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Notorious Chambal ravines to host India’s biggest bird festival

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Lucknow: The image of the Chambal ravines in Uttar Pradesh, so far portrayed the world over as the backyard of horse-mounted and gun-wielding dacoits, is set to turn a new leaf this December as the the rat-a-tat of bullets, as seen in many Bollywood flicks is set to be replaced by the soothing chirps of birds of various hues.

This, as the ravines are set to be host to over 75 domestic and international wildlife experts, photographers and eminent bird watchers between December 4-6 at the country’s first Bird Festival. Sources told IANS that the event of this magnitude has never been held in India before and has been conceived on the lines of the British Bird Fair held in England every year in the third week of August.

Organizers say that from now on, this event would be an annual affair and after the inaugural edition at the Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary, would next year be hosted in the Terai region, which is rich in bio-diversity with Katrania Ghat, Dudhwa National Park and other wetlands and water bodies that are home to hundreds of bird species.

Ram Pratap Singh, a member of the Uttar Pradesh tourism and wildlife boards, said that the state was home to more than 500 species of birds – almost half the country’s total – and hence was ideal for hosting such an event.

“The idea behind the event is two pronged – first is to sensitize people of the rich bio-diversity in the state and second to popularize bird watching tourism which has picked up in a big way across the globe,” Ram Pratap Singh told IANS.

Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has confirmed his participation in the high-profile event, which he will inaugurate and release a book, “Birds of UP”, principal secretary (Information) Navneet Sehgal told IANS, adding that the chief minister had also asked his department, along with the forest department, to extensively publicize the do so that people are bonded to wildlife.

Other than the experts, around 100 schoolchildren from nearby institutions in Agra, Etawah, Firozabad, Mainpuri and Shikohabad would attend the event every day and take part in debates, art competitions and other event-related activities.

“The idea is to expose young minds to wildlife conservation and inculcate love and passion for bird watching,” an organizer informed.

The experts, among them Tim Inskipp, Carol Inskipp, Pamela Rasmussen, Tim Appleton, Per Alstrom, Bano Haralu, Paul Donald, Gopi Sundar, Jackie Garner and Pete Marshall, would stay at the National Chambal Sanctuary in specially pitched tents for three days.

“This is a large enterprise and has received an overwhelming response from wildlife enthusiasts,” Nikhil Devasar, an advisor to the event, told IANS, adding that air tickets for experts from across the globe have been booked.

There will be talks by prominent ornithologist from around the globe. Workshops by professional photographers and art shows by renowned artists, as also a bird ringing station.

Early mornings would be for birdwatching in the nearby forest or boat safaris on the Chambal river followed by talks and workshops during the day.

It has also been proposed that as the event kick-starts, district magistrates and district forest officers (DFOs) across the state hold bird-watching camps at which footffalls of 15,000 to 20,000 are expected.

“The idea is to spread the goodwill and interest for bird watching,” Ram Pratap Singh mused.

Happy bird watching!

(Mohit Dubey, IANS)

 

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

Also Read: Social Media in India: Understanding The Dynamics of ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’

Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

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First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

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An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)