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Five females to be translocated to Raipur to revive the waning population of the endangered species in central India

Around the end of monsoon in October, five female wild buffaloes will travel more than 1,500 km crossing five States — the longest such translocation in the country ever — from Assam to the Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary in Raipur district, to help revive the waning population of Chhattisgarh’s State animal and expand its territory across States.

With just nine buffaloes, including three females, left in the sanctuary, their revival across central India,a historical habitat,rests on hassle-free translocation, successful breeding and subsequent restocking of other habitats in the region.

Survival hazard

The survival hazard of inbreeding, continuing lineage and increasing male population have necessitated the translocation. “Scientists and government officials met earlier this year to finalise a translocation protocol. We are also assessing the viability of other historical habitats across the region to populate them later,” said Samir Kumar Sinha, Deputy Director and Head of Species Recovery Division, Wildlife Trust of India, Chhattisgarh.

Stating that 20-25 buffaloes of Indravati National Park in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh, also frequently travel to neighbouring Kolamarka Conservation Reserve in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, he said, “Over time, we’ll have to release their progenies in other areas. Keeping them in one place won’t be sustainable. There needs to be a landscape approach across the States as corridors cut across them.”

On the translocation of the buffaloes, which are heavy and grow horns more than a metre long,

Regional head of WTI Rajendra Prasad Mishra said it will be a challenge. “We have readied plans for both rail and road methods. It will be finalised a few days before the translocation. We’ll try to bring subadults as they don’t have long horns. It’ll be easier to translocate them.”

Chief Wildlife Warden of Chhattisgarh Atul Shukla said the female buffaloes would most likely be brought from Manas National Park in Assam, kept under observation here for a few days and later released into the wild. “While the government will provide the infrastructure, the WTI will provide technical support,” he said.

Endangered species

The estimated population of the wild buffaloes (Bubalus arnee) in the Northeast is around 3,000-4,000, the largest in the country and accounting for 92% of the world population. It is listed under Schedule 1 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, and classified as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, according to the WTI.

When the translocation plan was mooted, several conservationists initially questioned whether the buffaloes found in central India would be similar to the ones in the Northeast and be compatible. The government sent genetic samples to theCentre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, and got the approval.

“There will be only a bit of difference in the habitat. Even in central India there are waterbodies and grasslands for them to survive,” said Mr. Sinha.

We are close to identifying the caller, say police

Chandigarh’s Elante Mall was on Monday evacuated after the city police received a phone call about a bomb being placed on the premises. However, no bomb was found, the police said.

The police swung into action after the call was received at the control room and an extensive search operation was carried out in and around the mall by evacuating all those inside the premises.

“It is now confirmed that there is no bomb or any other threat in Elante Mall. Search operation has finished and the mall is open to the public,” said Nilambari Jagadale, Senior Superintendent of Police, Chandigarh.

“A case under relevant sections of law has been registered against the caller and we are close to identifying him,” she added.

She said a call was received at the police control room that a bomb has been placed in Elante Mall. “The caller refused to identify himself. He used Internet protocol to make the call,” she said.

The mall was evacuated and a bomb disposal team, anti-sabotage teams, operation cell teams, crime branch teams and local police teams carried out intensive search of the area.

Authorities have been on high alert across the country ahead of Independence Day and in view of developments related to Jammu and Kashmir.

‘Mock drill’

“Initially, I thought it was a drill by security personnel as Independence Day is near, but soon I realised that something serious had happened. I along with my family members, who had come to watch a movie, rushed out in panic,” said Ajay Kumar, a local resident.

Senior police officials reached the site and appealed to people to stay calm.

With PTI inputs

Landslide reported near Harishankar Temple in Balangir district; no one injured

Heavy rain triggered a major landslide near Harishankar Temple, a major religious place situated on the slopes of the Gandhamardhan Hills in western Odisha, on Monday.

Hundreds of devotees, gathered at the temple on the last Monday of Shravan month, experienced frightening moments as boulders and mud slurry flowed down from the hilltop.

According to the Balangir district administration, no injuries were reported as the devotees were asked to keep a safe distance from the stream.

The Special Relief Commissioner put all the District Collectors on high alert after weather authorities warned of heavy downpour, especially in the northern region.

“Under the influence of the cyclonic circulation over north-east and adjoining east-central Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood between 3.1 km and 5.8 km above mean sea level, a low pressure area has formed over north-west Bay of Bengal and adjoining West Bengal-Bangladesh coasts,” said Bhubaneswar Meteorological Centre on Monday.

It predicted that the atmospheric system would become more marked during the next 48 hours

Orange warning

Orange warning has been issued for Mayurbhanj, Subarnapur, Keonjhar, Balangir, Bargarh, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Rayagada, Nayagarh and Puri districts. These districts are likely to receive heavy to very heavy rain. Extreme rain may occur in Bhadrak, Kendrapada and Jagatsinghpur districts. Incessant rain is likely to continue on Wednesday.

“Under the influence of the above system, squally weather with wind speed exceeding 45 kmph is expected and the sea condition is likely to be from rough to very rough along the Odisha coast and north-west and west-central Bay of Bengal,” a weather bulletin said.

It warns “fishermen to not venture into sea along and off the Odisha coast and north-west Bay of Bengal and adjoining west-central Bay of Bengal during the next 48 hours”.

The SRC has directed the District Collectors to pre-position dry food, drinking water and health and sanitation facilities in the wake of the possibilities of flash flood at different places. Officers of line departments have been asked to stay prepared to move to affected areas in the event of submergence of roads and bridges.

Prohibitory orders imposed in Kolhapur till August 24; receding Krishna waters bring relief; Id-ul-Azha celebrations remain muted

Open now: The Mumbai-Bengaluru National Highway NH-4, which was closed since August 6, partially reopens on Monday for cars, trucks, buses and heavy vehicles at Sangli Phata near the Panchganga river in Kolhapur. Abhijeet GurjarAbhijeet Gurjar

Eight days after floods ravaged Kolhapur and Sangli districts, National Highway 4 that links Mumbai with Bengaluru – the lifeline of these flood-ravaged districts — was partially opened for traffic on Monday.

Meanwhile, authorities said that the total death toll arising from flood or rain-related accidents across western Maharashtra has risen to 43, with two unidentified male bodies found in Sangli on Sunday, and one more death recorded in Kolhapur district.

Pune Divisional Commissioner Dr. Deepak Mhaisekar said 4.74 lakh people in the five flood-hit districts of Sangli, Kolhapur, Satara, Pune and Solapur had been shifted to safety.

“Of these, 2.47 lakh people were from Kolhapur, while 1.85 lakh perople were evacuated from Sangli,” he said.

With the partial opening of the NH4, authorities allowed heavy vehicles in the direction of Belagavi, while traffic from Pune to Kolhapur was heavily restricted.

Only heavy vehicles like tankers and trucks from Pune district ferrying essential supplies like oil, milk and vegetables for the flood-hit citizens were allowed to pass.

“We have prepared a green corridor for all relief vehicles from Pune and Satara to the flood-hit districts,” said Dr. Abhinav Deshmukh, Superintendent of Police, Kolhapur, adding that it would take another 48 hours for regular traffic to resume along the NH4. The opening of the highway came as a relief to the nearly 15,000 vehicles and their drivers who were stranded for more than a week.

Meanwhile, the Kolhapur district administration has imposed Section 37 (1) of the Bombay Police Act, 1951 which gives it power to prohibit gatherings for prevention of disorder in the flood-affected region.

This has raked up another controversy with the opposition alleging it to be an attempt to suppress the people’s anger against the government’s mismanagement in flood-hit areas.

Additional District Collector Sanjay Shinde issued the orders which will be applicable from August 12 to 24, to maintain law and order situation in view of upcoming religious festivals and Independence Day, and possible agitations by various organisations and political parties.

Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said that the order, coming at a time when water is receding and people will gather for aid, shows the intellectual bankruptcy of the government. “This is nothing but an attempt to suppress people’s anger against the mismanagement of the flood relief work,” he said.

In another relief, the water level of Krishna river near Sangli’s Irwin Bridge receded by more than 3 feet, to flow at 50 ft., though still above the danger mark of 45 ft.

However, Dr. Mhaisekar said as the inflow in the Almatti dam was still high – 6,11,000 cusecs – it was taking time for the floodwaters to recede despite the present discharge being increased to 5,70,000 cusecs.

The Pune Divisional Commissioner said that 30 villages in seven talukas in the two-districts were still heavily waterlogged. As of now 135 roads and more than 60 bridges in both districts remain closed for traffic.

“The villages and areas in the right side of Kolhapur district like Kuthwad, Rajapur Kurundwad in Shirol taluk are the worst-hit…our relief teams are still engaged in delivering food and other essential items to the people stranded in these parts. We do not expect the floodwaters in this area to recede anytime before six days,” said a senior NDRF official.

With rescue operations gradually drawing to a close, defence officials 21 relief teams from the Army would be de-requisitioned. .

The receding floodwaters have left behind veritable rivers of thick mud in their wake – as people formed cleanliness teams to clear out the debris of mud.

While local youths, on their own initiative, formed teams and undertook relief measures, cleanliness drives were conducted at government offices like the District Collectorate at Sangli.

Meanwhile, a sombre spirit prevailed in the region on the occasion of Id-ul-Azha, which while was celebrated in an austere fashion. Sangli’s Idgah Maidan, a traditional spot for Id celebrations, wore a desolate look with its water-logged grounds. The day was marked with a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude towards the NDRF, Army and Navy with women tying rakhis to the jawans for their indefatigable spirit.

Safety measures for children travelling on motorcycles

Illustration: Sreejith R.Kumar

In a significant move, protective headgear of prescribed standards has been made mandatory for children above four years while travelling on a motorcycle.

The safety measures for the children travelling on motorcycles have been included in the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019 that is passed by Parliament.

With the President of India giving assent to the Act, that has amended the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, on August 9, the Union Ministry of Law and Justice has notified the Act in the Gazette of India.

To make the protective headgear mandatory for children, Section 129 of the principal Act has been replaced in the Act as “Every person, above four years of age, driving or riding or being carried on a motorcycle of any class or description shall, while in public place wear protective headgear conforming to such standards as may be prescribed by the Central government”.

Exemption

Only Sikhs wearing turban have been exempted from the provision of Section 129 that makes helmets mandatory for all riders of motorcycles above four years of age.

The Act says the Central government may by rules provide for measures for the safety of the children below four years of age riding or being carried on a motorcycle.

With this amendment, children from the Kindergarten classes will have to wear the protective headgear if they have to travel on motorcycles.

At present, only protective headgear for children riding cycles are available in the market across the country. The decision of the Union government will see the markets flooded with protective headgear for children. For the parents, carrying headgear of children is another issue.

Road safety expert and former director of the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (Natpac) T. Elangovan has called for providing a breathing space till the markets get ready with the protective headgear of prescribed standards. The parents should be made aware of the need of protective gear for children.

“Pillion riders, including children, are more prone to the injuries than the rider of the motorcycle in case the vehicle collides. Helmets of prescribed standards fastened to the head by straps or other fastenings can avoid head injuries,” Mr. Elangovan told The Hindu.

The former Natpac director says law enforcers should enforce rules to restrict travellers to two on a motorcycle. “Often, the children hold on to the rider and the chances of thrown off are high. If at all children are allowed as a pillion riders, they should be of 13 years and above.”

They have been charged under Prevention of Corruption Act, and files are with various departments

Sanction for the prosecution of over 80 public servants, including four IAS officials, under the Prevention of Corruption Act is awaited from various government departments for the past over four months. Two cases are pending since 2013.

According to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), 47 such requests were pending for more than four months as on June 30. The highest of seven requests were with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), while five were with the Uttar Pradesh government. In one case, the request for sanction to prosecute the then Secretary of Health, B.L. Agarwal, was made to the DoPT in February 2013.

The same month, another request was moved against the then Joint Director Parmod Singh and two others of the Chhattisgarh government, in connection with a case registered in 2010.

According to the recently released CVC’s annual report, sanction for prosecution in 108 cases was given by the government departments last year. The Commission has superintendence over function of the Central Bureau of Investigation. In 2018, as per its annual report, the CBI had registered 765 cases and 134 preliminary enquiries, compared to 939 cases and 137 enquiries in 2017.

Prone status

Investigation was finalised in 611 cases and 109 inquiries, while 1,541 cases and inquiries were still under probe. In all, 898 cases were pending investigation for more than a year as on December 31, 2018. Courts gave judgment in 850 under-trial cases and in 544 of them, the CBI secured convictions.

“The conviction rate during the year was 68% against 66.9% in 2017. At the end of the year 2018, 9,255 cases were pending in various courts,” said the Commission. As part of its functioning, the Commission tendered advices in 3,162 cases during the period.

It included recommendation for major penalty proceedings in 508 cases and minor penalty proceedings in 151 cases as its first-stage advice. The CVC advised major penalty for 101 cases and minor penalty for 76 cases as second-stage advice.

‘Many are posting objectionable content on J&K’

On alert: The Centre says there is a malicious campaign alleging violence in Kashmir.AP

The Centre on Monday asked microblogging website Twitter to take down several accounts on its platform posting “objectionable and malicious” content, particularly relating to Kashmir.

“We have asked Twitter to take down some 7-8 accounts that are spreading false information about what is happening in Kashmir... ,” a senior government official said, seeking anonymity.

The government official said the reports and information posted on these handles were related to violence in Kashmir. “They are fake, aimed at presenting a wrong picture [of the Kashmir situation] to the world.” Most of these were unverified accounts and the government may also try to locate the origin/location of these accounts.

Separately, the Jammu and Kashmir police has sought action against the handle @WajSKan, “strongly rebutting” claims of rift emerging among security forces deployed in Kashmir.

The claim made by this account was also refuted by CRPF India in a tweet: “The malicious content of this tweet is absolutely baseless and untrue. As always, all the security forces of India are working with coordination and bonhomie.

“Patriotism and our tricolour lie at the core of our hearts and existence, even when the color of our uniforms may differ.”

Police view

Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference later in the day, IGP, Kashmir, S.P. Pani said there was a malicious campaign on social media platform. “We request citizens not to pay attention to any kind of malicious campaign being carried out by mischievous people... We have taken up the matter with service providers to take action as per the law.”

A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday (August 13) for the first time a petition highlighting certain “regressive measures” adopted by the government before the abrogation of Article 370, by which special rights and privileges accorded to the people of Jammu and Kashmir were scrapped through a Presidential Order on August 5.

The government, within hours of announcing the notification of the Presidential Order on August 5, tabled the Bill to reorganise the State of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The Bill was successfully passed in Parliament.

Bottom line

The Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra will hear the petition filed by activist Tehseen Poonawalla, who has not expressed an opinion on the amendment to Article 370 but objects to measures adopted by the government, including the snapping of communication and restrictions imposed on media Jammu and Kashmir.

He has sought the setting up of a judicial commission to enquire into the government action and also the release of leaders including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

“The inhabitants of J&K are suffering on account of unwarranted imposition of curfew and/or restrictions under Section 144,” he said.

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