Thursday, April 30, 2009

During UPA's five years rule in India: Kalahandi vs Rae Bareli

Recent comparison between Purulia (West Bengal) and Kalahandi by Mr. Rahul Gandhi has brought everybody's attention and opened up a political debate between Left parties vs Congress party in the national politics.

Let's look what Kalahandi has achieved as major projects compared to Sonia Gandhi's home constituency in last five years of UPA's rule in India.

Rae Bareli
Rail Coach Factory
Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology
National Institutional of Pharmaceutical and Research
National Institute of Fashion Technology

Kalahandi
NIL

Public Demand in Kalahandi towards Local Development and Employment
Railway Factory
Central University

Are Sonia and Rahul Gandhi listerning to Kalahandi or is it another form of (mis)using "Kalahandi name" for political benefits?

Cases detected, guilty let off the hook

Expressbuzz, April 30, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: The fight against child labour has remained confined to rhetorics. Scores of cases filed against hotels, restaurants and roadside eateries, where most of these young ones are engaged, have been pending. And in several districts, the State Government has not even been able to collect the penalty which goes towards rehabilitation.

On International Labour Day-eve, when Child Labour Prohibition Day is observed, it’s about time people looked at the issue with seriousness.

A survey conducted by the Liberated Child Movement (LCM) puts it in perspective. Conducted in 20 districts, the independent assessment says no punishment has been handed out in any of these districts.

During the period between 1997-98 and 2008, 74 cases were filed in Sambalpur. No one was punished. In Keonjhar, 46 cases were filed and in 33, the persons accused were acquitted. The rest is pending. Importantly, children have been employed in mining sector but there is little action taken.

The LCM survey says that many districts were not serious about the issue of child labour.

In Jagatsinghpur, just two cases were filed. In Kalahandi, the LCM survey spotted at least 14,000-odd cases but legal action is next to nothing.

A status report of the Labour Department says over 1,000 inspections were made by its officials last year at hotels, restaurants and dhabas during which more than 800 child labourers were detected. While 300 were released, some were sent back to their parents.

This, however, does not address the issue.

The LCM says as per the Supreme Court directives, states have been instructed to collect Rs 20,000 from persons found guilty of engaging child labourers towards rehabilitation.

However, such penalty has been collected in only one case in Jagatsinghpur.

Besides, there is no mechanism to collect funds towards welfare, says Bikash Das, who heads LCM campaign. ‘‘Of the 436 cases, only seven perpetrators have yet been punished,’’ he said.

LIC Housing targets Rs 560 cr biz from E-Region

Hindu Business Line, April 29, 2009

BERHAMPUR (ORISSA): LIC Housing Finance Ltd (LICHFL) has set a business target of Rs 560 crore from the country's eastern region, which also comprise the north eastern states, during the current financial year.

The target is about Rs 160 crore more than in 2007-08, company regional manager A Mr K Mahato said here yesterday. In order to achieve the target, the company planned to open at least two more business centres in the region during the current month. The new business centres were set up here and in Cuttack taking the total number to four in Orissa and 15 in the eastern region.

The new office here would cater to the needs of the customers of southern Orissa districts of Ganjam, Gajapati, Rayagada, Koraput, Kalahandi and Kandhamal. LICHFL is the second largest financing company in the country with 126 marketing units across the country and 934 direct selling agents, 4,865 home loan agents and 485 customer relationship associates, Mr Mahato said. – PTI

NROs rue plan for second Central varsity campus in Bhubaneswar

The Pioneer, April 30, 2009
PNS | Bhawanipatna

Non-resident Oriyas (NROs) have expressed deep concern and anguish over the decision of Prof Surabhi Banerjee to set up a Second Campus of the Central University of Orissa (CUO) at Bhubaneswar.

They said that there was no need for opening a Second Campus in the Capital city as Bhubaneswar is hosting many national institutions like IIT, NISER, AIIMS and National University Bhubaneswar (NUB).

NROs like Prof Digambara Patra and others have flooded the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) with e-mails demanding immediate intervention. Professor Patra, who teaches Chemistry in the American University of Beirut, alleged that the first Vice-Chancellor of CUO is more interested in her own personal convenience. He has alleged that Prof Banerjee is in no mood to move to Koraput due to lack of facilities like airport and modern health care units. Many of us have been working hard to establish a Central University in the KBK region for the past five years keeping backwardness of KBK region in mind, but this is really disappointing, he rued.

People of Kalahandi have been struggling for a Central University for the past two decades for which the Chief Minister of Orissa promised to establish a Central University in Kalahandi in May 2008, said Lily Behera from Texas, US. Though it was expected that the proposed new Central University of Orissa will come up at Bhawanipatna as it meets all infrastructure cited by MHRD and is centrally located in KBK, Naveen Patnaik later decided to shift it to Koraput keeping political advantage in mind, she alleged.

Earlier, many petitions were given to the Prime Minister praying for justice towards the injustice caused by the Chief Minister of Orissa to the people of Kalahandi which are still pending, said Lingaraj Patra from Tokyo, Japan.

In the past couple of years, the State Government has proposed the Central Government to establish a CUO at Koraput, a branch of Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU) in Phulbani and an Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Berhampur, all of them in South Orissa, said Atmaram Thakur. But no national institution has been proposed in the Western Orissa region during this period, he lamented.

It would be wise to establish a new campus of CUO in those regions of the State which are backward and needs attention in higher education in Western Orissa, and not in Bhuabneswar region, which is already hosting many similar establishments of high repute, said Maitreyee Behera.

By proposing a second campus of CUO in a rented house in Bhubaneswar, the VC is diluting the importance of its establishment in the backward KBK, alleged Ramakanta Acharya.

All of them are strongly opposing the move adding that in case of a second campus of CUO, it should be established in Bhawanipatna.

Sterlite Inds Q4 net profit dips by 54%

www.indiainfoline.com, April 29, 2009
India Infoline News Service / Mumbai Apr 28, 2009 17:17

Sterlite has posted a net profit after tax attributable of Rs5982.50mn for the quarter ended March 31, 2009 as against Rs13184.10mn for the quarter ended March 31, 2008.


Sterlite Industries India Ltd has posted a net profit after tax attributable of Rs5982.50mn for the quarter ended March 31, 2009 where as the same was at Rs13184.10mn for the quarter ended March 31, 2008.

Total Income is Rs48000mn for the quarter ended March 31, 2009 where as the same was at Rs73576.60mn for the quarter ended March 31, 2008.

The Group has posted a net profit after tax attributable of Rs35399.90mn for the year ended March 31, 2009 where as the same was at Rs43993.70mn for the year ended March 31, 2008.

Total Income is Rs232984.80mn for the year ended March 31, 2009 where as the same was at Rs262714.80mn for the year ended March 31, 2008.

Aluminium Business

BALCO
Aluminium production for Q4 and FY09 was 85,000tons and 357,000tons respectively, compared with 92,000tons and 359,000tons in the corresponding prior periods. As part of our focus on improving profitability and cash flow, we shut down a part of the BALCO Plant I smelter in Q4 2009 due to higher operational costs. Consequently, we are selling surplus power in commercial market, to maximise returns.

Revenues for Q4 and FY09 were Rs8.13bn and Rs39.34bn respectively, compared with Rs11.25bn and Rs41.7bn in the corresponding prior periods. EBIDTA for Q4 and the FY09 was Rs30mn and Rs8.96bn respectively, compared with Rs4.04bn and Rs13.93bn in the corresponding prior periods. The decrease in revenue and profitability was primarily on account of reduction in LME. During Q4, LME prices of aluminium fell by ~50% to US$1,360/tonne compared with US$2,729/tonne in the corresponding prior quarter.

The cost control measures undertaken by the Company along with the drop in input prices started yielding positive impact on the unit cost of production (“CoP”) at BALCO, which reduced to US$1,385 per tonne in Q4 compared with US$1,642 per tonne in the immediately preceding quarter.

Unit CoP in March 2009 was US$1,177 per tonne. Going forward, we expect the trend of reduction in costs to continue.
Construction at the new 325,000 tpa aluminium smelter site at BALCO has commenced.
Construction of the 1,200MW captive power plant is also in full swing. The project is on schedule for first metal tapping from October 2010, as earlier announced.
Vedanta Aluminium Limited (“VAL”).
The first phase of the 500,000 tonne per annum (‘tpa”) Jharsuguda I aluminium smelter is progressing well. Till date and at present 257 pots have been brought in line, supported by 5 units of captive power plant.

The remaining 76 pots in the first phase are ready for commissioning, awaiting power stabilisation. With this, the first 250,000 tpa phase is expected to be fully
operational by the first quarter of FY 2010, six months ahead of the original schedule.

Work on the second 250,000 tpa phase is on schedule. We plan to commence phased commissioning from June 2009 and become fully operational by end FY 2010.

The first stream of the alumina refinery at Lanjigarh is fully operational and produced 171,000tons in Q4 2009, close to its rated capacity. The second stream of the alumina refinery has also recently commenced operations. We expect to start progressive feeding of the Lanjigarh alumina refinery with our own Niyamgiri bauxite by mid FY 2010.

The new 1.25mn tpa Jharsuguda II aluminium smelter project is progressing well with civil construction activities in progress in all major areas of the four pot lines and associated plants. All major packages have been ordered and the overall project is on schedule for phased commissioning from March 2010, as previously announced.

Work on the 600,000 tpa debottlenecking project at our Lanjigarh alumina refinery is progressing on schedule for completion by March 2010, as earlier announced. Ordering of critical items has commenced for the new 3mtpa Lanjigarh alumina refinery expansion project and work is progressing on schedule.

Results for the Fourth Quarter and Year ended 31 March 2009
Copper Business (Sterlite Industries)
During Q4 2009, copper cathode production at the Tuticorin smelter was 88,000tons, broadly same as the corresponding prior quarter. Cathode production for FY 2009 was 313,000tons, 7.7% lower than the previous year due to planned maintenance in Q1 2009 and to repair damage in the cooling tower structure in Q3 2009. The cooling tower is now repaired and restored to its normal operations from January 2009 onwards.

Mined metal production at our Australian mines was 8,000tons in Q4 2009 with FY 2009 production at 27,000tons, in line with our expectations. Revenues for Q4 and FY09 were at Rs22.6bn and Rs115.3bn respectively, compared with Rs33.75bn and Rs126.57bn in the corresponding prior periods. The decrease in revenues was primarily on account of steep fall in LME prices of copper and fall in by-product realisation. EBITDA for Q4 and FY09 was at Rs2.9bn and Rs12.72bn respectively, compared with Rs3.44bn and Rs12.15bn in the corresponding prior periods. The decrease in profitability was mainly on account of steep fall in by-products realization and lower Tc/Rc. The Gross COP has reduced considerably from 16.94 c/lb in Q3 to 12.79 c/lb in Q4, mainly due to reduction in global commodity and crude prices.

After a good first half, the acid business saw a sharp decline in prices, mainly on account of cheaper fertilizer imports and low sulphur costs. The market showed signs of recovery at the fag end of the year.

Though fall in LME prices resulted in closure and cutbacks of several mines, global concentrate Tc/Rcs have been settled around 75/7.5 from this calendar year onwards. Spot market remains tight due to increased Chinese offtake.

Zinc Business (HZL)
During Q4 and FY 2009, company recorded its highest ever quarterly and annual zinc mined metal production of 175,438tons and 651,494tons, an increase of 27.3% and 18.1% respectively compared with the corresponding prior periods. The increase in production was primarily on account of the successful commissioning and ramp-up of the stream III concentrator at the Rampura Agucha mine.

During Q4 and FY 2009, refined zinc production was 150,544tons and 551,724tons respectively, an increase of 11.1% and 29.4% compared with the corresponding prior periods. The increase in production was primarily on account of the additional production from the ramped-up 88,000tons debottlenecked capacity.

During Q4, refined lead production was lower at 15,691tons compared with the corresponding prior quarter, primarily on account of an unplanned shutdown of the Ausmelt smelter in January 2009. During FY09, refined lead production was at 60,323tons, an increase of 3.5% compared with the corresponding prior year. Sales during Q4 were also augmented by the sale of 25,055 dry metrictons of surplus lead concentrate.

During Q4 and FY 2009, HZL achieved a record saleable silver production of 35,176 kilograms and 105,055 kilograms, an increase of 47.5% and 30.6% respectively compared with the corresponding prior periods. The increase in production was primarily on account of increased operational efficiencies and higher silver content in concentrates.

Revenues for Q4 and FY 2009 were lower at Rs1,263 crores and Rs5,680 crores respectively, compared with Rs2,266 crores and Rs7,878 crores in the corresponding prior periods. EBITDA for Q4 and FY 2009 was Rs581 crores and Rs2,875 crores, compared with Rs1,493 crores and Rs5,602 crores respectively, in the corresponding prior periods.

For the year, the positive impact, on sales and profitability, of higher volumes, higher by-product realisations and rupee depreciation was more than offset by the negative impact of lower zinc and lead LME prices and higher input costs.

During Q4 and FY 2009, average zinc prices declined to US$1,174 per tonne and US$1,563 per tonne respectively, compared with US$2,426 per tonne and US$2,992 per tonne in the corresponding prior periods. During the same period, average lead LME was US$1,160 per tonne and US$1,660 per tonne respectively, compared with US$2,891 per tonne and US$2,875 per tonne respectively.

Cost of production for FY09 was at the same level as in the previous year. During Q4, cost of production, before royalty, was lower at US$621/tonne compared with the US$698/tonne in the immediately preceding quarter.

Construction activity at the 210,000 tpa zinc smelter and 100,000 tpa lead smelter at Rajpura Dariba is progressing well and is on schedule for completion by mid-2010. Works at the mining projects at Rampura Agucha, Sindesar Khurd and Kayar are also progressing on schedule for progressive commissioning from mid-2010. Post completion of these projects, Hindustan Zinc will be the largest integrated zinc-lead producer with a capacity of 1,064,000 tpa.

Commercial Energy Projects
Work on 2,400 MW (4x600 MW) coal based Independent thermal power plant at Jharsuguda is progressing well and is on schedule for progressive commissioning from late 2009 as expected.

Cash, Cash Equivalents and liquid investments
Consolidated cash, cash equivalents and liquid investments as on 31 March 2009 was Rs192.87bn. This includes Rs137.82bn in debt mutual funds and Rs55.05bn in fixed deposits with banks. The Company has strong internal control mechanism that includes continuous review and monitoring of all its investments. The investments portfolio is independently reviewed by Credit Rating Information Services of India Limited (CRISIL) on an ongoing basis.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sonia's criticism of NREGA in Bengal based on CAG reports

Times of India, April 29, 2009

NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi's criticism of the Left Front government in West Bengal for not properly implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) thus depriving the poor of the centrally-sponsored guaranteed job opportunities is based on a fact-finding done by the government's official auditor Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

CAG had conducted investigations in all the states where the NREGA scheme was implemented, first in 2006-07 and again between February and March 2008, to ascertain if the states that were found lagging behind or where leakages had been reported had done a course correction.

In West Bengal, a verification by a CAG team in at least seven villages in 2006-07 had found that expenditure was incurred on at least 20 projects for non-existent works. Unfruitful expenditure in at least seven social forestry works was also reported during the probe.

During an election rally in Murshidabad district on Monday, Sonia had blasted the Left Front for its inability to provide job cards to hundreds of thousands of poor under NREGA.

However, it was not just the Left-ruled state that was found deficient in implementing the UPA government's ambitious rural job scheme. The CAG report found that despite no shortage of funds for NREGA scheme, except in Tripura, none of the test-checked villages across the country had taken up all the works proposed in their annual plan for 2006-07.

The average state-wise shortfall in works actually taken up vis-a-vis those contemplated in the annual plans ranged from 1% in West Bengal, 28% in Andhra Pradesh, 24% in Assam, 15% in Punjab to 24% in Tamil Nadu and 79% in Bihar. High percentages were reported in Maharashtra (97%), Karnataka (92%), Meghalaya (93%) and Himachal Pradesh (63%).

The states found lacking in implementation of the rural job scheme belonged to all shades -- NDA, UPA and Left Front. In Orissa, interviews of 142 households in 21 villages of Kalahandi and Bolangir, in the presence of district authorities, revealed that in 98 cases, the beneficiaries disputed their engagement, and in 117 cases, they stated receipt of wages of only Rs 3 lakh against Rs 5 lakh shown in the online job cards and Muster Rolls.

In Manipur, job cards were issued without identification. In Assam, there was no formal allotment of work. Works under NREGA were allocated verbally. In J&K, out of 495 work orders executed during 2006-07, 116 works costing Rs 112 lakh had not been approved by the panchayats and did not form part of the approved annual works plan.

In Tamil Nadu, no records of the works executed under NREGA were maintained in any of the sampled blocks studied. In Karnataka, undated applications for works were received, and the number of days of employment demanded by the workers was neither recorded nor available to justify the demand for work.

Subsequently, in order to assess the improvement in implementation of the scheme as a result of the CAG audit, a second investigation of records was conducted between February and March 2008, covering 24 villages in six states from within the original audit sample.

It had, however, listed good practices of West Bengal having made provision for outsourcing of maintenance of different registers in keeping track of the NREGA scheme, besides the state having developed a grievance redressal mechanism. Others like Rajasthan and Jharkhand adopted West Bengal's good practices.

Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh had subsequently issued necessary instructions for proper maintenance of all registers at each level. In Bihar, properly trained staff had been provided to ensure maintenance of records.

pradeep.thakur@timesgroup.com

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Kalahandi Medical in Bad Shape

Dharitri, April 28, 2009

NROs angry over Surabhi

Tathya.in,
Bhawanipatna:27/April/2009

“It is like carrying coal to new castle”, lamented most of the intelligentsia in Orissa and abroad.

They said Bhubaneswar is hosting many national institutions like IIT, NISER, AIIMS and National University Bhubaneswar (NUB) by Central Government of India in its vicinity.

Apart from the fact that there are also proposals for many state Government and private Universities in the Capital region, what is the use of setting up a Second Campus in the Capital city?

This question is in the upper most minds of one and all.

So the Prime Minister Office is flooded with e-mails from both inside and outside the country and they have demanded immediate intervention.

Leading the lot Digambara Patra has expressed deep concern and anguish over the decision of Surabhi Banarjee to set up Second Campus of the Central University of Orissa (CUO) at Bhubaneswar.

Professor Patra, who teaches in the American University of Beirut, alleged that the first Vice Chancellor of the CUO is more interested for her own personal convenience rather than take caring interest of Orissa state.

He has alleged that Prof. Banerjee is in no mood to move to Koraput due to lack of facilities like airport and modern health care units.

Many of us have been working hard to establish a Central University in KBK region since past five years keeping backwardness of KBK region in mind.

People of Kalahandi have been struggling for a central university since past two decades for which Chief Minister of Orissa promised for establishment of Central University in Kalahandi in May 2008, said Lily Behera from Texas, US.

Though it was expected that the proposed new Central University of Orissa will come up at Bhawanipatna as it meets all infrastructure cited by MHRD and centrally located in KBK, later on Naveen Patnaik decided it to set up at Koraput.

That’s only keeping political advantage in sight, alleged she.

Earlier many petitions were given to honorable prime minister praying for justice towards the injustice caused by Chief Minister of Orissa to the people of Kalahandi which are still pending, said Lingaraj Patra from Tokyo, Japan.

In past couple of years state Government has proposed to Central Government of India to establish CUO at Koraput, branch of Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU) in Phulbani and Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Berhampur, all of them in South Orissa, said Atmaram Thakur.

Whereas no national institution has been proposed in Western Orissa region during this period, lamented he.

It would be wise to establish new campus of CUO in those regions of the state which are backward and needs attention in higher education in Western Orissa and not in Bhuabneswar region which is already hosting many similar establishments of high repute, said Maitreyee Behera.

The second and third campuses of CUO must come in other KBK districts of Western Orissa region that desperately need national institutions, demanded Om Prakash Behera.

Kalahandi and Balangir are two ideal locations for such establishments, said he.

The distribution of CUO might be such that Arts, Law and management campus of CUO comes in Koraput, medical campus of CUO gets established in Bhawanipatna and Engineering campus of CUO gets established in Balangir, proposed Judhistir Patra.

By proposing for a second campus of CUO in rented house in Bhubaneswar the VC of CUO is diluting importance of such establishment in backward region like KBK, alleged Rama Kanta Acharjya.

All of them have strongly opposed the move adding that in case of second campus of CUO, it should be established at Bhawanipatna.

Kalahandi DCC dismisses 8 party workers

The Pioneer, April 28, 2009

Bhawanipatna: The District Congress Committee (DCC) of Kalahandi dismissed eight workers from the party for their anti-party activities during the general elections. These workers are, former MP Subash Chandra Nayak, ZP member Ashok Kumar Chand, DCC vice-president Sunil Chandra Nayak and secretary Pradipta Padhi, PCC member Rohit Bhoi, BCCB president Kali Prasad Raiguru and party’s Kalampur block president Sasthi Prasad Sahoo, announced the DCC through a Press note. Besides, it dissolved the Kalampur Block Congress Committee. The DCC also sought replies from its working member Rabindra Pattjoshi, general secretary Prasanta Pattjoshi and secretary Thabira Sahoo and PCC member Tusar Ranjan Pattjoshi for their dubious activities.

Traders protest frequent power cuts in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, April 28, 2009
Pioneer News Service | Bhawanipatna

In a meeting at the Town Hall here on Sunday, Kalahandi Merchants’ Association president Bijay Kumar Sahu brought the matter of frequent disruption of electric supply and low voltage to the notice of the concerned officials of the energy department. The Kalahandi ADM, GRIDCO General Manager and WESCO Executive Engineer were present at the meeting.

Hundreds of businessmen asked the officials about the reasons behind the frequent power cuts, low voltage, illegal power connections, irregularity in bill payment and poor response of the staff towards the problems of the consumers. However, the officers could not give satisfactory reply to these queries.

The GRIDCO General Manager assured to setup a grid station at the town within two years, but till that time the consumers have to suffer from power problems. The grid has already been setup at Kesinga and Narla, but total of its 53 MW power supply is not enough, he said.

The WESCO officers admitted the consumers’ complaint that supply of electricity to the Vedanta is the main reason of frequent power cuts in the area, but the GRIDCO General Manager denied any supply of power to the company. The consumers rued that there was no proper communication between the GRIDCO and WESCO.

Move afoot to deprive Koraput of Central varsity

The Pioneer, April 28, 2009

PNS | Bhubaneswar

It is now the turn of officials to play with the fate of the much-awaited Central University in Koraput district, for which the Union Government had taken a lot of time to give its sanction.

Though it was expected that the proposed university would come up at Bhawanipatna, the district headquarters of Kalahandi, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik decided to establish it in Koraput.

That was only keeping poll-eve political advantage in sight. And the Centre, after a lot of noise, sanctioned Rs 1.20 crore for the Central University in Koraput.

However, now the officials of the Union Government do not appear to be in a mood to go to this tribal-dominated district. The reason is lack of facilities like airport and modern healthcare units.

Prof Surabhi Banerjee, who has been appointed as the first Vice-Chancellor of the Central University, is reportedly not ready to move to Koraput. Sources said the VC has been persuading the State Government officials to open a temporary campus of the university in the capital of the State.

The newly-formed Central University’s authorities argue that the academic activities could begin from a temporary campus in Bhubaneswar till sufficient buildings are constructed in Koraput.

It may be mentioned here that by the time the building will be ready Prof Banerjee’s term will come to an end. This is despite the fact that the credit of being the first VC of the university at Koraput goes to her.

Prof Banerjee’s attempt to open a temporary campus is, however, not supported by many in the State. The authorities can find a suitable place for running the temporary campus in Koraput itself, they argue.

Though Koraput does not have air link, it is well-connected with rail line. Therefore, the students and faculty should have no communication problem. Koraput is the major district in the poor KBK region and it would be literally deprived of getting a Central University even though it has been sanctioned by the Centre.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Non Resident Oriya writes letter to PM, CM over activities of Vice- Chancellor of Central University of Orissa

Orissadiary.com, April 27, 2009

Report by Orissadiary correspondent; Bhubaneswar : Digambara Patra , an Non Resident Oriya , based at Lebanon as Assistant Professor,Department of Chemistry, American University of Beirut.Beirut, Lebanon,Email: digpatra@yahoo.com in a E Maik to the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh, with subsequent copies to the Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India, and Prof. Swabhi Banerjee, Vice- Chancellor of Central University of Orissa Media has written - It is totally disappointing and painful to learn that recently appointed vice-chancellor, Professor Surabhi Banerjee, of Central University of Orissa (CUO) is planning for a second campus in Bhubaneswar for her own personal convenience rather than take caring interest of Orissa state.

Keeping general election in mind, at the last moment Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Union Govt. of India has hurriedly appointed Prof. Surabhi Banerjee as the first vice-chancellor of the CUO and she is in no mood to move to Koraput due to lack of facilities like airport and modern health care units (Tathya.in, April 26, 2009 & Samaja, April 29, 2009).

A second campus of Central University of Orissa should not come in Bhubaneswar as Orissa state capital region is already hosting many national institutions of high repute like Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER), National University Bhubaneswar (NUB) and branch of All Indian Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) by Central Government of India in its vicinity apart from the fact that there are also proposals for many state Government and private Universities in Bhubaneswar region.

Many of us have been working hard to establish a Central University in KBK region since past five years keeping backwardness of KBK region in mind. People of Kalahandi have been struggling for a central university since past two decades for which Chief Minister of Orissa promised for establishment of Central University in Kalahandi in May 2008. Though it was expected that the proposed new Central University of Orissa will come up at Bhawanipatna as it meets all infrastructure cited by MHRD and centrally located in KBK, later on Chief Minister Mr. Naveen Patnaik decided it to set up at Koraput. That’s only keeping political advantage in sight (Tathya.in, April 26, 2009).

Earlier many petitions were given to honorable prime minister praying for justice towards the injustice caused by Chief Minister of Orissa to the people of Kalahandi (Ref: PMO ID No. 20/3/2008-PMP4/1673739 dated 27-08-2008), which are still pending.
In past couple of years state Government has proposed to Central Government of India to establish CUO at Koraput, branch of Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU) in Phulbani and Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Berhampur, all of them in South Orissa, and NISER, IIT, AIIMS and NUB in central Orissa, whereas no national institution has been proposed in Western Orissa region during this period. It would be wise to establish new campus of CUO in those regions of the state which are backward and needs attention in higher education in Western Orissa and not in Bhuabneswar region which is already hosting many similar establishments of high repute.

The second and third campuses of CUO must come in other KBK districts of Western Orissa region that desperately need national institutions. Kalahandi and Balangir are two ideal locations for such establishments. The distribution of CUO might be such that Arts, Law and management campus of CUO comes in Koraput, medical campus of CUO gets established in Bhawanipatna and Engineering campus of CUO gets established in Balangir.

By proposing for a second campus of CUO in rented house in Bhubaneswar the VC of CUO is diluting importance of such establishment in backward region like KBK, the move we strongly oppose. Rather we propose in case of second campus of CUO, it should be established at Bhawanipatna.

Further, Prof. Surbhi Banerjee is the official biographer of Jyoti Basu and in 1990 Prof. Banerjee's appointment as pro-VC of Calcutta University had created a major row (Ref: Times of India, March 1, 2009, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4205630.cms).

It may not be surprising that official who is alleged with controversy in the past might work towards her own personal interest without taking serious interest of a backward region like KBK and its people.

Sir, being an academician with high moral you must be realizing that such movement will destroy integrity of academic growth and make backward place socially more backward and ignored in higher education.

Politicization of higher education must be stopped by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and State Government of Orissa for the benefit of larger mass of the society, specially, for development of a backward region like KBK, one of the poorest regions in the nation.

I request you that any official who is not interested to go to Koraput, Bhawanipatna or Balangir to serve CUO must resign from her post or should be terminated from her duty. In India there are plenty of highly qualified professionals who are equally potent and efficient to serve as vice-chancellor of CUO in KBK region.

I also appeal and sincerely pray to you that such unhealthy practice by any official to establish second campus of CUO in Bhubaneswar should be denounced and in case of second campus of CUO, it should only be established in other KBK districts, such as in Kalahandi.

Summer threat to wildlife

The Telegraph (Kolkata), April 27, 2009
LALMOHAN PATNAIK

Cuttack, April 26: For tigers, elephants, deer and other animals, this summer has been the worst in recent times with no rainfall being recorded in the past six months across the vast stretch of forests from Mayurbhanj to Koraput, making them vulnerable to poachers.

With average temperature hovering around 42°C in most of the areas, several traditional water sources in the forests have dried up, while the water level has receded in the rest. The situation has been aggravated this year with summer setting in early.

In isolated pockets of the jungle, migration of animals into nearby villages in search of drinking water has become a cause of concern to animal rights activists. “As the mercury rises, the frequency of such sojourns out of their habitat by animals is increasing, making them more vulnerable to poaching and hunting,” B.K. Mohanty, the secretary of Wildlife Society of Orissa, said.

As the carnivores “colonised” on whatever water resources left in the forests, tiger preys like spotted deer, sambar and barking deer are among the first to venture out to human habitat in search of water. “If immediate steps are not taken to provide enough water to the animals within forest limits, hundreds of them would fall prey to poaching and hunting,” Mohanty added.

The problem is potentially “distressing and alarming” in Athamalik, Dhenkanal, Daspalla, Keonjhar, Rairakhol, Kandhamal, Ghumsur, Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Koraput, Khariar and Kalahandi forests.

Satkosia reserve faces the same situation, as a large part of water bodies in the wildlife sanctuary have turned dry. In Orissa, the total number of tigers are 20, according to the Wildlife Institute of India, which came up with a report, “Status of tigers, co-predators and prey in India”, in 2008.

The condition in Simlipal national park is somewhat better because of its abundant water resources.

The elephant population in the ranges of Narsinghpur, Dhenkanal, Athamalik, Satkosia, Pallahara, Keonjhar and Kotgarh was also being driven out of their habitat to quench thirst. They were suffering the most, as they need vast quantities of water both for bathing and drinking.

A senior forest official said there was a “crisis”, but claimed: “We have been working on a plan to tackle the crisis with water harvesting structures. The strategy of digging saucer pits, which generally collect water from underground sources and are easy to access for animals, has also been taken up in collaboration with the respective district administrations.” But wildlife activists are not convinced. “The harvesting structures serve little purpose, as they are located not within the forest limits but outside,” Mohanty said.

“Over 5,000 animals are killed every year as wildlife managers and officers fail to monitor the situation or take timely measures,” he alleged.

Anti-Vedanta groups not allowed in meeting

The Statesman, April 27, 2009
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA, April 26: Pro-Vedanta industry groups prevented those opposed to the project from attending a public hearing organised by the Orissa State Pollution Control Board in Bellemba village near Lanjigarh yesterday.
Those in favour of the project dubbed the anti-industry faction, who were accompanied by a couple of foreigners, as "outsiders".
The public hearing was held to ascertain people's opinion on environmental issues related to a proposed expansion proposal of Vedanta Allumina Ltd.
VAL which has already established 1 million ton per annum capacity refinery at Lanjigarh and started production since 2007 procuring raw material from out side the state as it awaits clearances for the bauxite mining operation at Niyamgiri, a proposal which has been highly controversial.
Now the VAL proposes to expand the refinery to 6 million ton per annum.
Inhabitants from affected villages like ~ Belamba, Sindhbahal, Rengopali, Bandhaguda and Kapaguda participated in the hearing.
The villagers wanted firm commitment on pollution control and rehabilitation benefits.
The public hearing was presided by ADM Kalahandi, Mr Chudamani Seth.
The anti-Vedanta groups and pro-groups came face to face when groups like Sachetan Nagarik Manch, Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti along with NGO activists from outside the state including foreigners from England and Germany, said to be social activists, entered the area. The local pro industry groups resisted the anti-groups leading to chaos.
At the public hearing Dr Mukesh Kumar, the chief operating officer of VAL in his presentation addressed concerns raised by different groups and villagers and assured that the Company will take all initiatives for social, economic and environmental development of the area.
In this context Mr Siddhartha Nayak, leading activist of Sachetan Nagarik Manch and Green Kalahandi outfit later alleged that the company is not complying the pollution related lapses and defects pointed out by state pollution control board, and in view of this now there is no justification to go for the proposed expansion.
Some of the villagers like Mr Daaka Majhi welcomed the company’s expansion proposal saying: “We have seen the developmental work of Vedanta and realise what benefit the company can give us, if we give our land. We have no objection if our land goes for a bigger plant”.
He was supported by Mr Lingaraj Majhi of Rengopalli village who said: “If our land will be included in the expansion project, our fate will be changed. We support the company from its inception and will be happy to give our land for the expansion work.”

Locals debate on Vedanta Alumina’s expansion

The Pioneer, April 27, 2009
PNS | Bhawanipatna/Lanjigarh

At a public hearing on environmental clearance for expansion of the Lanjigarh-based Vedanta Alumina Refinery, organised by the Orissa State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) on Saturday, some of the nearby villagers of the project area while strongly supported expansion of the refinery from 1 MTPA to 6 MTPA, some others complained their plight due to pollution and other developmental activities. The argument between these two groups could not be compromised.

A group of residents from Belamba, Sindhbahal, Rengopalli, Bandhaguda and Kapaguda villages complained that they are suffering from asthma due to pollution. The number of admission of patients at Lanjigarh hospital is more this year as compared to the year 2002. The rules say that there should not be any human habitat within 7 km radius of the company for the safety of their health, they cited.

These protesters brought to the notice of the Government authorities that due to extraction of bauxite, 36 rivers including Bansadhara and Nagabali flowing from the Niyamgiri hill are going to be dried. Besides, the flora, fauna and the movements of birds, elephants and squirrels in the dense forest are being affected since the establishment of the industry. They appealed the authorities not to sell their lands as their forefathers have been staying on it.

Notably, opposing the construction of roads from Jaganathpur village up to the bottom of the hill, some days before, the tribals of the area under the banner of the Green Kalahandi had torched the company’s four wheeler which had gone with its officials to the hill top.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lanjigarh Villagers vehemently oppose outside NGO Activists

Special Reporter: Kailash Tudu
Email: ktudu1@gmail.com

Local people of Lanjigarh, including Kondh tribal community strongly resisted the attempts by some of the outside NGO activists to create disturbances in the Public Hearing meeting organized by Orissa State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) regarding Environmental Clearance to Vedanta Aluminium Limited for its expansion. “We know what is good for us and what is bad. We know what benefit we will get if Vedanta expands. The outsiders should not interfere in our matter,” said Raghu Majhi of Belamba village, where the Public Hearing took place on April 25, 2009.

The villagers opposed some of the outside NGO workers, when they tried to present their view on the subject and raise slogan against the Company. As per the notice issues by the OSPCB only persons who are affected or involved in the expansion project were supposed to attend the public hearing and put forth their view. However, some of the NGO from Bhawanipatna, Bhubaneswar, New Delhi and European Countries were also present in the program and tried to interrupt the proceedings. “What is the stake of these white foreigners in the project,” asked the tribal community members. It seems that these International NGO activists are working against Vedanta with their vested interests. According to the villagers, these NGOs and foreigners have never done anything for the development of this tribal dominated area. They were seen nowhere in the site but flock at Lanjigarh, when such public meetings happens.

In the meeting though the local villagers and to be affected persons raised issues regarding dust pollution, supported the Expansion Plan by Vedanta Aluminium. They also came forward to donate their land for the expansion of the Alumina Refinery and in return avail the rehabilitation and resettlement benefits. A group of people from local villages also submitted a memorandum to the government representatives to give their land for the expansion project.

Vedanta Aluminium has applied for Environmental Clearance for its proposed expansion of its Alumina Refinery’s capacity from 1 MTPA to 6 MTPA. As per the instruction by the Ministry of Environment and Forest the OSPCB conducted the Public Hearing. The meeting was presided by Mr. Chudamani Seth, ADM, Kalahandi and facilitated by Er. PC Rout of OPSCB. Dr. Mukesh Kumar, Chief Operating Officer of Vedanta Aluminium Limited presented a brief note on the proposed expansion project. Several community leaders from the locality presented their views on subject.

Vedanta Aluminium is already having an Alumina Refinery of 1 MTPA capacity with a Captive power plant at Lanjigarh.

No central varsity in K'put

Tathya.in, April 26, 2009
Koraput:26/April/2009

First it was Centre.

And now it is turn of officials.

All play with the fate of the much-awaited central university in Orissa’s Koraput district.

Centre took a lot of time for granting a central university for Orissa.

Though it was expected that the proposed new varsity will come up at Bhawanipatna, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik decided it to set up at Koraput.

That’s only keeping political advantage in sight.

And the centre after lot of noise sanctioned Rs 1.20 crore for the central university at Koraput.

However, now its officials were not in a mood to go to the tribal dominated district.

The reason: lack of facilities like airport and modern health care units.

Surabhi Banerjee had been appointed as the first vice-chancellor of the central university at Koraput.

But, Prof. Banerjee, are in no mood to move to Koraput.

Sources said, the VC had been persuading the state government officials to open temporary campus of the varsity in the state capital instead of going to Koraput.

The newly formed central university authorities claimed that the academic activities could begin from temporary campus here till the building was constructed at Koraput.

By the time, the building would be over; Prof Banerjee’s term could end.

Therefore, though the credit of becoming the first VC of the central university at Koraput goes to her, she will skip the tribal dominated district.

Prof Banerjee’s attempt to open temporary campus is, however, not supported by many in the state.

The authorities could find a suitable place for running the temporary campus in Koraput itself, they argued.

But Prof. Banerjee was not ready to accept the fact because of one simple reason that they would stay in Koraput.

Though Koraput did not have air link, it was well connected with rail line.

Therefore, the students and faculty should have no problem in making to and fro from the place.

Despite that, Koraput, the major district in the infamous KBK region, would be literally deprived up of getting a central university even as it had been sanctioned by the centre.

The central university in Koraput in all probability will face the fate of the Western Orissa Development Council (WODC) which had its headquarters in the state capital for a long time.

Public hearing on Vedanta held

Tathya.in, April 25, 2009
Lanjigarh:25/April/2009

The public hearing to obtain people's view on the environment clearance of Vedanta Aluminium Limited(VAL)’s proposed expansion of its Alumina Refinery was held at Belemba Village, near Lanjigarh on 25 April.

About 500 people were gathered in the meeting, organized by the Orissa State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB).

The meeting was presided by Chudamani Seth, ADM, Kalahandi.

Er.PC Rout of OPSCB facilitated the open public hearing.

Mukesh Kumar, Chief Operating Officer(COO) of VAL made a brief presentation about the expansion project by the company.

Dr.Kumar said that VAL is expanding its refinery capacity from 1 million ton per annum (MTPA) to 6 MTPA.

Several group of people from affected villages such as Belamba, Sindhbahal, Rengopalli, Bandhaguda and Kapaguda attended the meeting.

The villagers expressed their views on environmental aspects of the expansion project by VAL, which has already established a 1 MTPA Alumina Refinery at Lanjigarh.

Local villagers demanded that their land should be taken under the expansion project and they should be given benefits as given to rehabilitated people in the Vedanta Niyamgiri Nagar.

The villagers also stopped some of the outside people and organisations, who were opposing the expansion project and attempted to disturb the proceedings.

They also claimed that expansion of the project will accelerate developmental activities in the area and local people shall be benefited.

“We have seen the developmental work of Vedanta and realize what benefit the company can give us, if we give our land. We have no objection if our land goes for a bigger plant,” said Daaka Majhi, one of the villagers from Bandhaguda village, whose land will be taken under the expansion project.

A group of people from Belamba village also submitted a memorandum to the State Government representatives to give their land for the expansion project and avail benefits as per the R&R Policy of the Government of Orissa.

Lingaraj Majhi of Rengopalli village also says, “If our land will be included in the expansion project, our fate will be changed.

We support the company from its inception and will be happy to give our land for the expansion work.”

Dr. Kumar also addressed concerns raised by the villagers and assured that VAL will take all initiatives for socio-economic and environmental development of the area.

Sanjay Pattnaik, AVP (Special Projects) and RC Rout were also present in the meeting, said a Press Release of VAL.

However scribes covering the public hearing have said that there was tremendous opposition to the move.

People are opposing the expansion of the project and they demand scraping of the project.

Tussle between protestor and supporter stopped public hearing meeting

The Samaja, April 26, 2009

Tribes stage mass protest against British mining company Vedanta

Survival Press Release, April 25, 2009

Several hundred tribespeople today staged a protest against FTSE-100 company Vedanta, as it bids massively to expand its controversial aluminium refinery in Lanjigarh, Orissa.

The refinery occupies land belonging to the Majhi Kondh tribe, and lies at the foot of the Niyamgiri hills, home of the isolated Dongria Kondhs. Both tribes took part in the protests.

The refinery has already been condemned by government officials for regularly breaching safety standards, and emitting ‘alarming’ pollution. Over a hundred families lost their homes to their refinery. Many more lost their farm land and with it their food-security and self sufficiency.

Vedanta’s refinery expansion project is integrally linked to its plan to mine the Dongria Kondh’s mountain home. Vedanta’s mine is needed to provide the refinery with a nearby, and cost efficient, source of bauxite – the raw material for aluminium.

One Dongria Kondh man told Survival, ‘Mining only makes profit for the rich. We will become beggars if the company destroys our mountain and our forest so that they can make money. We cannot give our mountain, it is our life. And other tribes will also suffer, those who live on the rivers that come from our mountain.’

Today’s protest is just the latest in a string of demonstrations against Vedanta’s activities. In January Dongria men and women joined other local communities to form a human chain around their sacred mountain.

Survival’s director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘The Dongria have shown yet again how determined they are to stop Vedanta from defiling their sacred mountain and from expanding their polluting refinery. Vedanta’s PR cannot cover up the true feelings of the people forever, and Survival will keep doing whatever it can to amplify the voices of the Dongria Kondh and their neighbours.’

Heatwave continues, toll 40

Expressbuzz, April 26, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: The State continued to reel under a grim heatwave as the mercury hovered above 40 degree Celsius across large parts. The number of suspected sunstroke deaths rose to 40 with report of one more death reaching from Balasore today, the Revenue Control Room said.

Temperature fell at some places, though they were all above normal. Sundargarh recorded 44 degree Celsius even as the western and coal belt of Angul-Talcher boiled all day.

In the Capital, there was marginal relief as the temperature dropped by two degrees today. Places that recorded 40-plus degree included Titlagarh (43.2), Malkangiri (43.2), Sambalpur (43.8), Hirakud (42.3), Jharsuguda (42.8), Angul (42.7), Bhawanipatna (42.6) and Cuttack (40.1).

The Met office said the heatwave conditions are likely to prevail for next 24 hours and there is little likelihood of any immediate relief unless thundershowers occur which are a regular phenomenon in this part of the country.

Rahul not yet ready to be PM

Economic Times, April 26, 2009

KOLKATA: AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi gave a clear hint on Saturday that the Congress would not hesitate to garner Left support in forming
the government in the event of a hung parliament after general elections.

But in the same breath, he deplored the West Bengal government’s failure in implementing several central policies meant for the development of the poor. Mr Gandhi was addressing the media in Kolkata on Saturday just before his departure for Delhi.

Asked whether Congress would seek Left support in forming the next government, Mr Gandhi said: “The Congress’s doors are open for all.” He, however, refrained from elaborating any further. To another specific query, the 39-year-old Congress leader said he would not accept the post of Prime Minister even if it was offered to him.

“I am too bogged with the organisational work for the Congress which is the first reason of not accepting the Prime Minister’s post. The second reason is that I don’t have the experience for the job,” said Rahul.

Interestingly, Rahul made no bones of his fondness for Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee. ”I met Mamataji when I was small. I used to see her at our home. But I have not spoken to her recently. Also I have not met her for a long time and I wish get to meet her soon. I admire her simplicity. She is the lady of the people and meets people all the time.”

On the contrary, during his recent travels through several West Bengal districts like Bankura and Purulia to campaign for Congress candidates, he said: “I was extremely upset to see the plight of the people in Purulia. It is no better than Kalahandi in Orissa and I must say the Left Front government does not have the right idea in so far as development issues go.”

“I am not attacking the Left. All I’m saying is what I’ve seen myself in Purulia. It’s no better than Kalahandi. And the Left Front government could not use 50 per cent of the central funds allocated to construct homes for the poor,” said Rahul when asked to rate the performance of the Left Front in West Bengal.
He also underscored the need for integration of the education system with the rest of the world. “If you look forward 30 to 40 years, we have to change the way we look at the education scenario right now. We have to internationalise our education system,” the AICC general secretary said.

Asked to comment on current LTTE activities in Sri Lanka, Rahul said “I have no sympathy for the LTTE. It has killed my father. It is a terrorist outfit and many civilians in Sri Lanka are suffering due to the LTTE activities. We have to reduce the sufferings of these civilians.”

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tribal People Support Expansion of Vedanta's Alumina Refinery

Reporter: Kailash Tudu
Email: ktudu1@gmail.com



Bhawanipatna / Lanjigarh (25th April 2009): Today large numbers of dongria kondh and majhi kondh tribal people gathered at the public hearing meeting held at Belemba Village which was meant for the expansion of Vedanta Aluminium’s refinery plant. They showed their willingness as well as passion for supporting this move of the Vedanta by participating in the meeting in large number and by openly supporting the officials from the district administration present there. Around 500 people were there in the gathering. This public hearing was called by the district administration to obtain people's view on the environment clearance of Vedanta Aluminium Limited’s proposed expansion of its Alumina Refinery. It was organized by the Orissa State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB). The meeting was presided by Mr. Chudamani Seth, ADM, Kalahandi and facilitated by Er. PC Rout of OPSCB.

Several group of people from affected villages such as Belamba, Sindhbahal, Rengopalli, Bandhaguda and Kapaguda attended the meeting. Local villagers demanded that their land should be taken under the expansion project and they should be given benefits as given to rehabilitated people in the Vedanta Niyamgiri Nagar.

They also claimed that expansion of the project will accelerate developmental activities in the area and local people shall be benefited. “We have seen the developmental work of Vedanta and realize what benefit the company can give us, if we give our land. We have no objection if our land goes for a bigger plant,” said Daaka Majhi, one of the villagers from Bandhaguda village, whose land will be taken under the expansion project. “or every positive effort of Vedanta we are at their back and will continue to render support wholeheartedly” he added

A group of people from Belamba village also submitted a memorandum to the government representatives to give their land for the expansion project and avail benefits as per the R&R Policy of the Government of Orissa. Lingaraj Majhi of Rengopalli village also says, “If our land will be included in the expansion project, our fate will be changed. We support the company from its inception and will be happy to give our land for the expansion work.”

“Today’s development shows that the tribal people have started thinking about their future and they have shown interest in supporting as well as involving themselves in all the developmental and promotional activities of Vedanta” said Mr Muktikant Mishra, the founder of MORO ODISHA one NGO working in the area of social sector. “The feeling of belongingness and involvement in the meeting was was clearly visible from their eyes”, Mr Mishra added.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Distress sale of Mahua flower adds to tribals’ woes in west Orissa

The Pioneer, April 24, 2009
Pioneer News Service | Bhubaneswar

Mahua flower is considered a boon by the poor tribals in western Orissa, mostly forest dwellers, who have to earn their livelihood basically from forest produces. Apart from Mahua, these poor people also depend on collecting Sal seeds and Kendu leaves to eke out a living.

But the distress sale of Mahua, which is collected for only two months (March and April) in a year, has added woe to them while the traders are reportedly churning out maximum benefits.

Sources said Mahua trading is a seasonal business for over 35 lakh families in Boudh, Balangir, Subarnapur, Kalahandi, Sambalpur, Deogarh, Bargarh and Jharsuguda districts of the western belt.

Mahua flowers are used for manufacturing alcoholic drinks in tropical India and it has a major contribution towards the total revenue collection of the State. However, the trading is controlled by liqour manufacturers, who purchase the flowers at Rs 3 to Rs 4 a kg while the State Government has fixed the price at the rate of Rs 5 a kg.

Though collection of the flower from forests in the scalding heat in summer season and preserving those from misture in rainy season is apparently a tough task for the poor tribals, they have to sale it at Rs 2 a kg in adverse situations, rued a tribal.

Notably, Mahua has been included both under the Minor Forest Produce (Regulation of Trade) Act and the Patent Act. As per statutory provisions, no one should be allowed to stock more than two quintals of Mahua flowers, which facilitates distress sale of the forest produce, said a forest official on condition of anonymity.

In 2000, the State Government removed the power of regulation of Mahua trading from the Forest Department and vested it on respective panchayats. However, the system has come to a grinding halt due to severe negligence on the part of the Panchayati Raj (PR) institutions. In fact, the real power to regulate the traders is yet to be delegated to the PR bodies, he pointed out.

Another dimension of Mahua trading is the prevailing system of registration, about which the poor tribals are quite ignorant and the traders are getting the advantage by registering their names at Rs 100. A strict implementation of the rules and laws pertaining to Vanbasies, can meet the distress sale of Mahua, giving a respite to the poor forest dwellers, he signed off.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Race for Kursi begins…

Tathya.in, 21, April, 2009
Bhubaneswar:21/April/2009

With expectation that Congress could make a come back this time, the party leaders have apparently entered into the race for the Chief Minister (CM)’s post.

As the poll pundits claim that Congress could bag at least four of the 10 Lok Sabha seats and about 30 of the 70 assembly seats where polling was held on first phase, the leaders were encouraged.

Take the instance of former Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang.

Gamang, whose fate was sealed in the EVM for Koraput Lok Sabha seat, came down to the state capital and showed extra interest in party activities in Bhubaneswar.

Gamang who preferred to keep a distance from the Congress Bhavan here, attended meetings here and offered himself to join campaigning in the second phase of polling scheduled on 23 April.

This is not the case of Gamang alone, another former Chief Minister J B Patnaik, though denied a ticket to contest this time, also held several meetings for Congress candidates.

While Patnaik was aiming for the Kursi for the fourth time, he predicted a Congress come back this time.

Party’s senior leader Narasingha Mishra who contested from Balangir Lok Sabha seat also campaigned for party candidates with a hope of drawing attention of the Congress high command.

Party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Kalahandi, Bhakta Charan Das was also not lagging behind.

Knowing that he was in good book of the party leader in Delhi, Das too aims the kursi on third floor of the state secretariat.

PCC president K P Singhdeo, though did not contest from any seat this time, was the natural claimant for the post if the Congress came to power again.

Bur Singhdeo, reportedly had irked, sources said, the party leaders in Delhi by time and again threatening to withdraw from the PCC post.

Singhdeo, however, hoped that with backing of Gulam Nabi Azad, he could make it.

Azad had categorically told media that this time, the Congress would give a new face in Orissa if voted to power.

BJD, Congress leaders expelled

Expressbuzz, April 23, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has suspended several party leaders for working against the BJD candidates in the elections.

The suspended are Mayurbhanj district vice-president Manoj Kumar Mohanty, Bolgarh block president Banambar Majhi, Begunia block president Bibhuti Mohanty, Zill Parishad (Udala) member Padmalochan Murmu and Niladri Bihari Mohanty from Udala.

Several leaders have also been expelled from the Congress for working against the party candidates by Orissa Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president KP Singhdeo.

They include former MLA Padma Charan Haiburu, Zilla Parishad member of Dhenkanal Bhubanananda Nayak, Parjang block chairperson Bismita Mohapatra, Parjang block vice-chairman Nibaran Samal, Zilla Parishad member from Kalahandi Ashok Kumar Chand and Seva Dal secretary Anjali Mangaraj.

Are Political Parties in Orissa sincere enough on FRA to win votes of forest dwellers?

Orissadiary.com, April 23, 2009
By Pradeep Baisakh, Senior Editor www.orissadiary.com

In the midst of the general and Assembly elections, various political parties are busy owing the voters making tall claims on what they have done and would do in future for the poor. This time around the forest dwelling communities are keenly watching the performance of the ruling and the opposition parties on the Forest Right Act (FRA)- the law that aims to recognise tribals' and other forest dwellers' right over forest land and resources.

Orissa is among the forerunners along with some other states like Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh and West Bengal in reaching the full potential of receiving the claims under Forest Rights Law, claims the recent status report provided by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India. Till the period ending February 28, 2009, a total number of claims filed in the state at the Gram Sabha level is 2, 91,524 out of which 2, 71,352 are of individual claims and 20,172 are community claims, states the report on the achievements of BJD government in Orissa led by 'the most popular CM' Naveen Patnaik (Courtesy: India Today) . Till only recently it was a BJD and BJP coalition government. (BJP withdrew its support from the coalition government on 7th March 2009)

A research angle to the issue suggests that the state government's score on FRA is not very high. According to the Planning Commission's statistics, the number of people who are critically dependent on forest in the state is above one crore. Accepting the census standard of the size of a family (five people constitute a family), the number of potential families to reap individual benefits from the law is 20 lakhs. These include both the tribals and the other traditional forest dwellers. So, the submission of 2.71 lakh individual claims against the potential 20 lakh families does not leave much room for celebration, though comparatively Orissa has done better than many other states. Moreover, out of these many claims filed, only about 22,000 individual claims have been finally approved by DLC till the reported period.

Ground realities suggest that the rejection rate of the claims is very high. For example, in Sagada GP under Bhawanipatna block of Kalahandi district, out of 26 villages the verification in 9 villages was complete by the Sub Divisional Committee (SDLC) by end of December 2008. Out of 196 claims received, the SDLC has rejected 144 claims. "Basing on the status of the implementation of the law in 2700 villages from 10 districts of the state that we are tracking, the percentage of rejection is as high as 60 percent" informs Tushar Dash, a researcher. If this data is extrapolated to the whole state, the house holds to be benefited after completion of the process are 1.08 lakhs, which is a meagre 5.4 percent of the total potential beneficiaries!

First big problem with the implementation of the law in the state is non recognition of the rights of the Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) during joint verification done by SDLC. Three generation issue has come up as a major bottleneck at the SDLC and DLC level. So the claims of this category are rejected. In Sagada GP all such claims filed by the OTFD, which were verified by the SDLC, have been rejected.

In some cases, the people have ignorantly filed claims over revenue land assuming them as forest lands, which are being rejected by SDLC as they would not be acceptable under this law. But the officials are responsible for this ignorance of people. Dash says "In 1980s, during 'hal' settlement many of the forest areas were transferred to different kisam of revenue and other (non-forest) land. However, revenue and forest officials kept the people ignorant about this and continued to extort them." The case of Ramesh Maji of Sagada GP is an instance to cite.

According to Forest Survey of India report 1999, out of total 46989 villages in the state, about 29,300 villages are located adjacent to the recorded forest areas, which include the villages inside the forest. If it is assumed that at least one community claim should comes from these villages, the performance of the government seems to be quite good as such claims filed at Gram Sabha level is more than 20,000. But, the concern remains about the miniscule number of such claims approved by the District Level Committee (DLC) which is only 27 till the reported period.

The government deserves a pat on its back on some of the progressive steps taken by it e.g. it identified the 'village' as the ideal unit for formation of FRCs and holding Gram Sabhas as against the Gram panchayat approach in many states like Madhya Pradesh and Gujrat; it has empowered the Gram Sabha to issue caste certificates; it has directed the collectors to take special effort to sensitise people to file more community rights claims; and it has specially directed not to neglect the un-surveyed forest villages in the process.

But problem still lies which the government cannot wash away. Most of the forest land in the State is un-surveyed & detailed maps/records are not available. The claims preferred by the communities living inside the protected areas are not verified by the technical committees appointed by the SDLC. The problem is more acute in tiger reserves of the state like Satkosia, Sunabeda and Simlipal. The government is also criticised by the activists for its lackadaisical approach in the High Court in fighting the case filed by the retired forest officials against FRA, for which the disbursement of the entitlements has been withheld.

The main opposition party in the state, Congress has not done enough toward the cause of the forest dwellers. In the current Assembly, it has not raised this issue with any seriousness inside the Assembly and failed to pressurise the ruling dispensation to deliver on FRA outside the Assembly also.

The election results will show on how far people were satisfied with the performance of these parties toward FRA, namely, BJD, Congress and BJP who are the major three players in the state.

[The author is the Senior Editor of www.orissadiary.com . He can be reached through e mail: 2006pradeep@gmail.com, Mobile no: +91-9437112061]

Morada: Campaign got a royal flavour

Expressbuzz, April 23, 2009

BARIPADA: Kalahandi maharani Padma Manjari Devi hitting the campaign trail with rajmata of Mayurbhanj Bharati Rajluxmi Bhanj Deo (Praveen Bhanj Deo’s mother) and Mayurbhanj maharani Rashmi Rajluxmi Bhanj Deo (Praveen’s wife) has taken the campaigning in Morada (unreserved) Assembly constituency to a new high. Maharaja Praveen Chandra Bhanj Deo (50), scion of the Bhanja royal family of Mayurbhanj, is fighting the election as a BJD nominee.

Rajmata’s visit to far-flung villages of Morada along with maharani of Mayurbhanj and Kalahandi has generated a lot of curiosity among the people of Morada, particularly among women who are according warm receptions to the royal family members. Praveen said if he wins, he will implement mainly two things. First he will try to implement the ‘merger agreement’ that his grandfather, late Pratap Chandra Bhanj Deo, last ruler of the Bhanja dynasty, signed at the time of merger of the erstwhile princely state of Mayurbhanj with the Indian Union on first day of January, 1949. The merger agreement, among other things, included a promise for continuation of the facilities for the people of Mayurbhanj that they enjoyed during the royal regime after the merger of Mayurbhanj with Orissa, Praveen added.

Praveen’s agenda no.2 is to implement the hydropower generation scheme by tapping the Barheipani waterfall, investigation for which was completed by a British electric company under the initiative of the Bhanja rulers. He has other progressive ideas, but he is locked in a close contest with BJP heavyweight and party general secretary Rajkishore Das, and JMM heavyweight Bimal Lochan Das.

2 more days of heatwave

Expressbuzz, April 23, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: The unrelenting heat wave which has gripped large parts of Orissa is unlikely to spare the State for another two days.

Met officials said, the gruelling conditions would prevail for the next 48 hours over some parts of Orissa except south coastal region.

The central and western pockets continued to sizzle with Angul recording 45.3 degree Celsius today.

At Sundargarh, Sambalpur, Balangir, Titlagarh and Jharsuguda, the mercury hovered close to 45 degree Celsius while Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Hirakud, Chandbali, Keonjhar, Phulbani and Bhawanipatna registered 40 plus degree Celsius for the third successive day.

With complaint of one more death, the total number of sunstroke casualties reached 27today.

Power cuts, high temperature throw life out of gear

The Statesman, April 23, 2009
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA, April 22: Scorching temperature, unprecedented heat wave and frequent power cuts, have disrupted normal life in Kalahandi district in the last few days.
The power situation has been even grimmer after the election with more than 15-20 times disruption almost on a daily basis, locals alleged.
Yesterday irate locals gheroed the office of the executive engineer of Wesco, the distribution company, here alleging negligence in maintenance and irregularities by the utility. It is also alleged that there is no maintenance done by the officials and that thousands of houses are getting illegal power by hooking whereas genuine consumers are being harassed. The staff usually do not care to resume power supply after lot of complaints, they added.
Recently basing on a representation of All India Radio, Bhawanipatna which is a major consumer paying around Rs 4.50 lakhs per month on electricity charges, the secretary of Orissa Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC) has expressed resentment over the service provided by Wesco, sources said.
He has directed the concerned officials to furnish compliance report on the alleged failure in power supply and low voltage with special reference to AIR, Bhawanipatna. It has also asked the Wesco for improvement of power supply in the district with special care for the broadcaster.
The power regulator has asked Wesco to submit a report within a fortnight.
Stringent action will be initiated against the officials accused of not providing proper service, the regulator has maintained while acknowledging similar allegations by district collectorate and district bar association, sources said.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Val helps tribals

The Statesman, 21st April, 2009

Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA: Vedanta Aluminium Limited, Lanjigarh provided 40 sewing machines to 20 tribal women groups for leaf plate making. The sewing machines were distributed by Dr Mukesh Kumar, chief operating officer of VAL in a function, attended by Dongria Kondh women at Khemdipadar village recently.Addressing the gathering, Dr Mukesh Kumar said: “VAL is committed for overall development of the area and the impact of VAL's initiatives shall be visible soon in the areas of education, health, communication besides maintaining and improving cultural heritage”. Recently, the Aluminium Company has launched a project ~"Jeevika" for women residing in eight villages on the slope of Niyamgiri. Under the project the company has trained 300 tribal women on making of leaf plate and cups.“The sewing machines will help the tribal women producing standard leaf-plate and increase their income” said Dr Mukesh Kumar.The stitched leaf-plate making business is expected to enhance the income of each person by at least Rs 100 per month as Sal or Siali leaves are abundant in the area. Vedanta will also provide marketing support for the leaf-plate. The tribal women also see a new future in their newly found income opportunities.This is a pilot initiative by the company and after seeing response from the tribal women. The company is all set to expand the livelihood intervention to other villages.Providing improved livelihood to the periphery area villagers has been the focus of the company. It has contributed in better income and living of several tribal people in Lanjigarh through various livelihood initiatives such as Shashya Shilpa Abhiyan (vegetable cultivation program), strawberry cultivation; phenyl making, rice processing unit by SHG members and fishery said a release issued by the company.

Repolling in 8 Orissa booths

Business Standard,21st April, 2009

Repoll in eight polling booths spread over six Lok Sabha constituencies, including some in Maoist pockets, in Orissa was in progress amidst tight security today.Repolling in the booths was going on smoothly from seven am, state election office sources said.
Polling in the eight booths were postponed due to various reasons including damage to the electronic voting machines (evms) or snatching of the evms during the first phase of polling on April 16.
The six Lok Sabha seats where repolling was being held were - Balangir (2 booths), Koraput (1), Kalahandi (1), Sundergarh (1), Sambalpur (1) and Aska (2).
No voter had turned up to exercise franchise at the booth in Bonai area during repoll so far, probably due to Maoist scare, police said adding efforts were on to persuade the people to come for vote.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Talcher records season's highest temperature

Times of India, April 19, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: Mercury in the mining and industrial town of Talcher in Angul district boiled over on Saturday, recording 44.3 degrees Celsius, the
season's highest in the state.

As the mercury shot up, so did the humidity level, as a result of which the town wore a deserted look. People preferred to remain indoors and sip home-made cold drinks.

Incidentally, in 2005, when the temperature shot up to 50 degrees Celsius, the mining operation in the area had been badly affected. The same was repeated this year.

Environmentalists attributed this sudden rise in temperature to excessive mining operation and afforestation.

Several other parts of the state on Saturday also recorded temperature over 40 degrees Celsius temperature, including Angul (43.7 deg C), Bolangir (43.4 deg C), Jharsuguda and Sundergarh (43.0 deg C), Hirakud (42.3 deg C), Malkangiri (41.8 deg C), Balasore (41.5 deg C), Bhawanipatna (41.2 deg C), Keonjhar and Chandbali ( 40.5 deg C). Mercury in the twin cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack touched 38.6 degress Celsius and 39.7 degrees Celsius respectively.

The Meteorological Centre here forecast heat wave conditions to prevail in some parts of the state in next two days. The officials have also warnd of a possible thunder squall in the coastal areas.

"Dry, hot wind is blowing from the north-western parts of India towards Orissa during the day and a susbsequent change in the wind direction with the absence of sea breeze are some of the major factors that led to the sudden rise in temperature," said Met office director S C Sahu.

OMC-Vedanta JV company to be incorporated soon

Business Standard, April 20, 2009

The joint venture (JV) Company formed between the state owned Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) and Sterlite Industries India Ltd (SIIL) for mining of bauxite in the Niyamagiri hills in Kalahandi district will be incorporated as a Private Limited Company soon.

The JV name has been finalised and the company is in the process of getting incorporated with the Registrar of Companies (RoC), Orissa.

“The draft memorandum of association (MoA) and Articles of Association (AoA) of the new company has been submitted to OMC for approval. The incorporation of the JV company will be completed shortly after the approval”, P K Panda, vice-president (mines), Vedanta Aluminium Ltd.(VAL) told Business Standard.

The process of incorporation of the Joint Venture company named as “South-West Orissa Bauxite Mining Private Ltd.” has been set in motion after the signing of the modified JV agreement between SIIL and OMC in February this year, paving the way for start of bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills near Lanjigarh.

Meanwhile, the special purpose vehicle (SPV) namely ‘Lanjigarh Scheduled Area Foundation’ has already been formed and SIIL has deposited Rs 20 crore up to 2008-09 with the SPV for overseeing the all-round development in the Lanjigarh area.

Supreme Court in its judgement on 8 August 2008 cleared mining of bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills located in the Kalahandi district by SIIL following affidavits filed by SIIL, OMC and Orissa government accepting the rehabilitation package suggested by it on 23 November 2007.

While the company has deposited Rs 12 crore for tribal development, another Rs 10 crore is proposed to be deposited with the SPV during 2009-10. As part of its plan for the overall development of the area, the company also intends to provide connectivity to all the villages of Dongria Kandh, which are remotely located.

This is in line with the 5-year development plan drawn up for these villages by the Dongria Kandh Development Authority (DKDA).

Regarding the JV agreement of Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) with OMC for getting the raw material linkage, the apex court had stated that since Vedanta Resources Plc is not an indian company, it will not have any objection if the its indian subsidiary (SIIL) is made the JV partner of OMC.All provisions of the supreme court judgement were incorporated in the modified JV agreement signed by OMC and SIIL

It may be noted, VAL, a Sterlite group company, signed the JV agreement with the OMC on 5 October 2004, for developing bauxite mines at the Niyamgiri hill near Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district and the Khambasi hill in the adjoining Rayagada district. The bauxite was to be used for use in its one million tonne alumina refinery at Lanjigarh.

Why Balangir, Kalahandi backward

The Pioneer, April 20, 2009

Is there a relationship between the scions of the royal families of Balangir and Kalahandi representing various Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies of the two districts and the entire area being the poorest in the country? These worthies get elected several times in a row and, oftentimes, hold powerful ministerial positions too. But what do they do for their constituencies? Poor and illiterate people believe that they are the gods on earth and vote for them blindly, election after election. But what has been done to repay their trust? Do the kings think that their subjects must stay poor all the time so that their kingship will remain shining forever? Like in the previous ministries, there are two royal Ministers in the present Government who, had they wanted, could have done a lot for their people. But nothing tangible has been done. If this is not cheating people’s trust, what else it is? In fact, this is a classic case of abuse of trust. I believe this is the principal reason for lack of development and, hence, acute poverty in Balangir and Kalahandi. All else are secondary. The tragedy is all the main parties woo these kings and queens to contest on their tickets, as they are sure winners from their pocket boroughs. Remember the dictum: by his friends shall you know him? When it comes to electoral politics, all parties sing from the same song-sheet. Any doubt?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

In Kalahandi, battle for livelihood trumps war for votes

The Hindu, April 13, 2009
Siddharth Varadarajan

An open challenge to those who speak of development as an inclusive process.

Of all the disconnects between the economic ‘base’ and political ‘superstructure’ of Indian electoral alliances, none is more glaring than the tie-up between the Biju Janata Dal of Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and the Left-inspired Third Front. For even as the Left has made the anti-people neo-liberal policies of the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre the target of its nationwide campaign, Mr. Patnaik remains firmly wedded to one of the most predatory forms of extractive capitalism anywhere in India.

Three-cornered fight

Here in Kalahandi, all the promises and pitfalls of this model are on open display, dividing its victims and hope-filled beneficiaries, suborning the institutions of the state and throwing an open challenge to those who speak of development as an inclusive process. Lanjigarh is today frontier country and what happens here tomorrow, after the elections and beyond, will likely determine the direction India takes. The election is essentially a three-cornered fight between the sitting BJP MP, Bikram Keshari Deo, Congress stalwart and former MP Bhakta Charan Das and Subhas Chandra Nayak of the BJD. But the polls mask a more bitter and fundamental contest. On one side is the political clout and financial muscle of a powerful business house — the Indian-owned MNC, Vedanta — which established a massive aluminum refinery here in 2006 and is pushing for the immediate commencement of bauxite mining in the picturesque and ecologically-fragile Niyamgiri hills which ring this small town. And on the other, thousands of local tribals and non-tribals, who say the mining project will completely destroy their lives.

In Chhatarpur and Bandiguda right next to the refinery, and villages elsewhere, local residents openly express their preference for the ‘haath’ of the Congress. Mr. Das has been vocal in his opposition to Vedanta and his supporters have actively taken part in the struggles of the villagers and were also involved in a major case against the mining project in the Supreme Court. Despite the court-mandated Centrally Empowered Commission coming out against the Niyamgiri project on environmental grounds, the SC gave the green signal last year, overturning a plea by the Dongria Kondhas who live on the hill that their livelihood and religious rights would be destroyed once mining begins. It is not just the Dongrias who say the hill is sacred. “Niyamgiri belongs to Niyam raja,” Bhima Majhi of Turiguda, a Kondha, told The Hindu. “We worship him up there and in our village. And because of him, the hill gives all of us everything we need — food, water, forest products.” These sentiments appear to be shared by virtually everyone cutting across caste, tribe and even class lines. “Niyamgiri is our life”, Niranjan Acharya, an Ayurvedic doctor and activist said. Once it is gone, we will have nothing”.

With both the BJD and BJP strongly defending Vedanta, the fight, at least around Lanjigarh, seems to favour Congress. But Kalahandi is a large constituency. In the district headquarters of Bhawanipatna, opinion is divided on the bauxite project but most people this reporter spoke to said they expected the region to benefit in the long run. Local traders said sales had increased since the refinery was set up but also said the endless stream of trucks running into and out of Lanjigarh had ruined the local highway. Even in town, though, many seemed inclined to vote for Bhakta Charan Das in spite of his opposition to Vedanta, mostly out of fatigue towards having the same MP representing them since 1998. But for the Assembly, urban residents spoke highly of Mr. Patnaik and the BJD.

Vedanta claims that its project will bring benefits to the population around Lanjigarh, a claim belied by the absence of employment for locals and mounting environment-related problems the refinery itself has generated. As part of its contribution to local welfare, the company built a 20-bed ward for the local government hospital. When this correspondent visited it, the ward seemed unused. Dr. Debashish Ray said Vedanta had built the ward but neither it nor the government had provided any extra staff or facilities like quarters. “I would say Vedanta has made no contribution here,” said Dr. Nagendra Rajsamukh, another resident physician. Both doctors said the refinery had led to an increase in the incidence of skin and respiratory diseases because of water and dust pollution. “From afar, everything seems OK,” said Dr. Ray. “But only those who live here know what it is like.”

Even before the mining has started — a process the locals say will lead to water streams from the hill getting choked — the large red mud pond Vedanta has built near its plant has already cut off water to dozens of acres of farm land. And in village after village, this reporter saw residents with skin ailments and heard of an increase in TB. Govind Majhi, a 15-year-old boy in Bandiguda, held out a blistered hand that he said was caused by bathing in a polluted nali. “If a neta’s son falls ill, Vedanta will even fly him by helicopter,” said a villager. “But for us, there is nothing.”

Asked about the promised jobs, Mukta Harijan, a wisened but sprightly Dalit woman in Chhatrapur pointed to the scores of young men standing around. “Most of the work is being done by people from outside. When our youth ask for work, the security guards demand a gate-pass and turn them away.” Villagers said that whenever they try to protest, the police quickly move in. In Bellamba, locals said three villagers — Manglu Majhi, Hari Majhi and Dhanurjay Patra — were still in jail three months after being arrested for taking part in a peaceful dharna.

“Vedanta tells people in Delhi, ‘we have given everything — electricity, roads clinics,’ but they have done nothing,” said Doisingh Majhi of Bellamba. In Kendu Bardia, Kumti Majhi, a local leader of the anti-Vedanta movement, told me about how villagers last week managed to stop the construction of a conveyor belt that will be used to bring bauxite down from Niyamgiri once the mining starts. “They will try again after the elections and the police and administration will back them,” he said, “but we will continue to resist.” Niyamgiri, he said, was not the property of the government and the courts had no power to hand it over to Vedanta. “The hills belong to the adivasis and we are not going to let go.”

Saturday, April 18, 2009

High rate of polling recorded in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, April 18, 2009
PNS | Bhawanipatna

In the lone Lok Sabha constituency and five Assembly seats in Kalahandi district, 7,01,918 voters out of total 10,10,793 exercised their franchise on Thursday.

In the Bhawanipatna Assembly constituency, 64.17 per cent polling was recorded with 1,26,434 voters out of the total 1,97,028 casting their votes.

Similarly, in Narla, 1,36,780 electors out of 1,92,555 cast their votes, recording a 71.03 per cent turnout; in Lanjigarh, 1,34,113 out of 1,94, 834 voters turned up registering a 68.55 per cent polling; in Junagarh, 1,46,444 out of 2,06,446 cast their votes recording a 70.94 per cent polling; and in Dharmagarh, 1,58,147 out of 2,19,932 exercised their franchise recording a 71.91 per cent polling.

In the presence of all the MLA and MP candidates, the EVMs were sealed and kept in safe custody of the district administration on Friday.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Odisha recorded over 65 percent voter turnout

Kalingatimes.com, April 17, 2009
Kalinga Times Correspondent

Bhubaneswar, April 17: It's official now. The elections held in the 10 Lok Sabha and 70 Assembly seats of Odisha in the first phase on Thursday recorded more than 65 percent voter turnout, according to an official issued by the office of the State Chief Electoral Officer on Friday.

The initial information received by the Chief Electoral Officer Alka Panda by Thursday evening had indicated 52.6 percent voter turnout.

But according to the final reports received by the CEO, 65.9 percent voters exercised their franchise in the polling held in the 10 Lok Sabha and 70 Assembly constituencies.

According to the release, Anugul district recorded voter turnout of 72.8 percent, Bargarh 70 percent, Bolangir 68.9 percent, Boudh 73.2 percent, Deogarh 71.1 percent, Gajapati 65.8 percent, Ganjam 55.7 percent, Jharsuguda 68.5 percent, Kalahandi 69.4 percent, Kandhamal 65.7 percent, Koraput 63.1 percent, Malkangiri 41 percent, Nabarangpur 71.2 percent, Nayagarh 64.4 percent, Nuapada 68 percent, Rayagada 64.5 percent, Sambalpur 64.8 percent, Sonepur 71.9 percent, and Sundargarh 61.3 percent.

Proposal for fresh polling in booth no. 41-Karada Sevasram of Bonai Assembly Constituency, 131-Dhankauda-2 of Rengali AC, 125-Gunjipali of Biramaharajpur AC, 88-Pipilipalli of Loisinga AC, 146-Golluru of Potangi AC, 51- Khariar Road X of Nuapada AC, 176-Patiguda of Polasara AC and 3-Singipur of Sanakhemundi AC have been sent to Election Commission of India for approval, according to the release.

Dongria Kondh Tribe demands execution of Supreme Court’s Order on Niyamgiri

Breakingnewsonline.net, April 17, 2009
Contributed by Kailash Tudu

24/7 News Network: The Dongria Kondhs are one of the primitive tribes living in Niyamgiri Hills in Rayagada and Kalahandi Districts of Orissa, India. Though they reside on a huge cache of bauxite, primary source of aluminum, development is yet to reach them even after six decades of Indian independence.


The literacy level among the Dongria Kondhs is very low. Poverty and unemployment is too high. Their primary occupation is agriculture; a small land base and low agricultural productivity have led to their low income and poverty. Malnutrition and disease are very common among this Dongria Kondh community. Few Dongria Kondh villages are lucky to have basic services such health facilities and education.

However, after the Supreme Court’s order on August 2008, about mining from Niyamgiri, a new hope was raised among the community. Encouraged by the Supreme Court’s direction regarding mining from Niyamgiri by the Vedanta Aluminium, the Dongria Kondh community were hopeful that a new era of development was awaiting for them.

In the Landmark judgment, the Supreme Court directed the Vedanta Aluminium to spend Rs. 5 Crore or 10% of the profit, whichever is higher for development of people in the periphery area of the Alumina Refinery set up by the company. The money shall be spent through a Special Purpose Vehicle for Schedule Area Development – with Vedanta, Government of Orissa and Orissa Mining Company as its partner. The books of the account shall be audited by the Auditor General of Orissa and reviewed by the Supreme Court’s Central Empowerment Committee.

However, even after eight months of this land mark judgment, no initiative has been taken either by the company or the government. The Dongria Kondh community is waiting eagerly when the SPV will start function and their fortune will change. “We have no opposition to mining, as long as our development is ensured. We demand the government and the company should make the SPV operational,” said Senapati Sikoka. The voice is echoed by several other Dongria Kondh community members. All of them demand mining from Niyamgiri and investment for their development.

“The Dongria Kondhs stay in the immediate periphery of the plant. So with their fortune is going to change once the mining starts,” feels Dhan Majhi. The Dongria Kondh community is very encouraged to see various development interventions by the Company for Tribal development. Now they are getting regular health services at their door step though mobile health unit.

Child Care Centers are also established for proper nutrition and pre-schooling of children. Roads and communication facilities in Lanjigarh has also improved. Vedanta has not only taken care of their basic need, but also started intervention for livelihood development of people in Niyamgiri. Recently, it has trained 120 Dongria Kondh women on leaf-plate making.

The product has huge demand in local market and the company has also assured them to provide market linkage, once mass production starts. “We may need not to go to wage work once this leaf-plate business starts”, says Anda Majhi, a Dongria Kondh woman from Khemdipadar. They can earn more than Rs. 100/- per day sitting at home by making machine stitched leaf-plates.

As stated by the Chairman of Vedanta Mr. Anil Agrawal, Niyamgiri Bauxite Mine will be operational very soon. However, the tribals are not patient enough to wait for the ‘very soon’. They want immediate opening of Niyamgiri Bauxite mine and early operationalisation of Special Purpose vehicle, as per directive of the Supreme Court.

Peaceful voting in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, April 17, 2009
PNS | Bhawanipatna

Voting in Kalahandi district passed off peacefully amidst high security on Thursday. The fate of the candidates was sealed in the electronic voting machines. The EVMs have been shifted to Bhawanipatna Government Autonomous College.

People of seven villages in the district boycotted the election as their demands like better health facilities; road and electricity remained unfulfilled since long. In Lanjigarh Assembly constituency, people of four villages under Titijhula booth boycotted the election. Similarly, the voters of Padampur booth under Junagarh Assembly constituency, Sirliguda booth under Dharmagarh constituency and Luharkuni booth under Bhawanipatna constituency refrained from exercising their franchise. According to Returning Officer-cum-District Magistrate R Santhagopalan, approximately 60 per cent people cast their votes till last reports.

Orissa's KBK region needs more than subsidy on rice

merinews, April 16, 2009
Strangely, none of the political parties promise a better deal to these areas in their manifestos in terms of infrastructure, health and education. The only thing they do assure is subsidy on rice. But this region needs more than subsidies..

THERE SEEMS to be no political will to solve the longstanding problems of the Kalahandi, Koraput and Nabarangpur constituencies of Orissa, one of the most backward regions of the country as reinforced in a survey conducted by India Today. Strangely, none of the political parties, including the Indian National Congress Party (INC), Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), promise a better deal to these areas in their manifestos in terms of infrastructure, health and education. The only thing they do assure is subsidy on rice. But this region needs more than subsidies to achieve long-term sustainable growth.


Many of the local demands of the Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput (KBK) region have not been met since the past two decades despite promises made by the state chief minister and other leaders. Some of these are -- a bridge over Hati river near Junagarh, railway link between Bolangir and Koraput via Nuapada, Kalahandi and Nabarangpur, and a railway coach factory in Kalahandi.

KBK at this moment needs intensive irrigation projects, new railway line, railway factory, medical colleges, state highway, new bridges and downstream industrial development. A proposed downstream industrial park in Kalahandi is lying in cold storage since the past five years. The Biju KBK Yojana seems to be nothing but a mere eyewash.

What’s worse, the health scenario in the region is dismal with diseases like malaria and AIDS becoming rampant. Given such a scenario, government medical colleges and health centers are the need of the hour.

In an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, chief minister Naveen Patnaik, President of Biju Janata Dal and Jual Oram, national vice-president of Bharatiya Janata Party, it has been urged to immediately include the above in their respective party manifestos towards the long-term development of KBK.