19-25 Dec, 2012
small world
The Mystery of the Leopard That Was Not

Impossible, says the forest department, but people in Bangalore are convinced of a lurking beast

BANGALORE ~ A fortnight ago, residents near Bangalore’s showpiece infotech hub, International Tech Park Ltd in Whitefield, reported hearing strange growls. Two of them saw an animal and swore that its shape at dusk was larger than that of a stray dog. When they found heavy footprints on soft ground after a rainy night, they put all the evidence together, did a quick check on the internet and deducted that it was a leopard on the prowl. Except that the forest department says that this is simply impossible.

The fear around Whitefield’s Sai Residential Enclave sends people scurrying home by sunset. Children are not let out at night. When Samir T, a resident, took up the case of the leopard with the forest department, officials from the nearby Forest Training Institute visited the area and searched it extensively. But they found no evidence of a leopard. The city’s honorary wildlife warden, Sharath Babu, says the area is covered entirely by a concrete jungle. “There is no way a leopard could have penetrated this far in, as it has to first breach a ring of apartments, houses and factory blocks. None of them has reported any such sighting in the past months. In fact, there have been no leopards [seen on] this side of Bangalore for decades now,’’ says Babu.

Samir is not convinced. “We photographed different kinds of pug marks. We searched the net and tried to match it with that of wild animals. The only ones that came close were hyenas and leopards. And hyenas don’t growl,’’ he says.

Forest officials say unless there is enough proof, they cannot undertake trapping operations. Residents are now gathering it. On the morning of 10 December, along with some wildlife experts, they levelled some stretches, dumped layers of soft sand and watered it to capture fresh footprints. “We want to prove them wrong. I myself heard a low growl behind my compound last week. We are also trying to record the noises,’’ says Samir.

Take Two
Tendulkar Must Retire
...from the Rajya Sabha

You don’t need to be an elephant to remember how difficult it was to get Sourav Ganguly packed off from the Indian cricket team. It took the irritation, exasperation and collective prayers of an entire nation, barring West Bengal, to finally see him go. He then did a repeat in the IPL, where again he holds the distinction of being forced to leave two teams. When someone with such a history says that had he been in Sachin Tendulkar’s shoes, he would have retired, then all you can do is rub your eyes and sigh at how low Tendulkar’s stock has fallen.

From a fatalist’s point of view, the timing of his retirement is not even an issue. It is like the dictum of the share market— at whatever level it is, that is the proper level for it. Tendulkar will hang up his boots when he can no longer afford not to. A couple of centuries, as has happened in the past, and all the voices, including Ganguly’s, will go back to the familiar refrain—‘He should choose his time’. And then a lean patch, and it will be that other familiar refrain—‘This is perhaps the time’. And in between these two refrains, when the sporadic humiliation outweighs the comfort of playing on, Tendulkar will, like others before him— Steve Waugh, Kapil Dev, Brian Lara—call it a day. This is the end of all sportsmen barring a few Don Bradmans. Tendulkar’s cricketing life has been remarkable, the exit will be pedestrian in comparison.

But there is another career that he must take premature retirement from. If you followed the vote in Parliament over multi-brand FDI, one of the things you would have noticed is Member of Parliament Sachin Tendulkar’s contribution to it. It was, to be precise, nothing. He was absent from the Rajya Sabha because he was playing cricket. In the days running up to the vote, for some time, as the BSP and Samajwadi Party flip-flopped and negotiated, it was thought every vote, even Tendulkar’s, would count. The allowing of multi-brand FDI is an important issue for this country.

There are entire sectors at stake. If it comes to a choice between a game of cricket or the potential elimination of all small shopkeepers in the country or the potential elimination of all middlemen between farmers and shops, then any responsible citizen who is fortunate enough to be a parliamentarian doesn’t have to think too hard. And we even lost the Test. There is a reason that such a choice was not even a distant consideration to Tendulkar—a) there is no value to something that comes without effort; and b) there is no value to something that is not wanted. A Rajya Sabha seat is a big deal. Someone like Arvind Kejriwal could become an authorised nuisance. A fixer or criminal could build networks lasting him a lifetime. Any one of the millions of unemployed or starving could live off the free accommodation and salary. They would all come to put in a vote over FDI.

Imagine Indian society as a pyramid of clubs. At the bottom is the biggest club—of poor people with very feeble connections among one another. Then there are the smaller slabs of the middle and upper middle-class. Then there is the even smaller one of the rich and powerful. At the very top is the smallest club of all—the elite who head other parts of society and helm the country. They are few in number and have strong networks among themselves. Before Thackeray died, you saw members of this club coming to pay obeisance at his home. To get into this club, you must either be born into it (Rahul Gandhi) or spend a lifetime working your way into it (Manmohan Singh) or manipulating your way in (Amar Singh). A select few get invited in because of their extraordinary achievements and popular support. It is no coincidence that Shah Rukh Khan is such good friends with Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi. Tendulkar is also an invitee into it. The Rajya Sabha seat is his co-option and a bonus that comes with free entry.

Except that he has no interest in public life. The only time he did anything remotely political was when he inadvertently said Mumbai belongs to all Indians three years ago, when the MNS and Shiv Sena were raising their pitch on ‘outsiders’. Thackeray wrote against him in Saamna and Tendulkar immediately shut up. You could be kind to him then, saying that he was just a cricketer; politics was not his business. But what do you say now?

Middle Path
Judgement Day for Strays

To kill or not to kill stray dogs was the Hamletian dilemma facing Bangalore. But the Karnataka High Court settled the issue by finding a middle path. Strays can be killed, but only the extremely dangerous ones, it says. The verdict should cheer parents of Razia and Jishnu, two kids from very poor households who were in the news after they were bitten by strays. Razia requires plastic surgery, which her parents cannot afford. And the compensation amount that the city’s civic body, Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), has paid Jishnu was hardly enough to cover his medical bills. The court also asked the BBMP to frame compensation rules that would do justice to victims. In fact, the 7 December ruling was pronounced on a PIL seeking adequate compensation for victims of stray dogs. Chief Justice Vikramajit Sen also directed the civic body to isolate strays with rabies, till they died a natural death. While disposing the PIL, he said that terminally ill dogs can be euthanised, and added that, “Furious or dumb rabid dogs should be dealt with irrespective of whether there is evidence of such dogs having mauled or bitten children or adults.’’