Friday, October 31, 2008

A potent cocktail inside the state fuels the rebels, Oct 31, 2008
Orissa’s complex mix of religion, caste and tribal loyalties forces the Naxalites to remap their strategy here

Kandhamal, Orissa: For close to four decades, armed rebels have been gathering deep in the Dandakaranya forest that sprawls over parts of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa to plot strategies to promote their cause of violent revolution.
Spearheaded today by the Communist Party of India (Maoist), an underground political party with no representatives in the world’s largest democracy, the movement has grown from a peasant uprising of the 1960s in the small town of Naxalbari in West Bengal into a deadly conflict spread over several Indian states.
Troubled times:Inmates at Lakshmananda’s ashram. Naxal leader Sabhyasachi Panda owned responsibility for his killing. Indranil Bhoumik / MintOrissa is the latest target of the Maoists, whose movement has claimed up to 50,000 lives by official count since its outbreak. This impoverished state sits in the middle of what Maoists envision as a “red corridor”, running from neighbouring Nepal—where former guerrilla leader Prachanda became prime minister in August—to Tamil Nadu in India, says A.N. Sinha, deputy commissioner of police in Cuttack.
Sinha served for three years in Gajapati, an Orissa district where Maoists are active and which borders Kandhamal, the site of anti-Christian violence in recent months.
While its geography and demographics have the usual features of a Maoist haven—thick jungles, mountains, dilapidated roads, angry and unemployed youth—Orissa’s complex mix of religion and caste and tribal loyalties are forcing the rebels to rewrite their playbook.
Once upon a time, for example, the Maoist doctrine dismissed religion as “the opium of the masses” and steered clear of religious leanings or alliances.
But investigators of the 23 August murder of Hindu monk Swami Lakshmananda, a vocal opponent of conversions to Christianity, say they are sure the Maoists played a role in the killing that sparked the attacks on Christians that left at least 35 people dead.
“We know that they supplied guns and bullets to the men who killed the swami. We know that they helped execute the plan as well,” says a police officer who is close to the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
If they were indeed involved in the killing of Lakshmananda, it would be the first Maoist attack in Kandhamal district and their first ever on a religious leader.
P. Govindam Kutty, editor of the People’s March, a Kerala-based pro-Maoist magazine, says he would not be surprised if the rebels were involved in the murder of Swami Lakshmananda, and “as such, they have already claimed responsiblity on television for it. I don’t see any reason to doubt that.”
Earlier this month, the Maoists’ Orissa leader, Sabhyasachi Panda, a mathematics graduate who had once aspired to contest state elections, appeared on the news channel NDTV. With a towel draped on his face, he owned responsibility for the attack on Lakshmananda. It was not possible to contact him for comment.
Intelligence officials say the Maoists have 15,000–20,000 recruits in India. Comprised largely of tribals and villagers from the country’s most backward regions, these rebels believe they are fighting imperialism, feudalism and capitalism. In largely hit-and-run attacks, they raid police stations, state armouries and security convoys, blow up rail tracks, kill government officials, attack mining industries for explosives and intimidate villagers who refuse to give them shelter and money. They have a foothold in half of the country’s 28 states including West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh that border Orissa.
Those familiar with the region say a strategic motive rests behind the attack. So far, the Maoists, who have established a presence in half of Orissa’s 30 districts, have failed to make inroads in Kandhamal.
Here, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Swami Lakshmananda acted as unexpected buffers between the rebels and tribals, says Sujeet Kumar, who runs Kalinga Kusum Foundation, a non-governmental organization that is trying to nurture young rural entreprenuers in Kalahandi, one of Orissa’s most backward districts, neighbouring Kandhamal.
The Hindu nationalist RSS has been working with the Kandha tribal majority here—setting up vanvasi kalyan or tribal welfare ashrams, schools and medical centres— to prevent tribals from converting to Christianity.
In the process, it achieved an unintended result and became a barrier to Maoist entry in the area. “When you work for the tribals, they trust you and bond with you,” says Kumar.
And while the non-religious Maoists are an anti-establishment group waging a violent war against the Indian state, “the RSS is a solidly establishment organization rooted in Hinduism”. “It is the ideological opposite of the Maoists. And this is the organization that the tribals here are close to. The Maoists are not able to bond with tribals because of this affiliation,” adds Kumar.
Lakshimananda had a formidable following among the tribals, said Krishnan Kumar, the collector of Kandhamal.
The murder of Lakshimananda, locals say, helped remove the Maoists’ main obstacle between them and the tribals. It also consolidated their popularity with the largely Christian Pano community.
“We are not sure what the Maoists plan to do next,” said a government official in Kandhamal, on condition of anonymity. “Normally, they exploit social faultlines and generate a sense of relative deprivation. I think they plan to do that in Kandhamal.”
Officials privately admit that Kandhamal risks turning into a Maoist stronghold.
“We have not discussed these issues and all these questions need to be deeply thought about. There is no point speculating, but understanding this change is becoming very important,” said Sinha, the deputy commissioner of police in Cuttack.
Also Read previous coverage of Kandhamal
The third and final part of the series will be on how mining policy has hamstrung economic development in Orissa.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rice procurement strategy to target farmers’ interests

The Statesman, Oct 30, 2008
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA, Oct. 29: With paddy fields expected to be ready for harvest in one week’s time, a procurement strategy has been drawn up by the district administration to meet the procurement requirement target and to protect farmers’ interest.
The procurement which will start from 1 November will be done through Regulatory Market Committee Mandies*. Initially 51 mandies will be opened and with the progress of harvesting more mandies will be set up at gram panchayat level wherever required, sources said.
In comparison to the two lakh 85 thousand 770 metric tons of rice procured in Kalahandi last year which is equivalent to four lakh 23 thousand 166 metric tons of paddy, for the procurement season of 2008-09, the state government has fixed a target of two lakh 60 thousand metric tons rice which will be equivalent to three lakh 53 thousand tons of paddy. The lower target for the current procurement season may lead to distress sale as was witnessed some years ago, farmers fear. Besides the regulated market committee (RMC) of the district does not have the required equipment such as weighing scales, paddy analysis kits and moisture meter to take up procurement of rice on a large scale, the farmers claimed.
Although the district administration has reportedly asked the RMC authorities to start purchasing the equipment, the farmers doubt the equipment will be ready before the procurement begins since it is a time consuming process.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Traditional medicine should be promoted

The Statesman, Oct 28, 2008

BHAWANIPATNA, Oct. 27: The first district level Vaidya conference organised by the district co-ordination committee of Vaidyas along with Sambandh, an NGO, was held in Dangarmurli village here yesterday. More than 250 vaidyas from different parts of the district participated in the conference.
The participants expressed disappointment that the traditional medicine system being practiced by vaidyas is not given as much importance as conventional medical practices. “Although about 500 vaidyas in the district render health services to many patients here the state government does not take any steps to encourage this traditional medicine system,” said a participant. “Because of this negligence, many rare herbal medicinal plants are gradually being depleted and need to be protected so as to regenerate them else they will become extinct,” he said.
Participants at the conference demanded government recognition to the vaidyas, documentation of medicinal plants available in the state and maintenance of records of the method of treatment used by practitioners in the district by government and non government organisations for the reference of future generations. The participants also demanded for the establishment of medicinal plant gardens and stores, creation of public awareness towards traditional medicines and steps to popularise this method of treatment. “Unless timely steps are taken this traditional knowledge may be lost forever,” said another participant. Mr Biswanath Hota was accorded the title of Vanaushodhi Pandit, Jagabandhu Muni was accorded the title of Vaidya Ratna, Mr Patayat Sahu was accorded the title of Vanaushadhi Pravina and Mr Pabitra Sabar was accorded the title of Vaidya Shree.

Orissa tribals to take on Naxals

Hindustant Times, Oct 28, 2008

The Orissa government on Monday issued a notification for recruiting 2,000 Adivasi youths from five-Naxal infested districts to fight the insurgents.

Only candidates from the Scheduled Tribes (ST) will be recruited to these 2,000 posts of special police officers.

The Centre, sources in the home department said, had mooted the appointments. The state was also asked to bolster capacity to start combing operations soon after a Naxal strike, a senior official, who didn’t wish to be identified, said.

The recruitments will be done in Malkangiri, Koraput, Gajapati, Rayagada and Kalahandi districts. Each district will fill up 400 posts.

After selection, the candidates will enter into a contract with the district police. They’ll be paid a consolidated remuneration, which is yet to be fixed. “On completion of three years of satisfactory contractual service, the eligible special police officers may be absorbed on regular posts against ST vacancies of constables and sepoys or equivalent rank,” the notification said.

It has also stressed on verifying the antecedents of aspirants “with particular emphasis on any possible links with any extremist organization or outfit”.

"The recruitment process will be completed within two months,” home secretary T.K. Mishra said.

Apart from appointing tribal youths, the Orissa government has also requested the ministry of home affairs for of a counter-insurgency battalion for resolute action (COBRA). Each COBRA battalion will comprise commandoes specially trained in jungle warfare. Each battalion will have 1,000 commandoes in the same age group like the Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh.

While Andhra has raised Greyhounds to take on the Naxals, states like Orissa depend on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Orissa owes the Centre Rs 100 crore for its deployment.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Protests sprout ahead of new field trials of India’s first GM foodcrop

Indian Express, Oct 25, 2008

Bhubaneswar, October 24 : A vegetable is at the centre of a row in Orissa as it is likely to become the first genetically-modified (GM) foodcrop to be permitted for commercial production in the country. While anti-GM activists in the state and elsewhere are furious at the insufficient data on the safety aspects of the crop, Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) brinjal seeds are likely to be sown in Orissa sometime next month as part of the countrywide field trials of Varanasi-based Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (IIVR).
The seeds of Bt brinjal developed by Mumbai-based Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company, a subsidiary of multinational seed major Monsanto, contain a foreign gene, cry1Ac, derived from a soil bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The toxin-producing gene from the bacteria kills fruit and shoot borer (FSB), the most common insect pest that devours about 50 per cent of brinjal crop in the country. Its incorporation into brinjal is said to be toxic to FSB and thus reduces reliance on pesticides.

Though the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the Union Forest and Environment Ministry in August 2007 granted permission for large-scale field trials of Bt brinjal at 11 locations, including the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) in Bhubaneswar, under the direct supervision of IIVR, officials of the Orissa Government say they had no clue about it.

Orissa officials claim they came to know about OUAT being the site of field trials only when the GEAC in May this year wrote to the university’s vice-chancellor. The university is now waiting for the criteria of the test as well as funds from the IIVR to begin a belated trial over a 2,000 sq m plot in Bhubaneswar.
Completion of the trials would lead to commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal sometime in 2011. But even as OUAT scientists gear up for the field trials, anti-GM activists and farmers in the state are up in arms, saying it would bring doom to over 150 indigenous varieties of brinjal in the state. “We would gherao the agriculture minister and OUAT. If necessary, we would uproot Bt brinjal saplings,” says Debjeet Sarangi of Living Farms, an anti-GM group in Orissa, adding the state Government and institutions like OUAT could have refused the GEAC offer of field trial.
“If the state Government is not able to stop illegal cultivation of Bt cotton in the districts of Raygada, Bolangir and Kalahandi, how can it ensure that bio-safety protocols are followed for the cultivation of GM foodcrops like Bt brinjal?” asks Saroj Mohanty of Paschim Odisha Krushak Sangathan Samnwaya Samiti.

Kavita Kurugranti, another anti-GM activist, is upset about the fact that the GEAC is deciding on behalf of the state for the GM crop trial. “Agriculture is a state subject and agriculture universities like OUAT are under the respective state governments. So neither the Centre nor any Central body can force the state in matters of agriculture. The state’s concern should be for the local farmers and not the seed companies. Since all the data about Bt brinjal has been generated by Mahyco and has not been verified, the state Government should not allow the trial. I want the Orissa Government to stand up and say no to it,” she says.

The activists are also worried about the possible contamination of the local varieties. Though Debraj Naik, Dean of Research in OUAT, dismisses such possibilities saying the trial would be done under strict and isolated conditions, not everyone agrees with it. Since 80 per cent farmers in Orissa who do brinjal cultivation are poor and marginal, any possible contamination of their crop from the Bt crop would ruin them forever. “Once GM crop is released into field, it can’t be taken back and the damage might be irreversible,” agrees a scientist.

State Agriculture Secretary U P Singh says the Naveen Patnaik Government as a matter of principle would not encourage GM crop in Orissa. But even OUAT scientists, who are doing a separate trial of Bt cotton at Bhawanipatna area of Kalahandi for its biosafety, admit that regulating GM crop would be an impossible task.

KBK still limping

The Statesman, Oct 27, 2008
Statesman News Service

BHUBANESWAR, Oct 26: Two decades of focused intervention, entailing pumping in crores of rupees, seems to have had little impact on the notoriously backward KBK region (erstwhile undivided Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi districts) according to the Food Security Atlas released by World Food Programme and Institute for Human Development.
"It is surprising that the efforts put into the development of the region have not yielded tangible results," states the report, while dealing with KBK region and noting that widespread malnutrition and mortality levels are a pointer to the dismal situation.
The region is characterised by wastelands, scrublands, low agriculture development, abysmally low literacy levels and high malnutrition levels.
The KBK region accounts for 31 per cent of the total area of the state, but only 20 per cent of the total population indicating low density of population. A huge part of the region is unfit for cultivation and is mostly degraded forests and scrublands. Koraput, for instances, has more than 1,000 sq kms of its area under wastelands.
Low levels of land development in the region have resulted in poor performance on the agricultural front. Despite all talk of wasteland development, the fact is that the region has not benefited from the programme as yet.
Consequent to this is the fact that very small area can be cultivated twice in an agricultural year and the cropping intensity is low. Only 19 per cent of the total area of Rayagada district is under cultivation while it is barely 20 per cent in Malkangiri district, 35 per cent in Koraput, 37 per cent in Bolangir and 41 percent in Kalahandi. The KBK average works out to 35.5 per cent in terms of area under cultivation.
The food grain yield per heactre in KBK region is 590 kg with the yield per hectare in some districts like Nuapada being as low as 221 kg, Bolangir 302 kg and Kalahandi 491 kg said the report.
Less than five per cent of the surveyed tribal population were found to be in a food secure situation in these districts. The proportion of extremely food insecure tribal households that can hardly manage one square meal a day is highest in Rayagada district at almost 12 per cent of the tribal population being unable to get one meal per day for major part of the year. Five of the eight districts in the region have a less than 10 per cent urbanisation level and these districts have a very high proportion of STs, almost twice the proportion of tribes in other parts of the state.
Other parameters too show that KBK is lagging behind the rest of the state. Koraput, Nawarangpur, Malkangiri and Rayagada have a rural female literacy rate of less than 20 per cent. The food insecurity status of the region manifests itself in high mortality and malnourishment. Most of the districts in the region record over 150 child deaths per 1000 live births and over 40 percent of the children are in the moderately underweight category.
Shockingly, the situation prevailing in KBK region is despite special interventions in the form of Area Development for Poverty Termination (ADAPT) in 1988 followed by the Long Term Action Plan ( LTAP) in 1993 and the Revised Long Term Action Plan ( RLTAP) in 1998. Each of these schemes involved expenditure of crores of rupees towards overall improvement of the region, feeding programmes, water harvesting etc.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Orissa confident on investments amid crisis

Financial Express, Oct 20, 2008

Even though the Vedanta Resources decided to go slow on its Vedanta Alumina expansion plans, and Jindal Stainless Ltd postponed its Rs 3,000 crore expansion programme, the Orissa government is confident that the global financial crisis will not affect the investments proposals of the state.

“The impact will not be felt in Orissa,” said IPICOL managing director Ashok Meena, while talking to media persons on the sidelines of ‘Enterprise Orissa 2008’, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).

According to Meena, most of the MoU companies in the state have achieved financial closure, so their investment plans would not be affected.

He, however, said the promoters who have not achieved financial closure may differ their projects. He also said that few investors may go slow on their second phase expansion plans.

Vedanta Aluiminium, the London-listed Vedanta Resources group company, has recently announced to invest Rs 7,000 crore to ramp up its Lanjigarh alumina refinery plant’s capacity to 6 million tonne from 1 million tonne.

The first phase of the Lanjigarh refinery project in Orissa’s Kalahandi district has been completed and put into test run with bauxite sourcing from Balco. Project officials have been instructed to go slow on the expansion project, said a senior official of the Vedanta Aluminium at Bhubaneswar.

Jindal Stainess Ltd, which is setting up a 0.8 million tonne integrated stainless steel making facilities with an investment of Rs 2,500 crore at Kalinganagar Industrial Complex in Dubri of Jajpur district, had announced a plan to double its capacity through the second phase expansion programme of Rs 3,000 crore. The company has postponed the expansion programme, said a company insider.

Utkal Chamber of Commerce and Industries (UCCI) president, Niranjan Mohanty, is very confident that the projects will come up despite the global recessions. “All the mega projects, those have long-term plans, will certainly go ahead with their projects”, he said adding,”only the small investors may withhold their investments plans looking at the present market situation.”

The CII, Orissa chapter, president, Santos Kumar Mohapatra, is also not apprehending that the global financial crisis will have its bearing on the investments in the state. “The investments programmes may be delayed, but it would hit the projects”, he added.

“We are vigorously pursuing both the Orissa and Jharkhand project,” said Arcelor Mittal chief executive officer, greenfield projects in India, Sanak Mishra, when asked if the company is planning to go slow on the project in view of the crisis in the financial market.

Orissa has lined up investments to the tune of Rs 6 lakh crore by signing as many as 66 MoUs in sectors like steel, aluminium, power, cement, IT, port during the last eight years.

The MoU companies are putting up 46 steel projects, three aluminium projects, three cement , and 13 power projects besides several IT and other projects.

Meanwhile, 25 MoU companies, mostly steel, have started their project work and some of them have gone into partial productions.

Orissa, which had lined up investments to the tune of over 1 lakh crore in steel sector during the 1990s, witnessed the disappearance of the investments when the steel market took a down turn in the late 1990s.

Biz hope floats in crisis

The Telegraph (Kolkata), Oct 21, 2008

Bhubaneswar, Oct. 20: Trends of recession in global markets have pressed the panic button in industry circles. But government officials feel that it would not have much impact on upcoming industries, which have already made significant investment.

Orissa had emerged as the most preferred investment destination among the Indian states with investment proposals to the tune of Rs 6 lakh crore lined up for steel, aluminium and power projects.

In the present global economic scenario, there were obvious apprehensions that many of the projects might not see light of the day. But mandarins in the industries department are not upset.

State industries secretary A.P. Padhi said several of the promoters had already invested a lot. Out of the 66 industrial projects — for which MoUs were signed — investment to the tune of 75 per cent have already been made in 49 projects. Financial closure has been made in most of the projects. “There is less likelihood that such projects will be abandoned,” said Padhi. However, expansion might be affected because of recession, he said.

He said that with several major international and national companies such as ArcelorMittal, Posco and Vedanta in the process of setting up of integrated steel and aluminium plants in Orissa, there was a tremendous potential for the growth of ancillary and downstream units in the state.

“We already have a mechanism, Bureau of Public Enterprise, for promotion of ancillary and downstream units in public sector. Now, the same is being extended to private sector also,” said Padhi.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today chaired a meeting to review the promotion of ancillary and downstream industries. It was decided that the draft policy for promotion of micro, small and medium industries would be placed before the cabinet soon.

Posco, Jindal and Aarti Steel have conducted study on potential of ancillary and downstream industries. While Posco had engaged CB Richard Ellis for undertaking the study, Jindal had entrusted the job to IIT, Kharagpur. Aarti Steel has done the study itself.

The state government has identified five potential zones — Jharsuguda, Kalinga Nagar, Angul, Paradip-Dhamra and Kalahandi-Rayagada — for promotion of ancillary and downstream industries.

Jharsuguda has been identified as a potential zone for ancillary and downstream units in aluminium, steel and power sector.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kalahandi Collector bans overloaded trucks on NH-201

The Pioneer, 19th October, 2008
Bikash Khemka Bhawanipatna

Overloaded trucks endangering lives of many people and damaging the roads on National Highway-201 have drawn the ire of the district Collector who in turn has issued directives to the Road Transport Authority to ban the heavily-loaded vehicles under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act.Reportedly, hundreds of overloaded vehicles plying on the NH-201, the main road to reach Jharsuguda and Visakhapatnam from Kalahandi, are damaging district’s main thoroughfare by making it pothole-ridden. Talking to The Pioneer, Collector R Santhagopalan said the 10-wheeler loaded trucks have been banned and a maximum of 5 tonnes of cargo per axel would be allowed on the road from October 18. This implies that a maximum of 15 tonnes of cargo would be allowed on a 10-wheeler truck. The 10-wheeler trucks have mostly been carrying 10 tonnes per axel, which takes up to 30 tonnes of materials in a vehicle. Hundreds of trucks of Vedanta Alumina, Tatas and Jindal companies are plying on the main roads from Belgaon to Bhawanipatna NH-201 and from Bhawaniptna to Lanjigarh via Pokharibandh and from Pokharibandh to Muniguda and Raigada, leaving the roads in dilapidated conditions. The damaged roads are not killing commuters’ valuable time but also forces many four-wheeler owners to shell out money for the repair of their vehicles. It is reported that the small bridges on the roads from Kesinga to Bhawanipatna have almost been completely damaged. With the issuance of Collector’s directives people of the Kalahandi are eagerly waiting to see its efficient implementation by the RTO and the police. It is further to be seen that how the concerned companies would take their loaded vehicles to its destinations.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Govt signs MoU with TPPL to build Titanium complex

The Statesman, 16th October, 2008

The state government signed a MoU with M/s Titanium Products Private Ltd. (TPPL) to set up a Titanium Complex at Chhatrapur of Ganjam district with an investment of over Rs 2000 crore.The TPPL is a Indo-Russian joint venture company of M/s Saraf Agencies Pvt. Ltd. and the government of Russian Federation.The proposed integrated titanium complex will manufacture 1,08,000 tpa of titanium slag, 68,000 tpa of high purity pig iron, 40,000 tpa of titanium di-oxide pigment and 10,000 tpa of titanium sponge.First phase of the project is expected to be commissioned by 2010 and the second and third by the year 2012.Mr SM Saraf, chairman of the group and industries department secretary Mr Aditya Padhi signed the MoU in the presence of chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik and other Cabinet ministers here today.The project is the anchor industry for a sector specific SEZ for establishment of downstream industries in high quality paint manufacturing, automotive casting, silicon and zircon based products etc.Gopalpur port and the metallurgical complex together will form the starting point of industrial corridor in southern Orissa. It will get linked to the aluminium hinterland in Kalahandi, Koraput and Rayagada district said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.Mr Patnaik said he had personally requested the railway ministry to take up the Therubali-Gunupur railway connectivity to develop this linkage in south Orissa.Promoters of the titanium complex said they have already entered into a long term contract with Indian Rare Earths Limited for supply of raw material for the project. The company will also have a long term buy-back contract with its Russian partner for purchase of at least 45,000 tpa of titanium slag and 30,000 tpa of pigment titanium dioxide.Being a light and corrosion resistant metal, titanium products have multifarious application in aircraft engines, power plants, chemical plants and automobile industry, they observed.

State concerned about child, mother health

The Statesman, 16th October, 2008

State health and family welfare secretary Ms Anu Garg chaired a meeting to discuss ways to reduce infant mortality and maternal mortality rate in the state recently. The members discussed different reasons responsible for infant mortality. Since malnutrition is one of the causes, the importance of taking immediate steps to eradicate malnutrition was emphasised. During the meeting it was discussed that at present about 44 per cent of the children in the state suffer from malnutrition and methods were suggested to bring it down to 38 per cent by the year 2012. The health and family welfare department will work in collaboration with the women and child development ministry to achieve this target.Another novel initiative will also be undertaken to draw attention to the growing malnutrition amongst children. Through this initiative the Tuesdays and Fridays every month will be celebrated as health and nutrition day at different anganwadis where anganwadi workers, Asha workers, and even the local residents can participate. Discussions will be held where people will be educated about health practices in general and about maternal and child health care in particular.In addition this year three new child malnutrition eradication centres will be established in Koraput, Kalahandi and Mayurbhanj. The first such centre will be inaugurated at Mayurbhanj on 14 November. It was also decided in the meeting that the rural health day will be observed in Koraput as per the schedule decided earlier. Funds for all the programmes will be provided by Unicef along with monetary aid from the state government and the national rural health mission (NRHM).Mission director Mr SK Lohani, director of the family welfare Mr Dushasan Muduli, and Unicef representatives were present at the meeting.

Rs 2,000 crore titanium project to be set up at Chhatrapur

The Pioneer, 16th October, 2008
PNS Bhubaneswar

The State Government on Wednesday signed an MoU with the Titanium Products Private Limited (TPPL), a Joint Venture Company promoted by Kolkata-based Saraf Agencies Ltd and State owned Russian Companies, Federal Agency for Federal Property and JSC Techno Chim to set up titanium dioxide project at Chhatrapur.The MoU was signed in the presence of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. "The project will add employment capacity of around 12,00 persons. It will get further integrated with the aluminum hinterland in Kalahandi, Koraput and Rayagada," the Chief Minister said.While Industry Secretary AP Padhi signed the MoU on behalf of the State Government, SM Saraf inked it on behalf of the TPPL. "The project would start production within 24 months," Saraf said.TPPL has proposed to set up a Rs 2,000-crore titanium dioxide project. The Saraf Group will hold 45 per cent share in the project that is coming up near Chhatrapur in Ganjam district of Orissa. The integrated titanium plant to come up in two phases will produce 40,000 ton of titanium dioxide per annum.Industry Minister Biswa Bhusan Harichandan, Finance Minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadai, Chief Secretary Ajit Tripathy were present on the occasion.

State, TPPL in pact for titanium complex

Business Standard, 16th October, 2008

The Orissa government today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Titanium Products Private Limited (TPPL), an Indo-Russian joint venture, for setting up of a Rs 2000 crore integrated titanium complex and sector specific special economic zone (SEZ) at Chhatrapur in Ganjam district.
SM Shroff , chairman of TPPL and the state industry secretary, A P Padhi signed the documents in the presence of chief minister, Naveen Patnaik in the state secretariat.
The company will invest about Rs 2000 crore in two phases. While the first phase will cost about Rs 1200 crore, another Rs 800 crore will be invested in the second phase. The first phase will be completed within a period of 24 months and is likely to be commissioned by October 2010. It will produce 1,08,000 tonnes of titanium slag, 68,000 tonnes of high purity pig iron, 40,000 tonnes of di-oxide pigment and 10,000 tonnes of titanium sponge.
TPPL has already entered into an agreement with the Indian Rare Earth Limited (IREL) for the supply of the raw material Ilminite. The company will require about 2 lakh tonnes of Ilminite annually for its project. India will be the fourth country in the world to have smelting technology required for production of titanium. The products will have applications in the field of aircraft engine, power plants, chemical plants, automobile industry as titanium is light and corrosion resistant.
TPPL will develop a sector specific special economic zone (SEZ) at its plant site for which it has received the in-principle approval from the Centre. However, it will require additional land beyond 250 acres acquired for the titanium complex.
The Orissa government has agreed to supply 65 Mw of power and 3 million gallon per day water for the project.
Speaking on the occasion chief minister Naveen Patnaik said, Orissa is at the forefront of an industrial revolution in iron and steel, aluminium, power industries basing on its inherent strength as the storehouse of natural resources. The titanium complex project seeks to add value to the products manufactured by IREL.
He said, the project is the anchor industry for a sector specific SEZ for establishment of downstream industries in sectors like high quality paint manufacturing, automotive casting, ductile iron casting, sillicon and zircon based products.
Patnaik said, the upcoming port at Gopalpur and the integrated titanium complex are the foundations for an industrial corridor in southern Orissa. These will further be integrated with the aluminium hinterland in Kalahandi, Koraput anfd Raygada. For the purpose, he has requested the railway ministry to take up the Therubali-Gunupur railway connectivity at the earliest.
Stating that establishment of a quality vocational educational institution offering the most modern trades relevant for the industry will be an important initiative in the skill upgradation of the local youth, Patnaik said, TPPL should explore such possibility. Besides, it should develop partnership with the local technical institutions.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Safe motherhood, still a far cry, 15th October, 2008

Universalisation of safe motherhood might bring out cries of ‘impossible’ in Orissa but the fact is more than 50 per cent of the maternal mortality rate (MMR) in the State is avoidable.
The results of the first phase of implementation of Unicef’s maternal and perinatal inquiry and response (MAPEDIR) have brought to the fore the enormity of the prevailing maternal care indices, pointing out that more than half of maternal deaths are due to delay in obstetric interventions. The fact-sheet puts maternal mortality rate (deaths per lakh live births) in Orissa at 358 against 301 nationally and 194 in neighbouring West Bengal.
Data collected from the eight districts of Koraput, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Nawarangpur, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Balangir and Sonepur reveals that 67 per cent of the maternal deaths were from the Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste population against 50-57 per cent nationally.
The report outlines high level of illiteracy among women in Orissa, poor maternal health care delivery apparatus, lack of all-weather roads, low propensity to bear the cost and above all no decisive role even on their own health as the cardinal factors behind high MMR. The need of medical care for pregnant mothers is decided either by husbands, mothers or mothers-in-law.
The belief that bleeding after delivery is a usual phenomenon proves fatal for most women as haemorrhage is a major cause of high maternal mortality in Orissa. Eclampsia, Sepsis and Anemia are also contributors.
The report also finds that households have not considered it important to seek formal preventive health care for these complications. Further, delays were encountered when women were referred to a second or third health facility often due to a lack of specialists or blood availability. Lack of blood was particularly acute and multiple referrals meant extra costs to families who could ill-afford them. The Unicef report also finds that many health centres don’t stock sufficient magnesium sulfate to treat the Eclampsia cases.
The report has outlined measures like the policy of free maternity beds and a voucher-based referral transport system in West Bengal, an obstetric helpline and referral transport system in Dholpur, Rajasthan, and a referral transport system linking remote villages to a health sub-centre providing 24x7 safe delivery in Guna as worthy instances to emulate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Axis Bank to Open 8 more braches

Businessstandard, Oct 13, 2008

In a bid to expand its business in Orissa, Axis Bank has decided to open at least 8 more branches in the state in the current year.

According to the bank officials, the new branches would be opened at locations like Bhawanipatna, Nuapada, Damonjodi, Paradip and Bhanjanagar.

At present, the bank has 21 branches in the state.

Axis Bank has a network of 709 branches, 20 extension counters and 3,058 ATMs across the country. These branches are spread across 442 cities and towns in the country including 21 branches in Orissa, said a senior officer of the bank.

The bank has around 120 ATMs in the state and plans to add another 30 ATMs during the year.

Axis Bank was relocated to a new premise here and its new premise was inaugurated by J.H. Jakkappanavar, senior divisional manager of Berhampur division of LIC in the presence of several senior officers of the bank.

The senior officials of the bank who were present on the occasion included Alok Biswas, vice president of Axis Bank’s zonal office in Kolkata, Debarchan Mishra, vice president of Bhubaneswar office, Laxmikant Satapathy, the assistant vice president and Pravat Kumar Mohanty, the branch head of Axis Bank’s Berhampur office.

Abroad Axis Bank has a presence in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Dubai and the bank is looking to further expand its international presence.

The bank has a customer base of over 90 lakh and it provides pay-roll services to over 12,000 corporates across 28 lakh salary accounts in the country. The market capitalisation of Axis Bank was Rs 25,105 crore (as on September 24 this year), which makes the bank the fourth largest in terms of market capitalisation in the country.

Animal sacrifice on the wane - Ash gourds, pumpkins & sugarcanes replace bulls & lambs

The Telegraph (Kolkata), Oct 13, 2008

Bhubaneswar, Oct. 12: Animal lovers have a reason to cheer as this Puja has seen the trend of animal sacrifice plummeting in the state.

Ash gourds, sugarcanes and pumpkins have replaced animals in most places.

“Following the hue and cry over animal sacrifice and a number of PILs filed by us, the number of animal sacrifices have significantly decreased,” said Jiban Das, the state secretary of People for Animals (PFA). “The tradition of slaughtering animals in the name of propitiating the deity will soon be a thing of past,” he added.

This time, the animal activists have been successful in convincing people to use other alternatives for sacrifice. Many devotees, who had earlier been sacrificing animals such as lambs, bulls and goats, offered sugarcane, pumpkins, ash gourds, coconuts and betelnuts and pumpkins this year. “The sacrifice of pumpkin is the most common substitute,” said Das.

The campaign of PFA was fruitful as animal sacrifice completely stopped at Kaolpada and Banki in Cuttack. This practice was still on at some places, including Sulia Manch in Bolangir, where the activists continued with their efforts to stop it. “Our representatives have been meeting local administrative officials and people requesting them to put an end to the gory practice,” said Das.

The police have been deployed on the Bahgawati temple premises at Banpur and the Biragobindpur temple at Puri where the sacrifices were held last week.

“We have had discussions with the officials and the local residents earlier and our volunteers were keeping stock of the situation so that minimum numbers of sacrifices take place,” said Das.

However, in some places, such as Bhawanipatna, the administration had to withdraw its decision bowing down to protests of the local community. The area last week witnessed around 3,000 animal sacrifices offered to the presiding deity, Maa Manikeshwari.

Worshipper of Laxmi languishing in poverty

Merinews, Oct 13, 2008
Devagunia, a community which sings in the praise of Laxmi and prays for the prosperity of Laxmi, are today languishing in poverty and deprivation. They, however, prepare various fancy items by weaving paddy, which they sell in the nearby villages

LAXMI IS the deity of prosperity and richness. Ironically, a small community named ’Devaguru’ (Devagunia), who are traditional bards and sing in the praise of Laxmi and pray for the prosperity and blessing of Laxmi for all, are today languishing in poverty and deprivation, uncared for by anybody.
Devagunia, a small community settled in limited areas of Kalahandi, Nuapada and Bolangir district in Orissa and are found mainly in Dumermunda village under Kesinga block, Bamniguda of Junagarh block, Khaliabhata of Jaipatna block of Kalahandi district, Singhjhar and Kapsi village of Sinapali block of Nuapada district and also in few periphery villages of Titlagarh of Bolangir district.

The traditional occupation of Devgunia is to go to each household and recite Laxmi Puran and sing songs in praise of Laxmi, playing a traditional musical instrument ’Brahmavina’, which is also called ’Tali Aeinla’. They generally depend on the gift of grocery (uncooked food items) given by households. But they don’t accept it as it is, but treat it as alms and so they in return present Laxmi Khatuli (Laxmi’s idol), elephant, etc for worship, prepared entirely by weaving paddy .

This exclusive art form of Devgunias is popularly known as paddy craft and is limited to this particular class only. Besides craft items related to Laxmi, they also prepare various designs and fancy items with paddy.

Whatever they earn by reciting Lami Puran is not adequate and with the cultural change emerging fast, they are least cared now a days. Thus, they have to depend solely on various paddy craft items and manage the family from whatever they earn by selling the item in the near by villages.

The paddy craft prepared by Devgunias is getting popular and it has found places in the drawing rooms of sophisticated people. In different exhibitions of the state and also in Dili Haat, this paddy craft is an item of attraction and its demand is increasing.

However, this craft is a neglected lot. Anadi Devguru of Dumermunda village lamented that incentive and assistance for this craft is a distant dream. Long back during 1991-92, they were covered under Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) loan for promotion of the paddy craft. However, since then they have not been provided with financial assistance from any quarter. Officials of the block and cottage industry, which were once frequenting the village to popularise the craft no longer visits the place, he said. He said that despite languishing in poverty they have not, however, forgotten to sing in praise of Laxmi.

It is irony of fate that the worshipper and singer of Laxmi, the deity of prosperity, are living in poverty !

It is high time that the traditional paddy craft villages need to be covered under ’Integrated Rural Artisan Rehabilitation Scheme’ , so that this traditional craft can grow and with it, this traditional community would overcome poverty.

UNICEF: SCs/STs account for 50% pregnancy deaths

Times of India, Oct 10, 2008

NEW DELHI: Of the 301 women who die annually for every 1,00,000 live births, there are many stories that go untold. New data suggests that among the
women dying during pregnancy, delivery or post-partum complications, a large proportion — about 50% — are from the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

According to data collected by Unicef from 16 districts of Rajasthan, West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) shows that women are dying of preventable causes of death.

In the first phase of implementation of Unicef's maternal and perinatal death inquiry and response (MAPEDIR), cases of 1,600 women were analysed. While in Dholpur (Rajasthan), 49% of deaths were from SC/STs, in Purulia (West Bengal) of the 375 deaths examined between 2005 and 2008, 51% were from SC/STs.

In Ranchi (Jharkhand), 123 deaths in the last year were examined, of which 56% were from SC/STs and in 8 districts of Orissa — including Koraput, Rayagada, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Bolangir and Sonepur — the percentage of SC/ST deaths was as high as 68. In Madhya Pradesh's Shivpuri district, 60% of the deaths were of SC/STs while in Guna district the figure was 49.4%.

In some states, the MMR was higher that the national average of 301 — 358 in Orissa, 371 in Bihar and 379 in MP. Since many deaths occurred in the anonymity of women's homes or on the way to seek help at a medical facility, they often go unrecorded. An estimated 80,000 pregnant women or new mothers die each year in India often from preventable causes, including haemorrhage, eclampsia, sepsis and anaemia.

"The tragic reality is that too often maternal deaths are not visible. They don't leave any trace behind, and their deaths are not accounted for," Chris Hirabayashi, Unicef India deputy director of programmes, stating that Unicef was committed to continue working with the National Rural Health Mission to promote surveillance as a key strategy to lower maternal and child mortality.

For India to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015, social and economic factors like the low status of women in communities, the poor understanding of families on when to seek care, lack of transport, poor roads, the cost of seeking care, multiple referrals to different health facilities and delay in life-saving measures in rural areas need to be addressed. For the survey, a team of state government health and nutrition officials and NGO members, headed by a member of the local village council, conducted interviews with surviving family members at the community-level.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

State celebrates Chhatra Yatra

The Statesman, Oct 9, 2008

BHAWANIPATNA, Oct. 8: The famous Chhatra Yatra of Goddess Manikeswari was held here today amidst traditional rites and rituals. More than two lakh devotees from the state as well as from neighbouring states congregated at the temple to take part in the celebrations.
The Chhatra Yatra is one of the major Yatras in the state and many claim that it is second only to the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath of Puri.
After performing the traditional Sandhi Puja in the Manikeswari temple on Mahastami night, the ceremonial Chhatra of Goddess Manikeswari was taken to Jenakhal, about three kilometres from of the town where secret rituals were performed in the early hours of Mahanavami. During the return journey, with the thrilling beats of the Jenabadya, Nisan, and Ghanta the Deity was accompanied with dancers performing Ghumura, a traditional martial dance form. Devotees followed the Deity and made offering as a mark of the fulfillment of their wishes. The devotees also released hundreds of doves into the air in the name of the deity during the celebrations. At the main gate of the temple, the Maharaja performed a puja and received the Chhatra from the priests and took it inside the temple. n sns

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

3 held in Lakshmanananda case

The Hindu, Oct 7, 2008

Prafulla Das
Attacks on houses of Christians reported in Kalahandi

BHUBANESWAR: The Orissa police on Monday arrested three people for their alleged involvement in the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmanananda.

Duryodhan Sunamajhi, Munda Badamajhi and Sanatan Badamajhi, arrested from the Tumudibandha area of riot-hit Kandhamal district, were active members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Two guns, masks and black dresses were recovered from them, the new Director-General of Police Manmohan Praharaj told The Hindu over telephone.

Mr. Praharaj, who did not comment on the religious identity of the three, said more arrests were likely in the case.

Soon after Lakshmanananda was killed, by about 40 armed men at his ashram at
Jalespata in Kandhamal on August 23, the then DGP Gopal Chandra Nanda said the crime was committed by suspected Maoists. However, confusion was created after leaders of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal claimed that militant Christians had killed the Swami.

Attacks on the houses of Christians were reported from the neighbouring Kalahandi district. The houses were burnt down in Sukuli village in Kalahandi early in the day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cong excels in Bhawanipatna civic body poll

The Pioneer, Oct 1, 2008
Pioneer News Service | Bhawanipatna

Congress candidate Lalita Naik from Ward No 17 has been elected as the Chairman of Bhawanipatna Municipality, that was reserved for SC woman candidates, by two votes than her BJP counterpart Laxmi Priya Naik. In Bhawanipatna, out of 20 seats, the Congress won 10 seats, the BJP six, and the BJD and Independents two each.

Congress candidate Ram Kumar Jain was elected as the chairman of Kesinga NAC that was reserved for OBC. The Congress won seven seats, the BJD four and the BJP one, out of total 12 seats in Kesinga.

BJD candidate Mahesh Kumar Sahu from Junagarh NAC was elected as the Chairman by four votes from his Congress contestant Sudhanshu Sekhar. In Junagarh, the BJP got eight seats, the Cogress three and Independents one out of the total 12 seats.