National Geographic explorer and wildlife filmmaker Malaika Vaz talks to The Daily Guardian about her ‘wild’ journeys, how local communities in India play a major role in tiger conservation, and what endangers big cats in India. Excerpts:
Q. How did you end up in the arena of wildlife conservation?
A. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a wildlife presenter and filmmaker and even today, I honestly feel like I have the most exciting job in the world, as everyday is an opportunity to document a new wild place and help more people connect with the natural world in a way that hopefully triggers positive action.
Q. Your work has let you witness how local communities in India play a major role in tiger conservation. Please share more about that.
A. In India, human-dominated landscapes and wild spaces are beginning to merge. The result of humans and big cats living in close proximity is often substantial economic losses incurred to the communities through loss of livestock, and loss of life. This has resulted in an increased trend of retaliatory killings and poisoning of carcasses, putting yet another dimension of pressure on already threatened and vulnerable populations due to habitat destruction and debilitating rates of poaching. Yet, in some places in India, remarkable coexistence exists between man and big cat. Through my work, I wanted to focus on positive stories of coexistence between communities and big cats — to inspire an understanding that local communities are not the enemies of conservation efforts, but rather the grassroots leaders who can truly scale up wildlife conservation efforts in our country
Q. While poaching is a major threat to tiger numbers in India, poaching communities have over the years turned into tigers’ biggest defenders. What have you found about this interesting transition?
A. I think the key is providing poaching communities with suitable alternatives that they can economically depend on in the long term. Global trafficking syndicates make the majority of the profits from tiger trafficking, while small-scale poachers are often living in financial instability, food insecurity and the constant fear of being arrested for their work. So, what I’ve found is when they are given alternative work opportunities that allow them to live a life of dignity — in most cases, they will gladly make the switch. These poaching communities often also understand tiger and other wildlife behaviour better than anyone else, so it is incredible to see them transition out of poaching and continue to leverage that skill set while working as rangers, naturalists and tourism operators. One of my favourite parts of filming Living with Predators for Nat Geo Wild was interviewing the children of poachers who are the first generation in their families to receive an education and will grow up to be the tiger’s biggest protectors!
Q. Besides poaching, what endangers big cats in India right now?
A. Habitat destruction is one of the biggest threats that big cats face today in India and across the world. These incredible predators require vast tracts of land to hunt, mate and survive. When we disregard the biodiversity of a region and unsustainably develop infrastructure through it, the forests get fragmented and species like tigers and leopards have to deal with a constricted range size. As a result, they are forced to disperse into human-dominated landscapes where incidents of conflict with humans are a daily reality. We need to prioritise the protection of our biodiversity hotspots and national parks and ensure that our wildlife protection laws and environmental impact assessment processes are upheld and not diluted from a policy perspective.
Q. Has the pandemic affected conservation efforts?
A. Amid the pandemic, many of India’s most important wildlife zones have been threatened by hydropower projects, road expansion and mining. We need to start seeing the conservation of wildlife and wild spaces as part of the development agenda, and fiercely protect our natural resources. Without water, natural pollinators for agriculture, clean air to breathe and biodiversity to share our planet with — we will not be able to survive. It is important for us to innovate and find ways to simultaneously set aside tracts of untouched land for wildlife, while also providing work opportunities to the millions of Indians who live alongside wildlife.
This pandemic has also made the link between planetary and human health more clear than ever before. I hope that we emerge out of this pandemic with a stronger resolve to protect wildlife and their habitats not just from a conservation standpoint, but also to keep us safe from diseases that stem from exploitation of wildlife.
As a Nat Geo explorer, Malaika recently created a 3-part film series on community-led big cat conservation in India titled ‘Living with Predators’ that will be aired on Nat Geo Channel on 15, 16 and 17 August at 7pm.
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When Vikram Bhatt called me for Sanak, I was taken aback: Rohit Bose Roy
Actor Rohit Bose Roy recently joined NewsX for an insightful conversation as part of NewsX India A-List . As part of the interview, Rohit opened up about his latest series Sanak-Ek Junoon, what attracted him to the character, to the show and much more.
Speaking about the new series, which is now streaming on MX Player, Rohit said, “Quite honestly, the major attraction was Vikram Bhatt and his writing. I’ve been a longstanding fan of the way he writes, the kind of content that he creates. I’ve just done a show with him before this called ‘Memories’, which was one of the most anticipated shows. Unfortunately, at that time, it was another OTT. So, not many people got to see it but that’s where I got addicted to Vikram Bhatt. I’ve been addicted to him since Holland but I love the way he writes. He is a dear friend and when he calls, I don’t ask him what I’m doing. When he called me for Sanak, I was actually taken aback because it is not the kind of show that you would associate with me. It is not the kind of character that you would associate with me. If I’m going back to what I’ve done, I’ve never really did a character who is like this. It is not really about greys. I have played grey characters. He is a character who believes that there’s nothing wrong in what he is doing. Greys are decided by various people. What is right for me might not be right for you, which is what actually eventually drew me to the role.”
“Ajay, as a character, believes that there are certain compromises to be made and they are absolutely fair to make those compromises in life, if you want to move ahead . When we reach a a cross road, we have to decide whether I am going to make a compromise with my morals to get ahead to the next stage or should I trudge along till I need the next stage without compromising my morals. In real life, Rohit Bose Roy would never compromise on his morals to reach ahead in life or in his career. I’d rather work hard and keep at it, which is why it took me to be 25 years to get here,” he continued. “I would have been in a different space otherwise. Ajay doesn’t think there is anything wrong and you can’t fault him for that. You can’t sit on judgment and say what Ajay is doing is wrong. That was the challenge for me as an actor to take up Sanak because when people watch it, you realise that you can’t say does anyone do like this ? You will actually be in a conundrum whether to call him white or black.”
When asked does he as a viewer also like thrillers, he responded, “I love thrillers. I have two point of views here. Unfortunately right now, there is an overkill of thrillers on OTT. I feel there should be a little bit of everything. There should be comedy, there should be human interest drama, there should be romance. I miss romance on OTTs. Having said that, I love thrillers. That’s my major consumption, whether it’s on television or film or OTT worldwide. Thriller is a genre, which I am never tired of because there’s always constantly something happening. When I’m tired, I’d like to watch thrillers because it ups my BMR and my blood starts flowing. Vikram makes all those kind of shows. Even making the same genre, his writing is so different in all the shows. What I did earlier was memories, it was different. Sanak is totally different as far as my character is concerned and the show is concerned.”
We were the first ones to take a chance with OTT: Vidyut Jammwal
Actor Vidyut Jammwal recently joined NewsX for an insightful conversation as part of NewsX India A-List. As part of the interview, Vidyut opened up about his latest film Sanak, taking a chance with the OTT last year and much more. Read excerpts:
Speaking about the shift to the OTT space, Vidyut said, “It is quite good. I have a lot of people, who are working now. I have had friends, who really had the talent, but never got the work. I think OTT is doing a great job with a lot of talent, to start with. We were the first ones to take a chance with OTT last year and what chance we took. It just changed everything for good.”
“We are working on Khuda Haafiz 2. We are aiming for a theatrical release now. Sanak was made for the theatres. Everything was ready and we could not just hold the movie. We do lose a lot of money at the movies. We decided why not just get the best out of it. I’ve grown up watching Jackie Chan films and I believe that this is the time for everybody to go on the platform Disney plus Hotstar, press the pause button, slow it down, see what I’ve done, how I have I’ve done it, the way I’ve always done from Jackie Chan and just try to do it,” he added.
Giving more insights about his latest film Sanak, Vidyut shared, “It has been different because Kanishk Verma, the director of the film, is a friend of mine. I have always believed in him. He was a director. He’s a friend of mine. Every time he sat and I used to look at him, like wow look at this idea! I love the way you think about music and then I got a chance in life where I thought I could get to work with people who I believe in. Kanishk was one of them. I made him meet Vipul and they just enjoyed each other’s company. That’s how the journey started. We came up with an idea and we thought it was phenomenal.”
When asked if he enjoyed the action in the film, he responded, “I enjoyed it. I had to surpass everything that I have done in the past. Today, I was watching the news by these international action critiques and I was very proud of myself being an Indian. They loved what they saw. I have enjoyed everything I put in the effort. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to use every things in my movie because he’s not a trained fighter. He’s just a martial artist and how he could depend on his wife and the whole everybody in the hospital. I have to be creative with ideas and people have enjoyed it.”
Remote work has been our culture from day one: Vipul Amler, Founder, Saeloun
Vipul Amler, Founder, Saeloun recently joined us for an insightful conversation as part of NewsX India A-List. Before diving deeper into his company Saeloun, Vipul introduced himself as saying, “I am a software developer, who works on web and mobile applications. We primarily use technology called Ruby On Rails and React JS, which are used by major companies like Facebook, Flipkart, Instagram and so forth. I have been in this industry for the last decade or so. At the same time, I also have written books on the same. Other than that, recently I have also been doing small angel investments.”
Talking about Saeloun and his journey to start the company, Vipul shared, “This is my second company in the last couple of years. Saeloun was started as a way for being a company, which is employee owned as well as having a very open transparent culture. We started off with that so that employees have more input in the growth and so forth. Saeloun specialises in the same thing- Ruby On Rails and React.Js and we help a bunch of different clients in various fields from e-commerce, healthcare and so forth. That was the primary purpose of starting Saeloun. “
When asked about the services they offer and their primary clientele, he responded, “Many clients, which are established clients, they contact us and reach out to us for our expertise on Ruby On Rails and React.Js, which I use for building applications. Like you might have seen Airbnb or Amazon or Flipkart. We help them to build the web applications. We also have expertise in helping them build mobile applications that you use. For example, if you are using PayTm or Google Pay, these kind of applications. We help our clients spread out. At the same time, when the clients were growing a lot, they come to us for helping them to scale or a bunch of different things.”
“There has been a huge growth since the last year. A lot of people last year, after the pandemic started coming up online, which for us has been a very busy time,” he added.
Speaking about the founding principles on the basis of which he started Saeloun and what sets apart Saeloun from others in the market, Vipul said, “Profit sharing was one part of the thing. This is before the pandemic. Last year, everyone started to do work from home or remote work but we have doing or I have been doing remote work since 2011 or 2012. That was the same principle as well, which sets Saeloun apart. We have been doing remote work and remote work has been our culture from day one since we started in 2019. In terms of profit sharing, we are a services company so we provide consulting with various different companies. For employees to have more ownership in the company, that was one of the ways. Whatever profits we have, we actually announce them publicly as well and share the financial data with everyone, so that they are aware of how we are doing and also equitably distribute 25% of all of our profits with our employees.”
HARYANA GOVT SETS UP 100-BED COVID CARE ICU
In order to ensure quality healthcare facilities even in the deepest pockets of the State, Government of Haryana has set up a 100-bed critical COVID ICU in Shaheed Hasan Khan Mewati Government Medical College located in the outskirts of Nuh in Nalhar.
The hospital will cater to the medical needs of patients from adjoining NCR-region, Alwar, Mathura, Rewari and Palwal as well, easing off the burden on health institutes in this area.
Sharing information in this regard an official spokesperson of Department of Medical Education and Research said: “As per the instructions of GoI (Government of India), a triple layer oxygen planning has been done in medical colleges and the constituent hospitals. Taking steps in this regard, the State Government through the Department of Medical Education and Research has started this 100-bedded ICU where Liquid Medical oxygen tanks of 10,000 L capacity along with 3000 LPM capacity PSA plants along with 1026 D- type oxygen cylinders have been installed in Nalhar Nuh.”
The spokesperson said that the existing capacity of Gas Manifold has been augmented to cater to the need along with the medical gas pipeline work. During the second wave there was a rush of thousands of patients from Delhi-NCR region towards the State of Haryana especially in adjoining districts to seek the medical care, he elaborated. Considering such demand, the existing capacity has been augmented and a 100 bed Critical COVID care ICU has been set up to meet the rising requirements and needs of the people.
“Thus, this completes the oxygen triad for COVID patients care. First being PSA plant, second being Liquid Oxygen tank and third being D-Type cylinders. In case of demand for oxygen the same will be pressed into the service as per the need basis,” he added.
The spokesperson said that man and material is the desired combination which is required to achieve the goal of providing superlative healthcare facilities. Thus, ventilators and equipment along with drugs and consumables have been purchased to make it functional. In addition to equipment 143 SRs (Senior Resident doctors) have already joined Government medical colleges along with 54 more specialist doctors as faculty have been offered joining.
Further, as many as 275 staff nurses’ recruitment is under process and another 85 faculty of specialist doctors’ recruitment process is about to commence soon. With such a large skilled manpower the State Government is ready to meet any eventuality in days to come wherever and whenever the need arises.
HARYANA NOTIFIES WASTE MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR INDUSTRIES
Haryana Government has notified the ‘Assistance for Waste Management Scheme’ for Industrial Sector under which incentives will be provided to the industries in the state to encourage them to carry out waste management activities including collection, transportation, treatment, and disposal of waste which is not just environmentally, socially, and financially sustainable but is also economically viable. Giving information in this regard an official spokesperson of Industries and Commerce Department said that the Scheme shall commence with effect from January 1, 2021 and shall remain in operation for a period of 5 years. The assistance shall be admissible on the purchase of land, machinery and equipment on or after January 1, 2021 and before December 31, 2025.
He said that under Assistance for Waste Management Scheme, a financial assistance of 50 percent of project cost (land and building subject to maximum of 25 percent of Project cost) including machinery and equipment up to Rs 50 Crore will be provided to facilitate setting up of electronic waste management and e-waste recovery projects for industries operating in Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector.The spokesperson said that New Ultra-Mega Projects, Mega Projects, Large Industries, Micro, Small and Medium enterprises operating in Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector anywhere in the State shall only be provided financial support by way of reimbursement of expenditure incurred.
The spokesperson said that the restrictive list of the Industries notified under HEEP-2020 shall not be applicable for this assistance. The eligible Units shall also comply with the conditions i.e. the unit shall file IEM/Udhyam Registration Certificate (URC) and Haryana Udhyam Memorandum (HUM) on the portal for the statistical purpose, at any stage. He said that the unit should have obtained NOC/CLU from Competent Authority if applicable. The unit should be in commercial production. He said that the unit should be in regular production at the time of disbursement and the subsidy shall not be released to a closed unit.
NO TREE CUTTING, SALE ALLOWED IN PUNJAB TILL FURTHER ORDERS
There would be no stumpage permission in Punjab till further orders as mentioned in the recent notification of the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Punjab.
This comes after the orders issued by t the Punjab and Haryana High Court under PIL and Writ petition that the department released the notification vide no. 25/04/2020/LD-3/3994-3996. The notification said that the tree selling policy is under reconsideration and till then there would be no tree cutting and sale in the State of Punjab.
As per the Notification, there was a tree selling policy in the Panchayat area which was made in the year 2000 but the policy was never taken into action, hence the panchayat used to severe the trees and sell them at their capacity. The respected Court took the notice of the matter and has asked the respective departments to stop this practice till the policy is reconsidered.
The notification referring to the Punjab and Haryana Court order read, “On the subject of alleged illegal felling of 2,058 trees in the premises of the Faridkot Cooperative Sugar Mills Limited, we direct the PCCF (Hoff), Punjab to look into the grievance.
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