Thursday, 26 June 2014


 24 kids died in four years in Tamil Nadu after falling into open borewells 

Chennai, June 26: Over 20 children in Tamil Nadu have lost their lives as they stepped into bore wells and died during the rescue operation since 2010. Due to the negligence of the farm owners and conventional rescue mechanism by the fire and rescue services officials took the lives of little children, say child rights activists, who released a fact finding report on deaths of children in open bore wells and wells in Tamil Nadu, in Chennai on Wednesday.
Releasing the report Thomas Jayaraj, director of Centre for child rights and development said, “More than 500 children in India including 24 children in Tamil Nadu have died in the last four years struggling to survive in the abandoned borewell and wells. On an average the rescue process takes 9 to 45 hours to dig the child out of bore well and very rarely children are saved.”  He added that Supreme Court guidelines on safety measures related to open borewell are not implemented. “The National and state child rights commission officials have not taken any serious measures to address this issue,” he said.
R.Jone (20) and S.Shine (17), both engineering students, who were part of the fact finding team said that government officials blamed the model code of conduct by the election commission for not circulating the supreme court guidelines on open bore wells. “We were quit upset that even after so many deaths, officials are not informed about the problem and they blamed the election commission for not carrying out their job. 

In one case, a three-year-old child Harshan fell into bore well in Kuthalaperi village in Tirunelveli and he was rescued. But even after ten days, the bore well and the deep pit dug to bring him out were not closed,” said Jone and Shine, representatives of children’s movement for climate justice.

The voluntary organisations have asked the government to introduce modernized rescue methods and take preventive steps to avoid deaths of children in bore wells in future. They also demanded immediate disbursal of compensation for parents who had lost their children instead of making them wait for years to receive the money. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Temple elephants need ‘humane’ treatment

Pramila Krishnan
Chennai, June 10: Maduravalli (60), elephant belonging to Koodal Alagar Perumal temple in Madurai, suffers from severe foot rot and has developed joint pain. She is obese and has been undergoing weight reduction treatment. Thanjavur temple elephant, Vellaiammal, aged around 65, also suffers similar health disorders and added to that she is struggling to manage bedsores that she developed from lying on a rough concrete floor. Veterinarians, who treated Maduravalli and Vellaiammal, conducted periodical medical check ups and recommend change in diet and maintenance by the temple authorities. Medical experts who have treated temple elephants observe that many elephants die because of poor maintenance and negligence of temple authorities in providing natural ambience and nutritious food to the holy animal.

A recent social interaction session organised by researchers among three different groups of elephants - temple elephants, zoo elephants and captive elephants - revealed heart-wrenching stories of cruel treatment to temple elephants in India. Researchers, who studied some 267 elephants, including 67 temple elephants from Tamil Nadu, found that more than 60 per cent of temple elephants did not like to interact with other elephants. While the zoo elephants were quirky and mischievous and the captive elephants were engaged in talking with their tribe, the temple elephants remained withdrawn. The experts said since temple elephants are kept all alone for years together, they have no inclination to interact and failed to mix with other elephants. Even worse is that temple elephants did not show interest in mating though the experts set up a conducive environment for the cow and bull elephants.

The study states that temple elephants are forced to learn at least 50 commands in languages like Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Urdu. They bless devotees some 2,000 times during festivals. As per the study, food provided by devotees includes fruits, coconut, ghee, rice and other unnatural food - sweets, biscuits and chocolates. This leads to obesity and indigestion when the devotees feed elephants with unwashed hands. Researchers say that on average the chain tied to the legs of the elephants weighs close to 50 kgs.

Environmentalists and animal rights activists across the country have been raising their voice against keeping elephants in temples to bless devotees and to carry out rituals for temple deities.
Raman Sukumar, member of Project Elephant Steering Committee of the government of India, said since temples get huge donations, they take good care of elephants. “Elephant is a highly socialising animal and lives in large families. Keeping the elephant in solitary spaces affects their interaction skills, which could be termed as behavioural cruelty,” he said. He added that when temple authorities want to keep an elephant, they should take adequate care to provide natural food substitutes; provide opportunity for elephants to interact with other elephants. “Enough space should be provided for elephants to move around instead of being chained to a close circuit that prevents their movement,” said Sukumar.

When contacted Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department Commissioner P.Dhanapal about improving maintenance for temple elephants he said, “These days temple elephants receive good care. Veterinary doctors check the elephants every month and ensure they are healthy. Annual rejuvenation camp is conducted every year for elephants to protect them.”

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Song by a grandma with unconditional love

1st June 2014- I thought it was a just another Sunday for me. But a different evening for me. I was in Virdhunagar to interact with members of elders self help group. It was an overwhelming moment for me. Valliamma from Vellalore village in Virudhunagar sang a song. Tears welled up my eyes as she was singing and mentioned me in the song as a person who could take care of elders more than their own children. She sang that ‘Pramila is like Prithianga Devi’ who would support deprived elders like her own grandfather and grandmother. I was touched. My grandfather Ramu came to my mind and I could feel him. He was telling me that he was very much present in the hall and was hearing the song by Valliamma. Thathas and Pattis present there were all in smiles.

What have I done to steal  her heart is the following story: on 26th January 2010, I published an investigation article in my newspaper Deccan Chronicle on how many elders in Virudhunagar, down south district of Tamil Nadu, were killed by their own families in the name of a traditional killing practice- Thalaikoothal.(Bathing the sick old man or woman in cold water and force feed coconut water to the elder. The aged person would suffer renal failure and die within a day). Young people who did not wish to go through this elaborate process opted to kill the elders with lethal injection availing the ‘service’ of quacks. In my story I revealed my risky trips to talk to such quacks and seeking their help to kill my grandpa. A quack who agreed to ‘help’ me promised that her injection would work effectively and she was successful in her earlier attempts.

After this story, the district administration asked its officials to come up with census of elders in the district and ensured every single death of elders should be properly investigated by the local authorities. My friend R.Elango of  Helpage India, who gave the tip off about the killings, and I wanted to bring change in the lives of elders beyond the news reporting. Now over 500 elders self help groups were formed in Virudhunagar. Regular meetings are conducted by these groups which give an opportunity to elders to share their sorrows and happiness. Every member in the group supports another needy elder. The Sunday evening meet was one such meet and Valliamma was one of the members of the group who electrified the people with her song.