Leisure, Lifestyle & Wellness
A toll-free number helps villagers live with animals
For someone whose cow -- valued at Rs 20,000 ($300) -- was killed by a tiger in August 2015, Mahadeva Gowda is calm, as is Shiva Murthy, whose sugarcane crop was trampled by elephants in July 2016, the fifth such pachyderm raid over the past year.
 
Gowda and Murthy are the latest beneficiaries of a new programme called Wild Seve, or wild service, which deploys specially trained locals called "field agents" who hand-hold villagers to navigate formidable government compensation procedures. What once took up to 15 days -- if farmers bothered to apply at all -- now takes as little as four days.
 
In doing so, Wild Seve -- run by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a nonprofit that works with the government's forest departments in 284 villages in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu -- helps soothe the tension and violence evident between India's rising human population and falling population of wild animals.
 
"Earlier it was difficult to interact with villagers when there was wildlife conflict, as they used to get aggressive. From the time Wild Seve started, it has educated them about the importance of wildlife and sustainability," said a forest official, who asked not to be named, as he is not authorised to talk to the media. "It has brought a sense of calmness in villagers while dealing with our department."
 
In Murthy's village of Chillakahalli and Gowda's Vadeyannapura on the bucolic outskirts of south Karnataka's largest national park -- as on populated forest fringes nationwide -- human-animal conflicts are a growing issue, as IndiaSpend reported in May 2014.
 
Gowda received Rs 9,000 as compensation for his cow, but he is satisfied. "Previously, we had to pay money to get compensation," he said. "First, we had to hire a photographer to take photos of crop raids or cattle kills. Then we had to travel by bus to the forest department, and there was no guarantee we would find them (officials)."
 
Murthy used Wild Seve's toll-free number when elephants destroyed his sugarcane crop. Field agent Mahadevaswamy -- who also attended to Gowda's call -- informed and brought along a forest official to validate and document the claim. Photos must be taken and official documents filled, all of which are handled by field agents.
 
Mahadevaswamy said he gets a call a day -- if not more -- for crop raids and more occasional cattle or poultry kills. His jurisdiction extends to 70 villages within a 20-km radius of Bandipur's forests, and he attends to a call within eight hours of receiving it.
 
Since its launch last year, Wild Seve's team of seven field agents has helped file claims for 3,261 incidents of crop and property damage by elephants and other herbivores, 148 cases of livestock predation by big cats and wild dogs, 11 cases of injury and two human deaths.
 
Of these, 2,998 toll-free calls came from Bandipur and 422 from Nagarahole. Until July 2016, nearly 1,000 families have either received or are about to receive compensation.
 
The hope is that as villagers receive compensation for their losses quickly and clearly, they will be more willing to live with wildlife. "The compensation is now coming in good time, and so it has built a sense of relief and confidence in us," Gowda said. "Even if the crop is raided several times, we believe it will be compensated."
 
In the absence of easy compensation, many species are attacked. There have been reports of villagers retaliating by poisoning tigers or forcing the government to shoot big cats.
 
In 2014, conservation scientist Krithi Karanth found that between 74 per cent and 86 per cent of households around five areas in Karnataka (Nagarhole, Bandipur, Dandeli, B. R. Hills, Bhadra) and one each in Madhya Pradesh (Kanha National Park) and Rajasthan (Ranthambore National Park) reported conflicts with wildlife. Her previous research found that less than a third of villagers who lost crops, livestock, property and family to such conflict received government compensation.
 
"Along with mitigation, compensation has a role to play, as conflict will continue to occur," said Karanth. "My research showed that although people were trying multiple mitigation measures -- fences, guarding fields, noise (firecrackers or drums) -- very few measures worked. Hence, the solutions have to include both pre- and post-conflict assistance to people."
 
Using her data and research, Karanth, in July 2015, in collaboration with the WCS, launched Wild Seve, now running in 284 villages around Bandipur and its contiguous area in Tamil Nadu, the Nagarhole National Park.
 
Wild Seve is challenging because compensation procedures vary across forest ranges in Bandipur and Nagarhole. Some require a certificate from a veterinarian, confirming that cattle were indeed killed by wild animals. Others ask for proof of land ownership.
 
Field agents now take care of these procedures, which often deterred villagers from seeking compensation.
 
Recently, Wild Seve distributed identity cards with unique identification numbers to villagers who face repeated wildlife conflicts. Every conflict is now recorded against this number, building a conflict database, which allows easy tracking and follow-up of the compensation processes
 
"Basically, Wild Seve has helped in simplifying the logistics and cutting down bureaucracy," said Ghanshyam Iyer, project coordinator of Wild Seve and a WCS member.
 
Back in Chillakahalli village, near gently swaying saplings of sugarcane and cotton, women chat as they harvest tomatoes, aware that they share space with tigers, leopards, wild dogs and elephants and that, at some time, damage from visiting animals might set off a burdensome compensation process.
 
As Gowda said, "Now, all it takes is one phone call."
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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COMMENTS

Meenal Mamdani

4 months ago

I was very pleased to see that WCS, an international organization, is working with Indian villagers. WCS believes that unless the villagers see wild animals as co-existing with them and are willing to protect them, the wild animals will perish from repeated human-animal conflict. WCS has many unique programs in Asia, Africa and South America. One often wants to donate money for the cause of conservation but how does one find the best organizations with best practices. WCS is very highly rated by experts and professionals and donors would do well to support WCS with funds and volunteer work.

Coal case: Court convicts RSPL, three officials
A special court on Tuesday convicted Delhi-based firm Rathi Steel and Power Ltd. (RSPL) and three officials for illegal allocation of Chhattisgarh's Kesla North coal block to the company.
 
Special Judge Bharat Parashar convicted the company and its CEO Udit Rathi, Managing Director Pradeep Rathi and Assistant General Manager Kushal Aggarwal under various charges dealing with criminal conspiracy and cheating.
 
The court ordered they be taken into judicial custody and fixed Wednesday for hearing.
 
Senior public prosecutor V.K.Sharma requested the court to award maximum punishment to the convicts for committing an economic offence.
 
Defence counsel of the accused has sought leniency on the basis of their good conduct during the trial.
 
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had charge-sheeted the company and the three officials.
 
An FIR against the company and its CEO was registered on June 19, 2013.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Seventh pay panel bonanza for government employees in August
The Central government employees will get fatter paychecks starting from August salaries, according to a gazette notification issued by central government on the Seventh Finance Commission report here on Tuesday.
 
The central government has decided to implement the seventh pay panel recommendations on salary and pension hike for its employees with effect from January 1, 2016, according to the gazette.
 
The pay panel outlay is pegged at Rs 1.02 lakh crore (or over $15 billion) from the government treasury during the current fiscal year.
 
The 16 per cent pay hike and 24 per cent increase in pension, with arrears from January this year, will affect 47 lakh serving central government employees and 53 lakh pensioners.
 
With regards to the allowances, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley late last month said till a final decision was taken by a panel headed by the Finance Secretary, all existing perks will be paid at the "existing rates".
 
The notification said as regards to the annual increment, instead of the earlier July 1, now there will be two dates of January 1 and July 1.
 
In a year the employee will be entitled for increment at one of these dates depending on his date of appointment, etc.
 
The minimum monthly salary of a central government employee has been fixed at Rs 18,000 from earlier Rs 7,000. 
 
The maximum will now be Rs 2.5 lakh for the Cabinet Secretary, which is more than double the current pay of Rs 90,000 a month for the country's top bureaucrat.
 
For other officers in the top scale -- secretary or equivalent -- the monthly salary will now be around Rs 2,25,000.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Vinayak Mahamunkar

4 months ago

Good news to Central Govt.Servants as well as States Govt. Employees.

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