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    Dated : Saturday, February 18, 2017
 


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Man-elephant conflicts in Assam

In Assam, traditional methods to chase elephants away from settlement areas and crop fields include prayers, shouting, beating drums, burning bamboo, bursting fire crackers, burning fire at entry points to fields, powerful spotlights and throwing of stones and spears . However, these do not work in many places. Tree huts or huts at ground-level are used as look-outs and are manned by individual farmers or groups guarding several fields cooperatively. Such tactics have helped to reduce crop loss upto a certain level but is limited by the inability of farmers to stay awake over several consecutive nights on a continuous basis.

Dr. Anamika Gogoi

Conflict between man and elephant is not a new topic. Rather, it is as old as human civilization itself. But in today's world, this issue is causing serious concern due to the rapidly decreasing elephant population world-wide. NE India is home to more than 10,000 wild elephants, around 25% of the world's elephant population. With the decrease in forest cover due to human population growth and development, mayhem created by herds of wild elephants has forced many families to pass sleepless nights in different belts of Assam.

Due to tremendous anthropogenic pressure, forest patches have undergone significant degradation. Increasing human population, agricultural expansions, encroachment on forests and consequent habitat and corridor loss of elephants, human interference within the natural habitat and shortage of food and water in the habitat has increased the number of man-elephant conflict incidents in Assam. Illegal and unplanned developmental activities on the critical elephant corridor are obstructing the free movement of elephants and are important drivers of the man-elephant conflict. Moreover, people from nearby tea-garden areas make and consume home-made country liquor, which these elephants are very fond of. Thus, in search of this liquor, elephants frequently visit tea garden areas and plunder the houses. Elephant habitats near the tea gardens are highly degraded due to continuous illegal felling and encroachment by the local people especially by the labourers of adjoining tea gardens. Elephants cause enormous financial loss to farmers and householders when they raid crop fields and storage houses to feed on cereals, grains, fruits and other foods. Elephants also cause human deaths or injuries during crop/property raiding, movement through human settlements near forests and during accidental encounters.From this, it is clear that man-elephant conflict in Assam is an outcome of habitat loss and food shortage of wild elephants.

In Assam, traditional methods to chase elephants away from settlement areas and crop fields include prayers, shouting, beating drums, burning bamboo, bursting fire crackers, burning fire at entry points to fields, powerful spotlights and throwing of stones and spears . However, these do not work in many places. Tree huts or huts at ground-level are used as look-outs and are manned by individual farmers or groups guarding several fields cooperatively. Such tactics have helped to reduce crop loss upto a certain level but is limited by the inability of farmers to stay awake over several consecutive nights on a continuous basis.

The following recommendations are offered for mitigating human-elephant conflict in Assam:(a) Livelihood alternatives should be provided for neighboring villages. (b) A buffer zone can be created between the natural habitat and settlement area by planting unpalatable crops. (c) Wherever possible, the existing protected areas should also be enlarged and fragmentation of protected areas should be discouraged. (d) Emphasis should be given to developing a permanent fresh water ecosystem, so that sufficient drinking water is available for the elephants within their habitat. (f) Shifting cultivation needs to be controlled/regulated. (g) Encroachment should be strictly monitored. New encroachments should be discouraged or banned, especially in the reserve forestlands.(h) Conservation education with active involvement of local and international nongovernmental organizations (). Avoid traditional methods of depredation and use scientific methods and also increased empirical research on the ecology, behaviour, and movement of wildlife, especially elephants.

In efforts to reduce human-wildlife conflict, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has partnered with a number of organizations to provide solutions around the world. Their solutions are tailored to the community and species involved. For example, in Mozambique, communities started to grow more chili pepper plants after making the discovery that elephants dislike and avoid plants containing capsaicin. This creative and effective method prevents elephants from trampling community farmers' fields as well as protects the species. These suggestions could potentially mitigate human-elephant conflicts in Assam.

 

How authentic are box office figures?

By Radhika Bhirani

India may be among the world leaders in terms of movies produced each year, but authentic information on box office statistics is still not available.

Even though the screen count per million population in India is one of the lowest, given the sheer diversity and complexity of the (approx.) $2 billion Indian film industry, a centralised box office analytics system remains a daunting challenge.

"For a country of our size and diversity, adoption to change always is a slow process... But it shall happen sooner than later," Kamal Gianchandani, Chief Of Strategy, PVR Ltd, said.

"We are of the belief that the time has come for the Indian movie Industry to move towards an era of data efficiency and analytics to optimise its potential," he added.

The movie exhibition company PVR Cinemas -- with its circuit of 562 screens in 48 Indian cities -- recently tied up with US-based global media measurement and analytics company comScore (formerly Rentrak) -- which records box office figures from over 125,000 screens in more than 25,000 theatres across the globe.

The company first entered the Indian market in 2014 in a tie-up with Aamir Khan starrer "PK". But that was a one-off association for one film.

"India is the most challenging market across the world because of the diversity, complexity and large number of single screens. So it has been an extremely challenging market, and the progress has been very slow, but steady," Rajkumar Akella, Managing Director, comScore India - Theatrical said.

Film business and trade expert Girish Johar feels there are still about five to 10 years before India can have a full-fledged system in place, given how "geographically vast and fragmented" the market is. comScore collects 95 per cent of the global box office data, and the remaining, Akella said, is largely from India as the country "literally accounts for three to four per cent of the data".

In the recent past, the race to the 'Rs 100-crore club' has seen an unprecedented rush and noise in the country. The box office numbers given out are mostly from the producers, distributors or trade pundits -- without a stamp of authenticity.

These are mostly based on Daily Collection Reports that they get from theatres.

Film industry veteran Amit Khanna says the calculation method of box office figures in India is not in sync with what's practiced the world over.

"It's wrong. People in India give out gross figures after subtracting the entertainment tax, whereas they should report in net, which is what the consumer spends on a ticket," Khanna, former chairman of Reliance Entertainment said.

If all stakeholders -- producers, distributors and exhibitors -- start providing information to a service like comScore, it could give the industry a uniform currency of box office figures.

How does it work?

"We collect data directly from theatres. It's an automated software, so that's most accurate without manual intervention," Akella explained. However, he added, as of now they rely on manual feeding of numbers for single screens which have not started e-ticketing.

Is connectivity not an issue?

"As a country, we are well on course to achieve 100 per cent connectivity, superior bandwidth and 4G services. Technology is proliferating. E-ticketing solutions are available and affordable to even single screens," Gianchandani said.

Johar feels the government must make efforts to give incentives to single screens to motivate computerised ticketing.

Having said that, one cannot ignore how the dominance of single screen theatres vis-a-vis multiplexes in the Indian market, is quite a challenge in a single point system of box office reporting.

Khanna said: "If India has about 9,000 screens, about 7,500 of them are single screens."

"Single screen exhibitors sometimes under-report ticket sales while trying to save on entertainment tax, and that distorts the figures. On the other hand, distributors and producers hike their numbers by 10 to 15 per cent when they give out the figures," he added, also pointing out how the film industry is currently in a bad shape given the dearth of screens.

According to the KPMG-Ficci Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2016, the screen penetration at India stands at 6 per million versus 23 per million in China and 126 per million in the US. The report says there's is a need to have at least 20,000 screens in order to do justice to all the films that are being produced in the country. (IANS)

 
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