SOUTHERN NOTES: COVID bonanza for property owners in Telangana
Stung by its defeat in the Dubbaka Assembly by-election to the BJP, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti [TRS] government has announced a bonanza for property owner
Festival cheer for property owners
Stung by its defeat in the Dubbaka Assembly by-election to the BJP, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti [TRS] government, with an eye on the upcoming Greater Hyderabad Municipal Council [GHMC] elections, has announced a bonanza for property owners: a whopping 50 per cent rebate in annual taxes up to Rs 15,000 in the capital area of Hyderabad, and up to Rs 10,000 in other areas of the state. Minister KT Rama Rao said this was being done in view of the economic distress caused by the lockdown, and the torrential rains and flooding in the state. But observers see it as a move to woo the voters, after its shock defeat in its own backyard to the BJP, which has been making steady inroads into Telangana.
Road travel resumes
Karnataka government, which was among the first to relax rules on quarantining visitors, both domestic and international, is now operating daily bus services to Tamil Nadu, especially Chennai, which in pre-lockdown days had hundreds of buses operating either way. The opening up, in agreement with the Tamil Nadu government, to facilitate travel for the Diwali festival, has now been extended indefinitely. The state said bus travel was also being allowed between Mangalore in Karnataka and Kasargod in Kerala, with 20 buses operated every day by each state. Earlier, the rule was that passengers had to disembark at the border points, and switch over to buses from the other state. Road travel by private vehicles has been relaxed in all southern states barring Kerala, because of its COVID surge; e-passes are not required for interstate travel.
Kerala’s ‘Mahabali’ frog
It's only apt that the purple frog, or pignose frog, that is endemic to Kerala’s Western Ghats district of Idukki, could become the state’s official amphibian. The frog, discovered by biologists only in recent years [though locals were aware of it] has the botanical name ‘NasikabatrachusSahyadrensis’ and is listed as critically endangered. It’s also known informally as the ‘Mahabali frog’ because it remains mostly underground and emerges only during the monsoon for a couple of weeks [like the King Mahabali of legend, who was banished to the underworld by Vishnu in his Vamana (dwarf) avatar, and was granted a boon to come overground to see his subjects once in a year during the Onam festival.
Once in 12 years
People of Kurnool are getting ready to celebrate the ‘pushkaram’ festival on the banks of the Tungabhadra river, which occurs every 12 years, when devotees pay their respects to their ancestors [pindapradhanam] and priestly help is generally needed to conduct the rituals. Pilgrims gather from all over Andhra Pradesh as well as from Telangana and Karnataka. An apprehensive Kurnool administration, worried about the influx and possible spread of COVID19, has announced stringent rules: Corona negative certificates and ID cards for priests, mandatory masks and hand sanitising; it has also caused much resentment with its ban on the ritual dip in the river because of COVID fears. Whether it will be able to enforce this is another matter.
Kerala is tackling its own challenge with the opening of the annual Sabarimala pilgrimage to worship Ayyappa: the two-month season opened on November 16, and is slated to culminate with the Makara Vilakku [divine lamp] observance in mid-January. This pilgrimage attracts hundreds of thousands of devotees from all the southern states normally; but in view of the corona scare, the government is only allowing 1000 visitors a day [relaxed to allow a few hundreds more during the weekends], and e-booking for the slots has to be done well in advance; COVID negative certificates need to be shown [otherwise they have to get tested at the Pampa river base] before being allowed to climb up to the temple. Children below 10, and senior citizens are not being allowed. Also, to be noted: the ritual dip in the Pampa will not be allowed.
Miyawaki forests in Chennai
Aunique greening drive by Chennai’s civic body, the Greater Chennai Corporation [GCC] has been making a lot of news of late. The idea was to use abandoned land in the city, used as dump yards by local residents, into mini-forests using the Miyawaki method pioneered by Japanse botanist Akira Miyawaki in the 1980s. The technique involves digging up and replenishing the top soil with nutrient packed organic material and planting native tree species; the method has shown amazing results in a short span of time. After creating the first Miyawaki forest in the central Kotturpuram area, the civic body has extended it to other areas; the latest one is to come up in Sholinganallur, near the scenic East Coast Road (ECR) and the Rajiv Gandhi expressway, where a majority of Chennai’s information technology industries are locate