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.

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.

The Andaman Islands are one of the few places in India where individuals from multiple communities are involved in commercial fishing activities. At the same time several different types of fisheries came into existence since the 1900s. The previously pristine nature of marine ecosystems in these islands and their extensive fringing coral reefs, created a space for multiple fisheries targeting different types of marine organisms. However, these fisheries have not had a stable history of existence. Many fisheries have peaked and then subsequently declined either due to unregulated fishing pressure, changes in policy, poor management, or a fall in demand for the product. It is worthwhile trying to record this cycle of “boom and bust” fisheries and understand the conditions that allow for new fisheries to start, peak, and then decline.

One of the first commercial fisheries to start in these islands was the shellfish fishery; and two species were mainly targeted, namely Trochus niloticus and Turbo marmoratus. Trochus or ‘top shell’ has a conical shell with alternating red and white bands, while Turbo or ‘turban shell’ has a thick green shell with white patches. Both shells were used in the mother of pearl industry. The fishery started in the 1920s, with licenced Japanese fishers being allowed to skin dive and hand pick the shells off reefs that were 10 to 25m deep. Despite several rules and regulations managing the fishery, including demarcation of shell fishing zones, a minimum size limit, and several closed seasons, the stocks of both species dwindled over the years. In fact, surveys in 1978 by the CMFRI and in 2010 by the ZSI failed to record any specimens of Turbo. In 2001, Trochus and Turbo were placed under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, thereby banning collection of these species across India, and this resulted in the closure of the fishery. Sea cucumbers belong to a group called Holothurians, and there was an active fishery for this group since 1975. Sea cucumbers were handpicked from reefs, boiled and dried, to produce an end product called bêche-de-mer that were exported to Singapore, China, Hong Kong, and other Asian countries. Products from the Andaman Islands fetched 10-15 times more money than those from mainland India, due to their high quality. As a result of a clause in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Shell Fishing Rules, 1978, extraction of sea cucumbers was banned in areas demarcated as ‘Shell Fishing Zones’, which covered nearly all of the area where these organisms were located. There are no clear estimates of the quantities of holothurians extracted from the Andamans, and extensive poaching is partially responsible for this. In 2001, Holothurians were also added to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, effectively protecting them from any form of extraction in India.

The first reported landing of sharks in the Andaman Islands was in 1967. Despite the poor local demand for sharks, they were targeted predominantly for their fins and livers. Shark fins were and continue to be exported in large quantities to Southeast Asian countries, while oils from their livers are used for pharmaceutical purposes. The catch rates of sharks in these waters show a declining trend between 1984 and 2005 and fishermen support this trend with observations of reef sharks rarely being encountered nowadays. Some laws and regulations have attempted to regulate this fishery, and a nationwide ban on shark fishing was introduced in July 2001. Six months later this ban was lifted, following protests by shark fishermen across the country. In these islands, a ban on shark fishing from April 15 to May 31 was introduced in 2009, giving shark populations a chance to recover from fishing mortality each year. While the shark fishery is still active in the Andaman Islands, the stocks of coastal species have greatly reduced and fishermen are fishing in deeper and deeper waters in order to catch sharks.

The three fisheries described above have “boomed and busted” due to a combination of factors like poor management, policy changes, and unregulated fishing pressure. Foreign poachers target all three groups to maximise their returns, and in turn deprive local enterprises of profits. With this in mind, several groups advocate the delisting and reopening of the shellfish and sea cucumber fisheries, as they feel that these stocks have recovered appropriately. However, without adequate monitoring of these fisheries and scientifically sound management practices, these fisheries could once again boom and go bust. In order for fishers to self-regulate, a system of equitable profit distribution may go a long way in sustaining these stocks. In the case of the shark fishery, species level catch monitoring, studies on life history patterns, population structure, and abundance could help provide information about the future of these stocks and the direction the fishery is taking. At present, several other fisheries, like those for crabs, lobsters, and groupers, are booming. It only remains to be seen how long these fisheries will last and when they will go bust.

Indian Dental Association & Voice of Tobacco Victim campaign

The industry uses diverse mediums for advertisements, promotion and sponsorship tactics to directly influence users for tobacco use or new users to start using it. It also portrays a positive influence or showcase doing good by skillful blending real life scenarios with tobacco.

It attributes by:-

• Showcasing tobacco use as customary and glamorous.

• Segmented and targeting vulnerable groups youth, women by deceptive and misleading descriptors and advertisements.

• Sponsoring Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Why tobacco industries do it?

 Attract new tobacco users

 Increase the amount of consumption among current tobacco users

 Reduce a tobacco user’s willingness to quit

 Encourage former user to start the habit again

Our nation has the dubious distinction of harboring the highest burden of mouth cancer in the world and we are called “oral cancer capital of the world”. Apart from mouth cancers, smokeless tobacco use is one of the major risk factor for periodontal diseases.  The burden of diseases caused by tobacco use results in loss of livelihood of not only the individuals but the entire family and country is at loss.

Our younger generation needs to be protected against the menace of tobacco. Every day about 5,500 children start the tobacco habit in India.  The age of initiation is as low as 8 years. We the dentists, who are responsible for the oral health, are extremely worried about rising trends of mouth cancer especially amongst the youth. This epidemic is the result of rampant use of Tobacco and Areca nut in different forms. The industry promotes tobacco use by giving free sample, sale at discount price, promoting it in the youth centric festival or cultural programmers’. Even at the point of sale the tobacco packets are placed next to chocolates or confectionary.

 Indian Dental Association & Voice of Tobacco Victims urge our government to prohibit any such advertisements and promotion of tobacco product to save the millions of youths of our country from being a victim of tobacco.

“Our Youths are Future in the Hands of Government”

For more information, kindly contact:-

Dr. G. Selvaraj, Hon. State Secretary, Indian Dental association, Port Blair. Mob- 09732472777. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.                                                                                        

Dr. Kunal, Voice of Tobacco Victim. Mob- 9930011249. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.                                

--Vardhan Patankar

 Our love, passion, appreciation and realization of the importance of our surrounding environment and wildlife have resulted in actions to safeguard our environment. We often take it for granted that, the Forest Department and NGO’s, albeit inefficient, are protecting our Forest and wildlife. However, the grittier reality is that the wildlife protection is a complicated issue and a number of factors are involved in conserving wildlife, including support and help from the local communities. Such is the case with conserving the State Animal of our islands—the dugongs (Sea Cows). 

Dugongs are the only herbivorous mammals that are strictly marine, and the only surviving species in the family Dugongidae. They feed exclusively on sea grass and play a role of kin gardener of sea grass meadows. Unlike many other marine animals, dugongs live up to 70 years and much like humans, reach sexual maturity between 10 and 17 years. A female gives birth to a single calf every 5-7 years and the young ones depend on the mother for a year and a half, which means that the population growth is very low, making it difficult to re-establish or propagate when the population dips to extremely low levels.

There used to be two other species of sea cows - manatee and Stellar’ sea cow. A few individuals of manatees still inhabit the south-eastern coast of the United States, South America and tropical West Africa. However, Stellar’ sea cow was hunted to extinction just twenty-seven years after its discovery in the 18th Century.

Today, dugongs are on the verge of extinction across most of the Indo-Pacific regions. In India, the present distribution of dugongs is restricted along the Gulf of Kutch, the west coast, Gulf of Mannar, the Palk Bay region, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In the Lakshadweep waters, dugongs were driven to local extinction around 60 years ago.

In Andaman and Nicobar islands, a popular belief is that dugongs are found only along “Dugong Creek” in the Little Andaman Island. Our research findings tell us that although few in number, they are reported from other parts such as the Ritchies archipelago (Neil and Havelock group of islands), South Andaman (along Tarmugli, Jollybuoy and Rutland islands), North and middle Andaman (along White-Cliff, Reef, Landfall islands and Mayabundar region), in Hutbay and along the central group of Nicobar Islands.

In our waters, they are unflatteringly referred to as sea-pigs or pani-suwar (thawtee). The name probably arising from their portliness (body size/ structure) may not sound very pleasant, but these animals possess this feature for their survival. The thickest part of their body is the back, where most of the blubber is deposited. Dugongs protect themselves from predators, such as sharks, by simply turning their backs on them.

They may be able to flee from sharks in the water, but their sluggish behaviour makes them easily vulnerable to poachers’ traps. Being mammals, dugongs breathe through lungs and need to surface every 5-6 minutes to breathe. When a dugong is caught in a net, the net traps them not allowing them the gulp of air that they need. Targeted hunting, entanglements in fishing nets and high-speed boat traffic has wreaked havoc to their population across.

Dugongs are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Indian Wildlife Protection Act has accorded them the highest level of legal protection under Schedule I. The Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India has launched the Dugong Species Recovery Program.

Are such bans effective tools for conserving species? Are these measures enough?

There are about fifty dugongs that live in the Andaman and Nicobar region! The Forest Department and Nature Conservation Foundation in collaboration with the Andaman and Nicobar Environment team are attempting to conserve these animals. Identifying the habitats of this elusive species and creating awareness amongst local people like the fishermen, boat owners and others to reduce poaching-related threats is the first step towards conserving these docile sea mammals.

Dugong hunting practices continues to exist to date and their habitats are continuously degrading. It’s a great privilege and a matter of pride that such elusive charismatic species choose the waters around our archipelago as their habitat. It is not the Forest Department and the NGO’s who can protect these dugongs, but us – the people who have the power to conserve the measly population and prevent another species from biting the dust. Dugongs if not for anything else, must be conserved for their beauty, rarity and for our children to see what truly belongs to the islands.