Blowing out a tradition

Blowing out a tradition the familiar sound of conch shells (shankh) resonating during auspicious occasions may soon be a thing of the past, courtesy a recent Union government decision. The July 11, 2001, gazette notification by the Ministry of environment and forests has de facto banned the harvest, processing, stocking and sale of Xancus pyrum (conch shell), along with about 50 other mollusc species.

Authorities are cagey, but justify the move stating that conch shells are threatened due to overexploitation. Though environmentalists are in consonance with the government over the mollusc's dwindling numbers, they feel that the remedial measure is too severe.

The ban has set the alarm bells ringing within the conch shell industry in the country. At stake are the livelihoods of at least 1-1.5 million people, who will be affected either directly or indirectly.

Apart from the financial repercussions, there is another dimension to the mollusc. Social scientists feel that conch shells

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