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Monday, April 30, 2012

The state of child labour in India with special reference to Jharkhand


The year 2012 is being celebrated as the “Year of Daughters” in Jharkhand. Accordingly, the state Government is making available many types of helps to girl children. Providing free bicycles to school going girls, making available free books and free education to girls and also to boys, and many others are some examples. But, current media reports present a sorry state of children, especially of those who are from very poor families and are bound to work for the livelihood of their parents, or who are bound to migrate along with their parents in their school going age, to other states in search of earning livelihood in particular seasons.

Child labour can be seen on tea stalls, motels and in houses everywhere in the state and of course in the whole country in spite of the provisions of law to stop the practice of child labour in states and the whole country.
Census 2001 revealed that Jharkhand had about 4 lakh child labour aged from 5 to 14 while the national figure of the same period was 1.26 crore. The NSSO data of 2004 shows that Jharkhand has about 2.06 lakh Child Labour aged between 5 to 14 years. This figure on national level is reported to be 90 lakh. The number of Child Labour as per the census of 2011 has not been reported so far. But it is assessed that the number of child labour in Jharkhand state has not decreased over the years.

Most of the child labor works in organized sector. The NSSO data reveal that 65% child labour work in agriculture sector while 14% child labour work at construction sites, 12% child labour work in hotels, motels and commercial houses. There is great demand of child labour in Delhi, West Bengal, Goa, Haryana, Punjab and South India.

It has been reportedly planned that a joint campaign against the practice of child labour will be conducted from 30 April to 07 May, 2012 by the Department of Labour, Human Resources Development, Social Welfare, Home / Police of Jharkhand and the UNICEF. It is reported that the principal focus of UNICEF in this campaign will be on the child labour working in motels, hotels, garages and small industries. The UNICEF is inclined to conduct a large campaign on 12th June 2012 to observe the day as “World Day against Child Labour”. 

Key Words: child labour day, NSSO, UNICEF

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

nibirding: They just keep comeing!
nibirding: They just keep comeing!:  Yes another random selection of Spain photos! I have enough to keep going until the start of the winter gull season! ...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Child Marriages on Akshaya Tritiya

A large number of children are married off on the day of Akshaya Tritiya in many states of India like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand particularly in rural areas.

Earlier, in 2010, Gothera village of Rajasthan was reported to organize mass child marriage despite strict instructions of the Rajasthan Government. The police, as per reports, could not stop child marriages because villagers secretly organized those marriages before the day of Akshaya Tritiya.

In view of conditions mentioned above, the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare has warned state governments to take all possible measures to combat the wave of child marriages which is feared to take place this year in the Hindu heartland on the occasion of this festival, i.e. on 24th April 2012.

The Ministry of Women and Child Welfare has written the state governments that child marriage is illegal under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. All the concerned officers including district magistrates, collectors, deputy inspectors, deputy inspectors- general, or Superintendents of Police, Sarpanches of various panchayats, State Women Commissions, civil society organizations and Child Marriage Prevention Officers in states and union territories have been suggested to take all preventive measures for breaking the tradition of holding child marriages. Changes in the mindset of society along with strict legal and other schematic interventions are necessary for checking this retrograde social practice.

Every year, thousands of children are reported to be married off on the day of Akshaya Tritiya in many Indian States. It is said that when farmers make money after a good harvest, they marry off their children without any consideration for their early age. Thus thousands of underage children are married every year across the country. Earlier, the Government of Rajasthan organized weddings of Dalit girls under a scheme. It is reported that many beneficiaries in the names of whom funds were released were under age.

Key Words :Rajasthan, Akshaya Tritiya, panchayats, women commission

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Earth Day: A movement for Global Environment

The Earth Day i.e. April 22 is the day on which the modern Environmental movement had started in 1970. The idea of the Earth Day was developed for the first time by Gaylord Nelson who was a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. He was moved to see the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. In the mean time he was inspired by students’ anti- war movement and it gave him a new idea. As the Earth Day Network quotes - … he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land.

…. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news.  Although mainstream America remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson's New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962.  The book represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries and, up until that moment, more than any other person, Ms. Carson raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and public health….

As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders asked Denis Hayes to organize another big campaign. This time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1995) -- the highest honor given to civilians in the United States -- for his role as Earth Day founder.

As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign, this time focused on global warming and a push for clean energy. With 5,000 environmental groups in a record 184 countries reaching out to hundreds of millions of people, Earth Day 2000 combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. It used the Internet to organize activists, but also featured a talking drum chain that traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa, and hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Earth Day 2000 sent world leaders the loud and clear message that citizens around the world wanted quick and decisive action on clean energy.

Much like 1970, Earth Day 2010 came at a time of great challenge for the environmental community. Climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians, a disinterested public, and a divided environmental community all contributed to a strong narrative that overshadowed the cause of progress and change. In spite of the challenge, for its 40th anniversary, Earth Day Network reestablished Earth Day as a powerful focal point around which people could demonstrate their commitment. Earth Day Network brought 225,000 people to the National Mall for a Climate Rally, amassed 40 million environmental service actions toward its 2012 goal of A Billion Acts of Green®, launched an international, 1-million tree planting initiative with Avatar director James Cameron and tripled its online base to over 900,000 community members.

The fight for a clean environment continues in a climate of increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more manifest every day. We invite you to be a part of Earth Day and help write many more victories and successes into our history. Discover energy you didn't even know you had. Feel it rumble through the grassroots under your feet and the technology at your fingertips. Channel it into building a clean, healthy, diverse world for generations to come.

Key Words: Gaylord Nelson, climate change, Earth Day, technology

Credit: The Earth Day Network

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Food Adulteration

Most often we hear about food adulteration. Earlier, there were reports of milk- adulteration in our city. What is food-adulteration?

Well, mixing of undesirable, cheap and often harmful substances in our food items is called as Food Adulteration.
Some greedy traders use to mix unwanted substances into our food items so as to cheat the public and earn more money. These unwanted substances are called as adulterants. The practice of mixing of unwanted substances in food items is harmful and sometimes fatal to consumers.

In 2000, some greedy traders mixed the oil of Argemone mexicana seeds in the mustard oil to earn more money and sold it to consumers. The consumption of Argemone oil mixed with mustard oil caused Dropsy in consumers and killed hundreds of them. Dropsy is a serious disease which occurs due to consumption of Argemone oil. Here is a table which details some of the edible items and adulterants usually mixed into them.

Argemone mexicana

S. No.
Edible Substances
Pulses of Lathyrus sativus (Grass Pea), metanil yellow colour
Turmeric Powder
Lead chromate
Coriander Powder
Powder of dried dung of Cow or Horse, starch
Black Pepper
Dried seeds of Papaya
Red Chilli Powder
Brick-powder, powder of wood
Powder of dried dung, wood powder
Edible Oil
Cheap Oils, Oil of Argemone seeds
Fat, starch, water
Powders of smooth white
Pebbles, husk

Food Adulteration is a punishable crime under Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act 1954(amended in 1964, 1976 and 1986). It has been enacted to ensure the availability of pure and standard food to consumers and to protect them from deceptive trade practices.

The prevention of food Adulteration Act prohibits manufacture; sale and distribution of adulterated foods and foods contaminated with toxicants and if it is misbranded.

Food is deemed to be adulterated if-

(a) The article sold by a vendor is not of the nature, substance or quality demanded by the purchaser and it is represented to be.
(b) It contains any other substance or is processed as to affect its original nature and cause harm to consumers.
(c)  Any inferior or cheaper substance have been substituted wholly or in part of the article.
(d)  It is prepared, packed or kept under unsanitary conditions.
(e) Consists of any filthy, putrid, disgusting, rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance or is insect infested or otherwise unfit for human consumption.
(f) It contains any poisonous or other ingredients injurious to health.
(g) It contains any colouring material other than prescribed and in amounts not within the prescribed limit.

Food Adulteration occurs in rural as well as urban areas. So the first option is to buy branded and ISI-marked products. Even if these branded items cost a little extra, it is worth paying the extra amount to safe guard your health. If you have purchased any branded item and doubt its quality, you can at least approach the company concerned. We must always remember to preserve our grocery bills so that the company can take necessary steps regarding the complaint

If any person manufactures for sale, stores, sells, imports or distributes any article of food which is adulterated or misbranded, he is liable under the PFA Act to be punished with imprisonment and fined. If we find that any food is adulterated, then we should not remain silent. We should complain to Prevention of Food Adulteration Department in our city / town / district and report to the newspapers and make more and more people aware to take joint action.

Key Words : edible oil, Argemone,  food, adulteration

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Owls in our surroundings

Most of us have seen owls in our surroundings. They are hard to be seen in natural settings because they usually remain active during nights only. If there is a dense garden somewhere or near our house or an old deserted building or a monument, we can hear hoots, screeches, hisses and screams of owls even during day time. Owls mostly prefer a habitat away from human habitation. This is why their screeches are often heard during nights in crop fields and deserted areas.

Owls can produce a wide variety of sounds or vocalizations. Their vocalizations are loud but low pitched. Their cries travel well through the night air and enable them locate mates and declare territories despite darkness. However, owls see, observe and hear much more than they speak. This is the reason why owls are called as “wise owls”. Here are some lines of a poem on owls -

The wise old owl, Sat in an oak.
The more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can't we be like that wise old bird?

Owls are nocturnal hunting birds. They have eyes facing forwards. They usually sleep during the day and emerge at night to hunt small prey. The specific eye placement in the head of an owl gives him binocular vision and very precise depth perception. There are circles of radiating feathers that surround each one of the two eyes. These feathery circles give them wide eyed alert look. They cannot move their eyes, and in order to look around, they have to move their entire head up to 270 0.

One may be surprised to know that an owl has three eye-lids - one for blinking, one for sleeping, and one for keeping the eye clean and healthy. They have Zygodactyl feet that means - feet having half of toes pointing forward and others pointing backwards.

Owls have specialized feathers that muffle sound when they fly. Their silent flight helps them catch prey more easily. Owls have been found in the fossil record up to 58 million years ago. The largest recorded owl fossil orenmegalonyx oteroi stood about three feet tall.

Owls are found everywhere in the world. There are about 162 different species of owls alive today. They inhabit a huge variety of ecological niches - from rainforests to tundra. In India, owls are found everywhere ranging from rural, semi-urban to urban settings.

Owls hunt and eat rodents, insects, frogs, and birds. They eat smaller prey whole and larger prey in chinks. An owl is at the top of the food-web and it has no major predators except man.

Owls have been regarded as Vahanas of Goddess Laxmi in the Hindu mythology. This consideration gives some importance to this bird. However, Hindu tantriks recommend owl worship during mid night of some particular day. This thought has encouraged unlawful hunting and killing of owls in India.

Some people think owls to be carrier of evil spirits. It is due to this type of bad thought that owls are captured and killed mercilessly for evil purposes. Owls are being caught, captured and poached in many different parts of India including Bihar, Bengal, and Jharkhand. These are sold in markets during Deepawali season on high rates.

Owls are friends of farmers. They kill and eat away large number of field rats that harm their crops. It has been reported that a family of hungry owls can consume more than 3000 rats in a nesting season. Thus owls offer great help to farmers and act to balance local food -chain. Farmers should install predatory cans in their fields on some heights to allow owls sit there during nights. 

Owls have been variously symbolized as dread, knowledge, wisdom, death and religious beliefs in the spiritual world. In most Western cultures, views of owls have changed drastically over time. Owls can serve simultaneously as indicators of scarce native habitats and of local cultural and religious beliefs. Understanding historical and current ways in which owls are viewed, and not imposing Western views on other cultures, is an important and necessary context for crafting owl conservation approaches that can be understood by local peoples.

Owls have been listed in Appendix II of International Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Treaty. In November 2008 the conservation organisation TRAFFIC had seized 900 plucked and oven ready owls in Malaysia that proved that owls were killed and smuggled for trade of the wild meat. It is very shocking. Our law enforcement agencies should remain vigilant to arrest poachers who trade in wildlife. 

Key Words : owls, CITES, TRAFFIC, habitat,

Sunday, April 01, 2012


By visual observation, we most often remain unable to detect pollution in our natural resources. So, we go for laboratory tests to estimate the real extent of pollution. However, pollution can be assessed sometimes through visual observations too, and in that case we look for some bioindicators expected to remain present in the natural resource, if it has been polluted by some pollutant. Observation based on knowledge of bio-indicators is one of the quickest and effective ways of judging pollution through visual observation.

Lichen on tree trunk 

Lichen on rock 

A bioindicator is a living organism that gives us an idea of the health of an ecosystem . Some organisms are very sensitive to pollution in their environment, so if pollutants are present, the organism may change its morphology, physiology or behaviour, or it could even die. 

In other words, living organisms that show the status of environmental quality through their sensitivity are called as bio- indicators. The bioindicators are very useful in finding out pollution because they help in identification of the type of pollution. Let us take a few examples-
(i)  The presence of Coli form bacteria indicates water pollution due to fecal matter.
(ii)Movement of Catla and Labeo (Rohu) fish species away from their habitat shoes pollution of water due to industrial waste. Similarly, the death of Amphibians and fish in pond water shows Eutrophication.

(iii) Abundance of diatoms and Eichornia in water indicate pollution due to mixing of sewage in water.
(iv)  Growth of some algal species like Chara shows water pollution by organic and industrial wastes.          
(v).Microorganisms can also be used as indicators of toxins in an ecosystem. Some microorganisms will produce stress proteins if exposed to certain pollutants. By measuring the levels of stress proteins, we can get an idea of the level of pollution present in the environment.
(vi). Lichens that live on surfaces of trees, rocks or soil are very sensitive to toxins in the air. They are so because they obtain their nutrients mostly from the air. If we see too much of lichens growing on the stems of forest trees, one can say that the air inside the forest is clean. However, different species of lichens have different levels of susceptibility to air pollution, so we can get an idea of the pollution level by observing which species are present.
(vii).If toxins are present, certain plants may not be able to grow in the area affected.
(viii).Monitoring population numbers of animals may indicate damage to the ecosystem in which they live.
(ix).Algal blooms are often used to indicate large increases of nitrates and phosphates in lakes and rivers. 
Key Words : Indicator,environmental quality, Phosphate, toxins