Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BJP attacks UPA for ‘negligence’

The Statesman, Oct 30, 2007
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA, Oct. 29: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state unit today played the ‘central negligence’ card.
It urged the state government to focus on education and proper rehabilitation of the displaced people in various industrial projects.
In the two-day state executive meeting which was held here, it was alleged that central government is neglecting NDA ruled states.
It was further alleged in the resolution that the Central government had deprived Orissa from institutions like Central University, IIT and Indian Medical Institute.
It was alleged that even though there is a reduction in kerosene, wheat, sugar and LPG gas quota in Orissa, the Central government neglected the state by not alloting Rs 200 crore Central Relief Assistance to the flood victims of Orissa despite the Prime Minister 's assurance.
It was demanded that they should look into these matters urgently. It was further demanded that the Centre should control the current price rise situation.
Similarly it also demanded the increase of the supporting price of paddy by Rs 1,000 and to provide adequate funds to improve and repair the National Highway which passes through the state.
To include all the districts under village electrification programme and to increase funding to KBK districts which was reduced by 50 per cent by UPA Govt.
Special attentiom would be given to strengthen the party network. Addressing a Press meet, the president of the state BJP unit, Mr Suresh Pujari said that mass agitation would be launched soon against the inaction and negligence of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
The Western Orissa Development Council (WODC) would be made an autonomous with adequate funding. Mr Pujhari also expressed his dissatisfaction about the sorry state of higher education in the state. He called for an improvement in the higher education system. The state government has been requested to post an adequate number of lecturers and to withdraw the block grant system for high schools and colleges and to introduce the regular grant system.
He also stated that Kalahandi district needs special attention, particularly in the field of road communication and education which is in a very sorry state.
Regarding the present industrial policy of the state government, he said that there should be proper rehabilitation measures and the affected people should be given priority.A public meeting was organised on Sunday in the Ghodaghat field of Bhawanipatna where the state level BJP leaders lashed out at the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Mr Vinaya Katiyar, the state president Mr Suresh Pujari, ministers Mr Biswabhusan Harichandan, Mr Manmohan Samal, Mr Sameer Dey, Lok Sabha member Mr Bikaram Keshari Deo, Mr Dharmendra Pradhan, and former Union minister Mr Debendra Pradhan also participated in the commitee meeting.

Factions tear BJP apart in Western Orissa

The Statesman, Oct 30, 2007

Statesman News Service
SAMBALPUR, Oct. 29: The BJP is creating a strong base at the grass roots level, apprehending a mid-term poll, both at the Centre and the state. Preparation for an executive body meeting at Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi district is on. But in western Orissa, where the party has a strong base, things are not what they should be. It is a well accepted fact that the party has a solid base in the western districts in comparison to the coastal ones. At the same time, the party’s state president Mr Suresh Pujari and the national vice president Mr Jual Oram are also prominent leaders from western Orissa.
While Mr Vinay Katiar is attacking the Congress and party workers at the grass roots level are not satisfied with the BJD, all is not well inside the party itself, as was marked during the executive meeting.
Undoubtedly, the leaders are busy preparing a strategy for the next election. But party activists at Bhawanipatna, where the meeting is in progress, are disgusted with their leaders and have resigned
“The party will take up issues like Rama Setu, minimum support price for paddy, and cow slaughter for the coming election,” said Mr Katiyar at Bhawanipatna. But junior workers are in no mood to listen to Mr Katiyar. They feel that they are being neglected by their seniors.
Nearly 100 BJP activists, including some of the office bearers at the district level from Jayapatna and Kalampur block of Kalahandi district have left the party. The number is expected to rise further. Those who left the party are Mr SN Singhdeo, Mr Prasant Kumar Mund, Mr Jagdish Panda, Mrs Varana Nayak, Mr Subash Chandra Panda, Mr Gokul Panigrahi, Mr Pramod Nimulia, Mr Bijay Panda and others.
However, the party president Mr Suresh Pujari, said that some of the workers were suspended from the party earlier, for carrying out anti-party activities during the last panchayat election. “Resignation by a few workers would not dampen the party’s image or weaken the organisation,” Mr Pujari said.

W Orissa neglected, says BJP

The New Indian Express, Oct 30, 2007

BHUBANESWAR/BHAWANIPATNA: Ties between the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reached a new low on Monday with the latter alleging that the State Government is neglecting the western and southern Orissa districts where the party has a base.

Though the BJP did not hit out at the ‘Big Brother’ openly, the tone and tenor of the speeches of the grassroots level leaders at the meeting hinted that the alliance is almost over at the village and block levels.

BJP general secretary Vinay Katiyar’s directive to the State functionaries to prepare the party machinery for election in all the 147 constituencies conveyed the feeling that the party is not prepared to take things lying down any more.

Addressing a media conference, State BJP president Suresh Pujari expressed concern over the deteriorating standard of higher education in the State and demanded that vacant posts of lecturers in the backward districts should be filled up.

Criticising the State Government’s new policy of giving block grants to school and colleges, Pujari said the system of regular grants should be reintroduced. Stating that Kalahandi needed special attention in the field of road communication and education, Pujari demanded that the Western Orissa Development Council (WODC) should be made autonomous. Pujari welcomed the industrial policy of the State Government.

He, however, observed that there should be rehabilitation and the affected families be given priority in employment. The political resolution adopted at the meeting criticised the Centre for neglecting the NDA-ruled States.

Alleging that institutions of higher education, including Central university, IIT and IIM are being diverted to neighbouring States ignoring the claim of Orissa, the party demanded that such institutions should be established in the State. Pujari demanded that all the villages in the State should be included in the village electrification programme and funding for KBK scheme be increased.

BJP hails investment plan of Rs 1.5 lakh crore

The Pioneer, Oct 30, 2007
Bikash Khemka | Bhawanipatna

The BJP State executive body meeting on Monday decided to go to the people taking the good works done by the State Government in the last three years. It passed a political resolution to this effect.

Referring to the industrial development, party State president Suresh Pujari said the proposed investment to the tune of Rs 1.50 lakh crore during the regime of the BJP-BJD coalition Government was a record of sorts in the country.

However, the party expressed concern over the rise in Maoist activities in a number of districts in the State. It also expressed concern over the deterioration of law and order situation in the State.

The party came down heavily upon the UPA Government at the Centre for its stepmotherly attitude towards the cause of the common people. The price of different food products and other items has been increased in the last five years. The Centre has also reduced the State quota in sugar, wheat, kerosene and gas. The party will raise all these issues, Pujari said.

He said the special KBK cell which was established by former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1998 for monitoring development, had become defunct. The UPA also slashed the KBK fund to 50 per cent. The executive body urged the State Government to reopen the KBK cell.

Demanding a minimum support price of Rs 1,000 for paddy, Pujari said a signature campaign would be initiated. Signatures will be collected from farmers from November 1 to November 10.

It also suggested to the Government to fill the vacancies of lecturer posts in colleges and doctor in Primary Health Centres. It supported the demand of lawyers for establishment of a permanent bench in western Orissa.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Brahma Kumaris spread spiritual knowledge in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, Oct 29, 2007

Prajapita Brahma Kumari Iswariya Vishwa Vidyalaya organised its Bhartiya Gram Vikash Abhiyan Motorcycle Yatra, 2007 here on Friday to spread spiritual knowledge among the people.

A total of 108 groups have already kicked off such cavalcades across India, which will cover around 1 lakh GPs.

The south zone of Orissa is traversed by a group of 28 people headed by sister BK Nilam which started the yatra in five motorcycles from Nabarangpur on October 7.

The procession has already covered the districts of Koraput, Malkangiri and Kalahandi covering 450 villages, which will conclude at Nabarangpur on November 4.

In a welcome ceremony held at Divya Shakti Bhawan here, sister Nilam said that though Government is trying to develop the villages by implementing plan every five year, it is not sufficient.

Our organisation aims at bringing a spiritual renaissance among the people which will usher in development in the long run.

"We are teaching people to cast off bad habits such as taking alcohol, cigarette and opium. This will go a long way in scaling down their sorrows and sufferings and also discourage them from quarrel in the family.

We also distribute homoeopathy medicines which will curb the inclination for drinking and smoking among the villagers," she added.

Kalahandi MP Bikram Kesari Deo, block chairman of Bhawanipatna Santanu Behera spoke on the occasion.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Supreme Court sets conditions for Vedanta mine

Reuter, Oct 26, 2007

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Supreme Court set new conditions on Britain's Vedanta Resources and its Indian unit on Friday before allowing it to mine bauxite in sacred, forested hills in the east of the country.

Vedanta wants to dig open-cast mines in the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa to feed an alumina refinery it has already built in the area, as part of an $800 million project expected initially to produce 1 million tonnes of alumina per year.

At an earlier hearing, Vedanta had promised to invest 1.12 billion rupees ($28.4 million) to develop the poor region, but a three-judge bench said it wanted this commitment to be made by the firm's Indian unit, Sterlite Industries.

"What is Vedanta?," the bench said. "Vedanta is not listed in India. So let Sterlite give an undertaking."

Thousands of tribal people say the mine will destroy hills they consider sacred, force them from their homes and destroy their livelihoods, which are based on farming millet, hunting and collecting fruits and spices from the forests.

Environmentalists say the open-cast mine would also wreck the rich biodiversity of the remote hills and disrupt key water sources that supply springs and streams in the area and feed two rivers that irrigate large areas of farmland.

The court asked Sterlite to pay five percent of its annual profits from mining throughout India to the state government to be ploughed into developing the region.

It also asked the company to deposit 500 million rupees with the state government, and specify how many local people would be employed in the project.

The court has asked Sterlite to file an affidavit to this effect, and is expected to give a final order within a month, lawyers said.


"The indications seem more towards it getting clearance," said Ritwick Dutta, part of the legal team opposing the mine.

"I am really disappointed," said Bratindi Jena of ActionAid.

"The court didn't listen to what we were saying," she said, adding that Friday's discussion had been all about money. "These things are really meaningless to us."

Jena said that the survival of the Dongria Kondh tribe was at stake. "At a community level people are so against it."

The state and central government both back the plan, as part of efforts to industrialise and exploit the mineral resources of underdeveloped eastern India.

The Environment Ministry told the court this month that the mining would only affect a marginal amount of forest land.

It also promised "special efforts" would be made to manage and conserve wildlife in the area, which is part of an elephant corridor, shelters leopards and is the only known home in Orissa of the rare golden gecko.

The government said other industrial projects in the area had contributed positively to the life of tribal people, providing direct and indirect employment and other opportunities.

But activists say the largely illiterate tribal people would be unable to make use of cash given as compensation. They have been asked to file their objections to government reports backing the mine before the final court order is delivered.

Tribespeople also say that some villagers have been beaten, briefly imprisoned or threatened with jail by government officials, and tricked into signing land transfer documents.

Vedanta says none of the allegations has been substantiated.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Poachers back in Kalahandi forest

The New Indian Express, Oct 27, 2007

BHAWANIPATNA: Poaching of elephants in Kalahandi in the recent time has shocked wildlife lovers. Organised poachers, it seems, have once again become active.

Recently, the poachers killed two tuskers at two places. They beheaded them to take the tusks out. A third elephant, forest staff said, is roaming around with bleeding injuries.

The first incident was reported near Sagada river close to the Karlapat wildlife sanctuary while the second incident took place inside the sanctuary itself. The forst staff are on the trail of the injured pachyderm.

A forest guard has been suspended, but nobody has been arrested as yet. Possibly, the poachers from the North-East are once again eyeing the Kalahandi forests.

In 2002, a five-member gang from Manipur had shot dead five tuskers. They were later nabbed. Once out on bail, they have not been traced thereafter.

In Kalahandi, the elephants stay in and around the Karlapat sanctuary and also in Urladani pocket of Madanpur Rampur Block. Now with the systematic poaching, the equilibrium has been disturbed.

In the absence of trenching in Karlapat, elephants stray from the sanctuary and destroy crops in plain areas — a problem that is persistent for the last few years.

The injured tuskers are also chased outside the sanctuary for easy preying.

I will do anything for business

Times of India, Oct 20, 2007

There is something about Anil Agarwal that makes you want to take him lightly. It is difficult to put a finger on what it is. Perhaps, it is because the chairman of the London Vedanta Resources is an unassuming man. “I can’t hold a conversation for too long,” he confesses as we leave his office. “So I hire professional conversationalists at £500 a night to be around at my parties,” he says and laughs impishly.

Or maybe, it is the fact that he isn’t like the conventionally suave and articulate CEO that you encounter regularly. But don’t, even for a moment, imagine he isn’t articulate. He is. It’s just the way he talks about himself. A bumbling boy from Patna who came to Mumbai and fell in love with the city’s arc lights; and altogether incidentally happened to be the world’s 245th richest man.

He now spends most of his time in London and operates out of an office in Mayfair, a posh locality in central London. He drives around in a Bentley and has a battery of attendants and butlers to help him around. “I don’t know anything about brands. But I understand comfort,” he says.

Outside work, his interests appear completely banal. He does the usual things regular people do—hang around with friends, cracks a few mean jokes, and watches every Bollywood flick that hits the screen. He keeps insisting he’s had an easy time.

But the truth is this: He built his fortune by turning around poorly run state-owned companies into ruthless, profit making machines. His business has grown from Rs 3 crore in 1986 to Rs 26,000 crore. His flagship company, Sterlite Industries is the second most profitable private sector company in India and is also the second highest tax payer. Vedanta, the holding company for his group’s businesses, was the first Indian company to list in the London stock exchange. In Konkola mines in Zambia, Agarwal has one of the world’s largest deposits of copper. From starting out as a scrap trader in metal, Agarwal, clearly has come a long way. He has now trained his guns at becoming one of the largest mining companies in the world.

The real McCoy: Agarwal’s rise to the top was full of strife and riddled with controversies; more than perhaps any other businessmen in recent times. On practically every deal he got into, Agarwal has found himself at loggerheads with the local administration and the government. Not just that, he has a history of rubbing people the wrong way even as he smartly maneuvered his way to achieve his goals. And his contemporaries refuse to acknowledge either his success or his style of doing business. Put all of this to Agarwal and he says: “In the software business, you don’t touch the Earth, you don’t touch the bureaucracy, the machinery or the system. I do. It is in the nature of my business. So I’m an easy target to be pilloried.”

Push him a little further and ask him whether his reputation as a master at finding shortcuts in business bothers him. He fixes you with a steely gaze before answering. “I am a single man army. I am first-generation entrepreneur. Tatas are the best people. They will do it right. I do it with passion, tremendous passion.” He adds: “When I finish my new expansions, I really want someone to stand up one day and say, amazing.”

In the last two years, Agarwal has stepped on the gas. In the next three, he is investing $7.5 billion to increase his metal making capacities. In June this year, Sterlite listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and raised $2 billion for expansion programmes.

As early as 2003, much of Agarwal’s attention was focused on opportunities of doing business with the government. His fetish with the government goes a long way. His father was a scrap dealer and a contractor who had to deal a lot with government officers. “I learned a lot—the psychology of officers and politicians—because that was the business,” says Agarwal. After buying metal scrap from telecom companies, Agarwal found that there was a great opportunity in making cables for these companies. In those days, there was only one supplier—the state-owned Hindustan cables. A captive market led Agarwal to set up his first jelly-filled cable making plant. As days went by, thanks to Agarwal’s knowledge of the system, Sterlite remained the largest cable supplier.

Government orders went to the company that quoted the lowest prices and this in a way also moulded Agarwal’s manufacturing strategy. He always looked for cheaper ways to make his stuff. So, Agarwal’s facilities for making jelly-filled cables was on the back of a secondhand plant that he bought at a bargain from the US. Though Sterlite made cables more efficiently, competitors accused Agarwal of manipulating the system. It was a reputation that stuck with him for a long time.

Having got a foot hold as a supplier, Agarwal focused next on making more and more of the raw materials that went into making cables. With his scrap business background, he was soon making copper rods and in the late ’80s, mooted the first big idea of making copper.

After setting up the smelter, Agarwal hit a setback. He was forced to shift his plant from Maharashtra to Tamil Nadu after complaints from environment groups. Later, in Tamil Nadu, the smelter was shut for a few days after a few workmen died in a blast. “People get scared of the government, bureaucracy, union and various problems. That’s where entrepreneurship comes in and you say, let’s go ahead,” says Agarwal. “There wasn’t much choice in those days.”

Soon, aluminium got Agarwal’s fancy. First, he picked up an ailing Madras Aluminium, backed by big concessions from Tamil Nadu state government. He turned around the company but was yearning for more action. Unlike in copper, which was a state monopoly, there was the Kolkata-based Indian Aluminium (Indal) that was making the metal. Agarwal zeroed in on the company, finding its operations inefficient.

Out of the bureaucratic setup, Agarwal made an awkward move. He met Indal’s Canadian owners Alcan for tea, only to come back to India and pick up a stake in the former. Agarwal called the move friendly but soon launched a hostile bid to take over Indal. He lost the bid and later, was not even considered a buyer when Alcan sold the business to Hindalco, Agarwal’s competitor. Later, he bid 100% more than the next bidder to bag Bharat Aluminium, after the government divested its stake. “Indal was very close to my heart. I tried my best, but eventually we knew we didn’t have the money.”

It was by the turn of the century, that the big picture slowly started falling into place. Agarwal now said that he wanted to be among the biggest players in non-ferrous metals in the world. After buying out the government’s stake in Hindustan Zinc, he knew there was no more state owned metal companies available to be bought.

Opening up: Agarwal knew he had to scale up his ambition if he had to grow bigger. For that he needed big money of the kind the Indian markets were not willing to give him. As London was the biggest metal trading centre, for a year, Agarwal applied himself to studying the listing process in LSE. The UK media scoffed at the idea.

To get around the disdain, Agarwal did something smart. He got Brian Gilbertson, former chief of BHP, the world’s largest mining company, to come and certify his factories in India. Later, he hired Gilbertson as the chairman of Vedanta, an idea that worked to get his issue subscribed. To impress Gilbertson, a passionate cyclist, Agarwal rode with him from Oxford to London. He retired half way but got what he wanted. “I’ll do anything for my business,” he says. “If somebody asks me to ride a horse, I’ll do that. If they want me to swim or go to a night club, I’ll do it.”

The first of the expansion to go on stream was the aluminium project in Kalahandi, Orissa. Despite initial opposition from the green lobby, Agarwal has sunk in more than a billion dollars. But, there is small change in the way Agarwal is doing it this time. Kalahandi, being a backward district, Agarwal is spending a lot of money building amenities for people around that area. He has built over a 1,000 toilets in Chattisgarh. “We realise that in the mining business the local people are the key to a project’s success.”

The next round of growth, Agarwal feels may well come from a large acquisition overseas. Vedanta is also on the look out for mining companies that the Indian government is likely to put on the block. He is also keen to bid for infrastructure projects like ports or airports. “The business we are in are either government-owned or a private-public partnership. The government will always be involved.” What he doesn’t tell us is, how does he work the system, in spite of the odds that are seemingly stacked against him.

Tailor adopts a humanity mantra

The New Indian Express, Oct 14, 2007

BHAWANIPATNA: Shyamsundar Jal, a petty tailor, has a strange obsession if one can call that. Picking up abandoned children and sheltering them in his small two-room dingy house he calls 'Jasoda Ashram', named after his mother.

At Gambhariguda village in Orissa's Kalahandi district, this Dalit man has a world of his own. In the past 30 years or so, Jal has adopted 42 children.

Some are milk sucking infants, some are college going youths with a dream.Unnoticed, Jal doubles up as a tailor and a daily wage earner to keep his orphanage going. Once a laughing stock in his village, he is a revered person for his selfless service. Some good souls have even come forward to help him.

"When I got married", recalls his wife Kasturi, "I was shocked to see he already had three children. It took me a while to adjust. Later I realised his greatness." Kasturi too is devoted to the work and gives full time bringing up the children.

Jal, semi-literate, does not how it happened but keeps chanting the humanity mantra - 'service to destitute children is service to God'. He lost his father when he was just one-year-old. Her mother once encouraged him to pick up the first abandoned child from Dharamgarh hospital premises 30 years back. And life has moved on since then.

In fact, Jal's first adopted son Bhujbal, is married and helps his 'father' from whatever he earns from a godown. "I am the first child of Shyamsundar", says Bhujbal with pride. The house sheltering the 42 children lacks hygiene and is overcrowded. Recently Lok Sabha member Bikram Keshari Deo had allotted Rs 2 lakh from MPLAD fund to construct a pucca house which is almost complete.

Soon, Jal's 42 children will find a new home - and possibly new dreams.