Friday, September 18, 2020

African wilddogs relocated to Mozambique


Mozambique   is a country located in Southern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini (Swaziland) and South Africa. The capital and largest city of Mozambique is Maputo formerly known as "Lourenço Marques".

Between the first and fifth centuries AD, Bantu-speaking peoples migrated to present-day Mozambique from farther north and west.  The voyage of Vasco da Gama in 1498 marked the arrival of the Portuguese, who began a gradual process of colonisation and settlement in 1505. After over four centuries of Portuguese rule, Mozambique gained independence in 1975, becoming the People's Republic of Mozambique shortly thereafter. After only two years of independence, the country descended into an intense and protracted civil war lasting from 1977 to 1992. In 1994, Mozambique held its first multiparty elections, and has since remained a relatively stable presidential republic, although it still faces a low-intensity insurgency.

For decades a forgotten corner of Mozambique, Cabo Delgado has now become the country’s El Dorado, promising billions in natural gas and gemstones but delivering its population only violence and displacement. An insurgency in the province now threatens to become further entrenched – 50,000 people have fled their homes since March and Mozambique’s neighbours are currently debating sending in regional forces to help defeat militants who seized a strategic port in the town of Mocímboa da Praia last month.

The fear is that such an action could alienate a population with serious grievances, despite the chaos caused by Isis-linked militant group Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamaa, known locally as al-Shabaab (though it has no links with the better-known Somalia-based Islamist militant group of the same name). Cabo Delgado has spent decades underdeveloped. Even past decade’s dual discoveries of $50bn (£38bn) worth of natural gas and rubies that sell for hundreds of millions of dollars brought only displacement and misery for local people. 

Those who have fled Cabo Delgado in the past six months take the total number of people displaced in the region to more than 200,000 (10% of its population) since 2017, when Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamaa launched an insurgency. More than 1,000 people have been killed in the past three years. The latest attacks have added to an already desperate situation for residents, still trying to recover from the destruction caused by last year’s Cyclone Kenneth. More than a fifth of people do not have enough food. Many are forced to seek shelter with relatives and stretch shared resources. Prices for fuel and staple foods such as rice and maize have increased. The fighting this year has seen many humanitarian groups withdraw from the region. Agencies say they can only access some of the worst areas by air, river or sea, and that rural areas have been all but abandoned because of Covid-19.  This is no post on civil strife in Mozambique but on transit of wild dogs to the place !   

Founded in 1998, The Bateleurs is a Non Profit Company (NPC), with over 200 volunteer pilots and aircraft. It provides its beneficiaries and the public with an aerial perspective of the environment and has coordinated several, diverse missions, throughout South Africa and Africa, in support of environmental issues.

The African wild dog is known by many names, including Cape hunting dog or painted dog. Its scientific name, Lycaon pictus, means “painted wolf,” referring to the animal's irregular, mottled coat, which features patches of red, black, brown, white, and yellow fur. Each animal has its own unique coat pattern, and all have big, rounded ears. These long-legged canines have only four toes per foot, unlike other dogs, which have five toes on their forefeet.  It is the largest indigenous canine in Africa, and the only extant member of the genus Lycaon.  ,  It is estimated that about 6,600 adults including 1,400 mature individuals live in 39 subpopulations that are all threatened by habitat fragmentation, human persecution and outbreaks of diseases. The African wild dog is a highly social animal, living in packs with separate dominance hierarchies for males and females. Uniquely among social carnivores, the females rather than the males disperse from the natal pack once sexually mature.   The species is a specialised diurnal hunter of antelopes, which it catches by chasing them to exhaustion.  

In a post titled ‘let sleeping dogs fly!’ MailOnline featured a story in Nov 2019 on a pack of 15 African wild dogs sleep on plane as they are flown 1,000 miles from South Africa to a new life in Mozambique.  Pilot Raymond Steyn flew 15 African wild dogs to their new life in Mozambique in a light aircraft in a mission of Two charities - The Bateleurs and the Endangered Wildlife Trust – which  hope the dogs will breed in Mozambique

The Mozambican Civil War from 1977 to 1992 wiped out over 70 per cent of the country's animal population.  The charities have transported 60 wild dogs between countries with a '100 per cent safety and success rate'.  This time it was pack of 15 African wild dogs  which slept through a 1,000 mile journey from South Africa to their new life in Mozambique,  lined up neatly next to one another, the family of canines were ideal passengers for the seven-hour journey.   The plane flew the dogs over 1,000 miles from South Africa in the hope of repopulating an animal population decimated by Mozambique's   civil war.   All of them, flown by volunteer pilot Raymond Steyn, made it safely to their new home in Gorongosa National Park, in Mozambique.

The dogs are helping to re-establish a population wiped out during the 1977-1992 civil war, and it's hoped the pack will help boost numbers of just over 6,000 animals across the whole of Africa. Zelda de Keijzer, from The Bateleurs, said there was a strong UK connection with the relocation, thanks to vital support from the Tusk Trust and Rufford Foundation.   Mozambique, with the abundance of plant-eaters in the country, the land is rich for carnivores to return to.  Before being released all the dogs were vaccinated and fitted with VHF and GPS collars to enable them to be monitored.  The Gorongosa National Park has been at the centre of conservation for Mozambique with both the government and the Carr Foundation helping restore the area.  Since 1998 over 200 pilots have flown for The Bateleurs in more than 600 missions in 10 different countries for over 150 beneficiary organisations.

When a volunteer went to   Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park as part of an ambitious wildlife restoration effort, she was happy that  Beira, the alpha female of the pack, had been pregnant when the dogs were set free. She knew that the closely bonded and highly endangered apex predators had dug a maternity den for their queen, and that Beira had spent a lot of time down there — until one day, she didn’t. She and the pack had moved on. As Ms. Bouley was crouching by the abandoned den and peering into the hole, she met the likely answer. A giant African rock python — the continent’s largest species of snake — dropped from a nearby tree, stared her in the face and then slithered off. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


Thursday, September 17, 2020

another statue pulled down - heard of - ‘encomienda’; ‘Conquistadors’.


Another statue falls down – another one bites the dust. A casual browsing of today’s occurrence introduced me to Popayan city, and hitherto unheard words – ‘encomienda’; ‘Conquistadors’.

Popayán  is the capital of the Colombian department of Cauca. It is located in southwestern Colombia between the Western Mountain Range and Central Mountain Range. The town is well known for its colonial architecture and its contributions to Colombian cultural and political life. It is also known as the "white city" due to the color of most of the colonial buildings in the city center.   The University of Cauca (est. 1827), one of Colombia's oldest and most distinguished institutions of higher education, is located here.   Much of the city's original splendor was destroyed on 31 March 1983, when an earthquake toppled many buildings. Though many were rebuilt and repaired, the heart of the city still has ruins and empty lots.

The encomienda was a Spanish labor system that rewarded conquerors with the labor of particular groups of conquered non-Christian people. The laborers, in theory, were provided with benefits by the conquerors for whom they labored, the Catholic religion being a principal benefit. The encomienda was first established in Spain following the Christian conquest of Moorish territories (known to Christians as the Reconquista), and it was applied on a much larger scale during the Spanish colonization of the Americas and the Spanish Philippines. Conquered peoples were considered vassals of the Spanish monarch. The Crown awarded an encomienda as a grant to a particular individual. In the conquest era of the sixteenth century, the grants were considered to be a monopoly on the labor of particular groups of indigenous peoples, held in perpetuity by the grant holder, called the encomendero, and his or her descendants.

Conquistadors (from Spanish and Portuguese for 'conqueror') were the knights, soldiers and explorers of the Spanish and the Portuguese Empire.  During the Age of Discovery, conquistadors sailed beyond Europe to the Americas, Oceania, Africa, and Asia, conquering territory and opening trade routes. They colonized much of the world for Spain and Portugal in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. After arrival in the West Indies in 1492, the Spanish, primarily nobles from the west and south of Spain, began building an American empire in the Caribbean using islands such as Hispaniola, Cuba, and Puerto Rico as bases.   In Colombia, Bolivia, and Argentina conquistadors from Peru linked up with other conquistadors arriving more directly from the Caribbean and Río de la Plata-Paraguay respectively. All these conquests founded the basis for modern Hispanic America and the Hispanophone.

Sebastián de Belalcázar (1480 – 1551) was a Spanish conquistador. De Belalcázar, is known as the founder of important early colonial cities in the northwestern part of South America; Quito in 1534 and Cali, Pasto and Popayán in 1537. De Belalcázar led expeditions in present-day Ecuador and Colombia and died of natural causes after being sentenced to death in Cartagena, at the Caribbean coast in 1551.

He was born Sebastián Moyano in the province of Córdoba, Spain,   took the name Belalcázar as that was the name of the castle-town near to his birthplace in Córdoba.   According to various sources, he may have left for the New World with Christopher Columbus as early as 1498, but Juan de Castellanos wrote that he killed a mule in 1507, and fled Spain for the West Indies due to fear of punishment, and as a chance to escape the poverty in which he lived. He was an encomendero in Panama in 1522. He entered Nicaragua with Francisco Hernández de Córdoba in 1524 during the conquest of Nicaragua, and became the first mayor of the city of León in Nicaragua. He remained there until 1527, when he left for Honduras as a result of internal disputes among the Spanish governors.  

His battles, though, were not entirely honourable. At a village called Quinche near Puritaco, he found that all the men were away fighting with the national army. To make an example of these people (and to vent his frustration at finding so little treasure), he ordered all the women and children to be slaughtered. 'A feeble excuse to justify cruelty unworthy of a Castilian', was the verdict of Herrera, the official Chronicler of the Conquest, to Belalcázar's excuse that this was done to terrify other natives into returning to their homes. In 1546, he ordered the execution of Jorge Robledo, who governed a neighboring province in yet another land-related vendetta. He was put to trial in absentia in 1550, convicted and condemned to death for the death of Robledo, and other offenses pertaining to his constant involvement in the various wars between other conquistadors. A victim of his own ambition, he died in 1551 before he could begin the voyage back to Spain to appeal the decision, in Cartagena, Colombia.

Now comes the news that indigenous protesters in Colombia have toppled a statue of Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar in the south-western city of Popayán. Police looked on as members of the Misak community used ropes to tear down the equestrian figure of de Belalcázar, who founded the city in 1537. Indigenous leaders said he represented five centuries of genocide and slavery. Popayán's mayor said it was an act of violence against a symbol of a multicultural city. The Misak community blames the conquistador for the killings of their ancestors and land grabbing. The toppling of statues associated with slavery and colonialism has been a prominent feature of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US and Europe.

History getting re-written !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Welcome back .. .. SEcond Spell Sreesanth

Jacques Kallis, the man who scored 13289 test runs and 11579 runs in ODI all at sea, against an Indian pacer’s bouncer – imagine who ? 

Supreme Court of India’s judgment in 2019 started thus – ‘the  sports occupy a prominent place in life of a man/woman and also in the life of a nation. It not only gives physical or moral strength to a personality but spread the message of goodwill and friendship. In the 21st Century the countries have come closer and nearer to each other and sports have become a medium of bonds’.

A famous Cricketer had gone on appeal against BCCI for on the morning of 16th  May, 2013, his life changed – it was widely reported in the media that the Delhi Police, Special Cell had arrested 3 cricketers (this player who had represented India alongside 2 other IPL players)  of having indulged in spot fixing during certain matches of Rajasthan Royals and  allegedly in the company of one Mr. Jiju Janardhan who according to Delhi Police is a  bookie.  Thus, life changed for the worse for the man who was a Cricket Quiz Q earlier -  who is the only Kerala bowler to have taken a Ranji Trophy hat-trick ? His rise, though, was rapid, and since he played for a weak side, unnoticed. Not too many bowlers get selected for the Duleep Trophy in their first season, like he  did in 2002-03 after snapping up 22 wickets in his first seven games.

He donned India Cap no. 253 and debuted in Test 1785 against England at Nagpur in Mar 2006 debuting alongside :  Sir Alastair Cook, Ian Blackwell, & Monty Panesar.  Just to add some spice – India Cap 250 Dinesh Karthik, 251 – illustrious MS Dhoni; 252 Rudra Pratap Singh; 253 ____ ; 254 Piyush Chawla; 255 Munaf Musa Patel; 256 Vikram Raj Vir Singh; 257 Ramesh Power; 258 Ishant Sharma; 259 Amit Mishra; 260 Murali Vijay – the man Santhakumaran Sreesanth.

Now at 37 +  India fast bowler Sreesanth has vowed to make a return to competitive cricket now that his ban in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal is over. On their part, the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA), Sreesanth's home association, is happy to bring him back into the fold for the upcoming domestic season should he prove his form and fitness. "Sreesanth has shown the keenness to play by training hard and keeping himself fit," Kerala coach Tinu Yohannan told ESPNcricinfo. "We've been in touch [with him]. We will consider him, but it will depend on his form and fitness. But the door is open."

Initially banned for life, Sreesanth's sentence was downgraded to seven years by BCCI ombudsman Justice (retd) DK Jain in August 2019. At the time, Jain had received a directive from the Supreme Court of India to reconsider the ban given Sreesanth had already served six years of the ban and because his "prime years" as a fast bowler were nearly over. Since lockdown was lifted partially in June, Sreesanth has been training with members of the Kerala Under-23 team and a few senior players at a KCA facility in Ernakulam. "After a long wait, I can play again but there is no place in the country to play now," Sreesanth told Times of India on Monday. "I even planned to organise a local tournament in Kochi this week so that I could step out onto the field, but decided against it looking at the risks involved, as the number of coronavirus cases in Kerala are increasing."

Even as he plots a comeback, Sreesanth is realistic about where he stands with respect to competitive cricket. "From last May, I have put my heart and soul into training," he said. "So when I read about domestic season being a non-starter, I was shattered. "I even thought of quitting the game but thought I wouldn't be doing justice to myself as all the efforts I've made to play the game would have gone down the drain. If the domestic season in India is cancelled, I will have to look at other options. If there is no cricket here, I might as well request the BCCI to allow me to play abroad."

On that fateful day in May 26, 2013, Sreesanth - along with Rajasthan Royals team-mates Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan - were arrested by Delhi Police for fraud and cheating in IPL 2013. The three were allegedly promised money ranging from US$36,000 to 109,000 for each fix. Eleven bookies were arrested too. The BCCI suspended the three players, pending enquiry. A few days later, the Royals franchise suspended their contracts.  In 2015, a Delhi trial court dropped charges against Sreesanth, Chavan and Chandila in the matter. However, the decision had no bearing on the life bans imposed by the BCCI.  In 2017  BCCI denied  Sreesanth permission to play in Scotland, after the fast bowler asked for a no-objection certificate to turn out for Glenrothes CC.

Latter he filed a writ petition in Kerala High Court challenging his ban. Kerala High Court ordered  the BCCI to lift the life ban on Sreesanth, observing that the board's refusal to do so is a "violation of natural justice".

Later he filed an appeal before the Supreme Court of India against his ban.  The Court observed - Cricket, it is said, is a synonym for gentlemanliness which means discipline, fair play, modest and high standard of morality. The ever increasing interest in the game of Cricket in our country has raised issues of its regulation, control and management. In our country the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), a registered Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, exercises sufficient control on all aspects of game of Cricket and has framed various Code of Conduct for all who are associated with it.

Before the Apex Court, Sreesanth contended that - as regards conceding of 14 runs I may respectfully point out there was no guarantee that the Captain will ask me to bowl in a particular over and if so, depending on the field, the pitch, batsman etc. the bowler will have to bowl. It may be stated here that my bowling is considered pace bowling estimated at an average of 135 kms. per hour and there is no guarantee for a bowler regarding the runs he is likely to concede unless deliberately either a no ball or wide is bowled. Conceding runs therefore, cannot be manipulated as alleged. There is no allegation that in the concerned second over any wide or no ball was bowled.

That year (2019) came his relief as the Supreme Court   "set aside" the life ban imposed on him by the BCCI for his alleged role in the 2013 IPL corruption and spot-fixing scandal. The apex court of the country  asked the BCCI to "reconsider" and "revisit" the length of any fresh ban, "preferably" within three months. By that BCCI had a  new constitution (registered in August 2018), all the duties earlier discharged by the disciplinary committee, made up of BCCI officials, were being  performed by the ombudsman and, Sreesanth's fate was to be decided  by Justice (retd) DK Jain.

So 6 years after the arrest, Sreesanth breathed a little easier as  BCCI ombudsman Justice (retd) DK Jain reduced his IPL 2013 spot-fixing ban to seven years, the sanction period now ending on September 13, 2020.  

Statistically, Sreesanth India represented India in 27 Tests taking 87 wickets and 75 wickets in 53 ODIs; he played 10 T20Is too, recall that on 24.9.2007 – he took the catch of Misbah Ul Haq off Joginder Sharma – the finals of T20 WC inaugural Cup. It is unlikely that he would represent India again and add anything to his tally.  He would be remembered as a cheerful enthusiastic genuine quickie playing for the Nation from a State that is not considered when it comes to national reckoning – the state of Kerala.

Welcome back – Second Innings Sreesanth - #SreesanthSecondSpell  @sreesanth36

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Pollution - Vehicles on Road - PUC - Mandatory declaration while taking Insurance !!


Dear (s) 

As you drive on road, sometimes vehicles whizz past leaving a trail of black thick smoke and others blame the vehicle for polluting the road.  Pollution is everyone’s concern.  One of the impact of Covid imposed lockdown was – lesser no. of vehicles on road, and hence lesser emission of CO2 and other chemicals – people in cities too were breathing easy and good air at that. 

In the Insuring Sector, there is some buzz as Insurers from 15.9.2020 have started insisting on a declaration that the vehicle carries valid PUC ! [Pollution under Control Certificate]- or else there would be no insurance coverage.   All  Motor Proposal forms and Cover notes and all digital formats of all Insurers contain the PUC declaration now.    Like the license agreements on Computers, which will not allow us to proceed without marking Agree / yes to the said terms – proposer will have to say yes, lest it will not proceed further.

This mandatory declaration of having valid PUC would become applicable for  renewals / roll overs, applicable for all classes of vehicles including Two wheelers. Interestingly this would be applicable for Third Party policies as well.  Given our tendency to say yes for proceeding, what will happen,   if someone misdeclares Yes (when PUC is not available) is not answered now.

These instructions refer back to  IRDA Circular No IRDA/NL/MISC/104/07/2018  (yes 2018) regarding mandatory capturing of the PUC (Pollution Under Control) declaration in Motor Proposals.  The IRDA circular of July 2018  takes reference to Supreme Court order of 10.8.2017 Writ petition 13029/1985 in MC Mehta Vs Union of India wherein the Hon’ble court directed the Insurers not to insure vehicle unless it has a valid PUC certificate on the renewal of Insurance Policy.  IRDA had directed compliance of the instructions.

Now here is something on why it was necessitated :   With the impending danger of global warming and to effectively reduce the amount of pollution in the air, the Government of India  mandated that every vehicle - commercial and private - has a pollution under control (PUC) certificate. The pollution under control (PUC) certificate is one which shows whether the vehicle is under the prescribed standards with regard to emissions. Apart from this, the PUC certificate has been made mandatory as per the Central Motor Vehicle Rule, 1989. Only if the emissions from the vehicle are below the prescribed norms which are deemed as legal, will the vehicle owner be allowed to use the vehicle on the roads of India. The emission test which checks the carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon levels of the emitted fumes can be carried out at any petrol bunk that is certified to carry out the test.

A PUC certificate will contain the following information:
        The certificate’s serial number
        The registration number of the vehicle
        The date of PUC testing
        The PUC certificates date of expiry
        The PUC readings from the test 

As per the Motor Vehicle Act, like a motor insurance policy, registration certificate, and driving license, a PUC certificate is now mandatory to carry while driving.

With the rapid increase in the number of vehicles, the problem of automobile pollution has assumed greater significance. Since the emission of smoke from motor vehicles is a major source of air pollution, specific standards for the permissible limits for such emission have been prescribed in the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 and Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989. All vehicles which are in operation for more than a year should undergo emission tests every six months.

The Government has authorized 248 Private Emission Testing Centers throughout Tamil Nadu as per rule 116(B) of Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Rules 1989 and has made it mandatory that at the time of every transaction with Regional Transport Offices, certificate of Pollution Under Control will be checked.

Having a PUC Certificate is required by the Government of India by the Motor Vehicle Act of 1988. If your vehicle does not have a valid certificate, you will be liable for a Rs 1000 fine (and it’s Rs. 2000 for every subsequent offense!)

Moving away in social media (including many  WA groups) there was some panic based on a viral claim that if PUC is not valid, Insurers will not settle OD claim in the Policy.    While IRDA in their 2018 categorically directed Insurance Companies to comply with the direction of Honble Supreme Court – it also clarified on 26.8.2020 by a statement in their Web that  - the reports in media was misleading and clarified that   not holding a valid PUC certificate is not a valid reason for denying any claim under a motor insurance policy.

Hope my understanding is right and is of some help to Underwriters in getting clarity on the circular and on what they need to do on this.

In case someone is interested in reading further – here is a gist of Supreme Court order of 10.8.2017.. .. .. This was a writ petition filed by MC Mehta against Union of India and was represented by high profile counsel Harish N Salve for the petitioner among others.  In their affidavit the Ministry brought out a chart of the recommendations which included exploring the Petrol stations on how they are equipped to explore the PUC and furnish certificate after servicing a vehicle. Honble Court further directed ensuring linkage of renewal of insurance with availability of PUC.  The instruction that Insurers should not provide insurance coverage to a vehicle  unless it has a   valid PUC certificate.  Ministry of Road Transport expressed the view that linkage of PUC centres with VAHAN database and other enforcement measures, compliance of PUC by motor vehicle owners will improve considerably. (Only insurance related portion reproduced)

With regards – S. Sampathkumar