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Monday, April 26, 2010

Vishu Shikar - the traditional ritual of Jharkhand

Mid April brings great terror and disaster to the wildlife in Jharkhand in general and in Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary in particular when the so called nature worshipper – the tribal community of the state sends out its girls armed with traditional armaments on a ritualistic mass hunting adventure called as Vishu Shikar or the Jani Shikar.

 Armed with spears, arrows, axes, and other traditional armaments they mark the traditional Sendra (means killing or sacrificing) Festival by sacrificing most of the wild birds and other animals that happen to come in their way to, as per their faith, please the local deity called as Dolma Baba. For the wild animals kept in Dalma sanctuary, this festive period is nothing more than a great disaster as their legal savior – the government itself becomes helpless and unable to protect them. Despite the government ban on poaching wild animals, government itself feels at weak end somewhere in protecting the wild animals as no one and not even government is allowed to come in way of religion and tradition of a community in a democratic set up. Under these conditions any one living far away from the state remains in a sound position to comment that there in Dalma wild animals are reared for Sendra only … don’t talk of conservation.

The Department of Forests, the Government of Jharkhand has mentioned in its report on its website “… also known as Jani Shikar usually held on 14th of April which is a New Year Day when the people go to the forest sides and kill the animals as a mark of jubilation on the occasion of New Year. Apart from this they also remove the mud from the ponds and sprinkle among one another which is part of this eco-friendly festival, so that the rain/flood waters may be stored in ponds. Such practices of hunting are a threat to the wildlife and should be discouraged as a part of ritual”. An old report of ANI reads - Of late, the forest department has launched several awareness programmes among the tribals against the killing of wild animals”.

Cultures and traditions of Indian Communities are regarded as considered as important components of Indian Civilization. As such, any traditional practice can be reviewed or revised by the community itself. Under these circumstances the Government under a democratic set up tries to make a community aware of the demands of the current age and to do important modifications. And so the Government is doing by making requests through different means of communication. Here is a sample scanned from a local Hindi Daily News Paper through which the Governor of the state has made an Appeal -

What is micro-irrigation system?

A low pressure irrigation system that spray, mist, sprinkle or drip – is called as Micro Irrigation System.

The term "micro-irrigation" means - a family of irrigation systems that apply water through small devices. These devices deliver water onto the soil surface very near the plant or below the soil surface directly into the plant root zone. Growers, producers and landscapers have adapted micro-irrigation systems to suit their needs for precision water application. This system is based on specific discharge-patterns of water in the crop fields, lawns, and horticulture stations, landscaping areas or domestic settings. Micro-irrigation requires a number of components that include pipes, tubes, water emitting devices, flow control equipment, installation tools, fittings and accessories.

Water Emission devices in micro irrigation system deliver water in three different modes: drip, bubbler and micro-sprinkler. On this basis the micro irrigation system can be divided into three basic categories- Drip Irrigation, Bubbler Irrigation, and the Micro- sprinkler Irrigation. In drip mode, water is applied as droplets or trickles. In bubbler mode, water `bubbles out' from the emitters. In the micro-sprinkler mode of irrigation water is sprinkled, sprayed or misted on the plants.

Advantages of micro-irrigation: -
Micro Irrigation has following advantages-

1. Water savings- In this type of irrigation system water is saved through different ways such as –

-By reducing loss of water in conveyance

-By reducing loss of water through evaporation, run off, and by deep percolation.

-A water supply source with limited flow rates such as small water wells or city/rural water can be used in this type of irrigation system.

2. Energy savings – This type of irrigation system requires a smaller power unit and consumes less energy

3. Weed and disease reduction- This type of irrigation system is helpful in inhibiting growth of weeds as it keeps limited wet areas. Under this condition the incidence of disease is also reduced up to major extent.

4. Can be automated. Fertilizers and chemicals can be applied with water through micro irrigation system. This systems can be automated which reduces labor requirements.

5. Improved production on marginal land. On hilly terrain, micro-irrigation systems can operate with no runoff and without interference from the wind. The fields need not be leveled.
Disadvantages of Micro Irrigation System: -
The Micro Irrigation System has following disadvantages -

1. Management. Micro-irrigation systems normally have greater maintenance requirements. Soil particles, algae, or mineral precipitates can clog the emission devices.

2. Potential for damage. Animals, rodents and insects may cause damage to some components. The drip and bubbler irrigation systems need additional equipment for frost protection.

3. High initial cost. Micro-irrigation systems are ideal for high value installations such as orchards, vineyards, greenhouses, and nurseries where traditional irrigation methods may not be practical. However, the investment cost can be high.
 Key Words: micro-irrigation, pipes, tubes, bubbler irrigation, green house,

What is organic farming?

A form of agriculture which is mainly based on the use of organic fertilizers, natural pesticides, natural feed for cattle and poultry, and indigenous varieties of crops is called as Organic Farming.

According to the Codex Alimentarious, a joint body of FAO and WHO- “organic agriculture is a  holistic food production management systems, which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfil any specific function within the system”.

According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) -
Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved."

The Organic Farming began as a movement in the 1930s and 1940s as a reaction of people against growing dependence of farmers on synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, and other agro-chemicals like hormones etc. Synthetic fertilizers had been created during the 18th century, initially with Superphosphate and then ammonia derived fertilizers mass-produced using the Haber - Bosch process developed during World War I. These early fertilizers were cheap, powerful, and easy to transport in bulk. Similar advances occurred in chemical pesticides in the 1940s, marking the decade as the 'pesticide era'.

Organic Farming has a number of merits over the modern farming as it is sustainable and environment friendly. Organic farming normally does not involve capital investment as high as that required in chemical farming. Since chemical inputs, which are very costly, are not required in organic farming, small farmers are not dependent on money lenders. Crop failure, therefore, does not leave an organic farmer into enormous debt, and does not force him to take an extreme step. We know that many small farmers worldwide commit suicide due to increasing debt. Organic farming involves synergy with various plant and animal life forms. Small farmers have abundance of traditional knowledge with them and within their community. Most of this traditional knowledge cannot be used for chemical farming. However, when it comes to organic farming, the farmers can make use of the traditional knowledge. They don’t need to ask anything from experts.

Key Words : organic farming, codex alimentarious,FAO, WHO,Haber-Bosch Process, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements,Pesticide era, Traditional Knowledge, crop failure, chemical farming

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Environmental Management at Project Formulation Stage

A large number of disputes have been emerging out across the globe on the issues of modern development like location of industries, Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and infrastructure projects in ecologically sensitive areas.

What is a Special Economic Zone? Well, a geographical region having economic laws more liberal than a country’s typical environmental laws is called as Special Economic Zone. This category covers a wide range of specific zones like Free Trade Zone (FTZ), Export Processing Zone (EPZ), Industrial Estates, Free Ports, and Urban Enterprise Zones etc.In People’s Republic of China the Central Government under Deng Xiaoping founded Special Economic Zones during the early 1980s.Shenzhen is the most successful Special Economic Zone in China which has been developed from a small village into a city with a population more than 10 million within a short period of two decades. Many countries of the world followed the example of China and started developing these zones at a fast speed.

The construction of Sardar Sarovar Dam in India has created similar disputes related to the issues of environment, development and displacement. Most of the disputes that emerge out of such developmental projects revolve around displacement and rehabilitation of the displaced families, environmental destructions, and long term impacts of the mega-projects on the environment.

Most of the disputes that emerge out around a mega-project are due to the lack of proper practices of Environmental Management that are required to be done at the Project- Formulation Stage. Some of these practices are introduced below-

1.       Assessment of the future impact of the projects: In case of Sardar Sarovar Dam, it is reported that the construction plan of the dam was cleared without a complete Environmental Impact Assessment.(EIA).The EIA in this case were needed to be done in view of a comprehensive study of the Seasonal Patterns.

2.       The long term impacts of a Mega-Project need to be studied before its implementation. These impacts may include the loss of biodiversity, extent of submergence, water logging, saline ingress and possible seismic disturbances.

3.       The crucial details of biodiversity, relevance, and ecological compatibility should be studied before planning for the project.

4.       Proper cost-benefit analysis should be done at the project-formulation stage.

5.       It should be ensured on the government level that politics should not overrule the environmental conditions.

6.       Proper relief and rehabilitation of families to be affected by the project should be planned and resources should be arranged before planning of such projects.

Sardar Sarovar - A dam on Narmada

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Steps for conservation and management of wildlife

India has a rich heritage of wildlife. It has a long history and tradition of conservation of plants and animals. Principles of conservation are mixed in religious texts and practices in this country. Kautilya’s Arthshastra contains the concept of making Forest Reserves (Abhayaranyas) for the protection of state elephants during 3rd. century B.C.
In spite of love and regard for wildlife in Indian culture, wild animals are facing continuous dangers and threats due to various social and economic factors. Most of the conservation and management practices are being adopted and enforced on the government level only, except some efforts being taken up by NGO’s on the national and international levels. Following are some of the most important measures that are being taken up for the conservation and management of wildlife in India and abroad –
National Parks
A National Park is an area protected and preserved by law for the protection and preservation of flora and fauna within its boundary. Grazing of cattle, removal of any wildlife or habitat is strictly prohibited in a national park and all rights are reserved with the government. The law defines a national park as an area which is of ecological, faunal, floral and geomorphologic importance. The Corbett National Park, established in 1935, is considered to be India’s first national park. The yellow Stone National Park -USA, is considered as first national park in the world. It was established in 1872 and it has an area of 8983sq km. According to a report, William Henry Jackson, a photographer and Thomas Moran, an artist, visited Yellow Stone region in 1871 and brought several photographs from there. Those photographs moved the public of America and US government and persuaded them to preserve the area. President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill creating Yellow Stone a National Park in 1872. There are 80 national parks in India. Some of those important national parks are being briefly introduced here.

1. Corbett National Park: Spread along the bank of the river Ramganga in Uttaranchal (earlier U.P.), it is India’s First National Park, which was constituted in 1936. This park is spread in an area of 52,082 hectares. Important wildlife kept in this park are – tiger, elephant, deer, wild boars, otters and a number of species of birds.

2. Hazaribagh National Park: Located in Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand state, this national park has a wide variety of animals like wild boar, sambhar, nilgai, tiger, leopard, sloth beer, hyena, and gaur. It has an area of 184 km of thick tropical forest. This national park was notified in the year 1976 and its total area is 18, 625 hectares.

3. Kanha National Park: This Park is basically a Tiger Reserve. It is located in Madhya Pradesh. Some important animals kept in this park are –leopards, langurs, and mongoose. Cats, hyena, porcupine, etc. Sal and bamboos are principal trees in this park besides wide variety of other plants. This national park was notified in the year 1955 and its area is 94, 000 hectares.

4. Bandhav Garh National Park: This Park is located in Madhya Pradesh. The principal animal kept in this park is the White Tiger. Notified in the year 1968, this nation park is spread in the area of 44,884 hectares.

5. Kajiranga National Park: It is located on the bank of the river Brahmputra in Assam. It is famous for One Horned Rhinoceros. Besides rhinos, other animals protected in the park are swamp deer, bison, tiger, leopard, hoolock gibbon, wild buffaloes, pythons, monitor lizards, elephants etc. Principal plants found in the park are tall elephant grass, Sal trees and different types of bushes. This national park was notified in the year 1974, and its area is 42, 996 hectares.

6. Dudwa National Park: Located in Lakhimpur Khiri district of Uttar Pradesh, this National Park supports wide variety of wild animals including re- introduced one- horned rhinos and swamp deer etc. Other animals in this park are – crocodiles, leopards, jackals, sambhars and sloth beers. Principal plants comprise grass species, Sal trees etc. This national park was notified in the year 1977 and its area is 49, 029 hectares.

7. Pench National Park: Located on the southern edge of Madhya Pradesh, this park is named after the river Pench which flows through this park from north to south. It is the 19th Project Tiger Reserve in the country. This national park was notified in the year 1977 and it is spread in the area of 29, 286 hectares.

8. The Sundarban National Park: Located in Sundarbans in West Bengal, this national park has an area of 11, 710 hectares. This is the principal habitat of Royal Bengal Tigers. This park has largest mangrove vegetation in the world. Other animals supported by this park are deer, chital, rhesus monkeys etc.

9. Dachigam National Park: This National Park was notified in the year 1981 in the Jammu and Kashmir (India). This park has an area of 14, 100 hectares. Some of the animals protected in this park are Kashmiri Stag and Hangul.

10. Gir Forests: This National Park is located in Kathiawar district of Gujarat state of India. This national park was notified in the year 1965. It is spread in an area of 115, 342 hectares. It is famous for Gir Lions.

11. Ranthambor National Park: This National Park is located in Rajasthan state of India. Constituted in the year 1980, this park is spread in an area of 39, 200 hectares. The principal wildlife protected in this park is crocodile, nilgai, gazelle, sambhar etc.

12. Palamau National Park: Located in Dalton Ganj District of Palamau area of Jharkhand (previously in Bihar) state of India, this National Park was notified in the year 1986.It has an area of 21, 300 hectares. The flora of this national park comprise thick tropical forests due to which it has been selected for the Project Tiger, an ambitious project for the protection and propagation of tigers in India. This fauna of this national park comprises tiger, elephant, deer, panther, sloth beer, chital, gaur, nilgai, chin Kara, and mouse deer etc

13. Simlipal National Park: Located in the district Mayurbhanj of Orissa state of India, this National Park comprises dense Sal forest due to which this park has been chosen for the Project Tiger. The fauna of this national park comprises tiger, elephant, deer, pea foul, talking mainas, chital, sambhar, panther, gaur, hyena, and sloth beer. Notified in the year 1978, this national park is spread in the area of 135,500 hectares.

14. Tadoba National Park: Located in Chandra Pur district of Maharashtra state of India, this National Park was notified in the year 1955.It is spread in an area of 11, 655 hectares and it supports the populations of tiger, sambhar, sloth beer, lion, chital, chin Kara, barking deer, blue bull, four horned deer, langur, pea foul and crocodile.

Wildlife Sanctuaries and Bio- Reserves
A Sanctuary is a protected area where wild animals and birds are kept and encouraged to increase their population. Presently, there are more than 490 sanctuaries in India covering a total area of 1, 48,848 sq km. Some important wildlife sanctuaries are being introduced here in the  table.

A specified area in which multiple use of land is allowed by dividing it into different zones and each zone, of which remains specified for a particular activity, is called as Biosphere Reserve.

A number of biosphere reserves have been established by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural organisation (UNESCO) under its Man And Biosphere Programme (MAB)-1986 in different countries. The biosphere reserves have international networks.
Each of the biosphere reserve has been divided into three zones-
(a) Core Zone, where human interference is banned completely
(b) Buffer Zones, where human interference is allowed up to limited extent
(c) Manipulated Zone or Transition Zones, where humans are free to perform their activities.
 The biosphere reserves are planned, managed and protected through joint efforts of the government, non- governmental Organizations and the local people.
India has declared 14 areas as biosphere reserves. These areas are aimed at –
(i)  Conservation of biodiversity (species, ecosystem, and landscapes).
(ii) Development of economic and human infrastructures
(iii) Promotion of education, information – exchange and research pertaining to                conservation and development.
The Biosphere Reserves have following functions-
          1. The biosphere reserves are helpful in the conservation of ecosystems, species and other resources.
          2. The biosphere reserves are helpful in the promotion of economic development.
          3. Biosphere reserves are helpful in promoting scientific research and education.

Key Words: conservation, national park, sanctuary, biosphere reserve,Kautilya, Arth Shastra, Abhayaranya

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Many Indian cities reported dumping bio-medical waste with garbage

As per the Central Pollution Control Board Evaluation Report- presently 50 to 55 per cent of Bio-Medical Waste is collected, segregated and treated as per the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules. Rests are dumped with the Municipal Solid Waste. This evaluation report was submitted in February 2010.It was carried out by Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow and commissioned by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

It is now suspected that radio active cobalt-60 isotope which was found in the Mayapuri scrapyard of New Delhi has come from hospital waste. The isotope cobalt-60 has left 6 people battling for their lives in the scrap yard area. About 50 per cent of the bio-medical waste generated In India’s hospitals is dumped with municipal garbage without any treatment – reveals the recent study evaluating CPCB. A total of 15,000 hospitals in the country have been served show-cause notices for not following waste management rules.The Minister of State for Atomic Energy Prithviraj Chavan has said that the radioactive Cobalt-60 isotope might had come from abroad. Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on April20 he reportedly said, "How did it come? Most likely this piece of equipment containing Cobalt 60 is not registered with the Atomic Energy Regulation Board (AERB). So the logical conclusion is that it came as scrap from abroad,” Mr. Chavan said in response to a calling attention motion moved by D. Raja of the Communist Party of India.Mr. Chavan ruled out the material having originated from domestic sources, as the country had strict rules and regulations in place. “No operator in the country could buy radiological equipment for treatment without the permission of the AERB, and even the disposal of the same is monitored.” (The Hindu, April21, 2010).

Seriousness of the problem
More than 4.2 lakh kg of bio-medical waste per day is generated in the country. But there are only 157 facilities that qualify to treat the waste. Thus only 2.4 lakh kg of bio-medical waste is reported to be treated before its final disposal. Institutional reports reveal that out of 84,809 hospitals and healthcare systems in India only 48,183 are either treating their wastes at source or are employing private agencies for it.

As per the Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules,1998 it is mandatory for hospitals to ensure that bio-medical wastes are handled without any adverse effects to human health and the environment. All the healthcare institutions are expected to have incinerators, autoclaves or microwaves in operation so far is 391, 2562, and 458 respectively. In spite of the categorical direction in the rules that bio-medical wastes should not be mixed with any other type of waste and should be segregated at the point of generation more than 50 per cent of such types of waste are being mixed with the municipal waste.

The Survey
A survey team of Delhi Pollution Control Committee has found a number of illegal dumping sites across the city. These dumping sites have been reported to have hexavalent Chromium which is a hazardous waste. Long term exposure to this hazardous waste is known to cause health problems of lung, kidney, stomach and skin. Out of all the 47 samples collected by the team, 23 sites were fond to be containing hexavalent chromium exceeding the prescribed limit. The team of experts is of the opinion that after the Mayapuri incident, it is time that Delhi administration became careful to the ill effects of mismanagement of hazardous waste. The team found that Wajirpur Industrial Area was generating the highest quantum of waste measuring about 790 tonnes per annum. It is advised by experts and environmentalists that waste treatment facilities be increased in sufficient number. These can also be set with public private partnership. There is urgent need of development of more efficient technologies like plasma technology to destroy the toxic bio-medical waste.

Key Words: bio-medical waste, municipal waste, garbage, Central Pollution Control Board,Bio- Medical Waste Management Rules, Cobalt-60, radio active isotope, evaluation report, Survey, scrap yard, Mayapuri, New Delhi

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Truth about Tigers- the documentary by Shekhar Dattatri

“The Truth about Tigers” is another strong effort in the area of generating awareness about the conservation of wildlife. This strong effort is the documentary by renowned wildlife film maker Shekhar Dattatri. The film was screened at Henry Moudslay Hall of Anna University, Chennai, India at 3.30 p.m. on April 15.

The documentary of 40 minutes- The Truth about Tigers is a compilation of a number of footages shot by skilled wildlife cinematographers. The film explains about the ecology of tigers, the condition of its decline and possible solutions to the problem. It is efficient to sensitise the viewers about the importance of tigers in the environment and its conservation.

The screening of the film was followed by an activity of signing a petition urging the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister to take up appropriate measures to protect the population of tigers. The Vice- Chancellor of Anna University Chennai has been reported to have been the first person to sign the petition. The Department of Media Sciences of Anna University, Chennai was the organizer of the event.

Image:1,2, &3 from The Hindu (young world)
About the film
The film starts with the attack of a tiger on a deer to prove the law of the Survival of the fittest. The film shows different stages that come in the life of a tiger; its behavior, mating styles; old age problems and different forms of death. It underlined the greatest danger to tiger population from man. The film unfolds all possible causes of death of tigers that are territorial fights, resulting wounds, disease, and poaching. Piles of bones of tigers, its skins, and Chinese shops weighing out portions of tiger organs have been shown in the documentary. The film shows that there is a heavy demand of tiger bones for making medicines, its skin, and other body parts for heavy prices in the international markets. Poachers move freely in the country due to money power as they can hire a lawyer on even highest fees.

A collective effort for the protection of tigers is necessary as this can not be done properly through individual efforts. Through collective efforts we can make a difference and can protect it from the dangers of extinction. Some of the solutions to the problem of decline of population of tigers as suggested by the film are –

§  Writing and signing letters and sending these letters to the government asking to take up more effective measures for the protection of tiger.

§  Sharing of information with friends, parents, adults and of course with experts and environmentalists.

§  Remaining watchful for any activity that may harm tigers.

§  Generating awareness about tiger, its life styles, vulnerability factors etc after proper study and visits.

Some important sources of study
o   Books on tigers by Jim Corbett
o   Tiger- The ultimate guide by Valmik Thapar
o   Way of the tiger by Dr. K. Ullas

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

That Great Banyan Tree

I am going to talk about the same type of tree in which Robinson Crusoe, in the eponymous 1719 novel by Daniel Defoe makes his home. Yes, the same giant tree which covers half of the globe in Hothouse, the novel by Brian Aldiss, … about the same sacred tree which in Hindu mythology is thought of as perfectly symbolizing eternal life due to its seemingly unending expansion, … about the same tree which was planted for the first time in U.S. by Thomas Alva Edison in Fort Myers, Florida.

Banyan tree is the tree of life as a number of living beings depend on it for their life. It is the fruit tree that is grown by nature to feed many different life forms created by it. It has been the preferred avenue tree since the time of Ashoka.Not only it feeds birds, squirrels and other animals; it provides good shelter as well. Hundreds of birds roost on it spend safe nights and move for their destinations in the morning to come back again in the evening.

Image: 1
Banyan trees have been providing lovely shades to villagers who have been assembling under its shade to discuss village affairs and to listen to religious stories and preaching. Banyan trees have been providing protection against scorching sun and rain showers to travelers and shades to marriage parties in rural settings.

 In my childhood, there was a big Banyan tree outside my village under the shade of which farmers used to take rest during summers. Hundreds of birds used to take shelter in its dense canopy. Its red sweet fruits were delicious food for them. A number of squirrels too used to sniff its fruits, pluck the ripest ones and eat comfortably holding the same between both of their palms. One could easily guess about the sweetness of banyan fruits by seeing wasps sucking the juice from the fruits fallen on ground. A  village Purohit, sitting on a high platform made of wood and decorated with flowers, used to read lines of Shrimadbhagawat, the great Hindu Text, and its Hindi translation while villagers comprising farmers and old ladies sitting on the ground ,used to hear him with great devotion. Some ladies used to bring jute-sheets with them to sit on during the religious preaching. This was done regularly in every evening starting before dusk to about seven P.M. during summer season. This programme usually lasted up to fifteen days. A lantern was lit on the platform where the purohit sat when it became dark and he felt difficulty in reading the text. The lantern and the kerosene oil for it were arranged by the village head. However, the remuneration or Dakshina for the priest was collected from every household.

The majestic banyan tree stood in the western part of a big open and plain ground which joined a good road with its eastern border. Some farmers used to store farm produce in different parts of the ground for threshing. The whole ground used to remain covered with husks that escaped from the threshing machines. The threshing of wheat continued round the clock and threshers were fueled by diesel. But the whole ground was made clean and clear after threshing was completed.

 Every marriage party was made to stay under the banyan tree in a big open tent, in the big open ground. The banyan tree was a silent witness to hundreds of marriages that were arranged up to that time. From that time, I mean the time till I remained in my village, going to a school located at one and half kilometer from my house in the village. Petromaxes were arranged to light the area during nights. These were, as these still are the pressure lamps that worked on as these still work on vaporized paraffin or kerosene. For making a lamp to produce light, it was preheated with methylated spirit. The mantle fitted in the petromax burns in gas and produces light. This was a strange experience for me and for other children of my age too, and many of us used to see curiously when someone started the process of burning a petromax. Many teenagers and even adults too were very fond of burning a petromax, taking care of it while it produced light and replacing its mantle when it got broken in wind.

Image 3: The Petromax of my childhood
To continue the story, let us move with the marriage parties that stayed under the banyan tree. Now, every marriage party that came to marry a girl in the cluster of villages near the field with the majestic banyan tree, was supposed to bring a dance party with it to recreate the villagers who used to wait for it since they knew about the settlement of any marriage of a girl in any of the cluster of villages. Children used to count days very anxiously and guess about the dance party that was about to come with the marriage party.

 The dancers in these dance parties used to be boys only. Ladies in those days were not thought to join a dance party. Some dance parties used to keep lady dancers but such dance partied were seen in the marriage parties of rich people only. In those days two farmer families in that area were considered as rich due to the fact that those families had men employed in cities. The village head was a rich person as one of his sons was an engineer in Bokaro Steel Plant. Villagers used to talk that a M.P. of his own caste who belonged to the Congress Party, and who was then considered as the right hand of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India; had made arrangements for his employment. The other rich farmer family was rather less rich than that of the village head. It was rich because of inflow of money from Calcutta where a man of that family did some type of business about which do body knew clearly.

Villagers from distant places used to go under the banyan tree I am talking about, to see dance at nights. Smart boys dressed as ladies used to dance in these dance parties and the affluent viewers used to offer Bank Notes to them as rewards. Offering bank note to dancers were matters of pride those days and I do not know whether it is still the same in modern time when here is no scarcity of ladies to join as dancers in dance parties. Boys and even adults in villages used to remain so fond of dances that they walked even up to two or three miles to reach to the place walking in the dark through harvested fields without any type of fear. Dance parties and of course its dancers, used to remain hot topics of discussion among boys till they became able to see dances of another party.

Many of us in those days did not have footwear and walked on barefoot. If there was a pair of footwear, it was meant for the use while we had to go to our school. While rushing to a dance party under the banyan tree many of us crossed harvested fields of wheat and arhar and most often got our feet badly injured but this was far less important than seeing dances of beautiful dancers. No one could ever tried to accept the dancers as boys, and the dancers decorated and painted properly had acquired enough to deceive the viewers.

When a marriage party departed, the whole ground appeared sad and viewers used to look around the empty ground under the banyan tree with a high degree of sadness, so wretched as if some one had disappeared with their souls and hearts and the sorrow used to continue till another party arrived on the same place. The banyan tree too looked like lamenting and the sad viewers used to sat under it discussing all the lovely moments they had spent viewing dances, and hearing sweet songs of beautiful dancers. In their acute pain and agony the banyan tree remained the only companion.

Days, months and years passed like seconds, minutes and hours. I left the area after I passed my High School Examination and got admitted in a good college in a city area. Gradually the study became so important that I could hardly find some time to visit my home where my parents lived. My father used to come to city to see me but my mother, being a traditional housewife could not even imagine going to the city to see me. She used to count days as per the information she could receive from my father about my programme of visiting her. On that day she used to stand at the gate staring towards the road till he became successful in locating my image on the road. The road, I think, could not be visible to her through her tear filled eyes she used to wipe by the help of the corner of her cotton sari. When ever I went to her I found her standing at the gate with eyes open and tears running down to her chin. She is no more to weep for me now. When she became too old, I brought her along with my father to live with them in the rented flat in the city where I am employed.

 Currently, we are living with my father only. As My father had some land there in the village, he once asked me to go there and to come back with some news about the area. So I had to go. I went to my parental home. As soon as I stepped down the bus on the road, my eyes started moving towards the majestic banyan tree, the witness of my childhood and of all those I have already told you about. The whole scene had disappeared and it seemed as if I had landed in some new location. The people on the road recognized me and tried to ask many questions about me but in stead of answering them, I asked, “What has happened? Where is the field and where is the majestic banyan tree?”
“Son, the younger son of the village head has opened a big school in the ground, see that is the gate. Though the school is not yet recognized, about one hundred boys and girls are on roll.” replied an old man who recognized me.
“But what happened with the banyan tree under which marriage parties used to stay? … And where do the farmers keep their farm produce now? Where are threshers? Where do you people do threshing? ”
“Babu, the path to your home goes through the southern boundary of the school. You look tired and hungry too. Go now. We don’t dare to tell you more” replied the old man.