Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reproductive health care ignored in Asian countries

The New Nation, 31st July, 2008
By : Manipadma Jena

Ever since she gave birth to a stillborn boy, Sajana Sabar, 20, has not spoken a word. A resident of Uchalla village in Golamunda block of Kalahandi district in Orissa, Sajana lives 75 kilometers away from the nearest hospital. For the delivery, her family had to hire a jeep for a princely sum of Rs 1,000 (US$1=Rs 42) to get to the sub-divisional hospital in Dharamgarh. There, the doctor demanded a fee of Rs 1,000 and then with another Rs 2,000 to pay off the medicines and food bills, Sajana's father-in-law, a marginal farmer, was compelled to sell off the entire year's stock of paddy when the first offer came along. The family spent over Rs 6,000 on the delivery but ailing Sajana came home - from the brink of death bereft.Mana Jhankar, 24, is a daily wage earner in village Kuturukhamar of Bhawanipatna block, 12 kilometers from Kalahandi district. Her husband sells puffed rice and the couple finds it difficult to make ends meet. Understandably, when Mana was expecting, an institutional delivery was out of the question. The couple could ill-afford the government hospital expense of Rs 2,000. When Mana first experienced birth pangs, her husband was 15 kilometers away and unaware that his young wife was soon to endure a horrific labour: The baby emerged in a sitting position - buttocks out, head and feet stuck inside. By the time Sabita Nayak, an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM), reached Mana's house, the expectant woman had bled for five hours. Desperate to get her patient to a hospital, Sabita pleaded with the bus drivers on the highway to ferry them across but to no avail. Nayak then boarded a bus to return with an ambulance. Mana's tangled umbilical cord had to be cut into several pieces to extract the asphyxiated foetus. She was hospitalized for a week.Lakhmani Sabar of Uchalla was a mother by 17 - just a year into her marriage to Dana, a daily wage earner. Their only surviving child, a daughter, is now 14. Motherless, the teenager is testimony to the district's high Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR). Lakhmani's subsequent four pregnancies had resulted in stillbirths and eventually her death. She had not been given a single antenatal check-up and was administered just one dose of tetanus toxoid, instead of the requisite three. Perhaps her life could have been saved had she been able to reach the hospital in Dharamgarh before she began to hemorrhage.These pitiful tales are common to Kalahandi, where the official MMR is 364 per 100,000 live births as against the state's 358. But the district could well have an MMR of anything between 400 to 500 if the unregistered cases are factored in, states Dr B.C. Roy, Asst. District Medical Officer, Family Welfare Department. According to the NGO, White Ribbon Alliance (India), MMR goes up to 620 in rural Orissa - a level comparable with that of sub-Saharan Africa.The three main reasons for a high MMR in Kalahandi - where nearly half of the populace comprises vulnerable Scheduled Tribes and Castes - are early marriage, low institutional deliveries and low intake of vitamin supplements during pregnancy. Poverty, educational backwardness and lack of health education and awareness - only 29.3 per cent of women are literate - are the other causes. Ironically, six out of 10 maternal deaths in the district are avoidable, says Roy.But why do expectant women have to suffer at all? At the Jan Sunwaye (public hearing) of the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) or Safe Motherhood Scheme, under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), conducted in Bhawanipatna, Kalahandi - one of the 22 held in backward districts by the Orissa State Commission for Women (SCW) and UNICEF over the last year - Sajana's mother-in-law arrived with a pertinent query. Embittered ever since she lost her grandchild, she asked, "Why should families like mine be compelled to sell land and food grain to get basic health services that should be ours by right?"At the hearing, Sabita, as a medical professional, wanted to know why basic health services were so expensive and difficult to access for Kalahandi's Below Poverty Line families who form 62.71 per cent (1997 BPL survey) of the population.Given this ground situation, the public hearing offers the most, and perhaps the only, effective communication method for women whose lives are at risk. They give them the opportunity to directly place their concerns in an open forum before rights commissions such as the State Commission for Women (SCW), decision-makers and planners. In the long run, public hearings help improve health service delivery, hold service providers accountable and build up a case study-based social audit system for policy changes. The 700 to 1,000 women who attended the public hearings certainly realised the power of their voice."Wherever we have visited, specifically in Koraput, Rayagada and Malkanagiri - all drought-prone areas, women demanded the posting of women doctors to address their problems," observes Namita Panda, Chairperson, SCW. Numerous complaints about defunct Primary Health Centers (PHCs) have also been made. Other issues raised included corrupt practices and bribery; medical negligence; poor health facilities; avoidable pregnancy-related deaths; lack of quality medicines provided by government facilities; and denial of medical services on grounds of caste. The hearings have already had a promising impact. The World Health Organization in its 2007 advocacy mapping and analysis of maternal and infant survival in developing countries has included Orissa's public hearings as one of the case studies along with approaches from Pakistan and Tanzania. They have also resulted in a Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) discussion on the Centers action plan in order to help the SCW in its safe motherhood social audit programme in the tribal/rural belts of the state.At the ground level, awareness about entitlements under government health schemes has risen among beneficiaries; and both the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) members are now expected to play a decisive role in grassroots health management under the NRHM. The hearings have also led to prompt and effective redressal of complaints. A number of complaints against ANMs in Kandhamal, who demanded a sum of Rs 150 from the Rs 500 that each JSY beneficiary receives under certain guidelines, were documented. Official show-cause notices have been issued to health functionaries. Further, a doctor charged with bribery - the complainant had been compelled to mortgage her land to cough up Rs 2,000 - was summoned to a hearing in the district. He was issued a show cause notice by the Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) on the spot. The hearings have given a platform to health functionaries as well. Anganwadi Workers (AWWs) have highlighted the poor quality of food and its irregular supply; corrupt practices of 'sarpanches' (village council heads); and the fact that AWWs often have to spend their own funds to transport food to 'anganwadi' (community) center.An immediate impact has been the placement of a complaint box at every CDMO's office, which is attended to on a weekly basis. People no longer have to travel to Community Health Centers (CHCs) to lodge a complaint. The box ensures that their voice reaches the appropriate authority. According to many beneficiaries, public hearings have resulted in fewer instances of abuse and of having to bribe health workers. More people now seek healthcare facilities. The Daringbadi PHC records show a 100 per cent increase in institutional deliveries. In Kalahandi, more mobile health units (MHU) are being deployed to bring succor to the Sajanas, Manas and Lakhmanis of the district. An UNICEF official summed it up this way, "The public hearings have meant greater collective responsibility."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Drug network for villages- healthcare Expansion Plan in pipeline

The Telegraph, 28th July, 2008

To take medical facilities to far-flung, remote areas, the Orissa government has decided to expand its tele-medicine network to 22 districts across the state.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by health secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey and attended by director of tele-medicine programme of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) L. S Satyamurthi.
Till now the facility was available with the three government medical colleges that were linked to Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, through satellite-based V-SAT connectivity during the first phase.
The tele-medicine network would now be expanded to include district hospitals of Koraput, Bhawanipatna, Baripada, Rayagada, Sundergarh, and Capital Hospital, Bhubaneswar. “The three medical college hospitals would be connected to 10 district headquarter hospitals through the tele-medicine network,” said Pandey
“If the attempt is successful, in the next phase we will target connecting blocks, community and public health centres,” he said. A managing committee will be formed to supervise programmes being undertaken under the scheme.
Tele-medicine activities were initiated in Orissa in 2001 with support from the Lucknow institute.
In the same year, Isro came forward with an offer to establish a tele-medicine network in the state that was accepted by the government.
The network, it was decided, would be completed in a phased manner.
In phase-I, the network was established in 2003 connecting all the three government medical colleges of Orissa to the Sanjay Gandhi centre through satellite-based VSAT.
In 2004 the department of information and technology, ministry of communication and IT agreed to include SCB Medical College, Cuttack, in another tele-medicine project that linked it to other premier medical institutes in the country.
Since then, the network has effectively expanded and has benefited about 1,167 patients through tele-consultation and tele-follow up services. The government has been providing an amount of Rs 1 crore annually for expansion of the Network.
A central tele-medicine node within the premises of the SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack, to monitor the activities of the state wide network is also in the pipeline.
The centre would also help design, develop and implement new tele-medicine projects in the state. “ISRO would extend all help to expand and strengthen tele-medicine activities,” said Satyamurthi, expressing his satisfaction over the workings of the system in Orissa.

Rainfall forecast

The Statesman, 28th July, 2008

Rain lashed many parts of the state including Bhubaneswar today as low-pressure formed over west-central and adjoining north-west Bay of Bengal. While Bhubaneswar received 37.3 mm rain today at 8.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m., in Cuttack it was just 5 mm. Puri received 29 mm, Gopalpur 27 mm, Sambalpur 21mm, Titilagath 29.2 mm, and Bhawanipatna 28.7 mm rainfall. Bolangir received 42 mm rain fall. Local meteorological sources said rains and thundershowers are likely to occur in most parts of south Orissa and many places of north Orissa during the next 24 hours, heavy to very heavy rains are likely to occur at isolated parts of south Orissa and heavy rain at isolated places over north Orissa during the next 48 hours.

SC concludes hearings on Niyamgiri project

The Pioneer, 28th July, 2008

The Supreme Court on Saturday concluded hearings in a case filed by local people against Vedanta Resources'opencast mine project in the Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi district.
The Supreme Court, however, did not give a date for delivering the judgment. The court is expected to issue a written order on the "modalities and conditions"under which mining could proceed.
The bauxite is meant to feed the aluminium smelter of Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite Industries there. The court had earlier asked Sterlite to draw up a rehabilitation and environmental protection package as a condition for giving the green light to the mining project.
Sterlite has agreed to pay compensation to tribals displaced by the mine and has promised to spend five per cent of the profits from the bauxite mine and its smelter nearby, on rehabilitation.
Environmentalists and particularly the local Dongria Kondh tribe are of the view that the mining activities will destroy their livelihood and the hill which they worship.

Letter to CM: Railway board ignored KBK region, 26th July, 2008

Dear honorable Chief Minister Mr Patnaik,
The step taken by Orissa Government and railway board to make a committee for first track implementation of certain railway project in Orissa is appreciable.
However, the railway board is repeatedly ignoring some of the important social lines in the state such as:

(i) Khordha road – Balangir line (no concrete step has been proposed)

(ii) Talcher – Bimalagarh line (no discussion was made in this regard)

(iii) Extension of Lanjigarh road – Junagarh line to Nabarangpur – Jeypore – Malkangiri (no discussion was made in this regard)
Unfortunately, no promised was made towards development of railway project in KBK Kandhamal and Southern Orissa by the railway board.
Both the state Government and railway have been ignoring backward region like KBK since decades. Social scientist have been raising the issues of poor infrastructure in KBK region since years and its time that infrastructure should get first priority in this region by declaring all railway project in KBK region as National Project.
On the other side, Orissa is one of the most profit making zones of railway in the country and its get only 20 – 30 % of its annual profit as investment in the state.
At least 50 % of its profit coming out from Orissa should be invested towards development of railway line in the backward pocket of the state.
For national irrigation projects KBK region is considered same as other hilly region like North Eastern states, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh etc. But in case of railway development in this region central Government has not given equal emphasis to KBK region.
I hope you will bring the attention of railway board and central Government to declare all railway projects in KBK region as national project in the line for North Eastern states.
Thank you and with best regards
Digambara Patra
Dr Digambara Patra
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
American University of Beirut
Bliss Street-P.O. Box: 11-0236
Beirut, Lebanon

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Caterpillars devour paddy fields

The Statesman, 26th July, 2008

A huge pest attack on large tracts of farmland have acted as the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back for the farmers here, crippling their economic condition.Vast stretch of paddy fields in Kalahandi and Sambalpur districts have been gripped by swarms of caterpillars called Leda Poka in local dialect. These caterpillars have created a panic among the farmers, as they are known to wipe out large areas of farming lands in their destruction spree. The caterpillars are known to keep underground during the daytime and feed on the crops at night. According to agriculture department sources, all the 13 blocks in Kalahandi have been affected to some extent by these pests, particularly, Kesinga, Bhawanipatna, Karlamunda and Golamunda. The pests have also been reported in the Indravati canal area under Kalampur, Junagarh, Dharamgarh and Jaipatna. “The paddy fields near banks of river Hati and Tel rivers are also swarming with caterpillars. The magnitude of their devastation is increasing with each passing day” said a local farmer.In Sambalpur, the worst affected regions are those in Padmapur and Bargarh districts. The fields in the rain fed areas of Paikmal, Sohela, Gaisilet, Bijepur, and Jharbandh have also been affected by the menace, sources said. “As it is we were under severe financial constraints because of the flood situation earlier and the shortage of fertilisers, now this threat is sure to ruin us,” said another farmer whose field is affected by the caterpillars. At a Zila Parishad meeting in Kalahandi, members demanded that steps should be taken immediately by the concerned authorities to curb the menace. According to the assessment report by the agriculture department conducted recently more than 15000 acres have been severely affected in Kalahandi district. The Kalahandi district administration here has decided to take up mass spraying of pesticides in paddy fields to combat the situation. However the dearth of pesticides in the department stores and lack of personnel for the operation is causing a hindrance, department sources said. Meanwhile the deputy director, agriculture has urged the directorate of agriculture to release at least 2000 litres of petrol to tackle the situation, they added."In Sambalpur however the situation is under control," said the District Agriculture Officer (DAO) of Padmapur Mr Pradeep Barik. “The situation this year is not as serious as it was last year. But as precautionary measures, methane-parathion was supplied to the farmers free of cost and had been spread over 1600 hectares of land under direct supervision of our department,” he added.“The department provided 50 quintals of this pesticide to five blocks and farmers have been advised to spray endo-sulphane available at 50 per cent subsidy from the department,” he further said. “The collector Mr SC Padhi is also actively involved in taking stock of the situation to control the pest attack,” he added.The farmers in the district however, remain fearful of the surging pest epidemic. “My entire batch of seedlings has been destroyed by these caterpillars,” said Mr Laxmi Prasad Mahattam of Mahulpali village. “The caterpillars are sure to devastate larger areas since the present weather condition is favourable for their growth,” he added.

Economic constraints of tribal development in KBK

Merinews, 26th July, 2008

THE UNDIVIDED districts of Koraput, Balangir and Kalahandi popularly known as KBK is one of the poorest region in the country. The KBK regions have been divided into eight districts, ie Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Balangir, Sonepur, Kalahandi and Nuapada. These eight districts comprise of 14 subdivisions, 37 tehsils, 80 CD blocks, 1437 gram panchayats and 12,104 villages, Almost 75 per cent of the total population is reeling under the poverty line even after 58 years after independence.
The KBK districts account for 19.72 per cent population for over 30.59 per cent geographical area of the state. About 89.89 per cent people of these districts still live in village and remote areas. As per 1991 census about 38.72 per cent people of KBK districts belong to the Scheduled Tribe (ST) and 16.63 per cent of the population belongs to Scheduled Castes (SC) communities. Literacy rates are far below the state as well as national averages. Female literacy is only 24.72 per cent. As per the 1997 census of Below Poverty Line (BPL) families about 72 per cent families live below poverty line. Nuapada ranks as the district with highest number of BPL families of 85.70 per cent and Bolangir ranks as the lowest with 61.06 per cent of BPL families. As per an estimate based on 1999-2000 NSS data 87.14 per cent people in southern Orissa, are below poverty line.
Agriculture is the main source of livelihood. Nearly 80 per cent of the tribal workers earn their living as cultivator and agricultural labourers only 10 per cent of the people work in construction trade and commerce, nine per cent of the people works in mining, quarrying and the rest of the population is engaged in house hold and manufacturing. The traditional occupation was agriculture, hunting and gathering forest products but now they depend on wage labourers. They work as agricultural and casual labours. A few of them have their own agricultural lands.
Basically the tribal people believe in eat, drink, and be merry principle. There is no place for economic competition, due to free availability of land and minor forest produce followed by low population pressure, the competition has not been felt by the tribals.
Tribal economy mainly comprises of subsistence farming, wage earning from forest works and government sponsored programmes. Subsistence farmers grow food crops barely enough to meet their own farm and family requirements. Diffusion of technological changes in agriculture does not take place properly as this is the main constraint.
More than 80 per cent of the total population depends on agriculture; most of the tribals are landless and work as wage earners. Owing to their illiteracy, superstitions and conservative practices, they are deceived and exploited by moneylenders and other non tribals. Tribals who do not have a permanent income live in perpetual poverty. No doubt that the government is implementing a number of projects for the improvement of the socio-economic conditions of tribals, but due to illiteracy, they are unaware of several developments around them.
On the other hand poor irrigation, bad infrastructure has taken a huge toll on agriculture, the main source of livelihood. Unemployment has soared with even seasonal jobs under various schemes becoming scarce. Almost 75 per cent of the total population is reeling under the poverty line even after 58 years after independence.
Most of them do not even get a single meal a day due to acute poverty. Also, per capita availability of land continues to plunge, coming down to 70 per cent. Due to the practice of slash and burn farming locally called Podu, denudation of forest and forcible occupation of their land, they are compelled to go to other places in search of employment.
Want of an organised marketing is a big bottleneck of tribal economy, weekly markets are held in big villages and small villages on roadside but remain defunct for six months in a year. Retail traders and hawkers visit these markets and purchase agricultural and forest produce. In return they sell manufactured items of daily requirements to the local tribals. There is complete absence of profit motivation in the tribals with the result the tribals cannot enter into commercial undertaking in any sale.
In a recent tour to different parts of KBK region revealed that in most of the villages there are several traders and businessman who have found their roots in the shops, also purchase of agricultural and forest products. But to ones surprise none of these are of tribal origin, all are new settlers who have come either from Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, West Bengal, or other parts of Orissa. The landless agriculturist are either with zero ownership or ultra marginal ownership of land. Rural poverty of ST and SC population is rampant and 75 per cent were found to be land less and living below poverty line. The growth of tribal population and the rise in the burden of agricultural workers on land also made them landless workers. Social values of the tribals play an important obstacles for raising wealth capital and income.
The tribals of KBK region believe in ghosts, ancestors worship and also believe that the fortune of man is controlled by their super natural power. Hence they do not make serious attempts to raise wealth. What ever they produce on their lands 90 per cent of it is consumed as food and drink and seven per cent of the produce is utilised for meeting other expenses, three per cent on clothing. Food, shelter, sex and clothing are the only important wants of the tribal people. These wants are locally satiable without paying any substantial cost. Education, modern medicines and conveyance are still far cry, which could hardly catch the imagination of most of the tribal peoples of KBK region.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tax waiver plan for power scheme

The Telegraph, 23rd July, 2008

The Orissa government is contemplating to exempt materials required for execution of Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana of entry tax and VAT.
Finance minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadei, who chaired a meeting today in this regard, agreed to the proposal submitted by the energy department to this effect. Energy minister Surya Narayan Patro, who was also present at the meeting, said the proposal would be placed before the chief minister before final approval by the state cabinet.
Under the RGGVY, 32 lakh families living below the poverty line would be provided electricity connection free of cost. About 60,000 habitations across Orissa would be electrified under the scheme.
Meanwhile, the Centre has approved rural electrification projects in 12 more districts under the scheme.
Deogarh, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Bolangir, Bargarh, Koraput, Dhenkanal, Keonjhar, Boudh and Sonepur are the districts that would be receiving the Centre boost.
Earlier, seven districts had been covered under the central scheme.
While Angul, Nayagarh, Ganjam and Gajapati had been selected in phase-1, three more districts (Puri, Jajpur and Balasore) had been taken up in phase-II.
The government has submitted detailed project reports for all the 30 districts with a total project cost of Rs 3582.19 crore. So far, funds to the tune of Rs 357.06 crore have been released, sources said.
The government has signed MoUs with three central public sector undertakings — National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) and Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) — for the implementation of the scheme after the private power distribution companies failed to deliver the goods.
According to a review, electrification of only 15 villages belonging to four phase-I districts has been completed. Work is yet to start in Balasore and Jajpur, while work is on in 506 out of targeted 2,344 non-electrified villages.
Recently, the state had drawn flak from the Union energy secretary during a regional conference here for the tardy progress.
Last week, chief secretary Ajit Tripathy, who chaired the meeting of state-level co-ordination committee on RGGVY, asked the district administrations concerned and private power distribution companies to help the central PSUs to speed up the work.
The state divisional forest officers were directed to expedite forest clearance for the projects.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Orissa to get Rs 1,070 crore WB loan

Business Standard, 22nd July, 2008

The World Bank will provide loan assistance of Rs 1,070 crore (approximately $250 million) to the Orissa State Road Project (OSRP).
A formal agreement for the loan assistance has been signed. The World Bank loan covers 80 per cent of the project cost while the rest 20 per cent will be financed by the state government.
The loan will be repaid over a period of 25 years including a grace period of 5 years.
Though the World Bank did not agree to share the land cost of the project, it agreed to provide Rs 25 crore for the re-construction of the high level bridge over river Bansadhara at Gumuda.
The loan was sanctioned following detailed negotiation between a team of senior state government officials and the World Bank representatives in the presence of the senior officials of the department of economic affairs (DEA) in Washington.
The issues pertaining to road sector development and institutional strengthening action plan (ISAP) were presented by the works minister, A U Singhdeo to the state cabinet and approved in June 2008.
Approval of the ISAP was one of the pre-conditions of the World Bank for loan negotiations.
Under the OSRP, a total of 461 kms of road will be improved to two lane road with paved shoulder and reconstruction of the bridge on Bansadhara near Gumuda will be taken up.
In the first phase of the project, 204 kms of road will be constructed. It includes construction of 68km Bhawanipatna-Khariar road, 95 km long Chandbali-Bhadrakh-Anandapur road and 41 km Berhampur-Taptapani road.
Similarly, the construction of 257 kms of road will be taken up in the second phase. This includes Taptapani-Raipanka road (68 km), Raipanka-JK Pur (83km) and Jagatpur-Chandabali (106km).
Official sources said, the contract for Berehampur-Taptapani road has already been awarded and bids for Bhawanipatna-Khariar and Chandbali-Bhadrakh-Anandapur roads are under evaluation.
Besides, these roads, feasibility report and the bid documents for the four laning of the 165 km Sambalpur-Rourkela road, two laning of the Joda-Bambry road (with paved shoulder) and two laning of the 46 km Koira-Tensa-Lahunipara (with paved shoulder) is under preparation.
It may be noted, the appraisal of the OSRP was completed in November, 2007 and the loan negotiation was scheduled to be held in January, 2008.
However, the negotiation could not take place due the issue of submission of the audit report of the health sector development project. Accordingly, the negotiation was delayed by about 6 months.

Collectors’ tips for rice scheme

The Telegraph, 22nd July, 2008

As chief minister Naveen Patnaik laid emphasis on successful implementation of his Rs 2 per kg rice scheme and transparent public distribution system, district collectors have suggested issuing fresh ration cards to check “bogus ration cards” and abolition of storage system through agents.
Sources said the suggestions were put forth at a district collectors’ conference convened recently to discuss ways for effective implementation of the subsidised rice scheme.
The chief minister made the collectors accountable for the “success or failure” of the populist scheme announced eyeing the ensuing polls.
Collectors apprehended that benefits of the cheap rice scheme would go down the drains as scores of bogus ration cards are in circulation in districts.
They, therefore, suggested fresh ration cards to check the fake cards.
The chief minister also conceded that instances of BPL cards being kept with dealers had come to the government’s notice and directed to stop such practice immediately.
Some district heads also suggested paying cash to beneficiaries instead of rice to prevent corruption.
Few others suggested that coupons be issued to simplify the procedures for Rs 2 per kg rice scheme.
Suggestions were made to stop supply of essential commodities by storage agents to prevent corruption and start direct supply by the state-run Orissa State Civil Supplies Corporation instead.
The collectors demanded powers to take disciplinary actions against the erring gram panchayat secretaries and executive officers where PDS materials are distributed through gram panchayats.
The heads of the backward districts of Khandhamal and Gajapati requested for inclusion of families living above the poverty line (APL) belonging to the two districts, as in case of undivided Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi (KBK) districts.
It was also decided At the collectors’ meeting that the scheme monitoring system would be strengthened by filling up of vacancies under the food supplies and consumer welfare department.
Retail and block level advisory committees would be activated for effective monitoring.
More mobile vans would be pressed into service to cater to the inaccessible pockets.
Subsidised rice would be distributed on two particular dates the fifth and 20th days of every month.
Steps will be taken to ensure that the subsidised rice scheme reaches inaccessible pockets, too. The government has accepted to bear the additional cost of transportation of rice to such areas, said a senior official of the state food supplies and consumer welfare department.

Electrician dies of electrocution at Bhawanipatna

The Pioneer, 22nd July, 2008

Bhawanipatna: An electrician from Berhampur, Tulu Behera, died on the spot when he came in touch with electric wire at State Bank of India's main branch here while connecting the UPS and stabiliser.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tribe takes on global mining firm

BBC News , 18th July, 2008
By Damian Grammaticas

Activist Jitu Jakeskia describes Dongria Kondh way of life
High in the monsoon mists in eastern India there is place called Golgola where witchdoctors still make sacrifices to the gods and where the tribes believe the hills are sacred, but where they fear their way of life is under threat.
No roads lead to Golgola, only a muddy track through a lush, green valley. On either side rise the Niyamgiri hills, thick with forests - wisps of cloud wreath their slopes and a light, misty drizzle coats everything.
Then you plunge into the jungle. A slippery path snakes through bamboo thickets and under giant jackfruit and mango trees laden with ripe fruit. For two hours you have to climb what looks an impossibly steep slope. In the humid air sweat soon drenches everything.
High on the hillside you pass a pile of stones next to which are several small statues, primitive figures of men and women, their arms outstretched. This is where the Dongria Kondh people pray to their gods before collecting medicinal plants in the forests.

Then come strange wooden structures, smeared with offerings of fruit. There is a sense of magic in the air. The place feels otherworldly. The sound of drums carries through the forest.
And finally you reach Golgola. It's a tiny hamlet in a muddy clearing, with its two lines of long, low-thatched huts, hidden in a high cleft in the hills.
As we entered the village a witchdoctor, swathed in red, was dancing, almost in a trance, swaying in slow circles from house to house. Her hair was long and unkempt, long strings of beads and shells hung heavy round her neck.
On either side she was flanked by an assistant and behind came two young men in white, bowls on their heads were piled with fruits.
Mud oozing
In front of each doorway the family of every house handed a small chicken to the witchdoctor. She held it up, reciting prayers to the gods.
Then, in one swift move the bird's head was ripped from its body, its blood mingled with an offering of rice. The drums beat. The witchdoctor danced barefoot, thick mud oozing between her toes.

Looking on were the villagers, all Dongria Kondh people, women with multiple rings in their noses and ears, many of the men slightly tipsy from jackfruit wine.
Just 7,950 Dongria Kondh are left today.
The Dongria have lived in the Niyamgiri hills in a remote part of eastern India's Orissa state for centuries. They survive by gathering fruit, growing small crops of millet and selling jungle plants in the towns at the foot of the hills. The modern world has yet to reach Golgola - there's no electricity, no school, no television, no telephones.
"We get everything from the jungle like the fruits we take to the market. This is like our source of life for our Dongria Kondh peoples," says Jitu Jakeskia, a young Dongria Kondh activist. He's one of the few Dongria to have got a formal education, and he's now fighting to preserve his tribe's way of life.
"We are not paying any money to get these fruits, this is free, it is like paradise for us here."
The Dongria are animists. Every hill is home to its own god.
"Niyam Raja is our supreme god. His name means Lord of Law, he made all things," explains Jitu. "Niyamgiri mountain is the most important place for Dongria Kondh people, it is like Niyam Rajah's temple, that is why our people worship nature, they have to protect nature."
Mineral riches
But an arm of the mining giant Vedanta Resources, one of Britain's biggest listed companies, wants the minerals from Niyamgiri hill.

The Vedanta factory needs legal clearance to mine local bauxite
The range is rich in bauxite, from which aluminium is derived. Critics say mining the hills may cause severe environmental damage, and could disrupt the Dongria's way of life.
Sitting outside his hut, Adu made a cutting gesture across his throat when I asked him about Vedanta. "If they come I will take my axe to them," he said.
Just over the hills, Vedanta has already arrived. An Indian subsidiary Vedanta Aluminium Limited has invested $1bn in a giant alumina refinery at Lanjigarh. It's a vast sprawling site right at the foot of Niyamgiri hill. A tangle of pipes, silos and vast processing towers cover around six square kilometres (3.75 miles).
The refinery is losing money. The Orissa government promised Vedanta access to the bauxite in the hills. However mining can't begin until India's Supreme Court has given its clearance. For now Vedanta is bringing in vast quantities of the red bauxite rock by rail and truck from mines elsewhere just to keep the refinery operating way below its full capacity.
Development potential
Orissa is one of India's poorest states, but also one of the richest in natural resources, so the government is keen to tap its potential.
At the Vedanta factory
"If you compare iron ore, alumina and coal we can say Orissa has about 60 to 70% of the reserves a country like Australia has," says Dr Mukesh Kumar, chief operating officer of Vedanta Aluminium Ltd and head of the Lanjigarh refinery.
"The only problem is they haven't been developed, once we start exploiting these ores, the day is not far away when we will see the same development in Orissa as we see in Australia."
And Vedanta has big plans.
The bauxite in Orissa is extremely high quality which makes it relatively cheap to refine into aluminium. Vedanta wants to expand the site fivefold and make it the largest of its kind in the world.
The main use for the metal is in food wrappings for things like chocolate bars, potato crisps and snack foods. Another big consumer is the auto industry. As India booms so demand is rising fast in the cities that are far from poverty-hit Orissa.
'Ecosytem threat'
However there are many who are against mining the Niyamgiri hills.

Activist Dhongra Jita Jakeskia says the jungle is like a paradise
India's Wildlife Institute has said that mining threatens an important ecosystem with irreversible changes.
A Supreme Court committee which investigated the project said Vedanta Aluminium violated guidelines in the Forest Conservation Act when it built its refinery and should have its environmental clearance withdrawn.
And Norway's official Council on Ethics, which monitors investments for the country's huge state pension fund, said investing in Vedanta Resources, which has many mining interests, presented "an unacceptable risk of complicity in current and future severe environmental damage and human rights violations".
Norway's government sold all the Vedanta shares it held which were worth $14m.
'Best standards'
Vedanta says all the claims are false. There won't be irreversible damage to the environment. It says it will only mine the surface 10-15 metres down in selected areas in the hills and then fill in the holes when it is finished.
"I don't think any plant can have better environmental standards than we have," Dr Mukesh Kumar told me.
"Our approach is first protect the environment, ensure safety, ensure development of the local area, ensure participation of the community. These are our basic four principles, and if we are not able to ensure them then we are not interested in any project."
Vedanta was keen to show us where it has resettled people displaced by its refinery. Just over 100 families are housed in a small village of concrete huts. The firm says it is bringing development and jobs, investing in healthcare and education in the surrounding area.

Children have no formal education
Nearly 2,000 people are employed in the refinery, many from the local community. It has tried to train people in new skills like fish farming and horticulture. And it is bringing electricity to the villages.
"We have converted land into agriculture land, we have brought soil scientists, we have started livelihood programmes," said Dr Kumar. "In the next few years you will see drastic change in the area."
But while we were there around 80 villagers blockaded the refinery gates, refusing to allow trucks to go in. Five hundred families have lost land to the refinery and say they've not had proper compensation.
Vedanta says these claims are false and are made by people wanting more money than they're legally entitled to.
'Hired goons'
When we visited a village in the shadow of the refinery people told us their fields and homes were illegally seized without consent and police beat up those who protested.
The Supreme Court committee also reported similar claims, saying those who didn't want to move were beaten up, coerced and threatened, and "an atmosphere of fear was created through the hired goons, the police and the administration".
Dr Mukesh Kumar said not a single case had been registered against Vedanta with the local police, adding that it was the government that repossessed land from villagers so Vedanta was not directly involved.
And he said there was no threat to the existence of the Dongria Kondh in the hills.
"There is no question that Dongria community will finish from this place, that is a false rumour that is spread around this area," says Dr Kumar.
"They will be there where they are today. The only thing is that if that area develops they will get better living conditions, because we may develop some roads, some better infrastructure, better communications, better living conditions."
But in Golgola village many of the Dongria Kondh are suspicious of Vedanta. Jitu Jakesika insists they won't let mining happen in their sacred hills without a fight.
"If the Supreme Court will give a decision to allow mining here, all our Dongria Kondh people from children to old women will go to the factory and sleep on the road and say first you will kill us then you can mine, because we cannot live without our mountain," he says.
We watched as the Dongria made a special offering to the gods, the sacrifice of a water buffalo. It was brutal. The animal was tied to a stake. The witchdoctor let out a shriek, and a dozen men set up on the buffalo with sticks and axes.
It bellowed and struggled for its life as they beat it and slashed at it all over. Finally it sank to the ground with a groan. Its head was severed and carried back to the village in triumph.
The way of life of the Dongria is still, in many ways, primitive and harsh. But they fear the sort of development Vedanta wants to bring, as they worry it may mean an end to their ancient way of life.

Acid rain in Orissa?, 19th July, 2008


with the first spell of monsoon in mid-June people in Bargarh, Nuapada, Kalahandi and Sambalpur districts in Orissa experienced something they had never seen before: a grayish layer on leaves, vehicles and elsewhere. “I was surprised to see the leaves of trees in my medicinal plant nursery covered with white and grey mud-like substances,” said Biswanath Hota, a retired divisional forest officer, who believed it to be acid rain. Hota quickly sent samples of leaves from his nursery in Bhawanipatna, Kalahadi, to his friend Durga Prasad Nayak, an environmental activist.
Nayak took the samples to the Sambalpur University’s Department of Environmental Sciences for testing evidence of acid rain. P C Mishra, a professor in the department, did not find any trace of acid rain in them, but he did not rule out the incidence of acid rain. “What I got was a bunch of leaves that had been collected a few days ago and had changed hands many times. So it was difficult to do a proper scientific analysis,” said Mishra. “This being a forested area with no industries, I am surprised that this kind of rain has occurred. One could also say it is fly ash, which has travelled hundreds of kilometres from industrial belts. It’s worrying and needs a thorough scientific study.”Mishra warned that increased dust concentration can affect crop productivity. “In my study of the area around mcl coal operations, I found that coal dust had severely affected plant growth and productivity. Dust on the leaf surface retards plant productivity,” he said.Arttabandhu Mishra, a retired professor of the university, suspects the rain was caused by Orissa’s thermal power belts of Angul-Talcher and Ib Valley. “Burning coal is the main cause of acid rain and Orissa’s two big coal fields emit over 320 tonnes of sulphur dioxide, 919 tonnes of nitrogen oxide and 33,883 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Acid rain can travel up to 400 km, and surely the rain in the region was acid rain,” he said.Sitikanta Sahu, regional manager, Orissa Pollution Control Board, said, “We have asked our Rayagada regional officer to find samples of the first spells of rain for testing the Ph level. Acid rain is a concern but we cannot be sure that it was due to coal fields of Orissa. Industrial units in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh could also have caused this.”Whatever the cause, farmers are worried about the impact of the unusual substance on crops. Land in western Orissa is already going barren. With a severely depleted forest belt around coal reserves and thermal power plants, the negative impacts of acid rain would be phenomenal, said Arttabandhu Mishra.Nayak accused the government of failing to respond to weather signals. The Padampur–Nuapada region experienced smog for 25 days in February-March. “Everyone was scared and the media also raised the issue. However, the government and the pollution control board did nothing,” said Nayak.

HDFC reaches rural masses through SHGs

The Statesman, 18th July, 2008

Within 21 months, after the launch of Self Help Group bank linkage programme by HDFC bank in the state in September 2006, the bank has financially included as many as 76,380 rural house-holds in the state and disbursed loans aggregating to Rs 50.33 crores to 5092 SHGs spread across 18 districts. All these SHGs have been provided with ‘zero balance no frill’ saving accounts, informed business head, micro-finance division, HDFC bank Mr K Manohar Raj here today. "The backward districts like Kalahandi and Bolangir have also benefited from the financial inclusion of the bank. With a social commitment, the bank has disbursed loans aggregating to Rs 74.16 lakh to 110 SHGs. As many as 1650 families have benefited from such act," Mr Raj said. Apart from the credit services, the bank also facilitates life insurance cover to the SHG members through various life insurance companies. The bank also provides credit counseling and conducts capacity building events for the SHGs. "In a bid to enhance and provide better services to the clients, two specialised branches on micro-finance at Berhampur and Jeypore would soon be opened," he said. Highlighting other activities of the bank, Mr Raj spoke on rehabilitation of destitute in Puri, sanctioning of loan for weavers in Bolangir and taking up of chapel-making activities by sex-workers through HDFC assistance in Bargarh district et al. He further said that the bank’s micro-finance programme provides access to financial services like credit, saving, insurance and remittance to the poor in a sustainable and commercially viable manner. The bank had initiated micro-finance institutions bulk lending model in 2003 and SHG bank linkage programme in 2006. So far, the bank has provided financial services to more than two million households with asset portfolio of more than Rs 10 billion across 17 states, Mr. Raj said. Among other important officials, Mrs Bandana Lal and Mr Asutosh Kumar were present.

Augment railway infrastructure : Naveen

Kalinga Times, 18th July, 2008

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday emphasised the need for expansion and augmentation of railway infrastructure in the state which was witnessing a major industrial upsurge.
During his meeting Railway Board chairman K.C. Jena in New Delhi , the Chief Minister said the industrial growth will necessitate laying of new rail links, construction of elaborate rail terminals and bulk cargo handling points.
He pointed out that the railway route length in Odisha was well below the national average and also much less than the neighbouring states such as Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar.
Patnaik mentioned that there had been very little progress of Khurda Road-Bolangir railway line and the Ministry of Railways had allocated only Rs 32 crore during 2008-09 and stressed for increased allocation.
The Chief Minister also drew the attention of the Railway Board chairman to the KBK districts which have a high percentage of tribal population and stressed the need for sanction of Jeypore-Malkanglri (117 km) line for which survey had already been completed. The advent of railways would lead to socio-economic development in the region, he said.
He also informed that the state government had signed MoUs for setting up of two alumina plants in the region and in this context, the Lanjigarh Road-Junagarh new rail link assumed significance.
Patnaik desired that the section between Lanjigarh and Bhawanipatna should be commissioned early.
He has also reiterated the state government's interest for development of Gopalpur, Dhamra and Subarnarekha mouth (Kirtania) ports into all weather ports along its coast line and stressed that railway lines connecting Rupsa-Burhamara to Chakulia (50 km), Nuapada-Gunupur rail link to Theruvali (79 km) and Banspani-Barbil for which preliminary surveys had been completed assume critical importance for movement of inbound and outbound traffic likely to be generated by the coastal ports, industries as well as mines in the hinterland.
He underlined the need for speedy completion of residual work on Daitari-Banspani broad gauge rail link and to introduce an intercity express between Bhubaneswar-Jamshedpur via Keonjhar.
Since the lack of adequate rail infrastructure had hindered the socio-economic growth of the state, Patnaik impressed upon the need to consider increased allocation of funds to ensure speedy execution of the sanctioned projects and also sanctioning of the new projects and surveys. He expressed satisfaction over selection of Bhubaneswar as one of the locations for construction of a world class railway station.
The Chief Minister further emphasised the need for introduction of new trains, extension and increase in frequency of mail/express trains, and improved passenger amenities to meet the aspirations of the people and the developmental needs of a fast growing economy.
Patnaik also stressed the need for normalisation of Balasore-Kharagpur section and restoration of normal coaching services as nineteen trains still stood cancelled because of the breach of railway track due to the recent floods.
The Railway Board chairman assured the Chief Minister to expedite all the railway projects in the state, according to an official release.

Naveen demands more funds for rail projects

The Pioneer, 18th July, 2008

Rail Board chairman Kalyan Coomar Jena called on Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at Orissa Niwas in New Delhi on Thursday. Patnaik urged the chairman to take steps to expedite the works of the ongoing rail projects in the State.
The projects like Khurda Road-Nayagarh- Balangir, Talcher - Bimlagarh, Naupada-Gunupur- Theruvali, Lanjigarh Road -Bhawanipatna - Jeypore - Malkangiri - Bhadramchalam - Bhadrachalam Road, Buramara - Chakulia and Bangiriposi - Gurumahisani-Keonjhar were taken up for discussion. "Steps should be taken to connect the KBK areas with networks," Patnaik said, adding that the State rail network average was much less than the national average.
Patnaik also demanded that an intercity train should be run between Jamshedpur and Bhubaneswar. The Chief Minister also told the chairman as the ports were coming up in Gopalpur, Dhamara and Kiratnia, all these places should be connected by rail. "The rail networks to the ports would augment the industrial process," he said, adding that more funds should be allocated to the State to complete projects like Daitari - Banspani.
Jena assured the Chief Minister that a train would ply between Puri and Keonjhar by the end of October. Patnaik thanked Jena for taking steps to set up a world class rail station at Bhubaneswar.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

PGCIL bags Rs 260-cr T&D order in Orissa

The Financial Express, 16th July, 2008

Power Grid Corp of India Ltd (PGCIL) has bagged Rs 260 crore order in Orissa to execute a power transmission line project and set up power sub-stations to strengthen power transmission and distribution (T&D) system in the state.
The state energy minister, SN Patro, said PGICL will carry out the 70km-long Indravati-Balangir 222kv transmission line. The central sector utility will conduct survey, prepare the project report and execute the work for the state government, he said. According to him, the transmission line, which will evacuate power from Indravati Hydro Power Station, will improve the quality of power supply to most part of western Orissa.
In another assignment, Patro said, PGCIL will implement Rs 160 crore order of the total Rs 800 crore earmarked for establishment of 19 sub-stations of 132/33 kv and 220/132 kv in the state. PGCIL will set up six sub-stations at Bhawanipatna, Padampur, Dabugoan, Nauapara, Kuchinda and Boudh. The remaining 13 will be executed through the state-owned (OPTCL), he said.

Akshya Pradhan new general secretary of BJD youth wing

The Pioneer, 16th July, 2008

Bhubaneswar: Akshya Kumar Pradhan was chosen as the new general secretary of the Biju Yuva Janata Dal on Tuesday. BJD youth wing president and former MLA Rath Das said Pradhan, who is a resident of Bhawanipatana in Kalahandi district, has been active in the BJD since a very long time and his role would boost the party in Kalahandi and its adjourning areas

Steady rehab subdues Lanjigarh unit stir: Vedanta

The Pioneer, 16th July, 2008
Pioneer News Service Bhubaneswar

Claiming that Vedanta Aluminium Limited offers best rehabilitation package, the company aims to reduce the impact of its activities on environment wherever feasible.
The majority of the sites are certified to the international environmental management systems standard ISO 14001. This includes the requirement that environmental impacts are identified and that there are ongoing programmes for improvement across the key impact areas.
The problems of the aluminum industry in Kalahandi, one of the most backward tribal majority districts in Orissa, are not new. There had been opposition even in the pre-Independence era, and after the Independence too, political parties and environmental activists continue to protest against the mining and setting up of a refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.
Of late, however, the protests have subdued to a large extent, ostensibly because Vedanta has already constructed the refinery, commenced trial production and also started several community development activities. All 120 displaced families have got pucca houses with electricity and water supply. Apart from compensation for the lost land, at least one youth from each displaced family has been trained and given a job in the refinery. About 2,500 people have found employment in the project directly or indirectly.
Another thing that worked in their favour, locals say, was Sasya-Silpa Abhijan, a Vedanta-initiated project for vegetable cultivation, run in collaboration with the Asian Institute of Sustainable Development, which gave a boost to agriculture in the area. Over 550 acres of land nearly 500 farmers are participating in the project as "partners."
A farmer Dinanath Pangi said training and support from Vedanta had been helpful although they bear the expenses for irrigation through diesel pump sets.
Vedanta has also been offering a host of self-employment options for residents of the surrounding villages, including women's self-help groups, and has collaborated with the district health department on the Swasthya Parivar project, which is an example of Public-Private Partnership in Orissa's troubled health sector.
Vedanta Aluminium Ltd has inked a Memorandum of Understanding with the State Government and Sterlite Foundation for adopting 400 Anganwadis in Kalahandi district, Vedanta group spokesman CV Krishnan said.
The same process is being implemented in Kalahandi and would be replicated in Jharsuguda.
Giving a detailed account of the company's child welfare programme Krishnan said, "Vedanta believes in giving back to society what it has given us."
In order to ensure that everything went as per plan, the process would be reviewed by a committee headed by the district Collector. The local MLA and chairmen of panchayat samitis would be its members, he said. Besides, Vedanta is also working to strengthen infrastructure in the Kalahandi district and Jharsuguda by increasing the electricity network, constructing roads and developing educational and healthcare facilities, Krishnan said.
While about 2,000 people have got direct employment at the refinery at Lanjigarh, over 2,000 others are getting indirect income generating opportunities, he added.

Rs 2-a-kg rice to APL families in KBK raises hornet's nest

The Pioneer, 16th July, 2008
Pioneer News Service Bhubaneswar

If the decision of the Government to provide rice at Rs 2 per kg to the people Above Poverty Line (APL) in the KBK region is strictly implemented, Ministers like AU Singh Deo and KV Singh Deo and other leaders in the region like Narasingha Mishra and Balgopal Mishra would also be benefited under the scheme.
Finance Minister Prafulla Chandra Ghdai raised this question at the Collectors' Conference here on Monday. A seemingly embarrassed Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik took note of the query silently, according to a high-level source.
Interestingly, APL cards were distributed way back in 1994, and after these 14 years most of the cards are lost. So, how a 6 lakh-APL population would be provided Rs 2-a-kg rice in the KBK districts without proper cards in place is a big question. Commissioner-cum-Secretary of the concerned department Raj K Sharma had no answer to the query at the Collectors' Conference.
When the APL population in KBK is obliged with Rs 2-a-kg rice, the APL population of Gajapati district should also be provided with the benefit, said Gajapati Collector DV Swamy. Similarly, the APL people of Kandhamal district should be given the cheap rice, wanted the district's new Collector Krishna Kumar.
The Collectors suggested that at least four to five days a month be stipulated for distribution of the cheap rice so that people are able to come from the far-flung areas to collect the rice. While a panchayat is spread over a kilometre area, it takes to cover 25 km to reach the panchayat headquarters of a tribal district, they pointed out.
Several Ministers raised doubt over the capability of the panchayats in handling the Rs 2-a-kg rice programme. They said all sorts of works were now being entrusted with the panchayats without any manpower. While the entire administrative machinery has been mobilised for this programme, more than 30 per cent vacancies at the field level raise doubts about the workability of the scheme. However, as per the decision of the Government, officials from Revenue Inspector to Collector would be involved in implementing the programme

Non-resident Oriyas rue Railway Board chief's attitude towards Orissa projects

The Pioneer, 16th July, 2008
Pioneer News Service Bhubaneswar

Non-resident Oriyas (NROs) are quite unhappy over the railway authorities' attitude towards the long-delayed projects in Orissa, including the Khurda Road -Balangir rail line.
Railway Board chairman Kalyan Coomar Jena, who hails from Orissa, was invited to the convention of the Orissa Society of Americas (OSA) recently held in Toronto in North America. Jena dismissed speeding up of the Khurda-Balangir project projects without significant contributions from the State Government on the plea that it is a social line.
The NROs repeatedly reminded Jena that the three zones operating in Orissa -- East Coast Railways (ECoR), South Eastern Railways (SER) and South Eastern Central Railways (SECR) -- are the highest profit-making zones, but Orissa and Chhattisgarh have the lowest railway densities.
The areas of concern are the connectivity to KBK districts and the other tribal districts of Orissa like Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh, which are among the most backward areas in the country. The proposed rail lines include the Khurda Road -Nayagarh - Balangir, Talcher - Bimlagarh, Naupada-Gunupur- Theruvali, Lanjigarh Road -Bhawanipatna -Junagarh-Nabarangpur-Jeypore - Malkangiri - Bhadramchalam - Bhadrachalam Road, Buramara - Chakulia and Bangiriposi - Gurumahisani-Keonjhar.
The NROs pointed out that the minerals extracted and transported from those districts are the contributing factors in making these railway zones highly profitable. If only Indian Railways had listened to the plea of Orissa and completed the Khurda Road-Balangir line, which it started 15 years ago, and the line from Jeypore to Malkangiri and beyond, the Maoist mayhems in Nayagarh and Malkangiri would have been avoided.
Some participants at the meeting like Purna Mishra and Chitta Baral were armed with statistics from various IR publications and web sites to counter the arguments of Jena. They rubbished the contention that the Indian Railways was only going after profitable routes. Prof Baral pointed out that the IR priorities include gauge conversion of 12,000 km, most of which is not profitable.
What made some of the participants really sad that the Railway Board chairman did not even sympathise when pointed out that while huge profits are made by ECoR, SER and SECR, the big money of the 11th Plan is going to freight corridors, high-speed rail and metro rails, none of which benefits Orissa. The NROs were of the view that the Railway Board Chairman was pursuing a highly bureaucratic approach.
Jena repeated that he has Rs 1,000 crore for Orissa, and breaking that up to various projects leaves little for social projects like Khurda Road-Balangir.
It was pointed out to him that when ECoR is estimated to make Rs 3,600 crores of profit during 2008-09, he is talking about only Rs 1,000 crore.
In addition, the NROs demanded that the IR, the largest employer in the world, must make two production units in the backward and tribal areas of KBK so that it indeed gives a fair employment opportunity to the tribals.

Plan to exclude APL families from Rs 2-a-kg rice on anvil

The Pioneer, 16th July, 2008
Pioneer News Service Bhubaneswar

Coming under a scathing attack for its decision to provide rice at Rs 2 per kg to the families Above Poverty Line (APL) families living in the KBK region, the State Government has made it clear that it would have a rethinking over the issue.
"The Government will evolve a strategy to exclude rich families from the list of beneficiaries of the rupee two per kg rice scheme," Food and Civil Supplies Minister Manmohan Samal told reporters here on Tuesday.
"We are aware that some rich people in the KBK region will get the benefits meant for the poor," he said, adding that the Government was reviewing the matter seriously.
"Since more than 80 per cent of families in the KBK region are poor, the Government has decided to provide subsidised rice to all in the area for the time being till a strategy to exclude APL families is ready," Samal said.
The Minister maintained that as the Government was yet to finalise the BPL list, it decided to include APL families identified according to a BPL survey made in 1997.
The BPL survey made in 2002, however, showed that nearly 83 per cent of families in the KBK region live under the poverty line. The Centre is yet to accept the 2002 survey.
Of more than 55 lakh families entitled to get subsidised rice, 5.5 lakh were APL families belonging to the KBK region

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Vedanta rehabilitation package is best in state

The Statesman, 15th July, 2008

Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) offers the best rehabilitation package in the state, claimed company sources here recently. The company aims to reduce the impact of its activities on the environment, wherever feasible. The majority of the sites are certified by the international environmental management systems standard ISO 14001. This includes the requirement that environmental impacts are identified. There are ongoing programmes for improvement across key impact areas, they said. Responding to the critics of its bauxite mining project at Kalahandi, Vedanta officials said that all 120 families that were displaced for the project have got pucca houses with round-the-clock electricity and water supply. Besides one youth from each displaced family has been trained and given a job in the refinery, adding that a total of 2,500 local people have found employment in the refinery project till date. “While about 2000 people had got direct employment at the refinery in Lanjigarh, over 2000 others were getting indirect income generating opportunities,” company sources said. Vedanta has also started the ‘Sasya Silpa Abhijan’ an initiative of vegetable cultivation, run in collaboration with the Asian Institute of Sustainable Development to give a boost to agriculture in the area. “On an area of 550 acres of land, nearly 500 farmers are participating in the project as partners," said a senior official. “Although we bear the expenses for irrigation through a diesel pump set by us, yet the training and support provided by Vedanta through this programme has helped us a lot,” said Mr Dinanath Pangi, a farmer. Vedanta also offers various self-employment schemes for residents of the villages nearby and especially for the womenfolk. Women self-help-groups have been started under public-private partnership in collaboration with the district health department on the Swastha Parivar project. In a bid to widen its corporate social responsibility, the Vedanta group has also adopted 400 Anganwadi centres in Kalahandi district and will look after more than 40,000 children in some of the state’s most backward areas. “Vedanta has signed an MoU with the state government and the Sterlite Foundation for the adoptions,” said Vedanta group spokesman Mr CV Krishnan. “As a part of the arrangement, every pre-school child aged between three and six years will be provided a cooked meal of 300 calories at noon. The company will also look after the health of the children through regular check ups and medicines,” he added. He further said that the company is also undertaking the beautification of the Anganwadis by erecting green boundaries, whitewashing buildings and providing see-saws and slides for the children. Furthermore incentives are being provided to Anganwadi workers. While Anganwadi workers receive Rs 250 per month, each helper is given Rs 150 extra by the company. “The same exercise will also be replicated in Jharsuguda,” Mr Krishnan said. The total expenditure on child welfare activities in the two districts will be over Rs 15 crore, company officials revealed In order to ensure that everything goes as per plan, the process will be reviewed by a committee headed by the district collector, the local MLA and the chairman of panchayat samity, they said. Mr Krishnan said that Vedanta further aims to improve the electricity network, construct roads and develop better educational and healthcare facilities.

Photo exhibition on Orissa tribals life in Delhi from today

The Pioneer, 15th July, 2008

Bhubaneswar: An eight-day photo exhibition, Against the Wall, organised by anti-poverty group ActionAid, is going to be held at the Art Gallery of India International Centre Annexe in New Delhi from July 15 to July 22. The exhibition, apart from showcasing the lives of indigenous communities in Orissa's Niyamgiri hills, will also bring together stunning images of India's Kondh community people who are resisting mining companies to protect their sacred mountains.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Orissa to rethink subsidised rice for APL families

The Hindu, 15th July, 2008

Bhubaneswar (PTI): Under attack for its decision to include Above Poverty Line (APL) families living in KBK (Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput) region as beneficiaries of the rice at Rs 2 per kg scheme for the poor, the Orissa government today said it would rethink the matter.
"The government will evolve a strategy to exclude rich families from the list of beneficiaries of the rupee two per kg rice scheme," Food and Civil Supplies Minister Manmohan Samal told reporters after a marathon meeting of collectors.
He said the government was aware that some rich people in the KBK region could get the benefits meant for the poor.
"Since more than 80 per cent of families in the KBK region are poor, the government has decided to provide subsidised rice to all in the area for the time being till a strategy to exclude APL families is ready," Samal said.
The minister maintained that as the government was yet to finalise the BPL list, it decided to include APL families identified according to a BPL survey made in 1997.
The BPL survey made in 2002, however, showed that nearly 83 per cent of families in the KBK region live under the poverty line. The centre is yet to accept the 2002 survey.
Of more than 55 lakh families entitled to get subsidised rice, 5.5 lakh were APL families belonging to the KBK region.

'Titlagarh was base of Rashtrakuta kings'

Newindpress, 15th July, 2008

BALANGIR: Historians have inferred from the two sets of copper plate grants found from Tel river near Taresingha (now Kalahandi district) that kings of Rashtrakuta dynasty had set up their capital at modern Udepur near Titilagarh of Balangir district in 9th century AD.At a later stage, the remnants of Rashtrakuta kingdom, as the copper plate mentioned, were found from Udepur and its nearby villages Kumuda and Sihini. The remnants of some architectural monuments, Shiva and Vishnu temples and statues of gods and goddesses were found in the villages near Udepur.Deciphering the copper plates, eminent historian Sadananda Agrawal said the most important of the sculptures of Rashtrakuta were Saptamatruka and Vairav images. As the Rashtrakutas were mostly Shiva and Vishnu devotees, ruins of Shiva and Vishnu temples are mostly found in that area. Agrawal claimed that further archaeological exploration will unfold many other aspects of the dynasty. Agrawal said, ‘‘Between the river ‘Under’ and the hill side of Kumuda village there are still many sandy structures. All the villages in that area contain ruins of Rashtrakuta dynasty.Copper plates, which mention about the dynasty, are still found in river belts.’’ The recent sets of copper plates, dating back to 9th century AD, were issued by king Bhanurajdev, informed Agrawal.He observed that since Udepur used to be the capital town of Rashtrakuta kings and they were either Shaivites or Vaishnavites, they had built such temples. He sought the intervention of State Archaeology for the preservation of the temples, monuments and sculptures.

Maoist shadow over Kalahandi

Newindpress, 15th July, 2008

BHAWANIPATNA: Kalahandi is a critically vulnerable district from Maoist point of view as neighbouring districts Rayagada, Nabarangpur and Phulbani and bordering State Chhattisgarh are Maoist infested.However, despite the threat of Maoists looming large over the district, vital installations here are going without any adequate security cover. The Indravati Project, which is one of the vital installations of the district, is one of the most vulnerable from security point of view.There are other vital installations like surge tanks, valve house, power house, four dams, eight dykes and a barrage which are guarded by homeguards and private security personnel who are unarmed. Reservoir of the Indravati dam is surrounded by mountains and there are 65 villages inside the reservoir area.Like Chitrakonda, this is also a vulnerable spot and prone to Naxal attack. As per intelligence reports, some unknown persons were found to be moving in the forest areas of Lanjigarh, Thuamul Rampur and Madanpur Rampur areas in recent times.Though police teams launched combing operations in some places, they did not taste much success. Experts say ultras sneaking into the forests of Kalahandi in search of safe haven cannot be ruled out in view of police action in neighbouring areas. But ironically the police administration is least prepared to meet any eventuality.According to sources, the strength of police personnel in the district is far below the required strength. One post of additional SP, two posts of DSP, five posts of inspector, 15 posts of SI, as many posts of havildar and 42 posts of constable are lying vacant in the district.Besides this, against the required strength of 184 APR personnel in the district only 138 are stationed. There are also no trained personnel to counter any law and order problem in case there is a Maoist attack.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

UGC team on varsities’ tour

The New Indian Express, July 12, 2008

SAMBALPUR: A team of the University Grants Commission (UGC) is on a three-day tour to the Sambalpur University. The 11-member team is led by Vice Chancellor of BR Ambedkar Technical University, Maharashtra, Prof Ashok Ghetal reached here on Wednesday. He will decide on proposals put forth by the varsity which is estimated at Rs 80 crore.

The team met the syndicate members and deliberated on 11th Finance Commission provision with the Vice-Chancellor of the University Prof. U C Biswal. Later, they visited all the hostels and departments.

The proposals include introduction of five new departments and opening of a satellite centre of the university at Bhawanipatna. The delegation was also apprised of the research oriented work undertaken at the University and vision of the university for the next five years.

Berhampur: The 11th Plan Expert Committee of UGC led by Prof R.P. Kaushik visited the Berhampur University and interacted with the faculty to learn about the necessities. The team comprising nine experts which is on a three-day on a visit will submit a report on the needs of the university.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Online move for rail network

Tathya, 8th July, 2008

Poor communication links of rail and road has resulted in expansion of Red Corridor in the tribal districts of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Chhatisgarh.
While most of the Maoist activities are centered round the KBK Region of the State, the ultras are expanding their tentacles to the nearby underdeveloped areas.
While Prime Minister Dr.Man Mohan Singh is dubbing the Red Menace as the “ most dangerous virus”, in deciding the connectivity plans for the country, case of KBK has been ignored time and again.
So under the leadership of Digambara Patra, a leading Non Resident Oriya (NRO), the intelligentsia of Orissa has taken up the cause of rail expansion in a big way.
An online signature campaign is underway to raise awareness on the issue of rail connectivity.
More than 60 have signed the online petition and many are joining the league.
Making a full fledged research on the subject, they have demanded for special treatment by the Indian Railway Board in declaring the Kalahandi-Balangir- Koraput (KBK) region in Orissa, other adjacent tribal regions of Andhra Pradesh and Chhatisgarh as a national project.
KBK is the poorest and most backward region in India.
While other backward regions in India like North Eastern States, J&K and Himachal Pradesh have received special treatment by Railway Board, KBK region has been neglected since decades, lamented Dr.Patra.
Naxal activities are predominantly high in the border regions of Orissa, Chhatisgarh and Andhra Pradesh due to poor communication and infrastructure, said he.
And recently it is spreading to other bordering and backward districts like Balangir, Nuapada and Kalahandi districts. The railway infrastructure in Orissa and Chhatisgarh is substantially low compared to national average despite both the states are in the profit making zones, where as railway infrastructure in Bihar and West Bengal are remarkably high though they are the loss making zones. East Coast zone and South Eastern zone covering Orissa state and South East Central zone covering Chhatisgarh are among top most profit making zones.
And large amount of profit made by Indian Railways comes from the transportation revenue from coal, ores and minerals for which both the states substantially contribute.
However, Indian railway has ignored KBK region of Orissa and Chhatisgarh since decades. Indian Railway Board has always danced to the tune of the political bosses ignoring the genuine requirement of the states, lamented Madhusmita Panda, another online petitioner.
For example, Khordha Road – Balangir and Lanjigarh Road – Junagarh railway lines in Orissa which were approved much earlier than Muzaffarpur – Sitamari and Sultanganj-Deogarh lines in Bihar are still struggling to be completed, where as other two lines in Bihar are completed, said she. Pratyusa Mandhata asked for uniformity in approving projects and said that during last 15 years, more railway lines were approved in Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal than Orissa and Chhatisgarh.
In last 5 years Indian Railway has set up 3 factories in Bihar (loss making zone) and one in Kerala (another loss making zone), but none of the plants including the recently proposed power plant by Indian Railway, was being established in Orissa or Chhatisgarh, said Mr.Mandhata.
Sandip Dasvarma, leading NRO said that since decades less funds are allotted in the Railway Budgets to profit making zones like East Coast Railway (ECOR) and South East Central Railway (SECR), which is much lower than that of loss making zones.
The petitioners have requested the Orissa and Chhatisgarh Governments to provide land free of cost for railway development in the backward region.
And they have requested the Government of India is to declare all the railway projects in KBK and bordering regions in Chhatisgarh and Andhra Pradesh as national projects in the line of North Eastern states of India immediately. They have demanded to complete Khordha road – Balangir railway line to connect the KBK region with state capital Approval of Junagarh – Ambaguda line proposed under extension of Lanjigarh Road – Junagarh is needed. Approval is requested for Bargarh – Padampur - Nuapada road - Kantabanji – Khariar- Ampani-Navarangur- Jeypore – Makangiri – Kottagudem (Andhra Pradesh) new line in the backward region, which would help to control Maoist menace by bringing development in the region The petitioners have demanded to carry out new survey and approve Rajim (Chhatisgarh) – Gariaband (Chhatisgarh) – Deobhog (Chhatisgahr) – Junagarh – Lanjigarh road – Simanbadi (Kandhamal) – Asika- Berhampur – Gopalpur line to directly connect Raipur with Gopalpur port passing through one of the most backward regions of India. They have also demanded that new survey of Dhamtari (Chhatisgarh) – Umarkote (Orissa) – Nabrangpur (Orissa) line, an alternative direct access to Gopalpur and Visakhapatnam ports from Raipur and other mining region in Chhatisgarh is to be developed. Carrying out of fresh survey of the Simanbadi -Phulbani-Angul line is needed to benefit NALCO by further reducing the distance between Damanjodiand Angul, said the online petitioners.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Two more dead bodies fished out, 14 still missing in Balimela Reservoir, 7th July, 2008
By Anurjay Dhal
Bhubaneswar (Orissa):
Divers of Indian Navy on Sunday fished out one more dead bodies of the missing elite class Greyhounds Jawans of Andhra Pradesh in Chitrakonda across the Balimela reservoir taking the toll to 22 in Malkangiri district. The well-trained divers have been searching for missing Jawans since June 29 following Maoists attack on a motorboat carrying anti-insurgency forces in Balimela reservoir. "As per our report, 14 still missing and we have made steps to deploy one MI-17 chopper to lift the boat, which was capsized from the bed of the reservoir," DIG, SWPR Sanjeeb Panda said. Though a week had elapsed since the incident, search and rescue team involving divers from the Navy, Greyhound personnel, those from the Special Operation Group, CRPF and Orissa police, recovered only 24 bodies so far. Malkangiri SP Satish K Gajbhiye said the heavy-duty helicopter would be used to pull the boat. "If the helicopter also failed to lift the boat, the authorities will bring a special equipment from Singapore to lift the vessel" the SP said. Sources further said the sunken vessel on the reservoir bed was barely 200 feet away and could be dragged to shore. Meanwhile, security experts in Orissa felt that the meticulous ambush on the Greyhounds by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of the CPI (Maoist) in the Balimela reservoir indicates the continuity of mobile warfare phase. "The need of the hour is well coordinated inter-border anti-Maoists operation to check growing influence of outlawed leftwing rebels," argued former Orissa DGP Amiya Bhusan Tripathy. "We have to take up it as major threat for internal security," the former DGP told Security experts believed that the Greyhound played a major role in making the Andhra model successful, primarily by flushing the armed cadre out of the Nalamala forests, Telangana and Palnad region. As a result of which, many senior Maoist leaders have been camping in Malkangiri district. Therefore, the combing operation in Janbai area, which has been virtually declared 'liberated zone' by the CPI-Maoist, gave an opportunity to take a lethal strike on security apparatus. The Maoists like Janbai often claims Chitrakonda as their liberated zone in Orissa. The Chitrakonda reservoir attack of Maoists took their water warfare to a new level in Orissa. The waterway near Alampakka, where the Maoists ambushed the Greyhounds was barely 75 metres wide allowing radicals to target their vessels with precision. The reservoir is 85 feet deep at that point and police sources ruled out use of rocket launchers in the attack. The ambush point is towards east of the reservoir and has two constrictions in close proximity. Undoubtedly, the incident reflects strong support base of the CPI-Maoist vis-a-vis poor intelligence of Orissa Police. The State Police has consistently failed to collect intelligence in southern Orissa due to complete lack of police-public relationship. In the last three months, Maoists have killed more than 10 persons by branding them as police informers in Malkangiri district. Local people have been facing problems due to frequent strikes called by the CPI-Maoist. Well placed sources said the Central Committee of the CPI (Maoists) has deputed around two hundred Maoist cadres from Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh to Orissa for organisational building in Malkangiri, Koraput, Kalahandi, and Nawarangpur. They have been trying to set up a corridor from Kalahandi-Nuapada and Bastar.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Vedanta to look after anganwadi children in Orissa

The Hindu, July 6, 2008

Bhubaneswar (PTI): In a bid to widen its corporate social responsibility, the Vedanta group has embarked on a mission to look after more than 40,000 anganwadi children in some of Orissa's most backward areas.

Vedanta Aluminium Ltd has entered into an mou with the Orissa governmen and Sterlite Foundation for adopting 400 anganwadis in Kalahandi district, where its alumina refinery has started trial production at Langjigarh, Vedanta group spokesman C V Krishnan told PTI..

The same process was being implemented in Kalahandi and would be replicated in Jharsuguda.

"As every anganwadi has 40 children, the company will be looking after the welfare, food and healthcare requirements of more than 40,000 children," Krishnan said.

The decision to adopt the anganwadis, he said, was taken on the basis of the company's experiment of running 100 child welfare centres in different places of the country.

As part of the arrangement, every pre-school child aged betwen three and six years would be provided a hot cooked meal of 300 calories at noon, said another Vedanta official.

The company also proposed to look after the health of the children. There would be regular health checkups and the children would be dewormed as part of the programme, he said.

Krishnan, giving a detailed account of the company's child welfare programme, said "Vedanta believes in giving back to society what it has given us. Making money is a means and not an end."

The company was also undertaking beautification of the anganwadis adopted by it. It was whitewashing buildings and erecting green boundaries around them and provided seesaws and slides for children.

Incentives were also being provided to anganwadi workers.

While workers received Rs 250 per month each, each helper was given Rs 150 per month. The total expenditure on child welfare activities in the two districts would be over Rs 15 crore, company officials said.

In order to ensure that everything went as per plan, the process would be reviewed by a committee headed by the district collector. The local MLa and chairman of panchayat samities would be its members, they said.

Vedanta was also working to strengthen infrastructure in the backward Kalahandi district and Jharsuguda by increasing the electricity network, constructing roads and developing educational and healthcare facilities, Krishnan said.

While about 2000 people had got direct employment at the refinery in Lanjigarh, over 2000 others were getting indirect income generating opportunities, he said.

Clickable map of Kalahandi through Yahoo Map

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rath Yatra goes hi-tech, available live on web

The Pioneer, 3rd July, 2008

On Friday, the Rath Yatra at Puri will be available live on the web, thanks to the initiative of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) Orissa.
Chief of NIC Orissa SK Panda is taking the initiative to make the effort a success.
A technical team of NIC is busy setting up the web cast facility in Bhubaneswar, which will ensure availability of the Rath Yatra live.
The team, headed by Technical Director RN Behera, has given the final touch for the web cast facility. The team includes KC Pattnaik, Sambit Panda and PK Mishra.
Doordarshan and NIC have joined hands to cover the Rath Yatra proceedings on Friday morning. Live web cast will be available in the web address:,,, will also have the link of the web cast for the live show of the annual sojourn of Lord Jagannath.
The Shree Jagannath Temple Administration has extended the support, and live feed will be collected from Doordarshan. With the new facilities at Bhubaneswar in place than NIC Orissa will be able to web cast other important programs like Shrikshetra Utsav, Konark Dance Festival and other programmes of importance.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tata Steel`s Bastar plant faces green hurdle

Business Standard, 2nd July, 2008
R Krishna Das / Raipur July 02, 2008, 0:46 IST
After land, it is now water that has landed the proposed steel plant of the Tatas in Bastar in the thick of a new controversy.
Environment activists are gearing up to protest against the state government's move to supply water from Indrawati river for constructing the plant and meeting the demand of water at the initial stage of the project.
"Any move to give water from Indrawati to the proposed Tata steel plant will be strongly opposed," Sharad Verma, president, Bastar Society for Conservation of Nature, told Business Standard. The society is collecting all details before drawing up a strategy, he added.
Indrawati is considered the lifeline of Bastar as it is a holy river for tribals. The river originates from Rampur-Ghumal village in Orissa's Kalahandi district. But a major part of the river (500 km of the total length of 800 km) flows in Chhattisgarh. About 43 per cent of the tribals in the interior parts of Bastar depend on Indrawati for their livelihood as the river is a major source of irrigation, fisheries and drinking water.
"The existence of the river is itself at stake as its course is returning to Orissa and merging with Jora nullah instead of entering the Bastar region," Verma said.
The Indrawati river will totally merge with Jora nullah in 10 years if immediate steps are not taken to reduce the width of the nullah, a report submitted to the Central Water Commission said. The governments of Orissa and Chhattisgarh had earlier agreed to construct a structure to check diversion of the course. But no headway was made.
"Water level recedes fast after the monsoon and, at many places, Indrawati gets dry as the natural flow diverts into Jora nullah near the state border and returns to Orissa," Verma said.
The industrial use of the Indrawati water would deepen the crisis," he said, adding: "If Tata draws water, it would set a new precedent as the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) would also demand water from Indrawati for its proposed sponge iron unit coming up in the area."
Manoj Varu,deputy secretary, department of water resources, said the Tata plant would get water from Indrawati for three years. It would be requiring 4 million cubic metres of water a year.
"Water from Indrawati would be used only as a stop-gap as the company would get water from Sabri for routine use," Krishna Nandan, Tata's project in-charge in Bastar, said.
The fresh dispute over the water deal has added a new chapter to the ongoing protest against the proposed 5 mtpa greenfield integrated steel plant coming up in the Lohandiguda block of the Bastar district. The state government is already facing a tough task to acquire land for the project, which will come up on 2,160.58 hectares.

Ecologists panic as 'acid rain' lashes western Orissa

The Pioneer, 2nd July, 2008
Pioneer News Service Sambalpur

On June19, a muddy rainfall suspected to be 'acid rain' lashed some areas of western Orissa, creating panic among ecologists as it signifies severe degeneration to the ecological system.
Confusion, however, prevails as to whether it was acid rain or not, and the Western Orissa Intellectual Association has asked the Government to send a scientists' team to probe into the matter. In a Press conference called by the association, Prof Durga Prasad Nayak demonstrated the leaves affected by the muddy rain, which were collected from Bhawanipatna.
The leaves lost their greenery, and in contact with eyes and skin they cause itching, thus signifying acid rain, though it is not confirmed from the Government's side.
The rain affected a wide area stretching from Bargarh to Bhawanipatna (Kalahandi), but the Government is yet to express any concern over the disturbing phenomenon. It is also unfortunate that despite there being a separate department for Environmental Science in the Sambalpur University there has been no suggestion from the university regarding the phenomenon.
When poisonous gases like sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide, emitted from the thermal power plants come in contact with atmospheric air, they form sulphuric acid and nitric acid, causing acid rain. These gases, mixed with atmospheric air, can affect the areas lying hundreds of kilometers away from the place of occurrence.
An ecology researcher, Ranjan Panda, who has done his research in the field of water resources, expressed deep concern over the fact that crop fields and forests of the State's western belt would be severely affected if it is actually acid rain. He cited the reasons causing the rain in the area -- gas emitted from various industries and plants, heat emitted by chemical fertilisers used in agricultural lands, methane gas emitted from Hirakud Dam and chloro fluoro carbon emitted from motor vehicles. Acid rain may cause serious ailments like cancer and may be dangerous to newborn babies. He also agreed to the theory of hole in the ozone layer.
At the end of the conference, a group of representatives, led by Dilip Padhi, went to meet the Sambalpur varsity vice-chancellor Prof Uday Chandra Biswal and requested him to make an investigation on the rain-affected leaves.
The vice-chancellor deputed Prof PC Mishra of Environmental Science will undertake the study.