is there tiger poaching?

Haul raises spectre of tiger poaching


Guwahati, June 21: Forest officials in the Northeast are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that the upcoming tiger census will throw up a larger count of the big cats.

The 2005-08 estimate had pegged the tiger population in Assam at 70.

Sources said though there was no confirmed case of poaching of tigers in Assam, the situation in the Northeast’s other tiger reserves was not that too rosy.

Three tiger reserves in the region have been graded as “poor”. These are the ones at Manas in Assam, Dampa in Mizoram and Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh.

Tiger reserves at Kaziranga in Assam and Pakke in Arunachal Pradesh have earned “good” status tag while the one in Nameri in Assam has been graded “satisfactory”.

The grading is done by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

The latest haul of tiger bones by the customs has aggravated fear that the tigers are being hunted. Guwahati customs recently seized 10.2kg skulls and bones of full-grown tigers.

“There is some network and support in the protected area but once out, the tigers are at risk,” Rajesh Gopal, a member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, told this correspondent.

“Once they stray out from Kaziranga to Karbi Anglong, all animals face threats,” Firoz Ahmed of Aaranyak, an NGO, said. During floods, many animals seek refuge in the highlands in Karbi Anglong and adjacent reserve forests like Panbari, Bagser and Kukurakata close to the park’s boundary.

Chief wildlife warden, Assam, Suresh Chand, said there had not been any instance of confirmed tiger poaching in the state.

The executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, Belinda Wright, said there was admiration for the authorities of Kaziranga for the protection measures initiated by them, but little could be done when the animals venture out of the safe zones.

“Tiger poaching is done surreptitiously and it is difficult to track the people who are in this trade,” Wright says, adding that one must not forget Sariska and Panna national parks. In a recent incident of straying, a tiger was spotted in Upper Assam after killing two persons. It was later rehabilitated in Manas National Park.

An official of Kaziranga National Park said: “It is not easy for the poachers to target tigers here unlike the rhinos. The thick grasses of the national park are a deterrent.”

it is a foolproof process, says assam forest
‘Foolproof’ tag on horn shift
- Animal part safe in treasury, claims forest department


Guwahati, June 27: The Assam forest department is of the opinion that the process of collection of a rhino horn from its recovery spot and depositing it with the treasury is a “foolproof” one, ruling out any element of doubt.
A divisional forest officer confirmed this at a time doubts are being raised from different quarters about the authenticity of rhino horns which are to be burnt.
“The process is a foolproof one …It is checked and cross-checked and hence there cannot be any doubt,” the officer said. A number of officials concurred with him on this count.
According to the official, once a horn is removed from a rhino carcass, it requires to be boiled and dried in the sun to remove the organic particles along with the meat and also to eliminate the stench.
The boiling and drying process, before a horn is weighed, takes about three to four days.
The TRAFFICEast/Southern Africa — an wildlife trade monitoring network in the world — in its publication Rhino Horn Stockpile Management: Minimum Standards and Best Practices from East and Southern Africa says that measurement of the length and weight of a horn is necessary to avoid confusion. It also helps in calculation of the total weight of the horns stockpiled. A label is then put on the horn providing information, including the place and date of its recovery along with its weight.
It is then stored in the strongroom of the range office where details about the horn are put in a horn register. Registration of all horns is the most important part of stockpile management to ensure that all related information has been accurately recorded.
The divisional forest officer then forms a committee headed by an assistant conservator of forests who is assisted by a range officer for sending it to the treasury.
“As there is no point in sending one horn, we wait for some time so that more horns are collected,” the official said. The range officers of a particular forest division where a horn is found put their signatures on it. The horns are then sealed and packed in a trunk to be sent to the treasury with security. A list is prepared by the DFO which is deposited with the treasury.
On receiving the horns, the treasury officer and the person who goes to deposit the horns put their signature. “If we get a fake horn which we recognise immediately, we do not mix it with the real ones,” the official said. “If somebody wants to replace the horn, the seal will have to be broken,” the official said. Former principal chief conservator of forests M.C. Malakar said the process was foolproof. 


which way

where is the northeast india today. nowhere or going ahead. for those who are saying going ahead, but which way. can we have our own  way or will we be forced to imitate. is the civil society that strong so that we can have our own way.

hope for export

Cold storages for four states
- Farm export body to set up facilities in region’s airports
Guwahati, June 22: The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) will set up four cold storage facilities at airports in four states of the region to store perishable commodities for export.
The airports where these facilities will come up at are Agartala, Dimapur, Aizawl and Imphal.
A senior official of APEDA in Guwahati said the move would help in export of commodities from the region to other places, as there is a big market and can be used by exporters.
“It will take some time to operate the facilities, as two memoranda of understanding has to be signed — one with APEDA and the other one with Airports Authority of India,” the official said.
Not only that, the state government will have to nominate an agency which will run the cold storage facility.
The capacity of each of these facilities will be of 10 metric tonnes each. APEDA was established by the government of India under the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act passed by the Parliament in December 1985. At present, the APEDA has a cold storage facility at the Guwahati airport. The facility is mainly being used by Zopar Exports, which exports flowers overseas.
“There are plans to upgrade the facility into a centre for perishable cargo and the area has already been allocated at the airport,” the official said. The centre for perishable cargo will have a capacity of 30 metric tonnes. The official said farmers in states like Mizoram and Meghalaya, motivated by the ready market, are going for floriculture in a big way in the region and may soon find a prominent place in the international flower market.
In Mizoram, more than 300 farmers are earning their livelihood from anthurium cultivation and there is a huge scope for export. Flowers produced in Mizoram like anthuriums, roses and dendrobiums have already hit the market in Dubai.
“Exporters will have to keep their flowers fresh and for this, cold storage facilities would be required,” the official said, adding this is more useful in hilly regions where flights get cancelled.
Not only flowers, there are other commodities like pineapple, ginger, lemon which can be exported. Tripura is known to grow excellent varieties of pineapples. The redeeming feature of the region is that many products are organic, which command a premium price in international markets.
APEDA has been popularising agricultural commodities like joha rice, bamboo pickles and ginger at expos outside the country.

more pressure on rhino horns

Public hearing on horn burning
Guwahati, June 18: Under pressure from civil society groups to make the process of rhino horn burning transparent, the Assam forest department has decided to conduct a public hearing on the issue.

A senior official of the state forest department said the venue for burning the rhino horns could be either Guwahati or Kaziranga and the modalities would be chalked out soon.

Information on the proposed programme would be given in the newspapers, notifying the place and date.

“We will discuss the issue before the committee members on how to go about the entire process,” the official said.

Principal chief conservator of forests and head of forest force (Assam) V.K. Vishnoi has been made chairman of the 11-member state-level committee, which will oversee and monitor the entire process.

Several non-governmental organisations have urged the government to make rhino horn burning a transparent procedure.

With rhino being the state animal, the department is trying its level best to make the programme a success.

“This is, in fact, for the first time in the country that rhino horns will be destroyed and hence there are no set guidelines for it,” the official said.

The ministry of environment and forests has provided the state forest department with guidelines issued by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on the process of marking of rhino horn and product stocks. It calls for measurement of rhino horns (both weight and length) and making horn registers.

The international body has also provided guidelines on security and storage of horns. To cite an instance, it talks on whether the location of all horns (and products) is known (even if kept confidential for security purposes).

The state forensic science laboratory has already informed the forest department that rhino horn is a modified form of hair composed of keratinised protein and its burning will produce only carbon, which will not pollute the environment.

The total weight of the horns was 997kg at the time of recovery.

peacocks--- the best gifts for b'days

Girl gets peacock for birthday


Guwahati, June 18: Peacocks have suddenly become the best birthday gifts for kids.

After seven-year-old Tejas Hazarika adopted a peacock on his birthday, it’s the turn of an eight-year-old girl residing in Calcutta.

Rheana Hazarika, who stays in Calcutta, was born on June 16 but the party will be on June 20, a Sunday. The gift is from her grandparents who reside in Guwahati.

“We were thinking of the gifts to be given on her birthday but then these do not last long and thought of giving her something which will help in instilling some values too,” Shankar Hazarika, a retired top-ranking officer of Nabard, today told The Telegraph.

“I asked her what she wanted. She said an elephant but then that would be too expensive,” Hazarika said.

The cost of adopting an elephant is around Rs 2 lakh whereas that of a peacock is Rs 4,000.

The peacock that has been adopted is 10 years old.

Hazarika said they then saw a news report in The Telegraph, “Birthday boy adopts peacock”, which inspired them to get her the bird.

“She later agreed to a peacock and is happy,” Hazarika said.

He said they had not informed the girl’s parents and would like to keep it a surprise.

The divisional forest officer of Assam State Zoo, Narayan Mahanta, expressed his happiness at the move.

“It seems that awareness on wildlife conservation has picked up in the right tempo and should intensify,” he said.

Mahanta said the cost of adopting a tiger was nearly Rs 3 lakh, a rhino around Rs 2 lakh and golden langur Rs 38,000.

To adopt birds, visitors can choose between a parakeet, which will cost Rs 1,800 and a mynah Rs 3,000.

rhino horns to be destroyed

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.

grassalnd decline?
Rhino fodder turns dry
- Decline in moist grassland at Pobitora rings alarm bells
No more land?
Guwahati, May 17: Rhinos at Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary are slowly but surely losing their most preferred habitat — moist alluvial grasslands.
From 16.25 square km in 1977, the habitat, considered the best for rhinos, has shrunk to a mere 5.1 square km in 2009.
The implications for the sanctuary near here, which boasts the highest rhino density in the world, are scary with 84 rhinos at the park now jostling for space in the habitat, posing a challenge to the park managers.
Apart from making the rhinos more vulnerable to poachers and increase risk of straying, shortage of adequate habitat space could further compound the man-animal conflict.
A few years back, two persons were killed by rhinos at Chunchali on the outskirts of the city and probably the animals were from Pobitora.
Despite the problem of rhinos straying out, the park has, however, been relatively free from poaching in the past three years.
Satellite imageries in 2009 revealed that Pobitora is left with a mere 5.1 square km area of moist alluvial grasslands.
This was revealed in a study carried on “Assessment of habitat change and threats to the greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) at Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary” by Bibhab Talukdar and Pranjit Sarma of Aaranyak, a biodiversity conservation society.
The study, which used satellite imageries, disclosed that the area of moist alluvial grassland at Pobitora decreased by 11.15 square km during 1977 to 2009. It revealed that the area of moist alluvial grasslands was recorded at 16.25 square km in 1977, 10.67 square km in 1987, 5.57 square km in 1999 and 5.2 square km in 2004.
“Though rhinos prefer moist alluvial grassland most, in Pobitora, moist alluvial grassland is low and hence rhinos use dry grassland in an extensive manner,” Sarma, who heads the GIS (geographic information system) division of Aaranyak, said.
It was observed during field surveys that the moist alluvial grassland area declined at the sanctuary owing to the impact of subsequent floods and silt deposits in 1998 and 2004, followed by intense cattle grazing that increased from about 500 cattle in 1996 to more than 3,000 now.
The grassland growth at the park reduced substantially during 1998 and 2004, with excessive cattle grazing, a practice carried out by shepherds from the fringe villages, making matters worse.
“As such, the suitable rhino feeding sites have been declining. The deposition of silt has also reduced the size of wetlands and with it the area earlier covered with moist alluvial grassland” Sarma said.
”Not only that, the accumulation of water hyacinth and other aquatic plants has been found to reduce the area of moist alluvial grassland as observed in our field visits to the wildlife sanctuary since 1998,” Sarma added.
Over-grazing in the grassland areas and direct heat from the sun also reduces the moisture content of the soil. There has been a transformation of moist to dry grasslands at the wildlife sanctuary and thereafter from dry grassland to woodland.
Similarly, the net change in woodland area has seen an increase of 6.15 square km from 1977 to 2009 while dry grassland has decreased by 0.86 square km. Water bodies have increased by 1.01 square km and fallow land has increased by 4.85 square km during the period.
It has been found that woodland and fallow land has increased within the wildlife sanctuary over the years, which could have triggered food scarcity for rhinos during the dry winter months (November to March), forcing a significant number to stray out.
A forest department official said with a view to reduce pressure on limited grassland habitat, and given the increasing rhino population, translocation of 15-20 rhinos was the best way out. The move would further enhance rhino conservation, the official added.
Although the total notified area of Pobitora is 38.80 square km, the state government is yet to hand over an area of 11.07 square km to the park’s authority. As such, the forest department currently manages a total area of only 27.73 square km.

milk on rails-- wow!

Assam eyes milk on rails
- Co-operative plans to check shortage, curb costs
Guwahati, June 7: West Assam Milk Producers’ Co-operative Union Ltd (Wamul), the creators of the milk brand, Purabi, has drawn up a plan to bring milk on trains from outside the state to economise its costs.
Wamul is getting 3,500-4,000 litres on an average from Bihar and West Bengal through trucks.
“Though there are no problems in sight right now, contingency plans have to be chalked up as we have to think of being economical and step up supply,” M. Thakur, the managing director of Wamul, told The Telegraph.
The official said communication had already been made with milk co-operatives in South India to get concentrated milk — which is basically cow milk.
“We have to talk to the railways to make arrangements to set up railway sidings, which will take some time,” the official said.
One rail milk container carries 40,000 litres of milk.
“Taking concentrated milk helps us because we can increase the quantity three times after processing it, which will help save our transportation costs,” Thakur said.
In fact, Gujarat’s second largest dairy — Dudhsagar Dairy of Mehsana — is all set to flag off a dedicated train to transport milk to the country’s biggest milk market, Delhi, on a daily basis by the end of this year.
There is severe shortage of milk in the state as is evident with defence authorities always asking Wamul to provide them milk.
Wamul is now supplying milk to six places in Assam barring defence supplies. The six places are Guwahati, Nagaon, Jorhat, Nalbari, Rangia and Sonapur.
The shortfall is staggering. In 2009-10, the requirement of milk in Assam was 2,286 million litres while the supply was 828 million litres, leaving a shortfall of 1,457 million litres.
Despite having a sizeable number (approximately 85 lakh) of cattle, the per capita availability of milk is only 87ml/head/day against 210 ml/head/day as recommended by World Health Organisation. This is because of the fact that the local cattle of Assam are nondescript type and productivity on an average is 180 litres/cow. In contrast to this, the average yield of the indigenous breed of the country varies from 1,500 litres to 3,000 litres.
Amul has a big market presence in the state, as is evident from the huge demand of milk powder by consumers.
“We have to boost up local production. Otherwise, private players from outside will take the market,” an official in dairy development said.
Experts say the low productivity of local cows calls for cross-breeding but the scale has not been of that extent as wanted and there should be more emphasis on boosting animal nutrition. The crossbred variety is only 5 per cent of Assam’s cattle population.
“The emphasis should be on going to the interior areas where there is a big scope,” a dairy department official said.
There are problems still in the milk sector and in fact the Bajali Co-ordination Committee of the Dairy Co-operative Society had reported that it had to dump huge quantities of milk owing to lack of bulk cooler machines as there was no plan to store the milk.
Thakur said Wamul would soon be establishing bulk milk coolers in two places of Kamrup district because it not only helps in increasing the shelf life of milk but also provides a systematic way of milk procurement.
According to the latest Draft Codex International Code of Hygienic Practice for Milk and Milk Products from Codex Secretariat, if the milk is not processed within two hours of milking, it is required to be cooled to a temperature below 7 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the dairies that have to market their milk and milk products in the international market will have to comply with the code and the cold chain will become a must for them.
The initial capital investment will pay back in the long run, as the system will eliminate the use of milk cans, help prevent milk from turning sour, reduce transportation costs and ensure better returns. Milk can be stored for 24 hours in the bulk milk coolers with a 2,000-litre capacity.
The problems in the milk sector in the state are immense, as the created infrastructure is either largely defunct or grossly under-utilised. The functional plants are operating at a very low level of their installed capacity, have limited product profile, substantial handling losses, low productivity of capital and labour and huge operational losses.
The poor performance of the plants has been attributed to the establishment of milk processing units without appropriate assessment of output demand and input supply and determination of economic viability.

why do we forget the samller ones?

Hispid hare species lacks census data
- Survey of the tiny animal amid tall grass a challenge, says researcher
A hispid hare
Guwahati, June 7: Efforts to get a population estimate of hispid hares — a rare and threatened species that lives amid tall grasslands — have proved futile till date.
Naba Krishna Nath, a young wildlife researcher of Aaranyak, a city-based bio-diversity conservation society, has been scouring the grasslands in two areas, but has not been able to spot the species with his naked eye.
“The field survey on hispid hares is really a big challenge. Hispid hares live in the tall grasslands, which are also a potential habitat of large herbivores. Doing a survey in these grasslands (where grasses can be as tall as an elephant) and looking for the tiny hispid hare is really very risky and difficult. Besides, visibility becomes almost zero once one enters the thick grasslands,” Nath said.
Hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus), has been recognised as globally endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It has also been listed in the schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Locally known as Khagorikota xoha, this relatively small mammal, which apparently lacks the appeal that some of their larger kind command, are of critical importance in the world ecosystems.
The mean body weight of the animal is 2,248 grams (male) and 2,518 grams (female). The coarse, bristly coat is dark brown on the dorsal surface, due to a mixture of black and brown hair, ventrally brown on the chest and whitish on the abdomen. The tail is short (approximately 30mm) and brown. The ears are also short (approximately 56mm) and rounded.
Only a few studies have so far been carried out on the species.
Once thought to be extinct from the grasslands of the Brahmaputra valley in the region, this “rare hare” species was rediscovered in 1971 in the Barnadi wildlife sanctuary of Assam.
Nath had earlier carried out a survey of the species in the north bank landscape but could not sight the animal there. He is currently conducting a survey at Manas National Park.
“There is only one feasible method to do a census of hispid hare, which is to capture the animal. But getting research permission from the forest department is really very difficult as the animal is endangered. A rough population estimate could be carried out, based on the size of hispid hare pellets (droppings) and that is what I am doing during my study in Manas,” Nath said.
He said dearth of information on hispid hares creates hurdles in efforts to conserve the species.
“Regulating grazing in hare habitats, preventing hunting and controlling the harvest of thatched grass are some of the measures that are needed to protect the species,” he said.
Aaranyak has recently launched a research and conservation project to study the ecological status of hispid hares in Manas National Park with financial support from the Conservation Leadership Programme, UK.
The study will assess the ecological status of the species at Manas, identify viable population of the animal and assess the survival threats and prepare distribution/habitat maps using geographical information system (GIS) techniques.

what are we studying?

School minus skills = zero
- Educationists mull vocation-friendly courses in matric
Students celebrate their HSLC result at St Mary’s School in Guwahati on Saturday. Picture by Eastern Projections
Guwahati, June 1: Once the euphoria is over, reality begins: a piece of paper that states how many marks have been scored in which paper.
But does that include a skill that makes our students fresh out of school market or life-worthy as they take their first big step into the world?
As Assam’s latest batch of matriculates scramble for a place in the state’s colleges, Dispur wants the state’s Industrial Training Institutes to increase its seats to 10,000 to accommodate those who won’t be able to afford education beyond school and will have to earn their two square meals a day.
“Seeing the huge demand and scope of providing more skills-based training to school and college dropouts, the government is contemplating a two-fold increase in seats,” director, employment and craftsman training Moloy Bora said. At present, there are 5,880 seats.
The worrying part, though, is that such skills could have been taught in school itself, thereby cutting down on the number of students who cannot pay their way through college.
“The youths of today should be skilled enough to enter the job market, which he has to do at some time or the other,” Bora said.
Major industrial houses and government departments recruit ex-ITI trainees for employment and apprenticeship training. Industrial departments and other agencies also give preferential treatment to ITI certificate holders while considering schemes for self-employment.
The period of training varies between six months and three years as the entry qualification varies from Class VIII to XII.
Dispur has also formed a Skill Development Board under the chairmanship of the chief minister and a Skill Development Foundation is proposed to be constituted with active involvement of industry/employment associations of Assam.
The government also plans to set up skill development centres in each block and Rs 10 crore has been provided for the purpose.
That sports, too, can be a vocation, and taken up as a lucrative career, also needs to be stressed. Skills can be made a part of school curriculum itself, at least to give the students of the lower strata of society a better chance of earning a living while attending college for higher studies.
Apart from getting preference while pursuing higher studies, talented school dropouts with a proven track record in sports get preference during recruitment, particularly in the government sector. This aspect, too, has been ignored in the school system itself.
“Sport has always been a green pasture for career building in Assam. At a time when there is very little job opportunity for the ever-increasing number of educated youths in Assam, sportspersons are probably the only ones who are getting absorbed into different sectors. The prospects have been further bolstered with both the Centre as well as the state government providing all possible aid, particularly at the school level,” said joint director of sports R.P. Baruah, who is also a veteran national-level sports organiser.
“The government is leaving no stone unturned to develop sport in the school-level, utilising funds not only from its budget but also the central funds to the optimum through the Panchayat Yuva Krida Aur Khel Abhiyan and the Sports Authority of India. Assam has always been a regular in the National School Games and the performance there every year reflects improvement,” Baruah said.
But there are talented students who often give up sport to concentrate on studies.
“There is no denying that a professional sportsperson can earn a livelihood even better than his or her counterpart holding a brilliant academic record. The only things you need to build a career in sport are discipline, hard work and dedication towards the game,” said BCCI junior India selector Rajesh Borah, citing examples of Abu Nechim Ahmed, Pritam Das, Dhiraj Goswami, archer Jayanta Talukdar.
“Besides, a sportsperson can also be a brilliant student which many of our sportspersons have often proved; the latest being three cricketers from Tezpur ranking among the top 20 in the last High School Leaving Certificate examination. There is no dearth of job opportunity for any sportsperson, particularly in Assam, with the government as well as the corporate sector absorbing almost all the successful sportspersons regularly,” he added.
The crux of the story remains the same — school education is failing to arm students with skills good enough for employment.
Principal of Cotton Collegiate Govt HS School Pabitra Kumar Deka said to enhance employability of students who pass the matriculation examination, the school syllabus must include something on skill development. “Once there was a subject called work experience which at least helped students develop some basic skills. The subject was abolished in the nineties. Under such circumstances, students who cannot afford education after matric, remain unemployed.”
The secretary of the Board of Secondary Education, Assam, D. Mahanta, however, said the subject of work experience still exists but in a different style and format. He said the SEBA syllabi from Class VIII includes the subject under co-curricular activities. “In the co-curricular subject, the schools train students in painting, music, sculpture, toy-making, computers and photography. Examinations are conducted on the subjects to assess or test students’ skill. Schools send report cards on co-curricular activities of students to the SEBA during the time of matric examination.”
The fact, though, remains that such skills are never honed to a professional level where it could mean being part of a survival kit.
Even though the Assam Higher Secondary Education Council introduced a separate vocation stream in Classes XI and XII, the degree colleges, HS schools and private institutions have not introduced the stream, citing various reasons.
The council runs its vocational stream in 16 subjects including general foundation course, crop production, horticulture, inland fisheries, maintenance and repair of electrical domestical appliances, textile designing, repair and maintenance of radio and TV receiver, official secretariatship, office management, computer technique, commercial art, accountancy and auditing, commercial garment making and designing, repair and maintenance of power driven farm machinery, automobile engineering technology and mechanical engineering technology.
“Only a few government higher secondary schools have adopted the vocational stream,” Pradip Kumar Kalita, controller of examination of AHSEC, said.
In Assam, it is mostly a case of playing it safe: study to make it through life; if one cannot afford the money that is required for a college education, there begins the story of the state’s dropouts.

grassland where in assam? 
Habitat outside Assam’s protected zone shrinks
Guwahati, June 17: Outside Assam’s vast protected area network, grasslands offer a slim hope of supporting threatened species.
Now, 3.1 per cent of the total landmass of Assam is covered by grasslands but most of it have suffered a rapid decline with the encroachment of civilisation in the form of agriculture, livestock grazing, irrigation and urbanisation.
Till the late 19th century, almost three-fifth of the landmass of the Brahmaputra valley was grasslands.
“Outside the protected area there is no extended and quality grasslands which can support threatened species,” Bibhuti Lahkar, grassland specialist with Aaranyak, a premier society for bio-diversity conservation in the Northeast, said.
The plains in Assam have some of the last remaining alluvial grasslands, which were once widespread in India and lowland Nepal. These grasslands support at least 15 species of globally threatened birds, apart from mammals and reptiles.
Manas tiger reserve serves as one of the remaining protected areas where grassland-dependent endangered species like tiger, pygmy hog, hispid hare, water buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros can be located. Unfortunately, the grasslands in Manas are also shrinking and nearly 11 per cent to 12 per cent of it is gone.
“Livestock grazing should be stopped. Existing grasslands should be protected from further degradation and there should be a grasslands conservation policy for Assam,” Lahkar said.
Despite the fact that grassland habitats are shrinking at an alarming rate in the Indian subcontinent, very little attention has been paid at both national and international levels for the conservation and management of the grasslands ecosystem.
Invasive species in the grassland habitats is a major concern in recent years but very few studies have been initiated on this issue. The invasion of mimosa has emerged as a major threat in Kaziranga National Park. The principal invasive species in the grasslands of Assam are- Mimosa diplotricha (Kaziranga, Orang), Mikania micrantha (Manas, Kaziranga, Orang), Chromolaena odorata (Manas, Orang) and Ipomea carnea (Pobitora).
“Officials must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the specific habitat requirement of different threatened or specialist species. This will help in understanding how a specific species of birds responds to fire and disturbance factors like grazing, encroachment and even floods,” Lahkar added.

get inspired by this young one

Birthday boy adopts peacock
Tejas Hazarika
Guwahati, June 12: The world was his for the asking as Tejas turned seven today. However, instead of splurging on food, clothes, toys or all the other attractions that a seven-year-old would want to indulge in, this little one decided to adopt a peacock at the Assam state zoo.
The Rs 4,000 that Tejas Hazarika’s parents shelled out will meet the food bill of the two-year-old peacock for a year.
“The family had discussed the matter with me and I readily agreed to it under the zoo’s adoption scheme,” Narayan Mahanta, the divisional forest officer of the zoo, said.
The zoo had launched its animal adoption scheme on August 9, 2005 to create empathy for wild animals and to involve people and organisations in wildlife conservation.
But this the first time that a small boy has decided to celebrate his birthday by adopting a peacock. The programme was kept under wraps as it was a personal decision of the family.
Tejas, a Class II student of Faculty School, sang a song about nature in Assamese, much to the delight of the small audience gathered at the zoo, and cut a cake to mark the occasion.
“We spend a lot of money on birthdays but this time we thought of celebrating in a different way. Tejas loves nature and thought of adopting a peacock. This is a good way of spreading the message of wildlife conservation. I hope more people will come forward to conserve wildlife,” Tejas’ father, Priyabrat Hazarika, who works with All India Radio, told The Telegraph.
Mahanta said occasions like these, where young ones celebrate their birthdays by contributing towards nature, makes one very happy. “We feel that awareness on wildlife conservation has now reached many quarters, as a result of which people are coming forward to help in their own way,” he said.
Earlier, a Himalayan black bear, a rhino, a tiger, a peacock (excluding the one adopted today), a golden langur and a stumptailed macaque had been adopted at the zoo.
The celebration of birthdays in zoos is held with great fanfare in foreign countries. They have several programmes, including a walking tour of the zoo, feeding the animals, snacks and a special birthday gift for the child.