Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lok Sabha polls in Barmer 2009

The Lok Sabha poll was cononducted for barmer yesterday. interestingly, despite news of low poling throughout the country, the dstrict recorded nerly 53-54% polling when the summer heat was at its glory. The results would take some time to come out but this is an interesting and informative article i read in The Telegraph which i am pasting here for your reference. The article talks about the two main contestents from the district- harish Choudhary from congress and Manavendra Singh rom BJP.

Unusual eddy: minorities behind BJP nominee

(Top) Children hold aloft BJP flags outside the election office of party candidate Manvendra Singh (above) in Barmer; Congress candidate Harish Choudhary (mike in hand, below) at a meeting in Bachrau
As the desert sand swept across National Highway 15, auto-rickshaw driver Taufiq Alam pulled over to one side and fished out a torn computer course certificate from a compartment under his seat.
“This is my brother’s certificate from his madarsa computer classes,” he said proudly, nodding in recognition at a passing SUV carrying the BJP flag. “That (the SUV) is a campaign vehicle for Manvendra Singh… it’s he who brought computers to madarsas,” Alam said.
Here in Barmer — made up of the two districts of Barmer and Jaisalmer and, at 55,074sqkm, India’s second-largest constituency by area — the Congress is fighting an unfamiliar battle.
It faces the challenge of eroding the Muslim vote bank of its opponent from the BJP, a party that usually succeeds in herding the minorities into the lap of the Congress elsewhere.
Manvendra, son of former NDA foreign minister Jaswant Singh who is contesting from Darjeeling, won a thumping victory in 2004 with 60 per cent of the votes, thanks to a role reversal.
He won 80 per cent of the votes from Muslim-dominated bastis (settlements) and villages, and the Congress was left licking its wounds in a constituency it had earlier lost just twice in 30 years.
This time, Manvendra’s fate may depend on how successfully the Congress can coax away his Muslim voters, veterans of both parties here say.
Muslims form the third-largest vote bank here with 1.98 lakh voters — 14 per cent of the constituency’s 14 lakh registered voters — after Dalits (2.36 lakh) and Jats (2.32 lakh).
Harish Choudhary, 38, a former Jodhpur University students’ union president, is the Congress candidate here. His supporters say he was nominated because of the popularity he had earned while working with victims of the freak floods that had turned this desert into a pool of death and disease three years ago.
Choudhary told The Telegraph that if he won, his priority would be to end caste-based politics — which he accused the BJP of promoting — in Barmer.
He and his supporters may be genuine in their convictions, but those in the Congress who pushed his candidature admit that it was his caste — Jat — that helped clinch the ticket for him.
After Dalits, Jats and Muslims, it is Rajputs — Manvendra’s clan — who are the largest group in this seat. But two key Assembly segments dominated by Rajputs have been de-linked from Barmer after delimitation and added to the Jodhpur constituency, where the Congress has fielded a Rajput.
“The transfer of the Rajput-dominated areas and the likely Jat vote for the Congress mean that the battle will really be over the Muslims,” a senior district BJP leader said.
Ashraf Ali, a local Muslim leader, said the Muslims had voted BJP in 2004 because they were angry with the Congress candidate, Colonel Sona Ram Choudhary. The colonel was perceived to have aided in the defeat of two Muslim candidates in the 2003 Assembly polls.
“This time, too, it is Manvendra who will win the Muslim votes, not the BJP, which is pariah for the community here as well,” Ali said.
Manvendra is claiming credit for the introduction of computers in madarsas, for the Thar Express which connects Munabao on India’s border with Kokhrapar in Pakistan, and for helping Muslims get Pakistani visas.
The Congress is trying to drill holes in these claims. “The Thar Express was started by the Manmohan Singh government. Why did the BJP not start it when Jaswant Singh was foreign minister?” asked Harish Choudhary.
In his sabhas in villages spread across the sparsely populated desert, Choudhary has repeatedly accused Manvendra of failing to raise a single question relating to Barmer’s needs and concerns in Parliament.
However, it is his call for votes “to end divisive politics along religious lines” at these sabhas that outlines the Congress’s desperation for Muslim votes.
Rajasthan votes on May 7
(taken from The Telegraph, Sunday, May 3rd)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A water wonder in the middle of a desert

Water remais sthe prime need for this drought prone desert district. Since centuries people of marwar have developed expertise in making different water ahrvesting structures to harvest and store drinking water. A new and innovative initiate has been taken to harvest rain water and produce quality drinking water by Jal Bhagirathi Foundation- a NGO based in Jodhpur. NAmed as water Pyramid teh plant has capacity to produce over 1000 liters of safe drinking water per day. Following article was published in The Hindu and is beautifully written by Sunny Senbastian. I hope this article would be informative. If successful the model would be a boon for the region.

A water wonder in the middle of a desert
Sunny Sebastian
The great Thar Desert of Rajasthan now has a pyramid that has no mummy inside but it churns out life-saving nectar -- potable water -- in this vast torrid terrain. The Water Pyramid has come up as a mountain of hope in the distant, desolate Roopji Raja Beri near Pachpadra in Barmer district.
Situated 125 km from Jodhpur, the village has a population of 1,000 who normally walk 4 km on an average per day to procure the precious commodity. Here men, out of sheer consideration for their women who walk miles to fetch water, normally never drink to their heart’s content.
The Water Pyramid, towering at a height of nine metres and with a diameter of 30 metres, produces distilled water inside using solar energy while its exterior is used to harvest rainwater during the monsoon. The rainwater is collected separately, purified, and stored in a large ground tank with a capacity of 6 lakh litres. Named “Shiv Jal Dhara” -- as it was launched on Mahashivratri day recently -- the pyramid is only the second of its kind to come up in India. The first one is in the water-scarce Kutch, in Gujarat.
The Water Pyramid, innovated by Martijn Nitzsche from The Netherlands, is patented and rewarded by the World Bank with the Development Marketplace Award-2006 for small-scale water innovations. It is a uniquely designed inflated foil structure which uses energy from the sun to evaporate brackish source water and condense it to high-quality drinking water. The concept is based on the solar still principle optimised for large areas.
Those behind the Good Samaritan act of providing water in the middle of the desert are the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation (JCF), the Aqua-Aero Water Systems BV, The Netherlands, and Acumen Fund of the US. “When JCF was searching for a village where people are ready to experiment on a pilot water pyramid, the community from this village came forward and expressed their willingness,” informs Prithviraj Singh, managing trustee of JCF, which has the former ruler of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh, as its chairman.
The main engagement for the women of Roopaji Raja Beri is to walk more than 4 km, spending around six hours a day to fetch water. Though there is a beri (well), after which the village is named, it has only saline water. The meagre agriculture practised in the area is dependent on the scanty rainfall. As there is no alternative source such as a talaab (pond) or baawdi (step-well), the sole source of water here is the monsoon. For any extra water beyond the collection made during the monsoon, they end up paying huge sums of money.
“We have no money to buy water. So most of the time we steal water from neighbouring villages,” confesses Prema Ram, the village Sarpanch, rather shamefacedly.
“We never take our fill of water as we are always afraid of finishing off with the stock, brought home with so much effort by our women,” he explains.
A “Jal Sabha”, consisting of the village community, is supposed to maintain the project. “We came across the concept at last year’s World Water Forum in Mexico,” observes Mr. Prithviraj Singh. It was after taking into account the local people’s enthusiasm and the extreme difficulty in accessing safe drinking water here that the JBF and the Jal Parishad decided to choose this village. The JBF contributed Rs.1.5 lakh while the local Jal Sabha provided land for installing the pyramid.
The plant has a capacity to produce 1,000 litres of safe drinking per day. The operational cost is minimal since direct sunlight is being used as the energy source. In this particular project the raw water with TDS in the range of 10,000 ppm is purified to ultra-pure distilled water. The State Public Health Engineering Department provides the raw water for the plant. There is a provision to manufacture salt also from the pyramid.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

KiraduTemple at Barmer

Nearly 40 Km from Barmer town lies the temple of Kiradu. The temple is of great interest for the students of archaeology and tourists and inscriptions on teh temple date back to 11th Century AD. It is believed taht the temple was constructed in honour of Lord Shiva.
The small note below on Kiradu was written by Natasha Chanda. Hope it is of interest for some of you.

The buried township of Kiradu
About 43 kilometers west of Barmer, Rajasthan, lie the ruins of five temples in a picturesque amphitheatre of hills. These temples date back to circa 1000 A.D. and later. Though some people ascribe it to the Rastrakuta Dynasty, it is believed to belong to the Gurjara-Praihara School of temple building. The intricately sculpted walls and pillars and the complex toranas, also seem to be paving the way for the imminent Solanki vogue. Certain Gupta influences are also apparent, obviously arising from their proximity to Gupta territory. Kiradu was invaded, the enormous wealth looted and carted away. In search of the hidden treasures, the sanctums were dug up relentlessly and stones dislodged from its original place. In the absence of preservation the weather did further damage, sand corroded the walls. An observation of desert landscape would lead one to believe that the cause of the entire township now being buried under sand resulted from the sand deposits on the lee side of the three hills which forms the amphitheatre for the deserted township. Nature completed the ruin of Kiradu as an earthquake at the beginning of the 19th century with its epicenter in Kathiawar brought about unprecedented destruction. Kiradu today lies buried in a valley of barren hills. One can stay there for days without meeting another human soul, but it is an overwhelming experience, entirely different from the routine tourist places. To discover Kiradu is to discover a forgotten page from the glorious past of India.

-Natasha Chanda (Acharya)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rajasthan State Assembly Elections 2008

The polling for Rajasthan State Assembly Elections was held yesterday-4th December 2008- in Barmer. The district recorded polling of over 60 percent. The Political pundits are predicting a close fight between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress in all the 8 seats with an independent candidate playing a crucial role in one of the constituency.

The polling started at 8 am in the morning and there were long queues in most of the polling booths- in some booth the long queue was also due to the problems in the electronic voting machines. The polling ended by 5 pm and overall the polling process was peaceful in Barmer.

Thursday's polling will decide the fate of the BJP government of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. It will also affect the fortunes of the sitting minister Mr. Amra Ram Choudhary and the leader of Opposition Mr. Hemaram Choudhary. Besides these there are few other political stalwarts whose fate is locked in the voting machines- prominent among those being Col. Sonaram Choudhary, Mewaram Jain, Jalam Singh and Amin Khan.

The Congress & the BJP is contesting in all the 8 seats and in all the seats there is more of less direct fight between their candidates; with one independent candidate in Balotara may have a significant impact on the voters. Besides the congress and the BJP there are candidates from the Bahujan Samaj Party, CPI and the Lok Janshakti Party.

During the election campaign, while the BJP focused on its development initiatives and failure of Congress to deal with terrorism, the Congress was raising the issues of corruption in the present Government.

Though the political analyst are divided over the likely outcome but the likely mood seems in favour of the Congress party in majority of the constituencies in Barmer. While the Congress leaders are very sure of their win in Barmer, Shiv, Gudamalani, Pachpadra and Baitu constituency the BJP is equally confident in Chohtan, Siwana, Guda and Shiv.

The results would be declared on 8th. The fate of the contestants and the political parties would be decided that day. But the entire election process which generated lots of heat, undercurrent and interest among the people from various quarter is coming to an end and would stop by 8th. Elections are truly a vital event in our democracy which makes people wake from inertia, participate- in various capacities and at the same time it generates lots of hope for the future. Off course, there is some negative aspects including the clear caste distinction and practices adapted by several candidates which are not fair!
Lets hope whoever comes to power keeps alive the aspirations of the people and further strengthens our vibrant democratic.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I read this article on net a few days back. It is an interesting report and i am copying the entire content as published in the newspaper-Daily Times, Lahore. Barmer is known for Manganhaars- artists with international fame but sadly often in poor economic state. Hope you would like the article.

Sunday, November 09, 2008
Desert delight

KARACHI: The courtyard of a local hotel located on the edge of the Arabian Sea was a sight to behold, with men and women attired in traditional Thari dresses dancing to the rhythm of Thari or desert music. The occasion was the fourth annual Manghaar festival, organised by the Folklore Society of Pakistan, in collaboration with the European Union. The festival aims to highlight the neglected folk music of Pakistan and the aim was duly fulfilled, with more than a dozen folk singers and Manganhaars from Sindh and Punjab, including dholak player Muhammad Yaqoob from Rahim Yar Khan, banjo player Ghulam Hussain, harmonium player Ghulam Sabbir and other folk singers from Umerkot, Chhachro, Hyderabad and Rahim Yar Khan, churning out entrancing beats till after midnight. The literal meaning of the word Manganhaar is a ‘beggar’ but it also refers to a cohesive ethnic community that has a rich

heritage of traditional folk music and resides on both sides of the Indo-Pak border. While in India, the community concentrates in Jaisalmer, Barmer and Jalore, this side of the border, most of the Manganhaars live in the Thar desert, located in northern Sindh and the south of Punjab. “The colours and essence of Sufism and traditional Thari music are in the air tonight,” said Kirshan Lal Bheel of Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab, “Manganhaars are above religions and have devoted their lives to the survival of folk music.” Bheel further reveals that, while their patrons were the Rajput Hindus, many of them have converted to Islam. The Manganhaars, whose inspirations include the Sufi poetry of Mirabai, Bhagat Kabir, Surdas, Bulleh Shah, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sachal Sarmast and Baba Farid, were an important part of their patron’s lives of their patrons, performing at all important occasions such as childbirth, marriage and death.

(as published in The Daily Times, November 9 2008)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Drought and Barmer

Barmer district, which is situated in the Thar Desert, has suffered drought for around 46 of India's 60 years of independence. The average annual rainfall here is less than 250 mm. In highly drought-prone, water-scarce areas, relief and development programmes are generally planned for entire rural communities, as all suffer some form of weather/climate-related stress. In Barmer, there has been a significant effort to identify the most vulnerable groups, the poorest sections whose needs need to be specially understood and addressed. Otherwise, under the prevailing socio-economic conditions, these people remain neglected.
The following article was written by Bharat Dogra- an eminent Journalist 5 years back – during the acute drought of 2003. But the article is still very relevant today. Hope it would give you all a picture of what Barmer looks like during drought. Bharat Dogra ji emphasises that Careful planning, adequate budgeting and close cooperation of government and NGOs are essential to fight drought.

April 2003 (IPS) - These days the only visible activity in Bhilon ka Tala village in arid Rajasthan is the digging of a small reservoir that the villagers are trying to complete before June when the monsoons, they hope, will bring some rain. But that hope is a forlorn one. The last four monsoons have failed Barmer district, which borders Pakistan, and the work on the reservoir digging is going on at a half-hearted pace and then only because it is part of a government scheme to provide employment and grain to the villagers.
In distant New Delhi, scientists including Rajendra Pachauri, who happens to head the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have pronounced that the repeated failure of the monsoons in these parts is due to global warming.
"Last year's experience was the worst," recalls Amiya, a middle-aged woman of this village, her face emaciated and parched. "There was an early indication of good rains so we used all our resources and even borrowed to plant the crop. But the rains never came and we now have nothing -- no grain, no fodder and no seed for the next crop," she says.
Many families have started migrating to distant places in search of an uncertain livelihood from hard labor rather than gamble yet again on wayward monsoons. For those who stayed back, the central government has provided some employment under the head of 'relief work' visible mostly in the building the reservoir that looks small and helpless in the middle of a vast, parched desert. The work is undertaken by rotation so that all the families get a go. One group is employed for nine days and followed by another group for the next nine days, until every family gets a share of what seems to be a desultory enterprise. Theoretically, a nine-day rotation should fetch each worker 90 kg of grain and about three dollars in cash. But already the villagers are so weak and malnourished that few reach that target and the average is something earning is closer to 50 kg of wheat and a dollar after a nine-day stint.
And now the central government is thinking in terms of reducing by half the grain component of the "food-for-work" relief package. Says Shankar Kumar, an activist of Lok Adhikar Network (LAN) or People's Rights Network, which works in several of Barmer's drought-affected villages: "Access to food will be reduced greatly if the central government goes ahead with its proposal to reduce the grain contribution."
At a time when the need is clearly to increase relief effort ahead of the blistering summer months, any move that reduces employment and food-grain availability can be disastrous. Kumar and other activists wonder why when the central government's granaries are bursting with a 60 million tonne stock of surplus grain, a reduction in the quota is even being considered. The Supreme Court has reprimanded the government time and again for mismanaging food distribution in the country, but somehow the system contrives to ensure that marginalised villagers like those in drought-ridden Barmer district stay deprived. Everybody in Bhilon ka Tila village is sure that the "food-for-work" programme has been hijacked by a contractor-politician nexus, but are too scared or too weary to speak out and anyway there is no one around these parts to even listen.
In Rajasthan, a state of 57 million people, health surveys have shown that half of all children below three are undernourished and half of all adult women suffer form anaemia - though this is not apparent in the capital city of Jaipur, a major tourist destination that boasts of palaces converted into luxury hotels.
"The fodder shortage is an even more serious problem. Our surveys revealed large scale animal deaths last year and the situation is bound to worsen this is summer," says Adil Bhai an activist with the Mahila Mandal women's forum, another voluntary group. The government provides grant for cattle camps, but at 25 cents a cow there is not much hope for such livestock as have survived. Sitaram, who is supervising several cattle camps on behalf of the non-government Society for Upliftment of Rural Economy (SURE) says, "Quite often the fodder supply by traders is of poor quality and adulterated with sand."
What is more, the camps shelter only cows and bullocks. Manas Ranjan, a senior activist of LAN, says, "There is a clear need to provide additional fodder for other animals including sheep, goats, camels and donkeys. All these animals are important for the livelihood of the villagers." Weakened camels and donkeys are to be seen everywhere foraging in vain for some stray green fodder in the desert many dropping in their tracks. As for drinking water, even the human beings do not get enough.
Starting this March, the number of villages that will need to be supplied water by the government's motorized tankers will start increasing rapidly. But the villagers point out the jeeps and tractors generally reach only the main settlements accessible by road. After that, camel carts are supposed take over and carry water to the scattered settlements or 'dhanis'. Says Manas Ranjan, "Past experience has been that only a very small part of water needs are satisfied by tankers. Now that there is talk of reducing the per capita norms further the villagers are apprehensive and worry about sheer survival."
Fodder and water shortage, even more than food shortage, is likely to cause extreme distress right up to late June when hopefully, the monsoon rain will, at least this year, bring relief. "This will be one of the most difficult of summers in Barmer and other neighboring areas of Thar Desert," says Magraj Jain, director of SURE. Very careful planning, adequate budgeting and close cooperation of government and NGOs will be needed to cope with the coming cruel summer -- and so far this has remained elusive, the villagers aver.
Bharat Dogra- Writer is eminent journalist and social activist

Barmer Police is blogger too!

The Barmer till now has often been in news for reasons that cannot be termed as very positive if not wrong reason. But the recent years have seen a lot of changes. Now Barmer is not only in news because of drought but also due to the fact that it has brought the state of Rajasthan in the oil map of the world, upcoming thermal power plant and the increasing economic opportunity in the area. There has been one development near a year back which I feel has a news value. This development came as a pleasant surprise for me and in many ways is not a sort of thing you expect to originate from a place like Barmer.

The district Police of Barmer hosted their blog on the net. By the name of Barmer Police this blog was started nearly a year back and is being updated and used regularly by the police department. The SP who initiated it last year claimed that he ‘intends to improve relation of the police with the community’ and ‘blog would be helpful in that’. How much has the relation improved may be debatable but at least this blog provides an online update related to new cases, arrests, investigation etc
The blog has separate sections dedicated for helpline/crime prevention along with the important phone numbers of the department. No doubt that the district has a very low literacy rate and a very few proportaion of people would be using it now but it doesn’t takes away the credit from the Police Department to start the initiative and be among one of the proactive districts among the country to have a blog of their own.