Hunt for the 'White Gold'

Monday, June 11, 2001 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

Those were the days when the forest reverberated with the trumpeting of the elephants. Today a deadly silence lingers around this place. An unhealthy stench pervades in the air. The stench coming out of the decomposed bodies of the elephants. Seven elephants have been poached in the park in a span of two months alone. The very park that promised these magnificent mammals of protection.

The Jim Corbett Park, the oldest national park of the Indian subcontinent, established on August 8 1936 and spread over two states and four districts saw the first spree of elephant poaching.

One of India’s largest elephant reserves, Corbett has 300 elephants, 90 of which are tuskers. But ironically just 60 guards to protect them.

Man’s brutality towards animals was evident in the very forests where Jim Corbett shed tears every time he had to shoot a man-eater. The pictures that the cameras captured further reiterated that man could stoop to any level to quench his greed. What makes Corbett particularly attractive to poachers is - a third of its elephant population comprise tuskers. It has been estimated that out of the 100,000 that once roamed around the subcontinent there are just 20,000 today. The male female ratio is a mere 1: 20. Out of these 1000-odd males only a few hundred have tusks. It is this small herd that poachers target. Live electric wires are used for trapping and maiming.

Wildlife experts link the rise in elephant poaching to the lifting of the ivory ban by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at its 1997 Harare Conference. Though the ban was reinforced two years later, it hardly deterred the poachers: India lost 110 tuskers in 1997-98; another 102 in 1998-99. Veerappan alone has wiped out more than 2,000 tuskers in 3-4 years alone.

Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand have kept the market for the “white gold” alive. It is estimated that a poacher fetches a whooping Rs 15000 a kg in these markets. A truly lucrative bargain.

Scientists to this day have not been able to find a foolproof method to distinguish between Indian/Asian and African tusks. This has encouraged the poachers further.

One of India’s largest elephant reserves, Corbett has 300 elephants, 90 of which are tuskers. But ironically just 60 guards to protect them. Shortage of vehicles, walkie-talkies and weapons continues to make a mockery of policing national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. There is a crying need for trained personnel and advanced equipment to combat the poachers. The predicament lies in this fact that the guards despite their apparent determination to nab the culprits find it extremely difficult. There have been occasions when diplomats have visited farmhouses and gone for shikar in the night.

This battle is not easy. The guards need modern gadgets, not lathis. They have to be motivated by providing higher salaries and better facilities. Administrators at the higher levels should take in a sensitive approach while coming to any conclusion in their cold chambers. Bureaucratic involvement can’t be negated in all these cases. The cleansing should begin from the top. Mere suspensions and dismissals don’t hold solutions for heinous crimes like these.

Careful and effective planning is the only answer. Better the government chalk out an action plan lest the future shall hold nothing but, questions and questions alone.

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Musicpiracy.com

Saturday, April 21, 2001 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

Computer music files are a form of recorded music, also referred to as “digital sheet music”. Both creation and use are protected and regulated by national and international copyright laws. Most users of music files, including the non-professional creators of such files, are sub-consciously aware of this fact. But since royalty collection on computer music or the Internet has not yet been organised, many computer music enthusiasts and computer musicians have paid little attention to the copyright issue because they have simply got away with it for now.
Napster is a free digital music distribution program that connects the user to a community of fellow members looking to trade songs.


Take the case of Internet website Napster.com. Napster is a free digital music distribution program that connects the user to a community of fellow members looking to trade songs. All the user has to do, is type in the title of the desired song and the program will provide a list of Napster members storing that song, as an MP3 file on their computer hard drive. At which point, the user can play the song on his computer, listen to it on an MP3 player, or “burn” it onto a blank recordable CD. It is the “easy” access and the prospect of “free” music that has made Napster popular with music freaks the world over. In the nine months since the program was launched, it has been downloaded 5 million times, making it the fastest growing program in the history of the Internet. In early April last year, the San Francisco rock band Metallica filed a suit against Napster, accusing them of music piracy.

Napster has upset most of the music industry; record companies are of the opinion that Napster’s popularity will have a direct impact on CD sales because if people download music as opposed to going out and buying it, record sales and artist royalties will be affected. Forrester, an Internet research group, predicts that free music services and file-swapping technologies like this would makeup a major part of the annual $3 billion in lost music sales expected globally by 2005. Surprisingly though, not all artists view Napster as enemy no.1; bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, The Offspring and The Deftones believe trading of MP3 files will enhance sales rather than depress them.

Because Napster officials say the service does not directly provide the copyrighted music, only the means to get it, the company claims its service is legal. But in their first court hearing, the judge ruled that the site would be held liable even if it serves as a mere conduit between users and MP3 suppliers. On the 12th of this month a US federal appeals court ruled that Napster must stop dealing in music which is copyrighted. The court said that record companies must supply Napster with a list of all their copyrighted recordings, the swapping of which would be infringement. In the US now, commercial copyright violation involving more than 10 copies and value over $2500 has been made a felony.

Even an electronically transmitted performance triggers performance royalties and the recording’s mechanical duplication fees. The only copyright-free music files are those to which the recording artists make no claim to the production or the performance and the music is used in the public domain. Even most other music files you can now buy via the Net, are not licensed to be rebroadcast (e.g. to be used on a website). So unless you buy them, computer music files are illegal. Only a virtual artist lives from honour and fame alone, real humans need cash to pay their bills.

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Gujarat Earthquake - Narendra Modi Government has done its bit

Sunday, March 04, 2001 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

No disaster can be perfectly managed except in a utopian state. A huge Indian landmass and lack of infrastructure makes it almost impossible. There is no use in quarreling over niche terms when the need of the hour is to stand up collectively and help our brethren in the time of crisis.

The government has tried its best to deal with the situation, the armed forces were the first to start the relief work. And the troops have proved their mettle. Within hours of the earthquake, the Border Security Force and the Army were out helping in rescue operations, and moving food and water to victims.

Then the reconstruction activities began. The food and relief were reaching not just the towns but the villages as well, and the district administration was putting in place the basic infrastructure of roads, electricity, telecom facilities, water and civic services. There was not a part of the state that has not been touched by it. There was no short fall in medicines, doctors or money. Teams from the NGO’s and foreign countries had camped in Gujarat to help the people of Gujarat.

Presently NGO’s, present people with alternatives to governmental remedies in terms of disaster management. RSS cadres swung into action as the calamity struck. They were one of the first to reach the disaster prone areas and help the victims. Apart from the NGO’s and the relief agencies, the religious groups, caste-based organisations, and a large number of smaller, quickly put together volunteer groups mobilised relief materials and reached Gujarat. Some political organisations also participated whole-heartedly. These organisations must be encouraged. People must get involved and take part during the hour of crisis. Vigilant citizen groups must be formed so that they tackle issues and there is no over dependence on the government. Citizens must realise their duties.

People in the seismic zone must be extra careful. Reports clearly bring to light the negligence of the builders, the people and above all the corrupt government officials in Gujarat. The builders didn’t take care to comply with the rules while building and the buyers didn’t bother to ask. even buildings built six months back had collapsed by the earthquake. Rabindra Jayendralal Vasavada, fellow of the Indian Institute of Architecture and consultant to the department of archaeology investigated into the faulty construction of the buildings. He observed that the buildings are illegally built, ignoring the rules on an unprecedented scale. People and the builders very well know that they can’t go on adding storeys without support, yet they go for it. The people who try to save some money and compromise with quality, are, in turn, playing with their own lives. Most of the buildings in Gujarat were not insured. This also shows the irresponsibility of the people in such seismically sensitive region. Criminal actions need to be initiated against the guilty builders and the corrupt officials.

At present rescuing and rehabilitation of the earthquake victims is more important than bringing up issues and declaring government guilty.
The Government has sensed the necessity of disaster management and the result is a separate legislation for disaster management which would be in force in some time. An all-party meeting convened by the government in New Delhi on February third had decided to set up a permanent disaster management committee. Another committee consisting of representatives from political parties was constituted to monitor the relief efforts in Gujarat. This is not the ultimate solution for the problem until and unless people contribute. They must realise their responsibility and be vigilant. The government did not have a national policy on disaster and they should be given some time to plan.

At present rescuing and rehabilitation of the earthquake victims is more important than bringing up issues and declaring government guilty. The civilian society must co-ordinate with the government for best results.

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