Monday, April 30, 2007

Sreelatha Menon: A tough easy choice

Business Standard, April 30, 2007

Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi April 29, 2007

Water or mines? The answer should be obvious, but thanks to the pots of gold that lie hidden in them, mines are robbing the countryside of its natural wealth.

Do you want water or minerals? The question need not always be this. But for many activists and communities arraigned against mines, it could be something as extreme, especially if it is someone in Vishakhapatnam fighting the depleting water levels, thanks to bauxite mining.

In Niyamgiri in the Lanjigarh block of Orissa’s Kalahandi district, the choice could be between the golden gecko (a rare lizard) sited there and bauxite. Vedanta has set up a refinery in a proposed wildlife sanctuary, though it has not yet got the permission of the Supreme Court to set up the mine. People are fighting to ensure it never gets the permission. At stake are 100 pure streams of water flowing down the valley which is the source of two rivers.

“Mines drink all the water, besides polluting them,” says Prafulla Samantara of the Lok Shakti Abhiyan of Orissa. He and Biswajit Mohanti of the Wildlife Society of Orissa are petitioners in the case against Vedanta.

Achyut Das and Vidhya Das, an activist couple, have been fighting the miners, Utkala Aluminium International Limited, from setting themselves up in Kashipur in nearby Raigarha district. “I have a non-bailable arrest warrant against me even now,” Achyut Das says smiling through his grey beard. There is a glint of victory in his eyes at the thought of a fight that has lasted for 15 years against a corporate.

In fact, Orissa, which has seen a massive flow of mining leases in the last few years, seems to be beset with landmines of resistance almost everywhere a mining site is planned. It is there even in the much celebrated Arcelor Mittal site in Keonjhar.

The conflicts end either in Kalinganagar type bloodshed or the ongoing use of police force, as in Jagatsingpur against those resisting Posco, or in a new rehabilitation policy announced by the Orissa government recently. Can a small room, a job for a member in the family and some cash substitute the vast wealth of land and forests? Again, there are examples of poorly managed resettlement of displaced persons in the past.

An asbestos mine abandoned decades ago continues to poison fields and the river in Roro in Jharkhand, thanks to negligence by its former owners, the Birla-owned Hyderabad Asbestos Company Ltd.

The law is incapable of holding them accountable. Petty sums are taken as guarantee for mine closure, point out activists. Tribal victims still walk Roro with dim vision and die of strange diseases.

“Not even a medical check-up was ever done,” Madhumita Dutta, an activist, points out.

In Jadugada, again in Jharkhand, a government firm has set examples of failure to build bridges with the people whose land it has decided to mine and spew with radioactive waste.

Uranium Corporation of India Ltd Chairman R Agarwal scoffs at the concept of public hearing and laughs at the possibility of health disorders among people in the area. He made a strange statement attending a workshop organised by the Centre for Science and Environment this week. “Poverty is the biggest polluter,” he said and walked out with his wife, even as activists from Jharkhand were virtually baying for his blood.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Communication is biggest hurdle for all round development of KBK on April 29, 2007 reports communication is biggest hurdle for all round development of KBK region.

Poor connectivity between the state capital and all the KBK districts is largely hindering all types of development work in this region.

Railway Connectivity: Four steps are required.

(1) A KBK heart line covering state's bordering region:

Malkangiri (Malkangiri Dist) – Boipariguda (Koraput Dist)- Jeypore (Koraput Dist) – Boriguma (Koraput Dist) -Nabarangapur (Nabarangapur Dist)– Maidalpur (Nabarangapur Dist) – Ampani (Kalahandi Dist)– Dharamgarh (Kalahandi Dist) - Golamunda (Kalahandi Dist)- Sinpali (Nuapada Dist) - Khariar (Nuapada Dist)– Nuapada (Nuapada Dist)– Padampur (Bargarh Dist)- Bargarh (Nuapada Dist)

(2) A Line to Connect Bhawanipatna to Bhubaneswar via Phulbani:

Dharamgarh (Kalahandi Dist) - Junagarh (Kalahandi Dist)- Lanjigarh Road (Kalahandi Dist)– Baliguda (Kandhamal Dist)- Phulbani (Kandhamal Dist)– Dashapalla (Nayagarh Dist)– Nayagarh (Nayagarh Dist)– Khordha

(3) A Line to Connect Balangir to Bhubaneswar via Sonepur and Boudh:

Balangir (Balangir Dist) – Sonepur (Subarnapur Dist)– Boudh (Boudh Dist)– Dashapalla (Nayagarh Dist)– Nayagarh (Nayagarh Dist)– Khordha

(4) A Line to Connect Koraput to Bhubaneswar via Rayagada, Gajpati, and Ganjam:

Koraput (Koraput Dist) – Rayagada (Rayagada Dist)– Gunpur (Rayagada Dist) – Ramagiri Udayagiri (Gajpati Dist)– Digapahandi (Ganjam Dist)– Berhampur (Ganjam Dist)- Gopalpur (Ganjam Dist)

Near Jayapore KBK Heart Line would meet Koraput-Bhubaneswar Line and in Dharamgarh KBK Heart Line would meet Bhawanipatan - Bhubaneswar Line. Nuapada road has a link to Titlagarh that would serve to link with Balangir - Bhubaneswar Line.

These four lines would cover all the backward region inculding 11 KBK districts as well as whole South Western Orissa and will also link KBK region with Gopalpur port and Bhaubaneswar.

Nabarangpur, Sonepur, Boudh, Kandhamal, Malkangiri, and Gajpati districts would not only have first time railway links but also would serve as transition points for KBK region bringing more business to the local community.

Note: For the above four railway lines few railway links are already made and few are under proposal, other links should be considered in an urgent basis both by state and central governments as well as by East Coast Railway. Please also refer Prof Baral's article in this site for greater details.

Road Connectivity:
State government should also think the above four routes to make four way highway to link major KBK towns with state capital directly such as:

(i) Nuapada - Balangir - Sonepur - Boudh - Nayagarh - Khordha

(ii) Nuapada/Nabarangpur - Bhawanipatna - Phulbani - Nayaharh - Khordha

(iii) Malkangir/Nabarangpur - Jeyapore - Koraput - Rayagada - Ramagiri Udayagiri - Berhampur-Khordha

Details in PDF

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Kalahandi bears the brunt of shift farming

The New Indian Express, April 28, 2007
Saturday April 28 2007 13:09 IST
BHAWANIPATNA: Podu chas (shifting cultivation) has taken a heavy toll on forest resources of Kalahandi district. Wanton destruction of plantation for farming has laid waste to the rich flora upsetting the ecological balance of the region.

It is during this period of the year when the tribals prepare for podu prior to which, they fell trees, clean the slopes and burn wood.

In Kalahandi, of the 51,000 hectares of forest area, more than 30,000 hectares have been ravaged for shifting cultivation. And the worst-hit are predominantly tribal Thuamul-Rampur, Lanjigarh, Madanpur-Rampur, Narla and Bhawanipatna blocks.

Recently, a survey conducted by the Project Office of Watershed of Kalahandi in three blocks of Rampur, Lanjigarh and Madanpur-Rampur, revealed that more than 24,000 hectares in these blocks have been affected by shifting cultivation.

The organisation is also conducting surveys in other blocks, including Bhawanipatna, where it is apprehended that the area under podu may be around 6,000 hectares. Podu is resulting in denudation of forest areas and soil erosion, the survey revealed.

According to sources, presently, thousands of trees are being felled and wood burned in several areas under Thuamul-Rampur and Lanjigarh blocks.

Felling of trees continues unabated in Thuamul-Rampur and Lanjigarh blocks despite implementation of ITDA project and Orissa Tribal Empowerment and Livelihood programme and the functioning of several NGOs in the areas.

Earlier, the Kalahandi forest division was having one DFO but for the last two years, it has been divided into North and South forest divisions and a conservator post has also been sanctioned. But, the problem has only worsened.

DFO (southern division) Ananta Kishor Pati said to combat the situation, Jungle Surakshya Samitis have been directed to make people aware of the hazardous consequences of shifting cultivation.

Kalahandi Watershed Project Director Santosh Kumar Khatua said a district-level committee has been formed to take necessary steps.

Centre confronts SC over forest preservation

New Kerala, April 28, 2007

New Delhi, Apr 27: The Centre today again confronted the Supreme Court as Additional Solicitor General Vikas Singh contended that no judicial emergency had arisen for this court to take over the functions of the government in the matter of preservation of forests in the country.

He also pleaded before the bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Arijit Pasayad and S H Kapadia that the situation in the country with regard to the area under forests has improved not because of the Supreme Court but because of the steps taken by the Central government.

The apex court modified its earlier order dated December 15 2006 and lifted the stay against the functioning of the government appointed Forest Advisory Committee(FAC).

The court directed that all fresh cases of new projects shall go to the government appointed FAC. All new cases seeking clearance for fresh projects will first go to the government nominated FAC which will give its advice on the project to the Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC) for consideration and the CEC will finally place its report before the apex court for clearance.

The projects which have been cleared by the court appointed FAC after September 15 2006 shall also be referred to the government nominated FAC.

The court also directed that the projects which have already been cleared by the apex court shall not require any fresh reference to any authority. The court adjourned the hearing to the second week of July.The court, however, decided to hear on May 15 the issue of Rs 3500 crore aluminium project awaiting clearance in Kalahandi district of Orissa which is famous for maximum number of starvation deaths in the country.

The court also decided to hear the applications regarding the setting up of the power grid and a nuclear reactor in the forest area along with the main petition.

The Amicus Curiae senior consel Harish Salve however, strongly opposed the continuation of three goverment nominees in the FAC.The goverment has to clear around 200 projects which will be subjected to the final nod from the Supreme Court.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Vedanta garners intelligentsia support, April 26, 2007

Now Vedanta Alumina Limited (VAL) has a new found support of intelligentsia of Kalahandi.

Leading Non Resident Oriya (NRO) Digambara Patra who hails from Kalahandi has supported VAL to put up its alumina project in Lanjigarh along with other learned group of citizens.

Dr.Patra of Waseda University of Tokyo in an interview with said intelligentsia and people in general of the district support the plant as it will be first major industrialization of the Kalahandi and Nuapada.

He said though mining in Niyamgiri might disturb the rich bio diversity of the area, despite that people in general of Kalahandi are willing to take the risk in support of industrial development in the district by VAL.

In return the people also expect VAL to set up a hospital cum medical college near to its proposed alumina plant, per say in Lanjigarh or Bhawanipatana, under its branch of Vedanta University near Puri for the benefit of displaced (due to its alumina plant and mining in the region) and poor tribals in KBK region, he said.

Dr. Patra said by establishing such a hospital in the region, it would have not only benefit the state by providing secondary and tertiary medical facilities for the above districts and will boost the primary health care in KBK region.

Over and above this announcement will garner local support for VAL’s alumina project, he hoped.

How ever he along with other think tanks in the country have raised doubts over the actual hidden agenda of a mining company over the announcement towards establishing a 1000 bedded hospital and medical college in the proposed university campus at Puri.

He said the fact is that Vedanta Foundation (VF)’s proposal for world Class University includes a faculty of medicine for medical education.

For any medical college a hospital is required to train medical students and Vedanta is no different.

So, the announcement made by Mr Agrawal and Chief Minister to the people of Orissa has not brought cheers for the people except repeating the old proposal in a different tone, he alleged.


One tree cut Five Indians dead

CNN-IBN, Blog of Bahar Dutt, April 21, 2007

Local residents in Uganda's Mabira forest are up in arms against their government. And all Indians based in Uganda. It must be the first time that a green issue sparked a diplomatic crisis between two countries and a racial outburst . Already three people have died - including several attacks on Asians in Kampala and property worth millions belonging to Asians was also destroyed. At the core of the conflict is 7000 acres of prime forest land to be leased to the Indian-owned Mehta group of industries - for growing sugarcane which is being opposed by the local community which does not want the government to sign away their forest. The tension has been brewing for a while in Uganda now. The Ugandan Parliament is yet to change the status of the forests -campaigners have threatened more violence if the forest is given away. The Mabira forest- one third of which has been leased for logging to make way for sugarcane. The forest is home to some of the most endangered animals and birds. While nothing justifies the systematic targeting of the Indians or the innocent boy who was killed in the outburst- at the heart of the violence is a debate which is not being addressed. Old landuse patterns of agriculture or forest are becoming redundant in the new world economic order bringing the traditional owners of the land in direct conflict with industries.

And whether it is Uganda or India it's the same story of struggle. I have just returned from Kalahandi, Orissa where tribals are up in arms against a mining company that has plans to extract bauxite from the Niyamgiri forests they consider sacred. The forests are the only green patch left in drought prone Kalahandi. People have lost their lives, tribals have been forcibly evicted to make way for the mining company- Our day is spent recording testimonies of tribals who have been forced to give up their land to make way for the mining company. In order to crosscheck the testimonies we always interview the other side- the mining company or the police. The company thinks they have done their job- A slick rehabilitation package for a 100 families and its enough. Never mind that over 32 streams in this drought prone district will dry up, the soil will be contaminated making it redundant for agriculture once the mining starts. The number of families that will be affected will be more than 5000. But as they have not been physically displaced they cannot get any compensation.

Orissa's resettlement and rehabilitation policy of 2006 forbids any forced displacement. But there are other ways of making people leave their land. In Bandagudagaon a woman demonstrates to me how she was stripped of her saree and shoved like an animal by the police- when they protested at the factory gate. I am holding the microphone as she speaks and she grabs a stick and pushes me really hard while screaming in Oriya. My hands are shaking by now- her fear is my fear - as she describes how they were all rounded up by the police. I can only imagine when the state unleashed its power on her what she must have felt.. I request my producer - Rahul to carry on the interview- two days of recording testimonies of human rights violations has left me emotionally drained.

When we confront the local police with the testimonies of tribals being ill-treated- the local Inspector laughs it off - 'these tribals are drunkards what else do you expect?'. The Collector too is dismissive- these people don't understand this is good for them.. Its clear the State could not care less. A citizen of Kalahandi may as well not be a citizen - he or she can only be a silent spectator.

There are other problems which are never addressed-The environmental costs of big mining projects are rarely factored in. While a company is obliged to plant trees to replace the forest it has cut- it is seldom done in the same area where they cut it. In Kalahandi as I drive away from the Niyamgiri hills I know I am seeing the dense forests for the last time. With this last green patch gone the rainfall patterns , the local weather conditions will be drastically affected- this too would never be factored in by the economists selling us the industrialization dream.

By the third day we have been noticed. From nowhere we find people in motorbikes following us. They don't do anything nor look at us- their presence is enough. The moment they enter the tribal hut where we are recording testimonies the tribals clam up. In the presence of these men they are silent.

I try a disarming technique. I ask the men who have been following us on their motorbikes to give us an interview. They oblige! We meet Ram Naik- he is a transporter from the nearby town of Bhawanipatna. After the mining company came in all his 10 cars and 5 trucks are used regularly he is earning big profits. Its clear who will benefit from the mining. This part of Kalahandi has new residents- the contractors, semi-skilled labour and transporters- they will all benefit from the mining company. They are the new residents of lanjigarh... As for the old residents -the Dongriya Kond tribals they must make way- they are irritants on Orissa's shining road to industrialization.

When we carried the story of the tribals of Orissa- many viewers wrote in expressing their anger. The tribals of Orissa were being anti-development. How could they not understand this was good for them?

Unfortunately anyone who questions rapid industrialization is labeled a communist who is anti-development without seriously addressing the complexity of the issues. Its easy to say rehabilitate people- but is rehabilitation offered to every project affected person- NO. Invariably a rehabilitation package is offered to a minute fraction of those affected by the project. In Orissa the oustees of the Hirakud Dam built decades ago have yet to be rehabilitated. Are the environmental impacts such as climate change accounted for? Rarely. The mining project in Niaymgiri will make many local wildlife species extinct, cut down thousands of trees. The offer made by the company to make up for this loss is only one-third of the actual costs in terms of carbon dioxide emissions and release of toxic effluents. Who will pay the price for it? Not the company. Not the state. It will only make living hell in this region in Kalahandi for the local people.

When local people ask whats in it for us ?- they are labeled as anti-nationalist. And there are yet any concrete example of how a big project has even benefited the people who were displaced by the project. In Uttaranchal , thousands had to vacate their homes to make way for the Tehri dam- the water will all be diverted to big cities like Delhi. Once again little explanation of how the dam will benefit local people who lost their homes.

Till we address these basic questions and make sure that the best rehabilitation packages are offered to those who are physically and economically displaced there are many Nandigrams in the making. And theres another dangerous trend- Whether its Orissa, it's the Mabira forest in Uganda - world over environmental movements are losing their non-violent nature. An intelligence report within the US has already warned that future wars will be over natural resources like water. So as glaciers shrink and the climate changes and we still insist rapid industrialization without understanding the human and environmental costs involved- one day it will all be upon us.

Padayatras taken out for and against Vedanta plant

The Statesman, April 26, 2007

Statesman News Service
BHAWANIPATNA, April 25: Kalahandi witnessed hectic political activities today with those who are for and against Vedanata group taking out separate padayatras and their leaders delivering fiery speeches.
The 12-day long padayatra of Green Kalahandi ~ started on 14 April giving call for protection of Jal-Jamin-Jungle ~ concluded here with a public meeting wherein Opposition leaders launched a tirade against the state government for showing “undue favour” to Vedanata Industries. Led by former Union minister Mr Bhakta Charan Das, the meeting was addressed by OPCC chief Mr Jayadev Jena, Mr Umesh Swain, Left party leaders such as Mr Janardan Pati and Mr Ashish Kanungo and also Mr Srikanta Jena.
Mr Bhakta Charan Das, who has formed Green Kalahandi, said mining on the Niyamagiri hills would destroy the ecological balance and nothing in terms of compensation or rehabilitation and resettlement policy could compensate the destruction that would take place. A seven point charter addressed to the Governor was released on the occasion.
Simultaneously, another set of political padayatris under the banner of Kalahandi Bikash Abhijan held a meeting in Kesinga today. This move, allegedly conducted by the ruling BJD leaders, was to project the Vedanta industries as a boon for the district and the local people.
Mr Balabhadra Majhi, BJD MLA, who was unceremoniously sacked from the ministry, addressed the meeting along with Mr Ayub Ali Khan, Mr Bhawani Shankar Nial and others.
They hailed the industrial policy of the state government and how it had attracted a major industry to a district like Kalahandi. The leaders alleged that some disgruntled and rejected politicians were trying to put a spoke in the wheels of development only to garner political mileage.
A memorandum addressed to chief minister was released on the occasion wherein there was demand to gear up periphery development activity by the plant and to look into the interest of the local youths in the matter of employment.

Tribals up-in-arms against Vedanta

The Telegraph, April 25, 2007

Bhubaneswar, April 25: At least 30,000 people, many of them tribals, led by Green Kalahandi, an outfit founded by former Union minister Bhakta Charan Das, today gheraoed the office of Kalahandi district collector in Bhawanipatna to oppose the 1-million tonne alumina refinery by Anil Agarwal-owned Vedanta Alumina.

The gherao marked the end of the 12-day rally by Green Kalahandi in the district to protest against the refinery. The protesters along with politicians from the Congress, the CPI and the CPM vowed to stop the $900 million project. The agitators also blocked several roads in the town.

Tribal women dressed in traditional attire and wearing colourful headgear held placards that read “Vedanta go back”.

State Congress chief Jaydev Jena was present at the demonstration.

The rallyists, who started their march on April 14 from Kesinga town of Kalahandi, coursed through Lanjigarh and Niyamgiri, on foot braving the hot April sun. Das led the rallyists.

“The gherao is to protest the mindless exploitation of land, water and natural resources of the district by Vedanta. They must leave Kalahandi,” Das said over phone. “Vedanta is destroying the rich bio-system of Niyamgiri Hills by mining activities. The people would foil the company’s evil designs,” he said.

Kumuti Majhi, a tribal, said people belonging to his tribe would oppose the refinery tooth and nail. “The company can’t give us jobs. But it would take our water, forest and land. We would not allow the company to stay in Kalahandi,” he said.

Despite the presence of police slogans like “Vedanta go back”, “Niyamgiri or No Niyamgiri” and “Vedanta must leave Kalahandi” and “We want development not disaster” rent the air.

Dongria Kondhs of Niyamgiri, armed with traditional weapons, joined the protest. The Dongrias are among the most primitive tribes of the country and are found in the Niyamgiri Hills only.

Vedanta signed an agreement with Orissa in 2004 to set up an alumina refinery in bauxite-rich Lanjigarh.

Tribals protest refinery plans in Orissa

Reuters, April 26, 2007

BHUBANESWAR (Reuters) - Thousands of tribal men and women armed with bows and arrows marched in Orissa on Wednesday to protest against an alumina refinery owned by Britain's Vedanta Resources Plc, police said.

Dongria Kondh tribals vowed to stop Vedanta starting the refinery in the mineral-rich Lanjigarh area of Orissa, about 475 km southwest of the state capital Bhubaneswar.

Large bauxite deposits had lured the company to this remote and impoverished corner of Orissa, where they have already built the $900 million alumina refinery.

At issue is Vedanta's plan to turn the top of the nearby Niyamgiri mountain into open-cast mines. Tribals say the project will rob them of their homes.

"Niyamgiri or no Niyamgiri, Vedanta go back," shouted several tribal men, wearing colourful headgear as they prepared to wage mock battle with spears and arrows.

"We want development and not disaster," the women chanted.

Vedanta officials have said they would go ahead with the company's plans.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Green Kalahandi Protest in Bhawanipatna Collectoriate, April 25, 2007, reports "Green Kalahandi" protested in Kalahandi collectoriate against the proposed alumina plant in Lanjigarh.

BJP harps on changes in MoU with Posco

The Statesman, April 25, 2007

Statesman News Service
BHUBANESWAR, April 24: The state unit of the ruling BJP today said it would continue to press for modification to the MoU signed by the state government with Posco, particularly those related to swapping of a certain percentage of iron ore and the mining lease area.
But it hastened to add (lest it may rub the CM the wrong way), that even these issues should not be a bottleneck or hindrance for establishment of the steel plant.
BJP state unit president Mr Suresh Pujari was hard pressed trying a balancing act between strong views of some his party colleagues and avowed stand of the government in promoting the project.His attempts to soft peddle the issue were short lived as former state unit president and former Union minister Mr Juel Oram literally blasted out pledeging his support to the people’s movements resisting both Posco and Vedanata projects as far as mining activities were concerned.Mr Oram said he would lend whole hearted support to those who are struggling against displacement and destruction of the environment both at Lanjigarh and Khandadhar mines area.Mr Oram, when he was president of the BJP, had voiced concerns over the Posco MoU. He had objected to swapping of iron ore and other concessions being extended to the project. Today, he stuck to his stand at a time when the party seemed to be scared of crossing sword with the CM on the issue.
“I am with those who are against handing over Khandadhar mines to Posco or any other company for that matter. I am also opposed to the mining area being given to Vedanta industries near Lanjigarh,” said Mr Oram.Without mincing words, Mr Oram said the state government often alleges Central apathy but what about the condition of state roads in the mining areas where people are dying everyday due to accidents. “The roads in the mining belt are death traps and nothing is being done, people of these areas demand better roads and minimum facilities and I stand by them. The priority should be in addressing these problems not in handing over mines to industrial houses,” he remarked.
Mr Pujari on his part told reporters that the BJP was not against Posco and it wanted the plant to come up in the state with minimum displacement. When his attention was drawn to the earlier stand of the BJP wherein it had raised objections to certain provisions of the MoU, Mr Pujari was cornered to say that his party will continue to press for modifications to the MoU.
The BJP chief was addressing a Press conference after a two-day executive committee meeting in which dismal performance of the party in the recently concluded panchayat polls were analysed.
Mr Pujari stuck to his view that the panchayat polls were highly expensive this time. He, however, refused to name the political party which had turned the polls expensive. “We introspected and identified loopholes in our party vis-à-vis the poll result. We did not find fault or blame any other political party,” he said.
The BJP wanted the government to focus more on agriculture and agro-industries sector. It came down heavily on the UPA government for neglecting Orissa.
Mr Pujari underplayed voices of dissension in the party and refused to comment on statements made by senior leaders like Mr Anadi Sahu who had described the leaders here as “cockroaches”.

Under pressure, institute eats own words

Times of India, April 25, 2007

NEW DELHI: The Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, has joined the ranks of ‘‘experts’’ who tailor their recommendations to suit the government’s needs. The prestigious body has made a shocking U-turn on its original study on the adverse impact of proposed bauxite mining in Lanjigarh, Orissa, after the ministry of environment and forests, which funds the institute, asked it to reconsider the findings.

The Orissa Mining Corporation Ltd has entered into an agreement with Vedanta Aluminium Ltd to develop this bauxite mine, which falls in an elephant reserve. In its first report, filed in June 2006, the institute had said that ‘‘the threats caused by the proposed project to this important eco-system will lead to irreversible changes in the ecological characteristics of the area’’.

But in its second report, the institute has backed a mitigation plan to take care of these ‘irreversible’ changes. In a clever use of words, it has diluted its original stand that the area has a substantial elephant presence, and said that elephants existed only in the folds of the hills and not on the hill top (where the mining is proposed), indirectly supporting the state’s contention that mining on the hill top would not affect elephants.

While the first report was written on the basis of a field survey conducted by researchers of India’s premier wild-life research institute as well as survey of all literature, the second, what the institute has called a supplementary report, has been filed purely on the basis of presentations made by Orissa forest department.

Co-author of the report, Sushant Chowdhry, however, defended the turnaround. He told TOI, ‘‘The second report is only a supplementary one. Maybe when read alone it seems to be a dilution but when read with the first report, it shows that we have not changed our stand.’’ He added, ‘‘We need to be realistic.’’

‘‘We have commented on the mitigation plan presented before us, we have not made our own,’’ said Chowdhry. When asked if the irreversible damages could also be mitigated, he said, ‘‘These things are going on all over the country.’’

WII was asked to conduct the study by the controversy-riddled Forest Advisory Committee of the environment ministry after SC instructed the committee to get impact studies done. The SC is hearing a case filed by three petitioners on the forest clearance for the mining proposal.

The bauxite mine in the Niyamgiri hills of Lanjigarh is to supply bauxite to an aluminium refinery plant of Vedanta located at the base of the hills. Upon receipt of a report that came out strongly against allowing mining, the FAC asked the WII to let the Orissa government ‘‘apprise the institute with their observations on the report’’. After state officials met WII, the institute filed this second report.

WII had filed an unambiguous first report. It said the Niyamgiri hill range had an average forest cover density of around 60% (anything above 40% is classified as dense forest by the government). It recorded the presence of elephants and tigers. It said that contrary to the environment impact assessment report of the project, the hilltops are ‘‘very productive with high occurrence of several herbivore and carnivore species... elephants visit these areas... these areas are also breeding and fawning ground for four horned antelopes, barking deer and several other species’’.

But in a quick retake, it has used the pretext of socio-economic condition of the people in the region to say in its ‘supplementary’ report that the state’s contention that the area earmarked for elephant reserve would jeopardise socio-economic development was valid. The supplementary report has also accepted the fact that on the hill top, the forest cover is low.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cotton as main cash crop attracts companies

The New Indian Express, April 23, 2007

Monday April 23 2007 15:03 IST
BHAWANIPATNA: Cotton is emerging as the main cash crop in western Orissa, with Kalahandi leading the way.

Black soil, favourable climate, agronomic conditions of the region and regular intervention of the Agriculture Department have come as a boon to the farmers here.

Presently, around 24,000 hectares are covered under cotton cultivation and the area is likely to be increased to 40,000 hectares, said sources. Result: Long staple cotton cultivation round-the-year. The demand for cotton, internationally, increased in the last two years after the farmers opted for organic cultivation following the outbreak of ‘American ball warm’ pest in 2001.

This attracted a large number of companies like Ecofarm of Maharashtra, Spectrum International Gujarat, National Organic, Maharashtra, Biorays of Koraput, Super Spinning Mill, Tamil Nadu, National Greenfield of Punjab, to Kalahandi.

These organisations encouraged farmers for bio-cultivation and provided them the latest know-how. However, in the last procurement season, they made a buy-back agreement with the farmers, thus dictating the prices. The prices were fixed at Rs 2,150 a quintal.

Yet another organisation Chetna, presently operational in the dryland and rainfed cotton belt of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu has entered Kalahandi. To start with, it tied up with a local NGO ‘Vision’ to create awareness among farmers, to facilitate technical support.

Addressing media persons, Chetna’s national director Arun Kumar Ambudipudi said: “To enable fair trading for cotton farmers, a national-level company will be launched by May-end.”

However, in this rush of companies, it’s the future of cotton growers that is at stake and it’s the responsibility of the district administration to look after them.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Staff crunch hits health services

The New Indian Express, April 19, 2007

BHAWANIPATNA: Acute shortage of manpower and alleged non-cooperation among the line department staff have derailed health services in Kalahandi district.

Against the sanctioned strength of 179, there are only 101 posts in the district. According to a report of district unit of the Health Department, as many as 25 doctors are absent and seven are reportedly on unauthorised leave.

In the district headquarters hospital itself, 17 posts are vacant including those of class-I junior anaesthetist, radiologist, skin and VD specialist, pathologist, chest and TB specialist and neurosurgeon. The only dental surgeon in the hospital has been posted on a contractual basis.

The sub-divisional hospital at Dharamgarh is also functioning without surgical, anaesthesia and pathology specialists. The scenario in the interiors too is precarious. Though 14 new primary health centres have been set up, doctors have not been posted.

Besides, the only doctor in Bengaon new PHC is reportedly on unauthorised leave, sources in the district health office said. Incidentally, these interior health institutions are managed by a single doctor and things worsen, when he goes on leave.

Besides doctors, the posts of 26 multipurpose health workers (male), 23 multipurpose health supervisors (male) and 10 multipurpose health supervisors (female) are vacant.

Chief District Medical Officer Dr.Srinivas Naik said the Government had been apprised of the vacancies but no action has yet been taken. Dr. Srinivas is posted as in-charge CDMO.

Now, National Rural Health Mission through Orissa State Health and Family Welfare Society has taken up the task to upgrade 13 block-level primary health institutions in Kalahandi district as per the Indian Public Health Standards.

Accordingly, it's programmed to set up a 30-bed indoor ward, upgrade the operation theatre and labour room and newborn corners in each of the 13 block-level health institutions.

It decided to spend Rs 50 lakh in each block and the first instalment of Rs 20 lakh was released to eight blocks.

But as the first instalment could not be utilised, the rest of the amount was returned by NRHM during March last week to the State Health and Family Welfare Society which will now implement the works through other agencies.

The Incheon pinch

In this column Mr Bibek Debroy says India’s poor don’t live only in Kalahandi. They also live in Delhi and urban India.

Villages vs corporate: CNN-IBN

CNN-IBN reports Tribal people in Kalahandi are fighting a mining company and the police to save a forest which they say is in danger because of mining.
Vedanta Alumina needs permissions from the Supremecourt.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sops fail to motivate doctors

The New Indian Express, April 17, 2007

BHUBANESWAR: The additional financial incentives announced by the Government for doctors working in tribal-dominated backward districts has failed to motivate them to take up rural posting.

And rural health services particularly in tribal-dominated districts continue to be plagued by shortage of doctors and other paramedical staff.

According to the latest estimate, 382 doctor posts are lying vacant in 14 districts, including the 11 districts (eight KBK districts) where doctors are given special allowance. The other three districts are Gajapati, Mayurbhanj and Sundargarh.

While 173 assistant surgeon posts are lying vacant, there is shortage of 101 class-II specialists, 82 class-I specialists and 26 senior class-I specialists in these districts.

Shortage of doctors has hit the health services most in backward districts of Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Koraput and Naxal-infested Malkangiri. As against a sanctioned strength of 92 assistant surgeons in Kandhamal district, 22 posts are lying vacant. The remaining three districts have a shortage of 20 assistant surgeons each.

The sanctioned strength for Malkangiri district is 55 while 35 doctors are in place. Delivery of health services in the district has crumbled and people are dying of common diseases like diarrhoea which recently claimed several lives, sources said.

While the tribal-dominated southern Orissa districts are malaria endemic zone, 233 posts of women malaria preventive health worker are lying vacant.

The issue was raised at the recent meeting of the Tribes Advisory Council chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Last year, the State Government introduced an incentive scheme to encourage doctors to take up posting in the KBK districts and three non-KBK districts of Boudh, Kandhamal and Gajapati.

A special allowance of Rs 2,000 a month was given to each assistant surgeon and class-II specialist posted in district headquarters hospitals and Rs 5,000 a month to the two categories of doctors posted in periphery.

Additional incentive of Rs 2,000 a month was given to contractual doctors working in these districts and tribal blocks of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts.

Recently, the Government announced a special package for the doctors including enhancement of basic salary. The special incentive for doctors working in KBK districts was increased from Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000 a month and those working in district headquarters will get a special allowance of Rs 4,000 a month against Rs 2,000 given earlier.

Interface throws up many questions but few answers

The Hindu, April 18, 2007

Special Correspondent
People losing faith in Government owing to improper execution of schemes

Set up more small-scale industries, says Gamang
Call to monitor implementation of programmes
BHUBANESWAR: It turned out to be an interface of a different kind on Monday when Parliamentarians, legislators and civil society workers unanimously agreed that people were losing faith in the Government owing to improper implementation of welfare programmes.Expressing concern over the emerging challenges and people's resistance to development projects in different parts of the country, the participants said all sections of society should join hands so that the benefits of welfare schemes reached the poor. A majority of them blamed the bureaucracy for failure of the development mechanism.

The daylong interface titled "Exposure visit on building a network of Parliamentarians/Legislators/Civil Society for Development" was organised by the New Delhi-based Independent Commission for People's Rights and Development (ICPRD).

The interface, divided into two sessions — "Meeting of Minds" and "Voices from the Ground", left many questions unanswered as Parliamentarians and legislators themselves expressed helplessness about the implementation of programmes aimed at poverty reduction.

Lok Sabha MP and former Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang expressed concern over the people's resistance to large-scale industries. The Government should set up more small-scale industries in any area to create employment opportunities before allowing a big industry to come up in the area, he said.

Mr. Gamang said all those involved in the functioning of the Government should have people's welfare in their minds. The role of the Government, bureaucracy and people should be complementary to one other.

Biju Janata Dal MP Tathagat Satapathy said lack of leadership was adding to the problem of underdevelopment. He also underlined the need for a resource policy for Orissa in order to ensure judicious use of natural resources.

Citing the case of backwardness of the Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput region, senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra said there was no change in the socio-economic condition of the people in those districts despite heavy expenditure under various development programmes.

On the development initiatives taken by the Tamil Nadu Government, Lok Sabha MP from Sivakasi A. Ravichandran said development without a human face was bound to create aggression among the people.

`Focus on agriculture'

The development of agriculture should be given priority and innovative models of development should be evolved to fight poverty, he said.

Senior legislator Sugnana Kumari Deo underlined the need for close monitoring of implementation of various programmes to ensure development.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mahul Makes Businessman Richer and Tribal Poorer: Dharitri

Dharitri, April 17, 2007
Mahul Makes Businessman Richer and Tribal Poorer

Vedanta to build hospital with proposed university

The Statesman, April 17, 2007

BHUBANESWAR, April 16: Evidently conscious of the eyebrows being raised over his proposed world class varsity across 8,000 acres of land near Puri, Mr Anil Agrawal, head of Sterlite and Vedanta group of industries, today said it will try to tighten things and reduce to required area and will also add a 1,000 bedded hospital cum research institute to the project.
Mr Agrawal, who met chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik here, said the CM had requested him to consider setting up a super speciality hospital and he had readily agreed to it. The focus will be on cancer and cardiology, he said before stating that it will come up in the first phase of the varsity project.
Asked about land acquisition, he said it would be done as per the usual government process but no specifics were discussed today.
Mr Agrawal said his discussions with the CM also revolved around progress on his aluminum project, power plant etc. “The bauxite for trial production is being transported from Gujarat and we are also mulling on importing till the mining lease which is pending with the central government is disposed,” he noted.

Vedanta will set up a technical institute at Lanjigarh for local people, he informed. It may be noted here that the company has run into problems with regard to the bauxite mines at Niyamgiri hills and the matter has gone to court.SNS

Doctors still reluctant to take up rural postings

The New Indian Express, April 17, 2007

BHUBANESWAR: Rural health services particularly in tribal dominated districts continue to be plagued by shortage of doctors and other paramedical staff.

The additional financial incentives announced by the Government for doctors working in tribal dominated backward districts has failed to motivate doctors to take up rural posting.

According to latest estimate, 382 doctor posts are lying vacant in 14 districts including the 11 districts (eight KBK districts plus Boudh, Kandhamal and Gajapati) where doctors are given special allowance. The other three districts are Gajapati, Mayurbhanj and Sundergarh.

While 173 assistant surgeon posts are lying vacant, there is a shortage of 101 class-II specialists, 82 class-I specialists and 26 senior class-I specialists is these districts.

Shortage of doctors have hit the health services most in backwards districts of Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Koraput and naxal infested Malkangiri. As against a sanctioned strength of 92 assistant surgeons in Kandhamal district, 22 posts are lying vacant. The remaining three districts have a shortage of 20 assistant surgeons each.

The sanctioned strength for Malkangiri district is 55 while 35 doctors are in place. Delivery of health services in the district has crumbled and people are dying of common diseases like diarrhoea which recently claimed several lives, sources said.

While the tribal dominated southern Orissa districts are malaria endemic zone, 233 post of women malaria preventive health worker are lying vacant. The issue was raised at the recent meeting of the Tribes Advisory Council chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Last year the State Government introduced an incentive scheme to encourage doctors to take up posting in the KBK districts and three non-KBK districts of Boudh, Kandhamal and Gajapati.

A special allowance of Rs 2000 per month was given to each of the assistant surgeon and class-II specialist posted in district headquarters hospitals and Rs 5000 per month to the two categories of doctors posted in periphery.

Additional incentive of Rs 2000 per month was given to contractual doctors working in these districts and tribal blocks of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts.

However, there is hardly any changes in the situation even after introduction of the incentive scheme.

Recently, the Government announced a special package for the doctors including enhancement of basic salary. The special incentive for doctors working in KBK districts was from Rs 5000 to Rs 8000 per month and those working in district headquarters will get a special allowance of Rs 4000 per month as against Rs 2000 given earlier.

The incentive schemes will be extended to doctors working in Gajapati, Kandhamal and Boudh districts.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rally against Vedanta

The Telegraph, April 16, 2007

Bhubaneswar, April 15: Green Kalahandi, a body of agitators protesting against the alumina refinery by Vedanta Alumina, a subsidiary of Sterlite Industries, set up at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, has kicked off a “Suraksha Yatra” across the district.

More than 500 poor, mostly tribal rallyists started their march yesterday from Kesinga town in the district after garlanding the statue of BR Ambedkar amid a gathering of about 5,000 people.

The participants, led by Green Kalahandi founded by former Union minister and former Kalahandi MP Bhakta Charan Das, are moving on foot across different villages braving the hot April sun. “We have started this yatra to draw attention towards the mindless exploitation of land, water and natural resources of the district by Vedanta. They must stop all operations and leave Kalahandi,” Das told The Telegraph over phone during the second day of his journey.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reservoir renovation affects supply

The New Indian Express, April 14, 2007

BHAWANIPATNA: With depleting water resources and their increasing demand for drinking, irrigation, industrial use and power generation, water has become an extremely precious and equally scarce resource.

In Bhawanipatna, all these factors are set to give a tough time to the people, it’s apprehended, this summer.

The situation has aggravated due to draining out of water from the Asha Sagar reservoir where renovation work is in progress. The renovation work has affected recharge of water in several areas besides leading to an alarming decline in the water table.

To tide over the crisis, the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), Bhawanipatna sub-division, has sought at least 35 tube wells which would be sunk and made operational before the situation worsens.

Assistant Engineer, PHED, Bhawanipatna, Ashutosh Pattnaik said steps are also being taken to supply water through tankers and tractors if the situation demands.

The PHED here has four tankers and a tractor. On the other hand, the piped water supply to Bhawanipatna town which was completed in 1971, for 21,000 people, is in a poor state.

Now, the population has touched nearly a lakh and the demand for water has also increased. But, the pipeline of three-inch diameter, chocked at different places is unable to meet the rising demand.

Moreover, there’s no pipeline connection in 40 percent of the town. To add to it, many households use motors to pump out water illegally, further paralysing the system.

Piped-water is supplied to the town through 81 km distribution pipeline. The present source, river Sagada, from where water is pumped to the town, dries up completely during summer.

The supply is, however, managed with the use of six deep bore wells, but here also running the pumps becomes a hard job due to erratic power supply and low voltage.

To improve water supply to the town under RLTAP (KBK), a Rs 9.5-crore project is under execution.

It would pump water from river Hati and supply it to the town residents through a pipeline to Bhawanipatna town.

The pipeline is targeted to be completed by 2008. After its execution, nine MLD (million litre per day) of water will be provided to the town from the current supply of 2 to 2.5 MLD.

However, people apprehend that even if the scheme is completed in time the problem will persist as there is no scope for laying a distribution system for the town.

For improvement of the distribution system Rs 5 crore would be required, PHED sources said.

5 Dead in Thuamul Rampur: Samaja

The Samaja, April 15, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

Orissa demands IIT and KBK Univ, April 12, 2007

New Delhi:11/April/2007
With Orissa reiterating its demand for an IIT and a central university (CU) in KBK region, the conference of the education ministers held here on April 11 has endorsed a proposal to upgrade a state university to that of a central one.

So now the chances of having a central university with UGC funding in Orissa looks bright with the today’s endorsement.

Presenting the case of Orissa, Samir Dey, the Higher Education minister said that there is a long standing demand for establishment of a central university in the KBK region of the state considering the tribal concentration.

He said chief minister Naveen Patnaik has time and again demanded the same, which will benefit the states like Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Chhstisgarh.

Raising the issue of IIT, Samir said that with the vibrant growth in industrial and technical sector in Orissa establishment of an IIT will greatly intensify the process which is of critical importance to make the industry globally competitive.

The minister repeating the state’s demand for an IIT he said that the chief minister has also requested the prime minister to upgrade the extension centre of IIT Kharagpur at Bhubaneswar, which have been turned down.

He demanded for review of the decision in upgrading the facility in Orissa.

Dey also asked the HRD ministry to upgrade the proposed NISER to an Indian Institute of Science at par with IISc, Bangalore.

Raising the issue of National Law University (NLU), Dey announced that the state government will be tabling a bill during the next session of Assembly for setting up a NLU in the state with substantial financial support.

Asking for an institution like Indian Institute of Material Science (IIMC), Dey said it will facilitate development in the industrial and mining sector.

For better administration in the college system of the state, the minister impressed upon the HRD ministry to fund the e-connectivity program, which is to be taken up in the colleges.

Delay in NAAC accreditation is a nagging problem and Dey asked HRD minister Arjun Singh to intervene in the matter.

He also asked UGC authorities to take expeditious steps to ensure NAAC visit the left out colleges.

The minister also asked for funding of the Ravenshaw University by the UGC.

ECoR projects on fast track: GM

The New Indian Express, April 13, 2007

BHUBANESWAR: ECoR General Manager SS Khurana on Wednesday said work on several ongoing projects in the State is moving at a brisk pace.

He was speaking at a function to mark the 52nd Railway Week celebrations. The new headquarters building of ECoR and a railway cricket stadium here would be completed soon.

Lauding the efforts of the staff in making operational the Daitari- Banspani project, he said the track doubling work of Titlagarh-Lanjigarh and Khurda Road-Puri sections are nearing completion.

The general manager felicitated a number of employees for their professional achievements.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Shyama Jal makes Kalahandia Proud

Shyama Jal from Gambhariguda, Dharamgarh makes Kalahandia proud for his social work reports, April 12, 2007.

Vedanta says overall Q4 production higher than Q3 on de-bottlenecking UPDATE

Forbes, April 12, 2007

LONDON (Thomson Financial) - Vedanta Resources PLC said production in its fourth quarter exceeded the previous quarter following successful de-bottlenecking activities.

However, the FTSE-100 company warned that while sales volumes across all three metals - aluminium, copper and zinc - were higher, prices of copper and zinc witnessed a downward trend in the latest quarter. Also it noted that import tariffs on metals in India, where most of its operations are based, were reduced from 7.5 pct to 5.0 pct in the last week of January.

Copper cathode production at its Indian and Australian operations rose to a record 89,000 tonnes for the quarter to end March, in line with a consensus forecast of eight analysts, from 86,000 tonnes in the third quarter. Production was helped by a capacity increase at the Tuticorin smelter in India.

'Production after successful de-bottlenecking is steadily ramping up and contributing towards additional volumes in Q4, with production close to rated capacity in March 2007,' the company said.

The Tuticorin smelter was under planned shutdown for eight days in the first week of April.

Mined metal production at its Australian mines was lower than that of the corresponding period the previous year following a minor rockfall incident, but mining activities were restored in March and are expected to pick up to normal levels in the current quarter, it said.

Its Zambian operations produced 37,000 tonnes of copper cathode in the quarter, beating the preceding quarter's 35,000 tonnes but falling short of the consensus of 39,000 tonnes. It will carry out a partial plant shutdown in April for 20 days for a major overhaul.

Fourth-quarter aluminium output was 98,000 tonnes, in line with forecasts and unchanged from the third quarter. Aluminium output for the fiscal year jumped 67 pct to 351,000 tonnes helped by the full ramp-up of the new Korba smelter. The stabilisation process of the Korba smelter was quicker than estimated and the plant has consistently achieved rated capacity in the last two quarters, the company said, adding that production from existing smelters at BALCO and MALCO was marginally higher than their rated capacity.

Total refined zinc production for the fourth quarter was also in line at 95,000 tonnes, up from 93,000 tonnes in the third quarter, as the company continues to ramp up a new hydro smelter.

However, gold output was lower during the quarter at Sterlite Gold Ltd due to the suspension of mining operations.

Vedanta also provided an update on its projects.

Progressive commissioning of the alumina refinery at Lanjigarh started in the last week of March and alumina output is anticipated to start by the end of the first quarter of FY 2008, and basic engineering work on the new 1.9 bln usd greenfield 2,400 megawatt integrated power project at Jharsuguda has recently started and is progressing as scheduled.

Panel to focus on scheme quality

The Telegraph, April 12, 2007

Bhubaneswar, April 11: Sceptical with the success statistics revealed by the officials over the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, chief minister Naveen Panaik today asked the chief secretary to set up a high-level committee to ensure quality control and proper funds utilisation.

Patnaik was today reviewing the progress of the centrally-sponsored programme, presently under implementation in 19 backward districts, when the officials revealed that Rs 706.51 crore of the allotted Rs 888.57 crore during 2006-07 had been spent. The expenditure figure of 80 per cent did not impress Patnaik enough. “Poor performance of the scheme in tribal-dominated districts like Kalahandi, Mayurbhanj, Boudh and Gajapati might have made the chief minister unhappy. While Kalahandi had spent only 56.05 per cent of total allocated funds by March this year, Boudh and Mayurbhanj spent 62.5 per cent and 66.73 per cent, respectively,” said a source present in the meeting, adding that Patnaik stressed the quality control and regular monitoring of the projects under NREGS.

Panchayati raj minister Raghunath Mohanty, however, was apparently pleased with the performance of his department officials. “Our department managed to provide wage employment to 13.40 lakh labourers out of 13.53 lakh job seekers during 2006-07 under NREGS,” he said, adding job cards had been issued to 25.63 lakh worker families out of 28.76 lakh registered households in 19 districts covered under the NREGS.

The scheme would be implemented in five more districts of Angul, Balasore, Bargarh, Bhadrak and Jajpur in 2007-08.

The meeting decided that gram rozgar sevaks would be appointed against a consolidated pay of Rs 2,000 per month in 4,891 gram panchayats under 254 blocks in 24 districts.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Naveen, shun myopic vision !, April 11, 2007

Globe trotter Naveen Patnaik has been dubbed as a man with myopic vision.

The Non Resident Oriyas (NRO) have pointed out to the chief minister, who has seen the world during his adolescent period to broaden his mental frame beyond Cuttack and Bhubaneswar.

Leading the pack Professor Chitta Baral of Arizona State University said while we lend all kudos for his initiative to set up NISER, IIIT, Ravenshaw Unitary University, Vedanta University, Ravi Shankar University and several other centers for higher learning in the state but the decision to place all these institutions in and around Bhubaneswar smacks of a narrow vision.

Prof.Baral appealed the chief minister (CM) to adopt mid way correction and pursue the multi-campus KBK University and KBK Medical college along with similar facilities in Baripada and Balasore.

He said that upgrading UCE Burla to an engineering and Science University at par with Bengal Engineering and Science University and Cochin University of Science and Technology will go a long way to serve the students of the state.

Prof.Baral also pointed him out to make sure that the recently established universities across Orissa such as North Orissa , Fakirmohan , BPUT, Utkal University of Culture and Ravenshaw Unitary University all get the "Funded by UGC" tag at the earliest so that they can get more and sustained UGC funding.

He advised CM to appoint a professional to the rank of vice chancellor of Orissa University system to pursue the job needed get the above tag and receive outside funding for the universities.

While Prof.Baral has asked Naveen to rope in both private and public sector participation to set up Centers of Higher Learning another vigilant NRO Sandip K Dasverma expressed serious reservation over the decision of the state government to upgrade the Capital Hospital to the status of a Medical college.

Being a veteran Cuttacki, Dasverma presently staying at Richland in USA said that he is at loss over setting up another medical college at Bhubaneswar just 20 km ahead, while the SCB Medical college is languishing due to funds shortage and infrastructure lacunae.

More than that neither the North Orissa districts from Balasore to Sundargarh have any medical facility worth the name nor South Orissa beyond Berhampur has a hospital of good standard, Dasverma added.

And these are distances of 300 km up and yet this Government builds another medical college and hospital at Bhubaneswar, where another two private Medical colleges are coming up.

While making pungent remarks he said with such friends Orissa does not need any enemies, do we?, he asked.

Dasverma dubbed all the talk of KBK development as bunkum.

Else I would guess this medical college would have gone to Jeypore or Koraput, is not it?

He repeated his quiz.

Earlier joining the issue Digambara Patra, who co-ordinates the study in Japan and US and a fellow in Waseda University of Tokyo lamented over the poor standards in various colleges of Koraput, Balangir and Kalahandi due to bureaucratic callousness.

Dr.Patra also drew the point to set up the multi-campus university in KBK region, which will go a long way to improve lop sided educational infrastructure in the state.

Orissa announces new schemes for welfare of tribal people

Kalinga Times, April 11, 2007

KalingaTimes Correspondent
Bhubaneswar: Even as the tribal population of Orissa continues to remain backward despite implementation of various welfare programmes in the past, the State Government on Tuesday announced a series of new schemes to ensure their socio-economic development.

The new schemes were finalised at the meeting of the Tribes Advisory Council. The meeting was chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

The new programmes include establishment of residential high schools for tribal girls in 10 blocks of the state every year. This will help in opening at least one such school in each tribal-dominated block in three years' time, Patnaik said after the meeting.

The Chief Minister said that the districts Koraput, Rayagada, Kandhamal and Gajapati will be accorded priority under the scheme.

Patnaik further said that in an effort to help the tribal weavers, three training and designing centres would be opened at Sohela in Bargarh district, Saintala in Bolangir and Bangiriposi in Mayurbhanj.

In order to encourage Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes farmers engaged in fishery, the government will increase the per hectare loan amount from the existing Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh with an increase in subsidy from 25 per cent to 50 per cent. However, such loans will be granted to the people through Self Help Groups.

As regards the government's earlier announcement to set up 1000 hostels for tribal girls, Mr. Patnaik said as many as 557 tribal
girls' hostels had been constructed in 2006-2007. The construction of the remaining number of hostels will be completed by the end of June this year, he added.

Besides, Patnaik said that 110 hotels for boys will also be built in the Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput region under the Biju KBK Yojana this year.

Among others who attended the deliberations include the SC AT Development Minister Chaitanya Prasad Majhi, and Giridhar Gamang and Bhagirathi Majhi, both Members of Parliament.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Orissa: Four labourers buried alive

The Hindu, April 10, 2007

Bhawanipatna, April 9 (PTI): Four labourers were killed and two others seriously injured when a mound of earth caved in at a hillock about six km from here today, the police said.

The six persons, five of them teenaged boys, were excavating soil for road construction when the mishap occurred.

As soon as the incident occurred, police and fire brigade personnel rushed to the spot and pulled out the six persons buried underneath. While four of them had died by then, two others were in serious condition.

The injured were immediately rushed to the district headquarter hospital here for treatment.

Those killed in the mishap have been identified as Budu Goud (55), Ramesh Nayak (17), Bhola Rout (17) and Hari Bag (19).

Lucky Bag and Parsu Gahir, both 18, were the two injured boys.

Elected sarpanch unable to take charge

The New Indian Express, April 10, 2007

BHAWANIPATNA: The panchayat election is over but an elected sarpanch in Kalahandi is still running from pillar to post to take charge.

Jyotibhusan Majhi of Kendupati under Bhawanipatna Sadar block was officially elected sarpanch of Kendupati on February 15. But despite his attempts, the secretary and panchayat executive officer are yet to hand over the charge to him.

"On one pretext or the other, these officials are dodging," Majhi alleged.

On being asked by these officials, he came to the panchayat office on March 11, 26, 28 and 31 but in vain. He has brought the matter to the notice of the gram panchayat officer of Bhawanipatna but is yet to get any result.

Majhi is now contemplating to approach the Collector. "If I don't get help from any quarter, I will be forced to resort to agitation," Majhi added.

Four persons die in Orissa village as earth caves in

Kalinga Times, April 10, 2007
KalingaTimes Correspondent

Bhawanipatna: At least four persons were killed when they got buried under a mound of earth near Bhawanipatna town in Kalahandi district of Orissa on Monday afternoon. Two others were seriously injured in the tragic incident.

The victims have been identified as Gudu Gouda, Ramesh Nayak, Bhola Rout and Hari Bag.

Six persons were digging a portion of a landmass for their own use when the mishap took place around 1 p.m., district officials said.

The two injured persons, Lucky Bag and Parsu Gahir, were rushed to the government hospital at Bhawanipatna and their condition was stated to be critical.

Kalahandi District Collector NBS Rajput said that the victims were not working under any labour contractor.

Farmers of Kalahandi denied dues

The Statesman, April 10, 2007

Statesman News Service
Bhawanipatna, April 9: Despite government intervention and different policies to stop the exploitation of farmers at the hands of unscrupulous traders, the menace is still continuing in Kalahandi.
Paddy procuring agents were directed by district administration to issue cheques to farmers at the time of sale, so that prompt payment was assured.
However, in spite of such instructions farmers of rural pockets of Kalahandi who sold their paddy during the months of Januay and February are yet to receive their dues. According to report farmers Kshetramani Sahu of Antarla village, Amar Dandia and Bharat Rana of Badpetamal sold their paddy to a rice agent from Kesinga because their village was tagged to this particular agent.
The agent issued cheques of the UCO bank, Kesinga branch to the farmers immediately on sale of paddy. However, when the farmers were unable to draw any from the concerned bank, the account being deficient of funds.
Failing to get the cheques encashed the harassed farmers in a representation to the collector of Kalahandi have sought his intervention into the matter. It was also relayed by local leaders to the revenue and supply minister during his visit to Kalahandi yesterday. He has directed the supply department officials to do the needful.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Bio-tech degree in 25 Govt colleges soon

The New Indian Express, March 30, 2007

BHUBANESWAR: With the increasing demand for biotechnology among students, the State Government has decided to introduce the course at graduation level in 25 of its colleges.

Meanwhile, some of the Government colleges, including BJB College here and FM College, Balasore, have already started self-financing courses in bio-technology from the 2006- 07 academic session with due approval from the Higher Education Department.

Minister for Higher Education Samir Dey told this website’s newspaper that the Government has decided to introduce bio-technology as a regular course in 25 colleges to meet the growing demand.

The course will be introduced when necessary infrastructure in these colleges is put in place and teachers are appointed.

The intake capacity of BJB College for B Sc (Bio-tech) is 24 and course fee Rs 12,000 per annum. However, private educational institutions offering the course are charging more.

Once it is introduced as a regular course, the admission to B Sc (Bio-tech) will be purely on merit and the students taking admission in the subject would not have to pay anything extra, the Minister said.

The seat strength in each college will be fixed as per the demand. He, however, said the subject will continue as a self-financing course in the Government colleges where it is being taught.

The self-financing courses are demand-driven, he said and added those students who failed to make it to free seats can take admission in the self-financing course.

Apart from BJB College, Basic Science College under OUAT is also offering a g r a d u a t i o n course in biotechnology.

The Higher Education Department has decided to introduce the subject in Ram Devi, Sailabala (Twin City), Gangadhar Meher (Sambalpur), Khallikote Berhampur), MPC (Baripada), SCS (Puri), Rajendra (Balangir), NC (Jajpur), Bhadrak College, Dhenkanal College, SKCG (Parlakhemundi), DD (Keonjhar), DAV (Koraput), Vikaram Dev (Jeypore), Panchayat (Bargarh), Government Science College (Chattrapur), and Government colleges at Angul, Rourkela, Sundaragar, Phulbani and Bhawanipatna.

Ravenshaw and Utkal University are offering post-graduation courses in bio-technology.

Computerised land patta and passbooks for farmers

The Statesman, April 9, 2007

Statesman News Service
Bhawanipatna, April 8: Revenue and supply minister Mr Manmohan Samal yesterday distributed computerised land patta and land passbook to 70 farmers of Kalahandi in the Circuit House here today. In Kalahandi it is scheduled to distribute land pass book and pattas to 3.25 lakh farmer families. During the last financial year it had targeted to distribute 1 lakh land pass book and pattas, however, due to the last panchayat elections only 32,000 passbooks could be distributed. It is scheduled to launch a campaign for the distribution of land pass book and pattas in Kalahandi and other parts of the state. Mr Samal said in Kalahandi it has targeted to distribute several acres of land to landless people, by May 2008 however, they expect to fulfil the target by May 2007. Revenue officials have been asked to take it as challenge, he said.

Heat Wave Kills Two In Orissa

Playful, April 7, 2007

Orissa health department Saturday confirmed two people had died in the intense heat wave sweeping the state.

Officials said the two deaths occurred one each in the southwestern district of Kalahandi and the coastal district of Bhadrak.

They said the government had received information of seven deaths from different parts of the state, three of which, reported from Jagatsinghpur district along the coast, were not related to the heat wave. Two reports of death from Nayagarh were being investigated.

Bikash Patnaik, medical officer of the state health control room, said: "After conducting examinations we found that the three deaths reported from Jagatsinghpur were due to some other reasons."

"While the two deaths in Nayagarh are still being examined, we confirm that the two deaths from Kalahandi and Bhadrak are due to sunstroke," Patnaik said.

Heat wave conditions have been prevailing over some parts of the state with Jharsuguda town in western Orissa recording the maximum temperature of 40.6 degrees Celsius Friday. There was no let up in the situation Saturday.

Hirakud and Sambalpur recorded 39.8 and 39.0 degrees, the weather office said.

State capital Bhubaneswar recorded a maximum of 35.6 degrees Saturday.

© 2007

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Why does Kalahandi repeat its own fate even after four decades?

Pratusruti Plus, in page 5, Bhubanswar, March 1-15, 2007

Jail security worries district officials

The New Indian Express, April 1, 2007

BHAWANIPATNA: Even as the board of visitors, headed by the Collector, has expressed concern over the poor security and staff crunch in the district headquarters jail, nothing much has been done to address these problems.

According to sources, only 28 warders are present, as against a strength of 40, to look after 408 convicts and undertrials.

This apart, while the average age of prisoners is 25, that of the jail staff stands at 48. This has raised question mark about the efficacy of the jail staff in meeting eventualities.

Recently, the board of visitors at a meeting suggested strengthening the security system and deploying police guards in front of the gate and around the jail. At present, the jail authorities have been forced to engage some senior convicts on the ‘wall guard’ duty.

Yet another problem for the authorities is the presence of 17 prisoners having serious psychiatric disorders and one prisoner with schizophrenia problems in the jail. Some prisoners, on condition of anonymity, admitted that living with prisoners with psychic problems, was not an easy job and at times, it affected their own mental peace.

Contacted, Jail Superintendent Dasarathi Sarangi said higher authorities had been apprised of the matter regarding strengthening of staff and security. The authority has also been moved for transfer of psychiatric patients to Circle Jail.

Vedanta Alumina signs fresh MoU with Orissa

Financial Express, April 5, 2007

BHUBANESWAR, APRIL 4: Vedanta Alumina Ltd a subsidiary of the Sterlite Industries Ltd signed a fresh memorandum of understanding with the Orissa government for setting up its alumina-aluminium complex in Kalahandi and Jharsuguda districts.
The company had been created as a subsidiary of the Sterlite Industries Ltd to execute the project which necessitated signing of the fresh MoU, company sources said.

The state government has signed the MoU with Sterlite Industries Ltd on June 7, 2003, for establishment of an one million tonne per annum alumina refinery with an investment of Rs 4,500 crore at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.

The project also included a 100 mw (25 x 4) captive power plant.

Work was presently on the company's 2.5 million tonne smelter and 675 mw (135 x 5) captive power plant at Bhurkhamunda in Jharsuguda district with a total investment of about Rs 8,400 crore.

Orissa's Industries Minister Biswabhushan Harichandan and senior officials were present at the signing of the fresh MoU.

State Industries Secretary Priyabrata Patnaik and Vedanta's project Director M Siddiqui signed the MoU.

The project would create direct employment opportunities for 1500 people and indirect employment for 7,500. The contribution towards tax revenue to the state would be about Rs 600 crore per annum, they said.

Lost in transit

HardNewsMedia, April 4, 2007

Unless public delivery systems are made more efficient, responsive and accountable, India shining will remain a distant dream for the great mass of the poor in the country

M R Sivaraman Delhi

Over the last 55 years India has spent around Rs 3.5 million crore in implementing its 10 five-year plans and several annual plans. This period also saw an explosive growth in population, dissipating developmental efforts over ever-increasing numbers. Until the end of the 1980s, growth was not even visible amongst the poor, making Rajiv Gandhi lament that not even a quarter of development expenditure reached the people for whom it was intended. No economist dare calculate as to what incremental output this massive outlay should be producing now.

It is only since the 1990s that there has been a notable change in the lifestyles and living standards of people, with a perceptible decline in poverty levels. This is in great measure due to the heroic efforts of our maturing youth and the sudden burst of successful entrepreneurship, helped by policies that favour competition.

While the percentage of population living below the poverty line has declined, the acuteness of poverty has increased. The unchecked suicides by farmers, the brutal attacks by Naxalites, the increase in the number of pavement shops, and the lack of state control in almost 100 districts of the country either dominated by militant separatist outfits or Naxalites, show that there is something fundamentally lacking in our delivery systems of public goods and the reach of welfare programmes intended for rural India, particularly the poor.

Poverty in India now is more an outcome of the lack of responsiveness, accountability, inefficiency and corruption of the state institutions at the field level, rather than due to lack of resources. This is compounded by ineffectual supervision by senior bureaucrats who are content to issue directions, satisfied with paper figures that are out of sync with reality.

It is not sufficient to say that growth reduces poverty. How does this growth percolate to the poor and in how much time? The current type of economic growth makes a billionaire out of a millionaire within a few days, as he is able to buy up an ailing foreign company with the support of the banks that add to his assets. It takes decades, if at all, for this growth in wealth to percolate to the poor in a district like Kalahandi or Jhabua. They are not even assured of daily bread and shelter. The administration in the country is more concerned with the Ambanis and Mittals getting their clearances in double-quick time but not so much with the fruits of government expenditure getting delivered at the right place, to the right people, at the right time.

Planning Commission statistics show an impressive growth in the number of schools, with a corresponding number of teachers and thousands of kilometres of rural roads built in all these years. Yet, literacy is nowhere near the levels of other south-east Asian countries, even after half a century of planning.

Malnutrition, curable blindness and communicable diseases still haunt rural India. Mass migration of poor tribals during summer from the districts of Jhabua, Banswara and Kalahandi (to cite a few examples) in search of employment — with children tagging along having abandoned schools and old people left behind to fend for themselves — is a heart-rending sight. How many times has the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission or its members visited a village in the remote tribal districts to study at firsthand what their plans for inclusive growth have achieved? They seem more content to discuss the theoretical aspects of inclusive growth rather than waste their time listening to a bhil from Banswara in Rajasthan or a Maria from Dantewada in Chhattisgarh who does not know who will look after her old parents when she migrates to Punjab in search of labour.

TN Seshan, when he was secretary in the ministry of environment, toured the interior villages of Bastar that were affected by a proposed hydroelectric project on which a large sum of money had already been spent. After patiently listening to the views of the tribals as to how their daily lives would be affected by the project, he refused to grant approval to the project. The dam was never built.

Urban India has also not treated its poor well. Growing numbers of the poor now occupy pedestrian pathways in metropolitan cities, eking out a miserable living. Land is acquired in no time, even with the use of force, for an industry or an SEZ — but not for constructing shops to accommodate the footpath merchants. There is a commission on the informal sector, with an erstwhile economist bureaucrat as its head. After three years of existence, what has it done for these footpath merchants?

What the finance minister fails to report in his action-taken report, which comes along with the budget documents, is physical achievements in terms of benefits delivered and quality of work executed in the field. His report does not throw any light on where the thousands of crores of agricultural credit have been used and, consequently, how much production has actually increased.

How does the budget delivery system in India actually work? The amounts allocated in the central and state budgets first go to the HODs (heads of departments). They, in turn, are dependent on their underlings — including the financial administrators (FAs) and accounts officers (AOs) — who, in the absence of anything else to exercise their authority over, raise every objection in the world before sending the allocated amounts to the states or field officers.

In the states, things are even more arduous. Allocations are placed at the disposal of the HODs sometime in May…if things go well, that is. This money now has to go to the divisional level officers and then, on to the implementing officers in the districts. If the expenditure has been approved, they can continue and spend it. Else, they have to go through another protracted process of administrative and financial sanctions. In such cases, by the time the procedures are over, the year is usually coming to a close.

In March there is a mayhem in the offices of the HODs, where all the field officers and grant-in-aid institutions line up for release of funds. Where the funds go, when they are released at the close of the financial year, is usually anybody’s guess. Sometimes, they get spent on the purchase of goods. If the allocation is for roadwork, bitumen is purchased and orders for the supply of metal are placed. Work itself will probably start months later, by which time the metal and the bitumen have deteriorated, or been partly damaged, or even stolen. The result is incomplete roads of poor quality, without side berms.

Irrigation and other construction projects are no exception. Lack of supervision by senior officers — of the quality of the roads, maintenance of buildings and irrigation works — results in the wastage of public expenditure and offers scope for corruption. If the quality of the works is bad, action has to be initiated. The supervisors do not want to do this as they themselves may be partial beneficiaries of any commissions paid by the contractors. So they avoid taking action in cases of poor delivery of benefits.

In the case of an ashram school providing free education for the benefit of the tribals in Kathiwada, a remote forest village in Jhabua district, teachers’ salaries could not be paid for one whole year because the commissioner did not release the grant till this author intervened with the chief secretary. The author also reported to the chief minister on the deficiencies observed in a major project during his walks along the canal banks, as requested of him by the irrigation minister. The result was that he was never asked again to continue the work —even though the minister appeared to be aghast at the deficiencies.

The recent controversies about the Rs 35,000 crore expenditure on irrigation projects not producing desired results — increase in areas under irrigation — is an example of the shoddy delivery and supervisory system in India in every department.

Teachers are appointed to work in remote rural areas with no basic amenities for their stay. Soon, with the help of powerful politicians, they get attached to schools in urban and semi-urban areas. The rural schools’ rolls show a higher number of teachers than those actually available to teach. In Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh, where the population is 83 per cent tribal, about 35 per cent of the population of over a million migrate with their children, starting March, every year. Consequently, the retention rate of children, even in elementary classes, is very low.

The hospitals in Jhabua also show far more doctors on their rolls than are actually available to work. Many are attached to other city hospitals. A private cancer foundation that does yeoman service in this region, has more than once pointed out the growing incidence of certain types of cancer due to lack of hygiene, malnutrition and a host of other preventable causes. The collector laments that he cannot do anything about this as nobody listens to his complaints. The field officers, including the collector, get transferred within a year or at the most, 18 months.

The system of delivery at the field level and supervision of the activities by senior officers have all but failed. No one is held responsible except in some high-profile cases. The author, who had the privilege of working with the prime minister, had brought to his notice the miserable situation in Jhabua, and suggested solutions. But these too have gone unheeded, despite the fact that a former collector of Jhabua sits in the prime minister’s office (PMO). If nothing is done before long, Naxalism will spread to this area.

Justifying regression

In order to improve the public delivery systems it is necessary to:

Prepare a district-wise plan for delivery of health, education, water supply and sanitation services, with specific targets.

Identify the officers responsible, train them adequately and assign responsibilities, as per capacity, to deliver. Assigned officers should not be transferred till the goals are achieved. If they need to be promoted, the promotions should be in situ.

Allot funds for programmes at the beginning of the financial year.

Have an independent monitoring unit that will continuously appraise implementation and give feedback to supervisory authorities.

Have an expert agency evaluate the accomplishments at the end of each year.

Based on evaluation and monitoring, take corrective action in programmes.

Establish a chain of communication among all levels of government and amongst professionals and institutions.

Set up separate maintenance organisations to ensure proper maintenance of all buildings, roads, water supply schemes, irrigation works and equipments, with adequate resources.

Reward and punish implementing and maintenance staff, on the basis of transparent objective criteria of achievements.

This will require reorganisation of the existing district administrative setup and would include the elected bodies – for purposes of assigning roles and responsibilities. At the state level, the delivery system – with respect to issuing all kinds of licences, registration of documents, granting of permission for construction of buildings, electricity connections, etc., should be brought under e-governance.

The government’s administrative reforms commission (ARC) is involved with high profile issues rather than public delivery systems that affect the common man. India is unique in being the only country that has not reformed its civil service and delivery systems in order to make them more responsive, responsible and transparent.

Stir for separate 'Kosala' state intensifies

The New Indian Express, April 02, 2007

BHUBANESWAR: Demand for a separate Kosala state has intensified further with hundreds of agitators holding mass demonstration in the capital city even as the state celebrated its 72nd formation day on Sunday.

About 1,000 activists of the Koshali Ekata Manch (KEM), an organisation that wants a separate state comprising 11 of Orissa's 30 districts, demonstrated in front of the residence of Governor Rameshwar Thakur on Sunday shouting slogans.

The team led by KEM chief Pramod Mishra submitted a memorandum to the governor demanding statehood and inclusion of Koshali language in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution. He threatened to intensify the agitation if the government did not meet their demands.

For the past 15 years, several other organisations too have been seeking a separate state comprising the backward districts of Bargarh, Bolangir, Boudh, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Kalahandi, Koraput, Nuapada, Sambalpur, Subarnapur and Sundergarh in western Orissa.

Known as the Kosala region, these districts have often been in the news for sale of children, death due to malnutrition and high infant mortality rate.

Though the backwardness of the region has aroused national and international concern over the years, the situation has mainly remained unchanged.

Although leaders of various political parties are opposed to the idea of a separate Kosala state, the demand has found sympathy among the people of the region.

KEM activists across western Orissa observed April 1 as a protest day, Mishra said.

Similarly, people from the region who are living in New Delhi also observed the day as a black day, he added.

Centre blamed for poverty

The Telegraph, April 1, 2007

Bhubaneswar, April 1: Finance minister Prafulla Ghadei blamed the Centre for the backwardness of the state and sought adequate central assistance to correct the imbalance.

Speaking during the debate on the appropriation bill for 2007-08 in the Assembly last night, Ghadei said the flow of central funds to Orissa — which has been identified as the poorest state — was too meagre to tackle its backwardness.

Alleging that the UPA government has been adopting a “step-motherly attitude” towards Orissa, he said the flow of special grants to the state was far lesser than those to states likes Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. “The economic development of this backward state would be possible if the Centre pumps in adequate funds,” said the minister.

During the debate on vote-on-account on Friday night Ghadei had claimed that the state had lost around Rs 88,600 crore due to “faulty recommendations” of the Finance Commission. The state had been incurring huge losses due to non-revision of coal royalty and fewer shares of central taxes, he said.

Referring to the undivided Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi districts — a significant poverty zone in India — the minister said the Centre had from 2007-08 reduced central assistance from Rs 250 crore per annum to Rs 130 crore.

Ghadei demanded more central funds for Orissa’s overall and uniform development.

Highlighting the achievements of the state government on the financial front, he claimed that the government was able to achieve revenue surplus after 22 years.

The state’s revenue had gone up from Rs 1,755 crore in 1995-96 to Rs 6,534 crore in 2005-06.

Similarly, the plan expenditure had increased. Not only has the government been able to spend more plan funds, the submission of utilisation certificates has improved significantly. Utilisation certificates worth Rs 2,815 crore have been submitted by various departments during 2004-05, as against a meagre Rs 500 crore in 1999-2000, said the minister.

Earlier, the Opposition members had ridiculed the government for its revenue surplus claim. “The state government is trying to take credit of achieving revenue surplus by reducing expenditure on developmental activities,” said J.B. Patnaik.

Mega projects will definitely see fruition

Business Standard, April 1, 2007

Q&A - Chief Minister of Orissa Naveen Patnaik
Dillip Satapathy / New Delhi April 01, 2007

Chief Minister of Orissa, the media-shy Naveen Patnaik, talks about his relationship with his legendary father, current issues and his retirement...

When you joined politics a decade ago, critics wrote you off as a novice and a socialite. Since then, you’ve made astute political moves, led the party to a second win in the state elections and established your leadership in many other elections. A transformation from a reluctant politician to a thoroughly seasoned one?
My party has done well in all the elections in the last 10 years. It all began in the winter of 1997. I came to politics after the death of my father, for whom the people of Orissa had great esteem and affection. But when voted to the job, one must try to be honest and make the system efficient to serve the people.

The anti-incumbency factor does not seem to have affected you despite seven years of chief ministership?
People have certain basic requirements. I have tried to fulfill them. A quarter of the population in Orissa is tribal. My government has launched many programmes to improve the condition of the poor and to empower them, like watershed management, participatory irrigation through pani (water) panchayats and women self-help groups under Mission Shakti. The infant mortality rate in the state has come down. There is no interference in the work of the police, unlike under the previous administration.

Orissa continues to languish as the poorest state in the country with 46.4 per cent population below poverty line, according to the latest National Sample Survey. How do you plan to fight this poverty?
We have undertaken various programmes to create employment and reduce poverty. These are tracked regularly. Massive employment opportunities can be created through the development of agriculture, industry, tourism, infrastructure and rural industries like handloom and handicraft.

We are also focusing on social infrastructure like health and education. With the Centre withdrawing special grants to the poverty-stricken Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) region in the state, the state government has stepped in by launching the Biju KBK Yojana. Similarly, we have launched the Gopabandhu Gramin Yojana for the rural poor. The fiscal situation has improved. From a revenue deficit of Rs 2,500 crore seven years ago, we now have a revenue surplus of Rs 500 crore.
One of the routes you have identified for Orissa's development is rapid industrialisation, especially through value addition in the minerals sector?
Yes, a lot of investment has flowed into the state in the minerals sector. Minerals apart, investments have come in other sectors as well. Bhubaneswar has emerged as an IT hub. There is big ticket investment in the education and health sectors. Vedanta Resources has proposed to set up a world-class university at an investment of $3 billion in the state. Several new flights have been introduced, linking Bhubaneswar with the rest of the country. The hotels are now chock-a-block. This indicates the investment climate in the state. Tourism is growing fast. The tourist flow will have a multiplier effect on the growth of the handloom and handicraft sector.

But while a few mid-size steel projects have been set up in the last couple of years, big-ticket investment proposals like that by Posco and Tata Steel are stuck due to agitations by groups opposing land acquisition. In the aftermath of Kalinga Nagar and Nandigram, how will you negotiate these difficulties?
Projects which require less land are easier to set up. But projects where the land requirement is high will take more time. We have to take a humane approach and convince people. We have formulated a very good rehabilitation and resettlement policy. Some big-ticket investors like Bhushan, Jindal and Sterlite are here. Mega projects like Posco, Mittal, Tata Steel will certainly come to fruition.

People allege that you are ruthless with your detractors and intolerant of criticism.
That is not true. I have never been ruthless with anyone. I am honest and transparent in my job.

Ten years in politics and you still can’t speak Oriya fluently. How can you understand the problems of the poor without speaking their language?
Any part of the state I go to, I can see the basic problems of people. You need emotional bonding to appreciate their problems. The people of this state are very nice and simple.

Being the son of a very well-known politician, did you aspire to be a politician when you were young?
Never. When I was a child I had seen many political leaders, friends and colleagues of my father, some of them from abroad, coming to meet him at our home. But I was never interested in politics.

How are your relations with your coalition partner, the BJP, especially after its poor performance in the recently-concluded panchayat elections? Does its poll performance worry you or are you happy that the time when you can be on your own has come?
Our alliance is almost a decade-old now. We fought the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections together. In the last three tier panchayat election, we had a tie-up in five districts.

Are you thinking of new equations keeping the next Assembly elections in mind?
I’m not looking for any new equation. The alliance with our partner holds good.

Following your party's success, there is speculation that you may advance the 2009 Assembly elections to 2008 to cash in on your present image and popularity?
That is not true. No such thing has crossed my mind.

After your retirement from politics, where do you plan to settle down - in Orissa or somewhere else?
I will always be in Orissa. Let me see what the future holds.

What will you do then?
About what I am going to do, I will certainly consult a good astrologer. (Laughs) Certainly, a good astrologer.