By Almas Shamim

No, we aren’t talking about “Fuck” here, though, we could do that as well. ‘Fuck’, or let’s be more technical and call it ‘sexual intercourse’, seems to be a lesser taboo today than it was a decade ago, maybe, but any discussion around it continues to turn heads and raise eyebrows. So, yes, we’ll talk about it, but let’s begin with a different F-Word- something that meets with too much hatred and discrimination, and is as big a taboo (if not bigger) as sex.

You may have guessed it- yes, I’m talking about ‘Feminism’.

The much spoken about, the much extolled and the much criticized ‘feminism’. For some, it is the Holy Grail and for some there couldn’t be a bigger slander. Of course, we are all entitled to our own opinions, but, we must ensure that our opinions are well informed and not based on any ignorant portrayals or beliefs.

So what is feminism? Is it ‘blaming men for every problem under the sun’? Is it ‘demanding men to do household chores’? Or is it ‘labeling all men rapists’?

THIS seems to be the general perception surrounding feminism, which, sadly, is not true.

Contrary to popular belief, feminism does not mean placing females at a higher pedestal than men. It does not translate to female superiority and definitely does not call for male bashing. What feminism does mean is ‘equality’. As a movement, feminism calls for equal social, political, cultural and economic rights for women. It only demands that a woman be treated as an equal to a man.

Any person who says that such a demand is baseless because women already have all the rights, is only living in denial and needs to come out of the cave that he/she resides in and look around at all the injustices being meted out on women for the simple reason that they are women. Be it killing of the female foetus, be it demanding dowry from a bride, or be it maltreatment of a woman after she is widowed, there is a definite bias against women. To deny it is a sign of cowardice- cowardice to own up the mistake that we humans have been committing for ages.

Our society is highly patriarchal and gives too much importance to men. Women have always been looked at as some ‘thing’ that just has a supportive role to men. Feminism, here, does not call for a role reversal. It, in reality, calls for a balanced role assignment, where both men and women are equally important and both are supportive to each other. In this way, feminism is not a movement that is beneficial to women alone, but also to men.

Imagine a society where only men could be earning members of their families, only men could drive vehicles and only men could go out to the market for buying groceries. On the one hand, it would undermine the potential of women, underplaying all that a woman could do (besides being highly claustrophobic!), on the other hand it would place too many responsibilities on the men- they would literally be running around outside the house with hardly any time to spend at home. Feminism, in its demand of giving equal rights for women, also places equal responsibilities on them, so that the world runs smoothly with both halves of the population- the men and the women- complementing each other, rather than one subjugating the other.

It’s imperative that we understand what feminism is, and how important it is for both women and men to be feminists, so that the world moves at least one step closer to be the fair place it should be.

So, what are your thoughts about this F-Word – Feminism?

Almas Shamim is a public health specialist with a great interest in sexual and reproductive health and rights, and feminism among Muslim women. She currently works for an international humanitarian aid organization in New Delhi and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Power supply has been playing cat and mouse for quite sometime for the last two months. Constant blaming of nature's vagaries since ages is a reprehensible excuse. Acute shortage of man and material adds to the woes.

By Zubair Ahmed

If you ask why so many interruptions in power supply now, they blame it on the unexpected pre-monsoon showers. The rain was a relief from scarcity of water and the simmering heat. But it brought miseries of a different kind. Nights had turned nightmares without power. The authorities still feel the unexpected rain was the spoiler, the usual rhetoric though.  Its a fact reiterated time and again that rain and power cannot co-exist peacefully in our territory. Vagaries of the nature have been an reprehensible excuse since ages. But, the overall power situation in South Andaman had gone for a toss since February this year. During last two months, that too during Board exams, power played cat and mouse.

And why is it so in Port Blair too, where the vegetation is low and with so many feeders? They blame it on relay coordination. Oops.. its the new term doing rounds. Or maybe that is what we are told to believe. The supply from different small and big power plants with different DG sets and calibrations is in itself a problem, if not properly coordinated.

Speaking with Andaman Chronicle, Mr U K Paul, SE, Electricity Department said that he is expecting a consultancy team from Chennai, who will do the survey and properly set right the relay coordination. And he is hopeful that once its done, frequent tripping of Gensets will come down reducing the downtime.

The power generation scenario in South Andaman is also not very comfortable after IPP Suryachakra Power Corporation Ltd shut down one more 5 MW Genset from its installed capacity of 20 MW. Its generating 10 MW power now. The other two Hired Power Plants (HPP) - Sudhir Ready and New Bharat contributes around 14 MW. In fact, New Bharat, which was almost written off was coaxed to run their gensets. IPP and HPPs seems to have turned constant pain in the neck for the Administration.

The department run power plants at Phoenix Bay and Chatham generates 15.8 MW. The newly installed 5 MW Genset is the only saving grace as of now. Any further disruption by IPP or HPPs would plunge the territory into darkness.

The Transmission and Distribution is one sector, where the Department has been drawing flak from all quarters. Even when power was surplus, the frequent interruptions due to poor maintenance and obsolete and worn out infrastructure had marred the reputation of the department. It forced the Administration to conduct an audit of power generation as well as transmission and distribution. The report saw light in November last year. Six months are over, and as mentioned in the report, most of the short-term work would be completed within two years.

Moreover, lack of inter-departmental coordination is quite obvious when it comes to proper maintenance of overhead as well as UG cables. The Electricity authorities blame the Forest Department for not giving sufficient corridor for laying power lines. In fact they rue the strenuous and tedious process of clearances.

The proposal to replace the overhead bare conductors with insulated cables in the Rural areas is yet to begin, and this rainy season too, blame would be on monsoon miseries. A 33 KV sea-link line Zebra- and Zebra-2 between Surya Chakra Power Plant at Bambooflat and Chatham Power House is completed which would help in power evacuation as well as optimal use of grid apart from the two line Panther-1 and Panther-2 connecting SPCL with Port Blair at Garacharma Sub-Station.

The ground staff of the department is seen working very hard, clearing vegetation, changing fuse, pruning branches of trees and their efforts are well appreciated by everyone, including the Administrator. But, what is seen is not what actually would have been the situation. There is acute shortage of man and material in the department. There are more than 65 posts of linemen lying vacant for decades now. There is shortage of JEs as well. The lines are now maintained by untrained mazdoors, and any accident would attract huge hue and cry. The department is run by skeletal staff and its quite visible in all site offices. There is no efforts to fill up the posts, which is one main reason in delivery of services.  Many gensets in the department-run power plants are performing sub-optimal just for want of spare parts. The list of excuses for all shortfall in service can be attributed to shortage of manpower as well as material.

The Panel - 5 which covered a large area from Hope Town to Shoal Bay and Jirkatang with a peak requirement of 3 MW has been bifurcated with installation of a new sub-station at Bambooflat. Panel 5 has been branched off into three feeders - Feeder 1 -Hope Town, Feeder 2 - Shoal Bay and Jirkatang combined. Up to Wimberly Gunj, the UG cable is connected to SPCL directly. And, the sub-station which was due for last three years have started functioning on trial basis from last Saturday. There are a few hiccups, which needs to be overcome. But, it doesn't seem to be a major solution as the feeder which caters Shoal Bay and Jirkatang - two ends - is overhead line from Bambooflat to these areas. Any disruption in Shoal Bay would still effect Jirkatang and vice-versa. Only safe zone, as informed by the concerned authorities is up to Wimberly Gunj, which has been separated from Jirkatanag and Shoal Bay line. Ideally, a sub-station anywhere close to Wimberly Gunj would be the long term solution with three different feeders catering in three different directions.

There is a mention of more sub-stations in the audit report. That seems to be the only solution in the long run. As the thumb rule, 33KV line should not go beyond 20 kms without a sub-station at every 20 kms.

"A survey needs to be conducted to assess the requirement of sub-stations throughout the territory, which needs to be taken up urgently," U K Paul said.

The 5-MW Solar Plant as of now is more a problem than a solution with huge cloud movements throughout the year. The peak generation that too upto 3 MW during sunny days is hardly for 15-30 minutes between 11.45 am to 12.15 pm. And the sudden fluctuation affects the whole grid with pressure on other power plants. Roof-top solar panels is a good solution for individual houses, but the project is taking its own sweet time.

The 30-MW proposed LNG plant is still in MOU stage, and it seems to be one solution in the field of clean power generation. But if overhauling of transmission and distribution is deferred, nothing is going to help improve the situation.

All talks of renewable energy is quite welcome and needs appreciation. But, in a territory like Andamans, the base load cannot be left to the nature to decide, and hence diesel gensets are going to stay, and a focused vision with long-term planning is required well in advance. Or else, if we keep adding one or two small gensets every now and then on piecemeal basis, we will be accumulating more problems of diverse nature. 

Disclaimer: I regret that lack of flow in this article is due to four or more power interruptions experienced in one hour.

By Dr. Dinesh

Is your husband/wife lost in a maze of smart phones, tablets / laptops? Do you fear getting the latest apps is turning out to be your son's/daughters prime ambition in life? Technology addiction as the tendency to excessively engage in activities involving the cell phone, internet, social networking sites like Face book, What’s app etc, despite harmful consequences to one's health, mental state or social life. People can develop an addiction to these technologies irrespective of their age, but this has been a growing concern among teenagers. It manifests in the form of frequently checking the phone or accessing the internet to see if there are any messages or mails and the need to update Face book status. For many adolescents and young adults, the Internet has become a way to overcome a swathe of issues — Peer pressure, academic stress, relationship problems, boredom and loneliness. The subjects who displayed addictive behaviour were not sharing personal information but there was some risky behaviour like online relationships, extra marital affairs and a preference for online instead of face-to-face communication, The ease of technology was pushing people towards being "online" constantly instead of offline — they wouldn't spend time with parents or friends, preferring instead to always text or use the Internet to communicate constantly. One can’t advise completely stopping using tech devices, but prefers a healthy use of them instead. One cannot control cyber-sexual addiction (a part of technology addiction); so the environment is controlled and psychotherapy given if there is a psychological issue. Craving or the obsession with being online or on the cell phone to SMS, email or get on to Face book, or what’s app. When a person is unable to regulate his technology usage. The itch to be constantly connected, in terms of gaming or surfing. The shift to excessive online behaviour brings about a decline in academic standards, disinterest in outdoor games or socialising, eye strain, spondyilitis and sleep disorders. High tech-Gadgets have found their way early into a child's life and children are fed with TVs or computer tablets as distractions and it's hard to wean them off the excessive tech usage habit. A teenager who was addicted to online pornography threatened to indulge in high-risk behaviour if his parents did not restore the Internet connection they had given up to curb his tendencies. The hapless parents relented, thinking that pornography was the lesser of the two evils.

A child playing video games for 10-12 hours a day would say he was going to school and instead go to a cyber cafe, which would open as early for video game junkies, and he would return late at night, using the excuse of extra classes and study groups. Internet addiction is a top health threat to adolescents. Parents should educate children about mobile phone use and teach them to develop control from an early age. They should also emphasise finding a balance between online and offline activities.

 Road accidents for those who can’t stop texting while driving. There are reports that people have died after playing video games for days without a break, generally stemming from a blood clot associated with being sedentary, feelings of depression; physical changes to weight, headaches or carpal tunnel syndrome. Internet addiction can be a symptom of other mental illness, such as depression. An older teenager locks himself up in his room at night and spends hours chatting with friends on his smart phone. First thing he does after getting up in the morning is to go online and check messages. He becomes restless and irritated if the Wi-Fi or 3G network suddenly goes off. This is only the tip of the iceberg in a country where use of smart phones and tablets are in rise at breakneck pace. The scepticism is understandable in a world where everyone is hooked to one's gadgets for work or for socializing. Apart from TV, mobile phones, tablets & Video games, give children plenty of outdoors and adventure sports.

Here is one para from Robin Sharma’s book “who will cry when you die” which actually inspired me to write this article. “The phone is there for your convenience, not for the convenience of your callers, yet, as soon as we hear the phone ring, we run to pick up as if our lives depended on the call being answered at once, people interrupt quiet family dinners, dedicated reading times and meditation periods to answer those seemingly urgent phone calls, many of which turn out to be ones that could have been taken later. Picking up the ringing phone is just another way to put off doing something you don’t really want to do, but once you get good at letting it ring and staying focused on the activity at hand, you will wonder what the hurry to pick up the phone was all about in the first place”. “We first make our habits and then our habits make us” John Dryden observed. According to U.S News & World Report over the course of your life time, you will spend eight months opening junk mail, two years unsuccessfully returning phone calls and five years standing in line. E-mails in many ways are one of the great blessings of the modern age. It frees you up to when it suits you. “Give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other”. It is hard to take a call on where necessity ends and addiction begins.

Genesis of the Conundrum

The entire Kamorta Island, except the port area, has been recognised as a tribal reserve by the Andaman and Nicobar Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation (ANPATR 1956). The Nicobarese tuhets (extended families) have traditional ownership of the land which is governed by their customs and norms. Despite having no written documents the indigenes never had any dispute over the ownership of the land. After the annexation to India the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were declared a union territory in 1956. To control and secure the remote islands the government requested the Nicobarese leadership to donate some land to set up the administrative apparatus. The queen of the Central Nicobar, Rani Lachmi, was reluctant to part with a piece from the limited common land. However, after being assured of infrastructural development in the remote islands she agreed to donate some land upon consultation with the village chiefs. It was thus that the INS Kardip (33 acres) in Kamorta was established and commissioned in 1973. 

It was only post the tsunami that the Nicobarese and the defence authorities had a serious disagreement over the ownership of 317 acres of land in Kamorta. Traditionally, the Nicobarese of the nearby villages had plantations on this land. Post tsunami, the government constructed temporary shelters for them on the same land and also planned construction of permanent shelters. However, the construction was prevented by the objection raised by the INS Kardip which claimed ownership of the land. It argued that an area of 109 acres at Kamorta was allotted to the Army vide Revenue Case No 3/1978, and 208 acres to the Navy vide Revenue Case No 15/1978 of the assistant commissioner (AC), Nancowrie which was approved by the deputy commissioner (DC), Nicobar. The land was handed over to the representatives of the Army and INS Kardip in 1978 and 1979, respectively by the AC, Nancowrie. Later in 1993, the Government of India/Ministry of Defence transferred 20 acres of land from the Navy’s allotment (208 acres) to the Coast Guard for setting up a Coast Guard Station in Kamorta. 

The possession of the land (317 acres) was handed over only on paper and without proper land demarcation or payment of monetary compensation to the affected tuhets. For decades no infrastructure was developed by the defence forces on the land. It was only in January 2009 that the survey team started on the demarcation of the land. The Nicobarese remonstrated with the Navy that the land had always belonged to their community especially the inhabitants of Sanuh, Banderkhari and Changhua villages who had plantations on the land since time immemorial. The tribal councils of the Central Nicobar also reasoned that the allocation of land to the defence authorities by the AC and the DC was null and void as it contravened Section 6(1) of ANPATR, 1956. However, the Navy argued that the land was donated by the late queen who had signed the no objection certificate (NOC) on 25 September 1978 followed by an allotment order issued by the DC on 15 November 1978. The Nicobarese, on the other hand, argued that the queen took all decisions in consultation with the village captains. The NOC did not bear witnesses from the community or her councillors and the village captains had not heard anything concerning the donation of 317 acres of land to the defence authorities.

The tribal leaders took up the matter with the island administration at Port Blair. In February 2009, a delegation from the community also went to New Delhi and met the defence minister, the minister of tribal affairs and the chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. The tribal leaders were reassured that no injustice would be done to them and positive action would soon be initiated to address the issue.  In its communication with Outlook magazine concerning the Kamorta land dispute, the Ministry of Defence said, “The defence minister has ordered that the issues raised by the delegation be examined expeditiously, because of the nature of allegations made against the Navy, so that the factual position can be ascertained.”  However, despite numerous discussions and negotiations in Port Blair and New Delhi, the land dispute could not be resolved and has reached an impasse. The arguments put forth by the Navy and the Nicobarese while substantiating their claims on the disputed land have merit on both sides. The only person whose version would have been decisive was Rani Lachmi who passed away in 1989.

Repercussions

The disputed land at Kamorta has always been the ancestral property of various Nicobarese tuhets who lived in socioecological harmony and supported the local civil and defence administration. The community lost almost everything during the tsunami in 2004. On top of this loss of family members, plantations, livestock, settlements and material equipments, large tracks of cultivable land were permanently inundated. Land is the most precious possession of the community which is not merely a livelihood imperative but also holds immense spiritual value. The disputed land at Kamorta is the joint property of 400 Nicobarese families spread across 15 villages. Their livelihood is dependent on this land and the sea surrounding it. Due to their sociocultural milieu, the Nicobarese have almost negligible opportunities for alternative livelihoods. If this land is taken from them, a large number of them would become landless and even starve. 

The two Nicobarese villages of Changhua and Banderkhari will be severely hit as the accessibility of the Nicobarese to these villages will be obstructed once the defence land is fenced in. The coastal area and the sea surrounding the disputed land is an important catchment area for the Nicobarese where they can safely navigate in their hodies. With the development of defence infrastructure in the area, their inland and coastal mobility will be severely curtailed and that will adversely affect their livelihood and well-being. The land dispute has already strained the cordial relations between the government apparatus and the local population. The dispossession will cause irreparable damage to the mutual trust and the harmonious relations that the government has developed with the local people over a long period of time. The lack of cooperation from the Nicobarese will derail the governmental modernisation drives in these isolated territories. Such a rigid stance could also jeopardise the defence manoeuvres in these isolated, yet strategic spaces.

Conclusions

There is no denying the fact that the islands are strategic and defence establishments are necessary for maintaining peace and countering any untoward incident or external threats posed to the security of the nation. These islands are a key for the success of India’s Look East Policy enunciated in the 1990s. However, the livelihood, mobility and well-being of 400 Nicobarese families cannot be ignored. It is because of their sensitivity to these concerns and faith in the government that the Nicobarese, who had once adapted themselves to the brutal colonial regime of Japan, have been peacefully expressing their discontent against the Navy. It is also worth contemplating whether the de facto regime of Rani Lachmi had the authority to donate a large track of land without consulting the tuhets to whom it actually belonged. The Nicobarese say that they are not in a position to part with their land as it is the only resource they have. It is for the reasons mentioned above that the Nicobarese rightly compare the Kamorta land dispute with the tsunami of 2004, and call it “the second tsunami.” It was painful and at the same time intriguing for me to read the large number of letters that the Nicobarese had written to the authorities requesting them to settle the land dispute. These letters, which the Nicobarese call, “the Letters of Sufferings” peculiarly end with four words, “In Protest,” and beneath it, are followed by two more words, “Respectfully Yours.” While concluding this discussion, I could not help thinking of an excerpt from a letter (dated 10 February 2009) of the Nancowry Tribal Council which is addressed to the Lieutenant Governor of the Islands:

…The Tribal Council recognises and appreciates the role played by the defence services including the Navy during tsunami. The Council admits that National security must take priority. But in a country of 110 crores, should the burden of National security be placed on 400 tribal families alone?...

In Protest

Respectfully Yours

Therefore, the Kamorta land dispute demands extreme caution and a visionary approach from those who are in a position to settle it. It needs a solution which meets the realistic land needs of the defence forces and also does not undermine the well-being of the local population. Such a solution would not only settle the dispute permanently but also restore the harmony and mutual trust between the defence forces and the Nicobarese. 

Author: Ajay Saini (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is a Doctoral Research Fellow and Teaching Associate (Research and Development) at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. This article is a modified version of a discussion note first published by Economic and Political Weekly on 21 February 2015. This article has been republished in the Andaman Chronicles on the demand of the Nicobarese community.    

BY:  Shreya Yadav/ Asiem Sanyal/ Chetana Purushotham

The dying sun cast an amber glow as we walked up Munda Pahad, a patch of littoral forest that extends from the beach upwards, at Chidiya Tapu, the southern-most tip of the Andamans. Though popular for its sunsets, we were at Chidiya Tapu for something else altogether – counting birds. The forest before us offered ideal conditions – no humans frequented the path, and it was eerily quiet, except perhaps for the slow creak of bamboo or the rustle of leaves left in the wake of some scurrying animal. As we slowly ascended, gingerly stepping over sprawling tree roots and dead leaves, we were treated to deep, resonating hums that reverberated through the forest. Looking around, we saw our first bird of the day – the Green Imperial Pigeon! With silent whoops, we made a note of the number of individuals, and proceeded onwards. Suddenly, the forest seemed to come alive. Red-whiskered Bulbuls chittered noisily at the top of fig trees, and the endemic Andaman Drongo put on elaborate airborne pirouettes for us as it snapped up flying insects. Every once in a while, the path would resolve into a clearing, from where we could see the sea glittering in metallic hues. A White-Bellied Sea Eagle soared lazily on the updrafts, and kept us company for part of the way. Pacific Swallows darted between cliffs like small fighter planes. It was a perfect evening to bird-watch, and this time the information we were collecting was going to be used for a much bigger global project: the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).

The GBBC was first formulated in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, U.K. The main objective of the project was to create a global dataset of the distribution and abundance of birds from around the world. People anywhere (with a pair of binoculars) could participate in the 4 day count in February, which happened this year from the 13th-16th. India joined the project in 2012, and in 2014 topped the global listing of countries for the number of bird species recorded overall.

This year, the Andaman and Nicobar Environmental Team (ANET) in Wandoor, South Andamans, convened a few groups of birders to cover as much area and ecosystem-type as possible. By the end of Day 4, we had recorded 49 species of birds from roughly 4 different habitat categories. The tidal marshes at Sippighat were populated by a plethora of wetland birds, with Purple Swamphens, Lesser Whistling Ducks and Cattle Egrets ruling the roost; we ended with a tally of 20 species and a whopping 241 individuals. At the Mount Harriet National Park, the rainforest brimmed with life – we spotted Black-Naped Orioles, Vernal Hanging Parrots, a host of Glossy Swiftlets, Andaman Cuckoo-Shrikes, among others, bringing our count to 17 species and 97 individuals. Just around the ANET campus alone, as part of the Campus Bird Count (a sub-event of the GBBC), we observed 12 species in little over a 1km2 radius of littoral and mangrove habitat. It was interesting to see how the composition of birds changed with the area we were in, with some species overlapping across areas.

As we descended from Munda Pahad having spent a tremendously fulfilling evening birding, we had the fortune to spot the rare Andaman Nightjar, just as darkness claimed the skies (Our tally for the day stood at 10 species and 27 individuals at Chidiya Tapu). It was a poetic end to a perfect day.

So far, 709 species of birds have been reported from India and over a million people from the country participated in the event this year. And understandably so, because more than anything else, it is just great fun to go out, look up at the canopy or at waters fading into the distant horizon, and let them reveal themselves to you in feathers and whistles.