Thursday, June 23, 2016

Whither Animal Rights

Olympics and a Jaguar 

What is the connection of a Jaguar living in a zoo and the 2016 Olympics ?  Anyone would ask this.  Why should Juma, a Jaguar living in a zoo, denied natural justice be brought to an olympic torch ceremony.  In the spirit of the olympics which speaks of sportsman spirit, where the only way to fight is through healthy competition include a Jaguar.  It is a shame on the olympic movement which does not encourage bloodshed in any form to have committed this crime.  

Amazon jaguar shot dead after Olympic torch ceremony (picture courtesy Reuters)

The local olympic committee has guaranteed that there will be no more such incidents - what is the use ?

Maharaj Vs Forest Department

'Maharaj', a twenty seven year old elephant, called by forest officials and public as a rogue elephant was captured to be trans located.  The operation of tranquilizing him and using a kumki to load him into a truck was called a huge success.  Yesterday, he died - causes still being debated.

The above picture is courtesy of the Indian Express.  The file is named 'Rogue1.jpg'  Sad don't you think.  An animal born to live and rule the forest, tranquilized and bound, and finally killed.  I use the word killed because if this was done to a human being, that is exactly the word we would have used.  There would have been an uproar in the newspaper, an FIR, ministers visiting the family, and all the drama that ensues.  Just because Maharaj and his ilk are elephants, rather animals, there is nothing of the sort.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Social Service - the SSS way

A general feeling of tiredness got us talking about the need to check my sugar levels.  So, we decided yesterday night to go for a 'fasting sugar' test today morning at a hospital where we usually go.  I woke up this morning and dreaded the needle prick that I was to encounter in a few hours.  Have always welcomed an injection over gulping tablets; still, the prick of the needle is something I have never got used to.  

My better half was more enthusiastic about this morning schedule than me, having been the victim of more health related checks in the recent past.  And here I was, agonizing over the fact that the place was twenty minutes away and that we didn’t know a reliable place closer home as yet.  A mental check of health centers closest home gave a small list – many of them were easily rejected.  However, one was okayed as being very dependable – ‘Shanthi Social Services(SSS)’.  Despite living within 5km radius of this place, we have never been there, not for lack of reputation.  The organization’s reputation is impeccable.  Anyone will vouch for it, in terms of health services or the food in its canteen.  We ourselves can vouch for the services they provide in the Petrol Bunk as well as quality of gas.  We have hit the bunk early morning and many a times late night (11:00 p.m. and above) and have always found the employees friendly and cheerful.  Besides, George uncle, who we had met a month ago had vouched for the place.  The pendulum weighed heavily towards SSS.

This being just a simple test, the decision was quickly made – SSS, it is.  We decided to check the place to see for ourselves what we have heard from many.  As we entered the place, we found it very orderly despite being crowded at 8:30 a.m. in the morning, being a weekend.  The people, whether the watchman or at the counter were very polite in answering everyone’s queries.  The test by itself took as much time as in the hospital we used to go to.  The nurses were efficient – they didn’t search for a vein in my hand.  It was over in ten minutes and I was to go back after breakfast within an hour and half. So far, good as they did not have to search for my veins and I did not have to suffer multiple pricks before they achieved success.  I suggested we go home, which is a ten-minute drive while my husband suggested the canteen after which we could go back and give the blood sample.  Given the crowd I was apprehensive. 

The three queues had people filing in fast.  However, it moved slow and steady.  Availability of food was indicated on electronic display boards that kept updating quantity available and cost.  Within ten minutes we were at the counter serving food.  The place was neat and the tables were full.  People got their food(self-service) and found a place.  Water was served on the tables.  They finished, handed over their plates and left the place.  Supervisors helped people if required, and guided the workers in required cleaning.  None of them could be heard ordering or questioning.  They were smiling and getting things done.  One of the workers picked the card that had fallen from my pocket and gave it to me smiling - they were attentive in the midst of all that work.  Another fifteen minutes and we had finished our breakfast and were walking out discussing how they were running the place so efficiently.

Arun told me what he knew about the origins of the place.  SSS is run by Mr. Subramaniam who started the organization ‘Shanthi Gears Ltd’ that makes machinery - gears.  He is a first generation successful entrepreneur who today runs SSS.  They do not solicit or accept any donation.  And SSS runs like clockwork, maybe something he picked from his experience, I mused. 

The part I most liked about the organization is the emphasis on ‘service', their motto being ‘Service to humanity is service to God’.  This they achieve through quality, efficiency, humility and affordability.  The registration and test costs (sugar and haemoglobin) came to Rs.85/- .  More surprising was the food cost.  We ordered four sets of idli and two filter coffees (yes, we like our coffee the Tamilian way – nothing like the taste of filter coffee).  It cost us Rs.40/-.  Idli per set cost us Rs.5/- and per filter coffee cost us Rs. 10/- each.  I held the tokens and thought about the hotels charging for the same.  The idli was served with two chutneys and sambhar.  Of course, their running costs may be higher, but how much higher ?  For a common man, most hotels are not affordable due to high costs.  Further, food served cheap may not always be healthy and hygienic.  However, SSS was doing it, fulfilling both needs.  We had heard that there are many people who come in everyday for their meals, especially people from the surrounding (both business and otherwise).  The employee who manned the PR Desk, came in for breakfast, bought his token and joined the queue where food was served.  Another fifteen minutes and we finished breakfast.

Taking in the place, reading boards and looking at how things were run, we returned back to the counter to get the token for taking the blood sample (after food).  The employee, who had given me the earlier token looked at me and asked me, ‘How long since you had food ?’.  I truthfully told her that it is 25-30 minutes max.  She asked me to get back in an hour.  I told her that the nurse inside had asked me to get back within an hour and half.  Politely, she told me to get back exactly in that time and not before as one must wait for the test to be taken.  So, we went back to walking.

I have always avoided crowded places be it shopping, festivals or events due to the noise and the hustle and bustle that happens.  However, here, there was a crowd but there was order.  People were patient and those who were not, were directed politely to follow by the employees.  Arun told me that lunch time is very crowded and he has heard that the queue stretches outside the waiting hall some days.  

For colleges in Coimbatore who teach management, SSS is a case study that should be used.  Be it organizing, controlling, motivation or quality, one will find aspects in SSS that is worth being part of a case study that students can use to learn and be inspired.  For organizations, it is one to emulate.  Personally, it was a rewarding experience.  Of how one man aspires to do something good and works hard to succeed.  For behind the clockwork, lies commitment, diligence and hard work always.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Education Institutions - A place full of life

Walk into any educational institution, school or college, anywhere around the world and you will find that there is no other place like it.  The laughter, jokes, camaraderie, the running around, animated discussions, the spectrum of serious ones to the freaky type - all abound.  In total, it is a place that is alive.

However, come holidays or vacation, and the place signifies 'empty' like no other.  You miss the pulse that beats when students are present - even when they are in class or if it is examination time.

When college works, it doesn't matter whether you are a 70 year old or a 40 year old.  You will walk to the pulse and beat of the youngest - an eighteen year old.  Any academician will second this, but ask them to explain and they will find it difficult.  

The students bring with them an energy like no other.  The best day is one when you take a class that feels perfect; where you have given your best and students are able to appreciate what you have taken.  On a worst day, the moment you step into college, the mood changes.  Students take ups and downs so much better than us.  

My favorite time of the day is when I compete and try to keep pace when I climb three floors to get to my room.  In case I am slow, I pick up pace and when I am fast, I push the youngsters to pick up pace.  All of us have a good laugh and go our way.

So, waiting - waiting for life to resume in the college.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Killing of Zoo Animals - Protection or Crime ?

Two incidents of zoos which killed animals to protect intruders is disturbing.  For different reasons :  one, why are the animals killed when the intruders are at fault and two, who is primary in a zoo ?

The reasons these questions need to be asked are in light of the following.  First, a wild animal being brought to the zoo and kept there for public display - the idea itself is wrong.  Why do we have a zoo except in cases where protection of the animal/species is at stake.  

Second, given that intruders are human beings does not change who has the first right in a zoo.  The right place of animals is the forest, which we eat up by the minute in the name of advancement.  

Third, a visit to the zoo is sickening many a time.  The size of the cages, the stink because of poor upkeep, the minimal area demarcated to each animal, and more agonizing is the way human beings treat the animals.  The squeaks, calls besides throwing food and calling names.  The above reasons call for removing zoos except for keeping old animals that attack human beings in conflict areas, abandoned animals and endangered species that require protection for survival.

Umpteen are the cases where animals are caught to be taken to a zoo.  There are cases of elephants being caught to be trained to be kumkis and where the court has accepted the same.  Using abandoned calves is one thing, but catching grown elephants from the wild and training them to be kumkis is nothing less than traumatic.  Ask any wildlife expert on behaviour of elephants and they would substantiate.

I, personally, side with the animals and their right to atleast live in the confines of a man-made prison into which they are thrown.  Read the below links and it will make you wonder, whether we, mankind are on the right path when it comes to animal rights.

Human beings who try to proselytize a lion needs no mercy.  It is the lions who need help.  Is it not enough that we wage wars in the name of religion ??  Is it not enough that we brew hatred among ourselves trying to convert one to another religion ? Do we need to convert and teach the same stupidity to the rest of the animal kingdom too ?

A drunk man who climbs to a lion enclosure and tells the lioness Radhika, “Please come to me my darling. Please.” can only invite Krishna, her husband's wrath.  

A suicidal man caused the death of two lions who were just being lions.  Feel bad for the man's condition, but the lions did not have a clue, did they ?

And yesterday, the case of Harambe, a 17 year old handsome gorilla because a mom did not bother to watch her kid carefully.

Do we have the right to kill or should we leave it to nature to battle it out in such cases ?

What is even more painful is the words of the Zoo Director and the statement of the family as quoted in the news.

Zoo :
Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard said: “The choice was made to put down, or shoot, Harambe, so he’s gone.
“We’ve never had a situation like this at the Cincinnati Zoo where a dangerous animal needed to be dispatched in an emergency situation.”
-> dispatched - it is not a product that your ordered/bought on an e-com site.
Family :
"We are so thankful to the Lord that our child is safe. He is home and doing just fine. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff. We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla. We hope that you will respect our privacy at this time."
The family is granting no interviews, and this is the only statement that will be issued. Thank you."

-> the gorilla is theirs, as is the loss but I want my privacy.  Does not matter to them, I guess.

I am reminded of the laws in the Eravikulam National Park, Munnar, India where the Nilgiri Tahr is supreme - a park we visited in 2002.  The park spans across hectares of wild where the Nilgiri Tahr can be seen in its own home.  One is constantly reminded not to touch the animal or move out of the road nor pick a stone or leaf.  It is an offence that is punishable.  Further, you are told that the animal can touch you but you cannot touch them.  The park has made a name in the area of conservation by enforcing strictly the above rules - there is a story of an officer who arrested/fined a set of students who broke the rules despite repeated warnings.  The Tahr which number a few hundred was brought back from extinction to a healthy population of 10,000 today.  One can only hope that the rules are followed in letter and spirit not just in Eravikulam but the world over to ensure wildlife protection.  It is not their survival that is at stake, but our own.