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Monday, September 26, 2016

Green Park, Kanpur


Green Park, Kanpur
Green Park at Kanpur where the 1st cricket test match between New Zealand and India was played is being  mentioned as one of the original test centres of India. This is not correct. The original test centres were only four – all in the four metros of Mumbai (then Bombay), Chennai (then Madras), Kolkata (then Calcutta) and Delhi (only if Delhi could be reckoned as a metro then). I distinctly remember in 1948 the touring West Indies team played five test matches in India at Brabourne Stadium, Bombay, Ferozeshah Kotla, Delhi, Eden Gardens, Calcutta, Chepauk, Madras and again at Brabourne Stadium Bombay. Bombay got two test matches, both were played at Brabourne Stadium for the simple reason that Wankhede Stadium had not been built till then. The second test too was allotted to Bombay, presumably because no other centre was available where a test could be played. Besides, Bombay used to be the headquarters of BCCI.

Green Park was nowhere in sight in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was perhaps because of the efforts of Maharaj Kumar of Viziangaram, popularly known as Vizzy, that Kanpur became a venue. He used to reside in Benaras and when he became president of the Board from 1954-57 he swung it in favour of Kanpur. For a number of years Green Park used to have matting wickets – not the turf ones that were available in the four metros. In 1959, I remember, India won for the first time a test match against Australia and the venue was none other than Kanpur where for the first time a match was being played on a turf wicket. Jasu Patel, an off spinner took 14 Australian wickets in the match. Late Richie Benaud, who had captained the Aussie side, had described the Kanpur pitch as a mud heap – probably because it was a dusty turf.

Perhaps, Rajiv Shukla, the UP Cricket Association chief, got the match away to Kanpur. Actually, it should have been the privilege of Mumbai to host the 500th Test match and in that event it would have been appropriate to have it played at the Brabourne Stadium.

*Photo: from internet

Monday, September 19, 2016

Our life, our times :: 3 :: Our uncouth rulers


The other day a very shocking report of a professor being crudely talked to by a petty politician appeared in the newspapers. It was nothing but a despicable act on the part of a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) who was invited as a guest in a felicitation programme at an educational institution where a minister of the state government and a Member of Parliament (MP) too were present. The crime of the professor was that in the vote of thanks he raised he made mention of every dignitary except the MLA. Annoyed, the MLA crudely called out to him and spoke to him in a very unseemly and uncivil manner asking him as to why his name was not mentioned.

This happened in front of numerous people, including students. Running down of a teacher in full public gaze is something extraordinary and only the present-day politicians, hungry for power, pelf and publicity, can do it. This only shows the culture in the midst of which he was nurtured where no premium was placed on education or respect for those who were imparting knowledge and understanding to others. That the minister and the MP, superior elected political functionaries than the MLA, kept quiet and did not administer a public rebuke to him, too, was strange but was, perhaps, dictated by political necessities. It should, however, have been the duty of the minister to educate the MLA about how he should behave with a professor, a guru in Indian Hindu traditions which the BJP politicians constantly keep harping on these days, and how he needed to be revered and respected. For all one knows, perhaps they too are unaware of the age-old practices in dealing with those who were teachers, regardless of their level.

In our time we have seen how the students used to revere their teachers. My father was a professor in the college at Gwalior. Because of his educational attainments, his conduct and his ways with the boys and girls in the College he used to be highly respected. For years together he remained in-charge of all sporting and students’ union activities. His illustrious students like UN Dhebar, a former Congress general secretary, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former prime minister, would touch his feet whenever they came across him on the streets or elsewhere. To top it all, in pre-independence era, my father and a couple of other professors had occasion to go and meet the Maharaja of Gwalior in the latter’s office in Jayavilas Palace. As they were ushered into his presence Maharaja left his seat and stood up. In those feudal times this was something unheard of. He was the sovereign and the supreme ruler and all his subjects regardless of their rank bowed before him. His huge gesture only showed his breeding. Again, at Jabalpur my mother was taken to a function by my friend who used to be the Additional Collector. As she sat down, a man sitting on the dais climbed down and came straight to her sitting in the front row to touch her feet. She could not recognize him. It was Late Justice Shiv Dayal, Judge of the Jabalpur High Court. He told my friend that she was his “Guru-Ma” as her husband used to be his professor. Those were the days when the tradition of Guru and his pupil was maintained without making any song and dance about it like they do today. Today it may look or sound very esoteric but in those good old days these practices were normal and were observed as a matter of course.

Our venal, crude and half-educated netas to whom courtesy and tculture are alien have dumbed down everything, including the standards of behavior. As education was extended to the hinterlands of the cities with more and more schools being opened the standards of education were progressively diluted as the governments failed to correspondingly increase the number of quality teachers. As the new generations of untrained teachers were not equipped to deal with the children in schools, the standards of education as also children’s behaviour saw a continuing decline. Products of schools and colleges were as good as half-educated, country louts, particularly those who came out of government schools. Paying school teachers a pittance, too, did not help – the amounts sometimes are less than those of a government peon. Struggling and living from-hand-to-mouth existence, they are not able to maintain a dignified life in front of their wards. What is worse, these netas think nothing of them – themselves being riff raff, they take the teachers as such – behaving as if they are the lords of yore. Keen on self-publicity and making money on the side they have done nothing to improve matters relating to education in rural areas. No wonder education at the ground level is nothing whatsoever to write home about. Things have so drastically changed for the worse over the last sixty to seventy years. The government schools and colleges have become decrepit and unpopular which even the so-called economically weaker sections of society do not prefer to put their children in them

Earlier, a man’s education and his values were admired and respected. School teachers and college professors never had enough yet they were highly respected, the more brilliant, cultured and committed they were the more the pupils would have regard for them. The thing have become different today. People worship money and power, seemingly, shunning all societal values. No wonder one can see a keen race to make more and more money any which way – ethical or unethical – as that brings power and position of influence in society. A man’s money power can swing many things in his favour or in favour of those who are his boot-lickers. He can actually go lording over others regardless of his intrinsic worth.

 No wonder, the government is busy chasing unethical money the colour of which is black, the money that has severely damaged the country’s ethical and cultural value systems – with the venal netas being avid participants in the process.

*Image: from the internet

Friday, September 16, 2016

Nehru thwarted two winnable wars


Earl Mountbatten, Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten
Aroop Raha, the Indian Air Force chief recently articulated his disappointment that the country’s air power was not fully utilized during the first war with Pakistan in 1948. Likewise, he said, the airpower was not used during the 1962 war with China.

Raha said that while the Indian Air Force (IAF) was used as a “bridge” to transport troops to Kashmir for several months but when a military solution was in sight India went to the United Nations” taking the “the moral high ground”. The statement is largely true. The Air Force was used when the situation became desperate with the Pakistani regulars and tribal raiders came as close as sniffing distance of the Srinagar airfield threatening to overrun it. Even at that crucial juncture the prime minister was hesitant. The books and documents that have now come out clearly show the ambivalence of Prime Minister Nehru.

According to the various documents of the period, it seems a meeting of the Indian cabinet had been called after the Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession. Among those present were the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Vallabhbhai Patel, and Defense Minister Sardar Baldev Singh. Late Field Marshal Manekshaw, then a junior officer, was also present presumably to assist his Defense Minister. Towards the end of the meeting Manekshaw was asked to give his assessment of the situation in Kashmir which he did with precision. On hearing him, the consensus was India should intervene as soon as possible but Nehru was still in two minds and was wondering whether to refer the matter to the United Nations. That is when the Home Minister, Vallabhbhai Patel reportedly snapped at him asking whether Nehru wanted to keep Kashmir in India or let go of it. Nehru is reported to have said, “Of course, I would like Kashmir to stay in India”. The moment he answered in the affirmative Sardar Patel asked his assistants to fly the Indian army to Kashmir. Because of the delay in taking this decision most men in first few sorties were reportedly, gunned down on landing.

It is indeed surprising that throughout the campaign the Indian Air Force remained largely under-utilized. It took quite an effort for the Indian Army to slowly push back the invaders out of the Kashmir Valley though the Air Force did a commendable job of breaking the backbone of the invaders by strafing them when they were gathered in strength near the airfield. The Air Force did play its role in making the invaders run for their lives. But, that was about all for an offensive role of the IAF as it was mostly used for logistics – transporting troops and supplies. In doing so, too, it did some remarkable jobs like those of landing on an untested airfield built by 40000 refugees in a week’s time at Poonch and landing Dakotas on an airstrip along the Indus River in Leh at a height of 11000ft, a height where these planes were not supposed to fly. Hundreds of sorties were flown with troops and arms and ammunitions and in the return journey, especially from Poonch, they brought back thousands of refugees. Even the then Governor General, Earl Mountbatten had remarked that in his view it was one of the biggest airlift operations till then anywhere in the world

 Meanwhile, Delhi was getting impatient. Jawaharlal Nehru is reported to have once said that India could not be fighting this war for months or even years. Besides, the brutally cold winter was approaching and the shortage of arms and ammunitions was also telling on the operation. What is more, he was being advised by the Governor General to refer the matter to the UN. It seems the Prime Minister had expectations that a reference to the United Nations would settle the issue speedily. Unfortunately, that did not happen and it took the UN half a century to treat it as an unresolved dispute. On reference to it the Kashmir issue became a victim of the then prevailing Cold War rivalries between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union. The former had a stake in the State as it could provide a location from which they could keep an eye on the latter. The West, therefore, was never inclined that Jammu & Kashmir should merge with India. For them, for various reasons, Pakistan was a better option being tactically better located. That attitude seems to continue till today. At the UN they, therefore, weighed in for Pakistan and some very biased debates had taken place.

 What was most unfortunate, however, was that Nehru’s reference was made to the UN just as the Indian Army acquired the capability to throw out the Pakistani raiders from the State. Perhaps, under the influence of the Governor General the Army Headquarters issued an order not to initiate further operations without its orders. Some reports say that it was not Mountbatten but the US intervened and did not want India to recapture the lost J&K territories. Nonetheless, Mountbatten played a dubious (double) role. This was, therefore, not as much a matter of occupying “high moral ground” as of probably succumbing to pressure from a Big Power. So, a problem that could have been solved in 1948-49, thanks to Nehru, festers on and on till today and the country that was the aggressor has acquired in the meantime sharper teeth

It seems, Nehru’s incapacity to take independent decisions at crunch situations did quite a lot of damage to India. While in the Kashmir war of 1948 Earl Mountbatten led him up the ‘garden path’, during the 1962 war with China it was the US ambassador, John Kenneth Galbraith, who was his advisor. It was largely because of Galbraith that the Indian air power, much improved after the 1948 Kashmir Operations, was not allowed to carry our combat operations. Besides, there was a total absence of intelligence from the other side about the enemy’s capabilities in air warfare. Intelligence Bureau chief, BN Mullik, did not have any intelligence about Chinese Air Force establishments in Tibet. In fact, information was circulated about two Chinese air bases in Tibet which never existed and, probably, do not exist even today

There was thus an ‘intelligence vacuum’. For fear of an imagined retaliation by China, while the IAF planes were made to sit on their bases, Nehru wrote, surprisingly without consulting the IAF, to Kennedy requesting for air cover for the cities in the plains. This the US was not able to provide because of several reasons including the then ongoing Cuban Missiles Crisis. The result was IAF’s own Toofanies, Mysteres, Gnats, Hunters and Canberras remained virtually mothballed in their Eastern bases while the Army was deprived of much needed air support. The denial to the air force of an offensive role was such an implausible negative action that it is being researched and debated till today.   

Raha, therefore, is not the only Air Chief to have highlighted this act of omission. Earlier, ex IAF chief Air Marshal AY Tipnis, too, blamed Nehru for not using the country’s airpower and the consequential debacle in the 1962 war. Likewise, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal (Retd) NAK Browne had to say later that the outcome of the 1962 war would have been different had IAF been allowed an offensive role. But such messy situations tend to occur when, instead of defense chiefs, wars are fought, instead of defense forces, by politicians, more so of indecisive variety like Nehru

*Photo: from internet

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A photo-blog :: Rural India


Below there is a remarkable photograph which is lucid in its expression of the Indian rural life, including its patriarchy

*The photo appeared in Down to Earth magazine

Bhopal Notes :: 39 :: Winds of change


Upper Lake, Bhopal
Looks like winds of change are blowing across Bhopal, especially its iconic Lake and its sensitive surroundings that go by the technical term of “Catchments”. A news report yesterday gave the good news of the thinking in the MP government about changing over from chemical farming to organic farming on the  farms in the catchments of the Upper Lake. The government is not talking of persuading farmers for the switch but is talking of introduction, presumably, regardless of the consequences. This is what, apparently, came out of a meeting that was held by various governmental representatives with the local Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

 In fact, this should have been done long back. One wonders what the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, Department of Environment and the Department of Water Resources have been doing so far. They should have moved in the matter long back as it is well within their knowledge that fertilizers and pesticides were being used by the farmers in the catchments of the Lake. However, as happens in the governments all over the country, these matters vital for the prim maintenance of the country’s assets as also wellbeing of its people are lost sight of  - with, one might add, impunity.

The question of introducing organic farming was discussed in the Bhopal Citizens’ Forum years ago, may be seven to eight years ago. A letter was also addressed to the MP government as a sequel to that. But there was no action whatsoever although pollution of the waters of the Lake frequently came up in public discourses. None in the government seems to pay any attention to what people or groups or non-governmental institutions have to say in regard to various matters relating to public wellbeing. There is an air in the government of total proprietary rights to all knowledge and a kind of disdain for what they receive from sources that are unofficial. Hence such information or suggestion could well be ignored.

 I recall having read in the newspapers a few months ago that the government has decided to create an organic farming zone the location for which was the district of Dindori. That was well and good but I wonder whether the zone has taken off. However, in the process, it clean forgot of the catchments of the Upper Lake where organic farming is an utter need for providing purer drinking water to people to whom its water is supplied. Virtually everybody knows that the lake is highly polluted with the inflow of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, sewage and what have you. If the government could cut out one of these it would serve a great purpose. But, that is how it is with the government; each department seemingly works in a silo knowing little of whatever is happening outside it.

Introduction of organic farming in the catchments of the Upper Lake should not prove to be a big deal. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have been practicing it for about a decade now. They have also successfully tried neem-based pesticides and fertilizers which has led to job creation in rural areas. Enough evidence of the state’s success could be had from various sources. Hopefully the local government will go full steam ahead in implementing the proposal without incurring avoidable delay in finalising it.

*photo: from internet

Friday, September 2, 2016

Our Life, Our Times :: 2 :: Progressive decline in finer feelings

http://www.bagchiblog. blogspot.com

A photograph was recently published of a villager carrying his dead wife’s body on his shoulder while his daughter walked alongside crying all the way. The unfortunate incident happened somewhere in the interiors of the backward district of Kalahandi of the state of Odisha. The husband carried his wife’s dead body for 10 kms to his own village. Reports reveal that a hearse was denied to him as he was not in a position to pay for it. But not one person seems to have come to his help. He did not opt for the wife’s cremation in the town where he had taken her for treatment because, in all probability, he could not afford the involved expenses. Now a video of the same man carrying his dead wife has also been posted in the Facebook for a more traumatic effect on the viewers.

Soon after, a news report with a photograph also appeared of a man breaking the bones of a dead elderly woman to make it more compact for bundling her up and carrying her away, presumably, for cremation. This too happened in the interiors of Odisha. This was not the end of such weird incidents. There was yet another incident, this time in Madhya Pradesh, in which a sick woman was travelling in a bus along with her husband, his mother and an infant to a district hospital having been referred to it by a rural health centre. Unfortunately, she died on the way. When other passengers came to know about it they did not want to travel with a dead body. The bus was stopped and the man, along with the family including the dead woman, was made to get off the bus next to a jungle, virtually in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, in this instance there were two good Samaritans who were passing by; they got an ambulance for the family from the nearest health centre.

These three incidents bring out in bold relief how insensitive our people have become. There are numerous such incidents which are shown in the Youtube exhibiting insensitivity of Indians. The other day I saw a clip where a man walking close to the pavement of a largely empty Delhi street was knocked down by a three-wheeler delivery van. The driver got off the van only to check whether his vehicle had been damaged, cursorily looked at his felled victim and got into the vehicle to drive off. Other people – a walker, a cyclist, people in cars – passed by without giving the man so much as a sideways glance. Eventually when the man was taken to the hospital after loss of a good deal of time and blood he was declared “brought dead”.

People were not so insensitive earlier. In my younger days a few decades ago people passing by would come to assistance of a man or a child if he were to have a fall from even a bicycle. Once I was knocked down by a drunken two-wheeler rider on an empty street. My head hit the asphalted road and I saw a few stars in the firmament. The noise of the vehicle hitting the road brought the residents out of the nearby houses to inquire and render assistance. That they turned out to be family members of our family physician was only fortuitous. Fortunately, I was only lightly hurt and didn’t need medical aid. What we see today, however, is something entirely different. There is utter lack of concern for suffering people. To a certain extent, in the last few decades Indians seem to have been somewhat dehumanized. Rising poverty with rising population, with hardly enough to go around for everyone, has probably given rise to a self-centred society with all its accompanying evils. The lack of feelings of sympathy, leave alone empathy and, of course, the sheer lack of concern for others have become common phenomena and are frequently witnessed all around the country. No wonder, some people have raised the question whether we live in “Incredible India or Insensitive India”?

One might call it an ‘ethical deficit’ which seems to have slowly crept into the society. Everyone is absorbed in dealing with one’s own problems which sometimes may overwhelm one and take up all one’s mental and physical strength. True, life has become increasingly difficult for everyone barring a few rich but that does not or would not sanction absence of humanity among others. In fact, the middle classes, or for that matter even the lower classes, once upon a time, were known for the values that they had. Compassion, kinship consideration, understanding, kindness, sympathy, tenderness, generosity, sympathy, etc. are qualities that appear to be progressively diminishing from amongst Indians. Times have indeed changed. It is a more materialistic world now and finer feelings of life are probably suppressed or are deliberately prevented from surfacing as that would only deviate one from one’s own pre-occupations – and ethics could be damned.

Apparently, earlier people were nurtured and brought up differently. Even in the midst of insufficiency and poverty parents would constantly instill in children the values that were taken directly from mythology. In unlettered and poor homes all of this would come down from generation to generation by the oral tradition. Folklores, paradigms, mythical stories or stories from the epics came all the way down even to illiterate households through the word of mouth. All that seems to have been lost under the pressure of the current times, effectively demolishing the age-old value system.

The country seems to be the poorer for all that. Attitudes have changed and that has resulted in indifference to everything except what is of immediate concern of self. Besides, it has bred lack of sincerity in everything that we do – in our relationships, at our work place, in performing our allotted duties or whatever. There is a perceptible lack of commitment and, perhaps, that is what is keeping the country behind others in many spheres. Only a resurgence of ethical values may bring back the desired changes – in our feelings of kinship, feelings of sympathy and concern for our fellow beings.

*Photo:from internet

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mahmooda sees it right

Earlier last week Mahmooda Mufti’s speech was being telecast live by India TV.  I wanted to check where did she speak in the vein that she did which appeared to be highly rational. I scanned all the newspapers that I get – Hindi as well as English – but I could not find it covered in any of them. The Times of India, of course, did not report it and even The Hindu – a newspaper that reports in detail everything of national interest uttered by a person of the stature of a chief minister – seemed to have glossed over it

I do not recollect where Ms. Mufti was speaking but she was certainly addressing a public meeting. After a curfew lasting 50-odd days or so she appeared to be trying to look objectively at the entire situation prevailing in the Kashmir Valley. In not trying to throw homilies at the people collected in front, she was only trying to talk about the more-than-a-month long violence that has brought all the social, economic, educational and political activities to a standstill in the Valley.

 Wondering how the problem flared up after the killing of Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen jehadi, she said virtually every day there is some militant or the other is killed but this kind of disturbances had never taken place before. For what happened earlier there used to be a reason or two like in 2010 the alleged rape of two women in Shopian which eventually was disproved as it was found to be an ordinary case of drowning. But the Kashmiri separatists had whipped up an agitation which lasted for days and the Valley was completely shut down. This time, however, there was no reason for such an eruption. No Kashmiri innocent was killed as the man killed was a militant – a potential killer of Kashmiri policemen or Kashmiri innocents..

She thought this time it was not spontaneous as it appeared that a certain amount of preparation had gone into it. Evidently, the organizers of the violence were waiting for an opportunity to inflame passions and Wani killing provided just the right one and was opportune. Obviously it was the work of the separatists and their cohorts. She said, yes, police were also violent but what could they do against dire provocations. “You snatch away their guns and keep pelting stones on them”, she told the people assembled in front of her, making them fear for their own lives. Under such circumstances any security force would try to quell such ghastly civil violence using whatever methods they could muster. In the process, some civilians were killed but some from the police forces were also killed and a large number of them were wounded.   

What is more, she said the agitationists were using women and children as shields. Children as young as 10 years old were wounded. Ms. Mufti wondered what a 10-year old was doing in the agitation. If the child was hit by pellets the blame should go to his parents who did not take care of him by keeping him at home. Allowing the child to join violent demonstrations was not only unwise, it was also criminal, presumably, as it was abetting violent demonstrations.

She repeated the same arguments at the press conference the other day addressed jointly by her and the country’s home minister. She even got worked up and appeared to be accusatory and snapped at a reporter bringing the conference to a close. She apparently had caught on to the machinations of the separatists who were till now not able to organize a long drawn-out confrontation. This time, as is evident, a large number of militants have been pumped into the Valley by Saiyed Salahuddin’s Hizbul Mujahideen, a proxy for the ISI of Pakistan, located in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. A thousand of its trained militants were claimed to be in the Valley and another thousand were waiting to infiltrate at an opportune moment. The figures could be exaggerated as the militants tend to exaggerate their prowess. But, there is no denying the fact that it is the foreign militants, ably assisted by the mischievous separatists Jeelani and Co., are behind this stretched out confrontation.

At the back of it, however, is the ISI of Pakistan which is the mastermind of such disturbances. I have immense faith in what AS Dulat has written in his “Kashmir – the Vajpayee years” because he was one official who met and developed a kind of trust amongst the militants about his bonafides. They would come to him and talk to him about all things regarding Kashmir militancy. During one such conversation a senior and influential militant had told him that at Dubai an ISI official had told him that nothing happens in Kashmir without the ISI’s initiatives. It is ISI that “Calls the shots in Kashmir”. From sending terrorists across the borders to organizing chaos and mayhem, it is the ISI which does it all. Everyone is, therefore, aware that the whole thing is inspired by the Pakistanis and their agencies with the assistance of their proxies in Srinagar. Only innocent Kashmiris are being used as cannon fodder.

Be that as it may, one can, nevertheless, fail to appreciate the attitude of our so-called secular press. While The Times of India did not report the speech of Mahmooda Mufti at a public meeting referred to earlier, it reported in detail stretching across columns the alarming views on the present unrest in Kashmir of Musaffir Hussain Baig, a former Dy. Chief Minister and a mere member of Parliament from Mahmooda’s PDP. He has said that the local “struggle” runs the risk of becoming a (kind of) religious extremism – of losing its political goal and getting a “religious vision”. He seems to be quite ill-informed as the separatists know their political goals are never going to be achieved.

 As Dulat has recorded, even President Musharraf, whom they had met in Delhi, had told them there cannot be re-drawing of the boundaries as India would never allow that. Hence they needed to change their thinking. Besides mercifully, religious undertones are presently absent in the movement. He sees a danger of the unrest becoming a part of the “international struggle”. Perhaps, he is away from Kashmir, he seems, therefore to be utterly out of depth with whatever is happening there. The newspaper, however, has found it worthy of a long report with an eye-catching headline which, in fact, is nothing but alarming. Being a member of parliament from the PDP perhaps such a comment was not expected from him. If he harbours this kind of a perception it would have been wiser for him to communicate it to Ms. Mufti instead of airing his apprehensions in public through a newspaper column to set alarm bells ringing.

The whole thing is nothing but Pakistan’s way of inflicting those “thousand cuts” of Zia ul Haq on India. As Mahmooda repeatedly said it is the 5% of people, presumably the separatists, who create these problems. The remaining 95% of Kashmiris want to live in peace and harmony. India has, therefore, to ride out the present difficulties by being firm and dominate over the disturbed areas.

*Photo: from internet