Posts Tagged ‘Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw’

CHURUMURI POLL: Who should be IT minister?

31 May 2013

What qualifications must an elected MLA possess to become a minister? Whose prerogative is it to nominate a minister?  Who decides what portfolio a minister must be allotted? Should ministers of certain specific portfolios possess some certain attributes? And should external inputs be given consideration at all in the ministry-making process?

These are evergreen questions and they gain currency in the light of the decision of the new Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah to name S.R. Patil as the State’s information technology minister—and the quite extraordinary intervention of former Infosys man T.V. Mohandas Pai and Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.

# “Surprised at choice of minister for IT/BT. Need a person who can work with global companies and a lot younger. Sad day for us,” tweeted Pai.

# “CM can’t afford to be seen to be viewing IT/BT lightly — these are priority sectors for Karnataka,” said Shaw on her micro-blog account.

In a report for the Indian Express, correspondent Saritha Rai writes:

“Pai and Mazumdar-Shaw were only echoing the widespread feeling in the industry — though no one else said it openly and even these two later backpedalled — that a suave, urban-educated, technology-savvy minister would have better suited.

“The industry was backing choices such as Krishna Byre Gowda and Dinesh Gundu Rao — both dynamic, articulate legislators in their forties. Patil, from backward Bagalkot district, is a lawyer by training with a background in the co-operative movement and is not exactly known for his tech-savvy.”

In a report for The Telegraph, correspondent K.M. Rakesh writes:

“I thought either Krishna Byre Gowda (son of former minister C. Byre Gowda) or Dinesh Gundu Rao (son of former chief minister R. Gundu Rao) would get the IT/BT portfolio,” said a Congress lawmaker.

Rahul Karuna, crisis manager with a BPO, said the IT/BT ministry deserved a heavyweight. ‘We were expecting a big name or a young minister. It’s not about the age or looks of the man; it’s that this portfolio deserves a more powerful politician.'”

Obviously, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but implicit in these statements are stereotypes that boggle the mind and should shame the likes of “suave, urban-educated and tech-savvy” Pai and Shaw. That a 65-year-old man from Bagalkot (still very much a part of Karnataka)  is not cut out for the likes of them in Bangalore. That his age, language and tech skills, and mofussil background are all against him in the slick world.

But above all, the arrogant assumption that the IT/BT industry shall decide the choice of IT minister, not the chief minister. If the children and women of Karnataka (whose number vastly outdoes the number of IT/BT professionals) cannot decide who the next women and child welfare minister will be, what right does the IT/BT industry have?

Yes, Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna did wonders for the industry. But do M/s Pai & Shaw know if he knew how to switch on a computer via UPS, send an email or write a blog before he took over as chief minister? And didn’t he come from Somanahalli in Maddur taluk of Mandya district? And where specifically have the dynamism of Dinesh Gundu Rao and Krishna Byre Gowda been displayed for the industry to be batting for their case?

Question: is the pampered IT/BT industry batting out of its crease?

Welcome to ‘Deve Gowda Steel Meal Centre’

7 June 2010

Spurred by the success of the global investors’ meet, E.R. RAMACHANDRAN picks up an advertising copywriter’s stylus to pen a paean to Karnataka.


Welcome to Karnataka.

The land of highs and lows, and amazing contrasts.

Beautiful hilltops and spellbinding valleys amidst zinc-sheet houses for flood victims.

A fantastic war memorial amidst an ocean of  chopped trees.

World-class software centres on fantastic highways sans footpaths.

After the global investors’ meet’ comprising only Indians, at the end of which money flowed into Karnataka like tidal power, literally washing the State off the map, Karnataka has become the new Eldorado for investors all over.

Some of the achievements of the State after the epoch-making, jaw-dropping response to GIM in 2010 are under.

#  Molten steel from a dozen companies in Bellary pour into gigantic steel buckets in China, Korea and the United States, although the pipes somehow cannot also transmit water.

#  Sarjapur Road has now become 100 % software road with work stations crammed into footpaths and alleys. IT companies are all queuing up to get some land from chaiwallas and dhabas at Rs 1,50,000 per square foot.

# Patients flying in to BIAL directly check-in to Narayana Hrudayalaya’s 5000-bed super speciality hospital for precautionary oxygen ‘fill-in’ before they enter the city to face traffic pollution. Dr Devi Shetty has been given another 1,00,000 sq ft. with  an SOS to build an asthma centre adjacent to the present hospital.

# With land not available for agriculture anymore and prices hitting rooftop, software companies finally decide to become self sufficient by starting ‘roof-top agriculture’ by cultivating paddy, wheat and vegetables. By using drip irrigation technology they exploit the huge land they bought from government and produce enough food for their employees in addition to exploiting software technology. In essence, they get bread, butter and jam.

#  To mitigate the perennial shortage of food, the CM has sent an SOS to Kiran Mazumdar, the czarina of biotechnology, to come out quickly with something using bio technology. She and her team, using enzymes, nano technology, zytrons , haldi powder and hagalkayi are trying to convert steel billets into millets, steel balls into ragi balls. This is the ultimate confluence of big business with food services. The results will be displayed and consumed in ‘Deve Gowda Steel Meal Centre’ in Padmanabha Nagar complex.

#  There has been little or no investment in gas projects.  Most of the industrialists thought that Karnataka Government generated enough ‘gas’ of its own during Vidhana Soudha debates, election speeches  and other places where ‘conditions apply’ when they freely express their feelings when  alone.

# Although there is scarcity of water all over the State, UB’s beer plant in Nanjangud has come up very well. This is considered  as a big relief as in times of emergency, alternate ‘theertha’ available for use in nearby  places of worship.

#   Karnataka built 11 airstrips in smaller towns like Kollegala, Haveri etc in 18 months—a record time, where it is mamool to build a bus station in 10 years. Since no planes can land here due to absence of runways and more importantly due to absence of airplanes, these have been used as additional moffusil bus stations. The green pastures around the airstrip are presently used for grazing cattle and sheep.

# The Bidadi project, after being in deep freeze, is back in the front burners. 10 villages, comprising 9,000 acres, will be thrown open to the highest bidder for infrastructure development, construction, marketing and maintenance. Instead of DLF and GMR, Swamijis in Bangalore have now shown interest in bidding for the project and convert the whole place into ashrams. They have already entered into ‘contracts’ and MOUs with their bhaktas on the dos and don’ts clauses on what to expect in their New Ashramas.

Karnataka is planning some more Investors’ Meets to harness its natural resources.

Also read: Whose global investors’ meet is it anyway?

‘Our society can’t be safe with IM & Bajrang Dal’

22 September 2008

Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw:

“As they say, religion is the teachings of God entrusted to learned men to spread love, goodwill and harmony. Unfortunately when men, especially ignorant men, descecrate God’s teachings for personal and political gain it causes hatred, bad faith and mayhem. Only the collective might of people can stop this senseless religious turmoil.

“It is upto to every God loving Hindu Muslim and Christian to play their part in bringing harmony to their communities and stopping misguided social elements from this global catastrophe. Politicians have a key role to play in leading by example.

“Just as the Indian Mujahideen has to be stopped in its tracks so also others like the Bajrang Dal as unless their message of hatred is obliterated, we will not be able to build a safe society.

“Political manifestos must be banned from containing any religious objectives.”

India’s greatest poet since the Bhakti movement?

8 September 2008

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: As Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw showed, if you have to die, you must die somewhere in the vicinity of Delhi, so that the movers, shakers and brokers of the capital can easily assemble to “bid a tearful farewell”.

If you write a book, you must write do so somewhere between south and central Delhi, as Presidents (Abdul Kalam), former Union ministers (Lal Krishna Advani, Jaswant Singh), South Block mandarins (Pavan K. Varma, Vikas Swarup, Navtej Sarna, Nirupama Rao) have shown.

For, if you do, Jnanpith Award winning authors, Bollywood actors, starlets and lyricists will crawl out of the woodwork to read and recite your magnum opus. And the media, otherwise snapping like mad dogs at your feet, will gratefully roll over and allow itself to be given a nice little rub on its bloated underbelly.

Take the case of Kapil Sibal‘s ‘I Witness: Partial Observations‘ published by IndiaInk (Roli Books).

It’s a collection of 84 “poems”, mostly composed by the Union science and technology minister’s own admission “on the cellphone during long flights”.

It’s what you and I would call an SMS.

But looking at the red-carpet treatment the putative poet’s book has received from our supposedly “cynical media”, it would seem the greatest poems since the Bhakti movement have been penned on a Blackberry in the business class of British Airways before the babes brought in the booze.

# On NDTV 24×7, Sonia Singh assembles a half-hour show on the politician as poet.

# On CNBC-TV18, Karan Thapar, who otherwise eats politicians for dinner, actually looks lovingly into the eyes of the new prodigy on the block.

# In Outlook, there is a two-page profile of the “nano poet”, with the breathtaking line, “Bio-tech: scientific surgeon’s knife/ genetic investigator’s dream”.

# On NDTV 24×7, Shekhar Gupta does a full Walk the Talk with the “peripatetic poet”, and follows it up with a full-page of excerpts in The Indian Express.

On top of the specials, there is the routine too.

In Bangalore, The Times of India gleefully records the presence of actor Waheeda Rehman and Biocon’s Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw at the release.

In Delhi, The Hindustan Times grimly documents Sibal’s self-proclaimed “natural affinity for rhymes”.

Sure, the media’s duty is to shine the light on fresh new talent. Sure, as Sibal said in Bangalore: “We (politicians) too are sensitive. We too have feelings like any other ordinary mortals.” And sure, there is an element of surprise, if not an undercurrent of fun.

But where is the balance?

Do gems such as these qualify as poetry:

# A constitutional/guarantee?/No panacea/for inequality

# I never have understood/why so many of us/have to die

# TRPs of channels,/soap operas,/get hits for you./News that matters/serious content,/of limited value

# The Left has suffered for a lifetime now, of an ailment they can’t diagnose The symptom however that troubles them most is that they can’t see beyond their nose

Is this a book of poems, or the first book of SMSes?

Vijay Nambisan, a published poet, writes in The Hindu:

“Kapil Sibal is entirely justified in referring to these pieces as ‘partial observations’. But neither he, nor Shashi Tharoor on the back cover, nor even the more fulsome front inside-flap copy-writer, is justified in calling them poems.”

Maybe, if the media went about being so serious, it would be a very boring media. Maybe, there is a some laughs to be had out of all this just as we laugh at Lalu Prasad‘s chalisa. Maybe, this is just desserts for charming Mr Sibal, a fine lawyer with a fine sense of humour.

Maybe, it’s a publicity coup for his publishers. Maybe, it’s a small price to pay for editors and publishers who want to be on the right of Sibal. Just good PR, nothing lost in humouring a Union minister.


But would a fresh young poet in Delhi, especially one aged 60, get such play in our media? Would a fresh young poet in some other part of the country, get such play? Would an out-of-power politician get such play? Would an out-of-power, non-Delhi, non-English poet get it?

Above all, is this stuff even halfway good?

Or just page 3 pap?

As Indrajit Hazra wrote in a piece accompanying a “review” in the Hindustan Times:

From the shores of a droll ministry
comes outpourings from a head.
Now, if it wasn’t Kapil Sibal
we would have left them unread….

Sudha Murthy, the wife of the Infosys chief mentor, N.R. Narayana Murthy, recently complained to a wellknown short story writer that the media wasn’t taking enough note of her literary output.

“I have been writing short stories for 50 years and nobody is taking note of me. And here is a rich but bored housewife who is writing short stories as a hobby demanding it as a matter of right,” the short story writer told her son out of exasperation.

India’s celebrities, it now appears, are secretly hoping that their every fetish and fancy be recorded for posterity. Funnily, it seems, a celebrity-driven media is unquestioningly falling for it.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News (digitally altered)

Also read: How many poems can fetch a poet Rs 8.5 crore?

A box of poems is mightier than a sten-gun

Da Ra Bendre on why nitrogen is nonsense

Bangalore’s best building since Vidhana Soudha?

21 August 2008

RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: Despite what Infosys’ T.V. Mohandas Pai told us, the new Bangalore International Airport (BIAL) hasn’t seen IT business plunge “by 30 per cent”. Despite what V. Ravichandar told us, Tamil Nadu hasn’t announced a rival airport in Hosur.

Despite what Janagrahaa’s Ramesh Ramanathan told us, nobody has found any issues with “connectivity” although a few poor souls have perished in establishing that. And despite what Biocon’s Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said, a grave “crisis” hasn’t come upon us due to the new airport.


In fact, having used the airport more than a few times in the last couple of months, I would do two things. One, I would publicly disavow my initial apprehensions and declare it the most magnificent “public” structure Bangalore has built since the Vidhana Soudha, and that was 50 years ago.

The new airport is everything the old HAL airport was not—clean, unfussy, functional, well lit, and passenger-friendly with lots of space to walk around, park the car, etc. Above all, it is the best advertisement for “Brand Bangalore” than the cattle fair the old airport was.

And two, I would publicly vow to take the “wisdom” of Bangalore’s self-apppointed “experts” who have “seen the world” with a pound of smooth-flowing iodised salt, and not just on the airport but on any issue, henceforth.

The only problem I have with the new airport are public transport costs.

Mysore to Bangalore: Distance 140 km. Fare by KSRTC-run Volvo bus Rs 200. Approximately 20-30 passengers on board. Translates to roughly Rs 1.5 per km.

Majestic to Devanahalli: Distance 35 km. Fare by BMTC-run Volvo Rs 125. Approximately 10-15 passengers on board. Translates to roughly Rs 3.5 per km.

Any wonder BMTC claimed a few years ago that it was the only profitable public transport system in Asia?

Profitable, yes, but “public” transport?

Photograph: Prashant Krishnamurthy

Also read: Edifice complex complex kills our cities, then our citizens

Five (real) lessons for Chamalapura from Dahanu

16 March 2008

The decision of the Karnataka government to pick out Chamalapura in H.D. Kote taluk off the map of Mysore for a 1,000 MW coal power plant of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), has led to the usual suspects taking their usual positions and mouthing the usual cliches with the usual certitude.

Those saying “aye” talk of energy needs, of “infrastructure”, of development—and paint those opposed as speed bumps, litigious publicity hounds on the path to progress, who will oppose anything. Those saying “nay” drop dark hints of why the place was picked. They talk of the loss of fertile land, livelihoods and lifestyles; they warn of temperatures shooting up, of air quality going down; they talk of the displacement of 20,000 people from 12 villages.

Those are pat textbook positions to take on any plant anywhere. But, what is life really like near a coal plant? Writer, photographer and Greenpeace consultant SHAILENDRA YASHWANT, who lives in the shadow of India’s “cleanest, most modern coal plant”, owned by Anil Ambani‘s Reliance Energy Limited, in Dahanu, 140 km north of Bombay, has a story to tell. It is a story Chamalapura might like to hear.



Those opposing the Chamalapura coal plant have put forward a variety of objections, most legitimate but jargon-heavy, some too fuzzy on science, and many clearly off on common sense. Therefore, most churumuri consumers from H.D. Kote to Cote d’lvoire, couldn’t care less about the threat the proposed plant poses to the erstwhile kingdom of the Wodeyars.

And, really, why should you even worry, going by the inadequately articulated arguments of wanna-be Captain Planets, pseudo-environmentalists, professional protestors, and assorted achanak mitra mandals who take to the streets to get their media orgasms (measured in square centimetres, micro-seconds and bytes).

After all, as the mantra of the moment goes, coal plants give electricity. Electricity is energy. Energy is development. Development means double-digit growth. Ask Swami Chidambaram or Sardar Manmohan, or your own SS Ravi Shankar of ‘breathe, beg but don’t drink poison’ fame.

I, for one, beg to differ.

I want to share with you some first-hand experiences and lessons learnt in the shadow of the tallest chimney of the cleanest coal plant in India, the ultra-modern but hugely controversial Reliance thermal power plant (previously BSES), in Dahanu, the lungs of Bombay, the erstwhile ‘food bowl’ of Maharashtra, and the heart of Warli country.

In less than 15 years of its operation, this 500 MW coal-fired power plant—half the capacity of Chamalapura’s—has irreversibly impacted five critical aspects of life of our eco-fragile taluka, namely Food, Air, Climate, Economy, and Ecology. And believe me, you cannot afford to ignore any of them, even with the iPod blasting in your ears, your nose stuck in masala dosas, and your fingers furiously texting naughty messages to your mates.


The true indicator of a potential crop is the flush of colour when the buds blossom into flowers. The coming of age of tiny buds—when the mango trees are profuse with yellow, the chikoos with white, the lilies awash with pink, and the veggies in mostly yellow, tiny-tiny flowers—is the first sign of hope for a farmer and the beginning of the first desperate rush to guard against pests, bad weather, lack of water and other tangible and intangible (including God’s will) threats that do not stop the flower blossoming into a healthy fruit.

Unfortunately, the last few years we have regularly experienced quick annihilation of the flowers, of our food—of our hopes. Toxic dust in the form of black soot settles on the flowers, suffocates them, and before you can say “ayyo Rama“, your hopes are blown off the trees.

The culprit is not pests, not bad weather, but soot, invisible in the air to the human eye but all too real on the flowers to snuff the life out of them. From the only chimney in the vicinity that releases vast quantities of sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, mercury and other deadly substances as it combusts coal to light up the lives of Mumbaikars and their ‘outsiders’.

The self-same ones, who relish our sweet chikoos, our juicy mangoes, our fragrant lilies, and survive on our vegetables, all of which was not costly and delicious and fresh, because of the short-distance it had to travel. Really, Dahanu was Bombay’s backyard vegetable patch and fishing grounds.

Yeah, fish-kills too. The thermal plant has to release hot water from its cooling tower, dump excessive fly ash, and other assorted waste every now and then, which it does, straight into the Dahanu creek, where until a few years ago, you would find fishermen, wading with their nets for a lazy catch that would make finger-licking curry.

I don’t want to scare you with the mercury content in the fish, because it’s not worth the trouble; you are going to apply face whitening cream while you sip your Coke any way, right?

Anyway, now the Mumbaikars complain about the prices, not realizing that the longer the food travels, the more expensive it gets and, of course, less fresh. Freeze it as much as you want, but they are truly squeezed for good, and so are we, and the adivasis, and the fishermen and all those unwashed masses that they don’t want invading their city.

In other words, a coal plant impacts the livelihood of not just thousands of farmers, fishermen and traders but also you, yes you! Simply put, if this bunch doesn’t deliver to your fancy new air-conditioned grocery mega-store. Sorry no ingredients available for your akki rotti and bonda-sambar, bisi bele baath and fish curry rice.

Either it is Maharani K.M. Shaw‘s biotech pills or Maharaja V. Mallya‘s beer.


Breathe in, breathe out. Take a deep breath. Focus on it, smell it, feel it traveling up your nose, down your lungs, to your stomach, in your guts. After the exhausting urban assault on my respiratory apparatus, the fresh air of Dahanu is like non-stop pranayama.

Until, of course, the winds change direction, which it does pretty regularly along our coast, and during the period when we are downwind from the thermal plant, it feels like K.R. Circle at rush hour. Really, I wheeze and cough as if twenty autoroaches (the ugly yellow top three-wheelers of our cities) just farted in my face together. Only the sound is missing. Okay, I am exaggerating, more like ten autoroaches.

Our family doctor has dispensed more medicine for respiratory diseases in the last five years in Dahanu than condoms stolen from the automatic-dispensers of Kamathipura.

The rise in assorted ailments and diseases amongst the people of Dahanu caused from the noxious emission from the coal plant is worrying everyone (and you don’t need to test emission samples to confirm this, the Central Pollution Control Board [CPCB] norms /limits are a joke and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board [MPCB] testing machines that are supposed to test them, a bad joke, very bad joke) so much that those who can afford to, are looking to relocate to places with cleaner air.

This, from a place where Mumbaikars are dreaming of moving to, to escape the urban air pollution.

Just for a moment, imagine that you are a butterfly from the biodiversity hotpsot of Nagarahole or Bandipur, with its gorgeous but short life span. Imagine that you alight on an exhaust pipe of your Nano running in idle. What do you think you will feel? Nothing, because if you were really a butterfly, you would be a dead butterfly. Don’t get it! Go sit on top of a coal plant chimney.

Breathing in noxious fumes , however dissipated from the chimneys of our industrial landscape are slowly, insidiously, destroying the health of downwind communities, of down stream villages, and anyway down-the-shit-hole masses that comprise our rural population.

There is no ‘swalpa adjust maadi‘ with the air quality that you breathe and like love and fresh air, you cannot live on micro-chips and software alone.

You can ask that yourself to Swami Narayana Murthy.


The more that is said, written and presented about the impending climate crisis does not make its impacts any lesser. I am neither like Al Gore privy to huge physical evidence of climate change nor R.K. Pachauri with his access to the world’s best scientists working together with one purpose to get to the bottom (or top) of the biggest environmental disaster in making, dismissed by Michael Crichton in his almost-real State of Fear.

I only happened to be trying to make a living on an organic farm run by my wife, during the last ten years, which we now know were the hottest ever ten years recorded in the century of Dahanu.

In the beginning, the bewilderment of our old Warli workers and older Irani farmers did not make sense, until I realized that I no more needed sweater, jackets and gloves on winter mornings, a must when I used to go drop my son off to the school bus on a bike when I first moved to Dahanu.

The summers were always hot, but every year since the last five years, they have been unbearably hot. I am neither naive nor stupid to blame it on our friendly neighborhood coal plant alone.

Tens of billions of tons of carbon a year pass between land and the atmosphere, liberated from natural fires, and living things as they breathe and decay. Trees, crops, phytoplankton… all absorb CO2 to grow.

It’s an elegant and essential mechanism, except that the human race is messing up the works.

The smooth meshing of the carbon cycle’s many parts depends on large quantities of carbon being withdrawn from the atmosphere and stored in forests, oceans, and underground deposits of coal, natural gas and petroleum. Humans have disrupted this intrinsic cycle, releasing carbon prematurely from the reservoirs, beginning with the burning of forests.

Only half of the billions of metric tonnes of carbon dioxide released since the industrial revolution has found its way back to forests, grasslands and the waters of the oceans; the other half remains in the atmosphere, warming the planet. The molecular structure of CO2 traps heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space. It’s like an invisible blanket in the atmosphere or the panes of a green house.

In Dahanu, in the last five years, we have had the misfortune of already suffering the predicated impacts of climate change—scorching summers, flash floods, altered rainfall patterns, fierce storms, all of them have touched our lives with devastating effects.

We know that our thermal power plant is a mere blip on the global emissions charts, but it is doing its bit, for sure.


All right, you don’t have to be Amartya Sen to see how all of the above is making a dangerous dent into the much-hyped economy, skewing confident projections of over-confident vote seekers.

The drop in production of food crops in a country that was until recently driven by its economic growth from its agricultural sector, was responsible for the ouster of the BJP-led NDA despite the fact that ‘India Shining’ was truly what it showed on the market charts, following the surge in industrial production and the services sector.

Now, the planners are already despairing that the saturation point has been reached, the stock markets have acknowledged this with more regularity than ever, and those who keep tabs on the manufacturing sector are concerned, really concerned, about the lack of trained future man-power, the one that usually comes from rural India.

Again, simply put, all of your parents could afford your education, despite their humble mostly agrarian background, so that you could grow up to become desperate consumers to keep the economy booming. But if our crops fail regularly, as it does in Dahanu, then the first thing the farmer does is to pull his/her children out of schools and employ them in some unskilled sector (the deadly spoon-buffing units or balloon factories of Dahanu, but that is another story).

One of the deadliest secrets of our forced addiction to coal-fired electricity, is the huge amounts of subsidy borne by tax-payers and the state exchequer from the mines to chimneys. These economic advisors, have never even bothered to include the external costs including damage to health and environment. Year after ‘growth-driven’ budgets may have fired up an industrial sector in spurts, but the hidden costs and liabilities will clearly not be able to sustain the economy.

The blossoms on our trees are the prana of the economy, its very breath; miss one and it is bound to get a stroke, eventually.

Together with the increased burden of costs of health impacts, of compensating and re-compensating the unemployed with schemes and sops and waivers for farmers, of importing food, of everything else that is supposed to keep the economy ticking, all of it is threatened.

In a very microscopic way, the economy of Dahanu and all similar agricultural horticultural centres of the country, are really the prana of the Indian economy.

And you don’t have to consult your many swamis to confirm this.


Look it up, You are involved!

The famous slogan of Greenpeace is a delightful eye-opener, if you ever bothered to look it up. I did, in Dahanu, and was flabbergasted to discover that despite the relentless assault for thousands of years by generations of the human species, swathes of it still remain intact in its entirety.

Slivers of forest covers across the landscape of India even now sustain exotic mega-fauna and thousands of undiscovered species of living things. Starting from the heart of Bombay, the fantastic Borivali National Park, there is an intricate network of forest tracts and wildlife corridors that extend into the Dahanu and Shahpur
forests. These are the foot hills of the Western Ghats, the beginning of the Sahayadri range that culminates gloriously, weaving its way through the magnificent Nilgiris into the biodiversity hotspot of Wynad-Mudumalai-Annamalai-Bandipur forests.

Six degrees of separation, anyone?

Ask Maharani K.M. Shaw and she will vouch for the fact that there are undiscovered secrets in these forests that may well be the panacea for all that ails humankind.

That is why, after constant pleas from a hyper-active housewife and farmer, Nergis Irani—my wife’s mother and my proverbial ‘mother-in-law’—the Supreme Court of India, notified Dahanu as one of the first three eco-fragile areas in the country.

Stringent norms that allowed only green category industries, strict conditions for operations of the coal power plant including installing flue-gas desulphurisation units, and a monitoring authority headed by an astute man, a rare commodity like the great alphonso mango, former judge Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari, to execute its orders and stop further degradation of this eco-fragile taluka.

With the industrial belt of Thane-Belapur nudging from the south and the deadly chemical belt of Vapi-Vadodra destroying the ground water aquifers at its north, Dahanu was a natural choice, in more ways than one, to qualify for this special status.

With its large, heavily degraded but reserved forests, the sacred groves of the warlis, its orchards and vegetable farms, the presence of a large adivasi population, that seemed to survive better than their cousins in the neighboring Jahawhar-Mokhada talukas (infamous for annual malnutrition mortalities), the rich but fragile coast line protected under CRZ-1 and the fact that taluka has an important role in the larger scheme of things i.e. ecology.

Sometimes, my mother-in-law practices what she preaches. And the best example of that is the forest that she regenerated to cover about 20 per cent of the family’s land bordering the heavily degraded revenue forest land of the government. The farm and the forest patch at its north east, is known as Forest hills, both after the intention and due to its topography.

Effectively, Forest Hills is a tiny sanctuary that connects to the network of forests, connected by the slim-corridors, which allow passage of creatures across the six-lane highways of death that until recently had Swami Vajpayee waving at you from every toll booth.

My family and I have had the rare pleasure of encountering, boars (wild boars not the self-important drones on TV), hyenas (no, I am not talking about ambulance chasing reporters), wild-hares and wild cats (and I really don’t mean the folks escaping police raids at rave parties outside Bombay), all of whom have darted into the Forest Hills, for refuge, for sanctuary, for a breather.

That these endangered creatures have actually survived and not made to the cooking pots of adivasis or fallen to the shot-guns of Irani farmers, in itself has been an important lesson for me. A humbling one!

Fifteen years of personal observation to confirm the first sutra of ecology—the natural world on this blessed earth is an inter-woven magic spell, too intricate to unravel, for survival of all life. In the last fifteen years I have seen Forest Hills, grow into a bio-diversity hotspot from a barren piece of patchy grass land.

Here I have seen how earth heals itself when allowed to and I have witnessed how it nurtures not only us but many other creatures that have survived centuries. I bet you cannot trace your family tree to 500 years ago.

Therefore, the three dots that form the pyramid, like in the Suzlon adverts, my dear residents of Tipu Sultan land, look it up, Ecology, it involves you, ignore it and your progeny will suffer the worst of the Warli curse, ‘May your children eat coal!’


When the fence starts grazing the crop of life