Monday, 15 May 2017

A visit to Tillangchong Island

             26th April 2017, will be a memorable day for a long time. On this day, I, accompanied by Asstt. Commissioner, Nancowery, Sh. Nishant Bodh and SHO Nancowery, Sh. M.Sarvanan made an unforgettable journey to Tillangchong Island. We started early, before the day break, and it took us nearly two hours to reach one of the loneliest islands of India, Tillangchong, where pit vipers, salt water crocodiles and elusive megapods give company to our policemen, who braving all adversities, guard this remote Look Out Post.
After exiting the safe waters of Kamorta harbour, FIB Sanjeev cruised at over a speed of 30 knots in a placid morning sea. As the boat chugged along, the silhouette of Tillangchong started to take shape and eventually give way to and reveal the beauty of this island A minor technical glitch in the FIB, caused by a human error, near the island, took us an additional half an hour to reach the destination. On reaching closer to the island, FIB’s pace was broken by the Master, who had been paying all his attention to the deft manoeuvring of the boat in shallow waters strewn with treacherous rocks. A Gemini boat was launched from the sea shore to receive us on the final leg of the journey. Near the shore, we landed on a wooden jetty, a marvellous piece of collective human endeavour and initiative, put together by the policemen of IRBn and civil police under the able leadership of SHO Nancowery. SI Vineet Maurya,in-charge of the LOP, gave us a hearty welcome. India, written in bold, on the signboard of the LOP loudly pointed to the remoteness of this place from the mainland.
Tillangchong gets its name, as attributed by Col. Gerini, from Tswe-Lan-Chan (island of blue waters), as it used to be called by the Chinese sailors. Tillangchong is prominently spread along the longitude as is evident from its length and breadth of 16.5km and 2km respectively. Owing to its volcanic origin, it has a rugged hilly terrain and Maharani, sitting at 244m, is its highest point. Tillangchong is an uninhabited island for most parts of the year. However, there are some coconut plantations belonging to the Nicobari people of Kakana village, Kamorta, who come here in their engine dinghies and hodis ( outrigger-canoe), generally between October-April, when the waters are relatively calmer.
After taking the Guard of Honour, I did an inspection of the LOP and also took a walk around the mysteriously enchanting neighbourhood. Tillangchong is a wildlife sanctuary and has very rich flora and fauna, a lot of which is, however, lying unexplored. Saltwater crocodiles known for their aggressive behaviour are found in the numerous nallahs and creeks around the island. Some researchers believe that the highest population of Megapode, a vulnerable bird that happens to be the state bird of A&N Islands, is present on this island. Apart from these, many endemic birds such as Nicobar Sparrowhawk, Andaman Wood Pigeon, and Nicobar Parakeet are also found here. In the recent past, there have been cases when the Policemen and forest workers were bitten by pit vipers, present in abundance on this island.
There’s a spring near the sea shore that acts as a regular source of drinking water. Although its yield declines significantly in the summers, even so, it acts as a lifeline for the people of this island. While coming back to the LOP we took the path through the forest as high tide water ruled out the option to take the beach route. By the time we reached the camp, a delicious breakfast of poori and chatpati(spicy curry of chickpeas) was ready and it was served in a gazebo overlooking the sea. Life can be very difficult and lonely on this island, therefore the policemen find succour in sports. Before leaving the island, I, too, played a game of volleyball with the staff. I was highly impressed by the way LOP is being maintained and I saw that despite the acute shortage of resources, all these brave policemen exuded was solid earnestness and overflowing enthusiasm.
                In Nicobar, you don’t just see the nature, you get immersed in it. The songs of waves, the touch of cool breeze, the scent of wet shores, the lush green canopy of vegetation, the azure shade of sea waters, the vibrant blue cloud-studded skies and the sweet taste of coconut water are some of the nature’s bounties that leave one spellbound as one’s senses get overwhelmed by them. I considered myself truly lucky to be posted in a district where I not only derive professional satisfaction through work but also have ample opportunities to quench the thirst of my mind and soul. 


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Meet the first tribal person from the Andaman and Nicobar islands to complete a PhD

(the article has been written by : Abhishek Dey, writer at Scroll)
the original link for the article copied and pasted here with the permission of the author is as under :
article link
Vaseem Iqbal, the "water doctor" of  Nicobar

The day a radio station in the Andaman and Nicobar islands made an announcement that Vaseem Iqbal, a local boy, had become Dr Vaseem Iqbal, his maternal aunt was among the first people to call and congratulate him. There was concern in her voice when she asked: “Will you not come back to the village to treat unwell villagers now?”

Iqbal had to explain to her that he was not a medical doctor.

“It took me quite some time to convince her that I was not a doctor who treats humans but that I specialised in treating diseased wells and groundwater resources,” said Iqbal. “We had a brief chat following the explanation and by the time she hung up, she was more confused than convinced.”

The 29-year-old, who belongs to the Nicobarese tribe, is the first tribal person from the Andaman and Nicobar islands to have completed a PhD.

In his thesis, Sea Water Intrusion Along East and West Coasts of South Andaman Islands, submitted in September 2015 to the Department of Ocean Studies and Marine Biology at Port Blair, he suggested several ways to tackle the problem of sea water intrusion in the islands using geophysical and geochemical techniques. The department is affiliated to the Pondicherry Central University.

Though Iqbal was awarded his doctorate last October, it took district authorities a few months to scan through university records and arrive at the conclusion that he was indeed the first tribal person from the Bay of Bengal archipelago to earn a doctorate. They made the announcement in December.

Local star

The Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar islands is inhabited by tribes of both Negrito and Mongoloid origins. While the Andaman islands are home to four Negrito tribes, the Nicobar islands are inhabited by two Mongloid tribes, who are believed to have come from the Malay-Burma coast several centuries ago.

Iqbal comes from a village named Kinyuka in the Car Nicobar region, which has a total population of around 30,000. His father was a Christian who converted to Islam.

While the two major districts South Andaman and North and Middle Andaman are dominated by Hindus, the third, Nicobar, is dominated by Christians. According to the 2011 Census, Muslims comprise 3.63% of the total population in Nicobar, and 8.52% in all three districts of the Union Territory.

Iqbal, who is employed as a researcher at the Central Agriculture Research Institute in Port Blair, has been busy attending felicitation programmes organised by various tribal bodies and district authorities over the past few months.

“My village has produced several doctors and engineers but I am the first person to have completed a PhD,” he said. “When I went home earlier this year, I was surprised to see hundreds of locals gathered to receive me. It looked like a festival.”

Dr. Vaseem Iqbal

Tsunami compensation

Getting here was not easy.
Iqbal and his two older sisters lost their parents within hours of each other on the intervening night of December 31, 2007 and January 1, 2008. However, he managed to complete his education with the help of compensation the family had been given by the government after the 2004 tsunami that ravaged the Indian Ocean region, including the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The topography of Kinyuka – which lies at an elevation despite being near the coast – saved its residents from the casualties and damage seen elsewhere in the archipelago during the tsunami. “Our farms were damaged but there were no casualties reported in the village,” said Iqbal.

Three years later, when his parents died, it was the compensation that bailed the family out. “It acted as my major support for schooling at Car Nicobar,” he said.

The geography error

After he completed his schooling, Iqbal was confused about what subject to pick next. He says he made a mistake while choosing to study geography for his undergraduate programme at the Jawaharlal Nehru Rajkeeya Mahavidyalaya in Port Blair.

The BSc in geography was simply not what he expected it to be. Iqbal attributes the choice of subject to the National Geographic channel.

Explaining how that happened, Iqbal said that since he had a keen interest in wildlife thanks to the programmes he watched on National Geographic, he assumed that if he picked geography, he would get to do the kinds of things he saw on that channel.

Said Iqbal: “As a tribal villager in Nicobar, one does not have much exposure to evaluate the differences between what one can see in a popular channel that has geography in its very name, and the subjects one would actually have to deal with to pursue graduation in the discipline.”

However, in the final year of his undergraduate programme, Iqbal finally found a subject that deeply interested him. The subject was marine biology.

“When it came to applying for a postgraduate degree, my professors insisted that I should take up Coastal Disaster Management under the Department of Ocean Studies and Marine Biology,” he said. “I stood second in the entrance [test].”

Post-graduation onwards he did not falter in his choice of subjects. “I found the right mentors who help me focus on certain areas and encouraged me to pursue further studies.”

Water doctor

As an undergraduate student in Port Blair, Iqbal survived on merit-based scholarships. He had a budget of Rs 3,000 a month, which meant that he could not visit home frequently.

“Heading home would mean a 24-hour waterway journey from Port Blair,” he said. “A shorter alternative would be by helicopter, which charges around Rs 2,400 these days, and charged around Rs 1,300 during my college days. This was absolutely impossible for me considering the tight budget I had to manage with.”

But things improved when he became a research scholar. “By the time I was a PhD scholar, I managed to make nearly Rs 30,000 a month through several scholarships,” said Iqbal.

Today, Iqbal is quite a popular face in Nicobar, and people often approach him during the field visits he makes on the islands.

“The last time I went for a field visit to some villages in Nicobar, the locals surrounded me and they just wanted to talk to me about their contaminated wells,” said Iqbal. “I suggested that they should not overpump water.”

My fascinating common chores at far-off charming Carnicobar - Hps Virk

(this article has been written by Sh. Hps Virk, Retd. IPS, posted as SP Nicobar from Oct 1982 to April 1984. It's an honour to see Carnic through his eyes. )

DAILY waking up at 3.30 AM, first task after warming up followed by a dozen kms. run on the peripheral coastal road.
SHARP at 6 AM, driver Bhattacharya would faithfully turn up, unlock the garage, carry out a thorough check-up of official police jeep.
HE would review the position of fuel, functioning of radiator, feel the tire pressure, battery charging etc.
THIS inspection lasted till 7 AM, thereafter he was free from myside till dawning of the next day, or until specially called for any specific task.
HE would devote complete day fishing and enjoying a long leisurely stint with his family.
HE was a stereotypical Bengali, having fervent obsession of eating fish and relishing outdoor adventure of an entertaining irresistible spell of fishing.
ONE thing about Bengalis is worth mentioning, they can identify the quality of fish from its size, shape, color, smell plus nature of its agile mobility.
I loved driving the jeep myself.
DURING early half of the day finished all my official work, including visiting offices of other government departments, depending on requirements.
ANOTHER function of my work was as motor licencing officer (MLO), it involved issuing of driving licences and regn. of vehicles etc.
THE only driving test I used to take was reversing of vehicle, in an anti-clockwise direction, around large roundabout outside my office.
TIME remained fixed for light, medium and heavy vehicles, well calibrated by  the proficient Bhattacharya.
MOST of the aspirants happened to be the service personnel, although this driving test appeared simple, but only accomplished could qualify in the first try.
AFTERNOONS were reserved for traversing the ring road of 126 sq, kms. Car Nicobar Island.
FOR about twenty days a month, remained engaged in outstation cruising tours, enriching myself with the widespread glamorousness of nature.
MY local touring companion was a like minded friend S M Khan, district education officer (DEO), who hailed from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh.
We used to enjoy this marvellous ride through the magnificent lush green jungle and tall stately coconut groves.
OCCASIONALLY a squealing pig would hastily rush across the road.
WHILE another one on hearing low drone of our petrol jeep, retreating back its swiftly drawn hoof-steps, sought refuge within the dry locales of thick undergrowth.
BESIDES Headquarters, the tribal Islanders lived in fifteen hamlets scattered on the fringes of this beautiful weather beaten Island.
FIFTY three kms. of single metalled road along the circumference of Car Nicobar was built by Japanese Imperial forces during occupation between March 1942 to September 1945.
THE dedicated Japs dreaming of world conquest constructed a chain of strong coastal defences to repulse air and sea attacks by the determined allied forces.
THE ruins of these war relics of yester-years, silently narrating the story of their masters, who were predestined to unceremoniously mingle into the same dust which they sprouted.
WE used to carry one 12 bore gun and a .22 Bruno rifle for shooting wild pigeons, overflying the trees near IAF station.
DURING the approaching time of sunset the jungle resonated and reverberated with sound of different rhythms of drum beats.
THIS was a signal for the domestic pigs, enjoying day's outing in forest to return back for having their evening meals.
THESE tribesmen had set-up "machan" type platforms for feeding pigs with coconut kernel and water in huge clam shells placed on the ground below.
THESE intelligent creatures recognised distinct sound of drum beats played by their respective owners.
ALTERNATIVELY we would take clockwise and anti-clockwise direction for enjoying the grand scenic finery of nature from diverse angles.
WE admired the rich exquisite marvellous craftsmanship of Creator, who planned, sculpted and chiselled our earth, the azure seamless skies, the wonderful flora and fauna.
HE solely embedded mother earth with innumerable multifarious vast priceless treasures.
THERE was a small thatched hut at Titop on the northwest side of this Island bearing a oversized board inscribing, "The Paris Hotel".
WE would invariably stop here for a cup of tea, having a good hearty laugh at the comic hyperbolic nomenclature.
THE choice of this grand name atop this miniscule kiosk at one of the most desolate places of our planet, illustrated the sophistications of its humble owner.
WE abundantly relished the mesmerizing spectacle of the dazzling sun sets, panoramic views of the sea, the magnificent mixing of an exquisite alluring seascape with elegantly enriched landscape.
THE view of this Island from different variation of angles presented assorted aspects of splendour and grandeur of nature, like rapidly changing kaleidoscopic picturesque designs.
THE spectacle of same landscape experienced by different persons from the land, sea or air, triggered entirely dissimilar levels of appreciation and mental contentment.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

My Tryst with Chowra

the blue sea and the floating canoes. picture by : Nishant Bodh, DANICS

(This article has been written by Nishant Bodh, DANICS, the new Assistant Commissioner of Nancowry after his maiden visit to Chowra)

The beautiful island of Chowra is part of Nancowry Sub-division of Nicobar District in UT of Andaman & Nicobar.
Located in Bay of Bengal this island has some of the most beautiful beaches in India.With its colourful water of many shades of Blue and white soft sand , its humble and lovely native Nicobari people,  Chowra provides a unique opportunity of adventure to those lucky few who can visit this gem of Nicobar District.
Like the other Nicobarese islands, people of Chowra have a Tribal Council which looks after the welfare of locals. Chowra's Tribal Council consist of CTC i.e. Chairman Tribal Council, currently  Shri Jonathan Edmund, Vice- CTC Shri Leslie Menku and 1st captains of all the five villages, which are Kuitasuk, Raihoeon, Chongamong, Alheat & Taheela. Below CTC lies the Village Council, every village has such council, which is headed by 1st captain and is assisted by 2nd and 3rd captains, who are democratically elected for 4 year tenure. This throws a light on the egalitarian nature of the Chowrites.
The island of Chowra and its people once dominated the entire sea faring trade between the Nancowry group and other Nicobarese islands. Their canoes (ap) and pots were famous through out the Nicobarese archipelago. It is said that in olden days, the Chowrite shamans were greatly feared and respected, making Chowra dominate the other islands, despite not having much natural resources. Today, Chowra is one of the least developed of the islands, owing to the problem of non-availability of fresh water resources, save for what is collected through water harvesting, making it vulnerable and an extremely difficult place to live in. The administration has installed ROs to make potable water available, but due to long gestation period of any project in these remote islands, life at Chowra is gruelling. The problems of Chowra are compounded by the lack of communication system save the police radio due to delayed installation of bsnl mobile tower there.Currently Chowrites communicate either through Police radio signals or with the weak signal available from the tower situated at Alurong village in Teressa island. The island is served by 2 weekly pawan hans sorties and 3-5 inter-island monthly ship service provided by speed boat and ships.The island has a secondary school and 2 sub-centres , the latter have recently been installed with new air-to-water technology based water dispensers which harvest the moisture from air to take care of the drinking water needs of the patients in Chowra. This island with the strength of approx. 1200 people, also has a very special football team which was runner up in the prestigious 22nd Vice President Cup. their performance in sports elucidates the fact that despite all hardships, the Chowrites love and know how to celebrate life. This is also beautifully demonstrated through the famous Canoe Racing. Most of the “Tuhets” or extended joint families which own and maintain beautiful Canoes with interesting names like “OFFICER-3”!
The cuisine consists mainly of sea food including variety of fishes, lobsters and crabs etc and Pigs, fouls and locally grown organic fruits such a delicious Pineapple, papaya, banana, jackfruit and guavas.
The Chowrites, though living in this difficult and far flung area, possess a spirit towards pursuing the excellence in them. The future of these islanders looks bright as the new generation is moving towards modernization while preserving their age old traditions. 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

One Step Closer To Cashless Nicobar

 (written by : Shekhar rai, Extension officer, Car Nicobar)
As part of the campaign of the Nicobar District Administration to make Nicobar Cashless, the first POS machine was installed at AC Enterprises, HQ area, Car Nicobar in january 2017. As per the Proprietor Mr. Ganesh, transactions amounting to one lakh rupees have already been done since the installation. At present, on an average, 35 to 40 transactions take place on a daily basis through the machine.
            In addition to the POS machine, Mr. Ganesh has also set up a PayTM QR code for the customers willing to go for mobile internet based PayTM wallet transactions. On enquiry upon the popularity of online transactions, it was informed that due to intermittent mobile connectivity in the islands, people are more inclined towards POS machines rather than PayTM.
    Drawing inspiration from the business strategies of Mr. Ganesh, more merchants have come forward for installation of these machines and accordingly, have placed their requests with the State Bank of India, Car Nicobar. It is expected that by the end of the current Financial Year, majority of the shopkeepers and merchants of Car Nicobar will possess the POS machines which will truly benefit the people of the island.

Monday, 6 March 2017

A Journey To The Country's Southern Most Tip - Indira Point

(written by : Dr. Mohd Rehan Raza, Assistant Commissioner, Campbell Bay)

The Assistant Commissioner (Campbell bay), Dr Mohd Rehan Raza along with Commandant Coast Guard, Sh. Prem Kumar and their teams started the  ardous & challenging  journey to reach Indira point  from the breakwater Jetty, Campbell bay on board Indian Coast Guard ship Charlie class 414 at 7.40 am in morning on 5 march .After a journey of 1 hr travelling at 20-25 knots of  speed ; we reached the MATA TARUA BAY ; a SAFE LANDING SITE  .In the Mid sea we changed and hopped from the big boat to the small boats and Gemini ; moved for 10 mins. on small boat and then  landed on the western side of the Indira point as the sea is calm there  . The adventurous journey began on foot on the shores on sands at 10.15 am  Adjacent to the Bay of Bengal . After walking for approximately 1hr 40 mins  approximately 6.5 KMs we reached the Southernmost tip of the India ie. the famed Indira Point at 11:55 am where we also saw the Southernmost Lighthouse of India . we also became witness to the might of the open sea .  We offered floral tributes and our respect to the tall statue of late smti Indira Gandhi ji . We took pictures of the serene beauty surrounding Indira point . Jubilant all, a sense of pride and happiness was there on all the faces . Finally we all made it. 
This is the first time any officers from  administration has reached Indira point through this Sea route which is very challenging as the trekking requires total ,13 kms approx  of walking on sands that is 1.40 hrs for one side . It's physically very demanding and tests the endurance and stamina to the core. One has to be energetic and regularly  hydrated and get adapted to scorching Sun. This area was totally ravaged by the Tsunami of 2004 . Everything was wiped out and destroyed. Presently 2 Wells are there which can act as a source of water .
AC campbell bay, Dr. Rehan Raza and Commandant Coast Guard, Sh. Prem kumar and their men

Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi's statue can be seen in the back ground

The distt administration is keenly watching all these areas as it's strategically very important .The administration is pursuing  serious efforts to get developed  a land route ( road ) being constructed by GREF by extending the existing Shastri Nagar road from 35 kms to the Galathea river through an over bridge which will be finished in few yrs from now . The total length of road is estimated to be 56 kms approx .from the zero point Campbell Bay to Indira point .  when this road starts functioning it will cater to all the tourists to this most sought after place ; the southernmost tip of India; the Indira point. The present light house is being painted now (it's the southernmost light house) of India.
This place has huge tourism potential and it can be the  biggest attraction of tourists to Andaman &  Nicobar islands : a game changer. Presently no human settlement is here and this area  comes under the forest department jurisdiction .
This whole inspection Cum tour was organized by O/o A.C Campbell Bay with the support provided by Indian Coast Guard CGDHQ 10 and forest deptt ( A& NI)
The district administration is leaving no stones un turned in reaching the hitherto untouched areas as development and progress of the islands is the vision of the administration.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Crop diversification - a success story of Krishi vigyan kendra in Nicobar

Maize cultivation in Carnicobar  
(written by : Sanjay Kumar Pandey, subject matter specialist - agronomy, ICAR - KVK, Nicobar)

Shri.Patrick from Tapoiming village, Car Nicobar of Nicobar district is a marginal farmer having 1.0 ha of land in which he grew Maize for the first time. Earlier he was cultivating a single crop by traditional method in his land with gross return of about Rs. 30,000/-. But after the intervention by Krishi Vigyan Kendra of Nicobar district for choosing his land for commercial vegetable and  Maize cultivation in scientific way as well as using his past experience of farming, he has learned about the advantages of improved technologies and took keen interest in converting his land area in to multiple production system. As we know that Car Nicobar totally comprises of tribal population and has different food habit and they are not fond of cereals. This is the reason why they do not practice cereal crop cultivation in their traditional agricultural system and totally depend on Govt. supplies system. Since Nicobarese are not aware of Maize farming, keeping this factor in mind KVK, Nicobar made initiative to promote maize at this Island and choosing one farmer from Tapoiming village of Car Nicobar. In this regards KVK-Nicobar surveyed their traditional agricultural practice system as well as food habits and conducted On Farm Trial (OFT) on Effects of Different Organic Manure on Growth and Yield of Maize cv. Hybryd-6010 to popularize the maize among the tribal people of Car Nicobar in different locations of the Island. The performance of maize was very surprising at Car Nicobar.

The farmers  have become very enthusiastic about the maize as a food supplement in their lifestyle and also added as fodder for their livestock. Now farmers have started maize cultivation practices in their kitchen garden as Bhutta and fodder. Tribal council of Car Nicobar and DC, Nicobar have appreciated the effort of KVK-Nicobar and also suggested for put more work in this regard.