By Zubair Ahmed

With the arrest of three poachers from Kadamtala under PAT Regulation, 1956, a new modern-day Enmei myth has been busted. It was widely reported in local and national media that a group of ten Jarawa youth out of hunger and desperation had ventured out of the forest and met the Gram Pradhan demanding food, school and a rendezvous with the Lieutenant Governor and Deputy Commissioner. As per the report, they had a huge list of demands ready.

As per the release issued by ANI Admn, on 03 Oct 2013, 10 Jarawas had reached Kadamtala Panchayat office demanding rice and eatables besides meeting with govt. officials. As per enquiry conducted by AAJVS authorities, some persons had gone into Jarawa habitat Hocha Botha (western coast) and stayed for 02 days for hunting. Further, they provided the Jarawas with rice, cooking oil and other eatables etc. instigated them to meet the Pradhan for food and other items.

During investigation the accused persons namely Maharaja Bala @ raja, Surender @ Surin and Rahul Mondal, all three residents of Kadamtala, have been arrested. All three have been remanded to 14 days judicial custody.

These persons were found to be habitual intruders into the Jarawa Reserve Area and it is learnt that they used to supply alcoholic substances to Jarawas.

However, the story does not end there. On 2 Oct 2013, Maharaja Bala, a blacksmith by profession and a regular poacher had invited the Jarawas to his house, which is on the fringes of the Reserve. About ten Jarawa youth instigated by Maharaja came to his house and stayed the whole night. Maharaja, always wanted to sell his wares to Jarawas, and kept instigating them against the quality of iron implements supplied by the Tribal Welfare Department. He had also added a demand to their list saying that they require the services of a blacksmith to repair their implements.

The Pradhan of the village, Sampat Kumar Roy too joined them and tutored them what to say. According to reliable sources, both Maharaja and Sampat had brought two bottles of liquor (On Gandhi Jayanti, a dry day) and served the Jarawas. "Liquor will give you enough strength to be bold to face the officers," they were reportedly told. Sampath had also asked them not to budge to any kind of appeasement and not board any vehicle, if AAJVS staff asked them to.

It is also learnt that two more poachers, Swapan Biswas and Suresh were also accompanying the Jarawas on the night of 2 October. Both of them are absconding.

Its intriguing why the Pradhan Sampath Kumar Roy, the ringmaster of the circus has been let off. He is very vocal about mainstreaming of Jarawas, which is not a crime, but he was also present at Maharaja's house, that too with a bottle of liquor and tutored them how to perform in front of the officers. Misled and misguided, the Jarawas parroted the lines taught to them. It is also learnt that Jarawas have now realized their mistake and are also on the lookout for the poachers, who misbehaved with them. "We will beat them if we get them,' Affee, the Jarawa youth told the source.

There are many messiahs of the Jarawas who are in a haste to bring them into the mainstream, for their own advantage. Speaking to LOA, a senior anthropologist said that settlers have always felt Jarawa to be an hindrance in their development and wants them to be settled in one of the uninhabited Islands. "They are eyeing their land and resources," he said.

The welfare of the Jarawas and their territory has been entrusted to three agencies - AAJVS, Police and Forest Dept. In a seminar organised by Anthropological Survey of India (ASI), Secretary Tribal Welfare had mentioned that the Admn has already identified a few hotspots where interactions and barters with the Jarawas take place. However, lack of proper coordination between the three agencies have resulted in many such excesses in the tribal reserves. A report by one of the Expert Committee on Jarawa Policy had mentioned that rice has already found inroad into Jarawa lifestyle.

In Tirur, Wright Myo and Kadamtala, poachers frequently venture into Jarawas Reserves for hunting deer and wild boars, depleting their resource base. Recently, a Dinghi was captured in Wright Myo in which forest dept seized about 8 deers - out which five were alive. Although, the Dinghi was seized there were no arrests made. The modus operandi of the forest beat staff is to let off the perpetrators and only seize the contraband. Large scale timber poaching is also reported from all these areas. In another incident which was reported by LOA, a group of forest staff who had ventured into the Reserve to extract cane and ballies were ambushed by the Jarawas and all their belongings were snatched.

Many such incidents are in the knowledge of forest officials, but no action is ever taken. It is also learnt that the welfare officers looking after the Jarawas have time and again reported about poachers in villages who frequent the Reserve and set traps to catch wild boar and deer.

Recently, police had booked cases against fishermen who were found fishing inside the Buffer Zone. Although, PAT regulations have been made stringent, due to non-application, poachers freely carry out their misdemeanors. PAT Regulation prescribes stringent punishment of imprisonment up to 7 years.

Unless the hotspots are plugged properly and tight watch on poachers in the villages increased, interaction between Jarawas and Settlers cannot be checked. As of now, there are 408 Jarawas in Tirur, Middle Strait and Kadamtala, and the resource base is sufficient for them, only if it is protected from the poachers. It is not the Jarawas who are venturing out to mingle with the Settlers, but its the other way round, which requires awareness as well as implementation of the stringent laws, as tweeted by the Lieutenant Governor.

It is very unfortunate that the villagers/settlers living in the fringes of Tribal reserves are ignorant about the history and lives of Jarawas. It is high time that knowledge about the tribes and their rights to life, land and livelihood are incorporated in the school curriculum so that at least the next generation does not carry the notion that the so-called 'junglees' are a nuisance and hindrance in the march of progress and development.

NARCOTICS IN CLASSROOMS

If slowly our children in the Islands are turning Sadhus and Sufis by hooking on to bhang to achieve spiritual bliss and transcend higher planes of meditation, there is much to worry.

By Zubair Ahmed

Classrooms in many schools have turned into drug dens with students experimenting and exploring easily accessible narcotic formulations. Instead of jaljeera and gems, their curiosity has now found cure in a new packet more potent than Gutkha and Pan Masala.

When four Class IX students of a prominent school in Port Blair were rusticated for attending classes in intoxicated state, it revealed some shocking realities. “The students were found in a trance laughing non-stop for hours, which raised suspicion. It was found that they had consumed something called Lahri," Principal of the school told LOA. One Class XI student was also found in possession of Ganja.

The Light of Andamans on a week-long drug trail found that school students are swiftly getting addicted to a beautifully packed drug sold in the market by the brand name Lahri - Manukka Pachak Vati, which contains marijuana in the concoction, manufactured by an oblivious Ayurvedic firm Shukla Ayurvedic Pharmacy based in Indore.

Initially LOA team tried to find the source of ganja. Most of the peddlers are now underground after a major crackdown by the police. It was a bit tough to get a pudiya. Nevertheless, it’s available for all those desperate souls looking for it. The team could however manage to get three sachets from three different peddlers at a premium at designated places in the city.

Curiosity about Lahri took the team to various provision stores in the city, which stocked the so-called 'Ayurvedic Medicine', and without any inhibition the team could procure it from almost three shops. Although the sachet states it to be an "Ayurvedic Medicine" and a Schedule E(1) drug, only to be taken under medical supervision, its available for Rs 5 per sachet in roadside shops. Actually priced at Re 1, this is the only narcotic substance which is easily accessible to everyone including children for meager Rs 5/- cheaper than a Paan.

It may be shocking for many, but its common knowledge among the connoisseurs who call it bhang. "We don't use this substance as it’s the poor man's nasha," said an old addict, who claims to be clean now. "We used to have it when we were broke," he added.

Bhang may be a taboo for many, but in a disguise Lahri is sold as a digestive aid – Pachak Vati. When we approached an Ayurvedic physician, he could not even recognise it and was shocked to know that it’s available in the open market.

The composition on the Lahri packet states 12 different components like manuka (rajence) 20%, Shakkar Bura 10%, Shudh Vijaya 12%, Sengha Namak 5%, Jeera 10%, Badi Ilaichi 1%, Khajur 20%, Gud 5%, Nimbu Satt 2%, Kala Namak 5%, Kali Mirch 2%, Ajwain 8%, but does not mention marijuana or cannabis anywhere.

Odourless, the substance can be consumed anywhere unassumingly. It has become a hit among school students in the city and sold like hotcake in many shops. When our contact reached a shop and demanded 'munakka' as it’s called by users, the shopkeeper corrected him and told him to ask for "Lahri." He took out the sachet from his cashbox. Another shop at Junglighat had stocked the sachets in a gunny bag.

Very recently cases of students attending classes in inebriated state were also reported from two more schools in the city. “Without secure compounds, how can one monitor movement of outsiders inside school campuses?” asks a Physical Education Teacher.

 “We see vehicles parked near the school campus in suspicious situations, and we have already informed the police,” said a Principal. “There are gangs who supply the contrabands to the students,” he added.

A cramped classroom with more than 60 students in a class is the bane of our Islands, where every time we hear the rhetoric that there is no shortage of funds. “How can we keep watch on all students and their actions, when we have to complete syllabus as well as maintain proper records of each student as ordained by CCE pattern?’ asks a teacher.

The Directorate of Health Services typically remains ignorant of such drugs being peddled through general stores. Such a narcotic preparation, more potent than gutkha or pan masala is beyond the radar of Health Services as the Island lags behind by 60 years in the proper implementation of Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940. Only a few cosmetic changes here and there are at place for State Drugs Controller, Licensing Authority and Drug Inspectors.

The indifferent attitude of the parents and civil society in identifying and monitoring such practices is another curse. The gravity of the issue is discussed and forgotten without any apt action. “Serious engagement by the Parents Teachers Associations (PTA) can play a major role in keeping a watch and curbing such practices in educational institutions,” said a teacher who feels that most of the Associations are for namesake.

In 2009, in Pune same product with a different brand name "Tarang" was confiscated by police. The preparation was sent to a forensic laboratory for chemical analysis and it confirmed the presence of the contraband. After an expert’s conclusion, cases were filed under the relevant sections of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. Two cases were registered in 2010, but the figure rose to 10 in 2011.

It is indeed startling that in our Islands, where there is no proper monitoring of drugs sold over the counter and in provision stores, undoubtedly, easy accessibility to such dangerous drugs will be disastrous.

System Failure, Aborting Task

Part-time responsibility will only yield part-time results. High time, ANI Admn puts in place a separate Food and Drugs Administration to keep a tab on unregulated flow of dangerous drugs in the open market.

By the time the Andaman and Nicobar Admn grasps the need for a full-fledged division with a Drug Controller, Licensing Authority and Drug Inspectors, as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945, it would be too late. As of now, Drug Controller and Licensing Authority are rolled into one and the Director of Health Services has been ex officio notified, which is totally against the provisions of the Rules.

The Drug Controller and Licensing Authority are two different posts, with specialisation in Clinical Pharmacology or Microbiology. The Director at present is ex-officio notified as the Drug Controller, which does not serve any purpose. Moreover, he doesn't qualify for the post.

There are two notified ex-officio Drug Inspectors –Allopathic and Ayurveda. “With additional charges, it’s very difficult to monitor the whole territory,” Dr Paul, Director, Heath Services told LOA.

 “There are two posts created for Drug Inspectors, which is lying vacant till now due to delay in finalizing the RR,” said Dr Paul.

Satyavan Singh, Pharmacist, Ayurveda, is holding the charge of Ayurveda Drug Inspector. Narayan, another Pharmacist is again ex-officio notified as Drug Inspector, Allopath.

 “We do not have laboratories to check the drugs and we are trying to tie up with accredited laboratories in mainland,” said Dr. Paul.

There have been cases of Over the Counter (OTC) drug abuses throughout the territory. According to reliable sources, cases of abuse of Spasmo Proxyvon were reported from Car Nicobar where more than 13 youngsters died due to cardiac dilation in the last two to three years, which were attributed to the drug.

The alarming proportion of abuse of Codeine-based cough syrups and its availability in the nook and corner of the Islands reported by LOA in 2012 (COVER STORY: C-Company: Silent Killer on Prowl) had exposed the extent of the issue.

"There is no restriction on Ayurvedic medicines being sold by anyone," Satyavan Singh says. However, if the drug contains contraband like narcotics, according to Health authorities, it comes under the purview of police.

There seems to be blatant ignorance on one side and total evasion of one's responsibility. It is learnt that not a single case has been filed yet.

Its high time the  authorities wake up and put in place a system to monitor the free flow of dangerous and hazardous drugs in the market. Till then, it would be prudent on the part of the heath authorities to at least move out of the cosy chambers and find a way out using the existing mechanism instead of shirking responsibility.

The photographs shown are of Andaman Islands which ways back to 1830s. All photographs are the property of Susan Greenhalgh. Susan is the Granddaughter of George Brown and Enith Bessie (nee Webb). She is presently residing at Lancashire, England.

“Being ozone friendly” means tasking individual action to reduce and eliminate impacts on the stratosphere ozone layer caused by the products you buy, the appliances and equipment that your household or business uses, or the manufacturing process used by your company. Products made with, or containing ozone depleting substances (ODS) such as CFCs, HCFs, Halons, Methyl Chloroform and Methyl Bromide can contribute to ozone layer depletion. 

The following list describes some actions individual can take to help protect the Ozone Layer Depletion:

Be an Ozone Friendly Consumer: Buy products (aerosols spray cans, refrigerators, fire extinguisher, etc.) that are labelled “Ozone Friendly” or “CFC Free”. The product labels should indicate that they do not contain ozone depleting substances such as CFCs or Halons. Ask for more information from the seller to ensure that the product is ozone friendly. Tell your neighbours that you are the proud owner of “Ozone Friendly” products.

Be an Ozone Friendly House Owner: Dispose of old refrigerators and appliances responsible for CFC & HCFC refrigerants should be removed from an appliance before it is discarded (ask the Public Work Department in your town or a home appliance dealer about appliance refrigerant recovery programmes).  Portable Halon fire extinguishers that are no longer needed should be returned to your fire protection authority for recycling. Consider purchasing new fire extinguishers that do not contain halon (eg. Dry Powder) as recommended by your fire protection authority.

Be an Ozone Friendly Farmer: If you use methyle bromide for soil fumigation, consider switching to effectively and safe alternatives are currently being used in many countries to replace this ozone damaging pesticide. Consider options such as integrated pest management that do not rely on costly chemical inputs. If you donot currently using methyl bromide, don’t begin to use it now (you will have to get rid of it in the future).

Be an Ozone Friendly Refrigeration servicing Technician: Ensure that you recover from air conditioners, refrigerators or freezers during servicing is not “vented” or released to the atmosphere. Regularly check and fix leaks before they become a problem. Help start a refrigerant recovery and recycling programme in your area.

Be an Ozone Friendly Office Worker: Help your company identify which existing equipment (eg. Water cooler, air conditioners, cleaning solvents, fire extinguishers) and what products it buys (aerosol sprays, foam cushions/ mattresses, paper correct fluid) use ozone depleting substances, and develop a plan for replacing them with cost effective alternatives. Become an environmental leader within your office.

Be an Ozone Friendly Company: Replace ozone depleting substances used on your premises and in your manufacturing process (contact your National ozone unit to see if you are eligible for financial and technical assistance from the multi lateral fund). If your products contain ozone depleting substances, change your product formulation to use alternatives substances that do not destroy the ozone layer.

Be an Ozone Friendly Teacher: Inform your students about the importance of protecting the environment and in particular the ozone layer. Teach students about the damaging impact of ozone depleting substances on the atmosphere, the health impacts, and what steps are being taken internationally and nationally to solve this problem. Encourage students to spread the message to their families.

Be an Ozone Friendly Community Organiser: Inform your family, neighbours and friends about the need to protect the ozone layer and help them get involved. Work with non-governmental organisations to help start information campaigns: and technical assistance projects to phase out ozone depleting substances in your city, town or village.

Be an Ozone Friendly Citizen: Read and learn more about the effects of ozone depletion on people, animals and the environment, your national strategy and policies to implement the Montreal Protocol, and the phase out of ozone depleting  substances means to your country. Get in touch with your country’s National Ozone unit and learn get involved on an individual level.

Be an Ozone Friendly:  SOS Save Our Skies.

Published in the public interest by

Department of Science & Technology, A & N Administration, Port Blair

By

Debkumar Bhadra

Shore Point, Bambooflat, S Andaman-744107

It was just another day for M Nageshwar Rao, a cobbler until he picked up the suitcase that has come to his shop earlier on the day with a broken handle. As he turned the suitcase on the working platform, a bundle of currency notes popped out of it. He found the bundle had 11 notes of Rs 1000 each, totalling to Rs 11000.00 (repeat Eleven Thousand Rupees). Keeping the money in a secure place, he went ahead to accomplish the assigned work.

Next day, Surajit Chowdhury visited the shop to take delivery of the suitcase. He was happy to see his suitcase ready. But the real surprise was yet to be delivered. He was taken aback when Nageshwar Rao told him about the discovery of Rs 11000.00 from his suitcase. It was nothing less than a bounty, since he lost track of his money probably kept in the inner compartment of the suitcase during one of his repeated visit to mainland hospital few years back.

Awestruck, he offered Nageshwar Rao to take whatever amount he wishes, but he surprised him yet again. Nageshwar Rao said, he would be satisfied with the charges he is about to get for his work. He does not wish to take what doesn’t belong to him. Surajit Chowdhury wanting to reward him for the rare gesture voluntary offered some money, but could not convince him to accept it. He returned from his shop, high in spirit and shared what he considered the most impressive event of the day, on the social networking site facebook (page of The Light of Andamans).

Within a month, the post clocked 500+ likes, 150+ comment, few even copied and shared it on their wall, as a token of appreciation towards the honesty shown by Nageshwar Rao. Any post relating to A&N Islands which has this many likes, comments and shares attributed to a single issue is a rarity in itself. I therefore decided, I must meet him personally and convey him the feelings expressed in appreciation of his honesty by fellow beings.

I was impressed; Mr M Nageshwar Rao, son of Late M Venkanna is a contented man. His family consisting of his wife Mrs M Mariamma and three daughters, M Rani (19 Yrs), M Diviya (17 Yrs) and M Kezia (12 Yrs) live happily in a rented house at Lambaline. He has been professing the job of a cobbler for the last about 25 years. Earlier he used to ferry his box in search of customers, but few years back he got a shop in the PBMC complex near STS Bus Terminus at Aberdeen Bazaar. Since then he has been stationary, contented with his job and the earning he gets for mending peoples belongings.

During the course of interaction with Mr M Nageshwar Rao, I found him dedicated to his work. While answering my queries, his hands never stopped serving the customers calling on his shop. I said, you might be feeling disturbed by visitor like me. Nodding his head in disagreement, he said after the incident many persons met him, thanked him and some even photographed him on their mobile phones. This is a loss of time, I said. He smilingly replied, customers now come searching for M Nageshwar Rao; my customer base has increased, he smiles again and hammers the just mended piece of luggage before handing it over to a customer who has been patiently hearing our conversation.

Seeing a brief pause in customer visit, I asked, Eleven Thousand Rupees is a handsome amount, therefore how easy or for that matter difficult it was to walk the talk? He said it would have been really difficult had his family not stood behind him in the decision. He and his family believes what is not theirs, will not stay with them for long. So it is better to return whatever is not theirs.

The moral that Mr M Nageshwar Rao and his family relies upon is rarely seen, especially at a time when almost all the thing that one need to lead a decent life has a price tag attached to it.

Overwhelming response in the form of likes, comments and shares followed by personal visit expressing heartfelt gratitude is a pointer to the magnitude the incident had on the general mass. Mr M Nageshwar Rao by his deed has resurrected a dead trait, it is now upon us to walk the talk and keep the flag of honesty flying.