Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dhali calls for immediate regularisation of para-teachers

The Pioneer,29th Jan,2008

Bharatiya Janashakti State president Arabinda Dhali on Monday demanded immediate regularisation of services of the para-teachers working in the KBK districts.
Some 1,193 para-teachers have been working in the KBK region with a paltry salary since four years.
The party has decided to hold a demonstration in front of the Raj Bhawan soon and submit a memorandum to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Governor MC Bhandare seeking their intervention in the issue, Dhali said. "Due to lack facilities, education has been badly hit in the KBK districts with school dropout cases on the rise," he argued.
The para-teachers have already denounced the Government for trying to divide them by evolving various schedules of payment on the basis of the tenure as para teachers, Dhali pointed out.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Lanjigarh ASI dies in road accident

The Pioneer, Jan 24, 2008

Bhawanipatna: In a road accident, Assistant Sub-Inspector of police Rabi Naryan Das (45) of Lanjigarh police station in Kalahandi district died on the spot on Wednesday. Sources said Das, who was on his way to investigate a case, on his motorcycle (no-OR-08-B-0095) met with an accident while colliding head-on with a trailer bearing registration no-AP-31-TT-8263. The news cast a pall of gloom among the police officials of the district. Das is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter. The police on Thursday held a guard of honour for Das at his village Saradapur under Buguda police station in Ganjam district.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bride survives with 70% burns in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, Jan 23, 2008
Bijay Dwibedi | Bhawanipatna

In-laws of a newly married bride allegedly attempted to kill her by pouring kerosene and setting her ablaze. According to hospital sources, she was 70 per cent burnt in the incident and is battling for life.

Sources said Kabita Nayak (19), daughter of Chitrasen Nayak of village Chanchei under Kesinga police station, married Premlal Nayak, son of Ganesh Nayak of village Pastikudi under Sadar police station in 2007.

At the time of marriage bride's father had provided all the dowry articles as per his capacity. But her husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law had been allegedly torturing her over Rs 10,000 additional dowry demand.

On Monday, there was fresh quarrel over the dowry demand and in-laws including her husband set her ablaze at about 8 pm, alleged Kabita's father.

The neighbours took her to the local Pastikudi hospital and later she was referred to district headquarters hospital as her condition was fast deteriorating.

Kabita's husband informed her parents about the incident over phone at about 9 pm. But Kabita's husband Premlal said that she attempted to commit suicide by setting herself ablaze.

The police have, however, registered a dowry torture case and are investigating the case.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Glaring irregularities in NREGS implementation in Orissa

Merinews.com,Jan 22,2008

EARLIER IN 2007, CEFS (Centre for Environment and Food Security), a New Delhi based NGO (Non Governmental Organisation) had alleged that funds to the tune of Rs 500 crore were siphoned off in the state on the basis of the survey conducted in 100 villages from six districts of KBK (Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput) region. This had compelled the state government to ascertain the veracity of the report, but only to disprove all the charges later. However, the government’s claim notwithstanding misappropriation of funds and irregularities in implementation were prevailing, alleged another survey a couple of months ago.

Some of the shocking findings of the survey conducted by the GB Pant Social Science Institute (Allahabad University) at 30 worksites in three western Orissa districts – Bolangir, Boudh and Kalahandi - include

The officials and contractors siphon off 32 per cent of the fund
Contractor Raj, though virtually disappeared in some states, is still alive here
No column for wages paid in job card makes it impossible for workers to verify their wage payments .A worker without job card is often accommodated by clubbing his wages with those of someone who has a job card under the latter’s name .Drinking water, first-aid and child care facilities are not found in many worksites

One of the most shocking findings of the survey is that a major portion of the fund is being misappropriated through the so-called percentage system, where various functionaries have their fixed percentage. According to the survey, contractors are making ten per cent profit with the other beneficiaries of percentage system being block development officer (two per cent), junior engineer (five per cent), assistant engineer (three per cent), village level worker (five per cent), gram panchayat secretary (three per cent), block staff (one per cent) and miscellaneous (three per cent). In most of the sample GPs (Gram Panchayats), the surveyors found evidence of continued involvement of contractors, either directly or indirectly through dummy VLL (Village Labour Leaders), despite the fact that private contractors are banned under NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). The contractors, in turn, are often under the control of local political leaders.

The main purpose of the job card is to enable NREGA labourers to “verify” their own employment and wage details. In Orissa, this purpose has been defeated from the start due to faulty design of the job card. In particular, there is no column for “wages paid” in the job card, making it impossible for workers to verify their wage payments. Even the number of days worked is hard to verify, as the names of the labourers and worksites have been replaced by “codes”. The problem of faulty design of job cards is compounded by irregular maintenance. In most of the sample villages, the survey found that job card entries were incomplete or even blank. Cases were even found of entire hamlets, where just a few households had a job card. The incomplete distribution of job cards has led to problematic “adjustments” in the records to accommodate workers without job card at the worksites.

In many of the sample GPs, it was observed that various “adjustments” in job cards and the muster rolls had become routine practice. For instance, a worker without a job card is often accommodated by “clubbing” his/her wages with those of someone who has a job card, under the latter’s name.

Take the case of Phulmati Behera, widow of Kartik Behera, who was registered under the NREGA. The panchayat office of Biswanathpur under the Lanjigarh block in Kalahandi district took her name and other details. But more than a year has passed and she has not got a job card yet. Similarly Savitri Dora of the same village was also not registered as she was not covered under the BPL survey conducted in 2002, the basis on which people were registered and given job cards throughout the state. This faulty selection of the basis of distribution of job cards by the government has deprived many eligible people of reaping the benefits of the NREGA works.

The system of maintaining of dual records had indicated lack of transparency in muster rolls in the sample GPs. For instance, authentic attendance details are taken in informal notebooks (“kuccha muster rolls”) at the worksite while official (“pucca”) muster rolls are filled – and often fudged – elsewhere. Besides, muster rolls are rarely accessible for public scrutiny. “Live” muster rolls were not kept at the worksite (as per NREGA Guidelines) in any of the sample GPs, and “completed” muster rolls were typically kept at someone’s home rather than at the Panchayat Bhawan. Like the job cards, muster rolls are difficult to verify.

Discrepancies in original copies and on-line muster rolls, manipulation of entries in muster roll, submission of incorrect and inflated utilisation certificates were also detected in several blocks – claims the recent CAG report.

Case 1

People of Kuten village of Muskuti GP in Narla Block of Kalahandi district applied for NREGS work and after some days, they got one village tank work in the village. After working for more than 15 days, people demanded wages but after several demands, a concerned junior engineer took the job cards from all the villages (near about 80 people). Without giving a single amount to the people, he took two to three signatures in the muster roll. After four days, a group of people came to the agent and demanded to return their job cards. He was compelled to return the cards to the people, but the junior engineer deprived the workers of their payment. People have stopped their work since then.

People from the same village allege that in their previous work (in April this year), they were assigned to work for only 16 to 20 days, whereas the government record says that they have got 52 days work. The villagers also allege that they received certain amount of wage, but signatures were taken in the blank muster roll. They could not know what amount was mentioned on the muster roll.

Case 2

Around 90 labourers of Bileibahal, Bandega, Juniani, Taragarh & Mahakulpara village worked under NREGA, which was finished on October 15. As per the norms of NREGA, they should have been given the payment by a week or maximum within 15 days. On October 29, the concerned junior engineer estimated the works of those labourers, but he did not make any payment. He assured them to make such payment on November 8 at 10 am. As per assurance, all 90 labourers reached Rajbahal GP office before 10 am on that day. But the junior engineer, who came at 3 pm, after making entries of their names and ID numbers into muster rolls, started making payments to labourers at 4 pm. After giving away payments to 35 labourers, the junior engineer told them to come next day. But the hungry labourers, who were not in a mood to budge down, confined the junior engineer in the GP office until the police came to solve the matter. Later, the rest of the payments were given in the presence of Debendra Mohanty, BDO, Lephripara block and Sachindra Kumar Panda, OIC, Lephripara PS till 11 pm.
Shortage of NREGA staff, poor attendance of Gram Sabha, dormant vigilance committee and lack of grievance redressal are found to be other vulnerabilities to the scheme. However, the state government earlier this month announced to engage one lakh unemployed youths in 50,000 villages to work as `Gaon Saathis’ (friends of villages) to assist the junior engineers who oversee implementation of various developmental works under NREGS in the rural areas.

MDM scheme: Dal procurement thru tender will hit SHGs hard

Newindpress.com,Jan 22,2008

BHUBANESWAR: The avowed objective of launching Mission Shakti nearly eight years ago was economic empowerment of the rural poor women. Intervention of women self-help groups in dal supply under mid-day meal scheme is a step in the right direction.The Women and Child Development Department is reportedly contemplating to issue a circular to the district collectors to procure dal through tender route. If this is done, not only the women selfhelp groups (WSHGs) but the farmers will be hit hard. The traders who are very unhappy with the WSHGs’ intervention are reportedly lobbying hard to get back the business.The approximate annual requirement of dal under mid-day meal (MDM) scheme is about 2.4 lakh quintal of which only 20,000 quintal is supplied by SHGs. The average benefit to the SHG per quintal of kandul dal supplied to the Government will be Rs 600 to 700.Besides, the farmers are assured of a good remunerative price as the Government has fixed the procurement price of kandul dal at Rs 35 a kg from Rs 26.75 per kg fixed last year.Kandul dal is mostly cultivated in the undivided Koraput, Kalahandi, Gajapati and Kandhamal districts and this is a major cash crop of the tribals as part of their shifting cultivation.The undivided Koraput and Kalahandi districts have the capacity to procure 40,000 quintals of kandul dal, but working capital is the major constraint for the SHGs.While the Government has no provision to extend financial support to SHGs for dal procurement, none of the commercial banks is willing to provide credit, official sources said and suggested that the Government should create a revolving fund for the purpose.In case of procurement of 40,000 quintals of kandul dal, the direct benefit to the SHGs involved in dal processing is a cool Rs 2 crore, the average profit per quintal being Rs 500, said the Government officer.Though the SHGs have been supplying dal to MDM for the last three years, some of the district collectors are not supporting them. The Kalahandi Collector is reportedly not lifting the dal supplied by the SHGs.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

No waste disposal system: Town turns into a garbage yard

The New Indian Express, Jan 19, 2008

BHAWANIPATNA: Garbage disposal has emerged as the biggest civic problem in Bhawanipatna. The streets are littered with garbage that spills out of dustbins and vats left around the town in the most unplanned way.

According to an estimate, Bhawanipatna town generates around 35 metric tonnes of garbage daily but in absence of adequate sanitary staff with the civic body, only 40 percent of the total garbage is cleared daily.

Sources said manpower at the disposal of the municipality is not commensurate with the increasing population and the growing township.

In 1974, population of the town was just 24,000 and at that time, the number of sweepers was 92 for 84-km municipal road. So far, many of the regular sanitary staff have retired and there are no substitutes.

Presently when the population has risen up to 1 lakh, just 58 regular and 19 casual sweepers are managing 234-km road.

Municipal chairman Niranjan Pradhan said in view of inadequate staff, it is a stupendous task to manage cleaning operation properly. Considering the total length of roads in the town, 468 sweepers are required.

Two years back, the civic body had submitted a project proposal for solid waste management to the Urban Development Department and the same was approved.

Under the 12th Finance Commission Grant of 2005-06 and 2006-07, Rs 27.04 lakh was provided to the Municipality for the purpose.

“But this amount has not been utilised yet due to non-supply of guidelines,” the chairman told. He said, “Even the equipment that was ordered for implementation of a waste disposal system has not been made available so far.

Besides, a solid waste disposal plant should be set up by the Government. Things would improve only if the project is implemented at the earliest,” Pradhan added.

Fest showcases Indravati

The New Indian Express, Jan 17, 2008

BHAWANIPATNA: The rich history of Indravati has been showcased at the 12th Kalahandi Utsav – Ghumurah 2008.

It was inaugurated by Kalahandi MP Bikram Keshari Deo here. One of the major attractions of the programme was Great Kalas Sovajatra which started from Maa Bhandar Gharini temple.

More than 10,000 devotees with more than 20 cultural teams participated in the procession with traditional musical instruments like ghumura, madal and mahuri.

On the eve of the festival, science, art and handloom exhibitions were organised by different schools of the district. Utsav committee chairman and sub-collector Jagannath Mohanty presided over the inaugural function.

Among others, Kalahandi Collector Pramod Chandra Pattnaik spoke on the occasion. Different competitions like quiz, debate, cycle race and pot breaking were organised by mahotsav committee.

More than 1,000 persons participated in different competitions in block level. Prizes were given away in the final round of the quiz competition the topic of which was ‘Know the Kalahandi. The prizes were sponsored by this website's newspaper, Sambalpur edition.

More than 50,000 people from the State and neighbouring Chhattisgarh have thronged the site to witness the festival. In the evening, different cultural programmes were performed by different cultural troupes. The utsav will continue another two days.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Kalahandi, a cradle of civilizations

The New Indian Express, Jan 18, 2008

KALAHANDI is rich in cultural heritage and has been recognised as a museum of art & culture right from the dawn of history.

‘Kalahandi’ which means the container of art has a rich legacy - arts, culture, architecture, literature, song, dance, drama and blessed by the beauty of nature.

Kalahandi had Multi-coloured identities in different historical eras. It was known as ‘Atavi’ (4th- 3rd Century BC), ‘Mahavana’, ‘Mahakantara’ during 2nd & 5th century A.D., ‘Kamalamandala’ (12th-13th AD) and Karund in the medieval period. The region was prosperous as is revealed in Kautilya’s Arthasastra.

Indravana which has been recently identified to be between river Tel & Indravati was rich in valuable diamond and gemstones. It was also part of Trikalinga. Different kings had assumed epithet Trikalingadhipati.

During 1st & 4th century A.D. it was known as the abode of Vidyadharas and formed a part of Mahavana and Mahakantara as per Nagarjuna Kanda inscription of 1st & 2nd century AD.

Kalahandi region was under the rule of Raja Tustikara during 4th century AD as is revealed from Teresingha and Pipalpadar copper plates. The latest ruling family of Naga dynasty were designated as Karundadhipati. The word ‘Karund’ derives from Sanskrit word ‘kurundum’ which is the base of gemstones ruby, saphire & Emerald.

The name of the principal deity Manikeswari is believed to have been originated from ‘manikya’ (ruby) abundant in Kalahandi. Around 14th century AD the rule was shifted from Gangas to the Nagas with Junagarh as their capital.

The capital was shifted to Bundeseer (Bhawanipatna) during the reign of Fatenarayan Deo in 1850. In all, 31 Naga kings ruled Kalahandi till independence, the last being Pratap Keshari Deo.

Kalahandi witnessed armed struggle of kondhs led by martyr Rindo Majhi against the British during 1853-1855.

Maharaja Brajamohan Deo, during his 1917-1942 reign, boosted education, health, railways, electrification, water supply and modern agriculture.

Orissa merged with Indian Republic on January 1, 1948 during the reign of Maharaja PK Deo. During his time, the Indravati multipurpose hydro-electricity project was conceived.

A glimpse of human activities in the pre-historic cave painting coupled with paleolithic-mesolithic stone tools of hunter gatherers speaks volumes about evolution of human life here.

Pictographic painting at Gudhandi caves and petroglathy art found in Penjorani are the prehistoric crown of Kalahandi.

Protohistoric Kalahandi to which belongs chalcolithic / stone-metal culture is recognised at Budhigarh, Urlukupagarh, Chandrasagar Nalla, Jamgudapadar, Kholigarh & Terasingha etc.

Menhir & stone circles of megalithic iron age relics are observed at Bhairabpadia of Junagarh, Rupangudi of Dadpur, Sagada, Beleikini, Themra etc.

The legacy & heritage can be traced from paleolithic era till medieval period. Many dynasties like Saravapuria, Soma, Chindakanaga, Kalachuri, Ganga & Naga ruled over the region as is evident from ruins scattered throughout.

The early urban centres like Asurgarh, Budhigarh, Bajragarh, Belkhandi, Teresingha, Urlukupagarh are some of the important centres of early urban civilisation.

A highly urban civilisation is believed to have developed around Asurgarh & Budhigarh.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Orissa rich in natural and mineral resources

The Statesman, Jan 13, 2008
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA, Jan. 11:Orissa is rich in natural and mineral resources. And with proper utilisation of its resources, Orissa can become the richest state in the country and with that India will be the leading country in the world, said governor Mr Muralidhar Chandrakant Bhandare. He was on a day-long tour to Kalahandi district and attended public meetings. Orissa is also rich in culture in varieties of dance, music forms. So much diversity and plurality is rare elsewhere, he added.
Governor today visited Pastikudi, Paramanandpur and Bhawanipatna of the district . During his visit to Pastikudi he interacted with watershed project beneficiaries and Women SHG members. He inspected an exhibition of products of Women SHG members and told that unless women will be literate and aware family and society cannot prosper.
Governor visited the orphanage run by Nehru Seva Sangha in Paramanandpur village on the outskirts of Bhawanipatna and interacted with orphan children.
He visited the training centre of handicrafts, agarbati*, and stitching meant for the inmates of the orphanage. He told that nobody should feel that he or she is an orphan. The society should stand behind them.
In the last phase of his tour Governor Bhandare visited the Dharmapada Child Labour School run by Mahavir Sanskrutik Anusthan* at Bhawanipatna. He intereacted with the students of Child Labour School and enjoyed the Ghumura dance performed by the students. Governor opined that this being the year of human rights we should safeguard human rights of all forms. Exploitation of children and child labour is the extreme violation of human rights.

No market link... No procurement

The New Indian Express, Jan 13, 2008

NABARANGPUR: Farmers of the district shifted from paddy crop to sugarcane farming in the hope of reaping more profit. But this year they have ended up losers due to lack of marketing linkage.

When the farmers in large numbers took to sugarcane farming, the district administration also extended a helping hand. The production of sugarcane increased from 116260 MT to 206088 MT, an increase of 43 percent during the past two years.

The area under sugarcane cultivation also went up from 3360 hectare in 2002-03 to around 5000 hectare last year.

Encouraged, the farmers grew more sugarcane this year. But all their hopes were shattered when no one came forward to buy their produce.

Since long the people of the district have been demanding setting up of a suagarcane factory at Nabarangpur so that they can market their produce easily.

But the Government has turned a deaf ear to the demand. More than a decade ago the State Government had acquired hundreds acres near Nabarangpur for setting up a sugar factory, but later the land was diverted to other purposes.

Some years back, the sugar cane growers were selling their produce to a sugar factory at Junagad in Kalahandi district. But it did not continue for long as the factory was closed some years back.

Last year, a cooperative sugar factory of Balangir district purchased the sugarcane of the district. It brought a sigh of relief for the locals who thought that their marketing problem was over. But this year no one is coming forward to purchase the sugarcane.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Govt pays farmers Rs 3-lakh for crops' damage in Kalahandi

The Pioneer,11 Jan,2008
Bijoy Dwibedi Bhawanipatna

The State Government paid a compensation of Rs 3 lakh to farmers of Narla and Madanpur-Rampur range under the north forest division of Kalahandi district who lost their standing crops in wild elephants' trampling, and to the family of a deceased, who was crushed to death by an elephant herd under the south forest division.
North forest division District Forest Officer Jitamitra Mohanty had requested the Government for a compensation to the victims of Madanpur-Rampur and Narla range. In response to his letter, the Government released the compensation amount. Gandhar Pujari and 37 others were paid Rs 17,380, Dhubla Rana and 55 others Rs 57, 640, BC Patra and three others Rs 6,110, Mukhi Sahu and 31 others Rs 44, 860, Santosh Sahu and nine others Rs 29,000, Harilal Sahu and nine others Rs 14,000, Sumitra Bhoi and 40 others Rs 25,150 and Hara Sahu and nine others Rs 13,500 as the compensation money for the damage to the standing crops.
While a total of Rs 2,02,640 was paid to the victims of the north forest division, a compensation of Rs 1 lakh was paid to the family of deceased Kandak Nayak, who died under the feet of elephants in south forest division of the district, said DFO Mohanty.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Government to form JV with Sterlite for bauxite mining

The Pioneer, Jan 9, 2007

The Orissa Government has agreed to join hands with Sterlite Industries India Limited (SIIL) to allow a Joint Venture (JV) for bauxite exploitation from Niyamgiri hills. Complying with the rehabilitation package suggested by the Supreme Court, the State Government has asked the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) to enter into the JV agreement with SIIL.

The apex court on November 23, rejecting the application filed by the Vedanta Alumina Limited (VAL) to go for mining in Niyamgiri hills, had asked SIIL to agree to comply with the suggested rehabilitation package. SIIL, in the meantime, prayed the State Government to allow them to go for the suggested package. Allowing SIIL's prayer, the Government said the State would float a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for Scheduled Area Development of the Lanjigarh alumina project, which VAL is setting up with an investment of Rs 4,000 crore. VAL is the subsidiary of SIIL as per documents available with the court.

Now the State Government, OMC and SIIL will float the SPV under the banner of Lanjigarh Scheduled Area Development Foundation (LSADF). Accordingly, in the Registrar of Companies, LSADF will be registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act, said sources. The Government will have 26 per cent, OMC 25 per cent and SIIL 49 per cent of shares.

On April 1 every year, SIIL would deposit Rs 10 crore or 5 per cent of its annual profit before tax and interest, whichever is higher, in the coffers of LSADF, which would take up development projects in a radius of 50 km of the project. The SPV would undertake projects of education, health, childcare, child and mother development, infrastructure, self-help group, entrepreneurial development, communication, irrigation agriculture and farming.

Nabard bond doing well in Orissa

The Statesman, Jan 9, 2007
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA, Jan. 8: The Bhavishya Nirman Bond of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) though picking up well in Orissa, but in Kalahandi it is yet to gain ground.
Today in an awareness building workshop of Nabard, organised here to gear up the sale of the Bonds in Kalahandi it was revealed. Speaking on the occasion Subash Mangaraj Nodal Officer of Resource Mobilisation Department of Nabard Orissa told that since the bond was launched so far Rs 2,700 crore business has been done in the country. However, in the Orissa it is only Rs 22 crore as against the target of Rs 100 crore. Although in the Eastern region Orissa is leading, we have to go a long way. Out of the business done in the state, the share of Gridco is Rs 8.25 crore which is from Gridco’s Pension Fund. Sri Mangaraj stated that ironically in Kalahandi district so far no business of the Bond has been done.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Local industries can avail carbon trading option, says expert

The New Indian Express, Jan 4, 2008

BHUBANESWAR: Good news for industries in Orissa. After the exemption of Indian and Chinese industries from the Kyoto pact at recently concluded UN Climate Change Conference at Bali, now carbon trading facility are also applicable to units producing less carbon dioxide than their prescribed limit or canopy level.

According to United Nation Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), since the units are polluting the climate they are expected to buy carbon credits in their favour.

But now they will be rather benefited in terms of monetary gains if they are emitting less than their canopy level and trade the balance for another polluting unit of the West.

Apart from the industries, in Orissa there is a lot of scope in critical sites like coastal sheltered belt, degraded or eroded ravine belts, waste lands or uncultivable fallow land and dry terrains of Nuapara, Balangir, Kantabanjhi and parts of Kalahandi under extension plantation programmes, thereby increasing livelihood security through carbon credits in international markets, says assistant professor Ashok Kumar Sahoo of Department of Forestry, OUAT.

After the Bali conference, Australia has become the biggest potential buyer of certified emission reduction (CER) to compensate its carbon emission.

According to UNFCCC norms following Kyoto pact, the developed nations like US and European Union have to pay for the carbon fixation (sequestration) done by plantation owners in the developing and underdeveloping nations to balance drastic climate change processes.

In mobilising plantation programmes for professional planters the Department of Forestry at OUAT has a bigger role to play in extending such facility for green entrepreneurs and industrial sectors, says Prof and HoD RK Pattnaik adding it can also play a key role in preparation of project design documents and carbon trading facility.

Carbon trading is a lucrative option in developing world as the biomass for carbon sequestration (fixation) can be sold or exchanged with good support price with polluting units of developed nations through prescribed UNFCCC guidelines.

“But with ratification of Kyoto pact at Bali UN Climate Change Conference, the upcoming or industrial units in Orissa should take maximum advantage and get the benefits in dollars, adds Prof Sahu.

There is also a need to develop a carbon trading centre under OUAT to provide extension services on carbon trading to the people, planters and industrial units of Orissa, feels Prof Pattnaik.

Sulabh inks agreement with Vedanta

The statesman, Jan 4, 2008
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA, Jan. 3: Despite Rs 2,57,017 paid every month for the salary of 22 regular sweeping staffs and five casual sweepers, to look after cleanliness and sanitation of the district headquarter hospital of Bhawanipatna, the sanitary condition is a matter of concern for all quarters, with garbage lying scattered and foul smell emanating from it. Despite all attempts taken by the district administration in the past months the situation couldn’t improve. Ironically the helpless district administration has now contacted a private company to look after the sanitation of the hospital and its premises.
According to a press handout released by the district information & public relation department an agreement has been signed by the district administration with Sulabh International and Vedanta. Accordingly Sulabh International will look after the sanitation of the Hospital for which the monthly expenses will be borne by Vedanta. The hand out further stated that Sulabh will engage 15 employees and there cleaning four times.
This step has been welcomed by patients and public who were worried about the poor sanitation of the Hospital, but this also raised question marks about lack of administrative control and management by health administration.

Coldwave grips Kalahandi

The statesman, Jan 4, 2007
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA, Jan. 3: Coldwave gripped Kalahandi and as the mercury as the mercury has dropped down. Besides, it was more more acute, 8 degrees centigrade in Bhawanipatna yesterday night whereas it was 2 degrees centigrade in Thuamul Rampur affecting normal life.
In Thuamul Rampur Block of the district, situated 3,000 to 3,200 feet above sea level during last three days heavy frost has been reported in different places of Thuamul Rampur Block like in Thuamul Rampur, Gunpur, Kerpai, Nakrundi paralysing normal life. People are seen confined to their houses by evening and burning firewood for warmth.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Forgotten King of Kalahandi remembered

The Statesman, Jan 3, 2008

BHAWANIPATNA, Jan. 2: Celebrating 150th Anniversary of the first war of independence the Indian Cultural Heritage Society remembered forgotten martyr King of Madanpur Rampur, Kalahandi and four of his stalwarts. Late martyr Raja Harihar Singh Deo was a great hero and patriot and was accused by Britishers for sheltering the then freedom fighters like Chakra Bisoi in his kingdom. There was continuous ill will and his relation with the British was always tense.
Meanwhile, the British government had leased out forest products of Madanpur Rampur like Harda, Bahada, Amla without the consent of the King and was opposed by Raja Harihar Singh Deo, he did not allow the British Thekadars to enter the forest. To cow him down British force was sent but they were forced to retreat. Finally in another battle in the year 1875 between the Raja and British force led by Captain FC Bery, the Raja was arrested and was kept under custody. Reportedly he was tortured and poisoned to death there. He ruled from 1857 to 1875. This last war is known as Harda melee. Subsequently the Madanpur Rampur state was subsequently in the year 1918 declared as a Zamindari under Kalahandi state by Britishers. In a function organised at Madanpur Rampur of Kalahandi by Indian Cultural Heritage Society to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of First War of Independence, the late Raja Harihar Singh Deo was remembered. On this occasion four of his workers Late Karna Bishi, Kesab Banua, Haktaram Pujhari and Balram Patro who showed bravery in the war and met martyrdom were also remembered and honoured. A souvenir Kamala Vana was released on the occasion.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Niyamgiri Hills saved for the moment, but battle continues

OneWorld South Asia, Jan 2, 2008

It was 23 November 2007, and the final judgment regarding bauxite mining in Niyamgiri Hills had just been read out. It was not the doomsday verdict that the petitoners feared, nor did it make the project proponents rejoice. It took time for all present in court that day to digest the facts. The written verdict would be available only later, but the crux was clear. Vedanta Resources Plc had not been granted clearance to mine in the hills.

Nonetheless, the judgment had alongside provided a solution to its subsidiary - Sterlite Industries (India) Limited, one face of Vedanta in India - on how to proceed with its plans.

The Supreme Court judgment opens by stating that it was "M/s Vedanta Aluminuim Ltd. ... filed an application seeking clearance of the proposal for use of 723.343 hectares of land (including 58.943 hectares of reserve forest land) in Lanjigarh Tehsil of Kalahandi district for setting up an alumina refinery. The matter has been pending since 6.3.04".

This isn't strictly true; Vedanta was actually brought to court by three petitioners, R Sreedhar, Biswajit Mohanty and Prafulla Samantara. They had filed applications before the Central Empowered Committee, a monitoring body set up by the Supreme Court, pointing out that the company had begun construction of its refinery at Lanjigarh without clearances for mining bauxite in nearby Niyamgiri Hills.

Over the years, Sterlite has gone ahead with the construction of the refinery, first by insisting that it had nothing to do with the mining operations planned in the same area, and then seeking fait accompli clearance to the mine on the grounds that the refinery is dependant on it!

This switch-and-bait of the court has become important because, on its own the mining operation may not deserve environmental clearance. There have been several arguments in the court on the impacts of mining on the Niyamgiri Hills ecosystem and the Dongaria Kondh tribal community who have a deep spiritual and livelihood dependence on it.

Norway notes ethics violations

The SC judgment says, "It is not in dispute that in this case that mining of bauxite deposits is required to take place on the top of Niyamgiri hills". The court also noted that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has already granted environment clearance for the refinery. However, the CEC had vehemently opposed the grant of permission to mine, leaving the refinery in limbo. Since the court appeared to believe that mining was necessary, it was anticipated that Vedanta's fait accompli argument would carry the day.

Meanwhile an interesting development occurred. The Norwegian Council of Ethics recommended to that country's pension fund that it withdraw its investments in Vedanta and its subsidiaries. The council gave numerous reasons, including 'misinformation and breaches of laws and procedures', 'severe environmental damage', and 'involvement in human rights violations'. Against this development, and the subsequent media attention it received, the SC took an ambivalent stance. Its judgement states, "We do not wish to express any opinion on the correctness of the said report. However, we cannot take the risk of handing over an important asset into the hands of the company unless we are satisfied about its credibility."

A simple reading of this would assign the same lack of faith to any of Vedanta's subsidiary companies, especially as these were also included in the Council of Ethics' indictment. But the SC did not seem to think so; instead it has proposed a way by which the mining proposed by the company could still be allowed. In doing so, it is also to be noted, the judgement goes beyond the brief of the court.

A new option

The court has now allowed Sterlite and Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) Limited to move the court jointly through a proposed 'rehabilitation package', which would presumably satisfy the remaining concerns. A few of the conditions of this package are:

The government of Orissa will float a Special Purposes Vehicle (SPV) for scheduled area development of Lanjigarh Project, with the State, OMC and Sterlite as stakeholders. This SPV shall be incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956.

Sterlite will need to deposit annually commencing from 1 April this year 5% of its annual profits before tax and interest from Lanjigarh mining project or Rs. 10 crores, whichever is higher, for scheduled Area Development with the said SPV. The CEC has the powers to monitor this utilisation.

Sterlite shall pay Rs 55 crores and Rs 50 crores respectively for conservation and management of wildlife around the Lanjigarh bauxite mine, and Rs 12 crores towards tribal development. Sterlite shall also bear expenses towards compensatory afforestation.

Sterlite will need to file a statement with the CEC within eight weeks of the judgement date, stating the number of persons who shall be employed in the company on a permanent basis, including land-losers.

The court, while noting that it would need to be satisfied about Vedanta's credibility, appears to have not addressed that at all in dealing with Sterlite, a principal operating company of the Vendata group in India. The basis for this distinction is not clear, especially when one considers that the Norwegian indictment was focused on the India operations of the group. Sterlite has already indicated its satisfaction with this proposed new direction, and accepted the conditions of the judgment.

But if Sterlite has found this resolution favourable, there are others who disagree. A review petition has been filed by Sidhartha Nayak. Nayak and his lawyers had earlier moved the court independently on the ground that mining would have serious negative impact on the Dongaria Kondh tribals.

The main argument of this petition is that the issue before the court is not that of the refinery but the impacts of mining, which has not been considered and argued yet. It reiterates the irreversible damage that mining will cause to the biodiversity of Niyamgiri Hills and the lives of the tribal community dependant on it.

The petition also reminds the court that London-based Vedanta Resources Plc still holds a 76% stake in Sterlite, and avers that the recent judgement amounts to nothing less than condoning all the violations by Vedanta, the Government of Orissa and also the MoEF.

And so the battle continues.

Sickle cell research unit holds out hope

The New Indian Express, Jan 2, 2008

BHAWANIPATNA: To combat sickle cell disease, a Sickle Cell Disease Research Centre has started functioning in Sardar Raja Medical College in Jaring of Kalahandi district under the leadership of project director Dr. Gyana Ranjan Padhi.

Padhi, a medicine specialist, after retiring from health Department services joined the medical college recently. He hails from Dasigaon of Kalahandi.

In 1994, Padhi developed the DTN (Disease Trait Normal) formula of genetic counselling to save the next generation from the dreaded disease.

According to the formula, blood will be examined by Electrophoresis Card and marriage should be avoided between diseased and diseased, diseased and trait and trait and trait so that a chain is broken. A special counselling is part of the formula.

The project proposal of Padhi was approved by Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi.

The then Director of health Services, Orissa, on March 29, 2005, had approved and suggested the Government to implement the research project of Padhi in Western Orissa.

Ironically it could not be materialised despite Padhi approaching various quarters and running from pillar to post.

Sickle cell is a type of anaemia in which red blood cells become sickle in shape. The clumps of sickle cells block blood flow in blood vessels that can cause severe pain, serious infection and organ damage.

It is also responsible for increased infant and maternal mortality rate and is found mostly among specific castes in Kalahandi, Koraput, Balangir, Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Keonjhar, Boudh, Kandhamal, Mayurbhanj, Dhenkanal and Ganjam districts.

It is prevalent mostly among various SC/ST groups, agria, kultha, chasha, paik, banka, goud, dumal, bholia, kurmi, mali and komar castes.