Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Narcotics- SEARCHING FOR TRUTH & SOLUTIONS- About a conference held in early Dec. 2013 in Guwahati

On the headaches caused by narcotics in the North East of India

There is a fledgling think tank in Delhi called The Insttitute for Narcotics Studies and Analysis (INSA). (

From the 5th to the 7th of December, 2013 INSA  organised a lively conference in the charming and immense location of the Don Bosco Insititute, Kharguli Hills, Guwahati, Assam.
(There were many windows like this one in the Hall and eyes would often stray to the fascinating view)

(A wing of the Don Bosco Institute, Kharguli Hills, Guwahati, Assam)

(Another wing with a hint of a view)
The Key Note Address was made by Mr. Najib Shah, Director General, Revenue Intelligence, who while urging reforms reminded that enforcement is a key instrument of controlling proliferation of drugs. The Conference was Inaugurated by Lt. General Nirbay Sharma (Retd.), The Governor of Arunachal Pradesh by lighting the Lamp of Awareness.
followed by Mr. Najib Shah, Director General, Revenue Intelligence.

The Governor expressed his anguish about the growing illicit cultivation of opium in Arunachal and the concomitant addiction to opiates.

(The Governor of Arunachal Pradesh at left and the the director General of Revenue Intelligence at right. In between are members of INSA)
The topics and frank discussions focussed on all the possible drugs linked problems that could afflict a person, a family, a community and the state.  There were ten sessions of 90 minutes each.

Session # 1:  International and National Drug Control Mechanism
                                   Mr. Martin Jelsma of Trans National Institute, Amsterdam,
                                   Mr. Ranjan Sahoo, Dy. director General, Narcotics Control Bureau,                                                            Kolkatta.

Session # 2:    Is Law Enforcement alone sufficient to reduce drug usage?  Panel discussion.
                                     Mr. Najib Shah, Director General, Revenue Intelligence,
                                      Dr. Sandi Syiem, San_Ker Hospital, Shillong,
                                      Mr. Lal Hmun Sanga, Commissioner, Narcotics & Excise, Aizwal, Mizoram,
                                      Mr. Ranjan Sahoo, DDG, NCB, Kolkata,
                                      Prof. Dipesh Bhagabati, Head of Deptt of Psychiatry, Guwahati Medical College,
                                      Fr. Joe Pereira, Founder, Kripa Foundation, Mumbai &
                                      Dr. Nuno Capaz, Ministry of Health, Lisbon, Portugal.
Session # 3:     Narcotics & Precursors- State Wise Analysis
                                          Mr. Ranjan Sahoo, DDG, NCB, Kolkatta,
                                          Ms. Violet Baruah, Supdt. of Police, Narcotics, Guwahati, Assam,
                                          Dr. Mandeep Singh Tuli, DIG, Police, Gangtok, Sikkim
                                          Mr. Lal Hmun Sanga, Commissioner, Narcotics & Excise, Mizoram,
Session # 4:        Innovations in Drug Policy Reforms- Experiments and Experiences from other countries
                                           Dr. Nuno Capaz, Ministry of Health, Lisbon, Portugal
                                           Mr. Martin Jelsma, TNI, Amsterdam,
                                           Ms. Gloria Lai, Sr. Policy Officer, International Drug Policy Consortium,                                                      Bangkok
                                           Mr. Kham Awng, Director, Myanmar Programme, Mae Fah Luang Foundation                                             Branch in Yangon.
Session # 5:            Is Containment possible? Panel discussion on drug use reasons, prevention,                                          treatment and rehabilitation...
                                                 Fr. Joe Pereira, Founder, Kripa Foundation, Mumbai,
                                                 Prof. Dipesh Bhagabati, HOD, Psychiatry, GMCH,
                                                 Mr. Dineshwar Hijam Singh, Activist, Imphal, Manipur,
                                                 Dr. Rose, HIV/TB Consultant, Nagaland State Aids Control Society and                                                       also an Opioid Substitution Expert.

  (The Tea Pavillion where we used to repair after nearly every intense session)
Session # 6:               Drug Demand Reduction Strategies, Treatment Facilities and Problem of Drug                                    Related  HIV in the North East:
                                                   Dr.(Ms.)Yene Nabam, Psychologist, Government Hospital, Itanagar,
                                                   Mr. Gaidon Tamang, Project Director, Sikkim Rehab Centre, Gangtok,
                                                   Mr. Tia Akum, Prodigal's Home, Dimapur, Nagaland,
                                                   Mr. Dineshwar Hijam Singh, Activist, Imphal,
                                                   Mr. Abou Mere, Director, Kripa Foundation, Dimapur, & Advisor,                                                              Nagaland Users Network,
                                                   Mr. Hkam Awng, Mae Fah Luang Foundation, Myanmar who spoke                                                            about similar problems in neighbouring Myanmar.
Session # 7:                    Illicit opium cultivation in the North East of India- An Assessment
                                       (Presentations on behalf of NCB, CBN, Police, cultivator and affected)
                                       Mr. Ranjan Sahoo, DDG, NCB, Kolkatta,
                                       Mr. D. Banerjee, Supdt., Central Bureau of Narcotics, Kolkatta Regional Unit,
                                       Mr. V. Shinde, Principal Secretary to the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh,                                                    Itanagar.
                                       Mr. Gosailum Kri, Cultivator's representative, Anjaw Distt., Arunachal,
                                       Mr. Anijke Menjaw, a concerned civilian about the increase of opium use in                                                  Roing, his district in Arunachal Pradesh,
                                        Ms. Rakhi Linggi, Roing,
                                       Mr. Hkam Awng, Yangon who spoke about similar cultivation problems in                                                    Myanmar.

Session # 8:                     Alternative Development- Concept & Evaluation
                                                        Mr. Martin Jelsma, TNI, Amsterdam,
                                                        Mr. Ranjan Sahoo, DDG, NCB, Kolkatta,
                                                        Mr. Gosailum Kri, Cltvtrs Rep.,
                                                        Ms. Rekhilu Marap, Cltvtrs Rep.,
                                                        Mr. Hkam Awng, Yangon,
                                                        Mr. Romesh Bhattacharji, Member, INSA.
Session # 9:                          Illicit Opium Cultivation - Reasons & Effects-  Panel Discussion
                                                              Mr. Ranjan Sahoo, DDG, NCB, Kolkatta,
                                                              Mr. D. Banerjee, Supdt., CBN, Kolkatta,
                                                              Mr. Resina Mihu, Roing,
                                                              Mr. Raju Mimi, Journalist, Roing,
                                                              Ms. Sunila Linggi,   Roing,
                                                              Mr. Gosailum Kri, Opium Cltvtrs Rep, Anjaw,
                                                              Mr. Anjite Menjao, Zila Parishad Member, Ambalu-Jo Foundation,                                                                 Roing, Lower Debang Valley, Arunachal.
   (Participants from Roing Distt.. that till five years ago was opium free and now has opium users in most families)
Session # 10:                            Relevance of Current Drug Control Strategies

                                                                Mr. Devendra Dutt, Member, INSA,
                                                                Ms. Gloria Lai, Sr. Policy Officer, IDPC, Bangkok,
                                                                Mr. Jenpu Rongmei, President, Young's Club, Dimapur,                                                                               Nagaland,
                                                                Dr. (Ms) Yeni Nabam, Psychologist, Government Hospital,                                                                         Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh,
                                                                Dr. Nuno Capaz, Ministry of Health, Lisbon, Portugal,
                                                                Mr. Tapan Satpathy, Under Secretary, Narcotics Control,                                                                           Ministry of Finance, Deptt. of Revenue, North Block, New Delhi

(Before the closing session began nearly all the participants and gathered for a happy group photograph).

 The Closing Session started with a review by Mr. Mandeep Singh Tuli, DIG, Police, Sikkim Police.

 It was followed by a concises but detailed and emotive report on all the sessions given by Mr. Jogendra Singh, Member, INSA. His summation will be placed here as soon as it is ready. 
(In the Centre is Ms. Ananya Ray, Chief Commissioner of Custom, North East Region, flanked by Mr. Joginder Singh to the left and Mr. Dalbir Singh to the right. Both are members of INSA)
The last word beonged to Ms. Ananya Ray, Chief Commissioner of Customs, North East Region and based in Shillong. She talked of her travels to the distant corners of the North East and finding drug problems every where.

Our conference would not have been possible

(a) without the funds sanctioned by the Ministry of Finance for this Conference,

(b) without the whole hearted help given by the dynamic Dy. Commissioner of Customs, Guwahati Ms. Temsunaro Jamir, her juniors, of Mr. BB Mahapatra, Commissioner Central Excise and his officers, and their considerate super boss Ms. Ananya Ray,


(c) without the support of the twelve energetic and considerate volunteers from amongst the students of Don Bosco Institute. They were everywhere and never missed an opportunity to guide and help.
 .  (In the blue saree is the youngest member of INSA- Ms. Kawaldeep Kour from Guwahati. She worked tirelessly before and during the Conference. She also brought down the average age of INSA Members to a shade below 60!)


Thursday, September 5, 2013

India's less than ordinary sport record

For a nation of more than a billion souls we shouldn't be going crazy when we bag a couple of silver medals or a rare gold medal at the Olympics. But we do and that shows what low achievers we are.

India's record in all kinds of sports is pathetic. For a population of more than a billion we have accomplished so little that we go overboard about the few people who have had modest successes in world events. We lionise them so much that they don't perform in future. That is why we make heroes out of our cricketers. At least they are consistent toppers in the game, even though it is played in only fourteen countries. In the rest of the disciplines we scrape the barrel for performers. See the movie called Bhagh Milkha Bhagh. Good but too melodramatic. It glorifies an athlete who never won a medal in world competitions.

This shameful lack of achievement mirrors our low performance in other sectors of development- health, education, nutrition and minimum wages. Infrastructural facilities to promote sports are missing from most of India. China went from zero to hero in  three decades. They constructed stadiums with hostels, stocked them with equipment, coaches and then trained and trained a fairly selected band. Their selection system covered nearly every school and village. And their sports facilites were easily accessed by every one.

Not like in India. In the few places that there are stadia they are closed to the public because of rules and the meanness of the bureaucrats. In 1964 I used to practice for 5000 metres. During our summer vacations I used to go to my home town Meerut. Here near the crossing of Ordnance Row and The Mall, and close to my home, was an Army Stadium. I used to practise there till I was told that it was restricted only for the Army. There was a civil stadium nearby, but that was closed to practice, as it is still today- 49 years later. This is the condition of most of our stadiums. They are restricted for use by silly rules.    

Some do beat odds and the system and do well. But, consider how much better India would do if sports were encouraged throughout the land. Instead of being ransomed to undedniably mediocre leaders with petty egos, swollen heads, slimy politics, inescapable favouritism, unchecked corruption and total indifference to the needs of sports persons.

I have given below countries that won medals at the 2012 London Olympics. Their rank according to population is also given.

At the London Olympics of 2012 the countries listed below were the medal winners. (Some countries with a higher overall tally are lower in the medals tally table. That is because they have won less gold and silver medals.)

 S. No        COUNTRY        Medals       % of World Popln.       Popln. Rank    _________________________________________________________________________________ 1                 USA                   104                4.45%                             3
2                 China                   88               19.11%                             1
3                 Great Britain        65                   0.9%                             22
4                 Russia                  81                2.02%                              53
5                 South Korea         28                 0.71%                            26
6                 Germany               44               1.13%                              6
7                 France                  34                0 .92%                            21
8                 Italy                      28                0 .84%                            23
9                 Hungary               18                  0.14%                            88
10               Australia              35                   0.33%                            53
11               Japan                   38                 1.79%                             10
12              Kazakhstan          13                  0.24%                             62
13              Netherlands           20               0.24%                               63
14             Ukraine                  20                0.64%                              29
15              New Zealand        13                0.063                             124
16              Cuba                     14               0.16%                              75
17               Iran                      12               1.08%                              17
18               Jamaica                12               0.038%                           141
19               Czech Republic    10               0.15%                               82
20               North Korea          6               0.35%                               47
21               Spain                    17              0.66%                               28
22              Brazil                     17              2.73%                                5
23              South Africa            6              0.75%                               25
24              Ethiopia                   7             1.22%                                14
25              Croatia                    6             0.06%                               128
26              Belarus                  12             0.13%                                90
27              Romania                  9             0.28%                                59
28             Kenya                     11            0.62%                                31
29             Denmark                   9            0.079%                            112
30             Azerbaijan               10            0.13%                                92
31              Poland                    10            0.54%                               33
32              Turkey                      5            1.06%                               18
33           Switzerland                  4            0.11%                               96
34           Lithuania                      5            0.042%                           138
35           Norway                       4            0.071%                           118
36           Canada                      18            0.49%                               37
37           Sweden                        8           0.13%                               89
38           Colombia                     8           0.66%                               27
39           Georgia                        7          0.063%                            123
40           Mexico                        7           1.65%                               11
41           Ireland                        5            0.065%                            122
42           Argentina                    4            0.56%                                32
43           Serbia                         4            0.1%                               100
44           Slovenia                      4            0.029                              144
45           Tunisia                        3            0.15%                               79
46           Dominican Republic    2            0.13%                               91
47           Trinidad & Tobago     4            0.019%                           153
48           Uzbekistan                  3            0.42%                              42                                   
49           Latvia                          2           0.028%                           147
50           Algeria                        1            0.53%                              35
51           Bahamas                     1            0.0049%                        177
52           Grenada                      1            0.0015%                        195
53           Uganda                       1            0.48%                              38
54           Venezuela                   1             0.41%                             44

55      INDIA               6          17.45%                2

56           Mongolia                   5            0.039%                              140
57           Thailand                    6             0.93%                                  20


Some of these medal winning countries are poorer than India and with a population that is hundreds of times less than ours. And better not look at the last World Cup Final playing countries, amongst whom are Honduras (.11%), Paraguay (.013%) and Ghana (.35%).

Perhaps our performance in sports is doomed to be poor as other health indicators are also at rock bottom. After 66 years of Independence India is abysmally short of achievements in every field of human development. It matches the other criteria for judging a country's health- infant mortality. India is a shocking 144 on the list where Afghanistan is the last at 188. Sri Lanka at 64 and Nepal at 132 are ahead of India. (Source- UN Development Report 2011 & CIA World Fact book 2013) While corruption takes the front seat development is ignored.

India's middle class of about well fed 300 mln souls would still make India the 4th most populous nation. Yet there is no proportionate matching performance. The reason is also the Government's countrywide abhorrence to having a progressive policy for encouraging sports and lack of transparency.  We have been rightly suspended by the IOA. There is a limit to tolerating corruption.

Never in the field of sports has such a large country achieved so little and so consistently.

Maybe our diet is also to blame a bit. Amongst all these medal winners India is the only vegetarian country.

Postscript:  Yesterday, 11th of September, 2013, India was defeated by Afghanistan in the SAF finals at Kathmandu.
 India's population is more than 1.2 billion. Afghanistan's population is about 27 million.

What made the loss so galling was that the Afghanis were, before the match, making fun of the Indians' poor physique, and predicted that they would win. They did. 

Now, I am sure India will intellectualise this loss and say that they will come back stronger. It has not happened these sixty years. Yet, we live in hope that India's sports administration will be rescued from the paper pushers and politicians who are ruining it.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Chumar- Its location and explanation

With five Chinese intrusions in the past forty days, and several off and on in the year past, Chumar has been in focus for quite some time. Some of the Chinese intrusions were comic. Some months ago they painted some silly slogans, asking Indians to leave, on some rocks
near the International Border. 

    -- The Tegazung Plain and Gya peaks (6333 mtrs asl). Chumar Post is beyond the hump in the foreground.  Some Kyangs and a twister can also be seen. Its not as grassy as it looks. Each tuft of grass is about half a metre apart, and hence the dust spiralling up with the wind. 

Chumar is in the SE of Ladakh and has been connected by an untarred but comfortable road for more than three decades. It is not remote for Indians. 

But for the Chinese it is. 

The Chinese area that is contiguous to Chumar sticks into India's Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh like a thumb. For the Chinese it is one of the most difficult to reach regions in Tibet. The base of the thumb is cut off by a 19,000 ft (5900 m) high ridge- Drongmar, which can be seen from Shipki la 13,300 ft (4000 m) . There is one rough Chinese road that goes over this Drongmar Ridge , which is perhaps closed for at least 3 months because of snow.  This ridge is pierced  by only two las I think. One is Botbotla and the other is Sunga or Drongmar la 16,728 ft (5100 m). This thumb of Tibet was once part of an ancient kingdom called Guge, and may also be called that now, I think.  The area of this thumb could be about 2000 sq. kms..  There may be at most around half a dozen villages, and as far as my information goes none near Chumar. 

A decade ago some Indian goods used to trickle down to these Chinese villages from Chumar. During some severe winters I had heard that people from these villages would come to Chumar village for help, as it was impossible to go to the adjacent Chumurti Valley (Satluj flows here) in Tibet for supplies. Perhaps conscious of this isolation the Chinese are increasing their presence and incursions. Earlier a couple of them would take a step or two into Indian territory shout slogans and scurry back. The latest incursion on the 9th of July was reported to have been made by about 50 Chinese soldiers on horses!  They will be full of sound and meaningless fury before the winter closes in. There could be more such intrusions near Chumar before winter starts- for the Chinese troops are at their weakest here. Our soldiers are disciplined but these mounting provocations could cause problems.  

The maps available to ordinary Indians do not give an idea of the topography at all. Our Government thinks that by making large scale maps accessible to all Indians would impair India's security. 

I have got much better maps than are available locally from the internet.  Two good sites are the Russian and the American . The former is a better site. The second and hird maps below of Chumar are from topomapper. 

The map above is from Sven Hedin's 8 Volume Tran Himalaya. Though he did not visit Chumar in his trip of 1905-6 he made this map by asking people from Shipki and Namgia villages.
Map above is the Russian map of Chumar and the Chinese areas south of it. Some Russian names have been translated into English. Gor this map and the one below I have to thank my friend Hermann Soldner from Upper Bavaria.

The Chinese area opposite Chumar is drained by the Pare chu which rises from Parang and Takling las in Spiti, goes to the Thumb of Chinese area, and then is prevented from meeting the Satluj (or Langchen Khambab in Tibet) by the Drongmar Ridge. It re enters India (Himachal Pradesh) and meets the Spiti river near Sumdo at a place called Shugar. 

Below are pictures from Google Earth of the terrain that I have written about above.  They demonstrate the utter uselessness of being secretive about our maps.

 This image above shows Chumar and the areas below it. The red line that cuts the plain of the Pare chu indicates the Chinese claim line. 

The Google Earth image below shows a larger area. The top  red line shows the Chinese claim line and the lower red line indicates the line that Indians have. 

Below are a series of images of villages in the Chinese area:
      Azi village>

     Bali village>

     Chajia village>

   Wuling village>

The Pare chu lake. In 2002 it was blocked by a land slide and when that burst even Rampur Bushair, about 280 kms downstream on the Satluj- suffered from the resultant flood. There were two floods again on the Satluj probably caused by land slides on this lake, but they were contained by the Wangtu hydel dam that had been finished in 2003. >

The image below is of Gya peaks, the highest of which is 6833 m high. The borders of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Tibet meet here. These peaks rise to the SW of Chumar. A picture of these peaks above Chumar I have put in an earlier blog of June. 2010 called Of some las  etc.. >

Below are two maps of Chumar and southern areas prepared by the US Army SErvices in 1954 and available at the Texas University site given at para 7 above. These maps are not very accurate, but they give a good idea. >

And this one shows the Drongmar Ridge and Shipki la>

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Himalayan agony of mid June- Give the Government a chance

Hundreds of years ago the temple at Aghstmuni, above the Mandakini, and on the way to Kedarnath was swept away in a massive flood. In the Dhauli valley, higher up the mountain above Tapovan's hot spring, is a place called Bhavishiya Badri (Future Badri), where a legend say Badrinath will be eventually established as one day it will be swept away. Such devastation is not new in the Himalaya, and certainly has little to do with deforestation.

As realisation of the immense tragedy that had struck from Pithoragarh district in the East of Uttarakhand to Kinnaur district in the NE of Himachal Pradesh, was sinking in, the know all donor driven environmentalists, big and small, had already started crowing over the TV channels- we told you so! Man made devastation they screamed righteously. Giving too much credit to ordinary mortals.

Not a word of concern was spoken for the thousands of pilgrims marooned, stuck and dead or dying, and the hill people whose lives and livelihoods have been shattered for a longer time. With scarcely a suppressed smirk all were pitching into same old practiced and meaningless speeches repeated at every gathering- especially international ones.

Their pathetic minds would not understand the fact that this was an unprecedented disaster, much bigger than that caused by chopping of trees. A behemoth cataract had poured its inexhaustible contents over an area about 600 kms in length and 150 kms wide. No puny human hand could have been responsible for that wide spread a devastation. Undeniably there is wanton and savage destruction of the environment but that was not the cause for this tragedy, nor is it the time to bring such meaningless twaddle. A friend of mine, who was climbing Jaonli peak above Harsil on the 14th of June, says that they were at a height of about 18,000 ft (well above the tree line) and so much debris was dislodged by so much rain, sleet and snow that it looked like lava pouring down the hill sides.

Similar but lesser floods have been hitting the hills every few decades for thousands of years. There is a cycle of inevitability to such excesses of nature. The last one that I remember was in July 1970 when similar heavy rains, but not as wide spread, caused horrifying floods on the Alaknanda and the Bhagirathi. An iron bridge on the Bhagirathi before the climb to Sukhi had been twisted like a cork screw.

   Another flood that destroyed in the early 80s a bridge over the Bhagirathi after Gagnani. This picture was taken in June 1984. The earlier road was on the right bank. Attempts at aforestation can be seen. After the Maneri dam was built I think that no bridges or roads were mangled till this extraordinary cataclysm of mid June 2013> 
At Reni village near the spot where the Ramni ganga emerges from the Nanda Devi sanctuary giant fir trees were hurled like rockets to be pulverized into splinters against the right bank of the Alaknanda. This was uprooting caused by the pressure of an advancing huge wall of water gushing down that once narrow gorge.   The Gohna tal on the Birehi Ganga demolished. its western bank entirely and released its waters into the Alaknanda. Amongst the thousand or so who died in the combined cataclysm were passengers of about 40 buses that had been stranded on the road to Joshimath. These hapless souls were swept away by the rising and heaving Alaknanda. At that time there was fortunately no TV and environment had not become the profitable business that it is now. People from all over rushed supplies and man power to help those in distress. The Government was then as it is now the main provider of succour.

This mid June watery calamity is much bigger than the one of 1970. To blame such disasters on mere deforestation and a handful of dams is insanity and unprincipled self promotion. Had these conceited environmentalists agitated earlier for constructing diagonal rock fill bandhs they could have done some service. But they can only think of trees and dams.

Do these environmentalists know that in the past 20 years more trees have been planted in the hills than cut down? They do, but, without substantiation they all say that these figures are false! If they acknowledged that these figures were correct it would be bad for their business.

Another favourite target of this lobby is dams in the hills. The present tragedy would have been much larger had it not been for the dams. The Tehri dam's level rose by 20 metres but was contained by it. Similarly Maneri dam the next one which is about 100 kms above (and not "back to back") the Tehri on the Bhagirathi held back much of the explosive force. Some water had to be released but wide spread damage was checked. 

The horrific shots of buildings plummeting into the raging waters were inevitable judgement, which ought to have attracted the ire of the prophets of doom, but did not. No construction within 100 mtrs of the river banks is allowed and yet these hideous concrete monstrosities had come up with official connivance. On the banks and mid streams were office complexes (SSB at Shrinagar), dharamshalas, temples and statues. The scornful rivers brushed them aside as if they were twigs.  I hope lessons will be learnt for the future.

The population in the hills is increasing. No longer are these hills resorts for the rich and centres of pilgrimage. They have to provide sustenance and employment for their people. For that infrastructure has to be built. That means electricity, roads, improved agriculture and connected industry. This requires development and the people in the hills want that. In this connection I shall tell of an experience that I witnessed in the summer of 1990 or thereabouts.

I was returning by bus from Uttarkashi through the old Tehri town, which is now submerged. The bus was crossing the old girder bridge that overlooked the dam that was coming up. In front of that massive wall was Sunderlal Bahugunah on his fast against the dam. As soon as the passengers in the bus saw him they burst into abusive laughter. At that time I was quite a fan of his. Puzzled, I asked why were they reviling him so mercilessly? They said Sunderlal was against progress. With these dams coming up, they have electricity, their children can study late at night and not have to go to bed at sundown, already employment has increased so much that most of them do not have to go to the plains for menial jobs. Well 23 years later the change is there to see. engineers, doctors, bureaucrats, businessmen, scientists, pilots etc et al are coming from here.

All this is due to what the environmentalists and their friends in the media say is a man made disaster? They ought to spend a life time in the hills and will then know that there is no going back. Development is a must, and will continue. No matter how shrill these few people may get. I only hope that this development will not be cornered by real estate lobbies. And since when has the CAG become an expert  on the environment? They ought to stick to accounts only, for that is what they are trained for.

Postscript added on 25th of June, 2013-  "Dams Controlled Floods .... "  From Indian Express of today- Don't ignore voices such as these and listen only to environment wallahs.

Give the Government a chance instead of tarring it for this disaster and delay in relief. With roads gone, skies overcast, and no bridges even hardy and gutsy soldiers of the Army, Indo Tibet Border Police and the IAF will take time to get every where. Let them do their extraordinarily tough job. The TV channels ought to stop hitching rides as they are blocking some needy person's place.

Till the early 60s there used to be check posts at Rishikesh where names of all pilgrims used to be entered. Perhaps in this computer age a faster system of recording details of every pilgrim should be kept. For such natural blows will occur again after some decades as they have been doing for ages in the past.
After the pilgrims have been taken to their homes the relief and reconstruction will inevitably have to focus on the hill folk. I hope that this time attention will be on the deserving, mindless of gender and status. Why do I have these fears?  Immediately after the October, 1988 earthquake in which Uttarkashi suffered enormous damage, I had gone there. Below the Maneri village school I heard a low whisper like wail. I followed it. It was coming from the School grounds where about fifty injured women had been left to wait for medical aid. The men, even with slight injuries, had helicoptered away to hospitals in the Plains. Similar distress I saw on the way to a village (I don't remember the name now) below the Kush Kalyan forest from Malla.

   The Satluj dam near the old village of Wangdu. This dam has, I am told, reduced havoc of the kind that had contemptuously swept away the old iron bridge (built in Sheffield, UK) and village in the flood of 2002. There never were no trees on the left hand side so environmentalists  should not jump to nasty conclusions. However aforestation is beiing attempted on this windward side. On the leeward side to the left there are many trees>   

  This is the entrance to an ambitious hydel project where the power generation is inside a huge cavern. Electricity is produced by dropping a part of the Babha river through tunnels and turbines. In the 2002 floods there was silt well inside this unit. The Wangdu dam had saved this from further trouble, though I do not know whether it has been affected again by the June flood as the sluice gates had been opened to allow collected waters to exit>

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ghulam Rasool Galwan of Leh - A remarkable man

After whom a contentious river is named.....

After the recent Chinese incursion into Depsang Plains of North East Ladakh there were a spate of reports about how difficult life was in those isolated parts of North East Ladakh.  A couple of reports also mentioned Galwan River and how the Chinese had occupied it since October 1962. They still sit there around four kms away from Galwan River's confluence with the Upper Shyok.

Galwan River! How was such a name given to a river? For in Kashmiri it means 'robber'.

In October 1974 when I first visited the Upper Reaches of the Shyok I saw Galwan river spreading out across a large fan of moraine and debris. The river had broken into several clear channels gushing down  to mix with the Shyok. An Argun companion (mixture of a Ladakhi Buddshist and Central Asian Muslim parentage) told me that the river's name meant a robber. It was named after a Ghulam Rasool Galwan who found a way out for some British explorers stranded in Aksai Chin east of Samzungling (with China now) in 1907.

Intrigued, I researched when I returned to Delhi. This was the only sub continental river that was named after a man who at the time was living. His name was Ghulam Rassul Galwan. His great grand father was a daring robber- Kara Galwan, which in Kashmiri means Black Robber. Once he had even raided the Kashmir Maharaja's bed room! Eventually he was hung. The name stuck to his children.

Our Galwan started his life as a porter with Sir Francis Younghusband when he was only twelve or so. In time he became Caravan bashi or incharge of caravans, put together by Western Explorers, that knocked around Central Asia, Tibet and Ladakh of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. He was born around 1878, and died early on 13th March, 1925. One year after a lovable book that he had written of his life was published. It is in his own charming pidgin English. English that he had learnt during his expeditions with western explorers.

This is what Sir Francis Younghusband had to say of Galwan in the Introduction to Galwan's book: "He came of the very poorest. He started as a simple village lad. But in every situation he behaved like a gentleman."

He moved in a region where all who had been there - Dunmore, Younghusband,  Phelps, Church, Wellby, Roche, Sven Hedin, Bower, Littledale, Fillipo Filipi etc et al - would go crazy descibing the indescribable cold, solitude, misery, majesty and magnificence. Galwan strode that bleak, high, freezing world of mountains and deserts like a colossus, without whom those expeditions would not have gone so far or achieved that much.

Yet for him beauty was a camp where there was no work! From Leh to Kashgar was a forty four day's difficult trek, which for many Western explorer was an adventure in itself. Galwan used to do it just to join an expedition (like the Littledale's) at Kashgar or rush to Leh to collect his pay without a thought to his discomforts and danger or the majesty around him. To him the bitterly cold and endless wasteland from Pamirs to Takla Makan to Tengri Nor was a second home.

Of him the famous British explorer Dr. Tom Longstaff had written:
"Rasool Gulwan, our caravan leader was a great character. He had travelled through Tibet with Littledale, and with Robert Barrett, Phelps and Church and was rated very high by all of them. He was of the breed called Arghan, of a Yarkandi father by a Ladakhi mother. Inheriting the best characteristics of both the races, he was absolutely honest; he never took bribes nor offered them. "

Yet on pg 66 of his sometimes gossipy book Galwan naughtily admits to whacking commissions while buying supplies!

This book of his was written at the insistence of Mrs. KRE Barret and her husband Robert who had relied on Galwan for the success of their considerable explorations in Central Asia and Ladakh from 1902-5. Galwan's manuscripts were sent by snail mail till 1913. After editing by Mrs. Barrett, who lived in the US, the book was published by W. Heffers and Sons of Cambridge, UK, in 1924. The original manuscript of this book is at the Smithsoninan Museum, Washington D.C.. The quite unnecessary sub title of this book "To be read aloud" is an intervention by the editor, who seems to be making fun of his peculiar but attractive English.

 It has obviously been edited by a colonial mind, for he was not always complimentary of his Western bosses. His descendants mention incidents (obviously changed down the years) where Galwan described his bosses rather candidly. It was hard and thankless work being a Caravan bashi, and Galwan used to be berated and sometimes hit if things went awry. At the end of it all this brilliant adventurer was a labourer in colonial times and he was thought, by the Colonial administration, to have been suitably rewarded when the Deputy Commissioner of Leh in 1917 appointed him as a Head Governement Contractor. 

Above is a picture of his house near the middle of Chute Rungte street in Leh.

Below is a picture of the end of Chute Rungte Street. Once, Galwan's above house stood in lonely splendour such as this less crowded part of the street shows..>

His descendants now have a spacious guest house in Changspa, Leh..>

It is in a better, pleasanter and quieter suburb above Leh> 

Entrance to one of the rooms in Galwan Guest House>

His descendants also live there. Like his grand daughter in law, who was about 90 years old in 2008>

 This old lady has quite a few anecdeotes to tell of him, even though she may never have met him...>

The family will also proudly show off some of his things. Like this samovar, held by Galwan's great great grand daughter. He would not travel without this>

There are only four occasions that Galwan describes a scenery as "beautiful." I end with one of them. It is on page 215 and he describes a Valley after they have been turned back, north of Lhasa, from the Lake Tengri Nor (now called Nam Tso): "Now we camp there for a long time. Now the Goring valley was very beautiful, both sides tall mountains, and many of the mountain-tops covered with beautiful glacier and snow, and in the lovely valley very good pasture, good grass and little jungle of bushwood. That all sides look green, and in that valley run very clean water stream down."


Monday, May 6, 2013

Narcotics: Kicking the addict, ignoring the trafficker

A talk by me at the 30th Symposium on Economic Crime, Jesus College Cambridge, 7th of September, 2012

                                                    (Jesus College, Cambridge)

Legalised Regulation of Drugs- a strategy for reducing violent crime and protecting Financial Institutions

Indian Experience....

I shall start with an anecdote of some old boys from this College.

Yesterday, when Jack was showing me around this historic and lovely campus he pointed to a portrait of an ex student of this college- Samuel Taylor Coleridge- one of England’s famous Romantic poets. He is the one who wrote Ancient Mariner and the unfinished stirring epic Kublai Khan.

I remembered having read a book in my wife’s library about Coleridge’s drug use. I asked her for some details last night. This is what I got. In the book “Samuel Taylor Coleridge- a bondage from opium” the author Molly Lefebure describes the drugs of choice of Coleridge and his scientist friends like Sir Humphrey Davy, Sir Thomas Beddoes, Sir Joseph Banks, who started Kew Gardens, and Sir Thomas Wedgwood. Opium, laudanum, cannabis and even bhang.

Had Colerdige been alive today, most likely that genius would be in jail with his career nipped in the bud.

The reason? The Single UN Convention on Narcotics in 1961. This single document has diverted attck from the traffickers to the drug users. Not one of the 200 or so signing countries has been able to stem the supply in the streets. Above and beyond this they have not even been able to stop drugs being provided in prisons all over the world. This is the background of my short presentation.

Slide # 1: UN’s Single Convention of 1961 was supposed to rid the world of drugs in twenty five years.

The reality is that though drug use and trafficking have increased phenomenally, only the weakest have suffered from harsh laws. Petty crimes have increased, and so have big ones, as the people who should be in jail are not. Law Enforcement has failed to subdue this scourge. A more humane and practical solution is needed as the UN’s Conventions have encouraged only to batter sheep.

Jack Cole of LEAP, USA, the eaarlier speaker today, has dramatically shown what an exorbitantly expensive failure the War on Drugs has been in America. I shall try something similar for India and the region.

Slide # 2: India got its Narcotics Act in 1985. Arrests of drug users jumped to 30 times more than before ‘85.

Crime statistics have also risen proportionately, but only petty ones are spoken about, furred robes hide the big ones. There are now about 10 million drug users. Cannabis accounts for 7 million. The rest use opiates and synthetic drugs. In parts of India cannabis and opium usage is centuries old. Thus, it was rather inconsiderate to tar them all with the same brush.

Slide #3- Every village along Punjab’s border with Pakistan has most of its young between 15 to 30 yrs hooked to drugs, mostly Afghan heroin. Punjab had sports clubs for every 3 or 4 villages. These are being replaced by de addiction centres.

These figures of narcotics cases made from 2001 to 2011 in Punjab show that only the lowliest in the drug chain have been pummeled. Of the 48,293 cases made only 5 were against traffickers. Out of a population of 27.7 million 4.5 million youth are unemployed.

A recent study by the Department Of Sociology of the Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar has shocked everyone with the revelation that 73.5% of all of Punjab’s youth are drug users.

Most demand more policing. Not that it is a health problem. The only concession is that 8 jails will soon have drug de addiction facilties and gyms!!

Slide #s 4: In most other parts of India drug use is not so high, but only drug users continue to bear the brunt of a relentless enforcement. These figures, from 2001 to 2011, from 3 of the 9 police divisions of Delhi, show that this is a national practice to treat drug dependants as criminals. Of the 4155 arrested merely 35 were traffickers

Slide # 5: Despite the severe laws drug use continues to rise.

Slide # 6: Illicit cultivation of cannabis and opium is increasing alarmingly. In India illicit opium cultivation was at least around 20,000 hectares three years ago according to Indian satellite surveys. Again only the poor cultivator is hit but not even the commissioning agents.

Slide # 7: Not only has production of illegal opium increased but also of heroin, which is improving in quality every year.

Slide # 8: Seizures of narcotics substances in India have more or less remained static for a decade, despite more funds and personnel. The drug user is their favoured quarry, as he is poor and helpless.

Slide # 9: India’s Narcotics Act 1985 was so dreadful that some penalties for drug users had to be eventually decreased in 2001. Even then, the drug user still faces a 6 months incarceration. India needs at least 50 times the nearly 500 good bad and ugly treatment centres that are there now.

Slide # 10: Zero tolerance policies have hammered Central And South Asia and failed.

In Central Asia there has been a steep increase of registered drug users since 1992- from about the time the Soviet Union broke up. The actual numbers will be at least 10 times that much.

At the southern end of Asia is Maldives- a group of 200 inhabited tropical islands. Here too drug use increased rapidly.

1995- one cannabis user.

2010- 33,000 registered users of all kinds of drugs.

Slide #11 : Afghanistan has suffered a volcanic eruption in not only illegal cultivation and trafficking of cannabis and opium but in the number of drug users, some of whom are women and children. The ruthless attempts to destroy opium cultivation and opium use have failed and so drug users are being jailed.

There are nearly 1 million (age 15- 64) regular problem drug users (2008) in Afghanistan, which had a very high prevalence rate of 2.64% in 2008. Up from 1.4% in 2005.

From 2005 to 2008 regular opium users grew from 150,000 to approximately 230,000 ‐ a jump of 53%.

The numbers are even more alarming for heroin.

2005-> 50,000 heroin users.

2008-> 120,000 users. A giant leap of 140 per cent.

(Source- Second National Drug Survey of Afghanistan, 2009)

Afghanistan too jails drug users. 29% of prisoners are drug faithful. Only a few cultivators, minor couriers and one big trafficker have been jailed! Official connivance ensures that their choice of drugs is supplied in prison too. The rich traffickers own the most palatial buildings in Kabul. Even banks are scared of them.

About $1.2 billion is the farm gate price of opium of which 10% is swiped by insurgents, 20% goes to the poor cultivator, and 70% goes to the drug gangs, who make another $3 billion by smuggling heroin out.

Slide # 12: US led NATO’s response to increasing trafficking, illicit cultivation and drug use is to use more force. In the first half of this year 125,049 kgs of opium, hashish, heroin and morphine were seized. Considering the immense possibilities it is less than average. Billions of dollars continue to be wasted.
However, if drug users were out of their reach the performance of under staffed Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan would improve. Pakistani and Turkish criminal groups continue to get heroin into the EU with astonishing ease.

Slide #13: How did this appalling War begin? War on drug users is an old American practice. Soon after the First International Opium Convention was signed at The Hague on January 23, 1912 attack on drug users started in the US. Only producers and traffickers were mentioned but drug users became the targets.

This cutting from a newspaper of Feb, 1912 says it all.

This idea of showing no mercy to the weakest in the drug chain influenced the Single Convention of 1961 and the subsequent two. Such a move shows a high number of trouble free arrests, and if the rich criminals are free no headache from politicians and courts either.

President Nixon was merely continuing an American practice when he declared War on Drugs 41 years ago.

Slide # 14 : The 1961 Convention did mention drug use sympathetically in Article 30 (2) and sub clause b (i). Yet it ensured that for 51 years fire and brimstone were heaped on mainly the drug users.

Some Articles of the Conventions need changing. The so called experts were not expert enough for this task. Look at the impossibly optimistic Article 49. Yet the UN and its Friends are resisting change of even such false hopes, which are being kept alive beyond their expiry date.

Slide # 15: There is hope, though. Countries like Bolivia, Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland, broke away from slavishly following the Conventions, and humanized practices. They treated drug addiction as a health problem and not as a cardinal sin. They have contained addiction and HIV, and successfully targeted bigger criminals. Predictably, UNODC, and most of the world are scornful and skeptical of such innovations. Yet the future is here.

In this slide a patient is being given methadone at the de addiction facility of TAIPAS, in a Lisbon hospital.

Slide # 16: My last slide urges reform of some Articles of the Conventions. Policing, of which this picture is symbolic, has not worked. Drug users are “*patients needing help, not criminals needing to be locked away”. Enforcement alone is not the answer. A word about Financial Institutions- many are too big to touch and waist deep in the slush of high profits from narcotics criminality. It’s a topsy turvy world we live in.

*Page 23 of Drug Policy in Portugal by Arthur Domostawski and published by Open Society Foundations