A nature lover’s children may or may not inherit the parent’s passion. ‘Fading genes’ are so fashionable in our post-modern age, suffused as it is with distraction and frivolity. No such syndrome, however, afflicts Haryana IAS officer and HUDA administrator, Gauri Parasher Joshi, who has brought out a vivid tome on Jind’s rich cultural history and devoted many of its pages to birds. Jind has many wetlands, and birds also find food and safety in the sarovars that grace the ‘Tirathas’ or places of pilgrimage. Her love for nature, as reflected in her book, ‘Jind: Flowing Waters, Forgotten History’, is a gift from her father, retired Haryana IAS officer, RN Prasher.
Prasher and his brother, the environmentalist and wildlife photographer, Dushyant Parasher, along with Jind-based lensman, Sunny Chopra, have contributed the images that so define this book. Prasher, also a former UT home secretary, took to photographing insects for five years in the 1990s at his then official residence in Chandigarh (236, Sector 16). One night while crawling up to a moth and clicking it, he discovered to his delight the moth wielded a ‘rare’ double proboscis. He then toyed with the idea of publishing a book on insects and naming it, 236/16! However, insects started to disappear from his residence and he was left saddened. Prasher then discovered the joys of clicking and observing birds.
At his present residence in Panchkula MDC, Prasher continues to delight in clicking barbets, hornbills and bulbuls nibbling at the fruits of a nearby ‘bargad’. Another friend of feathers in the family is her husband, Chandigarh DC, Ajit B. Joshi, who as Jhajjar DC had conceived and helped bring out a compact guide book, Birds of Bhindawas.
During Joshi’s recent sojourn in Jind as the additional DC, she noted that chemicals such as washing powder were running off into village ponds and poisoning migratory birds. She also marvelled at the fierce conservation ethic inculcated in Haryanvi villagers, who have traditionally taken up all manner of arms to hound those hunting birds and wildlife. She delighted in the raucous Red-naped ibises roosting at Jind’s quaint PWD rest house. All these influences reflect in her book that challenges the stereotype of Jind being a Haryana backwater ill at ease with any cultured nuance except agriculture!
Raping a sanctity
At the Harike market, the choice river fish, ‘Sol’, retails upwards of Rs 700 a kg. At Chandigarh’s high-end stores, ‘Sol’ retails for rs 950 a kg. Little wonder then that the fish mafia has over the years been most reluctant to respect the sanctity of Harike wildlife sanctuary’s waters, which are rich with ‘Sol’ and ‘Singhara’ fish. A ban is in place to protect these wild creatures and prevent collateral damage to and netting/poisoning of migratory waterfowl. The ‘Riyasat’ area and the confluence point of the Sutlej and the Beas are the two areas richest in fish in the sanctuary and prove far too tempting for the fish mafia, which lays nets during the day and retrieves fish at night using country boats.
Forest and wildlife department officials at Harike rightly maintain that the 86 sq km sanctuary is not easy to guard, given its open-ended topography, unruly waters, marshes and elephant grasses. But, they are on specious ground when they tacitly back the claim of fishing contractors, whose men when nabbed within the sanctuary claim that since the protected area is not clearly demarcated, they had ‘got lost and wandered in’.
The fact is these poachers are found deep within the sanctuary, even till the sanctuary’s nozzle point and in the ‘pond’ area, and there is no excuse for such intrusions when they have been indulging in legitimate, commercial fishing upstream of the sanctuary’s limits for decades. At the root of it all, is the backing a Punjab cabinet minister lends to such elements and the pressure he exerts on officials to turn a blind eye.
A cow as Chaperone
Most of us nurture fond memories of being rounded up and a head count being taken at the end of a school picnic. Well, here is a stirring parallel. A herd of cows without a herdsman is left to graze by a ‘gaushala’ near Mirzapur dam situated in the Shivalik foothills. What is remarkable is that one cow has taken over the role of the herdswoman and every evening she ensures the herd returns to the ‘gaushala’ after feeding on the left flank of hills rising from the dam. On a recent picnic there, we observed the more agile cows and bulls coming down from the hills, walking across the dam and grouping on the grassy slopes of the embankment. However, one cow stood at the base of the path curving up to the hills and kept mooing as if summoning the laggards. After some time, a few calves and cows trotted down. She nudged and escorted them to the rest of the herd.
She then returned and exchanged several moos with unseen members of the herd left on the hills until two calves and a lame bull came down. Satisfied that all her wards were safely down, the cow then finally left and joined the herd. She evidently knew there were no more members of the herd left on the hills because we were there till sunset and did not observe any other cow coming down.