delhi for northeast tigers

Delhi teams on fact-finding mission to tiger reserves

 The National Tiger Conservation Authority is despatching special teams to three tiger reserves in the Northeast to assess the parks’ poor condition.

The reserves are Manas (Assam), Dampa (Mizoram) and Namdapha (Arunachal Pradesh). The special teams have been constituted for an urgent appraisal of tiger reserves with low density of tigers and problems because of militant-engineered disturbances.

Sources said the idea behind constitution of the teams is that officials from Delhi do not come too often to visit the tiger reserves in the region thereby resulting in lack of co-ordination. A field official in Manas said they have not seen any senior official from Project Tiger, which is the earlier name of the NTCA, visiting the reserve.

“They should at least come and see at the field what is happening so that they know the real situation. A number of initiatives are being taken for recovery of the wild population,” the official told The Telegraph today.

The only delegation to have visited Manas is the monitoring-mission team from the World Heritage Committee of Unesco, which came in 2008.

The team for Manas will also be visiting the tiger reserves in Valmiki (Bihar), Palamau (Jharkhand) and Indravati (Chhattisgarh).

Similarly, the team for Dampa and Namdapha will also be visiting Buxa (West Bengal).

The team for Manas comprises R.S. Singh, Samir Sinha, R.P. Mishra, Rathin Barman and D.S. Srivastava.

The conservation authority has stated that encroachment by the Lisus tribe and militancy are the problems in Namdapha while in Dampa, poor tiger density is because of ecological problems. Manas faces problems like inadequate infrastructure, encroachment and lack of funds.

The teams will appraise status of tiger, co-predators and prey animals, protection efforts, administrative and ecological problems and managerial issues. They will also give suggestions for restoring the area and eliciting local support to strengthen protection.

The teams will have to submit their reports within 60 days. These reports will work as a guide for the conservation authority as far as taking focused steps to strengthen the management effort to better the tiger population.

The authority has also proposed translocation of tigers to allow the tiger population to build up at the reserves and protect it from poachers and other factors.


tea aroma


Spread The Aroma

‘Produce what others want’ is the new mantra for the Indian tea industry


30 Nov 2007

TEA CONNOISSEURS: About 450 delegates from across the world gathered at the convention (Courtesy: Eastern Projections)

Over high teas and sumptuous lunches, two questions dominated the discussions of tea captains from all over the world, who had come together for the Great Indian Tea Party at the Indian International Tea Convention (IITC) 2007 in Guwahati — “Where are the new markets?” and “What should be sold to them to get maximum returns on the product?”

The answer, according to Jairam Ramesh, minister for commerce, is simple enough — “produce what others want’’. Speaking on the first day of the convention — which brought together nearly 450 delegates from across the globe — he said that over the years, there has been a shift in preferences from CTC to Orthodox teas and India should also adapt to this change. “We have to do it to meet the challenge as otherwise we will lose out,” he said.

No wonder, then, that Mohammad Beyad, the Tehran-based director of Britannia Tea Company, London, was here to buy the best quality Assam tea. Iran is a huge market for Assam orthodox tea. It consumes around 110-120 million kg tea every year, 95 per cent of which is orthodox tea. The government plans to increase the production of orthodox tea from 80 million kg to 140 million kg in the next five years and has launched a Rs 100-crore subsidy scheme for the same.

The past should not be a model for the future, said Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath at the valedictory session. “We have to create new markets and brand our products in tea,” he said. “We are all there to help the industry but it should guide us.” India is the world’s second-largest producer of tea and the fourth-largest exporter.

The focus of the IITC 2007 was to develop India’s response to the new global challenges and strengthen its image as a dependable tea supplier, said Aditya Khaitan, chairman of Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations.The Indian tea industry has a turnover of Rs 6,500 crore and supports an employment base of some 1.25 million. “The industry would be formulating a strategic road map in partnership with the Tea Board regarding the policy interventions required to help India compete in the new markets,” said Khaitan. “We look forward to a long-term government-industry partnership to carry out this critical task.”

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While it is difficult to gauge the success of the convention — which showcased India as a one-stop shop for a wide range of quality teas ranging from robust Assams to aromatic Darjeelings as well as other regional varieties — it did give a glimpse into the minds of importers. “This was a good one-stop forum for people in the tea trade to know what other countries wanted,” said Dhiraj Kakati, secretary of Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association (ABITA).

The convention gave foreign delegates a chance to see for themselves the way that Assam tea is grown and processed, said Kakati. Assam contributes 50 per cent of the country’s entire tea production. “A taster can distinguish between good and poor quality tea,” said C.S. Bedi, chairman of the Tea Research Association. “However, his perception of good quality invariably tilts towards Assam tea. Reference to good quality is an integrated sensation of many attributes such as colour, strength, flavour, briskness and a balance of these attributes is essential, which is present in Assam tea. If Darjeeling tea is the champagne of the tea world, then Assam tea is its best cognac.”

THE TRUE FLAVOUR: The convention showcased India as a one-stop shop for a wide range of quality teas (Courtesy: Eastern Projections)

Consumers in India seem to prefer teas that release a pleasant aroma during preparation, said P.T. Siganporia, the managing director of Tata Tea. Yet another reason for the popularity of Assam tea.

However, not everything is hunky-dory for Assam tea. In fact, Nick Revett, the commodities and technical services director of R. Twining, pointed out that Assam tea scores low in comparison with other classics and specialty blends. “A large percentage of Assam tea that is drunk in the UK is not necessarily driven consciously by primary consumer preference for their origin but by UK packers choosing to utilise tea in their major blends, albeit to fulfil their brand objectives,” he said. “The platform and identity with the consumer is relatively weak, thus, in order to fulfil the goal of increased exports to this market, the first step is to work closely with the UK packer who is inextricably linked to the UK consumer.”

The issue of pesticide limits was also raised. Europe has stringent laws about pesticide residue and the issue can only be dealt with effectively by the trade bodies of India and Europe together, said Franz Thiele of Thiele and Freese. “Indian and European tea trade have to work hand in hand,” he said.

Quality, too, was an issue with Kenya taking a lead on the matter. “Quality has been our buzzword and teas sent to Kenya should be of high quality,” said Dunston M. Ngumo, chairman of the Tea Board of Kenya. Assam’s industry minister, Pradyut Bordoloi, is also worried about quality. “We are concerned about the deterioration of quality of Assam tea and will soon impose quality stipulations on tea coming from bought leaf factories,” he said.

Mohsin Saify of Tapal Tea of Pakistan said the company wished to make Assam tea an integral component of its blends to add value but at a price point. “India and Pakistan have the ability to transform the region into a single tea market and the Indian government should develop and promote Indian tea in Pakistan as a brand.” Ramaz Chanturiya of Rosschai Russia said that in order to reposition Indian tea in the consumer’s mind and win back the market share in Russia, the Tea Board of India should promote Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri teas. “Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri are widely and universally acknowledged to be the finest teas, because the flavour of each is so unique that it cannot be replicated,” Chanturiya said.

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At the convention, there was a general feeling that the Indian tea industry is in for exciting times, for not only is the market showing signs of stabilising after 4-5 years, but an ambitious government-sponsored programme for uprooting and replanting is also underway. “No one will forgive the industry if we make compromises and put out low quality planting material,” said Bedi. “The onus is on us to make this a success.”

The tea industry also addressed the issue of social costs. Khaitan urged the central government to share a part of social security cost to inject a fresh dose of competitiveness into the plantation sector and in so doing, free it to concentrate its energies on what it should be doing best — producing quality tea at the most competitive cost and expanding and servicing markets with alertness and vigour.

(Businessworld Issue 04-10 Dec, 2007)

rhino horns ought to be burnt

Rhino horn burning to bust a myth

- Move aimed at telling poachers that body part has no medicinal value


Guwahati, Feb. 22: Finally, Assam is fighting fire with fire.

Nearly 1,500 rhino horns — lying in different treasuries and strongrooms across the state — will be burnt next month, possibly in the presence of members of international conservation agencies.

The public burning of such a huge quantity of rhino horns — which ironically is the biggest enemy of the pre-historic and endangered mammal — was aimed at sending the message that the state “was fully committed” to rhino conservation.

The most important message will, however, go out to the clandestine wildlife traders and believers of traditional medicines: the rhino horn really does not have any value in monetary terms and does not have any medicinal values as believed.

The rhino horns have been lying in treasuries since 1978 when its sale in Assam was banned.

S. Chand, chief wildlife warden of Assam, told The Telegraph today that the government had issued a notification stating that committees for each district had been constituted for disposal of all rhino horns in possession of the forest department except those required as exhibits in court cases.

“The decision is in full consonance with wildlife laws of the country and international rules,” he added.

There are at present 1,571 rhino horns lying in various treasuries and strongrooms of divisional forest officers across the state.

The horns are lying in treasuries in 10 districts of the state — Jorhat, Nagaon, Kamrup, Sonitpur, Darrang, Lakhimpur, Nalbari, Golaghat, Barpeta and Kokrajhar. The eastern Assam wildlife division, which covers Kaziranga, has the maximum stock of rhino horns.

The forest department has already informed the Centre about the decision to burn the horns.

Chand said a foolproof process was now being chalked out in consultation with experts on proper disposal of the ashes after the rhino horns are burnt.

“Once the process is finalised, guidelines will be circulated to the officers concerned to go ahead,” he said.

Bibhab Talukdar, the secretary general of wildlife NGO Aaranyak said the decision taken by the state government “was a progressive step taken to send a strong signal to the international community”.

“The whole event of burning of horns should be transparent and videographed,” he added.

The Wildlife Protection Act says that “where any meat, uncured trophy, specified plant or part or derivative thereof is seized, under the provisions of this section, the assistant director of wildlife preservation or any other officer of a gazetted rank authorised by him on his behalf or the chief wildlife warden or the authorised officer may arrange for the disposal of the same in such a manner as may be prescribed”.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has asked the member countries to declare the status of any stocks of rhinoceros horns and derivatives.

A comprehensive declaration form has been given in which the CITES has asked the countries to outline the policy on the disposal of seized horns (and products), summary of how rhino horns and product stocks are marked registered and secured. Besides, it has sought reports on the security and storage, registration and audits, trade and possession controls, rhino horns and other raw horn material in state possession and summary of horns sold (internally or externally), stolen or destroyed since 2000.

The rhino horns are either seized from poachers and smugglers or collected from carcasses of rhinos which died a natural death.

drug problem for rhinos

Drug hiccup in rhino translocation

- South Africa fails to supply tranquiliser



Guwahati, March 12: The second phase of the ambitious rhino translocation programme has hit a roadblock with a South African company expressing its inability to supply ethorphine, an immobilising drug, to the Assam forest department.

The Wildlife Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd of South Africa could not supply the drug because the Central Bureau of Narcotics had not placed an indent for it with the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).

Informing the forest department of this on March 1, the South African firm asked the authorities to apply for ethorphine hydrochloride soon as it could still use its current import permit that expires on May 9.

The rules for supplying narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances to other countries stipulate that the importing country has to inform the INCB of its requirement, including the quantity of the drug it wants to import. Laying down the procedures of the INBC, the letter from the company also stated that once the concerned authority has applied, the board decides on the matter.

“This is disappointing news for us,” chief wildlife warden Suresh Chand told this correspondent.

“We have written to the Central Bureau of Narcotics to place an indent with the INCB. The time is important as the permit expires on May 9,” a forest department official said.

Time is already running out for the next phase of rhino translocation as the process becomes very difficult once summer sets in. Funding agencies are anxious to see that the next round of rhino translocation gets started quickly.

The official said the department was happy when it acquired the import licence but never knew that such procedural hiccups could come up.

For the first phase of the translocation in 2008, the department had procured the drug from Singapore with the help of an international agency as the programme had to be started quickly.

“We at least know now what the rules are and will act accordingly in the future,” the official said.

The INCB is an independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions. Its endeavour, in co-operation with governments, is to ensure that adequate supplies of drugs are available for medical and scientific uses and that these do not get diverted from licit to illicit channels.

The principal aim of the rhino translocation programme is to attain a population of 3,000 wild rhinos in Assam and to populate the potential rhino habitat areas of Manas, Dibru-Saikhowa and Laokhowa-Bura Chapori wildlife sanctuaries through translocation from Kaziranga and Pobitora.

The African and Asian rhino specialist groups of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSC) have already informed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora that after the first two rhinos were moved to Manas under the project in 2008, progress has virtually come to a halt as the immobilising drug could not be procured.

assam's women

When women get a story of their own

- Netherlands institute to document and preserve Assam’s mahila samiti movement


Unsung sisters

Guwahati, March 10: After his-tory, it’s time for her-story.

The unsung sisters of Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir will find their rightful place in history when an institute from the Netherlands documents the contribution of women’s groups in Assam.

The International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, is funding a project titled “Memory, Movement and the Mahila Samiti in Assam” at Tezpur University to preserve the social memory of the mahila samiti movement in the state.

Mahila samitis played a significant role during the nationalist movement in colonial Assam and has ever since offered help during natural calamities and refugee settlements.

Three mahila samitis — Assam Pradeshik Mahila Samiti, Tezpur District Mahila Samiti and Dibrugarh District Mahila Samiti — have been selected for the project.

There are more than a thousand primary mahila samitis in Assam today. But there are reasons why these three were selected: Dibrugarh is the oldest (1915), Tezpur (1918) the most active and has a lot of documents from the past while the Assam Pradeshik Mahila Samiti (1926) is the apex body.

“The project will digitally scan and preserve old documents, photographs, letters and other papers available at the three mahila samiti offices in Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Tezpur,” the project co-ordinator, Hemjyoti Medhi, who is an assistant professor at the department of English and foreign language in Tezpur University, said.

The South-South Exchange Programme for Research on the History of Development for Preserving Social Memory: History and Social Movements is intended to support small-scale projects for the preservation and dissemination of historical knowledge and/or alternative historical sources, such as visual and audio materials. The purpose of the project is to document the present institutional structure, outreach activities, consultancy, training programmes, meetings and conferences of the samitis.

He said the “project is particularly crucial in developing societies like ours as preservation of archival material and precious old documents has always been a challenge here”.

Once completed, the project will evolve a database on the mahila samitis in Assam. Talks are on with the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, to connect this database to national and international databases on social movements.

Meenakshi Bhuyan of Tezpur District Mahila Samiti said the digital preservation of old documents is one of the crucial means to evolve a historical understanding of the mahila samiti in Assam.

The project will also involve personal interviews of office-bearers, members (past and present), intellectuals and activists who have had a sustained engagement with the mahila samiti movement.

“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman,” Woolf once wrote.

With one stroke, Assam will drag its women activists out of anonymity and put them where they belong.

honouring tocklai

Centenary honour for tea gurus

- Tocklai research centre to institute chairs to mark 100 years of existence


Tocklai Tea Research Station

Guwahati, March 11: When the Tea Research Association, Tocklai — the world’s oldest tea research station based at Jorhat — turns hundred, it will be time not only to look ahead but also in the past to honour those who gave the institute its global status.

The association has decided to institute centenary chairs after scientists who contributed to the tea research station and they will be named after William White, E.A.H. Roberts and K.C. Sarma.

While White did extensive work on tea germ plasm and plant improvement, Roberts was an authority on tea quality. Sarma, on the other hand, was the first to bring out a tea pest monograph.

“The aim of instituting the chairs is to get the best people in their respective fields to Tocklai for promoting research. It can be from anywhere and we are open to foreign scientists as well,” Joydeep Phukan, secretary of the association, said.

The Tocklai experimental station was started in 1911 in Jorhat. The yearlong centenary celebrations of Tea Research Association, Tocklai, will begin by showcasing its achievements at the 19th session of Food and Agriculture Organisation of UN Intergovernmental Group on Tea — the highest international platform on tea.

The session, to be attended by 120 delegates from around the world, will meet on May 12-14. “Though we have been highlighting our achievements at the national level quite often, this is the first time when we will be showcasing our achievements in the last century on a global stage,” Phukan said.

The tea association, as part of its centenary celebrations, will also hold a two-day conference christened Infini-tea in New Delhi on May 10-11 in association with the Tea Board of India.

“All of us love tea as a beverage in some form or the other. We have been enjoying tea for many decades now and would like our future generations to enjoy the magic of tea, too. Therefore, it is very important for us to share our wisdom at the Infini-tea Tocklai Tea Centenary Conference 2010 being organised on the historic occasion of the centenary of Tocklai Experimental Station,” C.S. Bedi, chairman of the tea association, said.

The other events planned are inauguration of the centenary central laboratory and auditorium at Tocklai in October.

look at iim shillong

Good start for young IIM

- Shillong students draw average salary of Rs 9.8 lakh


Guwahati, March 29: The first batch of graduates from the country’s youngest IIM — the Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management, Shillong — has drawn average salaries of Rs 9.8 lakh in the first placements held last month.

“As the youngest IIM with problems of logistics, students have got good offers and we are pleased with it,” said Arijit C. Majumdar, the chief of corporate relations and external affairs of IIM Shillong.

Majumdar, however, refused to disclose the names of the candidates and their recruiters, saying “the companies have told us specifically not to disclose the names”.

While the best domestic offer was of Rs 18 per annum, the highest foreign offer stood at Rs 33 lakh per annum.

There were four foreign offers from Indonesia, Singapore and Dubai and the salaries offered in Indian currency were between Rs 33 lakh to Rs 34 lakh. The offers were made in marketing retail and international operations of an industrial house.

Majumdar said 35 per cent of the offers were made through video-conferencing and 30 companies offered jobs in as varied areas as finance, information technology, human resources, supply chain management and marketing.

Of 63 students, 61 have already received the job letters while two are expected to get them soon.

Set up in 2008, IIM Shillong currently offers a two-year post-graduate programme in management.

In addition, the institute offers management development programmes, research and consultancy. It will hold its convocation on April 3.

“The recruiters were happy to find students from diverse cultures,” Majumdar said.

Two students at IIM Shillong are from Assam and had studied outside before joining.

One of the students who was recruited summed up the mood: “We know what to expect.... it cannot be in crores... we adjusted to it and are happy”.

There are four students in the placement committee who also help co-ordinate with the companies.

The institute had decided not to charge any fees to companies in the current season.

“We had given the brochures and the details of each and every student (backgrounds, previous internships) to the recruiters so that they can decide. This helped save time,” Majumdar said.

The rules state that the organisation cannot communicate the offer to the candidate directly. A job offer must specify the position offered, the remuneration package and the job description.