Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Superficial Pakhwadas...


The Superficial Pakhwadas...

By Zubair Ahmed

There is no dearth of official days, weeks and fortnights in our country. There is Vanamahotsava Saptah, Vanyaprani Saptah, Women's Week, Anti-corruption Week and Hindi Pakhwara etc. etc. The less said about the intent, purpose and utility of these official functions the better. But on many an occasion some of these programmes prove a windfall as it gives an opportunity to really take a look into the intent of such extravaganzas.

I still don't understand why banners are hung in front of all government offices, when the insiders are supposed to use the language in their daily chores. And, it's truly a scare to approach offices where everything happens in Hindi, in its most intricate form. Once, my friend had to apply for a loan and he had cited circumcision of his brother. Unluckily, it was Hindi Pakhwara and he could not find a suitable Hindi term for circumcision. And, finally someone came for rescue and reframed the sentence which said - Mere bhai ki musalmani ke liye….

Our Islands have developed its own dialect of Hindi - a mix of Urdu and Hindi sans grammatical complications, which is popular and acceptable to all irrespective of their native states. A Telugu find it easy to communicate with a Malayali, however, for both the pristine Hindi is an alien language. A farmer in Diglipur has no need to feel "oneness" with a carpenter in Campbell Bay through uniformity of language, but I'm sure if these two meet by circumstance, they will be civil enough towards each other. With or without language, their realities are fairly different from one another, and with or without language; their differences are what will make each interesting to the other. We need to respect the plurality of our nation and be proud of it.

It's natural that even after fifty-five years Hindi has not achieved the pride of place of the official language of the country. Infact, the protagonists of Hindi themselves are standing in the way of Hindi becoming first, the popular language and then the official language. There are two hurdles in the way of its becoming a common man's language, its grammar and the attempt to maintain its purity. Hindi will have to come down from its high pedestal by admitting as many words and phrases from other languages as the users like to introduce. Secondly, allowing the officials to use the common, simple Hindi in office notes and drafts. In course of time, the users will get polished and the quality of language will automatically improve. Somewhere, somebody has to make a beginning. In view of the present level of our official English - the sooner the better.

EDITORIAL: The Outpost Syndrome


 The Outpost Syndrome

The recent Chinese snooping incident in Andaman Sea has created much uproar among strategists and defence analysts. It is evident that India is not comfortable with the increasing clout of its big neighbour with Burma, Sri Lanka, Nepal and above all Pakistan.

In a recent meeting P Chidamabaram, Home Minister had expressed that the Government is aware of strategic importance of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep and is taking steps to enhance security in the two Union Territories.

Security of the country is non-negotiable. There can't two opinions about that. Having said that, one must admit that development of the Islands should not be hindered citing security reasons.  There is always a fear that the defence forces have become an impediment in the development of the Islands. For effective discharge of any duties, the armed forces need the whole hearted support and goodwill of the civilian population. Unless the matter is handled with utmost care and sensitivity, the end result might be disastrous.  

A couple of years back, Shyam Saran, a special envoy of PM in a seminar had made an observation that the political reality of India controlling these islands, gives it an extraordinary reach into its eastern neighbourhood and therefore, significant foreign policy leverage If we were to develop the potential of these islands as one of India's significant trading, shipping and tourist hubs, if we were to position them also as the regional hub of a Bay of Bengal community, then obviously, infrastructure would improve and economic activities would multiply across sectors. With valuable economic assets having been created and the centrality of the islands in our Look East policy having been established, there would be greater willingness to invest in ensuring the security of the islands and the seas around them. There would be a clear and significant stake in doing so. Thus, security would go hand in hand with economic prosperity. And this is what we need to appreciate and understand - that in today's world, national security is as much a function of economic dynamism and prosperity as it is of creating military assets. Both must go hand in hand.

Indian government needs to realize the island's potential through a more comprehensive perspective, overcoming the military and civilian divide and develop it as a hub of economic activity. As of now, the Islands command only episodic attention from decision makers and certainly only limited claim on budgetary resources. We need to be in the national mainstream to be on national agenda. It's high time GoI sheds the image of the islands as an "outpost" and concentrates on its development at par with its national counterparts.

Six Years is Too Long a Wait


Six Years is Too Long a Wait

After 6 long years of wait, and generous Govt spending, tsunami relief, rehabilitation and rebuilding is a story of neglect for the residents of rural South Andaman.

By Debkumar Bhadra

More than six years back, on December 26th 2004 the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, along with the rest of the world were hit by a massive undersea earthquake which incidentally shifted the islands towards south-west by about 1.25m. The tsunami that followed the mega-quake devastated the islands washing away almost anything to everything coming its way. Remote sensing and visual inspection of islands shoreline confirm uplift of Andaman group and subsistence of Nicobar group. The effects include submergence of land, destruction of property and loss of numerous lives. The Govt of India and few NGO's responded to the crisis situation helping survivors overcome trauma inflicted by the epic disaster. But after 6 long years of generous spending on tsunami relief, rehabilitation and rebuilding, the survivors from rural South Andaman find themselves subjected to official apathy and pushed under the development shadow.
The quake triggered tsunami caused ingress of sea water from Kadakachang creek flooding large tracts of agricultural land at Kanyapuram, Stewart Gunj and Wimberly Gunj area. Farmers who lost their productive land had been demanding alternate land but after 6 years of wait, a press note published in The Daily Telegrams dated 18/07/2011 requesting the tsunami affected farmers to give their consent in writing as to the mode of compensation whether in cash or alternate land, created a paradox in the life of those affected by the epic disaster; their demand for apt compensation not only remains unheard and unfulfilled but stands shattered too!

A small group reiterated their demand for alternate land and rejected accepting cash (in lieu of land). Others murmur it took 6 long years for the authorities to ask what the farmers want; when will the benefits be declared and disbursed is perhaps eternity. Those who are not in a mood to wait further are citing common sense to accept the instant offer, however indecent it may appear.
Another glaring example of official apathy is the Kadakachang bridge and sluice gate that was left damaged by the epic disaster. Though a steel bridge was put in place to restore traffic, the base beneath the bridge slipped within months of its installation. But keeping in view the necessity, the bridge though unfit had been kept open, temporarily with small curtain walls on either side of the bridge so that traffic over the bridge could be restricted to pedestrians, two wheelers and light motor vehicles.
A careful look near the bridge area during low tide, unfurled yet another disturbing tale. I was shocked to witness sea water flowing through the mud below the road connecting the RCC and steel bridge. This means during high tide, sea water flows beneath the road from sea to landward side and in the reverse direction during low tide. This is very dangerous because long term removal of mud supporting the road above could result in collapse of the entire stretch of road along with the Kadakachang Bridge and sluice gate all of a sudden!
What is surprising is despite lapse of 6 long years, the Kadakachang bridge is still hanging away from its base and those walls restricting vehicular traffic remains intact as well. Scores of people, two wheelers light motor vehicles etc cross over the precariously placed steel bridge, ignoring the signboard erected nearby which reads : Warning!! Beware of Crocodiles. Perhaps for a common man, the urge to reach the destination (cost effectively) seems more eminent and stronger than the danger lurking beneath their feet.
On the other hand sea water ingress from the defunct Kadakachang sluice gate had converted large tracts of land at Kanyapuram, Stewart Gunj and Wimberly Gunj area into a crocodile sanctuary. Cattle, goats, dogs etc are being devoured by killer crocs regularly. Even human life is not safe in the region. Earlier a crock had attacked a boy, then a woman; both of them had been fortunate to survive the attack on their life. But the killing of Ms Lauren Failla of Morristown and now Mrs Champa Mondol from Tushnabad indicates rising vulnerability of human life in island waters.
Erection of Warning signboard is necessary, but not sufficient. It is a know fact that population of crocs are increasing at an alarming rate, which if not checked immediately would further intensify man-animal conflict situations in the days to come. Secondly the mangrove habitat of salties which has been devastated by the tsunami, every patch needs to be re-grown. Efforts are also required to be made to notify appropriate dumping grounds so that the problem could be tackled effectively.
Till few years back, the islanders had been a mute spectator in the affairs of governance. But with the induction of PRI system and the advent of private news media, social networking sites etc peoples are increasingly voicing their concerns. This has been evident in the CBSE question paper leak episode and repeated in Anna's crusade against corruption. Islands participation in the mass uprising in solidarity with Anna is a pointer to the fact that the islands are no more a passive society. It is a healthy sign, provided the authorities recognize those channels, strengthen them to gain insight into the problems faced by common man.
The Administration has all the means, intellect as well as best working hands at its disposal. It ought to motivate those faculties to fire their cylinders towards providing governance satisfying the needs and aspirations of the common man.
The precariously hanging bridge at Kadakachang and the defunct sluice gate could be set right in a fortnight. Repairing the bridge would facilitate vehicular traffic across the bridge as well as minimize sea water ingress, which eventually would help in tackling the croc menace.
Its high time for the authorities to match words with proactive deeds and curb the dissent brewing among the masses. Relief package based on consensus in a time bound manner is need of the hour. Foot dragging would result in someone rising to the occasion, fit into the shoes of Anna and eventually embarrass the authorities. Anyhow, 6 years has been too long a wait.

PAUPER’S LOG: Ode to Mini India



Ode to Mini India

By Abu Arsh

Our islands since its colonization by the British has developed a society where in people of all class, creed or colour live in perfect harmony. Credit for its genesis goes to the early penal settlers and convicts. The degree of nationalistic pride in them led to a unique language of communication. Its prose lacks grammatical sense but is easily understood by one and all residing in these Islands. Its simplicity and use of words from majority of Indian languages, makes a new entrant to island's society pick up this language in no time. This language has bonded us together since ages and is truly reflected in our melting pot of a culture society.

Politics, lure of economic opportunities and corruption have created avenues in the islands society wherein divisive elements have mushroomed. The sheer power of sacrifices and sufferings endured by our forefathers has contributed in setting up this pluralistic but cohesive society. It has taken a lot to achieve this and should be valued and preserved. Its citizens so far have thwarted all attempts of religious or linguistic polarisation even in the wake several disturbing developments occurring at times. The present crops of young and educated islanders are carrying on the legacy inherited from the founders of these islands 'society with great aplomb. They hang around in peer groups irrespective of their religious backgrounds or other identities. Any social occasion is the time for the entire neighbourhood to get involved and contribute in the celebration. Social networking sites where some of the islanders indulge to communicate with their friends and families or present constructive ideas and even fool around were abuzz with activity. As in the past, this festive season showed great character by members of these sites. Hindus were the first to wish Muslims on Eid, Christians and Muslims were the first to wish Hindus on Janmastami or Ganesh Chaturthi and like wise of other communities too. Some members on far away lands in their posts came up with great recollection of their child hood memories, irrespective of religious identities how they celebrated each others festivals in these Islands. Going through those exchanges gives a feeling of pride being part of such a harmonious society.

The simple and peace loving islanders need to be vigilant and not let divisive elements take us for a royal ride in the pretext of humanity or basic rights. Of late various organisations and individuals are coming with ridiculous ideas. These ideas in garb of preserving particular identities, culture and social service propagate a cult of intolerance and hatred. They try to get people on their side by being advocates of providing better facilities, human rights and opportunities against oppression and injustice. The real intention of such elements is to enhance their own bargaining capacity with power centres in the islands. Islanders should be wary of such so called intellectuals and noble souls. As long as we are united, honest and true to our real life values and principles, we don't need messiahs. Nobody will violate any of our fundamental rights and we will exercise them without any fear or reservation. Our islands don't identify with separatists or antinational sentiments.

Let us all work towards popularizing and conserving this casteless and harmonious culture. As such we don't have much to rejoice with all the muck and corruption deep rooted in our society governed by a detached and unresponsive Administration. New crimes and social problems are on the rise. We should as well be prepared to condemn such acts leading to moral degradation as and when it surfaces in our society. Genuine people and causes which try to bring in positive energy in our society should be appreciated and supported. It wouldn't cost us a dime to be an Andamanian, just be what we have always been- a true citizen of Mini India.

Phoenix Bay Playground: A Victim of Political Game


Phoenix Bay Playground: 
A Victim of Political Game

By Zubair Ahmed

It is a story of a group of underdogs fighting to protect a playground from the inept administration and shrewd politicians. Since 1970s a two-acre plot situated near fisheries jetty next to PMB office is being used by the residents of Phoenix Bay as playground. They had dreamt of a spacious ground with stadium on the plot. But scheming politicians competing to outdo one another were busily engaged in getting the plot allotted to various departments.
Every two years the residents had to face new challenges. Till recently, they have resisted all attempts by the administration and politicians from snatching their playground from them. Although, the plot was allotted to the Port Blair Municipal Board to develop as a playground, the local politicians got it allotted to various departments just to score some brownie points. An ex-MP even tried to construct a Yatri Niwas, despite a court order banning construction at the site.
 In 1990, the land was allotted to Central Warehousing Corporation for construction of a warehouse. After various representations by organizations and the residents, the order was cancelled in 1993 and allotted to Municipal Council for developing it as a playground. In the order cancelling the warehouse and office building, it is clearly mentioned that the Ministry of Environment and Forests have not allowed any construction on the plots due to its proximity to the sea.

The playground was to be jointly developed by Municipal Council and Education Department. A total estimate of Rs 5,84,000/- was prepared and the work on the playground commenced during 93-94.
But the joy did not last long, when another order came from the administration in 1996 allotting the playground to three departments Port Management Board, Fisheries Survey of India and Directorate of Shipping Services.
 As a last resort, a group of residents from Phoenix Bay area with the help of a local organisation stepped in and filed a case in High Court for intervention on war footing to restrain all concerned departments from any illegal and unlawful construction at the site. The organisation pleaded before the court to consider the 1991 notification issued by MOEF, where it is clearly stated that no new construction of buildings shall be permitted within 200 metres of high tide line. The area was earmarked as a No Development Zone. It also pleaded that the Municipal Council had already spent an amount of Rs 4,68,931/- in the development of the playground. The High Court passed an interim order that no construction should be carried out and all the parties should abide by the result of the application.
Despite the Court Order, on one part of the two-acre plot, Fisheries Survey of India constructed its office building. It is sheer contempt of court, says, P A Salam, a retd executive engineer, who had moved the High Court. But, lack of resources has broken their resolve.
Now, a huge edifice stands on the plot. The vacant land is used as an open stockyard by Harbour Works. However, Salam feels otherwise. “Still the playground can be restored,” said Salam. He blames the local councillors and the MPs for the debacle. Everyone tried to encash the opportunity.
When CPIM had a councillor in the area, he wanted to develop the ground and build a stadium in that area, which irritated the local Congress councillor, who used his clout and machinations and tried his best to resist it and got the plot allotted to various departments.
When the land was allotted to three departments, Bishnu Pada Ray ex-MP too got into the loop and tried his luck. He coaxed the Directorate of Shipping to construct a Yatri Niwas at the site. He used his connections in Home Ministry and got an order issued by P K Jalali, Joint Secretary, MHA for construction of the Yatri Nivas. Based on the order, S Hemachandran, Development Commisssioner on 15 April 2002, asked Chief Engineer, APWD to take immediate action and expedite the project.
When Chief Engineer, APWD sought the possession of the land for construction of the Yatri Nivas, annoyed by the order, on 28 November 2002, Director of Shipping Services  informed the Chief Engineer, APWD that the land was presently under dispute governed by the High Court order of strict ban on new construction. DSS also enclosed a copy of the court order for reference.
Despite the court order, Bishnu Pada Ray even got a Union Minister to lay the foundation stone at the site. The building has not been constructed at the site. But, Fisheries Survey of India went ahead and constructed its office.
On the outset, it seems to be a simple case, but most of the politicians involved had an axe to grind. Ultimately, it is the children of Port Blair, who lost a beautiful playground, which, if developed properly could have provide an alternate to Gymkhana ground.
The lame administration and shrewd political interferences have already paralysed development of sports in these Islands and any hope of its revival will need enormous will power and nerve.