Category Archives: Books

Book review

Nature’s Disciple: An illuminating book by a forest and wildlife expert

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Anyone and everyone concerned even an iota about the protection and conservation of biodiversity, ecosystems, forest and wildlife should read “Nature’s Disciple”. It’s a pathbreaking and illuminating book by Suhas Kumar, who has retired as the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests from the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department.

This book is set in central Indian forests, largely in Madhya Pradesh-the torch bearer of wildlife management in our country that also has relevant reference to the forests of Vidarbha region of the neighbouring Maharashtra. The book has arrived as a breath of fresh air and candour at a time when some of the wild animals, specifically the leopards and tigers, in the present context are being viewed by the ill-informed and uncaring section of the society as inimical to the lives of people. While incidents of strife are usually reported from rural India, some of the urban sprawls that fail to rein in their poorly planned expansion across the existing forested tracts on their doorstep, which has been the case of the MP state capital Bhopal, are no exception.

While painting the lives of wild creatures with delicate strokes of an artist’s brush, the pages, without breaking stride, deal with men who have wrested as large slices of the natural areas as possible from being lost to the relentless march of development, encroachments, and other human activities. There are lessons in the highest levels of conservation leadership without hiding the soft belly of the onerous tasks.
There is narrative of large predators in trouble-leopards and tigers; of the local extinction of the large-hearted gentleman, the tiger-so christened by the redoubtable Jim Corbett-in Panna Tiger Reserve a decade ago and the tiger’s remarkable resurrection in the very same area. Of daring experiments, investigations, innovations, and establishment of field-based skills, all carried to their logical conclusion-success. The reader is placed right in the middle of the action! What is more, there is no hiding of problems and some failures.

Out of his 35 years in the Indian Forest Service, Suhas Kumar spent 23 years managing, supervising, and guiding the management and training the officers and staff of national parks, sanctuaries, and tiger reserves of the state.

Suhas Kumar was the Director of Pench National Park (now a tiger reserve) for almost five and a half years (April 1985 to August 1990) during its formative period. He headed the Wildlife Extension Faculty at Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, from December 1990 to April 1996 and contributed to the growth of the training capabilities of WIL In the field, he has been an initiator of several innovative measures that have contributed immensely to strengthen the management of wildlife in Madhya Pradesh. Some of his major contributions are the establishment of regional and divisional wildlife rescue squads, tiger strike force-a trained and equipped wildlife crime control set-up, and the school of wildlife forensic and health and the first non-invasive mass capture and relocation of hard ground barasingha. He had guided the scientific management of habitats, especially grasslands, and revamped and streamlined the MP tiger foundation society and Park development fund.

Suhas is a trained wildlife manager, a law graduate, and holds a Ph.D. in Environment and Ecology discipline in the field of ecotourism in protected areas. He has also acquired some knowledge and training in nature interpretation and ecotourism from the US, the UK, and Australia. Presently, he is a member of Chhattisgarh State Board for Wildlife, WWF-India’s State Advisory Board for Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and the Governing Body and Governing Council of National Centre for Human Settlement and Environment, Bhopal. He is also a member of the Delhi Biodiversity Society. Earlier, he had served as the chairman of the Research Advisory Committee of the M.P. State Biodiversity Development Board and member of Madhya Pradesh State Board for Wildlife for two terms. He was the chairman of one of the evaluation teams constituted by NTCA in 2017-18 for 13 tiger reserves of the country. His write-ups, research papers, and case studies have been published in books, magazines, newspapers, and web media. Wildlife Management, Ecotourism Planning, Participatory Forest Management, Wildlife Rescue, Wildlife Health, Wildlife Crime Investigation, and Interpretation & Conservation Education have been his areas of interest, and his contribution to each of these aspects has been uniquely useful.

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India and the goal of $ 5 Trillion Economy: Do we just sigh at the present status or do something about it?

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Dr Aruna (Limaye) Sharma’s latest book “Dancing towards the $ 5 Trillion Economy on a Holistics Beat” is dot on time, especially when global economies are grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and are busy reformatting themselves to take on the challenges that lie ahead.

This book, by a career bureaucrat, a 1982 batch IAS officer borne on the Madhya Pradesh Cadre, who has had a ring side view of how things shape and how policies are framed, crafted and implemented in a federal structure, first while serving Madhya Pradesh in various capacities and then as Union Secretary Steel and Information Technology, is an authentic treatise on the path that India should take to catapult itself into the position of primacy in the comity of nations.

Dr Aruna (Limaye) Sharma

The author begins on a note of optimism by asserting that the new economic balance  of  power, that we see today at the global level, has  given  the  country  a  chance  to  reclaim much  of  its  earlier  glory when  it  was  one  of  the  world‘s  richest  civilizations.

Book Review

Today, Dr Sharma observes, the vital  indicators  reflect  the  country‘s  potential  as  an  economic powerhouse. We  have  all  the  ingredients  of  a  resilient  society,  backed  by  strong  societal support  but  not  social  security,  a  conservative  economic  system  which  is  to  an  extent recession-proof  but  not  transparent,  and  a  great  talent  pool but  with  limited  opportunities for  nurturing  those  skills.  What  we  lack  is  the  right  approach  to  policy  making  and  the development  of  an  ecosystem  to  harness our  immense  potential. One  major  drawback  is  our  silo  approach  when  drafting  policies  for  a  sector.  This  has led  to  a  series  of  decisions  based  on  an  ad-hoc  system  of  governance. We  have  situations  where  laws  and  policies  are  made  more  to  address an  immediate  crisis rather than  through  a  holistic thinking  process.  We  see  a  lot  of  lag  between  the  pace  at which  new  business  models  emerge  and  the  response  from  the  Government,  which forms  policies  with  a  retrospective  outlook. Then there is also the knee-jerk  reactions  and  a  precedence-based approach. India‘s  position  as  the  most  lucrative  market  for  global  businesses  was  one  of  the  early signs  that  highlighted  its  potential  to  become  a  superpower.  This  prediction  was  based on  the  prowess  that  India  has  showcased  and  proven  in  terms  of the  ability of the country to  lead  the world  in  various  fields  such  as  manufacturing,  analytics,  education  systems,  innovation, engineering  and  its  diplomatic  outlook  (of  practicing  non-violence  and  not  being  an aggressor).

The author is forthcoming in stating that compared to most developed and industrialised nations, in  India, we have a situation where  starting  or  managing  a  business  is  hugely  dependent  on government  policies.  We  have  a  complex  administrative  process  to  be  followed  from opening  a  business,  to  setting  it  up  and  to  running  it. 

Based  on  this,  the  new Government  focused  on  Ease  of  Doing  Business  to  transform  its  role  to  that  of  an enabler.  Unfortunately,  the  results  have  not  been  encouraging  so  far, the author points out.

This  book  critically  evaluates  this  approach  and  its  pros  and  cons.   

While underscoring the  COVID-19  pandemic,  has further decelerated the  economic  growth  outlook, the author goes on to observe that it is  disastrous  since  India’s economy  was  already  on  a  downward  roll. What aggravates the situation more is the fact  that  the country’s biggest  asset,  the  youth,  is  likely  to  become  the biggest  liability as the number  of  graduates  and  the  job  opportunities  available  in  the country  are  massively  out  of  sync.  Government  came  up  with  some  solutions like Make  in  India,  StartUp  India  and  Skill India.  Most  graduates  looking  for  employment  were  encouraged  to  become entrepreneurs  and  promote  or  scale-up  frugal  innovation.  To  increase  jobs,  the Government  decided  to  promote  indigenous  production,  thereby  creating  more  jobs. Unemployment  and  illiteracy  were  also  addressed  through  Skill  India,  by  training  Indian youth  through  skill  development  which  was fully  sponsored  by  the  Government.   All  the  programmes  were  designed  to  address  the  key  problems  plaguing  India‘s  overall development  as  an  economic  superpower.  However,  the  underlying  policy  ecosystem on  which  these  programmes  and  schemes  were  based  remained  unchanged. 

Dr Sharma concludes by emphasising that it is time to take the bull by horns and make a paradigm shift to a holistic approach. The first challenge, according to her is to rein the sliding GDP and bring it back to the pre lockdown levels (which were not that great either). The next task is to stay on the upward curve to sustain the growth story of India‘s developing economy.

The challenge is huge. Figures given in the book to drive home the point are startling and enough to shake the nation out of every bit of complacency. In Quarter 1 of FY 1920-21 the GDP, as declared by NSO, is -23.9%. How long will it take us to get out out of woods? Dr Sharma asks.

Indicators of economic performance of July and August 2020 suggest we might have a contraction of about 12-15% in Q2 leading to India being officially in recession.

The powers cannot ignore the big question from the author: Do we just sigh at the status or do something about it?

Title: Dancing Towards the $ 5 Trillion Economy on a Holistics Beat, Price: Rs 1599

Author: Dr Aruna (Limaye) Sharma

Publisher: Indra Publishing House

Other Books and Papers by Dr Aruna (Limaye) Sharma

Resource Convergence Mantra Model (2008) and Impact of Recourse Resource Convergence in Policy Making Program Design and Execution (2014) released by UNDP. FAO has also published her work on food security. Her book U@Game Changer for Inclusive Growth for public representatives, has been bestseller and reference book for elected representatives. Her paper Post COVID Challenges: Need of UN to Metamorphose-Rediscover Its Priority and Functionalitiesis has been published by RIS Discussion Paper Series 261. Her article on The Samagra anti-poverty programme in Madhya Pradesh: Integrating household data, overcoming silo-problems and leaving nobody behind has been published in electronic version. It’s print version will come in Development Policy Review.

De-mystifying Indian Cricket’s Myths

Harpal Singh Bedi

MYTH-BUSTING: Indian Cricket Behind the Headlines

By Gulu Ezekiel

Price: Rs 295 

Rupa Publications 

There is a myth that Cricket in India  gained popularity after winning the 1983 World Cup as the victory  was directly  beamed to the drawing rooms of  millions of people back home and they felt elated and proud watching Kapil Dev and his men lording at Lords – venue of many a humiliating defeats in the past.  

This is not correct. Cricket has been immensely popular sport in the Sub-continent since 1930s mostly patronized by the Rajas and Nawabs and to some extent by the Britishers.   

After Independence Hockey was declared the National game and it did bring laurels to the country winning three Olympic-gold (!948,52,56) but surprisingly Cricket held its own among the masses despite Indian team’s dismal and often pathetic showing. 

It was indeed ironic to see more books and write up on Indian Cricket players and the team after every disastrous performance while very few if any books at that time came out glorifying Hockey or Football. We have books on and about the former cricketers who wrote about their exploits in domestic circuit and talked emotionally about the defeats they suffered at International level. 

Intriguingly every defeat against West Indies, England, Australia and even Pakistan brought more crowd to the stadiums. Instead of thinning support base, craze for cricket kept growing. 

Every defeat was laced with some myths and few and far victories in that era became a sort of folklore.  

“Cricket around the World is built on myths and Indian cricket is no different. These myths have been repeated ad nauseam over the years till they have come to be accepted as fact”, opines Gulu Ezekiel. 

To demolish these myths and de-glamourize some of the cricketing folklores, Gulu Ezekiel ambarked on a tough, unpopular and arduous journey and the result is the 232-page  book MYTH-BUSTING – Indian Cricket Behind The Headlines

Gulu is a veteran sports journalist but he Lives cricket. This is his 14th book and the second that I am reviewing. 

Reviewing a book written by a friend is a very tough job and on top of it if it is specifically related to cricket because 90 percent chances are that the writer and reviewer both have witnessed so much in common.  

I know Gulu for over two decades and having lavishly praised his previous co-authored book  Speed Merchant, I was apprehensive about this one. But the forward written by Anil Kumble made my job easier     

Kumble sums up the book nicely” Gulu’s attempt to demystify some of these myths of Indian cricket is unique and commendable. His desire to sift fact from fiction and the painstaking research that has clearly gone into the process is evident. Underneath the facts, stories and anecdotes, lies the desire to get rid of some of these existing myths and rumours, in order to   purify this beautiful game.”   

Myth Busting has several startling facts which so far have been camouflaged and one of them is about Ranji.

Ranji Trophy is now a part of Indian cricket’s folklore. The   hallowed tournament named after Shri Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji, Maharaja Jamsahab of Nawanagar aka Ranji has showcased domestic talent which took the sport in the country to its pinnacle.

In a chapter “Ranji.the legend and the myth” the author quotes first secretary of BCCI Anthony de Mello: “Ranji did absolutely nothing for Indian Sports and Sportsmen” 

In de Mello’s own words: “We approached Ranji with a request that Duleep (Sinhji) be encouraged to bring his cricket talents to the aid of India. To all our requests for aid, encouragement and advice, Ranji, gave but one answer; Duleep and I are English cricketers” 

To this Gulu writes, ‘India’s embracing of the legend and the man, even though he played his major cricket in England and had a hardened disdain for all things connected to Indian cricket, is not unique”.  

There are several myths which have been accepted because they are harmless and amusing. One of them being a imaginary quote attributed to Australian captain “mate you have just dropped the world cup” after his rival dropped a catch in that tournament. 

In India, Salim Durrani, the handsome allrounder was nicknamed the Sixer man who hit a Six whenever the crowd demanded or asked for it. This myth has been punctured by Guu pointing out that though the tall Pathan was a rare talent he hit only 15 sixes in 50 innings.  

Most of the cricket fans lament that because of a strike in BBC they could not watch Kapil Dev’s historic 175 against Zimbabwe in 1983 World Cup.  

Gulu effectively demolishes this myth proving that two other matches on that day Involving England/Pakistan and Australia/west Indies had live telecast. If there was a strike how come these two matches were shown?  

The author also has an answer, because India/Zimbabwe match was not a priority event for the BBC and both the teams were considered rank outsiders. After India’s stunning performance, this canard of strike was spread which became a myth and later accepted as a fact. 

There is detailed chapter on the Tied test titled “Chepauk’s Many Myths”. It is about the test match between India and Australia in 1986 played in what was then Madras.  

The author details the test proceedings with quotes from the players, media persons and umpires that are contradictory. He comes to the conclusion that the tied test after all was not that tied. But as it has been officially recignised as tied test number two, he ends it with a quote from opener K.Srikkanth: “Hay guys, forget the win, we have become part of history”. 

Gulu also challenges another myth that Bishan Bedi virtually surrendered the Test against West Indies by declaring when the team had lost five wickets for 97 at Sabina Park, Jamaica. He shows that there was nothing the skipper could do as other five players were injured and unfit to bat and the story that Indian captain declared in protest is false.         

MYTH-BUSTING is simply unputdownable. – Harpal Singh Bedi

The book is full of reality checks. It also contradicts Farokh Engineer’s assertion of scoring fastest test century from just 47 balls. The dashing wicket keeper batsman has also claimed that he had hit three boundaries off the first three balls he faced on his debut but that claim has also been proved wrong. 

“Engineer is not the first and certainly not the last among many famous sportspersons to embellish his own deeds with colourful stories that have entered cricket folklore and are accepted as gospel truth” (Page198) 

The book also covers Engineer’s sullen reaction after Abid Ali hit the winning run in that historic Oval test in 1971. The Wicketkeeper was on the other end on 28. He  had scored 59 in the first innings.  “Abid rushed out, got a top edge and voila, we were home and Abid was a hero, never mind how he got the run”.

Except that it was not a top edge, it was a square cut to the boundary and the video footage is freely available (page 206).   

There are several other intriguing myths perpetuated for decades – like “Mankading” which have been de-mystified by Gulu. The book also vividly recalls Indian cricket’s Grand Slam moments from June 1983 to March 1985. Details Kapil Dev’s era Before and After. Younger generations aggressiveness epitomized by Virat Kohli etc.

As Anil Kumble writes “The true hero of this book is Gulu” and he is absolutely correct.   

Myth – Busting is not any other cricket book. It is a well documented thesis that’s very absorbing funny and hilarious some time and and as it’s jacket proclaims it is a cricket connoisseur’s delight. 

Know the Anti-Nationals: Book by RSN Singh

Book Review

We live in an era of nation-states. Nationhood is predicated on shared sense of past and a common purpose of future. More than nation-state, India is a civilization, a complete civilization. To keep this civilization fresh and vibrant, winds from all directions are imperative for its nourishment. But, winds cannot be allowed to build into destructive storms, that threaten to uproot the civilization, the very basis of nationhood. Jihadism and Maoism are the two main destructive storms. Fueling these storms are India’s enemies as well as the forces of proselytization. They have to be crushed both at ideological and physical levels.

We have been squeamish in dealing with the problems because of the misplaced notion that all ideologies are basically benign and beneficial, they are not. 73 years of our post-independence experience is testimony. This misplaced notion has caused at least a lakh lives in Kashmir alone, resulting in ethnic cleansing of Hindus from the Valley by the jihadists.

Sardar Patel did crush the communist revolt in Telangana, but in the following years due to subversion of our political class, it grew into the ‘Red Corridor’, i.e. from Tirupati to Pashupati. These forces have to be vanquished to secure the internal or the third front.

The book ‘Know the Anti-Nationals’ authored by RSN Singh exposes these enemies within.

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