Don’t Mess With Nature

Malin Landslide Disaster

Ecologically Sensitive Tracts in Sahaydari Valley

The Malin landslide was a disaster waiting to happen. It is mindlessness of authorities that invited the catastrophe in the wee morning hours, only to flatten an entire village into a slushy mound. Most houses along with the over 30 feet tall temple at the base of the hill, close to Dimbhe dam, are buried along with sleeping inmates. The village school and two-three houses are all that is left of Malin.

The residents, predominantly tribals – Koli Mahadeos, Thakars, Kathodis, Katkaris, Koli Dhors and Tokare Kolis were Dimbhe Dam oustees relocated in Ambegaon taluka. Following the ‘Tribal Settlement Plan’ the Tribal Development Department had relocated people in Malin that figured along with 30 other villages resettled in the vicinity. The fact that rainy season will have landslides occurring in the hills and ghats was completely overlooked.

It is well known that this area, tucked in the fragile ecological area in the valley of Sahyadri Hills, is prone to landslides. Unplanned urbanization has even farm-houses, roads, hotels, quarrying and other environmentally detrimental activities happening here. The area on hill slopes too is rife with unwarranted construction activities, in the hitherto unknown Malin.

However the powers-that-be knew full well Malin would face disaster. It was included in the list of ecologically fragile areas that were to be preserved. There is to be no human interference here as per the notification issued by the Ministry of Environment & Forests in 2013 under list of State-wise, District-wise and Taluka-wise villages in ESA (Ecologically Sensitive Area). Malin along with a list of villages falls in this category.

It also appears that the comprehensive Western Ecology Report by Dr Madhav Gadgil, a scientist of International repute, had been pushed under the carpet. Other geology experts had warned of the likelihood of landslides in villages located along the backwaters of Dimbhe dam. The recommendation had been that the state government undertake a survey of villages to identify the hills that display “landslide symptoms”.

Geological Survey of India, Nagpur has sent a team to survey the area. The survey will identify cracks in hills, tilting of trees and electric poles and these signs will require villagers to be relocated to safer places. Actually the reason for landslide at Malin has also been due to leveling of hilly land for cultivation for which trees were uprooted. With nothing to allow the soil to hold on to, it became more prone to disaster. Also stone quarrying activity made land unstable leading to accelerating the landslide.

People had of course been reporting the hill slopes were unstable. Cracks in hillsides and houses, tilting of trees had been observed in villages in a five-kilometer radius of Dimbhe dam’s catchment area. With the incessant rainfall of monsoons, indiscriminate tree felling, excavation and construction activity the waters had seeped into the hills making the soil soft that gradually lead to the catastrophe.

Don't Mess With Nature

Malin Landslide Disaster

“Tyger! Tyger! burning bright, In the forests of the night:”

All Should Be Well For Tigers

Save Tigers

The world celebrates International Tiger Day to raise awareness for tiger conservation. Also known as Global Tiger Day that is held each year on July 29, the aim is to promote global conscientiousness for protecting the tiger’s natural habitats and to make the public aware of the need to support conservation issues for tigers. Nagpur famous as the gateway to Tigerland has a special responsibility in such conservation efforts.

Pench National Park, close to Nagpur gets its name from Pench River flowing through the Park. The Park is accessible from Village Pauni on National Highway 7, the closest point from Nagpur.  Pench actually has two well known entry points – Turiya and Karmajhiri. The area of the present tiger reserve has a glorious history. Its description of natural wealth and richness can be traced to Ain-i-Akbari where it is recounted in all its glory. It is also the original setting of Rudyard Kipling’s most famous work – The Jungle Book.

The tiger is the main cat species of the park and is said to be present in good numbers but sighted infrequently. The tiger count census tells us there are 25 tigers around this region along with 39 species of mammals, 13 species of reptiles, 3 species of amphibians, apart from the park’s rich bird life. We are also told that India holds over half the world’s tiger population. According to the latest tiger census report by National Tiger Conservation Authority, the current tiger population estimated is 1,706. The results include figures from 17 Indian states with a tiger population.

In the wake of Project Tiger, initiated by the government of Smt Indira Gandhi, who was herself an avid naturalist and keen environmentalist, the most effective way to implement tiger conservation appears to be through NGO participation. Nagpur itself has number of dedicated organizations working effectively with locals for hands-on tiger conservation. They keep the issue alive on national and international levels and persistently seek political will to secure the tiger’s future. The Indian conservation community is a force to reckon with but we need all the strength of purpose to keep it intact. Because as we all well know by now – if the tiger survives so do we!!!

Tyger - Tyger

“Tyger! Tyger! burning bright, In the forests of the night:”

Enthusiastic Response to Sports Grand Finale at Parseoni

Sports Event in Parseoni

Volleyball Finals

The steady downpour of early morning hours of the gray cloudy Sunday had our collective hearts sinking. However, soon the day opened up to stunning heavenly skies. The grand finale of the Parseoni Sports Day was a tremendous success. Breaking previous attendance records, the grounds of M G College, Parseoni were full of cheering young boys and girls experiencing the joy of sports that they discovered through HERD Premier League (HPL) in their town!

Clearly by the end of the day one could see that the majority of the crowd wanted such sports activities to happen again as they had really had such great fun! Actually the event was a great experience for both the competing teams as well as the spectators. The sports – Athletics, Volleyball and Kabbadi that had been taken up for the village youth over the last few months proved to be a great way to encourage the fun of sports in five rural circles chosen for involving the young sportsmen.

Thanks to Dr Amol Deshmukh, his team and the dedication exhibited by sports teachers who all made these activities possible. It was truly an incredible thing to offer to the youth by providing them the opportunity to enjoy the love of sports and games. The idea put forth by Dr Amol Deshmukh was very well organized and watching the atmosphere at the finale was a fantastic experience. Yes, the skies were asunder with cheering and more cries may well have been for such events to happen again.

It was actually a very positive experience for both participants and spectators who were around in hundreds. The sports meet saw participation of boys in large numbers from across the Taluka. The meet organized by HERD Foundation had competing teams playing against each other in Athletics, Volley Ball and Kabbadi finals. The charismatic presence of Dr Amol Deshmukh along with HERD Foundation team added to the fun of the event. The sports teachers had meticulously planned the schedule of activities, making an ordinary Sunday come alive as a heady away-day for all.

The winning teams and players of volleyball and kabbadi matches were given trophies and cash awards too.  Cricket kits were distributed to worthy players identified in advance. The sports teachers made it abundantly clear to the kids about the importance of team spirit in building their character. They encouraged the youth to actively participate in competitions and to follow inspiring sports personalities as their role models.

The valedictory prize distribution session presided over by Dr Amol Deshmukh along with local dignitaries of Parseoni had him complimenting the winners and hailing them as keen sport people. He stressed that equal importance should be given to both sports and academics for holistic development of the players. Sportsmanship he stressed helped in developing creative thinking and team spirit among them. The glorious day ended with HERD Foundation team enjoying playing cricket by themselves.

Parseoni Sports Day

Crowds of Spectators During the Awards Valedictory Function

Hu Tu Tu – For the Love of Sports

Volley Ball at Parseoni

Sports Events in Rural Areas – Volleyball Match at Parseoni

It is a mistaken notion that sports events in rural areas are non-existent. Our villages do excel in several kinds of native games but organized sports events may not have likely occurred here. Yet with the passage of time and modern means of communications – TV being the most watched medium, sports events have gained increasing coverage, making youth respond to sports. Local schools and colleges also facilitate sports. But response to such events may not always be overwhelming.

We do know that some sports have found their origins in villages itself and have gained popularity over time.  These include indigenous games like twisting hands, holding wrists, weight-lifting, jumping, running and wrestling. These rural sports likely emerged out of need to defend against animals or adversaries.  Also the interdependence of people from different community may have induced the need to showcase the need for physical strength.

Kabbadi is still one of the most favored of rural sports. It is wonderful to see locals hovering around to enjoy the fervor of this sport in villages. They do get all high-spirited as teams engage in fending the field and their breath! Rural folks organize and arrange such events by also extending hospitality to both competitors and spectators, making it more fun. History tells us that only after independence did the circle of rural sports get extended to include other games besides wrestling and kabbadi.

HERD Foundation attempts to revive the celebration of rural sports by organizing games events in a grand and splendid manner. Our rustic aspirants are all excited about playing Volleyball and participating in cross country running. The prizes attached to events make competitors more keen and competitive. They strive harder for victory and enjoy the healthy completion. Indeed it is exhilarating to see the blend of defeat and victory, action and boundless energy that exists in our villages. Our rural districts are enjoying sports activities that has created an intoxicating atmosphere.

Rains - Playing Spoilsport!!

And Boys Will Be Boys!

135th — This is Where We Stand

This is Where We Stand

Human Development Report – United Nations Development Programme

Each year the Human Development Report offers us a clue as to how “We The World” go about sustaining human progress. This year’s theme ‘Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience’ provides new perception on vulnerability and offers fresh ways to strengthen our resilience. The HDR covers 187 countries from all over the world and this annual publication is brought out by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The current report cites that the top five countries ranked in terms of High Development Index are Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands and the US. The bottom five in the ranking or on the Low Development Index are Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad and Sierra Leone. India ranks at 135, among the ‘medium development’ countries that include countries like Egypt, South Africa, Mongolia, Philippines and Indonesia.

Among India’s neighbors, Bhutan and Bangladesh are also covered in this category and Pakistan ranks 146 while Nepal ranks 145 and both are in the ‘low development’ category. Sri Lanka ranking 73 falls in the ‘high development’ category. The HDR states that over 200 million people were affected by natural disasters and 45 million (largest number in 18 years) were displaced by conflicts. Such factors play their own role in diminishing progress of human development.

According to income-based measures of poverty, 1.2 billion people live with $1.25 or less a day. However, according to the UNDP Multidimensional Poverty Index, almost 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in poverty with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. And although poverty is declining overall, almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if setbacks occur. Many people face either structural or life-cycle vulnerabilities.

The Human Development Report released today, July 24, 2014 in Tokyo says that measures have slowed down in the past few years. The human development index – a measure derived from life expectancy, education levels and incomes, barely grew from 0.700 in 2012 to 0.702 in 2013. Even this small improvement stands at risk of being reversed in the present bleak scenario of vulnerabilities facing people across the world.

Nearly 80% of the global population lacks comprehensive social protection. About half of all workers — more than 1.5 billion — work in “informal or precarious” employment. This slowdown in human development is a result of the lingering global economic crisis. The expected number of years of schooling too is not growing adequately, with 43% primary students dropping out before completing primary education worldwide. Life expectancy growth has slowed down in Asia, although there is improvement in child mortality rates in Africa.

HDR 2014 introduces a gender development index (GDI) for the first time, which measures gender development gaps among 148 countries. While the overall gender gap is an 8% deficit for women, the income gap is shockingly high — per capita income for men is more than double that for women. Tracking inequality in incomes, health and education, the report says that inequality has declined in health access, remained constant in education but increased by two percentage points with respect to income.


‘Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience’

Why Our Girls Are Disappearing

Women's Empowerment

Why Our Girls Are Disappearing

A study for U.N. Women by Prof. Mary E. John, Senior Fellow and Professor at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, India, was released on July 22, 2014. The Report brings home the sore point of sex ratio and gender based sex selection. Dr John’s report reviews existing studies and suggests it becomes pertinent to look at girls-only families that are starting to disappear.

In fact, now even extra sons are no longer wanted either. This does not mean that preference for a son has gone down but that families look forward to at least one son and one daughter. It now appears child sex ratios had fallen most dangerously during unprecedented economic growth. Certain regions have been characterized as having higher levels of prosperity. This of course requires meticulous calculation to ascertain the veracity of earlier statistics.

We also need to understand the direct mediation of clinics and medical practitioners affecting sex ratios. This is an important area for research and Dr John indicates that the earlier skewed sex ratios of children make it clear that they are guilty of practicing sex selection. The Report mentions that India is witnessing an unprecedented shift in son preference.

It also says that both schooling and higher education are important factors that need to be studied to assess impact and role in influencing sex ratios. The study blatantly says – “The sphere of education has suffered deeply from lack of attention, whether from scholars or from activists, which is coming home to roost today. It is probably the only indicator of steady progress in a country characterized by some of the lowest literacy rates in the world. It was only in 2010 that India was able to make elementary schooling a fundamental right for all”.

It is time that government and civil society walk the talk together. We need to identify behaviors, cultural attributes, practices, media representations, mindsets that propagate discrimination against daughters. We have to stop sex-determination tests from flourishing, despite being illegal. Even as child sex ratio is dipping, we have not been able to check sex determination tests or selective abortions.

Data for the whole country shows only 143 people have been punished for conducting sex determination tests since enactment of the  PC&PNDT Act in 1996!! This number was disclosed by the then Union health minister in a written reply submitted to Rajya Sabha in December 2013!! Gender-biased sex selection remains a reflection of how little we value girls and women. The sharply declining child sex ratio has reached emergency proportions and urgent action is to be taken to alleviate this crisis. The deteriorating ratio from 976 girls to 1000 boys in 1971 has gone down to 927 girls!

Save Your Daughters

Love Your Daughters

Medical Camp at Hiwra Bazar – Happens Despite Heavy Rains

Sharing more Information

Dr Amol Deshmukh with the Patients at Hiwra Bazar

In the series of medical camps organized for rural citizens of neighboring districts, HERD Foundation conducted its free medical camp at Hiwra Bazar. Camp timings were 4 to 9 and despite the steady drizzle from morning people had arrived since two in the afternoon. At one point overcast clouds gave way to heavy rainfall looking like the camp would be cancelled. The arrangements outside were going haywire but Dr Amol R. Deshmukh gave the go ahead to move inside classrooms to keep the healthcare camp going.

This proved to be a good decision since people had assembled from nearby villages too –  from Salai, Pauni, Fulzhari and Khanora. The assembled crowd was perhaps an indicator that doctors remain in short supply at these locations and a medical facility is needed. These villages are all at a distance of 5-6 kms and people had actually walked over to be able to see a doctor. Also most of the visitors were old people that shows geriatric population responds to these medical camps with alacrity and a sense of conviction.

Check-ups continued well into the night. Dr Amol R. Deshmukh accompanied by his mother Smt Rupatai Deshmukh were present at the camp along with the entire team of doctors, para-medics and essential medicines to be dispensed. The medical camp was inaugurated by the hands of Smt. Nandatai Nanhe, Sarpanch of Hiwra Bazar. Other influential village people were also present to extend support for such a noble cause.

As expected over 2000 people were checked-in to be examined for the varied physical complaints. Aside from seasonal ailments some serious conditions were diagnosed that included cases of oral pre-cancerous, hernia hydrocele, learning disability, pediatric tuberculosis, infertility and spondolysis and low back pain.  A singular case of ectopic uterus (displaced womb) and a chronic suppurative osteo myelititis (inflammatory condition of bone) case along with severe pus formation was also detected and referred for further treatment. Incidentally the latter was being mistakenly treated for cancer locally.

In all nearly 80 severe and surgical cases were referred for further treatment. The patients were counseled and provided due information. Eight medical departments of NKP Salve Institute of Medical Sciences and Lata Mangeshkar Hospital with teams of doctors, interns, nurses and attendants examined and treated the people. The medical team of Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pediatrics, Orthopedics, Ophthalmology, Surgery, Dental and ENT Departments attended to patients who had come from the surrounding areas too.

Dr Amol Deshmukh continues to play a key role and in contributing for the medical welfare of people through provision of needed medical treatment. He is a strong advocate for weaker sections to gain access to medical care, particularly those living in remote rural areas.

Free Medical Camp

People Lined Up all Through the Long Evening

An Unostentatious Birthday – Doing What Needs Be Done

Notebooks for All

A Happy Day for Kids

Dr Amol R Deshmukh turns 37 years old on July 19, this year. Not wanting to celebrate his birthday in any kind of ostentatious manner, he was keen to lend a helping hand to people in the rural districts. The dry spell all through June had villagers worried about cultivation and much remains at stake for the small farmers located in the region. A bad monsoon spells bad economy for people tilling the land and the fallouts affects everything in the household expenditure.

Rising to the occasion for educational needs of school-going children whose new sessions have just re-started, it was a very thoughtful and caring gesture to provide good quality note-books to the children studying in Zilla Parishad and other schools. His birthday was therefore celebrated as the day to furnish the poor and needy children’s school bags with note books for school.

This is another example of Dr Amol Deshmukh’s noticeably individual style of reaching out to touch the lives of the underprivileged. The entire HERD Foundation team was busy on the ground distributing quality school note books in the villages of Parseoni, Ramtek and Mauda Talukas where the schools and the children welcomed the gift with open arms. The parents too felt satisfied by the thoughtful gesture.

Caring for children’s education is a long tradition in the Deshmukh family and this side of Dr Amol R Deshmukh’s personality to think out of the box reveals his highly empathetic interpretation of the needs of world in which we inhabit. Truly it turned out to be a birthday celebration like no other! They were extraordinary moments when team members went around distributing note-books to the kids with the headmasters and teachers pitching in. It reiterates our faith in supportive measures that go a long way to assist our rural brethren.

Shanta Baghmare – An Unknown Entity


Old Age & Poverty

An Unknown Entity – One of Hundreds Languishing in Old Age

Sixty five year old Shanta Baghmare, (looks like seventy five) lives in Wadamba village. She lives a semi retired life as she cannot work the way she used to work earlier. Making the morning cup of tea is about all that she can barely do now. Life is a series of aches and pains for her frail, tired body, morning to night as she lies on her cot. The village life inside the jungle was all she ever knew or can remember for way back as she can go.

Now that she cannot continue with the ways of her world, going out as a daily wager, she rests at home all day long. It has been ten long years since she became a widow having lost her husband suddenly. Both her son and daughter in law go out as daily wagers to work in agri-fields as when others offer them the chance to earn their daily living. The son makes 100 rupees while the daughter-in-law gets a mere 60 rupees for her toils. Yes, inside the forest it’s another story for daily wagers.

Shanta pays little attention to her physical ailments. She just languishes in her mind and body getting no relief but having to endure her joint pains. It was when HERD Foundation was conducting door-to-door visits that she heard about a medical camp. The field worker from HERD Foundation walked up to her door to inform her about the doctors coming to their village. She had to be really persuaded to come over to the school premises where the camp was being held.

But come she did. Perhaps little happens in a remote old village like Wadamba. And the medical camp created quite a stir with its team of doctors attracting people of all ages to come share their woes. For Shanta, just talking to a real doctor about the pain in her knee joints and the pins and needles that afflicted her arms and legs was a relief in itself. Getting the medicines and being cajoled to take better care of herself, had her feeling better in ages. No it wasn’t a critical medical condition but old age in itself was a weary burden for her to bear.

Never have we felt as overwhelmed as when Shanta continued to bless us all for having conducted the camp in her village. It is such simple souls and their declining condition that keeps us focused on our task to continue working for the needy and the unfit. HERD Foundation – ever ready to go that extra mile to bring a smile on people’s faces you may never have heard about.

Take Good Care – Safety First


Take Good Care

Safety First – Stay Indoors! — Follow Safety Measures to Be Safe

It seems we are in for a spate of heavy rains. It is really essential to exercise safety measures to take good care of ourselves and others around us. You should actually avoid lightning, flash floods, and other dangerous conditions caused by heavy downpours. Electrocution may yet be one of the more insidious of accidents that we must learn to combat.

Firstly, be aware of the weather conditions. Subscribe to weather alerts, watch current weather forecasts, listen to weather reports or scan the skies before heading out. Next, if you are located in flood prone areas protect your stuff. Pick up and store materials above the flood levels. Make use of plastic sheets to cover things that need to be sheltered.

With regard to safety – do not touch wiring when it rains. Unplug electric and electronic items when you hear thunder. Corded phones are dangerous during thunderstorms. Lightning traveling through telephone wires has killed people. Cell phone and cordless phones are safe. Also wait it out before you use plumbing-sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets. Plumbing can conduct electricity from lightning strikes from outside!

It is actually best to unplug electronics like TV, stereo, home entertainment centers, and computers modem lines when rains are expected. Stop playing video games connected to the TV. Do not let children play near storm drains or rain water pools after a heavy rain. In fact when you hear thunder roaring, go indoors. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to being struck by lightning. There is no place outside that is safe from a lightning strike.

Stay at home. In case of power disruption always have a disaster kit handy. Keep candles, flashlights, extra batteries, food, water and transistor radio together to sustain you until electric power is back. If you are outside avoid low-water crossings. If your vehicle is caught in rising water, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Never drive through flooded roadways. Be especially cautious at night. The best defense is to pull off the road to wait out heavy rains. Take care – Safety First!

Stay Safe

Avoid Electric Hazards – Plug Out – Literally!