urge them to talk clearly about the allotment during this week.”

When asked about the proceedings in the last one week, negotiators said that the talks were not concrete. “We spent almost three to four hours everyday in seminars. But there was no light. As ministers from all countries would arrive in a day or two, we expect things to fall in place,” they said.

Key negotiator of India Ravid Shankar Prasad, joint secretary of union environment ministry said, “Developed countries want to delay the flow of funds for the loss and damage due to environmental calamities in developing countries. They want a separate window for the loss and damage funds. But the developing nations are very particular that there is no need for a new window. The funds could be given along with the GCF.” He added that opening a new window is time consuming process and there is need for that.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Vetiver to arrest flash floods in Bangladesh

Warsaw, November 17: For all these years Bangladeshi farmers only depended on concrete walls to protect them flash floods. But from now on, ‘Vetiver’ would arrest the floods and bring smiles on their faces. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will introduce our Vetiver in Bangladesh to tackle soil erosion in hilly areas.

The IFAD would invest US $ 15,000,000 under the livelihood protection project that also includes planting of vetiver in a big way in areas affected by flash floods. The project would be initiated as a means of protecting roads that traverse hillsides which are vulnerable and shatters the lives of thousands of people there.

In the report ‘The Economic benefits of preparing small-scale farmers for climate change’ IFAD experts said, “This deep-rooted grass variety has been found to be very effective slope protection option.” They said vetiver vegetation would be used to protect 20 earthern platforms which are instrumental for temporary paddy storage above flood waters in the villages.

IFAD targets 28 sub districts in Bangladesh which were selected on the basis of their exposure to climate risks and the prevalence of rural poverty. More than two lakh people are estimated to be benefitted by this project. They strongly believe that vetiver would be the right tool for soil sequestration and slope stabilization.

Speaking to DC over the phone from Rome, Roshan Cooke, Regional Climate and Environment Specialist for the Asia and Pacific Region said, “For several years concrete barriers were laid to protect villages from tides that sometimes raise even upto six meters. In case of Vetiver, its roots are deeper go upto 20 meters and would hold the soil intact. This grass is sturdy and would mitigate the tide action. We will plant vetiver around trees so as to break the initial impact of waves hitting the lands.”

He said that instead of spending for concrete, poor farmers could produce vetiver seedlings and use them as a cost effective measure to protect their neighbourhoods. “The government engineering department has also agreed to modify the norms to introduce vetiver to battle erosion instead of conventional cement barriers,” he said.

It can be remembered that after the recent landslide in Nilgiris in 2009, the Tamil Nadu state council for science and technology initiated a project to plant to vetiver to arrest soil erosion in the hill station. And vetiver saplings were planted on the Ooty-Kotagiri highway and the Oooty-Mettupalayam highway to bind the soil and
prevent further landslides.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Many more storms to visit India

Warsaw, November 13: India may suffer fewer storms than other peninsular nations but then, the Indian storms will be more devastating. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) on Wednesday in its ‘Provisional statement on status of climate in 2013’ said India could suffer more violent cyclones in the coming years, with severe flood disasters. “Although India has fewer cyclones than other ocean basins and the number is not expected to increase, when they do arrive, they will be far more devastating,” said the WMO scientists.

The report, released at the UN climate change conference here on Wednesday, confirmed that the sea level globally has reached a new high, thanks to indiscriminate attack on environment by greenhouse gas emissions. “Sea levels will continue to rise because of melting ice caps and glaciers. More than 90 per cent of the extra heat we are generating from greenhouse gas is absorbed by the oceans, which will consequently continue to warm and expand for hundreds of years”, it said.

Speaking to me on the sidelines of the report’s release, Dr Rupa Kumar Kolli, chief of the Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch at the WMO said, “Just as Phailin evolved into the strongest storm in the North Indian basin since 1999, India may suffer fewer cyclones but then, all of them would be very intense.” He said in 2013 alone, a total of 86 storms were recorded across the globe till November whereas only 89 were seen during the previous three decades. “At the same time, the North Indian Ocean had a below-average season with only two tropical cyclones compared with the 1981-2010 average of four. But those storms were intense,” Dr Kolli said.

Deputy secretary Jerry Lengoasa of the WMO said, “What the science tells us is not that there will be more storms, but that the storms we get will be more violent.  ‘Perfect storms’ if we can call them that, like hurricane Sandy last year and typhoon Haiyan this year, will become normal occurrence”, he told me.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

India lost $591m to disasters

Pramila Krishnan 


A US Marine carries an injured woman who survived the Super Typhoon Haiyan in the central coastal city of Tacloban, as they disembark from a military cargo plane on Tuesday. The UN launched an appeal for a third of a billion dollars on November 12 as US and UK warships steamed towards the typhoon-ravaged Philippines where well over 10,000 people are feared dead. — AFP

Warsaw: India stands 46th among the 195 countries which were assessed for global climate change risk. The rankings were released on Tuesday at the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Warsaw.
According to this global report, India has suffered losses to the tune of $591.28 millions in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2012 alone due to climate change problems.
The report highlights that all the top 10 worst affected countries were the least developed countries. The top three were island nation Haiti, the Philippines and  Pakistan.
The index was calculated based on the impacts of weather-related loss events from 1993 to 2012 in all countries. For example, losses in tragedies like the tsunami and cylone Thane that affected Puducherry and the recent Uttarakhand flash floods have been computed using the adjusted value.
PPP is a mathematical formula, which economists use to create parity between two currencies to make them compared. In simple terms, purchasing power parity could be called as adjusted value.
Releasing the report, Sonke Kreft and David Eckstein said, “This index is an analysis based on one of the most reliable data sets available on the impacts of extreme weather events and associated socio economic data. More than 5,30,000 people have died as a direct result of almost 15,000 extreme weather events.”
They mentioned that many developing countries are already taking measures in preparation for climate related disasters, promoting as well as implementing adaptation.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Pallikaranai sediments as old as 27 centuries

Chennai, October 31: While the city corporation seems in great hurry to destroy it by dumping tonnes of garbage, the precious Pallikaranai marshland adjoining Chennai’s IT highway boasts of history dating back to 2700 years, scientists have found. Soil sediments picked by the Anna University and tested at the radiocarbon dating lab at New York 
showed that the place was flourishing with
 living organisms even 27 centuries ago.

Sadly oblivious of the eco-value of such marshland and the need to preserve it at all costs, the corporation has been dumping thousands of tonnes of Chennai’s garbage, the dangerous plastics included, in the area. Also, several private companies have been quietly letting in their untreated sewage, thereby harming biological activity in the marsh.

Result: the marshland, which would otherwise act as a bowl for carbon sequestration, is now emitting dangerous methane gas, says A. Ramachandran, director, Centre for climate change and Adaptation Research (CCC&AR) at the Anna University. 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Tallest Menhir cries for attention
Chennai, October 19: One of the tallest menhir in Tamil Nadu is crying for attention. Located in non descript village Kumarikalpalayam in Tirupur district, the menhir which is nine meters high is surrounded by bushes. The locals conduct an annual festival and perform poojas to the menhir. But so far the site has not been studied and promoted like many other historical sites in the state. Locals said that if the place is promoted as historical site, it would add value to their village.

Speaking to DC Superintendenting archeologist of Archeological survey of India, Chennai circle G.Maheswari said, “Mehir is known as ‘nadukal’ in Tamil. It is placed in the memory of a brave leader. Many menhirs belong to 1,000 BC. We will look into this menhir situated in Kuarmikalpalayam. This could be promoted as potential tourist spot.” She added that ASI would pitch in to improving the site after studying it in detail. “Erode and its neighbouring districts have several historical sites. Whenever we come to know about new sites, we will engage people to study and take necessary steps to improvise the place,” she said.

Educationists say that students should be exposed to historical sites in local areas so as to increase their interest in history. Social activist A.Devaneyan, who campaigns for child friendly education said, “Unless children are informed about history of their villages, their towns, they would not be interested to follow up global issues. In order to widen their perspective, local history is very much needed. That too menhirs stand as an evidence for real heroes in villages who fought centuries back to protect the land. It is quintessential to protect the sites and teach children about it.”

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

4th November -rebirth of a girl in the world of sound

Pramila Krishnan
Chennai, October 10: November 4 would mark a rebirth for Abinaya. The five-year-old inmate of an orphanage at Madurai will be wheeled into the operation theatre for a free cochlear implant that will introduce sounds and songs to the world of the cute girl born with hearing impairment. The state government has waived the requirement of 
producing ration card or any other identity card for her to benefit from the CM’s free insurance scheme, as Abinaya has no family and was found abandoned near Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple three years ago.

The government gave her the exemption and will release the funds for the expensive surgery. When the private hospital authorities insisted hat the staff of the home produce the identity cards to register for the scheme, the orphanage was clueless on how to solve the issue. The appeals by many kind hearts and media reports influenced the panel which finalises beneficiaries for the surgery. The panel gave the green signal and approved her for the surgery next month. 

Thanking the panel for the clearance, Abinyaya’s caretaker Joseph Benziger said, “ After the surgery, Abinaya would be a happy child. She is studying in a special school. This surgery would empower her to be a normal child. We will help her to go to a normal school,” he said with happiness.

Benziger recalled that all efforts to trace her parents ended in vain. “She was found close to the temple and she could not provide any details about her family or native town when she was rescued. A teashop owner rescued her and produced her in the local police station and finally she was placed in our home. We suspect that she was abandoned because of her hearing disability,” said Joseph.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Elders to man desks at Madurai police stations

Pramila Krishnan

Chennai, Oct 2: On World Elders Day, senior citizens of Madurai received a bonanza from the district police chief. In a first of kind initiative, all the 44 police stations in Madurai will have an exclusive elder as an in-charge person to lend an ear to complaints from senior citizens and to guide them to get justice.

Introducing the ‘elder representative in police station’ initiative along with Helpage India, voluntary organisation, on Tuesday, SP V. Balakrishnan said networking active elders with police stations would help the vulnerable elders. The SP told DC that he introduced this initiative “to help, to serve many fathers and mothers.”

He said, “Scores of elders visit me during the weekly grievance day meet. If the elder is ill-treated by his son or daughter, we arrange a meeting with them and help resolve the issue. In case of serious abuse, we take strict action.” 

“Many elders do not want to complaint about their children and continue to suffer. Now, we have connected elders with police stations. Affected elders can approach the elders’ representative in person and personally share their problems. We will sensitise the elder representative about what action can be taken by the police to
protect  vulnerable elders,” he said.

He added that this initiative would bridge the police and the elderly community. “Our men would also pay a little more attention to the complainants who are in the evening of their lives and would need immediate relief. The elder representative would be a person well informed about elders rights and implementation of the 
‘Maintenance of parents and senior citizens Act, 2007,” he said.

Thanking the SP for the initiative, elder representative C. Sundararaman (71), said, “I will be available in Nagamalai Pudukottai station. I am very much clear about senior citizens Act and ready to reach out to the affected elders."

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Minor marriage stopped in Chennai
Pramila Krishnan
Chennai, September 26: Child marriage happens right in our city. A fourteen year old, class nine girl was rescued by the Kanchipuram child welfare committee from a marriage hall at OMR on Tuesday night. The groom S.Vijaykumar(25) was a real-estate contractor. He wanted to marry the girl in her quarterly exam leave since his father was not keeping well and wanted to witness his marriage. 

Based on phone call received in the Childline helpline (1098) the team comprised of tahsildar, district social welfare officer, police officials and the child welfare committee members rushed to the marriage hall and called off the marriage. According to the Kanchipuram social welfare department almost 25 marriages were stopped in the last three years including eight marriages this year so far. 

Speaking to me, CWC member I.Zaheeruddin Mohammed said, “When we arrived at the marriage hall, families of bride and groom and their relatives were frustrated and tried to convince us. We told them that it is illegal to perform underage marriage, they said the groom’s father was sick and wished to see his marriage. And both families were close relatives” He added when the team stoutly rejected all their pleas, the families agreed to stop the marriage. 

The officials made the parents to give a letter in writing that they would not get the girl married before she attains 18 years. District child protection officer S.Dhanasekara Pandian said that several awareness programmes were arranged in anganwadi centers and other public places on child marriages. School children were encouraged to alert about child marriages, he said.

Friday, 20 September 2013

வெங்காயம்; புன்னகை; கண்ணீர்

MSSRF (M S Swaminathan Research Foundation) மூலமாக ஒரு   பத்திரிக்கையாளர்களுக்கு கருத்தரங்கு நடைபெற்றது . அதன் முடிவில் கரசனுர் என்ற ஒரு கிராமத்திற்குக்  கூடிச் சென்றனர் . விழுப் புரம் மாவட்டத்தில்  உள்ள இந்த கிராமத்தில் MSSRF கடந்த 2 வருடங்களாக வேலை செய்து வருகிறது. ஏற்றுமதி தரம்  வாய்ந்த வெங்காயங்களை இங்குள்ள விவசாயிகள் பயிரிட்டு முன்றே மாதத்தில் சுமார் ரூ.2 லட்சம் இரண்டு ஏக்கர் நிலத்தில் சம்பாரிப்பதாகத்  தெரிவித்தனர்." எங்களின் வெங்காயம் சிங்கபூர்  மற்றும் மலேசியாவிற்குச் செல்கிறது . அங்கே சூப் செய்ய இதைப்  பயன் படுத்துகிறார்கள்," என்றனர் .

கூட் டத்தின் முடிவில் அவர்களிடம், வருமானம் நல்லா  கிடைக்கிறது, வாழக்கை நிலையும் மாறி இருக்கிறது. உங்களில் எத்தனை பேர் உங்கள் குழந்தைகளை விவசாயியாக இருக்க அனுமதிப்பீர்கள் என்று கேட்டேன். சுமார் 50 விவசாயிகள் இருந்த அந்த கூடத்தில் ஒருவர் கூட கை தூக்கவில்லை. ஏன் என்ற போது, "நங்கள் படும் பாடு போதும். எங்கள் பிள்ளைகள் கஷ்டப்பட வேண்டாம்," என்றனர். இரண்டு பெற்றோர் அவர்களின் பிள்ளைகள் ஆர்வமுடன் விவசாயம் செய்ய ஆசைப்பட்டனர் தாங்கள் தடுத்து இன்ஜினியரிங் கல்லூரியில் சேரத்துள்ளதாகத் தெரிவித்தனர்.                            

Sunday, 8 September 2013

People's power won in Perambakkam

Pramila Krishnan
Perambakkam, September 8: A special gram sabha held in Perambakkam in Kancheepuram district on Saturday was an example of people’s power. Residents of the little town boycotted the August 15 Independence Day gram sabha since officials aborted the greenhouse project in their neighbourhood due to pressure from local politicians. The district administration organised a special gram sabha and approved the housing project much to the glee of the residents.
Officials attended special gram sabha
on Saturday in Peranambakkam

Speaking to me, Perambakkam panchayat president Lavanya Mahendran (26) said the officials did not bother to listen to the people who were waiting for the funds to construct their houses. “Only when we boycotted the gram sabha did they understand and budged. They attended the gram sabha and promised to fulfil our demands,” she said. She added that the entire village was supportive in helping the poor beneficiaries who were earlier informed by the officials that they would not get funds.

Talking about other resolutions passed in the special gram sabha, vice president of the Perambakkam panchayat S. Kumar (29) said, “A private firm has encroached some four acres of promoboke land in our village and refused to vacate even after we issued a notice. Now we have asked the district administration to take over the lands from the private hands and surrender them to us.” He said the panchayat members have also placed a proposal to build concrete roads in the village. 

A resident of Perambakkam panchayat K. Mahalingam said young leaders of the panchayat took the initiative to refurbish the panchayat office, which had been abandoned for the last two decades. “They also run three free tuition centres for poor students. Though Perambakkam is a reserved panchayat for Dalits, these young Dalit  leaders have won the hearts of people from different communities,” he noted.