Monday, August 31, 2009

NRO Prof draws attention of Central, State Govts towards apathy to KBK

The Pioneer, Aug 31, 2009
PNS | Bhubaneswar

Digambara Patra, a non-resident Oriya (NRO) professor, has highlighted the apathy of both the State and Central Governments towards the KBK region for its lack of infrastructural development and which till date continues to remain as the most backward pockets in the country.

In a letter to the Union Minister of Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal, he has drawn his attention to the health facilities in the KBK which he terms as “one of the worst in the nation” lacking in “health professionals” and “the infrastructure provided in this region is insufficient and under equipped.”

He remarked that when 80 people died from swine flu, it created panic and flutter in the country whereas hundreds of lives are lost every year in KBK from common diseases which does not stir the nation’s thinking. He cites that 25 people recently died of diarrhea in Kalahandi, but the nation was insensitive about it except for a few in the State media.

Emphasising the health sector in KBK he strikes a optimistic note on the Central University of Orissa at Koraput, which would include a medical college. The State and the Central Governments’ initiatives in Kalahandi and Balangir region in establishment of industries or higher education institutions have not come up.

Patra, an assistant professor in the department of chemistry in the American University in Beirut urges the government in the establishment of Central University at Koraput to be exclusively KBK centric by taking the proposed medical colleges through WODC initiatives of the State Government. He states that medical campuses in Bhawanipatna and Balangir can be further expanded as three full fledged off-campuses of CUO having various disciplines as medicine, engineering, science and arts.

Addressing copies of the letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Chief Minister of Orissa he hopes the State Government would take urgent steps to uplift medical education, providing secondary health facility and higher education exclusively for KBK region.

Cong asks Orissa govt to check spread of diarrhoea

Press Trust of India, Aug 31,2009

Bhubaneswar, Aug 30 (PTI) A senior Congress leader today asked the Orissa government to check the spread of diarrhoea which allegedly claimed 38 lives in Kalahandi.

Bhakta Charan Das, Congress MP from Kalahandi, also demanded that the posts of 76 doctors lying vacant in the backward district be filled immediately.

"Due to utter negligence of the BJD government, at least 38 persons have died of diarrhoea which has affected over 10,000 people in over 13 villages of the district in last 25 days," the state Congress Working President alleged.

Attacking the Naveen Patnaik government for not recruiting doctors, he said diarrhoea had assumed epidemic proportion as healthcare system collapsed in Kalahandi.

The state government, he claimed, had failed to provide a single doctor for every 12,000 people in Kalahandi.

Das said a central team was scheduled to visit the district to assess the situation.

Diarrhoea deaths rock Kalahandi
Times of India, Aug 30, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: At least two dozen people have succumbed to diarrhoea this month in Kalahandi, catapulting the district, infamous for poverty and starvation deaths, into a focus yet again for the wrong reasons.

To assess the situation, a Central team, including functionaries from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, New Delhi, are slated to tour the region starting Monday.

Panic struck Kalahandi, particularly in Bhawanipatna and Lanjigarh blocks, after diarrhoea broke out in the district. The first death due to the water-borne disease, according to district officials, was reported on July 31.

This was followed by a stream of casualties, with Ghatikunduru village (in Lanjigarh block) alone accounting for six deaths. Another badly hit village is Tarngel (in Lanjigarh block), where at least three lives have been lost. The official death toll so far stands at 24, including two children.

"No deaths have been recorded since August 21, even though we continue to get lot of cases especially in Lanjigarh block. But the overall situation is improving and the administration is making all out efforts to control the disease," Kalahandi collector R S Gopalan told TOI on Sunday. He said 20 medical teams are working there, an intensive awareness campaign is being undertaken and disinfection of tubewells and other water sources done on a war-footing.

Officials said they were finding it difficult to prevent spread of the disease because they villagers depend on nullahs for their water besides the villages were far flung.

Kalahandi MP Bhakta Charan Das, in turn, claimed that 38 persons have already died and demanded the state government to fill up 76 doctors' posts lying vacant in the district. He blamed the ruling party's negligence for the outbreak and estimated that around 10,000 people have been affected.

Das, who is the working president of state Congress, said diarrhoea has assumed endemic proportions as the healthcare system in Kalahandi had collapsed. "I have discussed the issue with Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and he has agreed to extend all possible help," he added.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

KBK Yojana to continue till 2012

The Pioneer, Aug 30, 2009
PNS | Bhubaneswar

The KBK Yojana has been extended to 2012. The Revised Long Term Action plan for the KBK has been approved under the 11th Finance Commission. After the meeting with the National Human Rights Commission Special Rappaortuer Sudhanshu Sarangi, Special Secretary of State Planning and Co-Ordination Department Rambir Singh said the State Government has already sent a proposal to extend the programme till 2016. “It has yet to receive the nod of the Centre,” he said, adding that the Centre is now giving Rs 130 crore for this programme. “This money would be available till 2012,” he said.

However during the meeting, Sarangi expressed his concern on the lack of medical, educational and irrigation facilities in KBK areas. “I will submit my report to the Commission,” he said.

New central varsity

The Telegraph, Aug 30, 2009

Bhubaneswar, Aug. 29: Orissa’s maiden central university was launched today in one of the most backward regions of the country to bring education to the doorsteps of tribals and underprivileged youths.

Inaugurating it at Nishani Mundali in Koraput, Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal said the university’s location was the reflection of pro-tribal policy of the Congress-led UPA government.

“This university will definitely help in development of backward Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) region and western Orissa,” said Sibal.

Stating that the Centre was keen to set up international standard educational institutions across the country through public-private partnership, Sibal said companies should come forward to set up such institutes to help students to pursue higher studies in India instead of going abroad.

The Centre has decided to set up 3,500 model schools mostly in backward areas across the country, he said. Besides, the Union government is planning to set up 200 more kendriya vidyalayas within next two years, Sibal added.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik promised that the state government would provide land free of cost to the university and ensured all facilities, including water and electricity. He also urged Sibal to set up a medical college in the KBK region and allot more model schools to the state.

Central University inaugurated at Koraput
Pioneer News Service | Koraput
The Pioneer, Aug 30, 2009

Giving a boost to development of the KBK region, Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal inaugurated the Central University of Orissa at Koraput on Saturday. Speaking on the occasion, Sibal said education should be free from politics. He hoped that this university would help development of KBK and western Orissa, giving the students an opportunity of higher education.

He further said that the development of education of this backward area would help in development of the country as a whole. He said 3,500 nodal schools would be established by the Central Government throughout the country and among this 200 schools would be set up with the help of private entrepreneurs. The proposed model schools will be set up in the backward areas with an aim to provide primary education to all as “higher education has no meaning unless primary education was strengthened,” Sibal said. “The schools would be set up in PPP as part of our efforts to strengthen the human resource base,” Sibal said at the function held amidst tight security.

Corporate houses should come forward to invest in the education sector as developing human resources is the key to the success of any nation, he said. “About 1.5 lakh Indian students are going abroad for education. We will like to provide all facilities in the country so that students need not go to foreign countries,” Sibal said.

Only 12 out of 100 students reach the graduation level in India, while the figure was 85 in the US, he said, adding central universities in backward places like Koraput could help students get into higher learning Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, addressing on the occasion, said his Government would provide water and electricity to the university. “This university will play a vital role as a Gyan Mandir, and the youth of the area will get opportunity for their higher education,” he said, adding that development in education was the root path of progress. The students of my KBK region will take the opportunity of the University and will be helpful for development of higher education in the State, he said.

“Providing quality education, disseminate inclusive education to reach the unreached is the mission of this University”, said Vice-Chancellor of the Central University Prof (Dr) Surabhi Banerjee.

Among others, Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh, Higher Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra, Minsiter of State for Science and Technology Ramesh Chandra Majhi, member of Rajya Sabha Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, Koraput member of Lokh Sabha Jairam Pangi, and MLA Raghuram Padal also spoke.

Vedanta Aluminium provides medical support for diarrhea affected Lanjigarh block, Aug 28, 2009

Lanjigarh: In a response to control the spreading Diarrhea in Lanjigarh block Kalahandi, Vedanta Aluminium has joined hand with the district administration in taking number of measures to stop the spreading of the epidemic. The Company has set up temporary medical camps with one doctor and pharmacist in seven villages in the hilly tribal areas. It should be noted that at least 24 tribals have died due to diarrhea in Kalahandi district during the last two weeks.

The Medical Teams are providing primary treatment and medicines to the affected persons. Critical patients are being sent to nearest hospital for comprehensive treatment. In last three days, the health team of the company has provided treatment to more than 110 people and referred more than 20 patients to local health centers. The villagers where temporary camps are set up are Kankutaru, Bandhapari, Musanal, Bengaon, Trilochanpur, Bijepur and Malijubang in Lanjigarh Block. Two teams of Doctors from BALCO have also joined with the medical team of VAL for the same. “We assure all support for prevention of the disease and we will continue the same for more time till situation comes under control,” Dr. Mukesh Kumar, Chief Operating Officer of VAL.

As a prevention measure, The Company has also taken up several awareness building initiatives in the area. Banners are put in villagers to sensitize the community on control of the disease. The CSR Team members are visiting the affected area and explaining the community about prevention and control method for Diarrhea.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Central Varsity to be opened on Aug 29

The Pioneer, Aug 28, 2009
PNS | Bhubaneswar

Established by an Act of Parliament, the Central University of Orissa will be inaugurated at Koraput on Saturday by Union Minister of Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Higher Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra, Member of Parliament Pyari Mohan Mohapatra and many others from the State and the Central Government are expected to attend the inaugural ceremony.

The venue of the inaugural function is the Nishani Munda area of Koraput town. Prof Surabhi Banerjee is the first V-C of the university. The State Government has allotted land near the HAL Township at Sunabeda for building the infrastructure of the university. The university now has its campus office at Koraput while another at Gajapati Nagar in Bhubaneswar.

Orissa neglected, IIMs to be set up in other seven States

The Pioneer, Aug 28, 2009
PNS | Bhubaneswar

Orissa’s interest has been ignored by the Centre again. Though the Centre has decided to set up new IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) in seven States, not a single IIM was allotted to Orissa.

The seven new IIMs would come up in Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan. Currently, there are seven IIMs in the country at Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Lucknow, Indore, Kozhikode and Shillong.

Earlier, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik sent a letter demanding an IIM in the State, it was turned down by the Congress-led UPA Government at Centre. “ The Centre has neglected the State,” alleged BJD leader Damodar Rout.

In the first phase, four IIMs at Tiruchirappalli (Tamil Nadu), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Raipur (Chhattisgarh) and Rohtak (Haryana) will be set up in 2009-10, which would become functional from academic session 2010-11. The IIMs in Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan will be set up in 2010-11.

Bushlight’s India Project

EcoGeneration — September / October 2009, Aug 28, 2009

Grant Behrendorff discusses the collaborative development and demonstration of an optimised model for remote village electrification using renewable energy in India.

The successful Bushlight Project, which has brought reliable energy services to more than 4,000 residents of remote Indigenous communities across Australia over the last seven years, is now leading a project to electrify remote villages in eastern India.

As the name suggests, the Bushlight India Project aims to adapt the Bushlight Project’s innovative approach to implementing sustainable, reliable and affordable renewable energy supplies in remote Indigenous communities across central and northern Australia for use in remote rural areas of India.

The project’s formal title on the other hand, defines its key goals: to work with a range of Indian partner organisations to adapt the Bushlight model to local conditions; and to demonstrate the effectiveness of the model through the establishment of a number of decentralised renewable energy systems in remote villages.

Bushlight provides residents of remote Indigenous communities access to reliable renewable energy services within a comprehensive community engagement and planning framework – the Community Energy Planning Model (CEPM). This framework has been developed and refined over more than six years by a diverse group of engagement and planning specialists, anthropologists, linguists, engineers, renewable energy system designers and resource developers.

Established by the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) in 2002, Bushlight’s focus is on community-scale solar photovoltaic based renewable energy systems supporting a broad range of energy services at the household and community level. To date, the Bushlight model has been successfully deployed in over 100 remote communities across Australia resulting in the installation of over 140 systems.

As a result of the national and international recognition of the Bushlight model as best practice in the implementation of renewable energy systems in remote Indigenous communities, CAT saw an opportunity to adapt the model for use in other contexts, including the developing world. The Bushlight India Project is a result of this vision.

The Bushlight India Project is managed by CAT International Projects, a wholly owned subsidiary of CAT. The project is funded by the Department for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts through the Australian Government’s participation in the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

Overview of the project

In India today, between 115,000 and 150,000 villages exist without access to electricity. Of these, many thousands are too remote for grid electricity to ever be a technically or economically feasible option. For these villages to be electrified, the only solution is a standalone power system – also referred to as decentralised or distributed generation. Renewable energy technologies such as solar PV therefore offer remote communities the opportunity to generate their own energy without the prohibitive ongoing costs and access difficulties associated with fossil fuels.

Through the Bushlight India Project, CAT International Projects is working in partnership with Gram Vikas – a grassroots non-government organisation from the state of Orissa – Tata-BP Solar, and the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency, along with a range of other renewable energy and rural energy and development sector representatives, to collaboratively develop and document a Village Energy Service Delivery Model (VESDM). This model, which included village energy planning and technical resources in local languages, will be demonstrated through the establishment of standalone centralised PV based energy systems in at least two remote Indian villages.

Under the demonstration component of the project, up to 1,000 residents of rural Indian villages will be provided with access to reliable, 24 hour-a-day energy services, as well as targeted capacity building and support to help manage and maintain the renewable energy systems.

By working closely with project partners on the ground in India, CAT aims to build the capacity of these organisations to independently implement the VESDM on a broader scale within the rural electrification sector.

Outcomes to date

The project, which commenced last year, is now in its implementation phase. The Village Energy Planning component of the VESDM, which includes a facilitators manual and a full suite of planning resources in two Indian languages, has been finalised, and training conducted with local facilitators. Village selection activities have been carried out in the states of Orissa and West Bengal, and two villages have been nominated to participate in the project. Energy planning activities have subsequently been completed in one of the two villages, and a system design for this village is underway.

On the technical side, a design and manufacturing strategy has been finalised. This strategy lays out the key operation and functional parameters for the proposed renewable energy systems based on an analysis of community demand profiles in target villages, together with a review of the limitations of existing service delivery standards.

Local component manufacturers and suppliers have been identified. Project-specific hardware needs have been determined and their design and development have been contracted to a local company. The project has also developed a system design spreadsheet and other design tools including a life cycle costing tool for comparing the relative costs of the proposed centralised PV based systems against grid-connection and other standard rural energy supply options in India, such as solar lanterns, small solar home systems and diesel generators.

Installation of the two demonstration systems is planned to be completed by May next year, which will allow for six months of close monitoring of system operation and performance before the project formally closes with a review and dissemination workshop in December 2010.

Grant Behrendorff is the Project Director of the Bushlight India Project. For more Information about the project contact Grant on 0427 514 330 or visit

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Health services in KBK bear the brunt of Naxalite attack

Economic Times, Aug 17, 2009

The growing influence of Naxalites in the tribal dominated districts in Orissa over the last few years has taken a severe toll on health services.

Health services – both in public and private sectors in South Orissa and other affected pockets - have borne the brunt of Naxalite attacks, and increasingly so since 2000, defying the CPI (Maoist)’s ideology that seeks to target the state for not sharing the fruits of development with the “have-nots.”

Although the Maoists have not attacked any health establishments so far, frequent roads blockades, ambushes on police parties and threats to government officials in the affected districts have left delivery of health services in a lurch.

Of the 965 doctor posts lying vacant, nearly 75% belong to the undivided KBK districts (Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi). Besides, 102 pharmacist and more than one thousand para-medical posts are lying vacant in those areas.

The eight undivided districts of Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput are universally known as the most backward regions in India. After the reorganizations of districts in Orissa in the early 1990s, these three districts were divided into eight districts, - Kalahandi, Nuapada, Bolangir, Sonepur, Malkangiri, Koraput, Gajapati, and Nabarangpur. Of the 80 revenue blocks, there is only one block which is developed, three blocks developing, 28 backward and 49 blocks are most backward.

Legislators cutting across party lines and officials admit that most of the doctors and para-medics produced by the state-run medical colleges are shying away from serving in the tribal dominated KBK region because of security concern even as the state government has offered them attractive pay packages and incentives.

In the remote Malkangiri district, which is nearly 650 km from here, some Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and Community Health Centres (CHCs) – as local MLAs said in the recently concluded budget session of the Assembly – are run by staff nurses with the help of peons and sweepers.

Kashipur, Narayanpatna, Bandhugaon and Laxmipur blocks in Rayagada district; Kalimela, Balimela and Chitrakonda areas in Malkangiri district present a sorry picture; - nearly 80 PHCs in the two districts have no doctors. The situation in Kalahandi and Bolangir districts is no better. People walk miles carrying their sick relatives in bamboo baskets to get them treated at district headquarters due bad road network and absence of doctors at nearby hospitals.

The Union Government’s flagship health programme – National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), which has greatly contributed to improvement of health services in coastal pockets, remain a virtual non-starter in Naxal-affected pockets due to frequent unrests.

State health minister Prasanna Acharya, while making a candid admission in the House that delivery of health services still remained unorganized, said that the his department was making efforts to provide minimum healthcare facilities to the people in KBK areas at their doorstep through NRHM programme and mobile health units.

The Naxalite strikes on security targets in KBK districts have progressively grown in recent years. Among these, communication towers were the most targeted this year. Till now there have been six attacks between January 1 and July 30. Railways came second with four extremist strikes so far this year on its infrastructure and properties in Sundergarh and Keonjhar.

Mines, which are abound in the Naxal-infested areas of Keonjhar, Sundergarh, Dhenkanal and Jajpur, have also been attacked over the years, though no attack has been reported yet in 2009. The last two years saw several incidents of Naxal violence targeted at crusher units and mineral traders in Jajpur and Keonjhar districts.

Railways are a favoured target, given its vast network and infrastructure and the practical difficulties involved in protecting the same. Railway properties have seen nearly a dozen attacks since 2000.

Sources in the state home department said that this is mainly on account of the vulnerability of the towers due to their location in remote areas, making their protection difficult.

Essar Groups properties in Malkangiri have been consistently targeted over the last three years. Essar Pipelines have been hit by the Maoists twice in Chhattisgarh and four times in Orissa in the first half of 2009, as against three and one attacks in Chhattisgarh in 2008 and 2007, respectively.

Orissa govt to pay damages to eye surgery victims

Times of India, Aug 21, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: After dithering for months, the state government has finally decided to pay compensation of Rs 1 lakh to each of the 13 persons, who
had lost their eyesight, wholly or partially, following state-sponsored cataract operations at the Kalahandi district headquarter hospital at Bhawanipatna on January 22, 2007. The decision has been taken on compliance with a directive given by the National Human Rights Commission, official sources said here on Friday.

In an official communique, the state family and welfare department has asked Kalahandi collector to pay the compensation money from the Chief Minister Relief Fund (CMRF), after obtaining proper receipt from the beneficiaries.

The 13 victims Kamala Majhi (55), Sudra Majhi (65), Jilma Rana (54), Ratni Majhi (56), Kaikei Rana (55), Jagannath Majhi (58), Kunti Majhi (59), Hass Majhi (58), Basanti Majhi (58), Hadu Rana (58) Sriya Panda (80), Mura Jagat (56) and Madhu Rout (68) had lost their eyesight during a botched cataract operation. The government had earlier disbursed Rs 2,000 to each from the district Red Cross Fund and initiated departmental proceedings against the errant doctor and additional chief district medical officer of Kalahandi on grounds of negligence in duties.

However, human rights activist and lawyer Prabir Kumar Das had urged the NHRC, on grounds that the compensation paid by the state government was "highly inadequate".

"The NHRC took cognizance of my petition and has issued a showcause notice to the state government. Subsequently in November 2008, it ordered the government to pay compensation of Rs 1 lakh to each of the victims, who hailed from economically disadvantaged sections," Das said.

Cong demands Vedanta university in Balangir

The Pioneer, Aug 27, 2009
PNS | Balangir

Following the adverse High Court order, there was no anti-Vedanta Aluminium Rasta Roko at Saintala on Wednesday. Instead, a meeting of Congress workers was held at Saintala, which was addressed by district Congress president and Titilagarh MLA Surendra Singhbhoi, who had given the call for Rasta Roko. The call was termed illegal by the High Court in response to a petition on Tuesday.

The Balangir Congress has demanded setting up the proposed Vedanta University at Balangir rather than at Puri. The demand was made by Singhbhoi while addressing the meeting at Saintala.

He said, “Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) has established its plant in our region and it is taking raw materials form this area. There is no reason why the Vedanta company should not establish its university here.” He also demanded that local youths be given employment in the VAL unit at Lanjigarh.

Singhbhoi argued that the heavy vehicles of VAL should ply in the night, as during the daytime it is causing traffic congestion and accidents besides damaging the road. Moreover, the road should be widened for smooth traffic and the nearby Laxmijore bridge, which has become weak, should be repaired, he said.

ESIC Medical College to be set up in city

The Pioneer, Aug 27, 2009
PNS | Bhubaneswar

At an ESIC board meeting held in Bangalore, Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge has assured Congress Rajya Sabha member Ram Chandra Khuntia that an ESIC Medical College would be set up in Bhubaneswar.

Earlier, the Union Health Ministry had decided to establish ESIC Medical Colleges in Orissa, Jharkhand and Haryana.

However, as the Orissa Governments did not provide land for the medical college, the proposal was shelved. Now that the Orissa Government in a letter to the Health Ministry has agreed to allot land for the college, the Union Health Ministry has decided to come up with the proposed college, said Kharge.

On the decision of ESIC, the proposed college would be coming up in Bhubaneswar at a cost of over Rs 600 crore. Khuntia has thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Kharge for the decision.

Religious fervour marks celebrations

Expressbuzz, Aug 25, 2009

SAMBALPUR: Nuakhai, the agrarian festival of Western Orissa was celebrated with pomp and gaiety in Sambalpur and across western Orissa today. However in rural pockets the celebration remained subdued with drought looming large.

The newly harvested rice (navanna) was offered to the Goddess Samaleswari, the presiding deity of Sambalpur at the auspicious moment.

During the same time the households of Sambalpur town also offered the Navanna to their respective presiding deity and Goddess Laxmi as a mark of gratitude for a bumper harvest, good rain and a favourable farming weather. While it is Goddess Samaleswari in Sambalpur, it is Patneswari in Balangir, Sureshwari in Sonepur, Sekharbasini in Sundargarh and Manikeswari in Kalahandi who were worshipped today. The paddy is given importance as the grain of rice is considered a symbol of manifestation of life itself.

The advent of modernisation has however brought in a vast change in the way the festival is celebrated in some households.

Though traditional dishes like Muga Bara, Rasi Bara, Manda Pitha, Kakra Pitha, Kheeri and preparations from Saru Patra, Makhan Sag, Karadi were common non-vegetarian preparations have of late creeped into the menu list which has become a matter of debate. During the celebration the streets of Sambalpur town wore a deserted look with denizens preferring to spend time with family members. However, a long beeline of people were seen in Samaleswari Temple.

24 tribals die of diarrhoea in Orissa districts

Press Trust of India, Aug 24, 2009

Bhawanipatna (Orissa), Aug 24 (PTI) At least 24 tribals have died due to diarrhoea in Orissa's Kalahandi district during the last fortnight, officials said here today.

While 13 persons have died in five tribal villages under Bhawanipatna block, four hamlets under Lanjigarh block accounted for 11 deaths, they said.

The villages under Bhawanipatna block from where the deaths were reported are: Panchbaheli (6), Jamchuan (3), Tengnabaheli (2) and Rukunibundel and Bundelguda (1 each).

The affected villages under Lanjigarh block are: Ghatikundra (6), Tarangsel (3) and Talbora and Jalkrida (1 each).

Kalahandi district collector R S Gopalan claimed that while the situation was under control in Lanjigarh block due to intensive measures taken by mobile health teams, it was "alarming" in Bhawanipatna block. .

Fake patta racket busted, 7 nabbed

Expressbuzz, Aug 24, 2009

BHAWANIPATNA: A racket involved in preparation and selling of fake land pattas was busted in Kalahandi and seven persons arrested yesterday.

The racket was operating since last two years. Members of the gang sold fake pattas to people for Rs 1500 to Rs 3000 and helped them acquire loans from different banks.

Recently, some customers of Andhra Bank Bhawanipatna branch had submitted pattas against loan applications. However, suspecting them to be fake, the bank officials lodged an FIR in the Bhawanipatna Town police station.

Seven persons were arrested during investigation.

Among them, two persons have allegedly taken loans from Andhra Bank and SBI several times on the basis of the fake pattas.

Police seized more than 100 fake pattas, blank pattas and seals from those arrested.

Kalahandi SP Haramohan Dash told mediapersons today that the racket is deep-rooted and involvement of some revenue, settlement and bank employees with the gang can not be ruled out. He further said that a meeting with the officials of different banks have been called on Tuesday next.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sadbhavana Diwas held at Bhawanipatna

The Pioneer, Aug 23, 2009

Bhawanipatna: The Rajiv Gandhi Youth Foundation, Bhawanipatna, observed the Sadbhavana Diwas at the Lekhak Kala Parishad here on Rajiv Gandhi’s birthday on Thursday. Chief speaker Umesh Satpathy advised youth to follow the ideals of Rajiv Gandhi and fight for their rights. Chief guest, Bhawanipatna MLA Dusmanta Naik assured the Rajiv Gandhi Youth Foundation that he would contribute Rs 2 lakh from his MLA LAD fund for construction of its building. Guest of honour Ramkumar Jain, vice-chairman of Bhawanipatna Municipality Chitta Ranjan Mandal and Prabodh Kumar Rath also spoke on the occasion. Chairman of the foundation Dhyanananda Panda gave the vote of thanks.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vedanta gives boost to quality education at Lanjigarh of Orissa, Aug 14, 2009

Report by Orissadiary correspondent; Lanjigarh: Giving a momentum to quality education in Lanjigarh, Mr. Navin Agrawal, Deputy Executive Chairman of Vedanta Resources inaugurated the new block of DAV Vedanta International School, Lanjigarh on August 13, 2009. The new block is having latest facilities such as Science laboratory, Computer Laboratory, Math Laboratory, Library and art & craft room, in addition to the class rooms for students. Senior management team members of Vedanta, Mr. MS Mehta, CEO, Vedanta Resources; M. Siddiqi, CEO; Mr. Pramod Suri, CEO (Operations); Dr. Mukesh Kumar, COO, VAL, Lanjigarh, Dr. HK Mohanty, Regional Director, DAV Institutions, Ms. S. Chakraborty, Principal, DAV Vedanta International School were also present on the occasion.

Addressing the students Mr. Agarwal said, “It is matter of pride that more than 250 students are getting high standard education in such a remote location. Vedanta is committed for providing most contemporary education in the region”. He advised the school management to inculcate human values through quality education. Appreciating the academic achievement of students he also announced to launch a scholarship for meritorious students of the school. He presented prizes to students for their academic and extra-curricular achievements. On this occasion, all the senior management, including Mr. Navin Agarwal planted sapling in the school premises.

With an objective to provide quality education to children of the locality Vedanta brought in the most trusted and experienced education group DAV Institutions to Lanjigarh in 2006. From a modest beginning, the school now imparts education to 255 children from pre-nursery to class VIII. Out of them more than 200 children are from periphery area villages of Vedanta Alumina Refinery. Vedanta provides transport facility different areas to help the local students. With a firm base, excellent facilities and competent faculty, the School imparts the best education and gives an opportunity for all-round development to the students of the Locality.

Addressing the gathering, Dr. Mukesh Kumar, Chief Operating Oficer of VAL, said “the facilities provided at DAV Vedanta International School is no where less than that in any public school in metros”. Dr. HK Mohanty, Regional Director, DAV Institutions thanked Vedanta for supporting the project and providing the new building. He said that while beginning the DAV management was apprehensive about success of the project as this will be a start of almost first generation education in English medium in the area. However, it is a matter of satisfaction that the way local students are taking interest and coming up to expectation of DAV Standard.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Rice scam: CBI raids CWC office at Junagarh

The Pioneer, 14th August, 2009


The CBI raided the office of the Central Warehouse Corporation (CWC) at Juangarh in Kalahandi district on Wednesday. Sources said the raid followed the rice scam involving 1,350 quintals of rice in June and some rice millers in connivance with State Civil Supplies Department employees, transport agents and CWC staff. A five-member CBI team seized the documents of the warehouse and the inquiry was going on, the sources added.

NRI decries shifting of proposed medical college from Balangir

The Pioneer, 14th August, 2009

PNS Bhubaneswar

A leading Oriya NRI and activist has lamented before Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Rajya Sabha member Rama Chandra Khuntia and all MPs from Orissa over the news in a leading Oriya daily about the shifting of the proposed ESI medical college in the State from Balangir to elsewhere. It is highly unfortunate that Orissa leaders are unable to convince ESI to establish such a medical college in Balangir and making politics out of it, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, American University of Beirut, Lebanon, Digambara Patra expressed in his e-mail. There are many State Government and Central Government medical colleges coming up in Bhubaneswar region and the State Government has the right to propose the ESI medical college in Balangir. Places like Balangir, Kalahandi, Nuapada and Kandhamal where secondary health facilities are in bad shape need special attention, he pointed out.While appreciating the State Government for proposing ESI medical college in Balangir, he hoped that the leaders would fight for the medical college to be established in Balangir, Kalahandi, Kandhamal or Sundergarh region.

Diarrhoea claims 8 lives but official figure stands at four

The Pioneer, 14th August, 2009

Bikash Khemka Bhawanipatna

Eight persons have already died of diarrhoea and many are in serious condition in the villages of Jamchuan, Panchbahali and Ruknibandel under Jugsaipatna GP of Bhawanipatna block, located hardly 30 km from the headquarters town of Kalahandi district. Due to lack of communication, villagers are facing untold difficulties in their day-to-day life. The villagers told The Pioneer that a doctor from Borda had come to their village on August 5 and distributed medicines, oral re-hydration salts and saline. Since then no medical professional has come to their village to offer treatment, they informed.Jamchuan, a small village with only 90 inhabitants staying in 19 houses without electricity, is adjoining the villages of Titijhula, Miangpadar and Ruknibandel. Around 800 voters of these villages had boycotted polls in the last general elections as the leaders and politicians failed to keep their tall promises. In such a pathetic condition, symptoms of diarrhoea were first reported in Jamchuan village on July 31 and the next day one Bane Dei (35), wife of Rupa Majhi succumbed to diarrhoea. Another villager Pulu Majhi (35) died on August 4 and his wife Rupa Dei (32) also died of diarrhoea on August 11 leaving their six children aged one-year to ten years orphaned. Now, the uncle of the six children is looking after them which has become an arduous task, informed the villagers. Another woman Sande Dei (40), wife of Padma Majhi also died on August 4 in the same village. The villagers informed that around 10-15 persons including children are suffering from severe complications like nausea, bloating, fever and cramp-like abdominal pain and stomach pain. If they are not treated immediately, they may succumb to the illness any moment, they apprehended. The villagers use water from the village well for drinking purposes as there is no tube well in the village, they added. The villagers alleged that the doctors can comfortably stay in the school building but they are simply not coming here. The Jamchuan upper primary school with around 35 students remains closed for days together as the two teachers appointed there come only once in a month. The villagers further alleged that the mobile phone numbers given by the doctors for emergency medical consultation remains switched off all the time. Similarly, three members of a family have died in recent days in the village of Panchbahali. One Chukri (28) died on August 2 and his father and mother-in-law also succumbed to diarrhoea on August 4 and August 7, respectively. The villagers also informed that a 25-year-old man from Ruknibandel village died of diarrhoea on Tuesday. While it has been declared officially that only four persons have died till now under Jugsaipatna GP and medical professionals are covering each and every village, villagers are claiming that as many as eight persons have already succumbed to diarrhoea. If immediate steps are not taken by the district administration, the death toll may increase further in the coming days, they apprehended.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cong seeks help for K’handi flood victims

The Pioneer, Aug 12, 2009

Bhawanipatna: After visiting the different flood affected areas in the district by the Congress leaders, a report was prepared on the same. The (DCC) District Congress Committee under the leadership of the working president Himanshu Sekhar Das has submitted a memorandum to the district collector for immediate assistance to the affected people.

Tribals forcibly occupy, cultivate Govt land in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, Aug 12, 2009
Bikash Khemka | Bhawanipatna

After the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh forcibly occupied the land of non-tribals in Naryanapatna block in Koraput district, the CPI (ML) Liberation has now forcibly cultivated Government land at Madanpur Rampur block of Kalahandi district.

Above 30 tribals including women from Dhobamunda, Kendulabhapadar, Khairmalpadar under Urladani Panchayat cultivated 20 acres of land forcibly and also painted in red on a tree that “No Government officials are allowed”.

It was alleged that despite the Supreme Court order to handover forest lands and pattas to the tribals they still have to fight with the district administration for their legal rights. CPI (ML), Liberation’s State Committee member Nilu Bhattacharya threatened to continue their protest till their demands are fulfilled.

However, soon after the incident, the district administration had immediately called a meeting at Jurakhaman village where ADM Chudamani Seth, Superintendent of Police Harmohan Das, Sub-Collector Nand Kishore Sethi, district forest officer Godabarish Panda, Rampur tehsildar of M Rampur were present.

Sub-Collector informed in the meeting that 515 tribals from Urladani panchayat, 666 of Moinagiri, 743 of Manikera, 626 of Barabandha had applied for the forest land whereas 313 have already been handed over the land.

The SP advised the 300 agitated tribals not to resort any more to further land grabbing. The ADM said landless people would be recognised and handed over the land very soon after holding a gram sabha here, but the tribals were adamant that they won’t leave any Government land anymore.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

IIPA meet focuses on western Orissa’s developmental needs

The Pioneer, 11th August, 2009

PNS Bhubaneswar

The Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), Orissa Regional Branch, in collaboration with the Western Orissa Development Council (WODC), organised a workshop on ‘Western Orissa Development.’ IIPA Branch chairman Sanjib Chandra Hota spelt out the objective of the workshop and the efforts of the WODC in bringing about a holistic development of the region.Presenting the theme of the workshop, Prof Bijoyini Mohanty analysed the three major concerns of development -- displacement, literacy and governance. The major challenges are posed by the geographical terrain and the east-west divide created due to lack of basic infrastructure facilities and exploitation of the region leading to imbalances. Orissa has an integrative culture and tradition, but its development has not been uniform, she observed. Former DG of Police AB Tripathy said western Orissa has received special attention for development as there have been a lot of deficiencies in spite of its geographical, ethnic and cultural homogeneity. Governance is the key to any development objective. A more people-centered approach is necessary for the region’s development. Dr Gopabandhu Behera suggested that literacy is one of the key parameters of developing a backward region. There has to be proper communication between people and policy planners and implementers. Teachers as well as students should learn the local dialect as well as a common communicative language. Academician and social activist Dr Durga Prasad Nayak analysed the problems of displacement in the region caused due to multi-purpose hydel projects and of late by mining and manufacturing industries.

Monday, August 10, 2009

No politics plz to establish ESI Medical College at Balangir

No politics plz!, Aug 9, 2009

Politicians think for the next election, where as Statesman focus on the future of the nation.

It is unfortunate that we have politicians like Rama Chandra Khuntia.

Mr.Khuntia a long time labor leader and is engaged in politics over 3 decades, talks like small time politicians feel Non Resident Oriyas(NRO)s.

The Rajya Sabha MP from Orissa is blaming the State Government for proposing a Medical College at Balangir rather than in Bhubaneswar.

The Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) was to establish such a medical college in Orissa and it shown interest to set up at Bhubaneswar.

As the required land is not allotted to ESIC, it has dropped the idea, says a report in leading daily The Samaja.

There are 5 medical colleges coming up in Bhubaneswar region and State Government has rightly proposed to the ESIC for setting up a medical college in Balangir, said Sandip Dasverma, a leading NRO.

Places like Balanagir, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Kandhamal etc where secondary health facilities are in bad shape need special attention, said he.

People of Nuapada needs to travel 600 km to reach Bhubaneswar, would such hospital would be worthy for them in case of emergency?, asked Digambara Patra.

Dr.Patra, who teaches at American University of Beirut, said this region does not have any Government medical colleges.

Instead of fighting for such medical college in those backward regions leaders like Mr.Khuntia are playing politics on the issue.

He pointed out that Mr.Khuntia is favoring a region which has already two government medical colleges.

The proposed AIIMS, world class national University that would include medical college, 3 private medical colleges and hospitals including Appolo, Kalinga and a hospital of the proposed Vedanta University at Puri are in offing.

Taking the cue, Sanjib Kumar Karmee of Delft University of Technology has asked the Orissa leaders to focus where it is required most rather than putting everything in a single basket.

Dr.Karmee has appreciated the idea of the State Government for proposing ESI medical college in Balangir.

NROs have hoped that the political personalities would fight for ESI medical College to be established in Balangir, Kalahandi, Kandhamal or Sundergarh region rather blaming state Government for not favoring the establishment in the Capital City.

Delayed rains: Sariaan paddy to go scarce on Nuankhai

The Pioneer, 10th August, 2009

Sudhir Mishra Balangir

Ask anybody from western Orissa about his major festival, the invariable answer will be Nuankhai. The title Nuankhai means eating of the newly sprouted rice which is first offered to the local deity as a mark of gratitude and then consumed by the people with religious fervour and gaiety. However, Sariaan paddy, an indigenous variety, used in the festival and grown mostly in Bongomunda, Tureilkela, Patangarh in Balangir, Padmapur in Baragarh , Khariar in Nuapada and some parts in Kalahandi will go scarce this time thanks to the ongoing draught here. The Sariaan paddy is drought-resistant and responds less to chemical fertilisers. Its production per acre is 3 to 4 quintals. Provided compost and organic manure is applied, the production goes up to 5 to 6 quintals per acre. The paddy is a 75-day duration crop and farmers of this region usually sow this paddy by second of week June. The crop attains maximum tillage stage at 35 days and reproductive stage starts from there. From pinnacle initiation to flowering stage, it takes 20 days and from flowering to maturity, it takes another 20 days, explains an agriculture official. The delayed monsoon and unusual deviation in rainfall this year has affected the kharif paddy production, but the worst hit is going to be the Sariaan paddy. In June, Balangir district received 63 per cent less rainfall and in July, it received 135 per cent excess rainfall taking its toll on the kharif crop. Moreover, the area under Att land is also decreasing as the Att land is increasingly converted into bonded land over the years. Areas for high intensive crops like groundnut, cotton, maize and pulses also declined, besides that of paddy. Nevertheless, the farmers, who have availed the localized shower and shown this paddy by June 15, can harvest this paddy on the eve of Nuankhai."The non-ripening of Sariann paddy this year by the time of Nuankhai and the unusual monsoon rainfall are an indication of severe ecological imbalance. Due to the climatic variation we are practically experiencing two seasons, winter and summer, rather than three seasons, winter, summer and rainy," said Sanjaya Mishra of Centre for Social Research and Action here.

Planning panel for re-launch of RLTA

The Pioneer, 10th August, 2009

PPNS Bhubaneswar

The Planning Commission in its report to the Centre has pointed out that the Revised Long Term Action Plan (RLTAP) for the eight KBK districts should be continued to improve the socio-economic conditions of the people living there. The RLTAP for KBK districts came to an end in 2006-07. Despite the State Government’s repeated pleas, the Centre did not extend the plan. Later, the State Government was forced to announce a special scheme - Biju KBK Yojana - to ensure development of the region. But the region requires huge funds to carry out developmental works.The KBK region, which used to get Rs 250 crore under RLTAP since 1998-99, was getting only Rs 130 crore for KBK besides Rs 120 crore from the Backward Region Grant Fund since 2007. Keeping an eye on the development of the KBK region comprising eight districts, the State Government had submitted an eight-year Rs 4,550 crore perspective plan. The plan envisaged spending the funds from 2009 to 2017. Planning Commission Member Abhijit Sen who came here in July to review the progress in the State's Plan expenditure had also indicated that it would favour extension of the RLTAP. He had assured the Orissa Government that the Planning Commission would consider Orissa's perspective plan for backward KBK districts. The Centre may take a decision again to re-lunch the RLTAP as nothing has improved over the years. People are still languishing under acute poverty.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pointer to some good suggestions for Oriss2020 in higher education

General requirment:

Areawise plan:

All the major districts, at least undivided district, should have an university each.

Road map should include all levels of education

Expressbuzz, Aug 9, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: Academics, administrators and entrepreneurs in higher education sector called for a radical change in the primary and secondary education in the State for producing quality students for higher learning.

Participants, at an interactive session for developing an action plan for higher education, admitted that quality education is missing at all levels of education, starting from primary to university level. This is primarily because of non-availability of quality teachers at all levels of education.

While appreciating the Higher Education Department initiative for preparing Vision-2020 and an action plan for higher education sector for the next five years, most of the participants said that proposed road map for higher education should not exclude the primary, secondary and college education.

``Higher education can not shine without good students from schools,’’ Utkal University Vice-Chancellor Binayak Rath said adding, unless there is good input one should not expect better output.

Dearth of quality teachers is the greatest challenge faced by the colleges and universities in the State and the problem could only be solved if the institutes of higher learning are given total autonomy in the selection of teachers, he said.

Disapproving bureaucratic interference in the day-to-day affairs of Goverment-run universities, Rath strongly recommended that the vice-chancellors should be given complete autonomy in the selection of candidates for all statutory posts like registrar, controller of examination and controller of finance. The selection of these important functionaries should be done by a committee headed by the vice-chancellor, he added.

Alleging that red-tapism is taking its toll in higher education, Rath said that the higher education should be debureaucratised. He suggested to the gathering to set realistic goal in the proposed action plan.

Sambalpur University Vice-Chancellor A.K Pujari also demanded autonomy for universities and colleges. The Government should give a relook at the existing system of education in the Plus-II and Plus-III levels before preparing the action plan.

Vice-Chancellor of National Law University, Orissa, Faizan Mustafa said a vision paper and action plan can not be thought of without inclusion of the marginalised community. The higher education in the State is still regulated by an outdated Act of 1969 which needs to be revamped, he said.

North Orissa University, Baripada, Sibaprasad Rath, Chitta Baral from Arizona State University, founder of KIIT group of institutes Achyuta Samanta, OPECA general secretary Binod Dash, chairman of BRM-IIT Biswajit Mohanty, Ranjita Pati, reader in English, and several others gave their inputs for the action plan.

Presiding over the interactive session, Higher Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra said that a task force will be constituted for formulating the action plan. Higher Education Secretary Madhusudan Padhi was present.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Angul, Boudh, Kalahandi, Nuapada districts are presently areas where the Maoists are in what is known as a perspective stage

Maoists: A vicious circle
The Statesman, Aug 9, 2009

;Statesman News Service
BHUBANESWAR, 7 AUG: Maoists belonging to the Dandakaranya zonal division who intermingle with those operating in Chhattisgarh, which has become a ‘manufacturing industry’ for hardcore criminal Naxals, are trying to establish a corridor to Andhra Pradesh through Malkangiri, Nawarangpur and Koraput districts of Orissa.
Providing an elaborate picture of the Maoist menace, movement and strength in Orissa, Mr Prakash Mishra, IPS, director of intelligence, said that the Maoists at many places like Chitrakonda, Narayanpatna etc have the total support of tribals. In these areas, the police face a few armed cadres and an entire tribal population is used as human shield, he observed, explaining the enormity and complexity of the problem, particularly when keeping human right issues in mind.
The state is sandwiched ~ Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, AP and West Bengal are all infested ~ and Maoists shift from one place to another and take quick decisions by splitting into self-reliant groups, he noted.
Till the early nineties Orissa felt this was an Andhra Pradesh centric problem despite the fact that AP was keen that Orissa should take up counter-insurgency measures.
The Maoists are capable of engaging in positional battles in districts like Malkangiri whereas they are in a guerilla stage in districts of Jajpur, Keonjhar and Dhenkanal, he noted. Angul, Boudh, Kalahandi, Nuapada districts are presently areas where the Maoists are in what is known as a perspective stage as they are currently holding meetings, raising small local issues, punishing corrupt employees and indulging in publicity.
“It is a vicious circle - underdevelopment breeds naxals and because of the presence of naxals development cannot take place,” said Mr Mishra while citing instances of how a bridge was essential in Chitrakonda but could not be achieved due to intense protesting.
No developmental work is allowed and agencies are scared of venturing into taking up road or bridge building activities. The way out is to make police stations the nodal places for developmental work, he added.
Mr Sanjeev Marik, IPS, IGP (Operations) elaborated on the various Maoist divisions active in the state and the difficult terrain that poses problems in carrying out swift counter operations.
Mr YB Khurania and Mr Sanjeev Panda, both IPS officers posted in naxal infested districts, highlighted the complexities at the field level. They have started teaching children to hold guns and we will have to face such situations. The Juvenile Justice Act needs to be amended, noted Mr Panda. Women and children are the human shields, he noted.
Mr Khurania pointed at the case in Mayurbhanj where suspected naxals had been arrested. When the arrest was conducted nobody knew of their backgrounds or identity. It was much later that their naxal involvement was established but by then they had managed to obtain bail. It was only because the police impressed upon the lower court to seek local surety that they did not get out of jail. They were finally convicted, he said, but it had been a close call.
The present set of laws cannot deal with a war like situation or abnormal situation, he said.
The policemen and the naxals both give their versions of the operations and the police version is never believed, Mr Khurania furthered. There are no witnesses and we cannot detain a person for more than 24 hours, he said, while citing other difficulties. A suspect needs to be examined for a few days so as to elicit further information on the movement and presence of groups, but this is not done, he added.
Mr Khurania went on to pose questions concerning the human rights of the policemen, who are expected to work 24 hours in extremely trying circumstances. "Why can't their be shifts in a police station like in other 24 hour workplaces?" he asked. Special training, special laws and the strengthening of police stations - both in terms of manpower and infrastructure - is the need of the hour, concluded Mr Khurania.

Srei to roll out IPTV services in Orissa at the CSC at Kalahandi

Srei to roll out IPTV services in Orissa
Business Standard, Aug 8, 2009

SREI Sahaj E-Village Limited, a subsidiary of the Kolkata-based Srei Infrastructure Finance Limited, plans to roll out IPTV (internet protocol television) services at its 20 common service centres (CSCs) in the rural areas of Orissa by the end of this year.

Among all the CSCs of SREI Sahaj E-Village Limited across the country, the IPTV service would be first launched in Orissa at its centre at Kalahandi .

Sabahat Azim, chief executive officer, SREI Sahaj e-Village Limited said, “Our IPTV services would be first launched at the CSC at Kalahandi in Orissa by the end of this month. The content of the IPTV would focus on the local culture and traditions of the people. The IPTV service is also aimed at offering education and entertainment to the rural folks.”

IPTV is a system through which digital television service is delivered using the architecture and networking methods of the internet protocol over a packet switched network infrastructure.

Meanwhile, SREI Sahaj e-Village has tied up with DLF Pramerica Life Insurance, a 74:26 joint venture between realty firm DLF Limited and US-based Prudential Financial to offer insurance services to the rural people at the CSCs.

The insurance services would be rolled out at the company’s 200 CSCs throughout the country by the end of this month.

“Our CSCs would offer services like premium collection and uploading of policies of the individual customers. We will also organise mass awareness campaigns on the insurance products for the rural people”, said Azim.

SREI Sahaj was also planning to launch its banking services at 200 CSCs in Orissa by the end of this month.

The company has tied up leading banks like State Bank of India (SBI), Punjab National Bank (PNB) and HDFC Bank to enable the people in rural areas to open bank accounts at the CSCs.

SREI Sahaj has started a pilot trial of this project along with PNB at Panapur village, about 25 km from Patna.

The company’s data centres would be connected to the data centres of these banks and the people can carry out the banking transactions through the CSCs which will maintain al the records of the bank accounts.

The banking correspondents would be roped in to provide the banking services at the CSCs.

SREI Sahaj is also looking to engage the banking correspondents to disburse payments to the workers of the Centre’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

Moreover, SREI Sahaj is planning to kick off the work of data collection on the Mid-Day Meals programme soon at its CSCs in West Bengal. Under this initiative, the company would prepare a monthly report on the status of the scheme.

The company was also aiming to roll out more services in the future like e-commerce, matrimonial services, distance education and postal services.

SREI Sahaj E-Village has lined up an investment of Rs 1,000 crore for the next five years for implementing its projects in three phases. The company has so far set up more than 11,000 CSCs across the country including 1,100 centres in Orissa.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Orissa may get NIPER along with IIPH, thanks to Srikant Jena

The Samaja, Aug 7, 2009

Mining will start only after clearance: Vedanta

Expressbuzz, Aug 7, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: The Vedanta Alumina Limited (VAL) today strongly denied starting any mining activity in Niyamgiri hills of Kalahandi where its alumina project is sited.

Mining will be undertaken by a joint venture (JV) company between the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) and Sterlite Industries India Ltd (SIIL), and not by Vedanta Aluminium, as per the Supreme Court directive last year.

Besides, the question of mining does not arise till clearance is obtained, a spokesperson of Vedanta said. As of now, Stage I (in principle) forest clearance has been granted for the mining project and Sterlite has deposited Rs 121 crore with the State Government towards statutory payments, including net present value for diversion of forest land, compensatory afforestation, wildlife management plan, tribal development and safety zone creation around the mining area. After complying with Stage I terms and conditions, the company is waiting for Stage II clearance from the Government of India for diversion of forest land for mining as per the SC orders.

Although the project received environmental clearance in April, mining will start only after final approval is obtained from the Centre along with other clearances from the State.

Vigilance raids on engineers

The Statesman, 7th August, 2009

Statesman News Service


Vigilance sleuths conducted raids on various establishments connected with Mr Lalit Mohan Das, executive engineer, RWS and S divisions, Phulbani on charges of acquisition and possession of disproportionate assets and detected properties worth more than Rs 55 lakh. Besides movable assets like costly household articles, one Bolero, one tractor, one TVS scooty, gold and silver ornaments worth more than Rs 11 lakh, bank deposits and insurance premium of more than Rs 7 lakh, hard cash; the anti-corruption officials detected immovable assets like one double storied building at Bhimtangi, Bhubaneswar, one building at Brit Colony, Bargarh, Bhubaneswar, farm house at Kanto in Keonjhar district and two homestead plot at Anandpur and Chandrasekharpur, Bhubaneswar, sources said. Meanwhile, the house and office of Mr Ghanashyam Das Jain, assistant engineer, ITDA, Th. Rampur in Kalahandi district was also raided. Properties worth more than Rs 28 lakh including immovable assets worth more than Rs 15 lakh were found in the aids, a vigilance officer said.Meanwhile, upon finding Batakrushna Rout, ex-assistant supervisor, Poonar Sal Seed Purchase Centre under OFDC, Nawarangpur guilty in an alleged criminal misconduct; the special vigilance judge, Jeypore sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for two years and a fine of Rs 5,000 , in default of which to undergo rigorous imprisonment for six months more. Rout has also been sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for three years and a fine of Rs.10,000 , in default of which to undergo rigorous imprisonment for nine months more. The sentences are to run concurrently, the court ordered. Rout was facing trial for alleged misappropriation of 165.65 qtls. of sal seeds by forging official records.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Proposal for Vedanta Kalahandi University

This is a proposal to Vedanta Alumina Limited and State Government of Orissa to establish Vedanta Kalahandi University. Detail proposal can be found here.

Why a General State University in KBK

Orissa is a state of which a large part comes under rural area.

Especially, KBK which consists of one-third of the state’s total area, comes under the rural belt.

Demand of a state university in KBK region, since the establishment of North Orissa University, has not been met as yet.

Number of affiliated colleges in various general state universities are:

Utkal University (UU): 330
Sambalpur University (SU): 177
Berhampur University (BU): 91
North Orissa University (NOU): 69
Fakir Mohan University (FMU): 63

Some of the technical colleges, listed under state universities as affiliated colleges, might already have been redistributed to Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT) by now or made unitary universities. Most of these technical colleges are from Utkal University and set up in the capital region of the state.

Districts affiliated with these state universities are as follows:
UU: Khordha, Puri, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Jagatsingpur, Kendrapada, Jajpur, Dhenkanal, Angul.

SU: Sundergarh, Jharsuguda, Deogarh, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Balangir, Sonepur, Kalahandi, Nuapada, and Boudh.

BU: Ganjam, Gajpati, Kandhamal, Rayagada. Malkangir, Koraput and Nabarangpur.

NOU: Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar.

FMU: Balasore and Bhadrak.

On regional basis, two separate state universities (North Orissa and Fakir Mohan) have already been established separating from Utkal University in the past, but no separate university has been yet established from Sambalpur and Berhampur Universsities.

Considering inaccessibility, location wise, some universities are inconvenient to serve local districts, such as Malkangiri, Koraput and Nabarangpur under BU, Kalahandi, Nuapada and Boudh under SU, due to long distance and poor connectivity, whereas it is marginally acceptable for most of the districts under UU, FMU and NOU.

Based on administration of number of affiliated colleges, there should be at least another two universities other than Utkal and Sambalpur Universities. For Orissa, on an average, 100 affiliated colleges in one university looks acceptable at this point of time similar to BU, NOU and FMU.

A new state university in KBK
The possibility that looks economical and practical at this point, is to establish a state university in KBK taking colleges from each four affiliated districts from BU and SU based on region, inaccessibility and redistributing number of affiliated colleges as below.

SU will have colleges in Sundergarh, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Deogarh, Bargarh, Sonepur, and Angul (all colleges from Angul district redistributed from UU).

BU will have colleges in Ganjam, Gajpati, Kandhamal, Nayagarh (redistributed from UU) and Khordha district except capital region, Jatni and Khordha town (redistributed from UU).

UU will have colleges in capital region, Khordha town, Jatni, Puri, Cuttack, Kedrapada, Jagatsingpur and Dhenkanal.

FMU will have colleges in Balasore, Bhadrak and Jajpur (redistributed from UU).

NOU will have colleges in Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar.

Proposed new state university in KBK will have colleges in Malkangiri, Rayagada, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Balangir and Boudh.

Why VKU in Kalahandi?

Vedanta’s Case:
Vedanta Alumina is located in Kalahandi and has been a controversy project due to environmental issues and tribal right.

A University with the help of Vedanta would give a positive message to the region and the whole world, specially when Kalahandi is infamously known as backward.

Many intellectuals, politicians, journalists and social workers who are opposing proposed Vendanta University in Puri suggest to establish the same in KBK or Kalahandi where Vendata is establishing it refinery. Establishing VKU might counter act on such argument.

Vedanta can use some of the funds from local development program as per Supreme Court ruling to support the VKU which would not be possible in other place.

Political consideration:
Kalahandi is considered as part of Western Orissa by Orissa Government whereas World Bank considered it as part of Southern Orissa, therefore, it can resemble politically both Southern and Western Orissa.

There is no state Government University in KBK region and demand for such a University in the region is long standing. Orissa also needs a state University in South-Western Orissa for KBK region for its affiliated college as explained earlier.

Location Wise:
Kalahandi is centrally located in KBK districts. Koraput and Balangir would be far away from each other whereas Bhawanipatna can be acceptable to both in distance point of view.

Bhawanipatna is virtually located centrally in Westerner border region from Motu (Malkangiri) to Sundergarh.

Malkangiri and Nabarangpur which are faraway from Berhampur University could be served better from Bhawanipatna.

Educational & Infrastructure Advantage:
Bhawanipatna has free land, water, power, roads, etc and can be an educational and knowledge hub with the proposed engineering, medical and agriculture colleges in the region.

Proposed Raipur international airport is located in 200 km and Jharsuguda airport is 250 km from the proposed site.

Kesinga station, 20-25 km from the proposed site in Karlapada, is well connected to most of the major cities in India. Next to Kesinga is Titilagarh station which is 10 – 15 minutes by train.

By road the proposed site is well connected by NH and SH with Koraput, Rayagada, Nabarangpur, Malkangiri, Balangir, Boudh, Sonepur , Nabarangpur, Kandhamal and Nuapada district . And 8 out of these 10 districts have direct border with Kalahandi district.

Probable Contribution from Various parties for the Proposed University

Vedanta Alumina Limited
Initially contributes: Rs. 50 crores

Subsequent 10 years VAL may contribute 10 % or 1 crore annually from local development project under Lanjigarh refinery and Niyamgiri mining

May get 20% free seat for affected/ rehabilitated people by Vedanta group in Lanjigarh, Niyamgiri, Jharsuguda & Puri.

In case 20% seats are not/partially filled then rest of them goes to local people through local development project by VAL

Vedanta may get a name tag along with University name

One position in syndicate/management may be given to VAL as long as it contributes to University development

State Government
Contributes free Land: 500 acres

Employs and pays staff and faculty

Gets 40 % seat free at state level competitive basis

30 % seats goes to University management as self-finance to further reduce financial burden from state Govt. for running the university

Fees for self-financed seats are determined by state Govt.

State Govt. keeps the right whether to use Vedanta’s subsequent contribution and/or fees from self-financed seats for salary for staff and faculty

When state Govt. takes all financial burdern and administration of the University like other state University , 100% seat goes to state Government

Technical Guidance from Vedanta University Puri

Vedanta University in Puri (VUP) may provide technical assistance during establishing VKU

Medical school of Vedanta University in Puri may have a research center in Kalahandi on adivasi specific diseases and medicinal plants of that area.

Medical college in limbo

Expressbuzz, 6th August, 2009

BHAWANIPATNA: THE Government Engineering College here is all set to begin its current academic session and 240 students have been selected for various streams. But this has raised doubts on the functioning of the Sardar Raja Medical College at Jaring, 15 km from here, scheduled to begin its academic session next year.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid a foundation stone for the engineering college at Singhjharan, 8 km from here, before the elections this year. As the college authorities require two years for construction of the college building, the State Government has decided to operate it from the Medical campus. The Medical College was set up by Salvum Education and Charitable Trust of Tamil Nadu in 2004. Though the Medical College had the required infrastructure, it did not have the requisite number of doctors. As a result, it did not get permission from the Medical Council of India(MCI) to begin its academic session. Sources said the hospital authorities are now recruiting more doctors and have targetted to invite the MCI for inspection around May 2010.

No bauxite mining at Niyamgiri yet

Business Standard, 6th August, 2009

The Orissa government has made it clear that mining of bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi district will not be allowed till all the statutory clearances are obtained.
This is in response to the statement made by the Union environment and forest minister, Jairam Ramesh in the Rajya Sabha that Vedanta group can be prosecuted if it resorts to illegal mining of bauxite in Niyamagiri as the Anil Agarwal controlled firm has been given ‘in principle approval’ only.
He said, the company has only got the in-principle approval for forest diversion and it has not got the full forest clearance. If mining is taking place in Niyamgiri, then it is illegal, he was reported as saying in Rajya Sabha.
When contacted on the issue, the state steel and mines secretary, Ashok Dalwai said, all the protocols in the matter will be followed and no mining activity will be allowed at Niyamgiri till the stage-II forest clearance is obtained and the mining lease (ML) is executed.
It may be noted Anil Agarwal owned Sterlite Industries India Ltd (SIIL) and the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) of the state government have formed a joint venture company under the banner of South-West Orissa Bauxite Mining Private Ltd for mining bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills.
“OMC is the lease holder and is a responsible entity, mining will not be allowed till all the statutory clearances are obtained”, Dalwai asserted.
He said, though the leaseholder has got stage-I forest clearance from the Union ministry of environment and forest, it is yet to obtain the stage-II clearance. Stating the project has got the environmental clearance, he, however, pointed out that the mining lease (ML) is yet to be executed.
P K Panda, vice-president (mines), Vedanta Aluminium Ltd.(VAL) said, there is no mining activity on the top of Niyamgiri hill yet. While the environmental clearance has been obtaining for mining at Niyamgiri, the stage-II forest clearance is awaited. Moreover, before start of mining surface rights will have to be obtained from the district collector. Under such circumstances it is not possible to start mining at Niyamgiri hills now, he added.

Cong MLAs return from Delhi

The Pioneer, 6th August, 2009

PNS Bhubaneswar

After meeting the All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Sonia Gandhi and AICC general- secretary Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi, all the 11 OCngress MLAs returned from Delhi on Wednesday. “We have requested Soniaji to save the Congress in the State. If steps are taken to strengthen the Congress, the party will come back with two-third majority,” said senior Congress MLA Santosh Singh Saluja, adding that young blood should be given importance.They called on the AICC high command demanding to replace both Opposition Leader Bhupinder Singh and Pradesh Congress president KP Sigh Deo for their lackluster performance. Sources said the AICC has taken up the matter seriously. But it would take its own time before taking a final decision on revamping the Congress

Naveen meets Sibal, seeks more funds under SSA

The Pioneer, 6th August, 2009

PNS Bhubaneswar

The State Government on Wednesday asked the Centre to increase its share under the Sarva Sikshya Abhijan (SSA) to 75 per cent. Welcoming the Right to Education Bill-2009, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik put this demand before Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal in Delhi. “The Central share under SSA should be increased,” Patnaik told reporters on his return to the State capital. SSA, a Central Government scheme launched in all the 30 districts of the State since 2003-04, operated in a funding pattern on the ratio of 60:40. Meanwhile, it is planning to make the funding pattern at 50:50.“I urged the Union HRD Minister for better education scenario in the State. I talked him about higher education, school and mass education and establishment of a Central university in Koraput,” Patnaik said after returning from Delhi in the afternoon. The State also demanded introduction of medical and engineering stream in the central University.The State wants to increase the Central funding to 75 per cent from the existing 60 per cent in order to make SSA more meaningful. “As many as 1,786 new primary and 4,472 upper primary schools were opened in the State by 2007-08 under the SSA scheme,” said State Higher Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra who was also present with Naveen in the meeting with Sibal. He said the State needed morefunds to implement all the guidelines under the Right to Education Bill.Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar also agreed to the Chief Minister’s request to include more districts under the national horticulture mission. While Patnaik urged Pawar to include six districts under the programme, the latter agreed to include only three districts. Patnaik also urged Pawar to give Rs 100 crore for purchase of agricultural equipment.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tribals attack Vedanta team

The Statesman, 4th August, 2009

Statesman News Service


In what appeared to be a swift retaliatory action, tribals armed with traditional weapons intercepted, attacked and drove away a survey team of the Vedanta Alumina company even as they were moving towards the Niyamgiri hill top today.Ten persons from the VAL were proceeding to the hill top to conduct pre-mining demarcation survey work today when they were intercepted. The survey team escaped unhurt but the armed tribals damaged the vehicle in which they were traveling. They were carrying bow and arrows and an axe, said police sources in Lanjigarh. Fearing the worst, the team fled, leaving behind the vehicle which was subsequently torched by the angry tribals, said reliable sources. The sources said the miscreants were from the bordering Rayagada district and had warned the VAL officers not to venture into the Niyamgiri hills.A police team led by SDPO Mr AKNayak is camping at Lanjigarh and investigating into the matter but they have not visited the spot fearing the involvement of Maoists. Since there is speculation over whether the mob was carrying guns, police have been very cautious, said these sources.It is also learnt that the company authorities are yet to lodge a formal police complaint as they are exploring avenues for an ‘amicable settlement’.Meanwhile a section of social activists in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts believe that todays incident was retaliatory in nature as unidentified goons had waylaid a team of rights activists at Dahikhal on 25 July when they were on their way to address a meeting opposing the mining of the Niyamgiri hills by VAL.The activists, including Mr Prafulla Samantara, Gandhian Professor Mr Bhagabat Rath and Mr Lingaraj, were shooed away by the miscreants who allegedly ordered them not to act against VAL. Mr Samantara and others were however rescued by local people and tribals. They had lodged a FIR in this connection and stated that if the police failed to prevent such crime and protect the democratic rights of activists, tribals who are resisting the mining of the Niyamgiri hills will be forced to defend themselves.Mr Samantara today said he had submitted a copy of his FIR to the DGP for necessary action as he did not trust the local police.Addressing a Press conference at Bhubaneswar today Mr Samantara who has been leading the anti-mining movement said Niyamgiri is ecologically critical to the state and country. It is also worshipped by the tribes of the region, he said, while referring at length to the protests in London last week wherein celebrities like Joanna Lumley, Bianca Jagger and Arundati Roy had impressed upon the Church of England’s ethical investment group to take note of the plight of the Dongria Kondh tribes of the Niyamgiri hills.The voice of the Dongria Kondh tribe has reached London, but here in Orissa the government has turned deaf, alleged Mr Samantara.He charged that expansion of the VAL project in Lanjigarh started well before the public hearing was held in Belamba on 25 May, 2009 and it continues without waiting for any formal clearance from the ministry of environment and forests.Local activists and international organizations will start probing into the political funding aspects, he said, while demanding that a team of experts from the ministry inspect Niyamgiri and verify the damage already done to the hills. "Niyamgiri should be declared a national ecological heritage and protected," he said.Raising another issue, Mr Samantara said mining in Niyamgiri cannot be allowed due to the passage of the Forest Rights Act 2006 as Section 4 (5) of the act bars the removal of any tribe or forest dweller.

Tribals take to roads to protect forest rights

The Statesman, 4th August, 2009

;Statesman News Service

BHUBANESWAR, 3 AUG: As part of the nationwide agitation called by the Campaign For Survival and Dignity, a national platform of tribal and forest dwellers’ organisation, to protest the alleged attempt to sabotage the Forest Rights Act, 2006; hundreds of tribals from different districts of the state thronged the capital city and staged a demonstration here today. Representatives of many people’s organisation like Orissa Jan Adhikar Morcha, Adivashi Kranti Sangathan, Kalahandi Mahila Sangha and Adivashi Ekata Sangha participated in huge numbers in the agitation. “Though the passage of the Forest Rights Act in December 2006, was a historic step forward for the struggle against the autocratic, brutal and repressive rule of colonial laws, it is not just enough to overturn a century of oppression. Today, the fight continues for a new order in the forests ~ one built around democracy in stead of bureaucracy ~ around the people rather than the officials; and around the forests and their citizens rather than the corporate and the capital,” said Mr Nikunja Bhutia, convenor, Orissa Jan Adhikar Morcha.The prime demands of the agitators included a complete halt of the forest department interference, exclusion of rights holder and violation of people’s right under the Forest Rights Act; recognition of the tribals’ and other forest dwellers’ right and power to protect and control the forest resources and a complete check on forest destruction. They later submitted memoranda addressed to the governor, chief minister and chief secretary.

Cong MLAs meet Sonia, whiff of change in PCC leadership

Times of India, 5th August, 2009

By : Rajaram Satapathy

BHUBANESWAR: Call it a post-election political pilgrimage or a courtesy call. A group of Congress MLAs from Orissa on Tuesday let their voice heard

before those who matter in the party Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi. While Congress sources here said it was a courtesy call by the newly elected legislators, party insiders insisted it was the first step by the MLAs for a change in leadership at least at the PCC level. Kantabanjhi MLA Santosh Singh Saluja, who reportedly took a lead role in taking the group to the national capital, remained out of bounds to offer any comments. Talsara MLA Prafulla Majhi, who accompanied the team, denied that they demanded change in the leadership. "We met Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and discussed party affairs. It was a courtesy visit. We did not make any demand for a change in leadership," said Majhi when contacted on the phone. Other legislators were equally unwilling to speak much on their maiden visit to the Congress citadel in New Delhi. Instead, every one advised to speak to Saluja, who nevertheless virtually remained incommunicado. Congress sources here described the MLAs' maiden visit to New Delhi after the elections as a prelude to strengthening their voice for a change in leadership. Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh, who is away in his constituency in Kalahandi district, said he was not aware of the MLAs' visit. "I heard someone making a demand for young leaders. Others said it was a courtesy visit. I have not kept track who is going where. I am transparent. I don't believe in hanky-panky business. I am doing the work assigned to me," Singh said. Post-election, Congress in Orissa has been passing through a deep crisis with party cadres completely demoralized and frustrated over the result that fetched the party just 27 seats in the 147-member Assembly. What have added fuel to the fire within the party are the poor performance of both PCC president KP Singhdeo and the Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh, both of whom are described as "too soft" and "subdued" to take on the Naveen Patnaik government despite scores of issues in hand. The Congress' performance in the just-concluded Assembly session was also not up to the mark, which has saddened the party further. "We committed blunders during the elections by projecting ourselves as an extension wing of the BJD. People perceived our national leadership as having entered into a secret understanding with Naveen Patnaik for helping them return to power at the Centre. We got the results accordingly," said a senior Congress leader. A party functionary said, "If the same attitude and activities continue, it would not take much time for the Congress to be decimated completely in the state. Already, the party has a dearth of leaders who could command the support of all in the present situation. The visit of the MLAs, many of whom are youngsters, should be viewed from this perspective for effecting tangible change and not just a visit to New Delhi," said a party functionary.

Cong MLAs meet Sonia, Rahul

The Pioneer, 5th August, 2009

PNS Bhubaneswar

The demand to oust leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh has gained momentum after 11 MLAs of State Congress on Tuesday called on All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Sonia Gandhi and AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi. “To save the Congress the young generation should be promoted. We have already intimated our feelings to Soniaji and Rahulji. Young generation should be given more responsibility and steps should be taken to revive the Congress in State,” said senior party MLA Santosh Singh Saljua.The MLAs were upset after the leader of Opposition failed to corner the Government on several issues. The Opposition could not able to capitalise on the mining scam issue that rocked the State Assembly. The Government even did not pay any heed to the Opposition’s demand to at least form a House Committee of the Assembly to inquire into the matter. On the other hand, the BJP, with only seven legislators, scored over the 27-member-strong Congress group during the session. While Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh had a lacklustere performance all along, leader of the BJP Legislature Party KV Singh Deo presented a qualitative leadership to the Opposition. KV, with the help of a small group of party members, almost brought the ruling BJD to its knees on the alleged multi-crore mining scam. The Chief Minister, finding him on the back foot, had to order a Vigilance inquiry into the massive illegal mining in Keonjhar district. The Opposition Congress allowed the Government to escape lightly after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik ordered for a Vigilance inquiry into the matter. It also failed to take up other issues including the rising Maoist menace and price rise. Due to ineffectiveness of the Opposition, it was able to pass two private university Bills for establishment of the Vedanta and Sri Sri Ravishankar universities. Demand also cropped up to oust PCC president KP Singh Deo.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Nagbam" in Dharamgarh of Kalahandi

Dharitri, Aug 4, 2009

Centre promises Rs 20,000 crore for repair of NHs in State

The Pioneer, Aug 4, 2009
PNS | Bhubaneswar

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Kamal Nath has assured the Orissa Government that the Centre would provide Rs 20,000 crore in the coming five years to take up repair and improvement of national highways in the State.

Kamal Nath assured this during a meeting with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at New Delhi on Monday. These funds would be given out of the Central Road Fund to the State Government.

During the meeting, Patnaik stated that the State Government would sign State Support Agreement (SSA) with the Government of India quickly for enabling the Ministry to go for widening of national highways in Orissa on PPT mode.

Patnaik requested Kamal Nath for augmentation of allocation of funds to the tune of Rs 500 crore in the current year for development of national highways in the State which was agreed upon by the Union Minister. The Minister also agreed to the request of the Chief Minister to increase the allocation for maintenance works from the existing 12 crore to Rs 40 crore.

Patnaik highlighted the distress of the people of Balasore district due to inadequate vents on NH-60. The Union Minister stated that this portion of NH-60 has been proposed to be widened to six lanes carriageway wherein provision of additional vents has been envisaged and this work would be taken up very shortly.

The slow progress of the four-laning of the golden quadrilateral undertaken by NHAI, particularly in stretches from Icchapur to Berhampur, from Berhampur to Balugaon and from Bhadrak to Balasore, also figured in the discussion.

It is also decided to go for re-tendering of the four-laning works of NH-200 from Chandikhol to Talcher via Kamakshya Nagar, NH 25 from Panikoeili to Rajamunda and NH-6 from Sambalpur to Loharchatti via Bargarh. The Chief Minister also requested the Minister to take up four-laning work of NH-203 from Bhubaneswar to Puri and construction of passes and ROBs in major cities of Orissa to ease out the traffic congestion which was also agreed upon by the Union Minister.

NOTE: Orissa Government should include NH201 and NH217 in the list.

PDS in a shambles in Bhawanipatna

Expressbuzz, 4th August, 2009

BHAWANIPATNA: One fair price shop for more than 10,000 consumers of eight wards in Bhawanipatna speaks volumes about the sorry state of affairs of public distribution system (PDS) in the district headquarters town.
For one lakh population of the town there are 10 fair price shops which include three cooperative stores, six stores run by women SHGs and one Maitry shop run by Civil Supplies Corporation. The three cooperative stores look after two wards each, the SHGs one ward each while the Maitry shop covers eight wards of the town.
This sorry state of affairs has sparked resentment among the consumers. People queuing before the Maitry shop from early hours is a common sight.
Even schoolchildren remain in queue for the entire day to receive the quota of ration for their family. Law and order problems arise very often due to overcrowding at the fair price shops.
Basanti, an old woman, said it takes three to four days to get the quota of ration. Gourang Rout, a resident, said due to the chaotic situation at fair price shops, wheat and rice are not measured properly.
He said several representations have been made before district administration and Supply Department to open counters in each ward to ensure proper distribution but in vain.
Incidentally when consumers are harassed due to limited number of fair price shops, licence has been given to as many as 31 private dealers to sell kerosene.
Contacted, District Civil Supplies Officer Siba Prasad Dora admitted the problem but said plans are afoot to open a few more retail shops engaging SHGs to ensure proper distribution.

Vedanta survey team’s vehicle torched

The Pioneer, 4th August, 2009

PNS Bhawanipatna

Tribals of Niyamgiri hill at Lanjigarh block torched a four wheeler (Bolero) on Monday morning. According to the report one engineer with twelve labourers of Vedanta Aluminium Limited were going for Preliminary Statutory Compliance. The agitated tribals stopped them midway and torched the vehicle without harming them. Till the filing of the report no case has been registered.

More report in Statesman, Aug 4, 2009

Tribals attack Vedanta team
;Statesman News Service
BHUBANESWAR, BHAWANIPATNA, 3 AUG: In what appeared to be a swift retaliatory action, tribals armed with traditional weapons intercepted, attacked and drove away a survey team of the Vedanta Alumina company even as they were moving towards the Niyamgiri hill top today.

Ten persons from the VAL were proceeding to the hill top to conduct pre-mining demarcation survey work today when they were intercepted. The survey team escaped unhurt but the armed tribals damaged the vehicle in which they were traveling.
They were carrying bow and arrows and an axe, said police sources in Lanjigarh. Fearing the worst, the team fled, leaving behind the vehicle which was subsequently torched by the angry tribals, said reliable sources. The sources said the miscreants were from the bordering Rayagada district and had warned the VAL officers not to venture into the Niyamgiri hills.

A police team led by SDPO Mr AKNayak is camping at Lanjigarh and investigating into the matter but they have not visited the spot fearing the involvement of Maoists. Since there is speculation over whether the mob was carrying guns, police have been very cautious, said these sources.

It is also learnt that the company authorities are yet to lodge a formal police complaint as they are exploring avenues for an ‘amicable settlement’.
Meanwhile a section of social activists in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts believe that todays incident was retaliatory in nature as unidentified goons had waylaid a team of rights activists at Dahikhal on 25 July when they were on their way to address a meeting opposing the mining of the Niyamgiri hills by VAL.
The activists, including Mr Prafulla Samantara, Gandhian Professor Mr Bhagabat Rath and Mr Lingaraj, were shooed away by the miscreants who allegedly ordered them not to act against VAL. Mr Samantara and others were however rescued by local people and tribals. They had lodged a FIR in this connection and stated that if the police failed to prevent such crime and protect the democratic rights of activists, tribals who are resisting the mining of the Niyamgiri hills will be forced to defend themselves.

Mr Samantara today said he had submitted a copy of his FIR to the DGP for necessary action as he did not trust the local police.

Addressing a Press conference at Bhubaneswar today Mr Samantara who has been leading the anti-mining movement said Niyamgiri is ecologically critical to the state and country. It is also worshipped by the tribes of the region, he said, while referring at length to the protests in London last week wherein celebrities like Joanna Lumley, Bianca Jagger and Arundati Roy had impressed upon the Church of England’s ethical investment group to take note of the plight of the Dongria Kondh tribes of the Niyamgiri hills.

The voice of the Dongria Kondh tribe has reached London, but here in Orissa the government has turned deaf, alleged Mr Samantara.

He charged that expansion of the VAL project in Lanjigarh started well before the public hearing was held in Belamba on 25 May, 2009 and it continues without waiting for any formal clearance from the ministry of environment and forests.
Local activists and international organizations will start probing into the political funding aspects, he said, while demanding that a team of experts from the ministry inspect Niyamgiri and verify the damage already done to the hills. "Niyamgiri should be declared a national ecological heritage and protected," he said.

Raising another issue, Mr Samantara said mining in Niyamgiri cannot be allowed due to the passage of the Forest Rights Act 2006 as Section 4 (5) of the act bars the removal of any tribe or forest dweller.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Biotech policy in Orissa need to be reviewed

Biotech policy proves a big failure in Orissa
The Pioneer, Aug 3, 2009
SP Nanda | Bhubaneswar

The biotechnology programme in the State was started with much fanfare five years back with candlelight dinners in five-star hotels where top bureaucrats and academicians brought out novel ideas and designed the biotechnology shape for the twenty-first century Orissa. But over these years, biotechnology as an industry has not taken roots in the soil of the State, barring a few units, which already existed and still continue against the callous attitude of the bureaucracy. Biotechnology education in the State rapidly declined till it became a mockery. Why has it happened?

Biotechnology, the cream of biological sciences, evolved from hardcore biochemistry and genetics in the late seventies of the last century. It rapidly expanded and its beneficial and praiseworthy application in human health, plant, animal and microbial genetic improvement was soon visible. Genetically modified plants and animals became an advantage for mankind apart from innumerable applications in human health, winning over diseases, disabilities and survival.

Orissa has a bounty of natural plant and animal resources. People of the State suffer from various maladies. There is no doubt that biotechnology could have played a commendable role in resources utilisation, improvement of present plant and animal stock and cure of some diseases, which are rampant and dangerous in the State. But the policies made by the Government towards generation of technical manpower, establishment of industries and research for future gains are incongruent with the resources available within the State. This has led to an utter failure of the policies.

The Government permitted mushrooming of biotechnology academic institutions. There were at one time as many as 14 institutions that offered postgraduate degree in biotechnology with as high intake capacity of 60 students per year. The universities gave affiliations to these institutions without looking into the infrastructure and expertise they had. Universities got money by giving affiliations and institutions got money by sponsoring the courses.

These institutions hired retired botany and zoology professionals or fresh postgraduates in botany and zoology having no expertise in biochemistry, genetics or biotechnology at large. They read books and taught in classes. The institutions did not also possess the minimum instrumentation and laboratory facilities, field or minimal house facilities, technical manpower to demonstrate various intricate biotechnological experiments. The result was that the students did not get knowledge and expertise to face competitions in the job market. Barring a few resourceful ones, a vast majority of rollouts remained unemployed.

No wonder, biotechnology soon became a laughing stock in the State. Students did not turn out to take admission for postgraduate studies. One after another, the biotechnology colleges closed down. Who is responsible for sealing the fate of thousands of postgraduates?

With money flowing from the Union Department of Biotechnology, the State ventured to establish a Biotechnology Park for setting up of biotechnology industries, which would not only provide employment but also take the State into the arena of the biotechnology revolution. A small section of biotechnology was opened in the State's Department of Science and Technology being headed by a director, who was an Indian Forest Service officer. This amounted to a mockery of biotechnology, a forest officer heading a project where a much wider vision is required to organise things in biotechnology.

The obvious result is now seen, with the boundary of the 267-acre Biotechnology Park on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar speaking volumes about the progress made! With the faulty policy of the department, no biotechnology park could be established and no industrialist came forward to set up his industry in hired net and dry laboratories. The Government should have given some thought that an industrialist is a man having much regard for independence and he has his own vision and ways to materialise it. No industrialist can venture to stride in uncertain environment. The Government now needs much refinement of its thought as much money has gone down the drain in the biotechnology sector with no tangible result.