Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Breached Highway disrupts communication

Expressbuzz, Sept 30, 2008

BHAWANIPATNA: As the waters of the rivers Tel, Udanti, Hati, Rahul, Utei and Ret have begun receding, the devastation that Kalahandi faced due to the recent floods, is gradually emerging.

Many areas still remain cut off from the mainstream and road connection is yet to be restored. Damage to the State highway-16 speaks volumes about the fury of the floods. A 200-metre breach has occurred in the approach road of the Tel at Turkel. But even after a fortnight of the floods, the breach is yet to be repaired. Communication from Bhawanipatna to Nuapada district and Chhattisgarh has been disrupted due to the breach.

Besides, there has been extensive damage to standing crops in agricultural fields adjacent to river banks.

As per preliminary assessment of Agriculture Department, about 16,000 hectares of paddy field has been sandcast. Official figures have put the death roll in the floods at five. Besides, 781 villages of the district and 5,000 houses have been damaged. Of the five, bodies of two have been found and three are yet to be recovered.

District Collector R. Santh Gopalan said this is one of the worst calamities that has hit Kalahandi. He further said that steps are being initiated to repair all damaged bridges and roads in two months. The district administration has sought Rs 72.25 crore from the State Government for repair and restoration works. Field survey is on for providing compensation to sandcast fields.

FCI union to go on strike

The Statesman, Sept 30, 2008
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA, Sept. 29: In a bid to pressure the government to engage workers directly, instead of through contractors, in the godowns of Central Warehousing Corporation and State Warehousing Corporation and for provision of other benefits for them, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) workers’ union has decided to go on strike.
Inaugurating the state-level conference of FCI workers’ union at Kesinga, founder-joint secretary of the union Mr Ghanashyam Jena said that there would be two days token strike in the last week of October and in case there is no tangible result, there will be full-fledged strike from November. “In that case, the godowns will be closed down and public distribution system will be disrupted,” Mr Jena warned.
More than 4,000 workers of warehousing godowns in the state, who are engaged through contractors, are deprived of benefits of provident fund, minimum wages and working hour, leave benefits as per the Wages Act. They are not provided with identity cards, there is no fixed duty hours and they are deprived of various welfare amenities, he charged.
Talking about the problems faced by workers engaged directly under Food Corporation of India, either employed by the FCI directly or through direct payment system, he alleged that the FCI authorities are violating the agreement entered into between the management and the union.
He cited the example of an agreement inked on 7 November 2007 regarding promotion of workers and merger of labour gangs, which is not implemented yet.
This apart, hundreds of pension cases of workers under employees’ pension scheme remain unsettled for years, he pointed out.

Sterlite Niyamgiri mine in a year

Business Standard, Sept 30, 2008

Sterlite Industries (India) Limited (SIIL), whose proposal to source bauxite from Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi district for its Rs 4000 crore refinery at Lanjigarh got the clearance of the Supreme Court recently, hopes to start mining of bauxite within a year.

“We are in the process of obtaining the forest clearance and environmental clearance from the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). The mining of bauxite can go into full scale in about a year”, P K Panda, vice-president (mining), Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL), told Business Standard.

The mining plan, meanwhile, has been approved by the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), Nagpur. After receiving the MoEF clearance, the company will go for construction of conveyer belt, approach roads, infrastructure at the hill top and the provisions for power and water before the start of mining. Combinedly this will require an investment of Rs 250 crore making Niyamgiri ready for mining.

The investment includes about Rs 120 crore for Forest Diversion Proposal (FDP), Rs 35 crore for construction of roads and Rs 80 crore for construction of a new conveyer belt to carry bauxite from the mine at the hilltop to the plant at the foothill. Besides, about Rs 15 crore will be spent on making provisions for electricity and water.

The Supreme Court in its judgment on 8 August this year had given clearance for diversion of 660.749 hectares of forest land for mining of bauxite at the Niyamgiri hills.

The length of Niyamgiri hill range is about 20 kms and it is spread over an area of about 250 square kms. Out of this, the mining lease is given for an area of 7 square kilometre, while the actual mining activity will be taken up over 3.5 square kilometres.

On the possibility of displacement of tribals belonging to Dongria community, a senior company official said that there will not be any displacement in the mining site. “Some people were shifted for the refinery and all of them have been rehabilitated”, he added.

It may be noted, 118 families belonging to 7 villages were displaced to make way for the refinery project at Lanjigarh. But the total size of affected population, which includes people who lost their land for the project, is 1236 families belonging to 27 villages.

Meanwhile, the company has chalked out an expansion plan for the Lanjigarh refinery in Kalahandi district of Orissa at an estimated investment of about Rs 9000 crore. Under it, the capacity of the refinery is proposed to be increased to 5 million tonne per annum (mtpa) from existing 2 mtpa.

The expanded capacity will be in phases and is expected to be complete by 2012, company sources said.

Similarly, the company is also expanding its smelter capacity to 0.5 million tonne by 2010 from 0.25 mtpa at present at an investment of Rs 4000 crore. Besides, it will have a captive power plant (CPP) of 1215mw at an investment of Rs 4400 crore.

358 pending cases disposed in lok adalat

The Statesman, Sept 30, 2008

BHAWANIPATNA, Sept. 29: A mega state-level lok adalat was organised under the aegis of the Kalahandi district legal aid authority here yesterday.
This apart, legal aid camps were also held at Dharamgarh, Madanpur Rampur, Khariar and Nuapada simultaneously. A total of 358 cases were disposed off in the camp, sources said. Said to be one of the biggest camps held in two decades, the proceedings continued till late evening as there was a huge crowd of litigants. In the camp, 1182 criminal cases, 29 civil, 1683 revenue and 612 forest cases were disposed and fines to the tune of Rs. 5.10 lakh was realised. With the disposing off of 98 banking cases, Rs 12.53 lakh as outstanding loan dues was realised. Also, nine motor vehicle accident claim (MVAC) cases fetched Rs 10.35 lakh towards compensation.
The camp was conducted by the district and sessions judge Mr Prafulla Kumar Panda. The registrar, civil court and secretary, legal aid cell Mr Tribikram Keshari Chinhara co-ordinated the proceedings. n sns

Monday, September 29, 2008

Basudev now earns Rs 12000 a month

The Pioneer, Sept 29, 2008
Pioneer News Service | Bhubaneswar

Basudev Majhi, a youth residing at the rehabilitation colony in Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, is all praise for the Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) for providing educational assistance for completing his ITI training at the State capital. He is now earning Rs 12,000 per month. He says the company has changed his life and he is now leading a happy life with his family.

Basudev has become a role model for the displaced families in the locality. Other displaced families have also been trained and given jobs in the company's aluminium refinery.

A total of 2,500 local people have found gainful employment in the project till date. While about 2,000 people had got direct employment in the refinery, over 2,000 others get indirect income generating opportunities. Vedanta has brought a smile on the face of the people.

This project has not only created employment opportunities for the local residents but extended its support for the peripheral development, which a visitor to the area can well realise. As part of its corporate social responsibility, Vedanta this ongoing exercise, VAL has adopted all the 400 anganwadis in six blocks of Kalahandi district under the project Bal Chetana in association with the Sterlite Foundation and the Government of Orissa through private-public partnership.

The project looks after more than 40,000 children. More than 16,000 children are getting education at free of cost. The total expenditure on child welfare activities is over Rs 15 crore.

Vedanta has also started the VAL Sasya Silpa Abhiyan, an initiative of vegetable cultivation, in collaboration with the Asian Institute of Sustainable Development to give a boost to agriculture in the area. In an area of 550 acres of land, nearly 550 farmers from 45 villages are participating in the project as partners. The company bears the expenses for irrigation and has provided diesel pump sets to the farmers.

Vedanta also offers various self-employment schemes for the villagers, especially the womenfolk. Women self-help groups have been started under public-private partnership system for the Swastha Parivar project.

The company is providing improved livelihood through 99 SHGs, including 37 for women. It has opened 35 childcare centres where 1,300 children are getting education. It has started Project Ujjala to provide infrastructure facilities for electrification of 18 peripheral villages.

Besides, the company has planned to set up a centralised kitchen under the Nandi Foundation Programme to provide cooked food free of cost to schoolchildren of the district. "Initially, more 16,000 children will be benefited under the programme," said VAL COO Mukesh Kumar.

VAL has also planned to spend Rs 12.2 crore for development of tribals. It has already spent Rs 1.9 crore for development of Dongaria Kandhas at Niyamgiri. It is envisaged that once the project is completed, it will turn as a big catalyst for industrial development in the region.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

IAY houses for Orissa flood victims, death toll mounts to 68

Press Trust of India, Sept 27, 2008

Bhubaneswar, Sept 27 (PTI) With nearly 1.5 lakh houses damaged in Orissa flood, the state government today announced plans to provide houses to all those living Below Poverty Line (BPL) under Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) while the death toll today mounted to 68.
"The poor people whose houses are washed away or severely damaged in the flood will be provided houses under IAY," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said after reviewing the relief and restoration work, adding the government had asked the Centre to sanction at least two lakh IAY houses for the flood victims.

Patnaik said the government would provide houses to the poor people under its own scheme, titled 'Mo Kudia' in case the Centre did not give the special IAY houses.

The state government also announced sand cast subsidy at the rate of Rs 6,000 per hectare. Patnaik said NREGS funds would also be utilised for clearing sand accumulation from agricultural field.

According to Revenue secretary GVV Sarma, the death toll increased to 68 after fresh reports of deaths came from Kendrapara and Jajpur districts.

While highest toll was reported from Cuttack and Kendrapara districts with 15 deaths, eight casulties were reported from Puri district followed by seven in Jajpur, four each from Bhadrak and Kalahandi districts, three each from Angul, Bolangir and Rayagada districts.

Khurda and Jagatsinghpur districts reported two deaths while one person each died in Keonjhar and Sambalpur districts. PTI

Thursday, September 25, 2008

4 missing in Kalahandi dist

Expressbuzz, Sept 25, 2008

BHAWANIPATNA: The floods have caused immense damage to life and property as per the tentative assessment of the district administration.

The report stated that four persons were missing after being washed away by the flood in the district. They have been identified as Haribandhu Patra of Urladani, Suratha Sahu of Malpada and Rasa Mahananda of Dhanramal and Krupasindhu Majhi of Khairmal village.

The block-level officers and tehasildars have been asked by the district administration to conduct an inquiry about the missing or dead persons for disbursement of compensation.

The district unit of Agriculture Department said in its report that paddy crop over 19,254 hectares and other crops on 3,214 hectares have been submerged.

Similarly, the PWD Department has assessed that Rs 16 crore is needed to repair the damaged roads. The RD Department has estimated that Rs 6.32 crore is required for restoration of damaged roads.

Damage has also been found in RWSS drinking water supply systems and lift irrigation points in various parts of the district. However, Irrigation and Minor Irrigation departments are yet to submit the damage assessment report and funds required.

Infant and maternal mortality rates may go down

Expressbuzz, Sept 25, 2008

BHUBANESWAR: As Designed by the health planners to fight infant mortality and maternal mortality rates, the future seems bright for Orissa, if one goes by the recent progress of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

Following an analysis by the mid-term review team (MRT) from New Delhi, it was learnt that the health care centres across the State had registered an increase in 23 percent more institutional deliveries (IDs) last year and the Janani Surakshya Yojana (JSY) has added 7.44 lakh more beneficiaries to its list.

According to sources at NRHM State Directorate, the IMR target by 2010 is 50 deaths per 1000 live births, whereas currently it is around ‘58’ as claimed by the authorities. However according to the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-I), it was 112 during 1992-93, 81 during NFHS-II in 1998-99 and 65 during NFHS-III in 2005-06.

ID according to NFHS-I (1992-’93) was only 14 percent and it rose to 39 percent during NFHS-III during 2005-’06. However, the health management information system (HMIS) of the State Health Department has reportedly shown 62 percent of the IDs in 2007-08, a rise of 23 percent in two years corresponding to its previous year data of 46.3 percent.

The betterment of the mother and child health is visible from the fact that as per NFHS-III data 61 percent mothers went for ante-natal checkup and as per HMIS (2007-’08) figure it was around 91.

Total fertility rate (child-bearing capability of a woman) has also come down from 2.9 during NFHS-I to 2.4 during NFHS-III and the target by 2010 is 2.1, mission directorate sources added.

The rise in complete immunisation programme is up 22 percent in 2006 from its previous 52 percent during 2005, whereas the target for 2010 is 85 percent. Also according to the Sample Registration System 1998, the MMR (death per 100,000 live births) was 367 and has come down to 358 in 2003.

Apart from these initiatives, sick newborn care units (SNCUs) are being set up in eight district headquarter hospitals and 25 block hospitals to fight IMR and nutrition rehabilitation centres have started functioning in Mayurbhanj and Kalahandi districts.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Plea of not getting land for Central varsity in Kalahandi false

The Pioneer, Sept 24, 2008
Pioneer News Service | Bhubaneswar

To divert public demand of a Rs 350-crore Central University in Kalahandi since two decades, the State Government is rather generating false propaganda saying that the district does not have land for a Central University though there are plenty of lands available in Kalahandi, alleged leading non-resident Oriya Digambara Patra.

Patra, who is Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the American University in Beirut, in a letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, has stated that if the State and Central Governments could use forestland, unused land and even agricultural land for IIT, Central University, industries in other parts of the State and country, it is foolish to argue that such a step cannot be taken in Kalahandi.

The State Government is providing thousands of acres of lands to Posco, Arcelor-Mittal, Vedanta, Tatas, Jindal and Bhushan, across the State which are not only agricultural, private and Government lands but also large section of the lands acquired for industrialisation in the State comes under forest lands.

Kalahandi has a geographical area of 7920 sqkm out of which 2538 sqkm (32 per cent) are forest land (private independent sources claim in actual only 10-18 per cent are left over as forest land in Kalahandi by now due to deforestation and rest of the forest lands are only unused land by now (though officially it belongs to Forest Department).

Despite high population and congestion major cities like Pune, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Chennai, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Mumbai, Delhi can find land for establishing new Central institutes, universities in their vicinity for development, then it is useless to repeat Orissa Government cannot find land in Kalahandi and it can find in Koraput when Kalahandi has plenty of land like but not limited to forest and unused lands in Karlapada and Jaring near Bhawanipatna and agricultural land near its vicinity, stated Patra.

The population density of Kalahandi is 169 per sq km, much less than the State (236 per sqkm) than Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Cuttack. Vedanta Alumina could easily acquire 2000 acres of land in Kalahandi for its refinery therefore arguing Kalahandi does not have 500 acres of land for a central University is based on false propaganda, political ill motivation and ignorance towards Kalahandi rather than factual data by the State Government, alleged Patra.

Orissa flood toll 35, Patil announces Rs.5 bn relief

Hindustantimes, Sept 24, 2008

Floods in the Mahanadi river and its tributaries following incessant rains have claimed 35 lives with six deaths reported on Tuesday. Home Minister Shivraj Patil announced preliminary assistance of Rs5 billion (Rs.500 crore) for the victims after making an aerial survey of the affected areas.

The floods have affected about four million people in 18 of Orissa's 30 districts and of them 125,000 still remain marooned, according to state government officials.

"It is a very big flood and has done a lot of damage," Patil told reporters in Bhubaneswar. The central government will provide all assistance to the state without any political consideration, he said.

Earlier in the day, he made an aerial survey of the affected areas with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and senior congress leaders.

The Orissa government submitted a memorandum to Patil seeking initial financial assistance of Rs.24.54 billion (Rs.2,454.35 crore) to carry out relief and restoration work in the affected areas, an official of the Chief Minister's Office said.

Relief and rescue officials were yet to reach some villages because of heavy currents that make it difficult for boats to ply, Revenue Secretary GV Venugopala Sarma admitted.

"The situation has improved in some places but it continues to remain grim in some areas of the coastal districts of Cuttack, Puri, Kendrapada and Jagatsinghpur," Sarma told IANS.

Navy personnel and paramilitary forces on Tuesday joined the relief and rescue mission, hoping to reach the marooned people.

About 300,000 people evacuated in the past five days have been staying in high-rise buildings, schools and cyclone shelters after their houses were destroyed.

The floods have destroyed paddy crops in over 400,000 hectares in the state.

"I was planning to repay a loan of Rs 20,000 that I had taken from the local bank but now every thing is lost," Sukru Bhoi, a farmer in western Orissa's Boudh district, told IANS on phone. "I do not know how to recover the loss. It is hopeless," he said.

Arabinda Kumar Padhee, director of the agriculture and food production department, told IANS: "At least 400,000 hectares of crop lands have been submerged in the state.

"The worst-hit are the western districts of Bolangir, Kalahandi and Budah and the coastal districts of Kendrapada, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur, Puri and Bhadrak."

The man, his death, and the madness

Indian Express, Sept 24, 2008

Jalespeta (Kandhamal), September 23 The ramshackle wooden gate that used to swing open for visitors to the ashram no longer stands wide open. There is a deceptive calm in the air as more than half-a-dozen CRPF men wielding AK-47s and INSAS rifles stare at every visitor to the Shankaracharya Kanyashram at Jalespeta in Kandhamal with suspicion. Gaunt sal trees dotting the picturesque mountainous landscape only add to the atmosphere.

A month after the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, as Orissa continues to reel under a spiral of violence, the Kanyashram where the 84-year-old was gunned down along with three of his associates and the guardian of a girl inmate has fallen silent. The room in which the massacre happened on August 23 is locked. Outside sits a garlanded photograph of Saraswati. While students in saffron frocks and shirts go about their daily routine, the usual hubbub is missing from the ashram, which is a residential Sanskrit school for poor tribal girls.

The 199 girl students from the five tribal-dominated districts of Kandhamal, Gajapati, Raygada, Koraput and Kalahandi and the managers of the ashram are outraged over the police “inaction” and inability to hunt down his killers. “People in the entire district considered him a gharara loka (our own man). If only the former SP had provided adequate security, his life would have perhaps been saved. It’s natural that everyone is angry with the police and the administration,” says Kabichandra Nath, an associate of Saraswati and the new man in-charge of the Kanyashram.

Laxmanananda, a Dalit, first came to Jalespeta in Tumudibandha block in 1989, almost two decades after he arrived at Chakapada, his first port of call in the same district. Though Chakapada remained the focus of his anti-proselytisation and anti-cow slaughter activities, he slowly restricted himself to Jalespeta Kanyashram, devoting himself to the better management of the residential school.

In Orissa, ghosts come to life

Business Standard, Sept 24, 2008

Few social sector schemes have drawn so much flak as the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s ambitious National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, now in its third year. Implemented all over the country, it seeks to give employment for a specific number of days every year in the construction of rural infrastructure including roads, wells and check dams. A large chunk of the money, its detractors allege, has gone into a black hole. In fact, there have even been calls to jettison the programme altogether. What is the final verdict? While a Planning Commission study shows that NREGP has done better than the earlier job schemes, another study carried out by the National Council of Applied Economic Research says it has flopped and the poorest of the lot have gained little access to the promised goodies. Another study by the government-owned National Institute of Rural Development gives a doomsday picture of the scheme for 2006-07, though it found things took a turn for the better the following year. A three-part series does a reality check on the scheme:

The numbers tell without any ambiguity how deep the rot runs in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme. A study of the scheme carried out by the National Institute of Rural Development in Orissa says that in 2006-07, there were 31 per cent ghost workers, 53 per cent ghost mandays and 58 per cent ghost wages.

Clearly, it was nothing more than a ghost scheme and a cruel joke for the majority of the rural poor in the region covered, which includes the ultra-poor districts of Koraput, Kalahandi and Bolangir.

The only good news is that the ghosts are now being replaced by real people. The study has found that in 2007-08, the number of fake workers reduced to 8.6 per cent, fake mandays to 23 per cent and fake wages to 38 per cent. Pilferage may be down but it is till very high. It should make the alarm bells ring for the minders of the scheme as well as those entrusted with its execution.

The institute had been asked by the state government to survey 19 districts and 40 gram panchayats to inquire into the findings of various independent surveys which had indicated all was not well with the ambitious rural jobs scheme.

Earlier surveys were done by teams led by economist Jean Dreze and Reetika Khera and another by activist Parshuram Ray. While Ray said there was a leakage of Rs 500 crore from the scheme in 2006-07, Dreze’s team said records were poorly maintained and there was a total lack of transparency. Ray says he feels vindicated by the NIRD study which was done through a massive social audit involving 40 NGOs.

On his part, NIRD Project Director S Rajakutty says the improvement in 2007-08 should not be ignored: “Not only has the leakage reduced to half, the other positive thing is that 95 per cent of the works reported even in the earlier year were actually taken up.” He adds in his report that the leakages can be attributed to irregular entry, systemic deficiencies and irregular practices.

There are several instances of taxpayers’ money not spent judiciously. Rajakutty gives the instance of one district which built a stadium using the money meant for NREGP! Another big leakage source was the large number of rural concrete and cement roads taken up under the scheme in the state. As these are highly capital-intensive, it meant the NREGP rule of using 60 per cent of the money for wages and only 40 per cent for material was openly flouted.

The gram panchayats, which are supposed to implement this project, justify this saying that when stones are used for roads, workers are paid for cutting them. The only difference is that these workers don’t have job cards. So the money is actually being paid to people!

While the scheme has cut down fake numbers, it has also shed the actual workers this year, says the NIRD report. In fact, the sample size of NIRD shrank from 4,237 in 2006-07 to 1,902 in 2007-08 and the number of workers who actually worked came down to 1,739 from 2,455 during the period.

Orissa Government has now asked NIRD to extend the study to 25 districts, taking two panchayats in each block. A total of 520 social audits are to be done followed by another after a year. The audits are not only about NREGP schemes but also of the public distribution system and the Integrated Child Development Scheme.

Clearly, a social audit of all such schemes is in order if the benefit has to reach the poorest of the poor.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Diversion: Vegetable prices go through the roof

Expressbuzz, Sept 23, 2008

JEYPORE: The vegetable prices have hit peak in Koraput district due to diversion of the produce from Koraput district to the flood-hit coastal and western Orissa districts.

Essential commodities and vegetables of Koraput district are hardly exported to the coastal and other districts of Orissa in normal days and the vegetables are within the reach of the common man in various markets of Jeypore and Koraput sub-divisions even in monsoon season.

This year the prices have gone through the roof after being transported to Kalahandi, Sambalpur, Balangiri, Cuttack and Khurda districts. For the last five days, the vegetable markets of Borrigumma, Semiliguda, Pottangi, Nandapur and Laxmipur, the big vegetable markets in KBK districts are running with minimum stock.

The locals now depend on the neighbouring Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh markets due to which the prices of the commonly used vegetables have gone up by 10 times.

Even the buses to neighbouring flood-affected areas are found transporting vegetables to the flood-affected areas.

Sources said the transportation would continue till Durga Puja as the local demand would be met after the arrival of winter vegetables from tribal villages.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mining Problems in India's Orissa

Energy Bangla, Bangladesh, Sept 22, 2008

The Indian Supreme Court cleared two major projects in Orissa - Vedanta's bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri Hills and POSCO's steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district. POSCO will now be able to buy iron ore in the market as well as from Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) for the plant.

The Vedanta clearance was considered to be just a matter of time since the apex court had already stated last year that it was not against the project in principle. Even then the verdict has been received with shock and anger by activists campaigning against Vedanta's bid to mine the hills.

Prominent Green Kalahandi activist and president of Kalahandi Sachetan Nagrik Manch, Siddhartha Nayak said it was shocking to learn that Vedanta has finally got the mining rights in Niyamgiri from Supreme Court. "But the Dongria Kondhs living in the hills are not going to allow this. We do not rule out the possibility of a bloody struggle. The final battle for Niyamgiri will be fought by the local Kondhs."

Another prominent activist and former chairman of Lanjigarh block, Khirabdi Sahu said, "This doesn't augur well for the area. We will resort to agitation and not allow mining under any circumstances. We will resort to economic blockade and not let them take anything from the hills. The Dongria Kondhs are determined to protect their hills from outside invasion and we will support them." Vedanta's alumina refinery is being developed in Lanjigarh. Former union minister and Green Kalahandi president, Bhakta Charan Das said Supreme Court's go-ahead to the Starlit was very unfortunate. "It means justice has failed to protect Niyamgiri which is full of exotic flora and fauna. The court should have ensured that Niyamgiri's forest wealth, ecology and the life style and livelihood of the Dongria Kondhs is not affected in any manner. After this we can never be sure if the natural wealth of this country will remain safe," he said. Das described the verdict as the victory of corporate houses and the defeat of people fighting to preserve the environment and their culture. "We will take the matter to the court of people," he said making it clear that people were not going to give up without a fight. On the other hand, minister of state for steel and mines shied away from commenting on the issue saying it would not be wise on his part to open his mouth without going through the text of the judgement. "I am also trying to get in touch with our departmental secretary. Let me talk to them and then decide what to say." The verdict states that Vedanta Resources' Indian subsidiary, Sterlite India Ltd, can set up a bauxite mine which will feed its refinery in Lanjigarh.

The case had last come up before the Forest Bench on July 25 when Sterlite, the state of Orissa and OMC had objected to various recommendations of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC). The Supreme Court-appointed body had suggested the special purpose vehicle (SPV) which was to be responsible for tribal area development, also shoulder the job of mining bauxite. On August 8, the Supreme Court bench decided that mining would be done according to the agreement between Sterlite and OMC wherein the latter would mine bauxite and sell it to Sterlite. The other contentious point, the calculation of the price of bauxite was not clearly stated in the judgement. CEC's recommendation of using the price of alumina on the London Metal Exchange was discarded by the Bench, which went with its November 2007 ruling.

In this ruling, the Bench had said that starting from April 2007, five per cent of the annual profit before tax and interest or Rs 10 crore, whichever was higher, would be earmarked for tribal area development. And this money would be handled by SPV. The accounts of the body would to be prepared by the auditors of OMC and be audited by Orissa's Auditor General. The Supreme Court bench however did not explicitly state the mechanism of calculating the five per cent profit. Another point which was raised at the July hearing too remains unclear - as to whether the profit calculation would be on just the mine's profits or include the refinery's profit.

The rehabilitation package mentioned in the November 2007 ruling was accepted by Sterlite India. The company will have to shell out a one-time payment of Rs 12 crore for tribal development, Rs 55 crore for net present value of forest, Rs 50.53 crore for wildlife management in the Niyamgiri hills.

In the case of POSCO, the court was to have a detailed hearing on August 8 on the CEC's November 2007 report. There were however no arguments heard, instead the judgement was given, granting POSCO the forest clearance it needed. The CEC report assessed the forest clearance granted to POSCO by the forest advisory committee (FAC) of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). The report had noted that the diversion of forest land for the project should be considered in total, instead of in a piecemeal fashion for each part of the project such as the mine, the refinery and the captive port. CEC had recommended that an independent expert committee assess the impact of cutting such a large number of trees and suggest mitigation measures.

The bench has granted the forest clearance for the project. Since POSCO has already obtained the essential environmental clearance from the MoEF, this was the last hurdle, which too has been crossed. The go ahead has evoked mixed reactions in the state. While company and government officials appear distinctly happy with the development, the people in the project area, though divided into camps, are in no mood to let the work of land acquisition proceed unless their demands are met. While POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) leader, Abhay Sahu made it clear that the verdict will have no impact on the agitation against the company which will not be allowed to acquire even an inch of land, even the leader of the United Action Committee (UAC) formed by the anti-PPSS groups, made it clear that they won't allow land acquisition unless their demands were met.

UAC member and sarpanch of Gadkujang panchayat, Nakul Sahu said ever since the land survey conducted by the government in February-March this year, there has been no talk between the people affected by the project and the government and the company. "Now that they will be going for land acquisition at full throttle, we want our main demands - job for one member of each project affected family by the project and compensation at the rate of Rs 1.5 lakh per acre (0.4 ha) for the forestland encroached by people - to be met. If they don't agree to this we will not allow land acquisition and the project to come up. There will be agitation against the company."

Tamil Pradhan, another UAC member said that Supreme Court verdict had in a way opened a fresh channel for negotiation between the people and the company but POSCO must know that people were not going back on the demands for compensation and jobs for all the project affected families numbering around 4,000. Said the leader "This must happen before the company starts acquiring land. If they don't agree, we will stop them from acquiring land through democratic means with the consent of the people."

PPSS chief Abhay Sahu sounded much more belligerent. "The Supreme Court judgement only relates to the procedural problems that the government and the company were facing in land acquisition since forest land was also involved.

But this is not going to have any bearing on the people's resolve not to concede even an inch of forest land for the project. The government, by promising land to the company, has already exhausted its options but people have not," said Sahu. Asked whether the agitation could turn violent if attempt was made to acquire land against people's wishes, the PPSS chief said, "It all depends on how the government handles the situation." POSCO sources said the company was pleased with the decision of the Supreme Court as this was a vital clearance, which would facilitate the progress of the project. "Now with the decision of the Supreme Court the work on land acquisition can be expedited," they said adding that POSCO wanted to develop the Greenfield project with the support of the people, specially the local community in Jagatsinghpur.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

58 pc polling in Bhawanipatna Municipality

The Pioneer, Sept 20, 2008
Pionner News Service Bhawanipatna

Out of 48, 035 voters in Bhawanipatna Municipality, over 27, 695 voters from 20 wards cast their votes in the municipal election held on Friday. Similarly, 9,141 voters out of total 12, 041 voters in Junagarh NAC and 8, 926 voters out of total 12,234 voters in Kesinga NAC reportedly cast their votes, the results for which will be declared on Saturday.
According to Kalahandi Collector R Santhagopalan, polling for Kesinga NAC was over 76. 88 percent and that for Junagarh NAC and Bhawanipatna Municipality were 72.96 percent and 57.65 percent respectively.

Primary education keeps CM's flag flying high: Survey

The Pioneer, Sept 20, 2008
Santanu Barad Berhampur

It's the growth of primary education in the State that keeps the flag of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik high, if the survey reports of the weekly magazine- India Today is taken into account.
The special issue of the weekly dated September 22 that takes 'State of the States' as the cover story covering all most every sector to present life indicators in the States across India and presents an exclusive report on India's best and worst Lok Sabha constituencies.
The survey report of the magazine presents a brighter side of the State particularly in the education sector mentioning Orissa as the fastest mover in primary education. The survey takes literary rate, proportion of 10-plus children having completed primary education, ratio of girls to boys enrolled in schools, teacher-pupil ratio, total expenditure on primary-plus middle school or population as variables and ranks the State of Orissa 'Ten' among the twenty big States of the country. It suggests Orissa's position in primary education at tenth in 2008, fifteenth in 2007, tenth in 2006 and thirteenth in 2005. The report ranks Himachal Pradesh as no 'one' among the States, however suggests Orissa is the fastest mover mentioning, "Realisation of the role of education in economic growth has fuelled higher spending in improving access to education to empower the masses to benefit from emerging opportunities".
And for the relief of Naveen, the survey report also keeps Orissa among good States as far as the law and order situation is concerned. Orissa's position is thirteenth among the big twenty States and the report keeps Orissa among the States that maintain a constant rank through these four years from 2004 to 2008. To present this report, the magazine has taken actual strength of civil policemen/lakh population, percentage of pending cases (under Indian Penal Code), total cognizable crimes,incidences of murder, kidnapping, rape and molestation as variables.
One of the major embarrassing fact presented through this survey is the position of Parliamentary constituencies in which the Nabarangpur (ST) tops among the top 10 from bottom in the list of 543 constituencies in India and as many as nine constituencies of the State have been placed among the worst constituencies. Nabrangpur is being ranked no- 543 in socio- economic factor and 495 so far as the infrastructure is concerned. Following it is the Koraput (ST) parliamentary constituency that has been ranked at no- 542, while Kalahandi has been ranked at 539. The list follows ranking Mayurbhanj (ST)- 528, Keonjhar (ST)- 504, Kandhamal- 500, Bolangir- 497, Berhampur- 467 and Sambalpur at no- 461 rank.
One respite to the ruling party and party supremo of the BJD, Naveen Patnaik is that the report does not mentions the position of Aska Parliamentary seat- home to Assembly constituency of BJD supremo and Aska has been ranked as no- 436 in socio economic ladder and no-348 for its infrastructure. Berhampur, the constituency of the lone union minister of Orissa Chandra Sekhar Sahu has been placed at 467 by the survey report. And Cuttack has been ranked at 98 among the best Parliamentary constituencies in the country as per the survey report that took several variables and taking most of the data from the Delimitation Commission which itself used Census 2001.

'8 IAS officers guilty of Rs 500 cr NREG scam'

The Pioneer, Sept 20, 2008
Pionner News Service Bhubaneswar

The Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) has sought immediate dismissal of eight IAS officers for their alleged conspiracy to cover up the "Rs 500-crore NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) scam in Orissa." The New Delhi-based NGO has faxed a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking action against these officers.
As stated CEFS Director Parshuram Rai, the 'conspiracy' of the officials is apparent in view of the recently released National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) Social Audit report, which found massive corruption and serious irregularities in the implementation of the NREGS in the State. The report says that during 2006-07 and 2007-08, "more than 58 per cent of the reported wage payments are bogus." "If we take 2006-07 alone, 67 per cent of the reported wage payments did not reach workers," it says, while claiming that its own survey too had said exactly this.
The CEFS has pointed that as per the NIRD report, 88 per cent of the reported wage payments are bogus in Kalahandi district, 89 per cent in Malkangiri district, 75 per cent in Koraput, Keonjhar and Dhenkanal districts, 73 per cent in Nawarangpur district, 59 per cent in Nuapada district, 57 per cent in Balangir district and 53 per cent in Rayagada district.
According to the NIRD report, "It is a matter of concern that all the KBK districts which are the poorest and backward districts in the State showed worst record of performance. In the case of KBK region (Balangir, Kalahandi, Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Nuapada), only 26 per cent of the reported wage payments actually reached workers." This means that in the KBK region 74 per cent of the reported wage payments were siphoned off, according to Rai.
The CEFS carried out a rapid assessment of the performance of the NREGS in the State during May-June 2007. The survey was conducted in 100 villages spread over six districts of the KBK region - Balangir, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Koraput, Nabarangpur and Rayagada. About 75 per cent of the NREGS funds in the KBK districts were siphoned off during 2006-07.
"However, when we extrapolated this figure for the whole State, we had said that of Rs 733 crore spent under the NREGS in Orissa, about Rs 500 crore (67 per cent) was siphoned off," Rai said.
The CEFS survey report was formally released on August 17, 2007 and on August 20, 2007, after which the Chief Minister called a high-level meeting and ordered an assessment of the NREGS works by the Hyderabad-based NIRD. The NIRD social audit report, which was submitted to the Government about a month ago, confirmed almost everything that was revealed in the CEFS survey. The NIRD conducted its survey through social audit in 40 gram panchayats selected in 19 districts.
Immediately after the release of the CEFS report, the Union Ministry of Rural Development had asked the State Government to conduct a detailed official inquiry into the Rs 500-crore NREGS scam. After the probe, the State Government informed the Ministry that "there is no discrepancy between the work done, the records kept and the payment according to muster roll. No case of misappropriation was noticed. Quality of work was found to be good."
"This inquiry report had also stated that CEFS survey findings were bogus and baseless. This inquiry was reportedly conducted by RN Das (Secretary-cum-Commissioner, Department of Panchayati Raj, Orissa Government, Saswat Mishra (Director, Special Projects, Department of Panchayati Raj, and the then district Collectors of Balangir, Kalahandi, Koraput, Nuapada, Nabarangpur and Rayagada," Rai has said in his statement.
"In the light of the NIRD social audit report, it is clear that every single finding of the CEFS survey report was correct and the Orissa Government's official inquiry team submitted an absolutely false and fabricated report to MoRD giving clean chit to all the guilty officials of Orissa. Therefore, all the eight IAS officers of this inquiry team are not only guilty of conspiracy to cover up the Rs 500-crore NREGS scam and thereby depriving millions of poor and hungry citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed right to employment, they have also misled the whole nation in general and the Government of India (MoRD) in particular," Rai has stated.

Orissa flood situation grim, thousands evacuated

NDTV, Sept 19, 2008

The flood situation in Orissa continues to be grim with the waters of the Mahanadi river surging towards more areas. At least 15 of the 30 districts in the state are already affected. Thousands of people have been evacuated, and the coming hours are crucial.Air Force men rescuing people marooned in this village in Boudh district. Most people of Manikpur left for safer places as floodwater entered the village four days ago. But 25 of them chose to stay back on rooftops, hoping the water will recede. But that didn't happen.A victim rescued from Manikpur said that he had made desperate calls from his mobile, which was running out of battery for help because there was no escape route for 25 of them. Over 3000 people in Kalahandi, Balangir, Sonepur and Boudh districts in western Orissa have been marooned for the last three days. But a much bigger threat is building up here at Mundli barrage the last check-point for the surging floodwaters in Orissa's biggest river, the Mahanadi.In 1982, an inflow of nearly 16 lakh cusecs had breached embankments and caused large saale devastation across coastal Orissa. This time it appears to be worse. Engineer, Mundli barrage said that the floodwater inflow had touched 14 lakh cusec and the volume which was growing at 20,000 cusec per hour could exceed even 16 lakhs.But the state government claims it is all set to tackle the challenge. Chief Minister of Orissa Naveen Patnaik has said that all the arrangements have been made for rescue, relief and medical facilities in the four coastal districts. Experts say the peak flood in Mahanadi is expected around Saturday morning. There are fears it could spell trouble at 80 vulnerable points in Cuttack, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara, the four most flood-prone districts. But things may ease up if minor breaches here and there would reduce the pressure.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Devastating flood in Mahanadi feared

The Hindu, Spet 18, 2008

BHUBANESWAR: Apprehending a devastating flood in the Mahanadi river system, the State Government on Thursday asked various wings of the administration to remain alert to the situation.

Emerging from a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to take stock of the situation at the Secretariat, Chief Secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathy said the coming flood could be worse than the one that had taken place in 2001.

In 2001, about 14 lakh cusecs of water was passing through Mundali. However, water resource department sources said this time water discharge from the same site would cross 15 lakh cusecs.

Six persons were killed when heavy rain lashed many parts of the State during last 72 hours under the influence of deep depression. One girl could not be rescued in Sambalpur when a two-storeyed building collapsed. As many as 10 persons were said to be missing in Sonepur, Bolangir and Mayurbhanj districts.

Hirakud level

Water level at the Hirakud reservoir has risen to 629.97 ft against its capacity of 630 ft. To manage the emergency situations about 22 gates had been opened. While inflow of water into reservoir was measured to be 4,00,020 cusecs, its outflow was 3,59,758 cusecs.

Gravity of the situation could be imagined from the fact that at Khairmal 13.50 lakh cusecs water was flowing down at 6 PM on Thursday. Tel, a major tributary of Mahanadi, was adding 11.84 lakh cusecs of water at Patharala.

About 10.80 lakh cusecs of water was measured at Barmul and 9.48 lakh cusecs at Mundali. The State Government was keeping fingers crossed as the situation was becoming worse due to heavy rains in Chhatisgarh. More than 75 per cent of the upper catchment area of Mahanadi falls in Orissa.

At all the three river gauge sites in Mahanadi river system, water was rising fast and closing in the danger mark. At Anandpur and Akhuapada in Baitarani river system, water was flowing above danger mark.

Meanwhile, the State Government declared closure of all schools and colleges for two days in Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack, Kendrapara and Puri disricts in view of the apprehended menace.

People in low-lying areas were advised to shift to safer places and district officials were mobilizing relief materials and manpower to meet the situation.

The Water Resource Department has deputed 40 engineers to survey vulnerable points along the Mahanadi river system and inform the control room immediately. The Water Resource Secretary was asked to review the situation every six hours.

The State Government had also released necessary funds to different districts to meet exigencies.

Revenue and Disaster Management department sources said roads were cut off in Rayagada, Soneur, Sambalpur, Kalahandi and Cuttack districts.

Students' union seeks Central varsity in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, Sept 18, 2008
Students' union seeks Central varsity in Kalahandi

Balangir: The All Koshal Students' Union has demanded setting up of a Central University in Kalahandi district and to declare the University College of Engineering as deemed university. Padma Koshal presided over the meeting. While addressing the gathering of students' representatives, the president of Koshal Kranti Dal Promod Mishra urged the student leaders to fight for a separate Koshal State. Dolamini Pradhan and others addressed the gathering and the meeting adopted a 30-point resolution.

Major flood threatens to engulf Orissa

Expressindia, Sept 18, 2008

Bhubaneswar, September 18: Heavy rains in its lower catchments has triggered a major flood situation in the Mahanadi system in Orissa as high alert was sounded in four coastal districts, official sources said on Thursday.
"We are apprehending a major flood in the Mahanadi system as a huge volume of water is heading downstream," Chief Secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathy told reporters in Bhubaneswar.

Quoting Water Resources Department sources, Tripathy said, 14 lakh cusecs of water was expected to reach the Naraj delta head by Friday morning.

The embankments of the Mahanadi and its branches criss-crossing the coastal deltaic plains have a capacity to safely contain about 12 lakh cusecs of water, but if it is more then it could cause problems, he said.

While the Hirakud reservoir, built on the Mahanadi, was receiving 3,49,231 cusecs of water following heavy rains in Chhattisgarh, several sluices were opened to drain out 2,59,697 cusecs.

"More sluices are likely to be opened," Hirakud control room sources said.

The flood was caused by heavy rains in the Mahanadi's lower catchment area below the Hirakud dam spread over the undivided Kalahandi and Balangir districts, the sources said.

2 killed, thousands affected as heavy rain hits Orissa

Times of India, Spet 17, 2008

BHUBANESWAR: At least two people were killed and thousands affected in rain-related incidents as heavy downpour pounded coastal Orissa on Wednesday, raising fears of floods in major rivers including Mahanadi.

With southwest monsoon being active over the state, extremely heavy rainfall was recorded in Baitarani and lower Brahmani catchments.

Besides, the catchment areas of Mahanadi, Baitarani, Rusikulya, Subarnarekha and other major rivers also received heavy to very heavy rainfall, officials said adding the heavy downpour due to deep depression which lay centered near Keonjhar also contributed towards rise in water level.

While one Jaladhar Jena of Chhaila village under Bhandaripokhari police station area in Bhadrak district died last night due to house collapse, another person was killed in Jajpur district also in wall collapse, the Special Relief Commissioner's office here said.

Adding to the worries of the people, many seaside villages in Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Balasore and Bhadrak districts were swept away by tidal wave which caused breaches in several saline embankments and left a large number of villagers marooned, official sources said.

"Twelve blocks in four districts like Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur and Jagatsinghpur were submerged. There has been report of submergence in Keonjhar district also," said Special Relief Commissioner N K Sunadaray.

Rivers like Hati, Tel and Ret were in spate in Kalahandi and neighbouring districts, while Bansadhara was almost touching the danger mark of 84 metre at Gunupur in Rayagada district, they said.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vedanta to spend US$9.8bn to boost aluminium capacity

India Infoline, Sept 9, 2008
The estimated investment in the aluminium smelter projects is US$5.65 bn for the Jharsuguda II Project and US$2bn for the Korba III Project over four years

Vedanta Resources Plc on Tuesday announced a US$9.8bn investment programme to increase its fully integrated aluminium smelting capacity to nearly 2.6mn tons per annum ( mtpa) by 2012. Upon completion, Vedanta is expected to be Asia's largest and among the top five integrated producers of aluminium worldwide.

India is positioned to become one of the world's largest producers of aluminium, with the 6th largest reserves of bauxite globally of 2.3bn tons and the fourth largest reserves of coal worldwide of over 250 bn tons. Of these reserves, over 1.4bn tons of bauxite and 62m n tons of coal reserves are co-located in Orissa alone. Vedanta's existing presence in the region, together with its excellent track record of executing projects ahead of time and at low capital costs, make it ideally placed to lead the development of these abundant bauxite and coal reserves.

India also has the benefit of a fast growing domestic market with close proximity to the high growth markets of Asia and the Middle East. Demand for aluminium globally is projected to grow strongly at a compound rate of 5.7% between 2007 and 2020, with India and China projected to grow at 8.2% and 9.7%, respectively in the same period.

The next phase of brownfield growth projects comprises a 1.25mn tons aluminium smelter project together with an associated 1,980 MW captive thermal power plant in Jharsuguda, Orissa (Jharsuguda II Project), as well as a 325,000 aluminium smelter project together with an associated 1,200 MW captive thermal power plant in Korba, Chattisgarh (Korba III Project). Correspondingly, Vedanta will also increase its alumina production capacity at Lanjigarh from 1.4 mtpa to 5 mtpa.

The Jharsuguda II Project will comprise four pot lines, each containing 336 cells. The first three pot lines with a total capacity of 937.5 kt are scheduled to produce first metal by March 2010 and will be fully commissioned by September 2011. The fourth pot line with a capacity of 312.5 kt will be fully commissioned by September 2012.

The associated captive thermal power plant will comprise three units of 660 MW each. The commissioning of the power plant units is being scheduled to meet the power requirement of the new Jharsuguda smelter. The Korba III Project will comprise one single pot line containing 336 cells and is expected to produce first metal by October 2010. It will be fully commissioned by September 2011.

The associated captive thermal power plant will comprise four units of 300 MW each. The commissioning of the power plant units is being scheduled to meet the power requirement of the new Korba smelter. The increase in alumina production capacity will be achieved by debottlenecking the capacity of the existing 1.4mtpa alumina refinery by an additional 0.6 mtpa by March 2010 and building three new production streams of 1 mtpa each.

The first stream of 1 mtpa is scheduled for commissioning by mid 2010 and all three streams are expected to be completed by mid 2011. The experienced in-house project management teams that implemented our earlier 245 kt brownfield aluminium smelter project at Korba, the 1.4 mtpa Lanjigarh alumina refinery, and the 500 kt greenfield aluminium smelter project at Jharsuguda (one year ahead of schedule), will manage these projects.

The estimated investment in the aluminium smelter projects is US$5.65 bn for the Jharsuguda II Project and US$2bn for the Korba III Project, to be phased over four years. The total additional investment in Lanjigarh is estimated at US$2.15bn and is expected to be phased over three years. This investment includes the cost of building the aluminium smelters and the alumina refinery, the associated power facilities and all necessary infrastructure, including railway networks and water pipelines. The investment will be funded through a combination of existing cash, internal cash accruals and external financing.

"Vedanta is on course to becoming one of the world's leading aluminium companies. We are applying our proven skills at developing projects at industry leading low capital costs and timelines to deliver a step change in the scale of our business. This further enhances our ability to produce aluminium at costs that are in the lowest decile of the industry cost curve," said Anil Agarwal, Chairman, Vedanta. "These projects harness India's high quality wealth of mineral resources to meet the burgeoning demand for aluminium."

Vedanta to Invest $9.8 Billion To Boost Aluminum Capacity

World Street Journal, Sept 10, 2008

LONDON -- Vedanta Resources PLC, an India-focused metals and mining company, said it will invest $9.8 billion to boost its aluminum-smelting capacity in a bid to become one of the world's biggest producers of the metal.

London-listed Vedanta said it aims to increase capacity to 2.6 million metric tons a year by 2012, up from the 396,000 tons it produced in the fiscal year ended in March.

"Upon completion, Vedanta is expected to be Asia's largest and among the top five integrated producers of aluminum world-wide," the company said. The world's biggest aluminum producers include Rio Tinto's Alcan, Russia's United Co. Rusal and Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Inc.

Vedanta's investment plans will focus on projects in India, where the bulk of its operations are. Of the total investment, $5.65 billion will be spent expanding the capacity of the Jharsuguda II project; $2 billion will be spent on the Korba III project, and the remaining $2.15 billion will be invested in expanding the Lanjigarh project.

Vedanta, which has a market capitalization of about £4.5 billion ($7.92 billion), also said the company will be restructured into three commodity-focused divisions: copper, zinc and lead; aluminum and energy; and iron ore. The restructuring will simplify Vedanta's corporate structure, eliminate conflicts of interest, and increase efficiency, the board said. The restructuring is expected to be completed by March.

Merrill Lynch said, "Inasmuch as this is finally a step toward simplification of the group shareholding structure, we view this transaction as a positive."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kalahandi’s alma mater remains neglected

Express buzz, Sept 16, 2008

BHAWANIPATNA: Despite government’s avowed policy of universalisation of education, many old educational institutions are going into the oblivion.

Brajamohan High School of Bhawanipatna, the oldest educational institution of Kalahandi, is now suffering due to the district administration’s apathy. The institute was set up in 1916 by the erstwhile Kalahandi princely state for higher education of the area. Building of the school is treated as one of heritage in the State. Many luminaries of that period like Mayadhar Mansingh and Rajkishore Ray were part of the faculty.

However, after the 70s, performance of the school started declining due to negligence of the authorities. The school building, at present, is dilapidated. The building has developed cracks and there is seepage in walls.

The headmaster post has been vacant since February last and a teacher is in-charge of the post without having any financial power. The students’ strength has come down to 343 from 3,000 four decades ago.

Many government offices have come up on the premises of the school and this has been hampering the school’s ambience.

The office of the Inspector of Schools, District Culture Office and library of the Culture Department are functioning on the premises. Recently, Rs 9 lakh was allotted by the Government for repair of the school building. However, this amount is not sufficient for complete renovation.

The school will celebrate its centenary in a few years. The authorities feel that there is need for concerted effort by the government to develop the school.

Goons rule gem biz: Govt inaction makes way for smuggling

Telegraph (Kokata), Sept 16, 2008

Sambalpur, Sept. 15: Even being the storehouse of gemstones of all varieties, including diamond and ruby, western Orissa cannot contribute much to the state’s revenue with smugglers thriving on a precious business.

Just three days ago, a businessman at Kalahandi was arrested for possessing gemstones worth Rs 15 lakh.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for the fact that every year crores change hand in gemstone business in western districts.

Kantabanjhi in Bolangir district has earned its own fame for smuggling of gemstones. Businessmen from Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and other cities camp here round the year and collect precious gemstones from local agents.

Boudh and Sonepur — the district headquarters — also don’t fall behind. These two places are famous for diamonds collected from the Mahanadi river.

Diamonds collected from the Mahanadi riverbed has huge demand in international markets also.

The trade is also as massive in Deogarh as in other districts. In the inaccessible forest areas of the district, smugglers engage innocent people to explore gemstone, particularly garnet, quartz among others just paying them Rs 30-40 a day. They also work in dangerous condition in pits of 40-50ft deep. But the cream of the business is enjoyed by the smugglers.

Surprisingly, officials of forest, revenue, mining and police departments close their eyes to this trade everywhere. They act only when there is a complaint from the public.

A senior official of the mines department admitted the fact. “It is a tough task for us since we have limited manpower. But we never neglect when we get any specific complaint,” he added.

“If government and its different departments become active, crores could be saved from the hands of the smugglers,” said, Ranjan Patra, a local resident.

Kalahandi Collector appeals for peace

The Pioneer, Sept 16, 2008
Pioneer News Service | Bhawanipatna

Kalahandi Collector R Santhagopalan on Sunday called a peace committee meeting for the second time. He condemned the killing of innocent people by terrorists in New Delhi. He appealed to heads of all religions, political leaders and lawyers to take steps to maintain peace and harmony in the district.

Superintendent of Police Bibeka Rath said police are keeping a close watch on the movement of anti-socials. Kalahandi ADM Chudamani Sethi urged the people to help administration to maintain normalcy.

Hindu Jagaran Sammukhya leader Badri Narayan Pattnaik said the activities of immigrants from Bangladesh in Kalhandi should be closely watched. Harjinder Singh of Congress said that the border areas of Mahulpatna, Ampani and Lanjigarh should be closely monitored by the district administration.

Smuggling of gems continues unabated in western Orissa

The Pioneer, Sept 16, 2008
Nimai Charan Sahu | Sambalpur

Western Orissa is the storehouse of gemstones of all varieties, including the most precious diamond and ruby. For that reason, the presiding deity of Kalahandi district is called Manikeswari (goddess of gems). The name of the deity of Sambalpur, Samaleswari, also comes from sambal (wealth).

But the State Government is hardly deriving benefit of the gemstone deposits in terms of revenue. There is no specific plan to explore these precious stones in an organised way, with the result that the benefit is going to smugglers and corrupt Government servants in different departments.

Just three days back, the police arrested a businessman at Kalahandi possessing gemstones worth Rs 15 lakh. This is just a tip of the iceberg for the fact that every year crores of rupees change hands in the gemstone business in the western districts. Kantabanji in Balangir district in the region is known to be a centre for smuggling of gemstones. Businessmen from Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and other metro cities in the country camp here round the year in luxurious hotels and collect precious gemstones from the local agents.

Boudh and Sonepur, two districts headquarters towns in the western part also do not fall behind. These two places are famous for diamonds collected from river Mahanadi. And diamonds collected from the Mahanadi bed have got a demand in the international market too.

The trade is also as massive at Deogarh as in other districts of the region. In the inaccessible forest areas of the district, smugglers engage innocent people to explore gemstones, particularly gomed, garnet and quartz, just paying them wages of Rs 30 to Rs 40 a day. The locals also work in dangerous conditions in pits of 40 to 50 feet deep. And the cream goes to the smugglers.

Surprisingly, forest, revenue, mines and police personnel close their eyes to the gemstone trade everywhere. They act only when there is a complaint from the public on the basis of stories in newspapers.

When contacted, the Deputy Director of Mines admitted the fact of illegal gemstone trade. "It is a tough task for us since we have limited manpower. But we never neglect when we get any specific complaint," he added.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Liquor seized in Bhawanipatna, six held

The Pioneer, Sept 15, 2008

Bhawanipatna: Directed by ADM Kalahandi Chudamani Sethi, Excise Superintendent Ashok Kumar Tripathy and executive Magistrate Bijayananda Sethi along with the police raided the houses in the village of Bandakutra, Baldiamaal, Chichiguda under the Junagarh block on Friday and seized 139 beer bottles, 196 whisky bottles, 338 litre of country-made liquor. One motorcycle was also seized from them during the raid. Six persons were arrested and forwarded to court.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Atomic Energy Dept to focus on Orissa

Expressbuzz.com, 14th September, 2008
Sanjeev Kumar Patro
14 Sep 2008 05:09:00 AM IST

BHUBANESWAR: With the NSG waiver in pocket and the US Congress approval almost a certainty, the Department of Atomic Energy is already bullish to puruse its target of generating 40,000 MW power by 2040.
And, the focus is on four coastal states of Gujarat, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
Earlier, Orissa was not considered ideal for N-power plants largely due to its thermal power advantage through abundant coal reserves and non-availablity of quality uranium and other raw materials. But now, it is an advantageous location considering inflow of imported quality uranium from Australia and other countries through the sea route.
Further, in Orissa, as per a recent survey of Atomic Energy Directorate, traces of uranium were noticed in 19 locations in Sundargarh, 12 in Sambalpur, four in Bargarh, two in Jharsuguda and one each in Deogarh, Kalahandi, Mayurbhanj and Jajpur districts. The report sniffs a huge possibility of availability of uranium on a commercial scale in Sundargarh and Sambalpur districts.
Promoting it as green energy, Nuclear Power Corporation could push for setting up the largest nuclear plant of India at 6000 MW, which it announced last year.
At present, the power profile of the State is dominated by thermal contributing 880 MW and hydel at 1900 MW. With ever growing demand for electricity, the demand will soar to over 22,000 MW by 2012. The Government, to meet the shortfall worth 15,000 MW, has gone for a massive capacity addition in the thermal sector raising environmental concerns.
Now, thermal power is considered the cheapest energy source and nuclear power would be very costly. According to an international study in coal-based power plants, the fuel cost for generating 1 MW stands at around Rs 444, while for nuclear it is only Rs 220. The operation and maintenance cost for coal stands at Rs 220 and for nuclear at Rs 264. The capital cost is nearly equal, but the decommissioning cost for nuclear stands at Rs 220. So, the total cost per 1 MW energy is Rs 1,440 for nuclear against Rs 1,276 for thermal.
On the flip side, water consumption by nuclear plants is much higher than thermal plants as the former consume 1514-2,725 litre/MW against 1,136-1,817 l/MW by coal. So, stress on water is going to be more.
The balance-sheet is, though, the impact on environment will be positive in Orissa, the cost and water usage could be a nagging problem for the nuclear power plants.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Move to check illegal migration of workers in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, 11th September, 2008

Balangir: The Kalahandi district administration, under the leadership of Collector RS Gopalan is gearing up to check illegal migration of labourers from the district. As a result of the combined efforts of the then Balangir Collector Gopalan and SP Himanshu Lal and labour officials of the district, illegal migration was virtually checked and as many as 1,500 illegal brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh had to be registered. Besides, more than 22,000 people migrated from Balangir district through 407 licensed agents. "We are going to take same drive in Kalahandi district to check illegal migration," said present Kalahandi Collector Gopalan over phone.

Bridge collapses as bauxite-loaded truck hits it

The Pioneer, 11th September, 2008
Pioneer News Service Bhawanipatna

A narrow grade-C bridge near Pastikudi on National Highway-201 between Bhawanipatna and Kesinga collapsed as a bauxite-overloaded truck overturned on it on Tuesday.
Hundreds of trucks carrying nearly 33 tonnes of bauxite are regularly plying from Kesinga railway station to the Lanjigarh-based Vedanta Alumina's refinery every month, leaving the roads with big dotted holes, whereas only 8 tonnes of load should be carried at a time.
The officials of the Road Transport Office say that they were collecting fine from the heavy loaded trucks, but the question arises that whether the fine collected from the trucks is higher than the price of the proposed new construction of the NH.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Special ceremony held in memory of Saraswati

dnaindia.com, 8th September, 2008

BHUBANESWAR: Amid an impregnable security net in Orissa's riot-ravaged Kandhamal district, a special ceremony in memory of slain Laxmanananda Saraswati was held at his ashram at Chakapada near here Sunday.
All six entry points to Kandhamal were sealed to prevent anti-social elements from entering the violence-hit district during the Saraswati's 16th day rituals called 'shodasha mahotsav', District Collector Krishan Kumar said.
Chakapada, where Saraswati was given samadhi after being gunned down on August 23, was converted into a fortress with the deployment of five companies of paramilitary forces, he said, adding five entry points to Chakapada as part of the steps taken to prevent any untoward incident.
Even approach routes through forests from Kalahandi, Rayagada, Gajapati, Ganjam and Nayagarh districts were sealed with heavy force deployment, a senior police officer said, adding no vehicle or group was allowed to enter the district and go anywhere near Chakapada, about 265 km from here.
Day curfew continued in Tikabali, Balliguda and K Nuagaon areas as a precautionary measure, while in six other places it was relaxed for varied durations, he said.
"The situation is peaceful during the 16th day ceremony of the Swamiji," Revenue Divisional Commissioner (Southern division) Satyabrata Sahu said.
Saraswati's followers and others mainly from within the district joined 'shodasha mahotsav', which involved special prayers, sankirtan, chanting of shlokas, samadhi pratistha and anna yagyan, one by one as groups were not allowed entry.

Civil society bats for Unitary varsity status to Burla engineering college

The Pioneer, 8th Spetember, 2008
Pioneer News Service Bhubaneswar

The demand for Unitary University status for the University College of Engineering (UCE) Burla is gaining momentum as the civil society has geared up the campaign for the cause in a big way.
The campaign committee for Unitary University status for the UCE consisting of intellectuals, educationists, political personalities and informed members of the civil society has urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to promulgate an ordinance to declare the college a Unitary University. Giving the wakeup call, the UCE Abhiyan Samiti has asked Patnaik not to ignore the demand, which would be too late for tomorrow.
This first engineering college of the State, which was once within the top 10 such colleges in the country, is languishing at present due to continuous neglect over the years, lamented former MP Bhabani Sankar Hota. It has been a victim of a step-motherly attitude of the State Government aided and abated by the wrong policies of the Union Government, he alleged. It is most unfortunate that the college is being kicked like a football from one post to another, feel senior citizens.
The UCE was a constituent college of the Sambalpur University, and in spite of many shortcomings it had earned name and fame in and outside the country as engineers produced by it found places in various prestigious institutions like the NASA and the BARC. The UGC granted autonomous status to the college in 1992, but the serious deterioration started once the college was detached from the Sambalpur University and attached to the Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT).
The students, faculty and the public in western Orissa demanded up-gradation of the college to an IIT and, as usual, the Chief Minister wrote to the Union Government in this regard in 2004. But when the real opportunity to upgrade the college into an IIT came by an announcement of the Union Government, another site was selected in Bhubaneswar.
The people of western Orissa in general and the citizens of Sambalpur in particular view this as an instance of grave injustice perpetrated on the region and its people. An impression is gaining ground that there is no logic as to why all higher institutions such as the Central University, IIT and such other institutions of national importance should be concentrated in and around the State Capital.
Such a step is contrary to the policy of decentralisation and against the policy of opening up of opportunity to the backward areas of the State. The concentration of institutions of national importance in the State Capital, ignoring the sound infrastructure already available at places like Burla would harm the State in the long run, warned the Abhiyan Samiti.
Under these circumstances, the demand for Unitary University status for the UCE is both realistic and constructive, said Hota. Therefore, the Abhiyan Samiti has urged the Chief Minister to promulgate an ordinance declaring the UCE as a Unitary University and release both recurring and non-recurring grants adequate for running an institution of national importance.
Similarly, providing 400 acres of land adjacent to the UCE and giving an opportunity to both the faculty and the students to retrieve some of its lost glory, which was caused by unhelpful attitude of the successive Governments, would go a long way in a systematic improvement of the institution, feel the members of the Abhiyan Samiti.
Non-resident Oriyas (NROs) have also justified the demand of the students and civil society for declaring the UCE as a Unitary University. They argue that in the event of the Naveen Patnaik Government adopting "a partisan attitude" towards distribution of national level educational institutions, several parts of the State are bound to face marginalisation.
For a leading NRO, Prof Chitta Baral, "Orissa is not Bhubaneswar-Cuttack-Puri (B-C-P)." The land of 1, 55,707 square kilometres has to be seen beyond B-C-P, said he. Digambara Patra, another leading voice on education matters among the NROs, echoed Prof Baral's view. He has sought to prove with factual data that the Chief Minister is allegedly marginalising western Orissa in the interest of the coastal region.
Patra said that just a few days before sending a letter for an IIT and a Central University in the State to the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), the Chief Minister had written a similar letter to the MHRD asking to convert the UCE to a National Institute of Technology (NIT). He jolly well knows that the MHRD has often pointed out that NIT would be established in those States where there is no NIT presently. That means the letter was just to mislead the western Orissa people, Patra alleged.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Naveen! See beyond Cuttack

Tathya.in, 7th September, 2008

Non Resident Oriyas (NRO)s have charged Naveen Patnaik of narrow mindedness. They have justified the demands of the students and civil society for declaring University College of Engineering (UCE) Burla as a Unitary State University. When the Chief Minister of Orissa him self adopts partisan attitude over distribution of National Level Educational Institutions, various parts of the state is bound to face marginalization, feel leading educationists and NROs For Professor Chitta Baral, who is on the forefront of in leading the state on educational activism has lamented over the narrow-minded ness of the ruler. Professor Baral said with heavy heart that Orissa is not Bhubaneswar-Cuttack-Puri (B-C-P). The land of 1, 55,707 square kilometers has to be seen beyond B-C-P, said he. But alas! The State Government is not looking beyond the coastal zone and marginalizing the entire Western Zone of the state, alleged he. Dr. Digambara Patra, another leading voice on education matters echo the voice of Professor Baral. He has proved with factual data and facts that the Chief Minister is marginalizing the Western Orissa at the coast of the Coastal Orissa. Giving out details Dr.Patra said that just few days before of sending a letter for IIT and Central University in Orissa to HRD ministry, Chief Minister of Orissa sent a similar letter to Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) asking to convert UCE Burla to a National Institute of Technology (NIT). The Chief Minister jolly well knows that MHRD has often pointed out that NIT would be established in those states where there is no NIT presently. That means the letter was just to eyewash Western Orissa people, said Dr.Patra. Professor Baral said that UCE Burla well deserves a state University, but Orissa Government again asked the Principal of the institution to file papers for a Deemed University to University Grants Commission (UGC). Declaration of Deemed University is in the hands of the Central Government and it will take a long time. Most of the Deemed Universities do not receive much funds from UGC. So what is the point!, asks Professor Baral. On the other hand most get UGC funding after they become 12 (B) eligible. The State Government can on its own declare UCE to be a State University by passing a bill. If Government of Orissa could do it for Ravenshaw College, which has already become 12 (B) eligible, why can not it do it for UCE, Burla?, asked he. Is it because Ravenshaw is in Cuttack and UCE Burla is in Sambalpur?, queried Professor Baral. Dr.Patra said that Kalahandi is central place to whole KBK region and Bhawanipatna is centrally located to all major towns in KBK. Those include backward pockets (as per the World Bank) in the region like Bouda, Balangir, Titilagarh, Padampur, Nuapada, Phulbani, Rayagada, Nabrangpur, Koraput, Patnagarh, Bargarh, etc. Despite promise made by the Chief Minister to a delegation from Kalahandi and also having all other infrastructure, Mr.Patnaik backed out. The State Government later proposed to shift the Central University in KBK to Koraput. The Central Government is establishing a National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER), an AIIMS like institute and an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Bhubaneswar. Despite that Orissa Government has established IIIT again in Bhubaneswar. Another IIIT is being considered for Berhampur, said he. National educational institute should be equally distributed all over the region specially, for a state like Orissa where geographical distance is great. However the Western Orissa is regularly marginalized by Orissa Government and its mandarins. Does it make any sense to establish a Committee to address regional disparities in the state when the State Government and Orissa Chief Minister themselves are seriously marginalizing Western Orissa in setting up National educational institutes?, asked an agitated Dr.Patra.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First time: EVMs to be used in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, Sept 4, 2008
Pioneer News Service | Bhawanipatna

With the municipal elections coming closer, the candidates' fates will be decided by 72,283 voters who are going to exercise their franchise on September 19 through 82 electronic voting machines to be used for the first time in different booths of the Bhawanipatna Municipality and the Kesinga and Junagarh Notified Area Councils (NACs) in Kalahandi district.

Explaining the code of conduct at a Press conference here, Kalahandi Collector R Santhagopalan said that a councillor can only spend up to Rs 30,000 to campaign among a 50,000 population, up to Rs 40,000 in an area of 1 lakh population and Rs 50,000 to cover more than 1 lakh population. Each candidate can use two vehicles, including four-wheelers or three-wheeler during the campaigning.

A total of 82 candidates are contesting in 20 wards of the Bhawanipatna Municipality, 66 in 12 wards of the Junagarh NAC and 39 in 12 wards of the Kesinga NAC. The BJP and the BJD have entered into an alliance for the Bhawanipatna civic polls.

Vedanta plans trapped in pockets of protests

Business Standard, 4th Spetember, 2008

The Anil Agarwal-owned Vedanta group has made substantial headway in land acquisition for its three projects in Orissa which entail a combined investment of over Rs 30,000 crore.
The group needed 11,700 acres for its university at Puri, an alumina refinery at Lanjigarh, and its smelter and power project at Bharkhamunda near Jharsuguda. It has already acquired about 7,515 acres.
The total land needed for the Rs 15,000-crore university is 6,000 acres. The company has to date acquired 3,155 acres and taken possession of 2256.49 acres, which includes 385.15 acres of government land and 1871.34 acres of private land.
Though the company claims to have acquired more than 50 per cent of the land needed, local resistance continues to obstruct the start of the project.
The company is, however, in a better position as far as land acquisition for its other two projects are concerned. Vedanta Aluminium has acquired the 2,000 acres it needed in Lanjigarh in the economically-backward Kalahandi district for its one-million-tonne-per-annum (MTPA), Rs 4,000-crore alumina refinery. Besides, it has got 80 per cent of the 200 acres needed for a rail corridor for the project.
“About 80 per cent of the 200 acres needed for the railway link has been acquired. We hope to complete the process very soon”, said Mukesh Kumar, chief operating officer, Vedanta Aluminium.
In a relief to the company, the Supreme Court recently cleared the diversion of 660.749 hectares of forest land for mining bauxite in Niyamgiri hills in the Kalahandi district.
While the mining plan has been approved by the Indian Bureau of Mines, the company hopes to start operating the mine in the next four-six months. However, it will have to get clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The problems of the company are, however, far from over. The green activists have decided to intensify the agitation against mining in Niyamgiri.
A state-level mass convention is being organised by the Lok Shakti Abhiyan in Bhubaneswar on September 10 to protest against the Supreme Court judgements on Niyamgiri and Posco. “The activists will gather to decide the next course of action,” said Prafulla Samantara, the Lok Shakti Abhijan leader.
The company also faces strong resistance against the Rs 15,000-crore university being set up by the Anil Agarwal Foundation (AAF) near Puri.
The opponents have said the project is planned over fertile agricultural land which yields two-three crops annually. Further, the project is likely to interfere with the recharge of sweet water. The company’s plan to set up a 30-Mw power plant there is opposed by the locals on the ground that it is likely to pollute their environment

First time: EVMs to be used in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, 4th Spetember, 2008
Pioneer News Service Bhawanipatna

With the municipal elections coming closer, the candidates' fates will be decided by 72,283 voters who are going to exercise their franchise on September 19 through 82 electronic voting machines to be used for the first time in different booths of the Bhawanipatna Municipality and the Kesinga and Junagarh Notified Area Councils (NACs) in Kalahandi district.
Explaining the code of conduct at a Press conference here, Kalahandi Collector R Santhagopalan said that a councillor can only spend up to Rs 30,000 to campaign among a 50,000 population, up to Rs 40,000 in an area of 1 lakh population and Rs 50,000 to cover more than 1 lakh population. Each candidate can use two vehicles, including four-wheelers or three-wheeler during the campaigning.
A total of 82 candidates are contesting in 20 wards of the Bhawanipatna Municipality, 66 in 12 wards of the Junagarh NAC and 39 in 12 wards of the Kesinga NAC. The BJP and the BJD have entered into an alliance for the Bhawanipatna civic polls.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Idols on display to bring good luck

The Telegraph, 3rd September, 2008

If you want to be blessed with your wish after visiting 108 idols on Ganesh Chaturthi tomorrow, devote some time at Jaydev Bhavan.
More than 500 idols of Ganesh have been put on display at Jaydev Bhavan. Around 25 artisans from across the state have grouped together to showcase their craftsmanship and present idols of the lord in various media.
The handicraft exhibition is organised by the Orissa Rural and Urban Producers Association (Orupa) to mark Ganesh puja celebrations in the city.
The exhibition-cum-sale will continue till September 4.
“It’s difficult to make a choice, for the number and variety of these idols are simply fascinating,” says Kumudini Das, a customer.
“A wide range of idols and images of Ganesh is on display. Made from various media, including straw, brass, terracotta, wood, fabric, papier-mâché, lacquer, horn-craft, palm leaf, dokra, seashell and appliqué,” said marketing executive Ashok Sahu.
He further said stocks worth nearly lakhs are on display for sale in the exhibition. “Theme-based exhibitions are popular in the state, especially Ganesh because with the several vesas (dresses) of Ganesha, the artists get a plenty of creative ideas,” he said.
The idols are available with Ganesh donning several dresses — one with musical instruments, adorning weapons and others dancing on the hood of a snake. There are Ganesh idols with several faces and others sleeping or reading books. Also there are sets with Ganesh forms like playing the tabla, flute, harmonium and various other instruments. Artisans have come from Konark, Kashipurm, Kalahandi, Olando, Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Raghurajpur, Sambalpur, Arisal, Balasore, Nowrangpur, Nayakpatna, Nimapara, Jajanga and Kendrapada.

Patil to visit Kandhamal today

The Hindu, 3rd September, 2008

BHUBANESWAR: Communal violence-hit Kandhamal district of Orissa started limping back to normality on Tuesday with no untoward incidents reported during the day.
The district had been witnessing widespread communal violence for the past several days after the killing of VHP leader Swami Lakshmanananda and four others on August 23. At least 16 persons were killed in Kandhamal in the violence and attacks on Christians in the aftermath of the killing. Unofficial reports, however, put the violence death toll at 30.
A high-level team of officials of the Orissa government visited riot-hit Kalahandi district on Tuesday to assess the situation.
The officials, including Home Secretary Tarunkanti Mishra and Director General of Police Gopal Chandra Nanda, visited two relief camps and interacted with the riot- affected people.
Mr. Mishra said measures were being taken to provide basic facilities to those in the nine relief camps. Around 10,000 people had reached the camps after they were attacked and their houses burnt down by members of the majority community.Curbs lifted
Meanwhile, the State government lifted the restrictions on the visit of political leaders and other dignitaries to Kandhamal.
Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil is scheduled to visit the district on Wednesday.
The government also announced that Justice Sarat Chandra Mohapatra, the former High Court Judge, would conduct the judicial inquiry into the killing of Swami Lakshmanananda and the subsequent communal violence. Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta and other senior officials of the Home Ministry have been in close touch with the Chief Secretary, Director General of Police and other officials of Orissa.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, whose government is being criticised for its failure to control violence, said the situation was under control both in Kandhamal and Jeypore town of Koraput district. He termed the communal violence unfortunate. Appeal for peace
Representatives of a number of religious organisations and eminent persons have appealed for peace and harmony in Kandhamal.
At a press conference here, they said conversion and cow slaughter had given rise to communal hatred in Kandhamal and urged the government to strictly implement the laws relating to both the issues.

Union Bank launches new logo to strengthen brand

The Pioneer, 3rd September, 2008

Bhubaneswar: The Union Bank of India on Monday launched its new corporate logo in order to strengthen its brand 1-9. The logo comprised two 'U's that represent transparency, protection, ability and trust of the bank. According to Deputy General Manager and regional head of the bank A Sudhakar, using the logo the bank would be able to strengthen its position in the world market by 2012 and can serve its customers with better facilities. There are 54 branches of the bank in the State and it would open six more branches in Boudh, Kalahandi and Jagatsinghpur districts, he informed.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Abandoned flock seeks answers, leaders, safety

Livemint.com, 1st September, 2008

Phulbani, Orissa: For five days, the Digal family—thirty-something Bharat, seven-month-pregnant Sushila and their 5-year-old boy—roamed the jungles in the hills surrounding their village of Sarasananda, just 20km from here.
They searched for safety and finally found it, along with 160 others, in a relief camp set up in a school in Phulbani, the headquarters of Kandhamal district, which has seen widespread violence cut along religious lines after the murder of Swami Lakshmananada Saraswati—a Hindu leader outspoken on Christian missionaries and conversions—by unidentified gunmen on 23 August. Here, the villagers get hot meals, medical facilities—and a place to sleep.
But on Sunday, the makeshift camp could not offer something else they needed—someone to lead their prayer, answer their questions, make sense of what has happened and explain why them. None of the clergy has stayed behind, abandoning their flock of followers. “We heard that some of them have fled to Bhubaneswar or to Brahmapur,” said a crestfallen Rajendra Nayek, who fled with his wife and two children.
Some Christians have refused to leave their land and livelihoods, saying that—more than religion—is why they are being targeted.
Senapati Malik, a Christian has stayed back in the charred ruins of Sarasananda, but sent his family to the camp. “I have my cattle and goats to look after and also my crop, how could I leave?” he said, pointing to a herd of almost 50 cows, buffalo and goats, which he and another Christian, Jalandhar Kotta, are trying to look after.
Malik is devastated that his fellow Hindu villagers he knew as boys could turn against him the way they did. “Some were jealous because they thought we got a lot of money from the church,” he said, pointing to the burnt shell of one concrete house, a satellite dish antenna sticking out, as if in defiance. A sewing machine, a TV, bicycles and a mixer-grinder lie scattered about. “Some also want us to leave so that they can take over our lands dirt cheap,” said Malik.

The thought has been repeated as observers wonder why certain areas have been targeted, and why the state, did not react quicker as the violence began last week.
Orissa is one of the poorest states in India, lagging behind in health, education and economic indicators. But it has always been mineral-rich, and in recent years has tried to woo industrial development. A May 2008 report by the trade body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India showed Orissa drew nearly one-third of all private sector investments announced in the last quarter of last fiscal year that ended in March, more than any other state.
It is unclear what effect the recent spate of violence will have on investment. An official at UK-based mining company Vedanta Resources Plc., which on 13 August secured a Supreme Court clearance to start mining for bauxite at Nyamgiri hills in Orissa’s Kalahandi district, said it is unscathed by the ongoing violence because a majority of the people in that area belong to the ethnic community known as Dongria Kandh, primarily Hindu.
Its alumina plant in Lanjigarh is also free from any incidents, he said. The troubled Kandhamal borders Kalahandi, but the site which saw violence is some 150km away, he said.
South Korean steel maker Posco, which plans to build a $12-billion (Rs52,560 crore) steel plant in eastern Orissa near the Paradip port, and secured forest clearance from the Supreme Court last month, too, will not be affected, said a company official.
Already, conspiracy theories and comparisons to Gujarat, a state plagued by communal violence, abound. “Orissa is becoming the Gujarat of Christians. It is unbelievable that a powerless minority community is made target and I am convinced that there are political motives behind this, just the way there were in Gujarat,” said Father Anthony Kurusinkal, editor of The Examiner, the archdiocesan daily for Mumbai.
Bishop Thomas Macwan, from the Ahemdabad diocese, drew similar parallels. “Gujarat started with a train burning. No one knows till date who set fire to it. Here there was a murder and no one knows who did it. In Gujarat, Muslim shops, homes and businesses were targeted. Innocent people were killed. That’s exactly what is happening in Orissa.”

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Hindu group accused of fanning anti-Christian sentiments in Orissa, denied wrongdoing. “Of course, they will say Orissa has become like Gujarat. But what about the conversions they are doing all over the country?” asked Vyankatesh Abdeo, all-India general secretary of VHP.
In Orissa, according to sub-collector Pradipta Kumar Mahapatra, at least 5,000 Christians are now living in seven relief camps at Chakapada, Tikabali, G. Udaygiri, Raikia, Baliguda, K. Nuagaon and Phiringia.
Over the weekend, chief minister Naveen Patnaik said more doctors would fan out to affected areas. About 200 villages have been affected by the attacks, filling camps by the thousands.
Even in district headquarters Phulbani, churches have not been spared. Even the tuberculosis cure centre run by the Missionaries of Charity was not spared.
Nearby, Kotta is staying back with his wife and two daughters. He said even those in the relief camps will eventually have to come back. “We are poor people. We have nowhere to go.”

Five-day exhibition on Lord Ganesh started

Mynews.com, 1st September, 2008

Bhubaneswar: On the eve of Ganesh ‘Chaturthi’ Orissa Rural and Urban Producers’ Association (Orupa) on Saturday has started a five-day exhibition on Lord Ganesh at Jaydev Bhavan in Bhubaneswar.
The main purpose behind this exhibition is to creat awerness among people about the Hindu culture and tradition and also encourages artists. For this exhibition about twenty artisans from across the state brought with them more than 600 models of Lord Ganesh in different art mediums to the State Capital.
The exhibition was inaugurated by Panchayatiraj Secretary R.N Dash. Regional representative and member convener, Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (Capart), Vijoy Kumar Rai and Assitant Director of Handicrafts B.M Mishra were present.
The prominent art forms of display include ‘dhokra’ from Dhenkanal, kuliana in Mayurbhanj, wood carving in Kalahandi, paper masks(Baghamari in Khurda and Bhubaneswar), terracotta(Bhubaneswar), coir(Konark), lacquer(Balasore and Nawarangpur), stone carving(Balangir and Balasore), handloom weaving(Sambalpur), tusser silk, palm leaf and pattachitra painting and printing(Chandanpur and Raghurajpur) sea shell work(puri), appliqué and patch work(pipili) and sea shell fibre work from Balangir.