Saturday, March 31, 2007

Legal win in VAL kitty

The Telegraph, March 31, 2007

Cuttack, March 30: Vedanta Alumina Limited (VAL) has won a dual of sorts with the Orissa government over purchase of high speed diesel and telescopic mobile search light for use at its alumina and captive power plant being set up at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.

The blue chip company was locked in a legal battle with the government in Orissa High Court ever since a penlty of Rs 1.93 crore was slapped on it on February 2 for false representation when purchasing high speed diesel and telescopic mobile searchlight.

The two-judge bench of Justices B.P. Das and M.M. Das has found the case in VAL’s favour on grounds of jurisdiction and has quashed the penalty.

The assistant commissioner of sales tax, Bolangir range, had imposed the penalty for the period of May 25, 2004, to September 26, 2006, under Sections 10A of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956, “without giving any opportunity of hearing”, the company had argued.

The court in its order yesterday endorsed the stand taken by the counsel for Vedanta Alumina Limited saying that the order of penalty by the assistant commissioner was without jurisdiction.

The order was liable to be quashed, as the registering authority to initiate proceedings for penalty in the case was the sales tax officer, Kalahandi circle, Bhawanipatna, the company counsel had argued.

The counsel for Vedanta Alumina Limited had also contended that the goods were purchased with the understanding that they were included under the broad heading of machinery and equipment, electrical goods, building materials and lubricants and fuel in the Central Sales Tax Act.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Vedanta goes on schedule, to commission Lanjigarh plant on Friday

InsightOrissa, March 29, 2007

Vedanta Group's 1 million tonne capacity alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district will be formally commissioned on 30th March, company sources told this website. All the equipment and machinery including the power plant have been put under repeated and rigorous tests and have shown desired results. Hence, sources said, the management has decided to charge bauxite on 30th March while actual alumina output will take place roughly a month and a half. By InsightOrissa Bureau.

Indian tribe defends "hill god" from foreign miner

Reuters, Thu Mar 29, 2007 9:00PM EDT
Thu Mar 29, 2007 9:00PM EDT
By Simon Denyer

LANJIGARH, India (Reuters) - Their thick, ancient forests shelter leopards, elephants and even the odd tiger, their slopes are home to an isolated tribe, but the "curse" of eastern India's Niyamgiri hills lies beneath the soil.

Massive deposits of bauxite have brought Britain's Vedanta Resources to this remote corner of the state of Orissa, where they have already built a $900 million alumina refinery.

Just a stone's throw from its gleaming new facility, a few hundred people gathered in the shade of mango trees in Lanjigarh in mid-March for the latest protest against the company.

Among them, Dickcha Majhi, who walked for five hours from her remote village to the small town, a member of the 8,000-strong Dongria Kondh tribe, who worship an Earth Goddess and revere the hills as their protector Niyam Raja.

"She is our mother and he is our beloved lord," said the small 30-year-old woman, rows of colourful beads around her neck, golden rings through her nose and through her ears, her frizzy hair held down firmly with a dozen metal hair clips.

"If you hand the hill over, the hill god will eat us."

As eastern India engages in a headlong but increasingly controversial rush to industrialize and exploit its vast mineral resources, Vedanta's plans to turn the top of the Niyamgiri range into open-cast mines has emerged as a key battleground.

It is a battle not about whether to industrialize, but how to do it, and how to compensate the losers. And it is being waged in the courts and in the streets at the same time.

Conservationists say the miners could and should have chosen other hills, instead of risking the rich biodiversity of Niyamgiri, and have taken the issue to the Supreme Court.

On the ground, tribal farmers worry their traditional lands and livelihoods will disappear once mining begins. They are being coralled by local Congress party politician Bhakta Charan Das, who promises to stage a mass march on the site in mid-April.

"By the time they reach here, the site will be gheraoed (encircled) by 50,000 people and the administration will be paralysed," he threatened.


An elephant corridor, and the only known home of the rare golden gecko in Orissa, the hills were proposed as a wildlife sanctuary in the 1990s.

The Wildlife Society of Orissa dismisses Vedanta's pledge to spend millions of dollars protecting wildlife.

"How will they manage the wildlife? Take them out and keep them in five-star hotels?" asked Biswajit Mohanty.

Seventy-three million tonnes of bauxite will be taken out. You can't mitigate the effects of that."

The Vamsadhara river rises from the range and more than 30 streams from the mining site, providing water which sustains hundreds of thousands of people, conservationists say. Mining will destroy those sources, they argue.

In September 2005, a Supreme Court committee recommended that "the use of forest land in an ecologically sensitive area like the Niyamgiri Hills should not be permitted".

It also condemned the Ministry of Environment and Forests for a "blatant violation" of its own guidelines for the refinery to be built without getting clearance to mine in the hills, much of which is protected forest under Indian law.

But Vedanta, along with the state and central governments, have fought back hard. The company says the bauxite lies in the top 25-30 metres of the 1,000 metre-high hills, and promises to protect water sources lower down from contamination.

It will fill up pits with residues as it goes along, and plant new trees, said refinery head Sanjeev Zutshi.

The Supreme Court will now refer the case to the Forest Advisory Committee, an expert panel. But that will only happen when the court and the government resolve a separate row about who should sit on that committee.

In the meantime, Vedanta is forging ahead. The refinery carried out a test run in March. Some of the pillars to carry a conveyor belt from the mine to the plant have already been built.

Zutshi says 17 locals are working in the refinery and 50 more are being trained. Hundreds might get jobs from local contractors as shovel men, to sweep out spillage and drain slurry. But employment for all is simply not possible in an industry which requires small numbers of skilled workers.

"There is one big issue which is difficult to address, and that is the issue of employment," he said. "These people unfortunately are not educated at all, most of them are illiterate."

Instead Vedanta says it has sponsored health and education in local villages as well as alternative income-generating projects.
But the company's claim to popular support was belied by February's local elections, where Congress-backed candidates running on anti-Vedanta tickets dominated, Das said.

Two hours drive away on a rocky, dirt road, a few Dongria Kondh tribesmen and women sat outside their thatched roof huts, their filthy and malnourished children dressed in rags beside them, berries fermenting in the sun to make homemade liquor.

Vedanta says the mines will not affect the slopes on which these people live, only the summits and ridges which they worship. But already people here fear the worst.

"The earth is our mother," said 26-year-old Verang Majhi, rejecting any talk of compensation to leave ancestral lands. "Would you leave your mother for money?".

Later, as dusk drew in and the lights of the refinery dominated the night sky, Reuters visited the village of Bandhaguda, right up against the wall of the plant.

Daka Majhi said all 32 men of his village were arrested by police and jailed for seven days last year, with scarcely any food and water, for staging a peaceful protest outside the refinery.

Their women were threatened by police while Vedanta completed the wall around the plant, cutting the people off from their pond, cremation grounds and much of their fields, he said.

Zutshi contested that version of events, and said repeated efforts had been made to reach out to the villagers, even offering them resettlement at one point, only to be obstructed by a handful of people who wanted "heaps of money".

Vedanta, he insisted, was not the bully that politician Das made it out to be. Nor could it afford to be.

"The days are gone when you can impose yourself, surround yourself with goons and policemen, and browbeat every Tom, Dick and Harry," he said. "It's not going to work, it's not a long-term solution at all."

Most unwed mothers in tribal Orissa below 18

The New Indian Express, Wednesday March 28 2007 12:59 IST

NEW DELHI: Nearly 53 percent of unwed mothers in tribal Orissa are below the age of 18, says a study by an NGO.

Though there is no exact data with the government regarding the number of unwed mothers, experts believe that Orissa is home to 10,000 such women, of which over 70 percent belong to the 11 tribal dominated districts.

“Poverty, coupled with ignorance and innocence, compound the problem of unwed mothers in tribal Orissa. Nearly 53 percent of surveyed unwed mothers are below the legal marriageable age. It's shocking and unfortunate,” Amrendra Kishore, executive director, Indian National Trust for the Welfare of Tribals (INTWOT), told IANS.

According to a sample survey by INTWOT, an NGO working in tribal Orissa, 103 unwed mothers of the 216 surveyed were between 14 and 18 years old and another 11 were between nine and 14 years.

The survey also found that among the tribal districts, Kalahandi accounts for 57 cases (27 percent) and Phulbani reported 47 cases (22 percent).

Interestingly, the areas where primary health and education are still a far cry, sex stimulant drugs and blue films are easily available in grocery shops.

“Their easy availability is adding fuel to the fire. These teenagers are enticed into watching them with gifts, cosmetics and food items like mutton and chicken, which otherwise cost nearly twice the daily wages they earn.

“Deprived of worldly pleasures, these immature girls get easily trapped, and since sex is not a taboo in tribal communities they get physically involved,” said Kishore. He added: “Is the value of a girl less than a kilo of chicken?”

However, police said tribal people never come forward to report such illegal cases and it compounds their problem.

“We have registered 10 cases of unwed mothers in 2006. Of these seven are charge-sheeted and three are pending, including the case of Hema Rana, a 15-year-old mother of a baby girl,” said Kalahandi Superintendent of Police S C Chauoupattanaik.

Giving Hema Rana's example as a model, Chauoupattanaik said her father reported the case too late. “Sadhu Rana reported the case late to the police as they were involved in getting the case adjudicated in the village. The father wanted to marry off Hema to the boy involved.

“The department is trying its level best but the whereabouts of the boy are yet to be ascertained.”

Hema Rana is a resident of village Jampadar of Kalahandi. She is a Class 6 dropout of Turlapadar Middle School.

About a year ago, Hema came into contact with Saroj Manjhi, a rich tribal youth who allegedly instigated her into having sex with him. When Hema got pregnant, Manjhi fled. Hema's angry father filed a criminal case against Manjhi.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Human Right Commission Unsatisfied on Developmental Progress in KBK: Sambad

Sambad, March 27, 2007

Sambad reports Human Right Commission is unsatisfied on Developmental Progress in Kalahandi Bolangir Koraput.

A university in KBK remains a far cry

Kalinga, March 27, 2007

By Digambara Patra
Lack of information, timely initiative and lingering old ideas towards the development of Orissa was causing a great loss for the State and its people.
Central government and national organisations often have many new proposals and initiatives for various developmental purposes, and generally states having first hand information and timely initiative
normally get the maximum benefits out of this.

Unfortunately, Orissa government had done nothing at least towards the development of higher education in the backward region of the state by taking advantage of the policies of the Central government.

University Grants Commission (UGC) had earlier declared `Colleges with Potential of Excellence' to improve quality education in selected colleges through a screening committee all over the country.

In the first phase, only three colleges of Orissa, namely, Ravenshaw College in Cuttack, G M College in Sambalpur and Government College in Bhawanipatna were selected. In the second phase selection this year, only Khallikote College of Berhampur and Fakir Mohan College of Balasore have been selected from Orissa.

Fakir Mohan College has been affiliated with the newly established Fakir Mohan University, Balasore and Ravenshaw College has been made a state University recently. Till now among the `Colleges with Potential of Excellence' in Orissa, Government College, Bhawanipatna is the only college in KBK region certified by UGC for quality education.

If the state government would have taken timely initiative to make Government College, Bhawanipatna a state University along with Ravenshaw University it would not only have made a state University in KBK region but also could have received more UGC support for it.

The State Government could have been able to get UGC support for making Government College, Bhawanipatna a state University by highlighting the poor state of higher education in the KBK region.

Since independence the state government has totally ignored KBK region by not establishing any state university, government engineering college or government medical college in this region, whereas in last 15 years as many as six universities have been established/proposed in the remaining parts of the State.

Geographically, location of Bhawanipatna in KBK region is also advantageous as it is centrally located to many KBK and Boudh-Kandhamal districts.

Establishing a University in the lines of Ravenshaw University at Bhawanipatna could have fulfilled the long standing demand for a state university in this region and also would have given a positive message to the whole KBK region.

The author is Visiting Lecturer, Department of Physics, Waseda University, Tokyo.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ignorance of census harmful to people

The Statesman, March 26, 2007
Statesman News Service

Bhawanipatna, March 25: The widespread ignorance of the lower class regarding the census and its effect on their social awareness and future planning can be seen in the census report of 2001. A report regarding child marriage in Kalahandi reveals 854 girls within the age group of 10 to 14 years were married and 95 of them were widows already. In the neighbouring Nuapada district again 293 girls of the same age group were married while 23 out of them were widows.
According to the census 2001, 42 per cent children between the ages 5 and 14 in Kalahandi and 46 per cent in Nuapada district did not attend school.
These facts was revealed in the workshop on “Comparative Demographic Trend of Kalahandi and Nuapada district with Orissa: Census 2001” organised today by the Census Directorate Orissa. The participants were sharp in pointing out that many of the vital statistics and disseminated demographic facts of the census do not reach ground level on time and when they do at a delayed stage they are part of history or only for academic interest. Some mechanism should be devised to enable the details of the census to reach the authorities on times so that proper planning can be undertaken in future, the participants said.
The workshop was presided by the collector of Kalahandi Mr NBS Rajput. Mr D Behera the deputy director census directorate Orissa and his collegues explained the different aspects of the Census ~ 2001 which will sensitise public and help in future planning.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Landed women

Business Standrad, March 25, 2007
Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi March 25, 2007

In an Andhra Pradesh district, women’s groups take land on lease; a Plan panel group takes note of this and asks the government to encourage group ownership and group leases for women.

Women in villages rarely have the good fortune of owning land.

But this might change, courtesy a small movement building up in Andhra Pradesh’s Medak district where social workers have convinced women in some villages to take land on lease from their husbands.

The women grow crops of their choice. The millets we grow taste better, they say. At least the earnings, howsoever meagre, are assured.

The women have realised this. So have activists like Rukmini Rao and the central government. The experiment, by Rao’s friends in the Deccan Development Society and some associate organisations in Medak, may now find a place in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan.

The Planning Commission’s working group on women empowerment, of which Rao is a member, has recommended that the government encourage group ownership and group leases for women. The move will instantly empower rural women, the group’s report says.

The report says direct land transfers should provide individual titles, rather than joint titles with husbands. It says a joint title gives a woman little control over the produce and makes it difficult for her to claim her share in case of a split with her husband.

It adds that the government should assist groups of women to collectively buy or take on lease cultivable land from the market. The lease, it says, can be for long periods of up to 20 years. It also proposes that the government provide loans for this.

The group says this can give a much-deserved push to the movement, which is already attracting large followers. In Orissa’s Kalahandi district, for example, self-help women groups are being encouraged by district authorities to take land on lease and grow pulses and vegetables.

In the Junagarh block, women belonging to self-help groups are enthusiastic about the vegetables grown on the land taken on lease jointly.

The returns, of course, are not much. For, the only marketing outlet is a tribal weekly market at the block level, which does not get them the price pulses would get in the bigger world outside Kalahandi.

“We get about Rs 15 a kg for arhar,” said a women who is part of one such group. In another village, the women are proud owners of a pond which has been leased out to them by the district administration.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Retina would be replaced for eyesight loss case:, March 23, 2007 reports that retina would be replaced for eyesight loss case in Bhawanipatna.

NGO blacklisted for eyesight loss case:, March 22, 2007 reports one NGO was blacklisted for the eyesight loss case by the district administrator in Kalahandi.

Contamination causes eye-sight loss in Bhawanipatna

Pragativadi, March 23, 2007

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Business Hub in KBK; a dire need, March 21, 2007

Imagine Visakhapatnam is the major centre for health care and education centre for the whole Southern and South Western Orissa.

Majority of the revenues generated in health sector in this city comes from Orissa fueling growth in medication and hospitality sectors in Andhra Pradesh.

And the state government raises revenue and employment opportunity for the local community grows.

Similarly Raipur, the Capital city of Chhatisgarh is the common man’s commercial center for textiles, home and agricultural appliances and machineries for the whole KBK and part of western Orissa regions.

Money earned in Orissa is finally spent in neighboring states for medication, education, textiles, home and agricultural appliances and machineries making Orissa a big loser.

The amount of business done by Orissa people in these two neighboring cities may relatively look a small portion compared to the whole state, however, when counted in total common people parlance in the bordering districts of Andhra Pradesh and Chhatisgarh we do spend a large sum directly or indirectly in Visakhapatnam or Raipur for above reasons.

Raipur and Visakhapatnam could establish themselves as commercial centers for common man in last two decades largely by fulfilling the requirements of people living in the bordering districts of Southern and Western districts of Orissa.

Its also true that major bordering towns of Orissa like Berhampur, Sambalpur, and Rourkela could make a mark but it was only up to the district level and without impacting largely on the inter-district or inter-state commercial success.

In fact in health sector Visakhaptanam became popular among the people of Orissa not because of love for Andhra Pradesh but for poor facilities in Sambalpur and Berhampur medical college and hospital.

Poor infrastructure is the main bottleneck as there is no direct and proper railway and road connectivity to the state capital from the KBK and other bordering regions.

And secondly failure of service centers and down stream industries in Orissa has weaken the economic growth of these urban centres.

Though recently state government has taken initiatives to establish many private engineering & medical colleges and universities in Orissa, revive the SSI sector of Orissa and promote ancillary as well as downstream industries but absence of commercial hubs have resulted in siphoning of large chunk of money from Orissa to neighbouring states.

In order to arrest the money flow it is pertinent to establish at least seven commercial business hubs at Bhawanipatna, Koraput, Berhampur, Balasore, Keonjhar, Rourkela, and Sambalpur keeping common man's commercial requirements in various sectors.

And connecting all of these place directly by road and railway with the major commercial business center at Cuttack-Bhubaneswar corridor will go a long way.

As size of western and northern borders of Orissa is quite large enough and geographically covers a large area of the state, later on two more commercial business hubs could also be established at Bolangir and Baripada.

As many as seven to nine commercial business hubs would cover the whole Orissa and money fly can be arrested which will bring new opportunities.

At this moment Bhawanipatna and Koraput urgently need special attention in this regard as these regions dish out maximum percent of their earning by common man to the neighboring states for the above reasons.

Are the town planners and Urban sector honchos listening ?

By Dr Digambara Patra Visiting Lecturer (Department of Physics, Waseda University, Tokyo)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Responsibility of NGO under scan for losing the eyesight: reports responsibility of NGO under scan for losing the eyesight in Kalahandi.

Six poverty stricken villagers lose eyesight after state-aided free cataract surgery

Daily India,March 21, 2007
From our Correspondent

Bhawanipatna (Orissa), Mar 20: Six villagers from Naria village in Orissa have lost vision of one of the eyes after undergoing cataract surgery at a government-run hospital.Six persons, including two men and four in the Kalahandi district, had undergone cataract surgery, on January 22."We went in on Sunday and we were operated on Monday. I do not know how they operated, but after a day, my eye started hurting. We had no knowledge of the procedure. But now I cannot see," said Jagannath Majhi, a patient.

One eye was already bad, now the second one is irreparably damaged, he added. The other patients too are worried about a potential loss of livelihood. Most of them are over sixty years of age and have little or nothing to fall back upon.Doctor Bharat Bandhu Panda, the surgeon who operated on the villagers, has denied the charge of medical negligence.

Panda claims that the patients did not heed medical advice and proceeded to their ill-equipped and non-sterile homes."I think that had these patients stayed in the hospital for the duration we had specified. We could have saved their eyesight. Without any proper instructions, guidance or medication, they have left the hospital," said Panda.The police station at Bhawanipatna has registered a complaint forwarded by the villagers and Sisir Kumar Sahu, the Inspector-in-charge of the station, said that legal proceedings are on.

"We have received a complaint alleging medical negligence on the part of the doctors by persons operated upon for cataract surgery. We have written to the CDMO (Chief District Medical Officer) for details of whether there was any medical negligence, and if any, by whom," Sahu said. Orissa's Kalahandi region is known worldwide for its state of underdevelopment. Medical care in remote villages of the state is almost non-existent and poor people who cannot access expensive care in faraway towns are dependent on state-run health centers.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Funds crunch delays construction of sports complex

The Statesman, March 17, 2007
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA, March 16: Miserly release of funds has not only delayed the construction of the much awaited sports complex here but has also resulted in cost overrun also.
The move intended to tap hidden talent in remote areas had got the administrative approval with estimated cost of Rs 254.57 lakh in 2004. The project includes outdoor stadium with eight lane tracks, foot ball field, volley ball, basket ball and tennis courts, besides a multi gym, swimming pool and a 100-bedded sports hostel.
According to reliable sources, of the Rs 254.57 lakh, only Rs 82.28 lakh have been released so far and that too in many installments. Site development works like leveling and construction of 300 meters retaining wall are complete. Construction of sports hostel is in progress. But the pace of work has resulted in dearth of funds now.
Executive engineer Mr Asit Kumar Badpanda elaborating on the progress in the work said that, the estimate was prepared at the prevailing rate of 2003 based on which the administrative approval was accorded.
Taking into account the cost of materials and labour charges, the rate has been revised three times and the project cost will be accordingly increased by 30 per cent of the original estimate. The revised estimate has been submitted for revised administrative approval. Despite this, the progress of the work is satisfactory, he said. Besides this, to protect the field and land of the sports complex, a compound wall is essential. However, as the project of the sports complex does not include compound wall, district administration will take care of it for which an estimate of Rs 45 lakh has been prepared.

The world of J.P.Das: Kalahandi experience shaped his thinking

The Hindu, March 3, 2007

The Saraswati Samman recently awarded to Jagannath Prasad Das is a tribute to a multifaceted talent from modern Orissa.

ALTHOUGH many notable poetic voices have emerged in post-independent Orissa, Jagannath Prasad Das remains singular and unrivalled for his originality and sheer range of talents. A poet, painter, dramatist, actor, short-story writer, novelist, translator, critic of art literature and cinema, Das's illustrious career spans several decades. Known popularly as J.P., Das's life and works contain many paradoxes. Indeed, these seeming contradictions appear to lend significance and richness to his creative works. While many articulate their artistic credo, J.P. remains supremely reticent. While others covet post-retirement pastures, J.P. wonders why he did not resign from the I.A.S earlier. While his parents named him `Jagannath Prasad', the boon of Lord Jagannath, he remains a confirmed non-believer. And finally, while others consider one literary genre enough for a lifetime, J.P. handles multiple genres at the same time. Always witty and provocative in his utterances, J.P. once remarked: "All that I want to say, let me try to say in poetry."

The third child of middle class parents: Sridhar Das and Indu Devi, in 1936, Jagannath Prasad's early influence was his father, a respected writer and nationalist of Orissa. After Mission School and Ravenshaw College, Cuttack, J.P. took a Master's Degree in Political Science from Allahabad University and taught there briefly. He joined the I.A.S. in 1958.

Early writing

J.P. began writing poetry early in his teens. In 1951, he brought out a collection entitled Stabak. His poems began to appear regularly in the leading Oriya journals such as Dagara, Jhankara and Asantakali. Joining the Students' Federation of India (SFI) he co-edited a journal, Agami, with Manoj Das.

J.P.'s experiences as an I.A.S. officer in Orissa, especially in Kalahandi district, shaped his thinking and left wing leanings. He wrote two short plays in 1960. In 1970 he held a solo exhibition of his paintings.

J.P.'s creativity continued unabated. In 1971, he published Pratham Purush, a collection of poems and, in 1972, he wrote "Suryasta Purbaru", a play. A Homi Bhaba Fellowship in 1979 enabled him to undertake research on the Pata paintings of Orissa, later published in 1982 as Puri Paintings. In 1980, fairly late in his career, he published his first short story "Shabdabhed". He left the I.A.S. in 1984 for full-time writing. In 1990, his short story "Interview" was made into a telefilm and in 1991 his collection of poems Ahanik received the Sahitya Akademi Award.

J.P.'s interest in Orissa's cultural history led him to publish in 1992 a historical novel called Desha Kala Patra. In 1993 two collections of children's verses, Alimalika and Alukuchi Malukuchi, were published. In 1996, he received the K.K. Birla Foundation Fellowship and in 1998 the Sarala Award for his Priya Vidushak. In 2000, he published Lovelines (poems) in translation, and Pukka Sahib, a collection of short stories. In 2001 he received the Nandikar Award for theatre and his play "Sundardas", based on the question of evangelisation and interfaith dialogue, appeared in 2002.

Orignal and innovative

In all the genres, J.P. displays originality and innovation in content and style. His works are intelligible and informed by contemporary resonances such as poverty, pestilence and bigotry, and echoes universal themes such as longing, unrequited love and the sense of loss. The prevailing note of cynicism is, however, tempered by a gentle irony and detachment. As a short story writer, he has been called "the quintessential raconteur with an instinctive mastery of the form". His research in Art History in the form of two volumes, Chitra Pothi, and Palm Leaf Miniatures (with Joanna Williams at the University of California at Berkeley) in 1991, has been described as path breaking. Similarly his Desha Kala Patra offers a counter discourse to that of the colonisers. Critic Jatindra K. Nayak aptly suggests that many poems in his collection Parikrama "focus on the business of writing poetry, on the ordeal of a poet trying to impose significant form on that `slip, slide and perish."

Das is an acclaimed translator too. His collection on the Oriya Women Poets entitled Under a Silent Sun (with Arlene Zide, 1992) and Gulzar's Autumn Moon have been well received in their English renderings. J.P. Das's creative life is marked by passion, perseverance, and spontaneity. His works and versatility are testimony to an exploratory view of life.

(Sachidananda Mohanty is Professor of English at the University of Hyderabad.)

Probe into eyesight loss ordered

The Statesman, March 20, 2007
Statesman News Service

BHUBANESWAR, March 19: Health minister Mr Duryodhan Majhi today ordered a probe into the alleged instance of six persons losing their eyesight after a cataract operation at the Bhawanipatna District Headquarters Hospital, Kalahandi.
Mr Majhi said that a team of doctors ~ either from the SCB Medical College Hospital, Cuttack or the VSS Medical college, Burla ~ would conduct the probe and submit a report within three days.
At least six persons lodged complaints with the police yesterday alleging that they had lost their eyesight after undergoing cataract operation in January. They held the doctors responsible for the incident. The Madel villagers under Narla block were taken to the cataract operation camp on 21 and 22 January.
When their eye bands were removed yesterday they failed to see anything and alleged that each had lost one of their eyes. The doctors, however, explained that the villagers had not taken proper post-operation care which had led to infection.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Six lose eyesight after surgery camp visit

The Statesman, March 19, 2007
Press Trust of India

BHAWANIPATNA, March 18: At least six persons, including four women, lost vision in one eye allegedly due to the negligence at a cataract operation camp held at the District Headquarters Hospital here.

The victims, all above 60 years of age, lodged a complaint with the Town police station against the doctors here yesterday. They held the doctors responsible for their plights.

According to the FIR, some residents of Madel, a village under Narla block in Kalahandi district, had underwent cataract operation at the District Headquarters Hospital on 21 and 22 January. They were released after two days of the surgery.
The patients, identified as Kamala Majhi (70), Kaikei Rana (60), Ratani Majhi (60), Sudra Majhi (70), Gimila Rana (65) and Hanu Rana (65) of the village, 20 KM from here, had come to the hospital complaining of eye watering and pain.
They were, however, asked to leave the hospital after doctors administered some eye drops on them.

The poor villagers, however, came to know about the fate of their eyes after their eye bands were removed yesterday. They failed to see anything and alleged that each had lost one of their eye balls.

When contacted, the head of the eye department at the hospital, Dr Bharat Bhusan Panda, said that the six people had lost one of their eyes due to serious infection. He said that villagers did not take post-operation care which led to damage of their eye balls.

He, however, dismissed the allegations that their eye balls were removed during operation as alleged by some of the kin of the patients.
The doctor claimed that there was no problem in their eyes immediately after the operation. All the problems started after they spent some days at home. Therefore, the doctors are not at fault, Dr Panda reasoned.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Differently-abled beneficiaries refused loan

The New Indian Express, Saturday March 17 2007 11:59 IST

BHAWANIPATNA: After being made to wait for about three years, 63 physically challenged persons of the district have been refused loan for no fault of theirs.

In June 2004, a team from Vocational Rehabilitation Centre, Bhubaneswar and Mahila Vikash Samabaya Nigam, the channelising agency of National Handicapped Development Financial Corporation in the State, visited Bhawanipatna and selected 63 beneficiaries from different parts of the district to provide them loan to take up various self-employment projects.

The Mahila Vikash Samabaya Nigam, Bhubaneswar was supposed to grant the loans.

The identified beneficiaries also submitted several documents including caste and disability certificates, residence and income certificates, educational qualification certificate, affidavits, route map of the place of business, project report of the business and bank pass book with cheque facilities for availing of the loan.

To the utter surprise of the district officials and the beneficiaries, after sitting over the applications for two years and nine months, the Mahila Vikash Samabaya Nigam returned them to the office of the District Social Welfare Officer last month.

Although the documents were sent back along with the applications, the cheque books submitted by the applicants were not returned.

The Nigam did not even give any reason for its denial to sanction the loan after keeping the applications pending for about three years.

And instead suggested the district administration to include these cases under any local scheme.

This has sparked off widespread resentment among the physically disabled beneficiaries.

"To collect different documents and to open a pass book in the bank, I had to face so many difficulties. I had invested more than Rs. 2000 then but now all that has gone down the drain," rued Debendra Goud, an applicant from Ramnagar Pada.

"This is like playing with our sentiments," he alleged.

Contacted District Social Welfare Officer, Kalahandi, Subash Chandra Digal said after the 63 applications were sent back, the district administration is trying to work out a way to cover these people under various local loan schemes.

The Nigam has also been requested to return all the documents of the applicants, he added.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Colours of countryside

The Hindu, March 16, 2007

The artist from Orissa is making colourful waves.

Kesinga is a speck of a railway station on the Vizianagaram-Raipur line that is bathed in greenery, has an interesting backdrop of mountains and flowing streams during monsoon. Beginning his journey in this scenic hamlet in the blighted Kalahandi district in Orissa, Kashinath Jena brings the torch of art to Hyderabad at the Lakshana Art Gallery.

Inside the gallery are rows of paintings that evoke nature as well as the spiritual. The colours are bright and brilliant figurative works that have a calendar-like quality about them. What stands out is the outline in white "I have used a white outline to balance the bright colours that I use for my subjects," says Jena who has used the theme of Radha and Krishna for his series.

"Every two years I change my theme, my muse," he says, as he talks about his forthcoming exhibition themed around Gita Gobind in Delhi sometime in December.

Using acrylics on canvas, Jena uses the matte feel of the canvas to suffuse and shade his bright colours. It is nature at is bountiful best as the bulls and cows have a rotundity about them just as his subjects of Radha and Krishna frolic in the sun with all the fleshy outsized proportions etched carefully. Using translucent acrylics, with white outlines and fleshy contoured bodies, Jena's works have a timeless quality about them.

But why only divine (his earlier series included Ganesha and Hanuman)? "We cannot live without nature or God. If one fails we will have a problem and if the other is angry, the world will end. Both are needed and I see beauty in both of them," he says.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Temple artisans await pension

The New Indian Express, Thursday March 15 2007 13:00 IST

NAYAGARH: For the temple artisans of Odgaon area of the district, art and culture have no boundaries. They are not only in demand in Orissa but also in other states including Jammu and Kashmir.

But back home they are not as lucky.

One of them is Golak Maharana who has constructed more than 25 temples in a span of 20 years.

He recently returned from Jammu where he has been engaged in construction of Jagannath temple and Shiva temple at Sundarbani in Rajouri district.

He will go back to J&K to finish the structures after the winter season.

Hailing from a family of temple artisans, Golak was the head artisan of the famous Shiva temple at Dharamgarh in Kalahandi district, which has been built in accordance with 'Vastu Shastra' at Rs 50 lakh.

But 70-year-old Sribatsa Maharana of Masabari village is not fortunate like Golak. He has been running from pillar to post in order to avail his artist pension for several years, but in vain.

There are around 80 temple artisans in Nayagarh district whose daily wage ranges between Rs 150 and Rs 300 and most of them work on contract basis.

Barring a few, many artists do not have landed property and cannot work as daily labourers either, said Sribatsa Maharana, a highly skilled artisan of Masabari village. He alleged that his efforts to get artist pension, for the past several years, have gone in vain but less skilled workers have managed to get the same.

Another artist of Madhyakhanda village in Daspalla urged the Government to create a welfare fund for temple artisans.

Hope for Asha Sagar: Admn to take up beautification work

The New Indian Express, March 15, 2007
Thursday March 15 2007 13:08 IST

BHAWANIPATNA: It hasn't been long since the district administration planned the renovation and beautification of 'Asha Sagar', the historical water body of Bhawanipatna town. But a group of encroachers may spoil the plans now.

Asha Sagar was constructed around 1880-81 by then king of Kalahandi Udit Pratap Deo in the name of his Queen Asha Manjari Devi for public use and irrigation.

However, after Independence, though Asha Sagar was handed over to the Minor Irrigation Department, it remained deprived of required facilities.

Keeping in view its strategic location, the district administration recently mooted renovation and beautification of the water body.

On the proposal of the district administration, about Rs. 1.61 crore was sanctioned from the RLTAP fund of KBK in the first phase to the Minor Irrigation Division to start the renovation work.

In the first phase, among other things, it was decided to deepen the pond area and repair and develop the periphery roads.

Accordingly after settlement of tender, the work started this month. In the second phase, the district administration has decided to beautify Asha Sagar by making elaborate light arrangements and introducing boating facilities in the lines of BDA, Nicco Park in Bhubaneswar. A garden on the bank is also in the pipeline.

The project is now irrigating 121 hectares of an agriculture farm of Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology. But after renovation and beautification, it would also become an important tourist spot of the district, sources said.

But with the water body becoming a victim of encroachment, these plans may receive a huge blow, allege locals. Besides, the body is covered with silt and weed.

Incidentally, the main drain of the municipality discharges waste into the water body making the water unfit for consumption.

Kalahandi Collector NBS Rajput said an extensive survey would be carried out to check encroachment. And, the encroachers, if any, will be evicted, he added. He also asserted that within a short time, Asha Sagar will become an asset for the town.

Mission Sakti: Kalahandi meets target

The Statesman, March 15, 2007
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA, March 14: Mission Sakti is one of the few schemes where Kalahandi is reported to have met the target. There are also some success stories worth quoted by district administration.
Recently, the progress achieved so far in the Mission Sakti activities was reviewed at a meeting. The Mission Sakti was launched in Kalahandi in 2001 with the target of forming 7,200 woman self-help groups by 2008 and as against the target set, 9,626 self-help groups were formed as on today.
On this occasion, a training of government officials of different line departments was organised jointly by Nabard and district social welfare office (DSWO). Collector of Kalahandi Mr NBS Rajput while addressing the line department officials laid emphasis on the grading norm of self-help groups and asked the concerned to constitute a committee to look into gradation, norms and application.
He also insisted on offering proper monitoring. On an experimental base, public distribution works will be entrusted to the women self-help groups in the interiors during the ensuing financial year and for which they need to be strengthened.
He said that there were many silver line of achievement of woman self-help groups in the fields of horticulture, pisciculture and handicrafts. However, in various works, there should be a dedicated technical support by line department with constant touch.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lanjigarh Alumina Refinery will start functioning from this month end: Sambad

Sambad, March 14, 2007

Lanjigarh Alumina Refinery will start functioning from this month end.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

BHUBANESWAR: ‘Silicon City’ Ba

The New Indian Express, March 11, 2007
Saturday March 10 2007 10:10 IST

BHUBANESWAR: ‘Silicon City’ Bangalore hosted a three-day Oriya cultural festival under the Inter-state Cultural and Films Exchange programme, which was inaugurated by Information and Public Relations Minister Debasish Nayak at Bangalore Sangeet Academy auditorium on Wednesday.

The festival showcased the rich performing arts and films tradition of Orissa.

Presentations of classical Odissi by Puspita Mishra and her troupe, Dasabhuja Gotipua Odissi Nritya Parishad of Raghurajpur were as enthralling for the audience as the vocal rendition of Jaydev’s Geeta Gobinda by singer Minati Bhanja.

Jhumura tribal dance by group from Kalahandi and the famous Ghodanacha by Choudwar Sangit Kala Parishad were prominent features of the event.

Film actors Anu Choudhury, Naina Das, Bhakta Prahlad Charan Patnaik, director Himanshu Khatua, producer Itishree Samanta, Kannada film star Tara, Karnataka Revenue Secretary SM Damodar and Culture Secretary Digambar Mohanty were present.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Sreelatha Menon: Wheels required here

Business Standard, March 05, 2007

Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi March 04, 2007

The Finance Minister has offered monthly scholarships to check dropout rates. But, how about ensuring that the children have transport to reach their schools, first?

Imagine going to school in a tractor. Or taking a pregnant woman to the district hospital in a rickety tractor.

If you have to reach a village in Barnahal block in Mainpuri district of Uttar Pradesh, the farm machine on wheels, unfortunately, is the most available mode of transport.

Even these come packed. The other option would be sitting on the back seat of a village lad’s cycle.

The lad would otherwise be grazing cattle or assisting his father in ploughing the land, both taking turns to function like a cart pulled on by the bullocks.

The rich yield of potatoes, that later fill their mud mansion, makes it worth the trouble. What if the lad never went to school after class 8. Even if he went, his sister will most certainly quit after class 8. It’s the same in village after village. The reason, they say, is the difficulty to reach the school which would be usually a few kilometres away.

If there are 27 primary schools in Barnahal block, there are eight secondary schools; two are for girls. Again, the tractor wins.

And so this tract of Brajbhumi, where the speech of every man seems as delectable to the ears as poetry, children have to bid adieu to schooling at the age of 13.

For girls it is marriage and child bearing. For boys, it is toiling in the mustard or potato fields.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram has offered monthly scholarships of Rs 6,000 a year to one lakh children who prove, through a national test, that they want to study after Class VIII. This, he hopes, would reduce the drop out rate at class 8.

Maybe he should also take some tips from his poet and politician compatriot M Karunanidhi, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

Karunanidhi recently distributed cycles to every child who was going to a secondary school.

Karunanidhi like his predecessor MGR certainly knows what moves or stops the people of his state.

MGR gave the children food to eat, and now Karunanidhi has given them cycles.

If Chidambaram were to visit the interiors of Orissa for instance, and tour a village, he would see that the cut-off period for children to drop out of schools comes down even lower, at Class V.

In Pratapur village in Lanjigarh block of Kalahandi district, an anganwadi is the only government establishment. apart from a two-room primary school.

The anganwadi is full of girls right up to the age of 15 and 16, training to take care of children below the age of six who attend the centre. All of them dropped out at Class V.

Going to a secondary school would mean travelling five or six kilometres. Boys went, they stayed on. These are all tribal children.

It is the same story everywhere in rural Orissa. Will the next Budget have scholarships for Class VI also?

It’s no guarantee that girls from Pratapur will travel to a private school in the block. For there is no transport.

If the Finance Minister were to visit the place when there is a taxi strike, he would have no means of travel but on his feet.

The state transport does not operate in villages. Only two per cent of buses run by Orissa State Transport are government vehicles. The rest are private buses. State Transport Commissioner Satish Agnihotri, who was the former Social Welfare Secretary, says he knows the implications. It means zero results for all the brilliant welfare measures he initiated in the State 10 years ago. With no buses running in the countryside, schools, hospitals, anganwadis, everything is beyond reach.

So Karunanidhi unlike Naveen Patnaik or Mulayam Singh Yadav, gave away not only cycles; he also runs buses.

The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation runs 17,000 and 5,000-odd private buses.

So running a bus or at least a school bus in the village would bring in more children than giving selective scholarships. Unfortunately, Sarva Siksha Abhiyan does not talk about school buses.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Rly Budget slows down track work

The Statesman, March 01, 2007
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA,Feb. 28: People from different walks of life in Kalahandi expressed frustration over new Railway Budget which reduced financial allocation for the ongoing Lanjigarh-Junagarh railway line in the district. This Budget will not benefit the region, opined a cross section of people.
Incidentally, construction of 54 KM long Lanjigarh-Junagarh railway line was started in 1993 with an estimated cost of Rs 272 crore. However, due to poor funding, construction is going at slow pace.
During the last Budget, Rs 19 crore was allocated for the line, while Rs 12 crore was earmarked this time. In this context, Kalahandi Rail Yatri Sangh president Mr Jatin Das said that the Railways was not sincere about the project and such attitude will cause hindrance to the development of this backward region.
He added that as the Hirakhand Express was discontinued in 2005, Kalahandi region did not have a direct link with the state capital. He demanded that Hirakhand Express be reintroduced from Rayagada to Bhubaneswar via Kesinga and Sambalpur to cater for the area.
He also demanded the daily running of Vizag-Nizamudin Samata Express which is now running thrice in the week. All express trains passing through this route should have a halt of five minutes in Kesinga.
The Congress district unit is also critical of the Railway Budget. Mr Rasabihari Behera, president of the district Congress committee, deplored that instead of raising allocation in the Budget, the provision for the Lanjigarh-Junagarh line has decreased to Rs 12 crore from Rs 19 crore last year. Considering the funds being allotted each year, it will take more than 30 years to complete the project.
He said that for the speedy industrial and agricultural development in this region, this railway line will be a silver line. It will also pave the way to connect Ambaguda or Jagdalpur in later stage. Mr Behera also demanded the introduction of a train to Bhubaneswar via Kesinga and Sambalpur for direct link between state capital and Kalahandi.

Orissa official arrested for tampering ballots

Kalinga Times, March 01, 2007
KalingaTimes Correspondent

Bhawanipatna: A Block Development Officer on election duty in Kalahandi district of Orissa has been arrested for allegedly tampering with the ballot box leading to defeat of a candidate.
The official was arrested on Wednesday along with three others following a complaint by Trilochan Nayak who contested for the post of Panchayat Samiti Member in Behera gram panchayat under Dharamgarh Block of the district.

Accused BDO Mushik Bahan Singh and others named in the case had allegedly tampered with the polled votes during recounting.

As Nayak was announced loser after recounting, his supporters held raised serious protests making the district authorities take note of the crime.

In a similar incident, the presiding officer of a polling booth in Garadpur Block of Kendrapara district was recently arrested for tampering with the ballot box.

Budget not satisfactory, says Navin

The New Indian Express, March 01, 2007
Thursday March 1 2007 00:00 IST PTI

BHUBANESWAR: Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday described the Union Budget for 2007-08 as "disappointing", saying that it did not provide relief to the common man.

In his reaction to the budget proposals presented by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Patnaik said the rising inflation had affected the livelihood of common man directly.

No definite and concrete measures to contain inflationary pressures had been outlined in the budget proposals, he told reporters here.

In the agriculture sector, adequate outlay had not been provided for investment in agricultural infrastructure or in support to agricultural marketing, the Chief Minister said.

Asserting that the "injustice" done to the Kalahandi- Balangir-Koraput (KBK) districts of Orissa had not been corrected, Patnaik said it was disheartening to note that the central budget had envisaged only continuance of the existing provisions while the state government had asked for Rs 500 crore for development of the region.

Referring to the proposal to levy export duty on iron ore, ore concentrate and chromium, he said that such levy should be transferred to the states in full.

Pointing out that the budget proposals included reduction of central sales tax from four to three percent with effect from April 1, 2007, he said the loss of revenue on account of such reduction in the rate of CST should be fully compensated by the centre to the state.

FM’s Cabinet mates made sure they were heard

Financial Express, March 01, 2007

Chidambaram offered a bouquet of projects to Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Maharashtra besides other Congress-ruled states like Andhra Pradesh, that were designed to appease various UPA constituents
FE BUREAU, Posted online: Thursday, March 01, 2007 at 0000 hours IST

Influential coalition partners besides some persuasive Cabinet colleagues of finance minister P Chidambaram ensured that their demands did not go unheeded in Budget 2007-08 even as the Left parties kicked up a protest saying their wishlist was ignored.

The finance minister offered a bouquet of projects for Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Maharashtra besides other Congress ruled states like Andhra Pradesh, that were clearly designed to appease various constituents of the UPA as well as the government. To begin with, he sanctioned a Rs 50 crore grant to the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. The finance minister also announced that the World Bank has signed a loan agreement with Tamil Nadu for Rs 2,182 crore to restore 5,763 water bodies having a command area of 400,000 hectares. At the behest of the DMK leadership, the finance minister has exempted import duty on dredgers which will benefit states like Tamil nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

The influence of the RJD was evident with Chidambaram announcing that the “road-cum-rail bridge at Munger, Bihar over the Ganga has been taken up as a national project.”

Similarly the road-cum rail bridge at Bogibeel in Assam, a Congress-ruled state will also be taken up as a national project. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a Rajya Sabha member from Assam.

Among Chidambaram’s cabinet colleagues, tourism minister Ambika Soni was all smiles as he agreed to most of the demands that her ministry had made. A five year income tax holiday for new two, three and four star hotels in the NCR region will attempt to address the room shortage for the commonwealth games.

Minorities affairs minister AR Antulay will also have reason to cheer as the allocation for his ministry has increased fourfold from Rs 143 crore last year to Rs 500 crore. For minorities, the government has also allocated over Rs 100 crore for development programmes in select districts. It has allocated Rs 90 crore for post-matric and Rs 1.08 crore for pre-matric scholarships for students belonging to minority communities.

The finance minister was also “happy” to announce a scheme for modernisation and technology upgradation of the coir industry in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Orissa. However, the Orissa chief minister, Naveen Patanaik alleged that “injustice done to the kalahandi-Blangir-Koraput districts of Orissa had not been corrected.”

Northeast came under special focus of the finance minister. He proposed Rs 96 crore in the tourism budget projects and schemes, “benefiting the region.” Maharashtra chief minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh revealed that the state “will benefit by extra provision of Rs 3,983 crore for rural electrification under the Rajiv Gandhi electrification scheme.”

Various sops were offered to counter the agrarian crisis . The NCP chief and Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar should be satisfied with the Finance Minister announcing a number of proposals including “Mission for pulses,” steps to counter agirucultural indebtedness and measures to boost farm credit. There were guessing games this evening though as to who could have influenced the decision to reduce duty on pet foods from 30 % to 20 %.

Injustice done to KBK, says Naveen

The Pioneer, March 01, 2007
Pioneer News Service | Bhubaneswar
... a disappointing Budget

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday slammed the Union Budget and termed it as disappointing. "This Budget does not provide relief to the common man and no major support has been given to the KBK areas," he said.

Patnaik said that rising inflation affected the livelihood of the common man directly. There has been no definite and concrete measures to contain inflationary pressures.

He further said that in the agriculture sector, adequate outlay has not been provided for investment in agricultural infrastructure or in support to its marketing. "It is seen from the Union Budget that the injustice done to KBK districts has not been corrected. The State Government had asked for Rs 500 crore for development of KBK districts whereas, it is disappointing to note that the Union Budget has envisaged only continuance of the existing provisions," Patnaik added.

He further said that the Union Budget proposals include levy of export duty on iron ore and chrome. The proceeds of such a levy should be transferred to the States in full.

The Union Budget proposals include reduction of Central Sales Tax from 4 to 3 per cent with effect from April 1, 2007. "The loss of revenue on account of such reduction in the rate of CST should be fully compensated by the Centre to the State," Patnaik said.