Meerut: A first of its kind war memorial for animals is being planned in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut city. It will feature those animals that have lost their lives in counter-insurgency operation, mainly in Kashmir.
The memorial will be unique since it will be devoted to service animals, mostly dogs, but also horses and mules.
It will be the country’s first animal war memorial and recognise their heroics on the battlefield, devotion to duty and outstanding contribution to military service alongside soldiers.
According to sources in the army, the memorial will come up at the Remount and Veterinary Corps (RVC) Centre and College in Meerut where the army breeds, rears and trains dogs, mules and horses.
“We are awaiting approval from the Defence Ministry to construct a war memorial to commemorate RVC animals and men who have sacrificed their lives or have been commended for exceptional gallantry or distinguished service.
“Land has already been identified in Meerut and the preliminary design has been decided upon,” said one of the officers on condition of anonymity.
The monument would be similar to the National War Memorial in Delhi but on a smaller scale.
The names and service numbers of more than 300 dogs, 350 handlers and a few horses and mules will be inscribed on granite tablets at the memorial.
The dogs include around 25 of those killed in action during counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.
“It will be a befitting token of remembrance and a mark of respect and gratitude towards the RVC soldiers (men and animals) who laid down their lives for the country. Several western nations have memorials dedicated to animals,” said the officer.
On top of the list of animals whose names will be inscribed on the memorial’s walls is Mansi, a Labrador who was posthumously ‘mentioned in dispatches’ (the highest honour that a dog can get in military service in India) four years ago for her role in a counter-infiltration operation in north Kashmir.
Her handler, Bashir Ahmed War, was also posthumously awarded Sena Medal for gallantry and his name will be mentioned alongside Mansi.
The highest award won by a dog handler is the Shaurya Chakra, the country’s third highest peacetime gallantry award.
The army has more than 1,000 dogs, 5,000 mules and 1,500 horses.
Five Labradors were awarded commendation cards on Army Day 2020 for helping soldiers track down terrorists in Kashmir and sniffing out deadly explosives in the Northeast last year.
Sources said that army dogs are trained for a variety of roles, such as detecting mines and explosives, tracking, assault, infantry patrol, and search and rescue.
“Explosives detection dogs are an invaluable component of road opening parties that safeguard the movement of men and material in terror hotbeds. These dogs have saved innumerable lives by timely detection of explosives. Mine detection dogs are used along the Line of Control to create safe lanes,” said the officer.
The RVC began war dog training in India in the late 1950s and Labradors, German Shepherds and Belgian Shepherds (Malinois) are the mainstay of the army’s canine work force.
The RVC has introduced some Mudhol Hounds (an indigenous dog breed from Karnataka) and Cocker Spaniels on a trial basis for explosives detection.
Recognising the contribution of animals, the army in 2017 named an officers mess lounge in Delhi cantonment after the longest serving army mule, Pedongi, who carried military loads in forward areas for over 30 years.
The army’s animal transport units, equipped with mules, are assigned the responsibility of supporting some of its remotest outposts located at heights of up to 19,000 feet. Mules played a crucial role during the 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan.
Choose wisely – go organic this Holi
With Holi -the festival of colours coming up — everyone is busy buying colours, ‘pichkaris’, and balloons but with increasing environment pollution and severe allergic reactions to synthetic colours, there is a growing awareness among people to opt for organic variants.
“In an approximately Rs 4,500-crore unorganised Holi colour market, the share of the organic variety is miniscule, but growing,” said Madhumita Puri, Founder and Executive Director of Avacayam Naturals, a Delhi-based manufacturer of organic colours.
The adverse effects of synthetic colours was observed in a study titled ‘The Holi Dermatoses’, published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology.
It found a spate in skin diseases following the spring festival in India.
In the study conducted on 42 patients in Kolkata, 11 patients suffered due to activities related to preparation of colors and 12 reported aggravation of pre-existing dermatoses.
Nearly 60 per cent patients reported itching, while others reported to have suffered from a burning sensation, scaling, redness and watering of the eyes, as per the study.
Treading on a eco-friendly and skin-friendly path, Avacayam Naturals employed differently-abled persons to make organic colours by using waste and used flowers and leaves.
This solves three purposes at one go – generates employment for the disabled, manufactures harmless eco-friendly colours, and there is optimal usage of waste flowers.
Speaking to IANS, Puri said: “For making the colours, we collect used flowers — roses, marigolds, and others — and leaves from temples, weddings, and hotels.”
Avacayam Naturals, one of the programs that Puri started under her “Trash to Cash” scheme, makes four colours: Pink from roses, yellow from yellow marigolds, orange from orange marigolds, and green from leaves.
On being asked if the colours are harmless, she said: “Rather than damaging the environment, they are beneficial as each packet of colour is made from waste flowers which otherwise would dirty the place.”
How are the colours made?
“After the flowers are collected, the workers sort them in different baskets according to their colour. Then, the petals and seed pods are separated and cut. These are then spread out to dry in a well ventilated space for all the moisture to evaporate.
“After that, they are ground and processed — without adding any chemicals — to be made into colours for people to enjoy,” Puri said, adding that the process of collection, drying, and grinding continues throughout the year but it is only before festivals that they process them into the final product.
“In a year, we manufacture around 20 tonne of pure organic colour, some of which is sold to Walmart India. One kilo of colour is sold between Rs 600 and Rs 1,000.”
When asked about the expiry date of these colours, Puri said: “The product is a dry one and completely natural. We have been testing them since five years now and have not found any deterioration in the quality, fungal infestations, or weevils. So there is no ‘expiry date’ to them.”
Another such manufacturer is Jaipur-based Red Earth which makes colours “exclusively from edible materials and scent them with pure, traditional attars”.
Speaking to IANS, Himanshu Verma, Director-Owner of Red Earth, said: “Every 2-3 years, we change our colour palette… this year we have four colours — Sunahra Dhamaal, Shvet Abeer, Neem Sanrachna, and Gulabi Nagariya — that are inspired by local materials.”
“The colours are curated on the basis of availability of local materials. We use items like camphor, neem, mehendi, multani-mitti, geru powder, arrowroot, flour, and others,” Verma said, adding that 50-60 per cent materials used are edible so that even if someone ingests them by mistake, they will not be as harmful.