Rush to harvest 'Himalayan Viagra' degrading Uttarakhand's alpine meadows | WeForNews | Latest News, Blogs Rush to harvest ‘Himalayan Viagra’ degrading Uttarakhand’s alpine meadows – WeForNews | Latest News, Blogs
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Rush to harvest ‘Himalayan Viagra’ degrading Uttarakhand’s alpine meadows

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Noida, Sep 11 (IANS/ 101Reporters) The mad rush to harvest expensive caterpillar fungus in the higher Himalayan region of Uttarakhand is taking a toll on the fragile ecosystem of the alpine meadows.

Researchers studying the harvest and trade aspects of the Cordyceps fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) say the high market price of the species in China coupled with limited manpower of the state’s forest department have resulted in the uncontrolled collection of the species. They say it is causing soil cover destruction, felling of alpine trees for fuelwood and hunting of endangered animals for food by the harvesters.

Cordyceps is considered a potent aphrodisiac and energy booster and deemed to cure lung, liver and kidney problems in the traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicines. Every year between May and July, thousands of villagers in the state embark on an arduous journey to the higher reaches with their domesticated animals, tents and sacks of supplies and stay for two months to harvest it.

A scientist with the Wildlife Institute of India, Amit Kumar, who has carried out research on the fungus species at Nanda Devi National Park near Joshimath, informed that the harvesters sometimes kill wild animals, including endangered ones such as blue sheep and musk deer, for food during their stay in the meadows.

He said that during the course of his research when he interacted and worked with the locals who went to harvest the fungus, he found out that it’s difficult for the harvesters to survive on potatoes and wheat and thus they hunt wild animals for meat.

The alpine meadows are home to numerous rare species of flora and fauna like snow leopard, Himalayan blue sheep (bharal), Aconite (Aconitum heterophyllum), Brahmakamal (Saussurea obvallata) and Costus (Saussurea costus).

Dehradun-based environmental researcher Subhajit Saha revealed that the villagers carry firearms with them to the meadows to hunt wild animals like blue sheep, rabbits and red foxes for their meat. He noted that hunting of wild animals is not allowed in India and only the species that have been declared as vermins can be hunted and that too after getting permission from the state forest department. Bharal, which is an endangered species and comes under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, continues to be hunted, he stated.

While the officials with the forest department have strong suspicion that the villagers during their stay at the meadows hunt wild animals, the lack of evidence prevents them from taking action. A forest department official from Pithoragarh, on the condition of anonymity, told 101Reporters that while hunting cases against villagers are rare, it’s common knowledge that during their stay, they not only hunt wild animals for food but also poach them as they are well-versed with the terrain.

Topsoil affected

Cordyceps is an entomopathogenic fungus (a fungus that grows on insects) which seeks shelter in the larva of ghost moths (Family Hepialidae). It germinates inside the caterpillar, kills and mummifies it.

“The fungus attacks the larva under the soil and eventually a stalk-like body of the fungus emerges out of the caterpillar body. Harvesters crawl on the surface and dig [the] soil to collect the fungus,” says Dr Subrat Sharma, a scientist with the GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment & Sustainable Development.

Environmental researcher Saha revealed that the alpine meadows are mostly rocky and have a thin layer of soil that takes hundreds of years to form. He added that the harvesters dig up the soil to collect the fungus, damaging the surface layer of the area.

The demand for the fungus reportedly shot up in 1993 when three Chinese athletes broke five world records at the Beijing National Games after regularly consuming a tonic apparently made from the fungus.

The fungus, locally known as Keeda Jadi, was introduced to the locals in Uttarakhand by migrant Nepalese labourers. It is known as Yartsagunbu in Tibet and Yarsagumba in Nepal.

Harvesting of the fungus began around Askot region in 1996-1997 from where the practice gradually spread into different valleys.

Today, most of the households in and around Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and Askot area rely on the caterpillar fungus for their livelihoods. Harvest of the fungus has transformed the lives of the people, bringing in a much-needed economic boost to the villagers of these far-flung areas, which have traditionally been reliant on herding and subsistence agriculture.

There is a well-established network of local middlemen, brokers and merchants in the border townships of Dharchula and Munsiyari in Uttarakhand. The proximity to the porous border with Nepal and Tibet makes it easier for traffickers.

A local seller usually fetches around $20,000 (over Rs14 lakh) for a kilogramme of Cordyceps, making it a lucrative business for the villagers. A family of four on an average harvests around 150 grams during a season.

Decline in numbers

In the last 10 years, researchers say, harvesting has become more intense, causing a decline in the yield. Dwindling collection of the fungus has made the harvesters prolong their stay in the meadows for a better chance of finding the elusive species. The fungus is found in the alpine meadows between 3,500 and 5,000 metres above sea level.

A portion of the land where these fungi grow fall under the van panchayat (village council) land and has been distributed amicably between the residents of the villages. Saha highlighted that the harvesters cross over to protected lands of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries regularly in their quest for the fungus.

“Prior permission is required to extract wildlife resources from restricted areas. However, the caterpillar fungus harvesters often harvest in these areas because of the unavailability of forest staff to monitor their activities,” stated Saha.

Higher anthropogenic pressure in the meadows in the form of an increased number of harvesters and the number of days they spend in search of the fungus also leads to the dumping of non-biodegradable waste like plastic bottles on the surface and open defecation, contaminating water sources of the landscape.

“Thousands of villagers go for mass-collection of the species each year, along with their tents, food, other consumables and domestic animals. These huge aggregations in the remote pastures are bound to destroy the pristine nature of the ecosystems and the threatened species that inhabit them,” Pramod Kumar Yadav, a researcher who has carried out research projects on the fungus, told 101Reporters.

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Singh bros deliberately imperiled Religare Finvest to siphon off money

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Ranbaxy Shivinder Singh

New Delhi, Oct 19 : Singh Brothers — Malvinder Mohan Singh (MMS) and Shivinder Mohan Singh (SMS) — were the lynchpins in the Rs 3,000 crore Religare Group fraud.

The FIR in possession of IANS describes the modus operandi of how the money was siphoned off.

The construct was as follows: The same company was funded with equal or higher amount on the day payment was received from it towards previous dues. In some cases, it appears that ledger entries were done on the earlier dates, but repayments were received on the same day or in a time span of 1-2 days when the same or some other companies were funded.

So, the whole thing assumed a rolling sort of plan, where money came from dues and then repaid elsewhere. It was a calibrated plan which though cut to cut worked like clockwork. Such was the level of chicanery that the two brothers, along with CEO Sunil Godhwani, practised that they deliberately imperiled Religare Finvest so that the money siphoning operation ran without interference.

Here is the architecture: For instance, on June 17, 2009, Rs 34 crore was received in total from Blue Line Finance, GYS Real Estate, Ligare Aviation, Ligare Voyage, Linear Commercial and Sharan Hospitality and on the very same day, Rs 54 crore was funded to Dion Global, Religare Technova Business Intellect and Religare Technova IT Services.

On August 17, 2009, Rs 200 crore was funded and repayment of Rs 100 crore was received from Religare Financial Consultancy. On March 30, 2010, Rs 36 crore was extended to nine companies and on the same day, repayment of Rs 32 crore was received from six other companies except Ligare Aviation from which repayment of Rs 13 crore was received and to which Rs 14 crore was extended on the same day.

On January 31, 2011, repayment of Rs 175 crore was received from Adept Creation, Leon Realtors, SVIIT Softwares and Vectra Pharmaceuticals and on the very next day, i.e. on February 1, 2011, Rs 174 crore was extended to Ligare Aviation, Oscar Investments, Religare Comtrade, RHDFC and RWL Health World.

A copy of the internal report based on inquiries by Religare Finvest, the complainant company, shows the firm’s exposure on account of the Corporate Loan Book (CLB) to the above mentioned related/friendly borrower entities is to the tune of Rs 2,397 crores.

While the aforesaid transactions had been taking place for sometime by way of round-tripping of funds, the loans were purportedly serviced. However, it appears that when the promoters realised that they would lose control over REL and its subsidiaries (including the complainant company), they caused the complainant company to extend loans, but then willfully defaulted on these loans.

Due to the various defaults on account of the CLB, RFL initiated legal proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, against these entities in the NCLT. Before the NCLT, seven of the said borrower companies, which had been extended loans under the CLB, filed replies on solemn affirmation which shockingly is an admission of financial fraud, cheating, criminal breach of trust, money laundering, conspiracy and abetment in respect of the subject unpaid unsecured loans/CLB transactions.

While these entities have intentionally tried to give vague replies, it is clear from all their replies that they knowingly were part of a criminal conspiracy to siphon away funds to the tune of hundreds of crores from the complainant company.

It is believed by the complainant company (on the basis of internal inquiries) that five of these entities — A&A Capital Services Limited (A&A), Shri Dham Distributor Pvt Ltd (earlier known as Abhiruchi Distributors Pvt Ltd), Annies Apparel Pvt Ltd (Annies), Gurudev Financial Services Pvt Ltd (Gurudev), and Tara Alloys Limited (Tara) — are related to and controlled by N.K. Ghoshal, the stockbroker of MMS and SMS.

The following submissions have been made by the aforesaid N.K. Ghoshal controlled entities before the NCLT: A&A Capital Services Pvt Ltd. A&A was used as a medium to transfer monies and was promised a fee for facilitating the transaction. It was an agreed understanding that the transaction money will not be demanded back. It is for the same reason that loans worth several crores were advanced to entities with authorised capital of Rs 5,50,00,000 and paid up capital of Rs 5,49,95,000 without any diligence, security, documentation or security and merely on the basis of a one pager document purportedly called as Memorandum of Understanding. S

Substantial sums were transferred to three entities, i.e., Vitobha Realtors Private Limited (Votobha), Devera Developers Private Limited (Devera) and Best Health Management Pvt Limited (Best), which are entities eventually controlled by SMS and MMS and they act as the alter egos of these companies.

It is evident from the above that A&A admits receipt of money; it admits that since the inception of the transaction, the intention was not to repay the loan to RFL, and conspiracy to divert the loan to third parties which allegedly used the monies to repay their loans to RFL.

As planned in the conspiracy, the loan advanced to A&A was never repaid, and it appears from A&A’s reply that it colluded with entities like Artfice, Best, Vitobha and Devera to siphon away money from RFL, with the intention of never to repay the said unsecured loan and thereby causing a wrongful loss to RFL, which has been deceived and cheated by the directors/persons controlling A&A (which in addition to its directors at the relevant time is believed to be N.K. Ghoshal) and allegedly by and in collusion with persons controlling Artifice, Best, Vitobha and Devera (which in addition to their directors are believed to be SMS and MMS) and persons in control of the management and affairs of RFL, including the erstwhile promoters.

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Congress believes in ground fighting: Ajay Kumar

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Ajay Kumar Lallu

Lucknow, Oct 18 (IANS) Congress eagerly wants to make a come back in Uttar Pradesh. Ajay Kumar Lallu, a two-time MLA from Kushinagar district, looks excited after becoming the state President and now ready to hold the responsibility of the party and also planning to take it to the pinnacle of success.

Lallu told IANS that the Congress believes in fighting on the ground, not on Twitter. On the question of the dejection of the old leaders after the new committee was announced, he said that all people in Congress were associated with one ideology. There is harmony among all the party people, their mindset might vary, but no one is angry. All are working for the advancement of the party.

“After the Sonbhadra Umbha incident, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was shaken by the Congress movement. The party led a big movement under Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s leadership. We were locked in the fort of Chunar. This was a battle on the ground. Gandhi’s padyatra on the Unnao and Chinmayananda scandal had gathered 50,000 workers on the streets on Gandhi Jayanti. Our party has caught the attention of the common man. We will carry forward the fight on this ground.

“The public has believed in the party. The Congress is fighting a battle against the policies such as sugarcane farmers problem, poor law and order, falling economy and arrogance of the Uttar Pradesh government. We are trying to gain the lost faith and mass base. The party will contest the 2022 Assembly elections alone.

“Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi have given me a huge responsibility. The party has been brought only those people to the state executive who has some history in the movement.

“The BJP’s image is quite stronger than any other parties on social media, but this will not work anymore. It is spreading violence, hatred and confusion among people. But our party followed Gandhiji’s ideology and we will definitely win in the next elections,” Lallu said.

“There will be no compromise with indiscipline. A petition has been filed against Harchandpur MLA Rakesh Singh seven months ago. Aditi Singh has also been given notice. The answer has not yet been received.”

Regarding the past two-and-a-half-year of the BJP government, Lallu said, “The BJP is unsuccessful in the state. It is torturing unemployed youths. It is troubling the contract workers. more than 25 thousand home guards might be fired. All the recruitments are pending in the court. The state has become anarchy today. The criminals are being protected. Our party will protest to expose the BJP government.”

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Modi’s new mission: Propel livestock production to increase India’s GDP

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livestock production Narendra Modi with Cow
Mathura: PM Modi visits Pashu Vigyan Evam Arogya Mela in Mathura on Sep 11, 2019. (Photo: PIB)

New Delhi, Oct 17 : Propelling livestock production into ‘mission mode’ would be one of the keys for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in achieving his ambitious target of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024. After brainstorming serial meetings with livestock experts, top veterinary scientists and key officials of the Animal Husbandry and Dairying Ministry, Modi has launched three game-changing schemes which can turn around the growth story of millions of livestock farmers in India. The Government estimates that in the next five years, livestock farmers will not only save losses worth Rs 2.50 lakh crore, but will increase their income four times, contributing a major share in India’s GDP.

On boosting the Indian economy through significant increase in livestock production, Atul Chaturvedi, Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying told IANS: “The government’s determination to increase livestock production will certainly improve the economy in a big way. The three schemes launched by the Centre are unprecedented in scale. At the moment, we are carrying a mammoth exercise to assess the expected contribution of livestock production in the economy.”

One of the most senior IAS officers in the Modi government, Chaturvedi said that extraordinary efforts are being made to implement some of the biggest schemes (in the animal husbandry sector) in the world. “We are hopeful that it would lead to a fourfold increase in farmers’ income by 2024,” said Chaturvedi, a zoologist-turned-bureaucrat, who was earlier holding a key position in the Union Ministry of Commerce.

How focused the Modi government is on the livestock production is evident from its very first cabinet meeting. A source in the PMO revealed that soon after taking oath as Prime Minister for the second term, Modi presided over meetings related to animal husbandry issues. Subsequently, the very first decision of Modi’s first cabinet meeting was approval of a Rs 13,000 crore scheme for the benefit of livestock farmers.

“By 2017-18, Prime Minister Modi (in his first term) had decided to push the animal husbandry and dairy (sector) into mission mode because he realised that growth in this sector is over 6 per cent whereas the yearly growth in the agriculture sector is just half, at a meagre 3 per cent. The government was convinced that if livestock production is stimulated, the growth in animal husbandry and dairy could be raised up to 12 to 15 per cent, heralding a revolution in the agriculture market,” said a key official, implementing vaccination of bovines across the country.

Another area of concern for PM Modi has been very low dairy exports. Despite being the world’s largest milk producer, India could never break into the list of top 15 milk and dairy exporting countries. The main reason for this was that India’s major bovine population was affected by several diseases including the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

The high sanitation norms and health parameters in western countries rejected import of Indian milk and dairy products. The situation was similar in other livestock products. Besides, the average yearly production of milk per cow was not even one fourth. Government data reveals an Indian cow’s average yearly milk production is around 2,000 kg while in the US, the figure crosses the 10,000 kg mark. In Israel, the average yearly milk production by a single cow is nearly 12,000 kg which raises questions about the very low milk yield per cow in India.

On issues which hinder the growth of livestock production in the country, Chaturvedi identified three key problems were the biggest barriers for farmers for yielding less profit.

“Prevailing diseases in farm animals, poor nutrition value (of fodder provided to them) and low quality of breeding are the main reasons behind sluggish growth. The government is addressing all these problems. For instance, a large force of volunteers will undertake the world’s biggest-ever vaccination drive by injecting 1,056 million doses every year. The result would definitely free Indian bovines from FMD, resulting in wide acceptance of Indian milk and dairy products across the world,” said Chaturvedi, a 1986 batch IAS officer of Assam and Meghalaya cadre.

Recently, when PM Modi launched a cattle vaccination programme in Mathura, he also laid emphasis on developing best breeds in livestock. A much better breed of cattle would enable the farmers to pocket six-to-eight times more profit than what they are usually earning now. India has also hired the services of two American companies, considered to be the most advanced in artificial insemination technology to produce healthier livestock. The farmers would now have a choice of breeding only cows rather than bulls. The new technology of insemination provides sex-sorted semen wherein the farmers can ensure that only female calves are born. The inseminated cows using semen of genetically superior bulls can also ensure increased milk production and better fertility.

Policy makers in the government’s think tank, Niti Aayog, are also hopeful that by increasing livestock production in quality and quantity, rural India can contribute to India’s GDP in a significant way. According to a Niti Aayog official, animal husbandry and dairying can reap profits up to ten times more when compared with agriculture production by and large limited to kharif or rabi crops.

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