Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Fear of extinction

The Tsunami has destroyed many beautiful islands. The huge natural disaster has caused billions worth of loss. Added to it, many anthorpologisits beleive that the Tsunami might have also erased the scanty population of the rare tribes inhabiting the Islands, especially the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
The beautiful and serene islands of Andaman and Nicobar have been devastated.

There are chances that some of the rare tribes living in these islands may have perished due to the tsunami waves that hit large parts of southeast Asia on Sunday, say experts. If not completely wiped out, at least a large number of them may have been killed.
Lying far from mainland India in the Bay of Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar islands are home to some of the rarest tribes in the world. The population of these tribes has been falling drastically over the years.
And even as a debate raged whether these tribes should be mixed with the "civilized population" or left to their traditions to preserve their ethnicity, the deadly tsunami struck.
"It's a big loss. It's a loss not just of human lives but also for the study of anthropology," said A K Kalla, head of the anthropology department of Delhi University.
The Andaman Islands are spread over an area of 6,496 sq km. To its north lies Nicobar with an area of 1,831 sq km.The Andamans is separated from the Nicobar by a 145 km wide channel.Known to the Europeans since 7th Century AD, the Andamans consists of 200 islands, while the Nicobar has 19 small islands.
The tribals living here came in first direct contact with the rest of the world when the British occupied the islands in late 19th Century.

The Negrito tribe living in the Andamans are perhaps the most ancient race on the earth. Some of their behaviour resemble those practised in the Stone Age.
The Sentinelese are the most isolated community in the world, while the Great Andamanese tribe is perhaps the smallest community in the world.
The Onges are said to be the happiest looking people of the world and the Jarawas are known for their unpredictable nature.
Efforts to make contact with the Jarawas have been futile. They are very shy people and have stayed away from settlers on the island, says Kalla.

In the Great Nicobar Island are the Shompens. They live a semi-nomadic and primitive life. They camp in difficult and remote terrain on the island, making it difficult to contact them.
The latest Census report says there are 266 to 270 Jarawas, 98to 100 Onges, 150 to 200 Shompen, 200 to 250 Sentinelese, 20,000 Nicobarese and only 40to 45 Great Andamanese.The Andamans is comparatively less affected by the tsunami. Unlike the Nicobarese, the tribes in Andaman live in hilly areas and not near the sea.

The worst-hit are the Car Nicobar and Chawra Islands.
The people of the Nicobarese tribe, which lives here, have Mongoloid features.
Nitin Maurya, a researcher in Delhi University, has done his doctorate on the Nicobarese tribe. He returned from Car Nicobar just six months ago.He says out of the 20,000 people living in Car Nicobar, 12,000 to 14,000 are Nicobarese tribe
"They mainly reside on the periphery of the island. So the casualty obviously is lot more than what the officials are saying. But because the Nicobarese population is quite high, there are chances that lot of them may have survived," said Maurya.
The Nicobarese have been mixing with settlers on the island. They wear clothes like normal people and even come to work in the towns. But they have their own food and traditions.
Sentinelese tribe, which is anthropologically the most important one, is also facing danger. They live on the flat North Sentinel Island. Their population is estimated to be around 100. No exact count is possible as the tribe has remained isolated.
Along with the Nicobarese, the Sentinelese tribe has also been affected by the tsunami.
Kalla says it is difficult to make an assessment of the loss as many people in these tribes remain isolated. No anthropologist has been able to make contact with the Jarawas.
"It is difficult to get the dead bodies from the sea. And we don't have much knowledge about the tribe so it is difficult to say how many of them died," says kalla.
"Even the choppers have not been able to locate people stuck in the islands. The only thing we can trust is the satellite pictures. The pictures show that large parts of the islands have been completely wiped out. It is really sad."
Some experts say the tribes have their own ability to survive such disasters. But Kalla disagrees.
Indigenous methods work, but only in small disasters. This time it would be too much to expect. It happened all of a sudden. One may glorify the tribal culture but one should also be realistic. If people in Chennai and Colombo perished, what do you expect of the tribals?" asked kalla.
The officials in Delhi are waiting for the field report before declaring the total loss of tribal population.
"Officials are now busy with relief work so we have no knowledge of the extent of damage to the tribals," an Anthropological Survey of India official said.
Downplaying the issue, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters on Tuesday that the aborigines in Andaman and Nicobar Islands -- Ongi, Sentinel and Jarwa tribes - were safe.
But the major question that remains is of rehabilitation.
Maurya says: "Hardly anything is produced in Car Nicobar. Even vegetables come from Little Andaman Island. Now the situation is such that the officials will have to carry everything from Chennai."
"Government had invested so much in the infrastructure in these islands. Everything has been devastated now. Rehabilitation will be costly."


Monday, December 27, 2004


The recent tsunami which hit many counties in South Asia is supposed to be one of the worst calamities of the year 2004. With a magnitude of 9.0, the undersea quake off the coast of Sumatra is the worst for 40 years and the fifth strongest since 1900.

In the Past:
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the highest death toll from a tsunami happened in 1896, when 27,000 people were drowned following an earthquake off the coast of Japan.
One of the most memorable disasters of recent times is Hurricane Mitch, which devastated much of Honduras and Nicaragua in Central America in 1998.
More than 10,000 people were estimated to have been killed and some two million left homeless as the torrential rain caused mudslides that swept away whole villages.
Bangladesh was even harder hit in 1970, when a cyclone killed up to 500,000 people. Winds of up to 230 km/h whipped up massive waves that took away entire villages.
China suffered similar losses when an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.3 almost obliterated the north-eastern city of Tangshan in 1976. The official number of people killed was put at around 250,000, although some said the figure was more like 750,000.
No borders
And almost exactly a year ago, a 6.3 quake devastated the Iranian city of Bam, killing more than 50,000.
China, and indeed Asia as a whole, has had its fair share of natural disasters over the centuries.
Whole communities are left devastated by natural disasters
Shanxi and Henan provinces lost more than 800,000 people when they were hit, in 1556, by one of the worst earthquakes in history.
In 1887, about 900,000 people died when the country's Yellow River burst its banks in the worst-ever recorded flooding.
A volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora on Indonesia's Sumbawa island in 1815 claimed the lives of more than 90,000 people as a blanket of lava and ash covered all around it, leading to agricultural devastation, famine and disease.
And one of the worst monsoons in living memory claimed the lives of 10,000 people in Thailand over the course of three months in 1983. Some 100,000 people contracted waterborne diseases as a result of the storm.
Snow storms, forest fires and avalanches have all proved deadly. A single landslide in Peru in 1970 killed more than 18,000 people in the town of Yungay.
Most of these disasters were isolated to one area or one country. But, as the Asian tsunami has shown, nature knows no borders.
The droughts that swept across sub-Saharan African in the 1980s led to the starvation of an estimated one million people. They are threatening to do the same again. ( courtesy:

The loss is huge. But let us try our best to help the victims and the organizations involved in relief work.

Visit this link to donate:

Fore more ways of donation:

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Where lies the problem?

India's troubling truants: teachers
A new study finds 25 percent of teachers absent on any given day.
By Diana Coulter | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
DELHI – Twice a day, vegetable salesman Kamakhya Singh takes time off to balance his three children on a bike for their school commute only to learn, too often, that the teachers are absent.
"We are poor people, but we want our children to get a good education," says Mr. Singh, who works outside Delhi. "I am not so sure teachers care so much because sometimes my children walk home if no one is instructing them."

For more go to

I was very surprised to find the above article on Indian teachers in an international newsletter. Meanwhile I also came across the same issue in of the discussions on deesha group. Though I wasn’t surprised about the truancy rates of teachers in government schools and the lack of proper resources in such schools, I was surely wondering why it took so long for the critics to notice these facts. Thee study conducted on the truancy rate seems a bit confusing to me. I am doubtful about the reliability of the tests as it shows only one phase of the education system in schools.
As indicated earlier, I am not surprised about the report on the truancy issue of the teachers but am really depressed by the way the schools continue to be run in India. Government schools have earned a very notorious reputation of being understaffed and under maintained. The students who study in these schools literally waste their precious years spending time attending the schools gaining little or no education. I remember my childhood days when most of my elders would ridicule the parents who sent their children to government schools. Even my peers and including me had a biased feeling towards children studying in government schools. It is no surprise that the teachers in these schools do not work hard and are not expected to comply with any standards of teaching. The parents who are least bothered about their wards education or who cannot afford to send them to private schools usually opted for the government schools.
But, as I specified this is the situation in “government” schools and not in private schools.

In India we find a good proportion of private schools catering to the needs of lower middle class to the upper class societies. Though most of the teachers do not have the BEd degree (the licensure for teaching), they are accepted by these schools to teach the students based on their educational qualifications. Most of these teachers work their sweat out for earning meager income with no promotions and no better prospects.
Except for the usual vacations which they enjoy along wit the students, most of them are expected to be very punctual and are not excused for their tardiness or their absenteeism. The reports on salary satisfaction also might be pertaining to that of a teacher employed in a government run school who is paid well in comparison with the teachers working in private schools.
Thus, the research seems to be one sided with not particular mention on the type of schools surveyed. However by the tone of the report it is clear that most of the schools surveyed were government schools in rural areas where the general population still need to be enlightened about the positive outcomes of good education and where and for whom private education is away from their reach.
Moreover the research does not specify if the comparison was only between the Indian government schools and the government run schools in other countries.
The tone of the report seems very hostile towards teachers in general trying to brand everyone as truant, lazy and opportunist which is really very insulting.
The whole issue surely throws light on the poor functioning of the education system in India. Almost all the government schools need a makeover to improve the quality of education. So the problem is not just the teachers but the whole lousy education system in the government run schools where everything has stagnated which has a deleterious effect on the future of those innocent kids attending these schools.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Am I am ethno centrist?

Believe it or not, I have always been fascinated by the varied cultures around the world.
Moreover, after coming to the US, my interest in understanding various cultures has reached to a very interesting stage. Needless to say, I am always trying to understand the fine intricate details of the intra-racial differences and at times am successful in identifying the individuals belonging to a certain race. Apart from the differences, I also try to find some similarities between various cultures and am fascinated by the way we Indians differ from most of the other races. Indians are so unique. Right from the geographical area, to the languages, religions and the cultures, we are a very diverse group. No wonder India is referred to as a subcontinent with so many varied cultures, languages, geographical areas and religions. The differences are even more marked when in the morphological features of individuals from different parts of the country. Comparing ourselves to the Europeans and the Africans, I find our country far more diverse than these two huge continents. The south Indians, are darker while the north Indians are more light skinned. In parts of India (Madhya Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands) we find tribes who resemble people of African origin, while most of the east Indians (Mizoram, Manipal, Nagaland and Assam) has a close resemblance to the mongoloid or the Far East Indians. Apart from the above intra-ethnic differences among Indians, we find some more morphological differences among the south Indians, the north Indians, the West Indians and the east Indians. Why is it so? Why are we so different? The differences cannot be attributed solely to the climatic conditions and I firmly believe that anthropology could give me a better answer to my question.

My whole purpose of delving into these issues is not to fan my “ethnocentrism” but to understand the mysteries of human race. In fact most often I believe that the humans actually originated from the same ancestor and then underwent evolution to adapt themselves. Diversity flavor and makes the life more colorful and more meaningful.
However my recent enthusiasm to know more about the various races around the world has more to do with my inquisitiveness than to identify myself with a particular race.
My quest to learn more about anthropology is to do with my quest for knowledge than with the feeling of ethnocentricism.

My new passion

I am always interested to know more about the cultures surrounding me. Sometimes I try to analyze the similarities than the differences as it makes me feel more comfortable. Most often I try to draw similarities between various cultures and their customs which again connects back to my theory that most of the cultures have had a single root. However, as time passed by they moved away and adapted as per their new environments but still retained some of their old customs.
Recently my focus has been on understating the similarities between the Mexican and the (East) Indian cultures. The physical features of the Mexicans, their family values, the colorful clothing, the spicy food, everything mystifies me and makes me draw comparisons between the Indian and Mexican culture. Every thing looks so much similar in spite of the countries located far apart on the globe.
Trying go trace the connections between these two cultures, I did some research on the continental drift, the ancient tribes of Mexico, the East Indian and the Native American connections.
There are many contradicting theories which tried to provide some evidence about the origin of the Native Americans who are very closely linked to the Mexicans. But I was unable to find any substantial evidence or confirm with any of the theories I read. Some of the theories confirmed the origin of the Native American tribes to the African tribes while some indicated significant relationship with the Asian tribes. However it was interesting to know about the continental drift which took place thousands of years back. Due to the continental drift, the American continents got separated from the European and African continents. In this process I was able to hit across some really interesting website and am providing the links below. It would be great if any one who reads these blogs comes across the missing link or the distant relationship between the Mexican and the East Indian cultures.

The links:
This link explains the traces of Hinduism and the possible connection between the ancient Americans and the Asians
The above links gives a completely different perspective of the Olmecs thus contradicting the first link.
The above link gives a simple and interesting detail on the continental drift.
From the above link we can actually learn a lot about the origins of Native Americans to their contemporary life and their culture.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Dangerous drugs

Here is a list of drugs, which are supposed to have serious side effects when consumed. Most of the developed countries have banned their use. However they continue to be sold at many of the drug stores in India. Please do not consume any of the drugs listed and make sure to spread the message to others also.

ANALGIN:This is a pain-killer. Reason for ban: Bone marrow depression.
Brand name: Novalgin

CISAPRIDE:Acidity, constipation. Reason for ban: irregular heartbeat
Brand name: Ciza, Syspride

DROPERIDOL: Anti-depressant. Reason for ban: Irregular heartbeat.
Brand name: Droperol

FURAZOLIDONE: Antidiarrhoeal. Reason for ban: Cancer.
Brand name: Furoxone, Lomofen

NIMESULIDE: Painkiller, fever. Reason for ban: Liver failure.
Brand name: Nise, Nimulid

NITROFURAZONE: Antibacterial cream. Reason for ban: Cancer.
Brand name: Furacin

PHENOLPHTHALEIN:Laxative. Reason for ban: Cancer.
Brand name: Agarol

PHENYLPROPANOLAMINE: Consumed for cold and cough. Reason for ban: stroke.
Brand name: D'cold, Vicks Action-500

OXYPHENBUTAZONE: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Reason for ban: Bone marrow
Brand name: Sioril

PIPERAZINE: Used to kill worms in the body. Reason for ban: Nerve damage.
Brand name: Piperazine

QUINIODOCHLOR: Anti-diarrhoeal drug. Reason for ban : Damage to sight.
Brand name: Enteroquinol

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