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Category: Kalyan Varma

Enduring the drought

“I’ll see you at your house in the evening,” I said to Mahendra on the phone as I was driving from Pune to Dhawalpuri.

“No,” he said, we have moved. Not staying at our usual place. Come into the village and call my cousin. He will bring you to our camp”.

Two weeks ago, I was in Pune and decided to visit Mahendra and catch up with him after a gap of about nine months. As I drove past the dry arid areas of Ahmednagar district, I noticed something peculiar: although the fields along the highway had been ploughed, not a single one had been planted with a crop. Abhishek, my driver, pointed out that people had abandoned farming this season due to lack of rains.

India is going though a fourth consecutive year of drought, and this year might be the worst.  According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), 42% of India is rainfall deficient this season, with the south-west monsoon having failed.

The districts of Beed, Osmanabad and Latur in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra are facing the worst ever drought in 100 years, and people in the area get drinking water only once a week. Eighty-seven per cent of Marathwada depends on these seasonal rains for agriculture.

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Forest Department Says ‘No’ To Wholesale Elephant Capture For Now

“I have seen this video on Whatsapp,” said Karnataka Forest Minister B Ramanath Rai. “I cried. If you see the video, no person on earth will have the heart to recommend removal of elephants.”

The minister was referring to my video of the capture of a wild elephant at Hassan, one of 23 that were captured from the area. He was speaking to an invited audience of scientists, environmentalists, conservationists, NGOs and advocacy groups, besides farmers and planters from the Coorg region which has been affected by the man-elephant conflict I have been covering.

It was the sort of moment journalists hope for, the reason we become journalists.

When we go into the field to research and report, the unstated hope is that our stories will create impact, provoke thought, spark discussion and debate around policy, and become a catalyst for change.

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An open letter to Daily Mail

This letter is in response to this article written by Liz Jones published on Aug 15th 2015.

The article is factually and chronologically wrong, misguided and misinformed, and lacking in basic journalistic ethics. I wish I didn’t have to call this out, but such stories — more fiction than fact, intentionally sensationalised in some parts — actually harm rather than help, and do great injustice to elephant conservation and welfare efforts in India.

I write this on the basis of having personally interacted with Jones on her recent visit to India. Prem has pinned down some of the distorted facts in the article regarding temple elephants. Following on from that, here’s what really happened:

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