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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

ever heard of this war in Australia - this day 88 years ago !!

How good were you as a student of History in Schools ~ WE read more about Battle of Plassey and Battles at Panipat ! – have never heard of this ‘war’ conducted this month, 88 years ago – down under !!

Military involvement was due to begin in Oct 1932.  The "war" was conducted under the command of Major G. P. W. Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, with Meredith commanding soldiers Sergeant S. McMurray and Gunner J. O'Halloran, armed with two Lewis guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition.  The operation was delayed, however, by a period of rainfall and started after the rains stopped in 2 November 1932 !

The emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is the second-largest living bird by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. It is endemic to Australia where it is the largest native bird and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. The emu's range covers most of mainland Australia, but the Tasmanian, Kangaroo Island and King Island subspecies became extinct after the European settlement of Australia in 1788.  Emus are soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds with long necks and legs, and can reach up to 1.9 metres (6.2 ft) in height. Emus can travel great distances, and when necessary can sprint at 50 km/h (31 mph); they forage for a variety of plants and insects, but have been known to go for weeks without eating.  

Is it a distinct trait of the State – to get lured by fast promises, put all their money and then cry hoarse when they are cheated ? -  Why don’t people realize that ‘you can never get any unrealistic % of yield in any business’ and that one should only do the business which is known to them or atleast the one which they can understand – and not leave things to others and then blame the others for not paying !  What else and how can people wait – almost a decade ago ! - they went in large numbers lured by the advertisements in Coimbatore, with no exception in Krishnagiri, Pollachi, Mettupalayam, Tirupur, Perundurai, Dharapuram and Salem – all dreaming it to be a viable option.  The farms and vacant lands were soon turned to Emu farms with security deposit and investment raised either from farm money or by loans at a high % of interest. ~ Public memory is so short that they perhaps have forgotten in 5 years.

Those were the days when people  from Agriculture, to Spinning and textile mills – all requiring knowledge and labour, got lured and ran after  Emu rearing believing it to be an easy paying option and shortly reality slapped them on face ..  the economies of scale also hurt – as reportedly the meat price came down heavily with more emu meat available in the market.  The oil processing and other industrial ventures would remain only in newspaper advertisements.  It was a bubble waiting to burst ! – people have invested in cine-field; finance companies termed as ‘blade companies’; multi-level marketing not selling any product but asking them to enlist more people in chain; and many other similar activities.

                                   It was the turn of thousands of  farmers, to get  lured by private firms – and they promptly lined up, queuing up to invest in emu farms in Salem and Erode in the hope of making a quick buck, investing life savings or borrowing money to start a business.   Within a few months, farmers started complaining that they were suffering losses and were being cheated. There had been  advertisements in television channels and newspapers  offering freebies and mentioning ‘rag to riches’ stories and people started investing without knowing ‘what Emu was’ and the ‘nuances of Emu farming’.  They got carried by empty prattles of some Firms offering the chicks and buying the same back at a higher price after a few months !!  - they believed that emus would grow big, inturn making them richer, which was not to happen……….  They got carried by the offer of Emu Farms,  demanding  Rs 1.5 lakh as deposits and the promised return of  Rs 6,000 per month for three years and – as a freebie,  a gold coin.     .. .. .. and more easily gullible with star actors who preach wisdom in their speeches endorsed this product.

In 2012 - in Perundurai, the emu hub, all 28 firms involved in the dubious business remained closed. Anxious investors were seen outside many of the closed firms with signed contracts, hoping to get some answers. More than 500 victims thronged the head office of Susi Emu Farms in the morning, shouting slogans demanding the return of their money. They raised slogans against the owner of the farm  and film personalities Sarath Kumar and Sathyaraj ( one TOI report erroneously named Bhagyaraj as one of the brand ambassadors), who promoted the business through television advertisements. The protestors blocked the road in front of the office. Police pacified the agitators, taking them to a marriage hall located nearby, so that they could register their complaints with them. :

It was rank foolishness on the part of people to have invested their hard earned money, without ever thinking ! – they say that got lured by advertisements.  Just as you have IPL heroes promoting all and sundry brands, you had cinema actors promoting Emu farms.  In a first of its kind case in Tamil Nadu, well known Tamil actors Sarathkumar and Sathyaraj, both brand ambassadors of Susi Emu Farms in Perundurai  reportedly were  booked on charges of “criminal conspiracy.” The film stars had appeared in advertisements endorsing the fancy schemes of the firm which has now been accused of defaulting several crore rupees due to thousands of depositors from various parts of the State.

Breeding takes place in May and June, and fighting among females for a mate is common. Females can mate several times and lay several clutches of eggs in one season. The male does the incubation; during this process he hardly eats or drinks and loses a significant amount of weight. The eggs hatch after around eight weeks, and the young are nurtured by their fathers. They reach full size after around six months, but can remain as a family unit until the next breeding season. The emu is an important cultural icon of Australia, appearing on the coat of arms and various coins. The bird features prominently in Indigenous Australian mythology.

The Emu War, also known as the Great Emu War, was a nuisance wildlife management military operation undertaken in Australia over the latter part of 1932 to address public concern over the number of emus said to be running amok in the Campion district of Western Australia. The unsuccessful attempts to curb the population of emus, a large flightless bird indigenous to Australia, employed soldiers armed with Lewis guns—leading the media to adopt the name "Emu War" when referring to the incident. While a number of the birds were killed, the emu population persisted and continued to cause crop destruction.

Following World War I, large numbers of discharged veterans who served in the war were given land by the Australian government to take up farming within Western Australia, often in agriculturally marginal areas. With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, these farmers were encouraged to increase their wheat crops, with the government promising—and failing to deliver—assistance in the form of subsidies. In spite of the recommendations and the promised subsidies, wheat prices continued to fall, and by October 1932 matters were becoming intense, with the farmers preparing to harvest the season's crop while simultaneously threatening to refuse to deliver the wheat.

The difficulties facing farmers were increased by the arrival of as many as 20,000 emus.  Emus regularly migrate after their breeding season, heading to the coast from the inland regions. With the cleared land and additional water supplies being made available for livestock by the Western Australian farmers, the emus found that the cultivated lands were good habitat, and they began to foray into farm territory—in particular the marginal farming land around Chandler and Walgoolan.

The emus consumed and spoiled the crops, as well as leaving large gaps in fences where rabbits could enter and cause further problems. Farmers relayed their concerns about the birds ravaging their crops, and a deputation of ex-soldiers were sent to meet with the Minister of Defence, Sir George Pearce. Having served in World War I, the soldier-settlers were well aware of the effectiveness of machine guns, and they requested their deployment. The minister readily agreed, although with conditions attached: the guns were to be used by military personnel, troop transport was to be financed by the Western Australian government, and the farmers would provide food, accommodation, and payment for the ammunition.  Pearce also supported the deployment on the grounds that the birds would make good target practice,   A cinematographer from Fox Movietone  too was enlisted.  

Despite the problems encountered with the cull, the farmers of the region once again requested military assistance in 1934, 1943, and 1948, only to be turned down by the government. Instead, the bounty system that had been instigated in 1923 was continued, and this proved to be effective: 57,034 bounties were claimed over a six-month period in 1934.  By December 1932, word of the Emu War had spread, reaching the United Kingdom. Some conservationists there protested the cull as "extermination of the rare emu". Dominic Serventy and Hubert Whittell, the eminent Australian ornithologists, described the "war" as "an attempt at the mass destruction of the birds".

The history of mankind has seen many wars between Nations, ethnics, some fratricidal too – but perhaps this war against flightless defenceless Emus was cruel to say the least ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
2nd Nov. 2020.

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