In olden days, the area or land used for agriculture was high and the population it feed was less. Our forefathers used only the 'muck' as fertilizers and have enjoyed a healthy life by consuming a healthy food of quality and quantity. Muck is nothing but the moist farmyard dung or soil containing decaying plants, vegetables etc. or manure. Those days there were no fertilizers, pesticides, growth inducers or promoters to avoid pests or to increase the crop yield. Though, we have to accept the truth that our previous generations were healthy than what we are now, after modern science and technologies with introduction of new chemicals to kill insect pests and promoters for fast crop growths. The present system of agriculture has achieved an increased yield compared to older farming practices. But, the chemicals that we use for the crops not only affect the health of consumers (we) but also destroys the nature of the soil forever. Sometimes, over use of pesticides poison the land and nothing else will grow thereafter. So, what we can do to avoid this chemical accumulation in soil ? 1. Analyse your soil nutrients that is of less cost, so you will come to know which nutrient is deficient in your soil. 2. Do not go for repeated cultivation of same crops. For example., If you cultivate paddy in your field, once you harvest, sow some cereals and other pulses that are nitrogen-fixing crops. Crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure and will improve your soil structure and fertility of the soil. 3. Go for organic methods of soil enrichment such as muck-spreading. They are actually cheap than any other growth promoters available in the form of chemicals in market. It even have the power to rejuvenate the soils destroyed by chemical intensive agricultural practices. 4. A recent and widely used method in organic farming is the soil re-mineralisation using finely crushed rocks (rock dust) that contain minerals and trace elements. The rock dusts are rich in silicon, potassium, sulfur, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, copper, cobalt and other necessary elements for soil enrichment and crop growth. Appropriate use of these methods will certainly give fruitful results in quality crop production as well save our earth from chemical pollutants. 

Contributed by: Dr. J. Benjamin Franklin, Scientist, NIOT, Port Blair.

Pest control is one of the major problem in agriculture. Pesticides are widely used chemicals in the world for more than half a century to control the pests or insects that prevent the crops and on the other hand destroy, repel or mitigate any pests. Insects not only kill the crops but also sometimes humans by acting as a disease carrying agent. However, during the past decade, the use of chemicals increased steadily in the developing countries to enhance food production and to control vector-borne diseases. Although the use of most of the pesticides such as technical DDT and HCH were banned worldwide, illicit use of these chemicals still exist among few farmers and also regionally. In addition, the accumulation of these chemicals in the earth remain for a long-term, polluting the top soil. DDT is a well known, persistent and highly lipid soluble organochlorine pesticide. It was widely used to fight insect-borne diseases like malaria until legislative restrictions were imposed following the manifestation of ecological impairment. The low chemical and biological degradation, lipophilic nature and hydrophobicity have led DDT to accumulate into the biological tissues. In 1996, the World Health Organisation (WHO) assessed the acceptable daily intake for DDT from number of countries and found India as a largest consumers of DDT in terms of daily intake. In India, DDT has been used to control malaria since 1946. Due to awareness towards environment, measures were taken to control the use of this pesticide. The DDT applied for agriculture, not only accumulates into the sediment, but also contaminates water resources and through bio-chain it gets more concentrated (bio-magnification) and finally reaches humans. Especially, the coastal marine environment receives considerable input of DDT from various anthropogenic sources such as direct discharges or indirectly from river flows, runoff, as well as from long-distance transport through the atmosphere. The pesticides that reaches ponds, rivers, coastal oceans due to rain and runoffs affects the egg and sperm development, accumulates, initiates mutations in animals living in the aquatic environment. The concentration of DDT has significantly reduced after the ban on use of it in the year 1970, although it still remains as various of the environment such as air, sediments, fish and mammals and becomes a threat to human health. In humans, it is stored in the body fat and is excreted in the milk and reaches the infants from the time of birth. As, DDT persists for a long time in the community, the fear on adverse effects in future generations, metabolism and growth also exists. In India, we expect the day of real ban on the use of such chemicals like DDT. The use of such chemicals not only diminish the quality of the product but also the health of ours and future generations.

Contributed by: Dr. Arockiya Vasanthi, Scientist, NIOT.

Sounds funny, does it? But these plaintive cries (nay wails) are reverberating in every nook and corner of Lucknow these days, whose citizens are going to elect their mayor and 110 corporators on June 23, 2012. As per newspaper reports, the city is divided into six zones and 110 wards. 10% (11) of these wards are reserved for scheduled castes (SC). Of this, 4 are reserved for women belonging to SC category. Similarly, out of the 22 wards of the city reserved for other backward castes (OBCs), in 8 of them only female OBC candidates can contest the local bodies' election. Another 25 wards are reserved solely for women candidates to test their political acumen. Thus, in effect, a total of 37 seats are reserved for women.

Almost all of the women candidates in the election fray are united in their efforts to project themselves as someone’s wife, mother or sister. Their campaign slogans as well as posters unashamedly announce/ portray their male protectors’ identity. Going by these posters it would appear as if it is illegal for an un-chaperoned woman to contest elections. One is tempted to believe that the election commission has made it mandatory for all candidates to mention the names of their spouses too. But then I search in vain for the poster of a male candidate meekly acknowledging that he is so and so’s husband, but cannot find any.  So it seems that men are trying to grab elections seats reserved for females by shamelessly putting up proxy candidates in the garb of their wives, who readily accepting to become the sacrificial goat. I wonder if this situation is endemic to the city of nawabs or a general malaise spread across the state of Uttar Pradesh.

What sort of expectations can one have from these women leaders who do not even have the courage to uphold their own identity, let alone exercise their rights? It is indeed a mockery of the entire process of reserving seats for this under privileged section of society, when all that it has done is to make them puppets whose strings are controlled by their husbands. The town is pasted red with posters and hoardings showing a demure female alongside a forbidding looking male. What a grotesque travesty of our democracy!

It is sad to see all talks and action on gender equality go down the drain, and there seems no point of reserving seats for women, if women candidates have to have the names and photos of their husbands alongside theirs in election propaganda. To me it is a pathetic situation which makes a mockery of all our efforts aimed at wresting equal rights for women. Women themselves are basking under the patriarchal veil of society which is suffocating them and depriving them of the live giving winds of change sweeping across the world.

Women apart, the city of Lucknow these days is working itself up to a state of lunatic frenzy as the date of municipal corporation elections draws near. The maddening cacophony has overshadowed even the last assembly polls campaigning. In total violation of the election code of conduct, posters and handbills are finding their way to every nook and corner of any conceivable space, including boundary walls of houses, pillars, gates and even wind shields of parked cars. Even the authorities seem to be unable in enforcing the regulations strictly—whether it is the blatant pasting of posters and/or over exceeding the time limit of use of blaring loudspeakers by the contestants for selling their wares of false promises.

When I expressed my resentment to one of candidates for pasting his name’s graffiti on my residence wall, he said that it was his well-wishers who were doing it despite his instructions to the contrary. Well, this is hardly a plausible excuse. It is these so called well-wishers/fans who create a situation like the emperor’s new clothes (for the uninitiated this a short story by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who swindle an Emperor by promising to make a new dress for him that is invisible to those who are stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades naked before his sycophant subjects in his new invisible clothes, each one tries to outdo the others in praising his attire, till a child, in all his innocence, cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!"). This breed of well-wishers, along with the clones of the emperor, still roam the streets of a democracy (or is it sycophancy) called India.

It is good to see that the government has put up big posters at vantage points of the city, urging the citizens to exercise their franchise. But it would have been better to display in public the rules of code of conduct, so that the public is at least made aware of the existing norms, and the candidates, along with their supporters, do not get any chance to hide behind the veil of ignorance. If only the flouting of any election norm by the candidates (or their supporters) would immediately disqualify them from standing for elections, then it would surely instil some sense of moral discipline in them, and the flock of their ignorant well-wishers would vanish.

It is high time women realized that their marital status has got nothing to do with their ability to govern. If at all, it has got to do everything with their disability to not govern. So all ye girls out there, it is high time to throw away the crutches of your husband’s name and status and stand on your own two feet. Else you will forever remain lame and never be able to walk straight. Amen! (CNS)

Shobha Shukla – CNS


Deposits for Drinks in One-Way Drinks Packaging's

We Indians follow the British or Europeans in few aspects like using their dress code that doesn't suit our climate or western style of living that ruin our tradition. However, we never obtain or follow certain excellent stuff they do. Only in the past few years we realized that dumping of  plastic wastes will spoil our own ground.  Although, the Indian government struggle to prevent soil ecological pollution, we do not have a systematic scheme or policy from our own ground to succeed. The government says no to plastic bags, what is the alternate they provide?. Is it a paper bag as it is biodegradable? do they want to cut all the trees to make paper bags to escape from pollution by plastics in the soil? or the alternate cloth bags that has no ability to hold fluid items (but these bags could be used for other shopping purpose). Although we ban plastic carry bags, still lot of plastic materials as food and beverage empty packages are thrown every day into the trash. In Europe, a systematic scheme called "Compulsory Deposit" governed by 'Deutsche Pfand System GmbH' is organized from 2003 for the collection and deposit clearing of compulsory-deposit of one-way drinks packaging's. The DPG Deposit Scheme supports retailers and drink industry to fulfill the legal requirements of its nation. In these 9 years period they have developed this scheme into a perfect system by making many amendments. This system also mentions about which drink contents in which one-way drinks packaging require a compulsory deposit. They have classified the drinks in to four as 1. Soft drinks (carbonated & non-carbonated), 2. Beer bottles, 3. Mixed alcoholic drinks and 4. Water bottles (carbonated and non-carbonated). Retailers offering only non-reusable drinks packaging's are entitled to draw the attention of their customers to the fact that they do not collect reusable drinks packaging's or drink crates. Non-reusable drinks packaging's made of those types of materials such as glass, plastic, metals, PPK  in the range should be recollected by the retailer regardless to the fact whether it has been sold by him or by his competitor and to refund a small amount for the deposit. In Germany, the reverse vending machines that accepts used beverage containers and returns money to the users were installed in all departmental stores and nowadays we can also see in the road sides of Europe, Japan and many other developed countries in addition to dust bins. People while going for purchase they use to take all empty or used cans to let it recycle also get money for the cans that could be used for their purchase. The mechanism of the reverse vending machine is, when it receives the bottle, it scans, identifies and process it by crushing it to avoid liquid spillage and to increase storage capacity. In India, we do have a scheme in the same name as 'Compulsory Deposit Scheme' (22nd May, Act, 1963) not for the cause of secure environment but to develop nations economy from tax payers. We could also develop such well planned system to keep our environment clean. As a settlers or people living in this pristine Islands, we have less space than our main land to dump non-degradable materials. If you go around our coast during high tide you can see thousands of empty bottles floating on the shore side. Also, in the beach, you can see the broken glasses of alcoholic bottles that could hurt beach walkers or create a feel of discomfort to foreigners and tourists. Especially these broken glasses tear the foot of the children playing in beaches. Practically speaking even if you teach people for a long-term about pollution and the effects of pollution due to dumping of non-degradable materials in the land, they will never stop doing that. But when it is legalized by a organizational framework of the Government, along with a small reward for every deposit, certainly  the mind of people will change and they will keep the environment clean. In India, Bisleri International Pvt Ltd and Inorbit Mall were the first to start a PET bottle collection center in Inorbit Mall,  Vashi, NavyMumbai on 14th February, 2012. That event has also marked the inauguration of India’s first ever plastic bottle recycling machine for the consumers. This kind of initiative by the Government itself will intend to provide an opportunity for the people to recycle PET bottles and be conscious of recycling and ecological sustainability.

Contributed by Dr. J. Benjamin Franklin, Scientist, NIOT


Seashell collectors, snorkelers and scuba divers do not understand the risk while touching or collecting few marine animals on shore or in shallow waters.

Generally, people think that snails are slow-moving creatures or a tasty food and they do not harm or have strength to hurt human.

But, one family of snails have the speed and deadliness of a tricky fighter-the cone snails.

Cone snails are cone-shaped with beautiful colored outer shell. In Andaman and Nicobar Islands 51 species of cone snails are reported till now.  All of them are venomous and few are deadly.

Maximum population of these snails occurs from the shore to shallow inter-tidal region.

Cone snails have a venom gland and hollow needle like tooth to hunt its food.  It shoots the venom filled tooth aiming its prey that is similar to a handgun mechanism. As soon as the needle hits the prey it becomes immobile.

Some species have also killed many amateur sea shell collectors and divers who have carelessly handled these snails.

The venom is a neuro-toxin and affects the nervous system within seconds. Symptoms shows strong pain followed by paralysis and respiratory and cardiac failure.

Species like Conus geographus that are present in Andaman and Nicobar waters could kill a human in 5 minutes. Till now there is no anti-venom.

So, children in this summer vacation, when you play on sea shores avoid picking cone snails. Sea shell collectors and divers be careful in collecting this beautiful cone snails. Pick up the snails only by the broad end. The ancestors of local fisher folk use to advise their generations to shake-well a sea shell when you pick so, it cannot quickly hurt you due to instant stress.

- Dr. J. Benjamin Franklin, Scientist, NIOT, Dollygunj, Port Blair 

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