It is not surprising that India is heading for the moon ('2008: A lunar odyssey', November 16-30, 2008). Indians have made significant contributions to the scientific and technical achievements of the world. Our scientists have been a part of many international projects.
Protecting the protector
It was sad to note the plight of forest guards ('They also serve', November 1-15, 2008). While many organizations are concerned about preserving wildlife, the actual saviours are becoming prey to the animals under their protection. The government should provide forest guards with better salaries and amenities besides conducting training for them from time to time.
Education is an important tool to increase awareness, including awareness regarding the environment. I would like you to bring out an article on environmental education opportunities available in the country, giving profiles of reputed institutes that offer under and post graduate courses.
Of course, environmental education has its own limitations. Tribals may not be literate but they have sound knowledge of sustainable use of forests.
Your initiative in highlighting the state of our forest service is commendable. I agree with Himachal Pradesh principal chief conservator of forests (pccf) Pankaj Khullar's remarks that "Foresters are going soft, they want to live in cities and travel only by car."
These days only those candidates who fail to get into the ias or the ips join the forest service. Such officers do not have the aptitude and want to stay at the district headquarters. Here they tend to compare their working conditions with the facilities being enjoyed by the ias and ips officers and get demoralized.
Regarding salary revision, the article mentions the forest officers got a major pay hike in August 2008 bringing their salaries at par with chief secretaries of the administrative services. The fact is as per the fifth pay commission, the chief secretaries were given a pay scale of Rs 26,000 (fixed) whereas pccf was placed in the pay scale of Rs 24,050-650-26,000. Any dgp or pccf with three years of service would have got a salary of Rs 26,000. Now as per the sixth pay commission, scales have been revised to Rs 80,000 (fixed) and Rs 75,500-80,000 respectively. In fact, there should be parity in view of the worsening condition for police and forest officers throughout the country.
p p sharma
Former PCCF, Jammu and Kashmir
Our correspondent replies:
The sixth pay commission had revised the highest salary for the ias officers to Rs 80,000 (fixed) and for the ifs to Rs 75,500-80,000. In doing so, it widened the pay parity gap. While a pccf's salary could match that of a state chief secretary after three years of service (ie Rs 26,000) according to the fifth pay commission, now it would take eight years for the pccf to reach that level. This disparity has been taken away in the final recommendations after the ifs association raised the issue.
This is with reference to 'City bus: In demand, out of supply' (October 16-31, 2008). The public sector transport companies continue to incur losses due to mismanagement. Policy makers, too, never considered the import bill of petroleum products for running vehicles, which made it worse. Even the employees are not motivated enough and the sense of ownership is missing amongst them.
Pollution certificates of cars are not checked periodically and cars running with old registration numbers, which should have been banned as obsolete, are not questioned. Even if we were to implement half the existing vehicular laws, we would benefit immensely. Although I am all for public transport, I try to avoid them because they are overcrowded, not to mention the indecent behaviour of the men. I would rather walk or cycle to office.
Business of public transport
The editorial 'A complicated bus-ride' (November 16-30, 2008) was thought provoking. It is business that is placing more and more cars and two-wheelers on the road while buses have taken a backseat. If everyone travelling in buses could buy a two-wheeler, imagine the amount of revenue the government would earn directly through vehicle sales tax. It will also earn through petrol consumption.
How can we then expect the bus industry to grow? Tax cuts and exemptions could help revive the public transport. But at the same time, there should be higher taxes, parking charges and fuel charges for car owners. Diesel car owners should also be charged the higher rates.
Cars are a luxury to be enjoyed by the rich, that's what we knew when we were kids. But the picture has changed significantly. We are fast moving towards independent transportation, creating a market for two-wheelers and four-wheelers, replacing public transport. Even the state governments are not making efforts towards encouraging public transport.
Your editorial mentioned the government subsidizing the car segment by charging less road tax, but overlooked the huge income tax subsidy being given to new car buyers.I wonder why tax benefits are offered at 15 per centas depreciated value to small car buyers.
Unlike the market for cars, the market for buses is limited. Procedures involved in their procurement are lengthy and bound by red tape since most buyers are government undertakings. These procedures need to be simplified so that there is uniformity in fixing prices of buses of certain common standards. The prices can be determined in consultation with major manufacturers. It would help if state transport bodies indicated in advance their requirements. Manufacturers could then plan their production schedule.
I wonder if the import barrier is the reason why we cannot get a good response to public bids for city buses. Maybe Tata and Ashok Leyland are not interested. Maybe it is time to open the bids to outsiders. I bet the Koreans, the Chinese or the others could bid at good prices if allowed.
joan m larrea
Barack Obama winning the US elections is a good sign and likely to improve relations between American whites and blacks ('Obama wins', November 16-30, 2008). Indian politicians who divide India on the basis of religion or caste can learn a lesson from this. People should in fact vote out such politicians.
Obama's victory is a victory for his policies which he largely owes to his anti-war stand; his promises will shape the new US presidency. The biggest challenges faced by the US are on the ecological and the economic fronts besides the terror war.
r r sami
Jahangir banned smoking
With reference to 'Stub cut short' (November 16-30, 2008), I wish to share some additional information that relates to India and Iran. After tobacco was introduced into India by the Portuguese sometime after 1590, Mughal emperor Jahangir states in his memoirs Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri: "In consequence of the disturbance that tobacco brings about in most temperaments and constitutions, I had ordered (1617 AD) that no one should smoke it. My brother Shah Abbas (of Iran) had also become aware of the mischief arising from it, and had ordered that in Iran no one should venture to smoke."
y l nene
Asian Agri-History Foundation
Money down the Ganga
I was bemused to read the Central government had decided to declare the Ganga a 'national river' and set up a high-power Ganga River Basin Authority to stop pollution and degradation. During the time of the late Rajiv Gandhi, the Ganga River Action Committee was set up to stop pollution caused by hazardous industries dumping wastes into the river. The government is still to explain what happened to the Rs 1,000 crore spent on the project.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had identified Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery and Palar as being heavily polluted. A central authority should be set up for all rivers in India to prevent them from being polluted.
p s subrahmanian
Needed: political will
It was evident from the beginning that the ruling political outfit of the day, be it the upa or the nda, would go to any length for votes. They all wanted tribals to have the right to cut down forests and ruin whatever little was left. Even Sunita Narain supported the tribal bill, which my organization, Salisbury Park Environment Trust, and I have been opposing. Newspaper reports say the government has now brought the cut-off date for settling tribal rights to 2005, following which in Maharashtra, there is a wild race by tribals to cut down trees and convert forestland into agricultural land. You report that the greatest wealth of forests is to absorb carbon dioxide. All this is to sell the magazine and popularize yourself as an environmentalist.
Salisbury Park Environment Trust, Pune
The article, 'Collector's item' (November 16-30, 2008), is like truth revisited. In villages, people go in the open to defecate; the faeces decompose and turn into manure. The practice saves a lot of water otherwise used in flushes in modern toilets. In the US, modern sanitation sinks are reportedly designed to separate urine and excreta, which is done to save water and reduce load on the water supply.
r p agrawal
Population and consumerism
This is with reference to the article, 'The just framework for climate' (October 1-15, 2008). For equitable sharing of global commons and equal rights to global ecological space, we should consider two important factors: population and consumerism. A spiralling rise in both is one of the major reasons behind the increase in emissions I think.
s m jain
Environment and Forest, Talwandi, Kota
In the cover story 'Fishers at bay' (December 16-31, 2008), the acronym for Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment should have read atree and not as printed.
We regret the error.
Noise pollution, so what!
For the past three months, I have been fighting the noise pollution caused by a 5 kilovolt-amp (KVA) diesel generator without an acoustic enclosure in my immediate neighbourhood; we have been living with this nuisance for one year. In the past three months I have made many visits and sent five registered letters to the regional officer of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (uppcb) at Bareilly,following it up with copies to uppcb, Lucknow and district magistrate, Bareilly.
After I sent the second letter, two officials from local uppcb came and measured the pollution level and found it beyond permissible decibel limits. One of the officers told me we were lucky ours was only a 5 KVA genset. The generator used by the PCCB was of 15 KVA and did not have an acoustic enclosure.
Only after I filed an rti application that the engineer and the regional officer assured me the generator would be removed soon. I am still waiting.
Sindhu Nagar, Bareilly
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