Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Can Tithirupa do a Prince?

Expressbuzz, March 31, 2010
BHAWANIPATNA: She is only six but has already made a mark on the national stage. Up-and-coming dancer Tithirupa, popular as Riti, of Bhawanipatna was recently selected for ‘Dance India Dance’, a reality dance show for kids to be aired on Zee TV.

A precocious child, she is studying in Standard II in Vimala Convent School, Bhawanipatna.

Like morning shows the day, Tithirupa started dancing to the tunes of music programmes on TV and radio at the age of three. Due to her passion for the dance, her relatives and teachers lovingly call her ‘dancing bird’.

Spotting her inherent talent, she was encouraged by her uncle and aunt, with whom she is staying here, to pursue her passion. Her parents Manabhanjan Bohidar and Laxmipriya Bohidar are staying in Sambalpur. But her grandfather Basanta Bohidar’s home in Statue Para here is her home since childhood. Besides dancing, she is also good at studies topping in school examinations.

Her talent came to the fore during her stage performances at Kalahandi Utsav and sundry cultural programmes by Chakadola Club and Mahavir Sanskrutik Anusthan of Bhawanipatna and in Chutkuchuta State-level competition in Bhubaneswar. She was selected for the finals of ‘Dance India Dance’ at the talent hunt held in Kolkata in two phases in the second week of March. Her performance got rave reviews. The finals would be held in Mumbai next month. Now entire Kalahandi is rooting for her. Can she do a Prince Dance Group?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

People’s Grain Bank in Thuamul Rampur, third most under developed block of Orissa, again thanks to Antodaya & OTELP

Contributed By: Shri Dillip Kumar Das

Grain Bank to face the distress –ANTODAYA experience

 Traditionally the tribals and other weaker sections of the tribal dominated pockets of Orissa face food stress during rainy season every year. In Thuamul Rampur the situation is even worse than the other areas of the state. It is third most under developed block of Orissa as stated in the report of Planning and coordination department.

In this backdrop ANTODAYA had a study during 1997 and found the following

To face the distress condition people go for loan from the money lenders and fall prey to their trap and get exploited.

The system of loan and repayment
For the loan of just five to six months the money lender charges the above rate of interest and if the loan is not repaid in the first year then cumulative interest / compound interest charged over both principal as well as on the interest. Their plight does not end here. During the rainy days people were not getting Rice neither from the PDS shop nor from the open market as the area gets cutoff due to flood in the streams and rivers around them.

Traditional Coping Mechanism

Existence of crop diversity

• Forest based economy
• Kutumb Panty (Traditional village Grain Bank)

Types of Grain Banks:

Kutumb Panthi:
It was the traditional Grain Bank exist in the villages and was the symbol of Inter dependency among villagers. But it was controlled by the traditional leaders and time and again needs revival which is difficult

Grain Banks established after NGO intervention:
Initially it started working with participation from the community and after some years due to lack of matching assistance and clear vision get defunct for some times. Need regular motivation.

Grain Banks with support from ITDA (Government of Orissa)
Matching support in terms of Grain & storage facilities made the grain banks functional in most of the cases and running comparatively well as the monitoring part lies with the NGOs. But the repayment mechanism needs some more attention as well as reformation to suit the needs of the target community.

The grains in these grain banks are not monetised and it can not attract bank linkage facilities. It also targets only the tribal households in a village

In the year 2003 ANTODAYA started grain Banks in 16 villages of Nakrundi and Kerpai GP with support from NABARD in an innovative way. Those 16 villages except Dandpadar village are now included in three MWS (Sikerguda, Maltipadar & Kandulguda) and they run the grain banks to face the distress situation.

After the intervention with support from OTELP the villagers of those villages though have more access to wage employment and food grain they still continue to maintain the grain banks. They use to store the grains in their traditional DUDI made out of Bamboo. The grains saved by the community helps them during stress period and emergencies. This learning helped us in initiating the grain banks in other OTELP target villages.

During one of the JRM visits Mr. C.K Ramachandran cited the example of SILO storage bins which are safer than the Bamboo made DUDI. Though the grain Banks initiated by ITDA in past days had the metal bins those were too small and supplied only to those villages where grain banks were established by ITDA. Those bins were not capable to store a big amount of grains by which the villagers can supply loan to the entire village at time of need. The JRM also recommended in their report to promote SILO bins.

On the recommendations of the JRM ANTODAYA had facilitated the community to make provisions in their AWPB – 2009-10 for purchase of SILO bins. In the village meetings it was also decided to have more decentralised grain banks (at the SHG level) and accordingly it was calculated to take 8-12 family as one unit. To meet the need of these families one grain bank must have atleast 300 KG grains stored to meet the stress period of one family for one month till they get their next PDS stock. Accordingly the bins were ordered with Orissa Consumer Cooperative Federation Ltd. Jeypur branch.

To minimise the cost the storage bins were prepared at the Mohangiri village (in the field itself) and one SILO is made for 8-12 families having capacity to store 300-320 KGs of rice /grain. The cost of one SILO came to Rs. 2300/- which is met out of DIF component of OTELP. Now the bins are supplied to the individual SHGs and the grain Banks are managed by them.
The rate of interest is fixed by the community themselves and it is 25% on an average. The repayment is also flexible. If one loanee from the grain bank is unable to repay the grain he/she had taken from the grain bank can repay other available grain or NTFP item calculating the cost of the grain taken as loan.

We have learnt a valid lesson. At the time of making the SILO we only considered the cost factor and to minimise the cost we tried to make big / optimum size bins. But we did not took the point of housing pattern of the target community into consideration and now in almost all the villages the community is unable to take the bins inside their houses as their doors are smaller than the diameter of the SILO. Now they are taking out the doors, pushing the SILO into the house and then again re-fixing the doors of the house.

Here we would suggest, in future if any organisation want to introduce SILO among the community then they have to make it keeping the housing pattern of the community in mind.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Breakdown in Balangir

[Thanks to Dr Sanjib Kumar Karmee for sharing this in Kalahandia yahoo group.]

Hindustan Times, March 29, 2010
Priya Ranjan Sahu, Hindustan Times

As one of India’s 300 million officially poor people in one of its most impoverished districts, Kantamani Nag bought 25 kg of rice every month at Rs 2 per kg — five times cheaper than market rates — a fine example of the world's most sprawling subsidised-foodgrain network.

Of the sprawling cradle-to-grave national anti-poverty effort on which the Centre will spend more than Rs 1.18 lakh crore in 2010-11 to create a more inclusive, just India, only the Public Distribution System worked for the Nags — sort of.

Nag (40) kept half the rice for his wife and three children. He sold the rest, creating what is now unofficially called “subsidised-rice income” for the poorest in this western corner of Orissa, where the official poverty line is Rs 356 per month, or about the cost of an appetiser in a metropolitan five-star hotel. When Nag, wizened beyond his years, sold his subsidised rice (sometimes tea leaves and soap as well), it sent him into a death spiral that appears to play out like this across Balangir:

The rice that isn’t sold typically lasts 10 days or less. The family works odd jobs or begs rest of the month. Weakened without enough food, they fall ill for about 100 days each year. They borrow money to pay medical expenses. To repay the loan, they join the 100,000 who migrate to brick kilns and stone mines in Andhra Pradesh.

When they return, they are weaker; many die, not by starvation but from chronic hunger and malnutrition.

Nag’s family ended up working in the kilns and mines for six months every year. These trips took a toll on their weakened bodies. They took more loans to meet medical expenses. The last loan was Rs 20,000 at 10 per cent interest.

“After a time they found it difficult to repay,” said Kasturi Nag (42), Kantamani’s sister-in-law, who narrated their tale on a warm spring day in their western Orissa village of Kurenbahali. “As a result, they started eating less food.”

Growing, gnawing hunger

Breakfast for the Nags was a handful of puffed rice and tea without milk. Lunch was pakhal, watery rice, with an onion.

Dinner wasn’t very different — on the few days the Nags had any.

Hindustan Times recorded similar patterns in journeys to 55 families in 27 villages in Balangir, where 62 per cent of all families officially live below the poverty line across 6,575 sq km, more than four times larger than the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

In interviews, many officials in Balangir confirmed that they were witnessing a deepening cycle of poverty.

It could explain how millions of hungry people are slipping through the cracks nationwide; how shoddy implementation imperils well-meaning, ambitious national anti-hunger programmes; how mothers become malnourished, giving birth to more malnourished children than anywhere else in the world.

Every year, 3,000 pregnant women are admitted to Balangir’s hospitals. “More than 50 per cent are anaemic, malnourished,” said Dr Purnachandra Sahu, Balangir’s chief district medical officer. Theoretically, help is available, through the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), the world's largest programme for nutritional and school needs of children younger than six, administered through 1.4 million centres nationwide.

Though 80 million children are theoretically covered, one in two Indian children is malnourished, the world's worst rate.

In Balangir, there are free vitamins, proteins and medicine available.

The Nags appear to have used these centres at some point. The evidence: Their children are alive (though their condition isn't clear). For severely malnourished children, there’s Rs 500 to be had from the Chief Minister’s relief fund.

Sahu opened registers of Nutrition Day — held on the 15th of each month to provide dietary support to children — to show how about 3,000 malnourished children under age six are brought to Balangir’s 14 primary health centres every month. Sahu said 53 per cent of all children at his centres are malnourished.

In 2009, official ICDS figures say 87 children, or 0.04 per cent suffered the most severe malnourishment, grade IV, which means they needed urgent medical attention.

“The children are malnourished because in most cases the mothers are malnourished,” said Pratibha Mohanty, Balangir district’s social welfare officer.

The death rate of children under six is worsening. In 2006, 48 children died in every 1,000, rising to 52 the next two years; in 2009 it was 51, according to district health records. Balangir’s cycle of poverty continues into adulthood.

Most patients who come to Balangir hospitals today are anaemic, have gastrointestinal infections or are directly malnourished, according to district health records.

Stopping migration would certainly help already weak villagers. Theoretically, the Nags need not have migrated.

The world’s largest jobs-for-work programme, the National Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), is supposed to help people like them, assuring them 100 days of employment every year. The national NREGS budget for 2010-11: Rs 40,000 crore, more than a third the size of the defence budget.

Here in Kurenbahali, there were no NREGS jobs in 2009. Thus far, there’s no sign of work this year either. “People would not migrate if NREGS works are done regularly through the year,” said Paleswar Bhoi (35), a villager.

Slippery statistics
Instead of the required 100 days, Orissa has provided no more than 35 days of work each year. Across most of Balangir’s 1,792 villages, NREGS work isn’t available for a full month in a year, HT’s inquiries revealed.

Sanjay Kumar Habada, project director for the district rural development agency, has another set of figures to share: NREGS projects across Balangir employ more than 30,000 people, whom the administration pays “We pay them Rs 30 lakh every day,” said Habada. It isn’t much use to the poorest.

Of the 240,000 people registered under the NREGS in Balangir, only 476 (0.2 per cent) live below the poverty line, according to the website of the Union Ministry for Rural Development.

Like a number of Balangir villagers dying in their 30s and 40s — the exact numbers are uncertain — Nag died in February 2008, officially of fever. His wife Kulbati (32) lived for 18 months more before dying of tuberculosis.

The statistics will not record the chronic hunger or malnourishment that possibly made the Nags susceptible to disease.

Officially, they died natural deaths.

Theoretically, the Nags’ children should, even at this stage, have been able to claim help from the state.

When the sole earning member dies, the family is eligible for Rs 10,000 under the National Family Benefit Scheme, created after a Supreme Court order.

The grant is supposed to be paid within four weeks of death: More than 15,000 applications are pending with the Balangir district administration “over years”.

No one can say how many years.

Nag’s sister-in-law, Kasturi, has never heard of such a scheme.

“I gather that many people fail to provide death certificates,” said Balangir Collector Sailendra Dey. “I have instructed officials to help people in submitting the death certificates so that the amount can be disbursed to the beneficiaries.”

Local lawyer Bishnu Prasad Sharma said the grant needed only an authorisation from a local ward member or sarpanch.

Bisnu Sahu, a naib sarpanch (village headman), said he never knew he had such authority. “No one ever told me,” he said.

The district collector, the chief administrative official, implied this was indeed the case. “I have asked officials to make people aware of the scheme,” Dey said.

Back near the Nags’ abandoned hut, Kasturi explained why a severe pain in her leg didn’t allow her to join her husband, son and daughter-in-law in the desperate migration south.

Where are the surviving Nags, the two daughters and a son, aged between seven and 16? Gone, said Kasturi, to that brick kiln in Andhra Pradesh.

For another generation, Balangir’s death cycle has started.

(The Hunger Project is a Hindustan Times effort to track, investigate and report every aspect of the struggle to rid India of hunger. You can read previous stories in this series at

Will the vacancies be ever filled up?

Expressbuzz, March 29, 2010
BHAWANIPATNA: Health services in Kalahandi district have gone comatose in the absence of adequate service providers. Many institutions and infrastructure created over the years under different national and statelevel programmes are not in a condition to serve in the absence of manpower.

The crisis has paralysed services in different streams of medicines like allopathy, homeopathy and ayurveda.

In the field of allopathy besides one district headquarter hospital with regional diagnostic centre there is one subdivisional hospital, six hospitals and community health centres each, four upgraded primary health centers, 40 primary health centers, three first referral health units, 14 mobile health units and 242 sub-centers in the district.

Against the 180 sanctioned posts of doctors 80 were vacant till February end. After public discontentment fresh posting of 26 new doctors by State Government on 11th February to tide over the crisis.

Ironically soon after these postings, 12 doctors were relieved after joining to continue their PG studies and of the rest 14, eight have been selected for PG and they too may leave any time.

Such a situation only derails the very purpose of appointment of new doctors, exposing the lack of willpower of the government.

That apart, 10 doctors remain absent unauthorisedly, but no stringent action has yet been taken against them.

On the other hand, seven PHCs in vulnerable pockets like Artal, Behera, Kankri, Utchala, Habaspur, Dedar and Badpujhariguda are running without doctors while in several other areas the health centers are short of staff.

Homeopathy and Ayurveda: The district has 18 government- run homeopathy dispensaries with seven v a c a n c i e s a n d 2 0 Ayurvedic dispensaries with four vacancies.

Even as the Government claims that it is encouraging Ayush system of medicines, due attention is not paid to the stream.

The Ayurvedic dispensary-cum-OPD set up four years back at Bhawanipatna under Ayush is being managed by deputed doctors from other Ayurvedic dispensaries of the district. Short supply of Ayurvedic medicines to the dispensaries and nonsupply of medicines under RLTAP has worsened the situation.

Now against the requirement of minimum Rs 50,000 medicines per annum, only about Rs 15,000 worth of medicines on an average are supplied to each of the dispensaries through central purchase system at Bhubaneswar which is not adequate to meet the need of patients.

Centre earmarks Rs 3,500 cr

Expressbuzz, March 29, 2010
BHUBANESWAR: The Centre has already earmarked Rs 3,500 crores for welfare of the minorities across the nation in 90 districts.

While the most minority-dominated district like Murshidabad would get Rs 118 crore, districts which are least backward or with less minority population would get Rs 15 crore each.

Also for the educational needs of the minority students there are 30 lakh scholarships from which 40-45 per cent are reserved for girl students, said Union Minority Welfare and Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid here today.

Scholarships will be provided to students from pre-primary to even degree students of technical institutions. Even 70 institutions like IITs, IIMs and medical colleges have been chosen where all minority girl students will get full scholarships for their education, he said adding even girls intending to become pilots and join Indian Civil Service cadres can take the benefit of free coaching.

Speaking at the second day function of the public information campaign on Bharat Nirman here today, the Minister said even to educate more women and provide them leadership funds could be made available from Maulana Azad Foundation. For modernisation of madrasa education, teachers in subjects like physics, chemistry and other disciplines are required and the HRD Ministry will help the institutions on these issues.

However, he said that with so many welfare programmes around, success stories are not reaching the people in their local language.

There should not be any tussle but collaborations between the Centre and State Governments so far as the welfare measures are concerned, he said and hinted at an Equal Opportunity Commission in future to take cases of those who think they are left out.

Speaking on Maoists activity in the State, he said as the groups are not getting the right message, we must try hard to change their hearts to bring them to the mainstream.

On Women Reservation Bill he said the reservation should be 50 per cent, but now with 33 per cent they can have their say and later could devise a way to get their due share.

Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs R. Bandopadhaya said with more emphasis on corporate governance and corporate social responsibility programmes Orissa can benefit much from industrialisation.

Most of the speakers wanted district and regional level events like the Bharat Nirman campaign in Orissa.

Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Srikant Jena, OPCC president KP Singhdeo, Kalahandi MP Bhakta Charan Das, State Minority Cell chairman Abdul Bari and Director Press Information Bureau S. Venketaswar spoke.

Union Food Processing Minister Subodh Kant Sahay would love to see a marine food park on Orissa coast and also a riceprocessing cluster in Kalahandi

Note: Orissa State Government needs to take initiative and facilitate such rice processing cluster, indeed with the vision of state Govt such proposal could be converted to a mega food part in near future. We had earlier suggested local MP to pursue for a food processing park in Kalahandi through the concern ministry, I hope he is doing the right job.

Facilitate contract farming, money will flow
Expressbuzz, March 29, 2010
BHUBANESWAR: Union Food Processing Minister Subodh Kant Sahay called upon Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to come out with a clearly outlined law on contract farming which he said will bring in third party investment.

During an interaction with the investors of food processing industry, Sahay said, earlier agriculture was the only industry but now it is the last to get attention. Only third party investment can ensure introduction of technology and a rising productivity, he said adding, “industrialisation of agriculture will be possible only then.” Sahay called for a return of focus to the farm and post-harvest industry in the states. New policy with focus on new age industries like food processing and postharvest handling are required in Orissa and neighbouring states, he said.

India loses about Rs 50,000 crore of food produce because of the absence of postharvest management and the Union Minister said it has to be plugged.

“I have presented before the Empowered Committee on GST to keep the tax rate in the range of 0 to 4 percent for the food processing industry - zero for the perishable items and a maximum of four percent on non-perishable goods. This will help mobilise investment into the industry,” said Sahay, addressing the Investors Meet jointly organised by the Ministry, Indian Chamber of Commerce and Orissa Government.

The only way to push the agriculture sector is through marketable farming which he said is possible by using improved technology. Increased investment would lead to clusterised farming which is the future because it will make farming market-driven.

“When India passed through a difficult phase of recession, food processing was the only industry which did not see any lay-off and instead recorded a 14 percent growth.

It will soon be in the driving seat of India’s industrial technology,” Sahai said and urged the eastern mineral-rich states to take to the examples of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, AP and Maharashtra where land conversion is not required for food processing units. “You’re giving land to steel and cement industries, now give them to food processing industries.” Sahai said he would love to see a marine food park on Orissa coast and also a riceprocessing cluster in Kalahandi.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the State Government has started process for setting up three terminal markets for horticulture crops while a proposal has been submitted for establishment of a mega food park near Khurda for which 282 acre has been earmarked. Among others, Union Minister Srikant Jena, Union Food Processing Secretary Ashok Sinha, State Agriculture Secretary UP Singh also spoke.

Bhawanipatna cops bar CPI, CPM from staging dharna

The Pioneer, March 29, 2010
PNS, Bhawanipatna

Protesting against the detention of party leaders and supporters at Junagarh, who were to stage a dharna in front of the SP office here on Saturday, agitated members of the CPI and CPI(M) took to the streets here alleging restrain of democratic movement by the police and rushed to the SP office shouting slogans against the police when the Town police arrested all the 16 communist leaders en route to the SP office at Ghodaghat Chowk on Saturday.

The police had detained CPI leaders Damodar Behera and Biswaranjan Naik and others at Junagarh, while they were on way to join the protest meeting at Bhawanipatna on Saturday.

Talking to The Pioneer, IIC Haresh Chandra Pandey said, "They had earlier sought to stage a dharna outside the SP office, but the plea was rejected as the protest meet would have created annoyance. But we were to grant them permission to hold meeting in front of the Collectorate or the Town PS, as usually all the meetings are held, and the leaders had been conveyed accordingly."

However, the members defied police instructions and forcibly marched to stage a dharna in front of the SP office, following which the police arrested all the leaders and members, including CPI (M) district secretary Naba Kishore Pattnaik, AISF State vice-president Sudipta Behera, CPI secretary Purna Pradhan, Sudhanshu Nanda, Ananta Nayak, Biswajit Behera and others. Afterwards they were released on PR bond (Personal Recognizance bond).

Demanding withdrawal of police cases against the five women of Chhatarpur village and alleging forged cases pending against other Dalits and tribals allegedly instigated by Lanjigarh-based Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL), both the CPI and the CPI(M) had earlier decided to sit on a dharna in front of the SP office on Saturday and submit a memorandum containing three-point charter of demands.

The demands include veracity of police cases against the innocent people during a public hearing at Lanjigarh, a review of police cases against locals before and after the establishment of Vedanta, and withdrawal of cases lodged during public agitations related to the establishment of VAL.

It was earlier reported that the Lanjigarh police had arrested five women in February under Section 394 and produced them before a court. After spending about 20 days in jail, the court granted them bail, recently.

Irregularities galore in rural job scheme in KBK

The Pioneer, March 29, 2010
Sudhir Mishra, Balangir

Even though Naveen Patnaik's Government is trying to cater to small and marginal farmers' irrigational needs by digging farm ponds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), gross irregularities have come to the fore in Nuapada and Balangir districts under the backward KBK region much to the bewilderment of the common man.

The alleged fraud in the implementation of the MGNREGA in Nuapada district came to light when Khariar block-based Kusmal village farmer Khirasindhu Sagria sought information under the Right to Information Act.

"Physically farm ponds exist nowhere, but block officials claim to have spent more than Rs 2.13 lakh on seven farm ponds on the private plots of seven beneficiaries of Kusmal village in 2007-08 and 2008-09," alleged Khariar-based social activist Ajit Panda, adding that after carefully studying muster rolls, the estimated cost of the ponds, and expenditure made as furnished under the RTI, it was discovered that the engaged daily-wagers were fake and the farm ponds figured only on paper.

"We have brought the matter of fraud to the notice of the Union Rural Development Ministry when no action was taken within 10 days of the complaint and even a Central Employment Guarantee Council member has expressed concerns over the issue," said Bhubaneswar-based social activist Raj Kishor Mishra.

Same is the case with Kadobeda village of Ghunesh GP under Tureikela block in Balangir district here.

As per reports, one Champeswar Bhoi was a beneficiary of farm pond under the NREGS in 2007-08 implemented by the Soil Conservation Department. The size of the pond was 50ft x 60ft x10ft. The earth work started in 2008, but the wage payment was delayed. Champeswar's outstanding bill of Rs 30,000 was passed only after he had allegedly greased the officials' palms with Rs 9,000.

"The total amount spent for digging a single farm pond has amazingly been shown on the official website as Rs 2,02,500," informed a Khariar-based social activist Khaturam Sunani after having visited Kadobeda village, recently.

The Soil Conservation Department is working here as the Project Implement Authority (PIA) of the watershed programme.

Badabanki-based Community Base Organisation (CBO) Shramik Shakti Sangh (SSS) under Turekela block has decided to submit a petition to the block authorities to inquire into the matter.

"While Odisha has failed to develop a proper grievance redressal mechanism, there is nobody to see and act on the problems raised by poor beneficiaries in the State," rued Samuhik Marudi Pratikar Udyam convener Bhajaram Sahu.

"Unfortunately, the whistle-blower in the Nuapada farm pond case has been targeted and cases have been filed against him," fumed Supreme Court's Food Rights Commission advisor Raj Kishore Mishra, quipping it is unfortunate and dangerous that corrupt officials are now targeting whistle-blowers in the State.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Minesgate digs Odisha’s grave

The Pioneer, March 28, 2010
Precious minerals have been siphoned off with the tacit patronage of those in the corridors of power, giving birth to the biggest scam of independent India, reports Saswat Panigrahi

It is a scam of such magnitude that it will put the likes of Union Minister D Raja and former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda to shame. While experts are still working out the final figure, a conservative estimate puts Odisha’s mining scam at Rs 3,00,000 crore. This basically involves millions of tonnes of minerals that have been smuggled out of the mineral-rich Keonjhar-Sundargarh-Mayurbhanj stretch and Jajpur district over the years. Among the State’s rich mineral resources — iron ore, bauxite, chromite, manganese and limestone — iron ore has been clearly the biggest target. Informed sources say the State has produced nearly 420 million tonnes of iron ore worth Rs 84,000 crore but has only earned a paltry sum of Rs 743 crore. The rest is quite obviously unaccounted for. However, the State anti-corruption wing puts that figure at only Rs 409 crore.

The scam first came to light when the ruling BJD MLA Samir Ranjan Das put up a question on the floor of the Assembly about the illegal mining activities of Ram Bahadur Thakur (RBT) Limited. That opened a Pandora's box. Subsequently it came to light that the Odisha Government was in the process of settling a lease in favour of the company last year which no longer exists and was liquidated way back in 1999. In order to obtain a mining lease, the defunct company executed a Power of Attorney (PoA) in favour of Shakti Ranjan Dash who happens to be a close aide of BJD’s Pyarimohan Mohapatra and which probably explains why the State Government had considered the lease application. It has come to light that RBT was mining manganese at Rudukela and Katasahi in Keonjhar district without obtaining a legitimate lease; the manganese mine area was being guarded by none other than the Directorate of Mines.

According to the prescribed rules, a mining company must initially apply for a Prospecting Licence (PL) or a Mining Lease (ML). The applicant has to first clear the mining plan from the Indian Bureau of Mines, submit the forest diversion proposal for the land to be used for mining and provide the compensatory afforestation programme with a deposit of a non-payable amount and a wildlife management plan. Only then does an application get the Union Forests and Environment Ministry’s nod. Once the environmental clearance is granted, the State Pollution Control Board gives the Consent to Operate (CTO) certificate and stipulates the amount of ore that can be extracted in a year. The quantity of ore to be extracted annually is specified in the mining plan which is approved by the Indian Bureau of Mines. The limit is specified with an eye on collateral environmental damage. After an application obtains the statutory clearance of the Union Forests and Environment Ministry and the State Pollution Control Board, the State Mines Department issues a mining lease. The lease deed is then agreed upon by both the lessee and the State Government.

The State Revenue Department demarcates and stipulates the mining area or lease area according to the mining map. The mining area is specified with a central point which is known as the grid point. As per provisions, an allottee can only raise minerals within the allotted area.

However, throwing these existing laws out of the window has now become routine in the State with illegal mining going on rampantly. For the past decade, a well-organised illegal mining mafia has been involved in large-scale smuggling of precious mineral resources from Odisha’s mineral rich districts, bleeding an already impoverished State. A standard operation syndicate usually comprises mine-owners, traders, contractors and criminal gangs who work alongside bureaucrats and unscrupulous officials of the Mining, Forest, Environment, Pollution Control Board, Revenue, Transport and Police departments. This nexus has even reached the corridors of power.

Both genuine lease holders and the mafia are involved. Scores of mine owners have been excavating iron ore, chromite, manganese and other minerals much beyond the stipulated limit. With sophisticated machinery at their disposal, they are able to extract enormous amounts in the least time. In some cases, 800-1000 per cent beyond the permitted limit is mined and the activity even crosses the boundary of the stipulated lease area. Several mine owners even continue mining without renewing their lease. Then there are lease holders who have obtained permits for non-forest land but have brazenly encroached into forest land, including reserve forest areas. There are countless mining plants running without the due environmental clearance. According to an estimate, as much as 80 per cent of the State’s mineral rich forest land is being exploited. The mining mafia, too, operates in a well-organised manner. They largely mine in the forest areas, reserve forest areas, Government mines and unallotted mineral areas. In fact, on many occasions, illegal mining can even be traced to officials of the Mines, Forest, Environment, and Police departments.

Smugglers involved in illegal mining employ both the road and the rail route. The road essentially involves the Kolkata-Mumbai National Highway 6 which goes via Keonjhar and National Highway 215 that connects Panikoili and Rajamunda. Thousands of trucks are engaged in these activities and local criminal networks are actively involved. The weigh bridges and check gates meant for giving clearance to mineral-laden vehicles are inadequately manned. The smuggling is so organised that fake Transit Permits (TP) are regularly printed and used to take away mineral-laden lorries to different destinations. While some are transported within the country, others go to the ports at Paradip, Visakhapatnam and Haldia for export. The rail route is usually used to smuggle minerals to the neighbouring States of Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal.

Illegally extracted minerals are usually exported to India’s immediate neighbours. From the transit point at Champua in Keonjhar district the route travels across Bihar’s porous border with Nepal, and from there consignments are sent to China and Bangladesh. The Paradip, Haldia and Visakhapatnam ports are used for smuggling on sea routes. Courtesy the boom in the steel sector in the past decade, there is a huge demand in China. Reports suggest that in 2006-07, 12 million tonnes of iron ore fines was exported to China, Hong Kong and Singapore from Paradip port alone. In 2007-08 the export amount went up to 13 million tonnes and in 2008-09 it crossed 20 million. Similarly, 3.8 million tonnes of iron ore fines from Odisha was exported from Visakhapatnam port in 2007-08, an amount that rose to five million tonnes in 2008-09. The State Government is completely apathetic. A recent “confidential” official communication indicated that 4.5 lakh metric tonnes of iron ore worth Rs 150 crore was smuggled out of Joda in Keonjhar district in January alone. There are big names involved in all this. Among those accused of mining in excess of the permitted limit are the Aditya Birla Group owned Essel Mining and Industries Limited, SR Rungta Group, SL Sarda and ML Sarda with a controlling interest by Jindal Steel and Power Limited, Tata Steel, Sirajuddin and Company, Indrani Patnaik company, IMFA group, apart form Government companies like the Odisha Mining Corporation.

Of all these, RTI documents obtained by Biswajit Mohanty of Transparency International show that the biggest beneficiary is Essel Mining and Industries Limited. Between 2000 and 2006 the company extracted 138,01, 391 mega tones worth Rs 2,555 crore in excess of its stipulated limit from Jiling Langlota Iron and Manganese mines of Keonjhar district. Again, between 2003 and 2006, the company extracted 68,58,460 mega tones valued at Rs 1,714 crore in excess of its stipulated limit from Kasia Iron and Dolomite mines in Keonjhar. The total excess production adds up to almost Rs.4,269 crore.

The SR Rungta group, another baron, exceeded its stipulated limit in a similar fashion. The RTI document, quoting the Ministry of Environment and Forests report dated December 18, 2006, shows that the company mined 92,39,805 mega tonnes worth Rs 1,910 crore in excess of the permitted quantity from six of its mines between 2003 and 2007. It is learnt that the SL Sarda and ML Sarda owned Thakurani B mines in Keonjhar, in which Jindal Steel and Power Limited has a controlling interest, mined iron ore worth Rs 1,850 crore in excess of the stipulated limit. Reports suggest that Tata Steel, which has chromite mines at Sukinda in Jajpur district and iron ore mines at Joda in Keonjhar district, mined ore worth at least Rs 1,700 crore in excess of the permitted limit between 2004 and 2008. Sirajuddin and Company mined iron ore worth Rs 750 crore in excess of its limit from the Belda mines in Keonjhar district between 2000 and 2006. Indrani Patnaik company owned by a member of former Congress Minister Niranjan Patnaik’s family, extracted iron ore and manganese worth at least Rs 132 crore in excess of the permitted quantity in the past decade. The Government-owned Odisha Mining Corporation itself extracted chromite worth at least Rs 100 crore in excess of the permitted limit from its South Kaliapani mines in Jajpur district between 2004 and 2008.

That the Navin Patnaik Government has been aware of this scam has been revealed in documents submitted in the Orissa High Court in connection with the mining scam. A letter written in 2006 by the then transport Commissioner, SB Agnihotri, to about 45 central organisations involved in handling of mineral resources highlights how minerals were being illegally mined and transported. But the BJD Government did nothing to stem the rot. It is now being said that the ruling BJD’s 2009 poll campaign was largely funded by the illegal mining lobby. “A sizeable chunk of black money made from mineral smuggling was gifted to the BJD in the form of a political donation ahead of 2009 polls. To receive those undue benefits, a review meeting was held in Joda of Keonjhar district on January 24, 2009. BJD poll manager Pyarimohan Mohapatra chaired the review meeting of the mine owners and mineral traders. A Deputy Director of Mines also attended the meeting. The Rajya Sabha member’s visit was issued as an official programme by the District Magistrate,” senior Odisha BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra told The Pioneer.

The mining scam was brought to the Supreme Court’s notice in a 150-page petition filed by Rabi Das, senior journalist and president of Odisha Jana Sammilani. “The organised illegal design injurious to national interests implemented in a systematic way with the active connivance of the State Government has resulted in breakdown of the constitutional machinery. Rule of law has been deliberately subverted by the State Government for unjustly enriching the individual functionaries,” the petition said citing a host of official communication to prove its point.

In response to the petition, the apex court has entrusted the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to investigate the mining scam. Rattled by the Supreme Court directive, the State Government has ordered suspension of work in at least 200 mines and scrapped 450-odd trading licences. The State Government has set up a task force headed by Chief Secretary Tarun Kanti Mishra and hurriedly engaged the State’s vigilance department for a probe. Meanwhile, sleuths have arrested eight senior Government officials over their alleged involvement in the scam. Eleven cases have been registered against some mining companies. Many heads are still to roll. The Income Tax department has launched nationwide raids on mining plants and mineral export establishments spread across the country. The Director of Mines, Rabindra Narayan Sahu, has been suspended. Steel and mines secretary Ashok Dalawai had to confess before the CEC that there have been irregularities in the mining sector in the past decade.

The BJD Government’s reaction has been knee-jerk. Underplaying the scam, it has only ordered a vigilance inquiry, while the Opposition is demanding a CBI probe. Clearly, going by the reluctance of the State Government to order an honest and transparent probe, there is a lot more to this scam than meets the eye.

Antodaya-Kalahandi Scrip History at 3600 feet: Gravity flow drinking water supply in Tijmali village, Kalahandi

[We sincere thank Shri Dillip Kumar Das, Chairman, ANTODAYA for sharing this with our blog. This Gravity flow drinking water supply in Tijmali village (situated above the hill of Amjhola village) is the second one from Antodaya after Taragaon in Kaniguma GP. Tijmali village is situated at 1142 mtr. above MSL and no official go there for the welfare of the poor tribals. For more details please visit
Antodaya's effort is appreciable]

Village profile

Village Name Tijmali
Households 18
Gram Panchayat Nakrundi
Block Thuamul Rampur [2009]

Location of Tijmali

Suka Bewa, an 85 year-old lady, brightens up and she has plenty of reasons for this. At such a ripe old age she will no longer have to tread on an arduous path, moving down and climbing up 4 kilometers of hilly terrain to fetch water … drinking water. She also rejoices in the fact that she can have a regular bath.

Situated at around 3600 feet (1142 meter) high from the sea level, on the top and plains of Tijmali Hills, the village Tijmali is a world apart. The shortest route to reach the village is by climbing up 3 kilometers from Amjhola Village. The very fact that neither an anganwadi worker nor indeed any health worker has visited the village demonstrates the apathy and neglect suffered by the 87 people of 18 families residing in the village.

It’s all barren land on the top, as far as eye can see – there is no greenery on it - only challenges to offer. The villagers have to take up a Herculean task every time they want to buy basic things like oil, salt and rice. But the greatest of challenges was to arrange a 3/4 bucket full of drinking water a day to each family -the bare minimum requirement.

[They would offer you food whatever they have, but not water ITDA Official]

Family members used to head for the stream near Amjhola village before the crack of the dawn as they had to finish the daily chores before the heat of the day. They then had to climb back up hill with buckets of drinking water under the beating sun as it would be nearing noon. Old-aged people, women and children used to have a bath once in three days.

Be it timely or untimely, rain was a harbinger of happiness for the villagers as it creates temporary streams. The villagers banked on those for few months until they dried up and disappeared completely before summer every year.

In the year 1994 ANTODAYA, an NGO (presently a facilitating NGO of OTELP) started its intervention in the village. It mobilised the youth of the village and exploited a small stream by digging on its bank. It was named “Phul Chuan”. However, it could only provide 30-40 buckets water a day. The families who could collect the limited water were happy but the rest continued to suffer. It was drop in the ocean - the problem was lessened but remained unsolved.

The project
The survey
ANTODAYA had approached several departments but in vain. In 2006, when ANTODAYA became an FNGO of OTELP, Tijmali village was included in the watershed of Amjhola. During the micro-level planning of the village it was decided that streams in the nearby hills would be surveyed and the most suitable one would be tapped. The plan was to bring drinking water to the village itself and for the villagers it was a light at the end of the tunnel. It was enough to excite them but they were still anxious.
In 2009, disregarding all the discomforts and disquiet, Sri Akhaya Kumar Sahoo, an OTELP engineer, accompanied by an engineer from ANTODAYA conducted a survey together with other members from ANTODAYA. After surveying various resources they focused on “Sindhikhal Jharan Stream” which was on the border of the Tijmali and the Upar Ampadar villages. An estimate of Rs445000 was made.

However, another problem arose. The villagers of Upar Ampadar were opposed to the plan and said they would never allow “their” stream to be to be tapped for the benefit of the Tijmali villagers. After three rounds of discussion the issue was amicably settled by the two villages.

The construction work
Finally the construction work begun. Tractors proved ineffective – unable to move even half the materials required – so the villagers took on the burden themselves and carried the raw materials uphill. The task was exhausting but the enthusiasts continued and the villagers became engaged in the construction work under different components of the OTELP scheme.
Huge cement tanks (called SPRING BOXES or Intake wells) were made near the mouth of the stream which was designed to filter the water with sand, coal and chips used for the filtration. A second tank was also built a few meters away and was connected with the first tank – for the second time filtration. In the village itself, two Sintex tanks with a 1000 liter capacity were installed and a 2800 meter pipeline connected the Sintex tanks with the ones built further up the hill.

The outcomes

Finally, after toiling hard for twenty two days, the water began to pour from the common stand posts connected to Sintex tanks and everyone rejoiced.

This project has not only provided drinking water to the villagers but also helped with the cultivation of a few patches of fertile land. It is envisaged that the project will meet the drinking water requirements of the villagers for the next 20 years. In addition, the villagers have taken initiatives to ensure sustainability of the “Sindhikhal Jharan Stream” by planting trees upstream of mouth.

The villagers are now feeling honoured particularly as they are no longer accused of being “water thieves”….

Following the success of this project, another 12 villages in the nearby area who suffer from similar water problems have been identified for development of their water sources. The estimates have also been finalised and the work awaits the appropriate climatic conditions.

[We never thought of taps with drinking water in our village. Sani Majhi & Saru Majhi Village youth.]

Vedanta materials stolen from Paradip

The Pioneer, March 28, 2010
PNS, Paradip

Vedanta Aluminium Ltd has lodged a complaint with the local police about its valuable imported plant materials being stolen from its plot in the Paradip Port’s prohibited area. The materials are imported for the company’s alumina plant at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district. The police are investigating the matter.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

NHPC to develop 3 hydro projects in Orissa

Business Standard, March 26, 2010
The National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) plans to set up three hydro power projects in Orissa with an aggregate generation capacity of 300 Mw.

These projects will be developed in joint venture (JV) with the Orissa Hydro Power Corporation (OHPC). Meanwhile, NHPC has sent a draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) to the Orissa government for approval, sources said.

The three projects, namely Sindol-1, Sindol-II and Sindol-III, would be developed by NHPC in the first phase on a pilot basis. All these projects are located on river Mahanadi. Sindol-1, at Deogaon in Sambalpur district, will have a capacity of 90 Mw. Similarly, the installed capacity of Sindol-II, located at Kapasira in Sonepur district, will also be 90 Mw. The largest among the three, Sindol-III, located at Godhaneswar in Sonepur district, will have a generation capacity of 120 Mw. NHPC will have 51 percent stake in the joint venture company and the remaining 49 percent will be held by OHPC.

Sources said, NHPC has in principle agreed to provide 100 percent power to be generated from these units to the state grid. However, it is awaiting the final nod of the Union ministry of power in this regard. Though OHPC earlier proposed to develop these units on its own, the government has changed its mind in favour of a joint venture with NHPC.

“The draft MoU has been sent to the law department for vetting. After that the draft would be sent to NHPC for approval by its board”, said an official associated with the process.

It may be noted, the government planned to develop about nine hydro-electric projects in the JV mode, out of which three projects would be set up in the first stage. The identified projects are Middle Kolab Hydro-Electric Project, Tel Integrated Project, Lower Vansadhara Project, Balijori Hydro-Electric Project, Khadago Project, Salki Hydro-Electric Project, Uttei and Roul Integrated Project, Mahanadi-Brahmani river link and Baramul Hydro-Electric project.

Jairam favors Odisha institute, March 26, 2010

Jairam Ramesh has favored Odisha with a dedicated research centre for management of wetlands and coastal eco-system

The Union Minister for Forest & Environment has approved the first ever National Research Institute for Management of Wetlands and Coastal Ecosystems to be set up in the state.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik last year requested for the same.

And obliging the eastern Indian state with the National Institute Minister Mr.Ramesh has favored an investment of Rs.30 crore for the project.

Upendra Nath Behera, Principal Secretary Forest & Environment was informed by V N Kaul, Director Environment in the Ministry of Forest & Environment (MOEF) about the decision of the Union Government here on 26 March.

Mr.Kaul said the Union Minister recently has green signaled not only for the project, but also funding for the same.

Rs.10 crore recurring grant will be available for the institute for research and development of eco-system of coastal zones and wet lands.

Mr.Patnaik citing the reason said that no dedicated research centre in this environmentally important subject was available.

He pointed out that the infrastructure created in the state and the expertise available with Chilika Development Authority (CDA) could be extremely useful in starting such a National Institute.

Located 100 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, Chilika is known to support the largest concentration of migratory waterfowl in India.

At least a million birds are seen at the lake every winter.

They belong to 165 species, of which 93 are migratory and 72 are residential.

The Institute will have one campus at Chilika and another at Capital City, said sources.

While Chilika Campus will look after wetland research, the Bhubaneswar Campus will be dedicated for Costal Eco-Managment researches, said an official..

Company builds road to the mine before getting final forest clearances; Battle for Niyamgiri: Vedanta faces tribal ire

Financial Express, March 27, 2010
Dilip Bisoi

Lanjigarh, Orissa: Way before final forest clearances for the bauxite mining project in Orissa’s remote Niyamgiri hills roll in, mining giant Vedanta Resources has completed the construction of the road to the mines. Also being built is the infrastructure for a conveyor belt that will carry the bauxite from the hills to its refinery plant on the foothills—we counted 47 pillars.

Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh had on March 13 said Vedanta was found to have violated norms on its Orissa projects, a statement the Orissa mines minister dismissed as preposterous and biased.

But once we reach Lanjigarh— it takes us 10 hours to travel 480 odd km because the roads are bad and narrow most of the way—we see the construction that has taken place ––the road to the mine, and the pillars. Lanjigarh and the Niyamgiri hills range are home to a near-extinct tribe, the Dongria Kandhs, of whom only 8,000 odd remain. They are not organised, unlike the Posco movement. But with environmentalists and activists taking up the issue Vedanta has been under pressure to stop construction.Why is the bauxite from the Niyamgiri hills important to Vedanta? It needs the raw material for its one-million-tonne alumina project in Lanjigarh. At the moment the bauxite is being sourced from Chhattisgarh and other states.

The road and pillars have come up over a stretch of 74 metres, which the government says is no man’s land. But the chief operating officer of Vedanta Aluminium, Mukesh Kumar, told FE the company has purchased the 74 metres from a private party. He also said the conveyor belt and the mine access road have come up on the company’s own land and there is no violation of MoEF guidelines. Kalahandi collector R Santhangopal, too, says there is no construction now.

But Usha Ramanathan, head of a three-member committee appointed by the Union ministry of environment and forests, says settlement of rights is incomplete so no construction should have started. Her committee “is firm in its view that forest-dwellers’ rights should be settled on a priority basis before granting stage-2 forest clearance to Vedanta”.

Footloose And Ideology Free

The Times of India, 27th March, 2010

Shucks. The Nowhere Men are having all the fun. When you belong nowhere, you roam everywhere. And you can end up with a piece of the action somewhere. Ask Big B. His tent has been unpitched from the samajwadis' camp. But, footloose, Brand UP's ex-Shahenshah was hired on the spot as Gujarat's "tourism ambassador". Not least because SIT-ing duck Modi needs all the friends he can get. Commie-controlled Kerala wasn't as obliging. Though Big B denies allegiance to political saffron, Karat-led lefties see the world only in terms of black and red. If you aren't a card-carrying Karat-e-Kid, go lotus-eat.

But there are other fishing expeditions in the sea. Like in MP where Big B can rent a cause to, say, "save" the Narmada. Orissa's also a potential hirer provided Kalahandi's kept off the itinerary. And look: there's Big B again, next to Maharashtra's CM at the Bandra-Worli sealink! If Congress bosses are furious at his surprise cameo, Big B perhaps saw no harm in short-lived reunion. The NCP, periodically sniping at its state ally, will agree. As for Bollywood-watchers, they're raving less and less about Big B's screen presence than his off-screen omnipresence.

Why not? Jacks of all trades are ideological members of none. All-weather enemies can be fair-weather friends if the cause (or stake) is right. For instance, Haiti has seen a charity-oriented team-up of two of America's Nowhere Men belonging to rival parties with little use for them. For Bush and Bill Clinton, the cause was right: creating a $37 million fund for the quake-hit Caribbean nation. Plus, Billy-boy has another shot at burying Monicagate's irrepressible ghost while ex-war prez Dubya can play a post-Iraq peacenik.

Why let opportunities pass? Take Russia's Nowhere Man Gorbachev, ex-Soviet who pushed glasnost at a time Russians stood in bread queues. His hand in empire's dismantling meant unpopularity. Yet, sometime ago, globe-trotting Gorby endorsed Louis Vuitton luggage in a big-money ad campaign that'd make Marx red-faced. Yes, things like the Berlin Wall do fall sometimes between clashing ideologies, warring nations, duelling netas and other sundry sworn enemies. With marvellous results such as an ex-USSR president Limo-riding past the Wall, as brand ambassador of a super-luxury French fashion house!

India's Marx-men, of course, will cry "capitalist deca-dence". That's why expelled CPM veteran Somnath Chatterjee better think twice about getting rehired should Bengal's Mamata-baited comrades SOS him, as they're reportedly mulling. Why return to being sad old red when a multi-coloured universe needs roving ambassadors?

Beatles Lennon and McCartney once toasted a Nowhere Man sitting in a nowhere land, making his nowhere plans for nobody. They were right in telling that man: "The world is at your command!" The Nowhere Man, the music-makers also said, is "a bit like you and me". Let's do away with a few more walls and iron curtains in our minds to prove them right.

Odia weekly launched in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, 27th March, 2010

Bhawnipatna: Kalahandi MP Bhakta Charan Das inaugurated an Odia weekly, Kalahandi Express here on Thursday evening. Chief speaker Babaji Charan Pattnaik, guests of honour ADM Chudamani Seth, journalists Hrushikesh Misra and Bijaya Diwedi, Parameshwar Mund and Jayanta Behera, in their speeches, urged the chief editor of the newspaper Bhawani Shankar Nial to publish the articles related to the basic needs of the people. Publisher and editor of the paper Pramod Kumar Khamari was present.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Orissa to introduce school health programme from July

PTI, March 26, 2010V
Bhubaneswar, Mar 26 (PTI) The Orissa government today said it would introduce health programme in 60,000 schools in the most backward KBK (Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput) region from July.

"About 58 lakh students will benefit from the programme..

We have also set up a target to set up at least 1,069 health sub-centres in KBK region by 2012," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters here after a State Health Mission meeting chaired by him.

As per the programme, school children would undergo regular health check-ups and be provided with medicines free of cost required for their diseases .

The KBK region, which had often hit headlines for poor health service, would get more health centres. The health workers, including doctors and para-medical staff, working in the interior pockets would get special facilities, he said.

Orissa to Introduce School Health Programme
Outlook, March 26, 2010
Targeting to set up at least 1,069 health sub-centres in Orissa's bakcward KBK (Kalahandi- Balangir-Koraput) region by 2012, Orissa government today decided to introduce School Health Programme in 60,000 schools from July, official sources said.

This was decided at the 4th State Health Mission meeting chaired by the Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik.

"About 58 lakh students will benefit from the programme," Patnaik told reporters after the meeting.

According to the programme, school children would undergo regular health check-up and be provided with medicines required for their diseases.

KBK region, which had often hit headlines for poor health service, would get more health centres. As the health workers including doctors and para-medical staff refuse to work in interior pockets due to lack of proper accomodation, would now get special facilities, the meeting decided.

Keeping in view on the alarming infant mortality rates (IMR), it was also decided to set up 200 more nweborn care centres and at least five trauma centres to be opened at different district headquarter hospitals, said health minister Prasanna Acharya.

While giving maximum stress on the IMR and Mother Mortality Rate (MMR) rates, Patnaik said that there was need to further reduction in the rates as Orissa still registered maxium death of infants and pregnant mothers.

Patnaik too stressed on the distribution of health food among children and pregnant women. The departments of women and child development and school and mass education department had a major role to play in this regard, he said.

On the scarcity of doctors, Patnaik said that the state government had already started a drive to recruit doctors and it would continue. As many as 408 doctors were recently recruited, he pointed out.

Stating that as many as 40,405 ASHA activists were already in the job, he said that some of them were trained with the skill to handle malaria cases, which had emerged as a major challenge for the state administration.

This apart, more ambulances and mobile health units would be introduced in coming days in order to take health services to peoples' door step.

Image of Rural parts in Lanjigarh region in Kalahandi

Shared by Parameswar Mund

Recent map of East Coast Railway shows Kantabanji-Jeypore, Junagarh - Amgaon and Rayagada-Gopalpur railway lines being surveyed

East Coast Railway website has following map.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pro-tribal Cong may hit Vedanta's Orissa dreams

E-paper, Economic Times, March 23, 2010 (Thanks to Shri Sandip K. Dasverma for sharing in focusorissa)
Rohini Singh & M Rajshekhar NEW DELHI

PLANS by Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in Niyamgiri in Orissa, already delayed by vehement protests from non-governmental organisations, seem likely to suffer further damage-quite possibly terminal-as the Congress reaches out to India's tribal population, sections of which have come under the influence of the grand old party's arch rival BJP while others have fallen under the sway of Maoists.

A top Congress leader told ET that London-listed Vedanta Resources would have to do much more than simply convince the central government that its project will add value greater than what it will take away. Instead, the business plans of the Anil Agarwalowned company have become part of a larger narrative as the Congress-led UPA government changes its mining policy, bringing it in line with the party's position on the environment and its mantra of inclusive growth.

"The facts of the case are such that Vedanta shouldn't have been given clearance in the first instance," says Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh. Mr Singh said the party would insist that India's tribal communities- which figure disproportionately among India's poorest-have the right to use resources in areas where they reside, a position spelt out by the Forest Rights Act (FRA).

The Act, passed in 2006, is intended to benefit the millions, mainly members of India's scheduled tribes, who live in or near forests. ET had reported that a government-appointe d committee had claimed that the FRA had not been implemented in the areas where the bauxite project was coming up.

Sonia's pet Act
THE Forest Rights Act is a favourite legislation of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and a talisman of the party's commitment to the poorest of the poor. A mining licence should not be given till it was implemented, the committee had suggested.

Vedanta says the Orissa government has told the Centre that it had complied with the Act. "The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) had asked the government of Orissa for conformation of compliances with the Forest Conservation Act 1980 and Scheduled Tribe and Other Forests Dwellers (Recognition of Right) Act 2006, and the government of Orissa has conformedcompliance in this regard as well. When we have complied with all statutoryrequirements as per all the regulations, we expect MoEF to give the final clearance," it said in a statement.

A historian, who has written extensively on the environment, told ET that the Congress as a party is also very conscious of its legacy of protecting the environment. This was all the more because the party's storied leaders had initiated some of the measures undertaken in India to conserve India's ecology. Indira Gandhi famously started Project Tiger and piloted the Forest Conservation Act, which gave the Centre a say in the use of forest land.

During the last tenure of the UPA, the environment ministry was in the hands of the DMK, its coalition partner. In the process, the party had lost control over the ministry. That's the reason, says the historian, that Jairam Ramesh was sent to the ministry this time around. "The Congress is taking control and is now repairing its legacy."

Given this backdrop, Vedanta's arguments about job creation in a backward region may not find many takers in the top echelons of the government. But the company has kept plugging away, writing several letters to Mr Ramesh claiming that the project will employ 20,000 people in the region. "This is the only investment in Kalahandi, the most backward district of the country, and will make a significant impact on the socio-economic development of the local population," it wrote to Mr Ramesh last week.

Vedanta says the mining lease belongs not to it but to Orissa Mining Corporation, and that it started building a aluminium refinery only after the Orissa government said it would provide bauxite.

"We wish to clarify that the mining lease belongs to Orissa Mining Corporation and the mining would start only after obtaining necessary permissions. The project has the clearance from the Hon'ble Supreme Court of

India after deliberations of over two years, during which the Hon'ble Court obtained reports from the Wildlife Institute of India and Central Mine Planning & Design Institute, covering all aspects, including water, environment, wildlife, tribal issues, ecology etc. We have also complied with the Hon'ble Court's unique model for development of the local people to ensure inclusive growth-5% of the profit or Rs 10 crore, whichever is higher, for the development of the region. The development work has also started," the company said.

Part of Vedanta's problems seem to be linked to electoral calculations. Adivasis or tribals are crucial for the Congress because the BJP has managed to make considerable inroads among this section. But the welfare of these poverty-stricken communities is also central to the Congress' philosophy of inclusive growth. "At this time, there is rising resentment among the people who are affected by these projects. Why are people attracted to terrorists and Naxals? They get no square meal, no income. If we want to fix the problem, we have to fix the root cause," says mines minister BB Handique."

"Matters can be improved if we have a better sense of justice. It is unnatural justice if only the company is making profits. On the whole, the party's thinking on mining is changing. The industry affects people and wherever natural justice is denied, there will be trouble. Justice must be seen to be done. We want to handle matters without the people needing to intervene," adds Mr Handique. He was speaking about a new mining policy that the government was drafting and not about the Vedanta project.

More than a year ago, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi had visited Niyamgiri. He had skipped the Vedanta project and instead spent time with the tribals of that region. "Personally I am against mining at Niyamgiri hills as it would destroy the environment of the area, and affect water sources, livelihood sources and culture," Mr Gandhi had said then while also stating that he isn't against industrialisation. A top Congress leader also told ET on the condition of anonymity that Mr Gandhi has indicated that in the case of Niyamgiri, the concerns of the local tribals should not be ignored. All this makes the Niyamgiri issue more significant for the Congress.

Mr Ramesh has shown within a year that it means business. It released a circular in July last year stating no industrial project will be cleared till the Forest Rights Act has been completely implemented in the affected area. Then a few weeks ago, after complaints about rampant mining in Goa, it imposed a moratorium on all mining proposals from the coast state. The state will have to formalise a new mining policy for new proposals to be considered. It has also suggested a study to gauge the environmental impact of mining projects in the state.

The MoEF has started to return projects for reconsideration, a trend that wasn't seen earlier when the DMK controlled the ministry. A senior MoEF official told ET on condition of anonymity that this has come as a surprise to industry. "In the last five years, projects have always been cleared by the environment ministry. Now, files are being returned with queries from us asking whether certain projects can be relocated." And it's just not the environment ministry that has been approaching mining projects such as that of Vedanta's with caution. Mr Handique also told ET that the new mining policy being put together by the central government will give weightage to a company's record of relief and rehabilitation to project-affected people when issuing mining licenses. Companies will also be told to restore greenery once they are done with mining and will have to set aside a part of the profits for the benefit of the local people.

Whether Vedanta's promises of job creation or claims of making a significant impact on the local population manage to convince the Congress leadership remains to be seen. But it seems to have its task cut out.

Emami plans to set up newsprint plant in Orissa

Business Standrad, March 25, 2010
Diversified Emami Group plans to set up a new newsprint facility in Orissa at an investment of Rs 500 crore, a top official said today.

"We have plans to set up a new newsprint plant. It will be set up by Emami Paper Mills, a group firm, and the investment will be Rs 500 crore," Aditya Agarwal, group director told Reuters.

The per day capacity of the plant will be 500 tonnes, he added.

Emami Biotech, a unit of the Emami Group, which recently launched its 'Healthy and Tasty' edible oil brand in the market in February, expects revenues worth Rs 5,000 crore from its edible oils business in the next 3 years.

The edible oils business includes plantations, refining and finished products.

The personal care products firm Emami, the maker of brands such as Boroplus, Sonachandi Chyawanprash and Fair and Handsome, expects revenues worth Rs 1,300-1,400 crore in the next fiscal.

HAL Sunabeda unit gets new facility for Sukhoi-30, March 25, 2010
BS Reporter

The engine division of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at Sunabeda in Orissa's Koraput district has got a separate overhauling department for Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft.

The facility was inaugurated by Union Minister of state for defence, M M Pallam Raju on Saturday.

The people of the state must be feeling proud for having a division of HAL at Sunabeda, Raju said. He also visited the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation at Jeypore in the same district.

The minister, who reached Sunabeda in a special helicopter, also reviewed the performance of the engine division of HAL, a public sector undertaking of the Government of India.

The engine division of HAL has a long term plan to undertake manufacture of AL-31FP engines for Sukhoi-30 KLI aircraft under license, sources said. The division has a unique distinction of manufacturing almost all types of components required for the manufacture and overhaul of engines and spares for service exploitation.

Sukhoi-30 MKI is a twin-engine military aircraft developed by Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation Corporation and is overhauled at the HAL’s engine division at Sunabeda before being supplied to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Orissa to sign MoU with six power companies, March 25, 2010
BS Reporter,
The Orissa government has decided to sign memorandum of understanding (MoU) with six more Independent Power Producers (IPPs) envisaging an aggregate generation capacity of 5,940 Mw.

With this, the total power generation capacity in the pipeline in Orissa would go up to 32,940 Mw.

The state had earlier signed MoUs with 21 IPPs with an aggregate generation capacity of 27,000 Mw. "The chief minister has approved the proposal to sign MoUs with six more IPPs and these are likely to be inked next month", a senior official of the state energy department told Business Standard. Sources said, the six new IPPs are BGR Energy Systems Ltd, J R Powergen Private Ltd, JSL, Adhunik Power and Natural Resources, Maa Durga Thermal Power and Bijaya Ferro Power. JR Powergen Private Ltd has proposed to set up a 1800 Mw thermal power plant at Kishorenagar near Angul with an investment of Rs 7988 crore. It will provide direct employment to 1290 persons. BGR Energy Systems Ltd. plans to set up a 1320 Mw power plant at Bhapur in Nayagarh district with an investment of Rs 6287 crore. The project is expected to provide direct employment to 1232 persons.

Similarly, Adhunik Power and Natural Resources Ltd plans to set up a 1320 Mw Independent Power Producer (IPP) at Birmaharajpur in Sonepur district. It would entail an investment of Rs 4000 crore and provide employment opportunities to 1600 persons. The project, which intends to come up over 1000 acres of land, would use super critical technology.

Besides, Jindal Stainless Ltd (JSL) has proposed to set up a 1320 Mw thermal power plant at Luni in Dhenkanal district at an investment of Rs 4090 crore. All the four proposals were cleared by the High Level Clearance Authority (HLCA) chaired by the chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

On the other hand, Maa Durga Thermal Power would set up a 60 Mw ((2x30Mw) power plant at Tangi in Cuttack district at an investment of Rs 298.5 crore.

Since the promoters have a 1.2 Mw husk fired unit at Tangi, no additional land would be given for the project which is expected to be commissioned within 24 months from the attainment of the financial closure.

Bijaya Ferro Power Private Ltd, planning to set up a 120 Mw power plant (IPP) at an investment of Rs 550 crore at Kesinga (Turla Khamar) in Kalahandi district, would also sign a MoU with the government. Both these proposals were approved by the State Level Single Window Clearance Authority.

Mancheswar (Bhubaneswar) and Khapuria (Cuttack) as model industrial estates and new industrial estates in Jhrasuguda, Kesinga, Kalinganagar, Khurda by IDCO

Orissa Government to form MSME Ministry soon, March 12, 2010
Bhubaneswar: The proposed separate MSME Ministary ,which would exclusively focus on the problems of the MSME sector and work for the growth of it, will come into reality soon. After the direction from the Chief Minister a committee headed by the Chief Secretary has already been formed which will submit its report within next 3 months.

Conforming this Mr Tarun Kanti Mishra ,Chief Secretary Said that the committee has been formed under his chairmanship of him, but it could not meet due to the on going assembly session. After the assembly session the committee will meet and consider on the various aspects of the proposed ministry. The committee will also observe various features of similar ministries of other states and the best practices might be included.

Speaking at the open house session on the concluding day of the 6th Entrepreneurs Week he said that the per-capita-income of Orissa is 63% of the national average which seriously indicates towards the backwardness of our policies and the poor attitude of the bureaucracy.

Responding the issue raised by the industry associations demanding the 15% Capital subsidy as upfront payment Secretary of Industries Mr.Sourabh Garg, said that the government would consider it, but at the same time he made it clear that the policy of the government is to facilitate the MSME sector and to move away from the subsidy system. On the other hand he informed that the reconstructed OSFC has set a target to disburse Rs 20 crore during the current fiscal.

Responding to the the issue on the upgradation of the existing industrial estates IDCO CMD Mr Priyabrat Pattnaik said that IDCO will go in to individual estates for upgradation. The industrial estates like Mancheswar (Bhubaneswar) and Khapuria (Cuttack) will be developed as model industrial estates. The provision for upgradation of industrial estates is expected to be doubled in the new Budget. On the other hand IDCO is also setting up new industrial estates in Jhrasuguda, Kesinga, Kalinganagar, Khurda which will open new opportunities for the new entrepreneurs.

Among others Mr.Hemant Sharma, Director of Industries, Mrs. Arati Ahuja, Secretary of Handloom and Textiles, and members of various small and medium industry associations were present at the session.

NRO bats for Central PG medical college in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, March 25, 2010
Pioneer News Service, Bhubaneswar

Appreciating Union Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad’s recent assurance for 10,000 additional medical post graduates in the nation, Lebanon-based non-resident Odia (NRO) Prof Digambara Patra has urged the Centre to establish a Post Graduate Medical Institute with 1000-bed Super Speciality Hospital having higher medical programmes like MBBS, MD/MS /DM/M.Ch/MDS/Ph.D at Kalahandi in the KBK region in the line of North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute for Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS) in Shillong.

Patra, in his letters to Azad, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik, argues that Kalahandi and the KBK region has not yet been given appropriate attention by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare though the region of Odisha is one of the terribly backward pockets in the country with rampant instances of malaria, tuberculosis (TB), et al.

“The region is suffering a lot in tertiary health facilities due to Governmental negligence and ignorance”, he remarks adding hundreds of lives are being lost due to water borne diseases for years and 2007 and 2009 were the worst bringing Kalahandi to both the national and international attention for poorer health care.

Medical facilities are very poor in the region and there is shortage of doctors and health professionals. There is no tertiary health facility in the Kalahandi-Nuapada region and a Postgraduate Medical Institute would immensely benefit Kalahandi and its surrounding pockets, Patra observes.

Bringing home to his point, Patra has pointed out that the Central Government has established North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute for Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS) in Shillong realising the importance of health facilities in those hilly terrains and tribal pockets.

“Nothing has been made in Kalahandi/Nuapada and in the KBK region in general which is evaluated worse than the North-Eastern States so far tertiary health facilities are concerned”, the NRO rues adding though the Central Government gives equal importance to the KBK region along with the North-Eastern States in irrigation and social developments, unfortunately in tertiary health facilities, Kalahandi or the KBK region has not yet been given appropriate attention by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Kalahandi is centrally located in the KBK and 200 km radius of it is extremely backward in tertiary health facilities in Odisha including districts like Kandhamal, Boudh, Gajapati and Padampur sub-division as well as the backward Dhamtari, Raipur, Kanker and Bastar districts of adjacent Chhattisgarh. Most of these districts come under tribal backwardness, backward due to hilly areas and drought and recently all these regions are getting more Maoist-infested due to lack of developmental activities in infrastructure and health, Patra further argues.

He also points out that Bhubaneswar is about 500/600 km from Kalahandi/Nuapada and though many Government and private medical colleges including an AIIMS type institution are coming in the State’s capital region, nothing has materialised in Kalahandi/Nuapada so far following which the people of Odisha have also petitioned for a similar institute in Kalahandi.

Such an institute would act as a national hub for higher medical education and research and a nodal centre and referral hospital for existing Government Medical Colleges of all the naxal-affected States, the NRO concludes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Image Collection of Parameswar Mund: Dongria Kondh and their cultural dance

Parameswar Mund with Dongria Kondh

State varsity proposals defy logic, March 23, 2010

Educationists are not finding any justification for a State University in Parliakhemundi, while the State Task Force on Higher Education has favoured the same.

While there is a State University at Berhampur, hardly 94 kilometres away, proposal for setting another in the District Headquarters of Gajapati, experts in the field of Higher Education find no rationalization

However there is not a State University in districts like Kalahandi, Nabarangpur, Nuapada Kandhamal, Malkangiri and Koraput and Task Force is mum.

If Gajapati is a tribal and backward district, so are the Nuapada, Malkangiri and Nabarangpur which are even further remotely located compared to Gajapati, said Digambara Patra.

Dr.Patra, who teaches in American University of Beirut sees no rhyme and reason behind the recommendations of the Task Force.

In any case Parliakhemundi could be given a State University based on bordering location then why can not be at Nuapada, Dharamgarh or Umarkote?

In addition there would be two State Universities in one undivided district, Ganjam, whereas rest of the 12 undivided district would have either one state University or there won't be any State Universities in those districts.

Question is being raised that if Parliakhemundi have got a Unitary University and Bhawanipatna and Jeypore would have got State Universities or all of them would have got State Universities in South Western Odisha.

Same thing can be said about Bhawanipatna and Balangir in Western Odisha.

Remote and far away locations from present State Universities (Sambalpur/Berhampur) were recommended for Unitary Universities and where as closer locations were recommended for State Universities for their affiliated colleges, which defies logic.

Similarly why three are more specialized Universities such as Medical Education University, Management University and Open University recommended in Cuttack-Bhubaneswar-Puri region.

Cuttack has the specialized National Law University, Bhubaneswar has specialized Utkal University of Culture and OUAT and Puri has specialized Sri Jagganath Sanskrit University, said he.

Besides many national institutions and laboratories are there in their fold.

For inclusive growth within Odisha it would have been nice if SCB Medical College would have been made Unitary University and Medical Education University would have been given to VSS medical college instead of Unitary status.

Similarly Management University could be located in Bhawanipatna in South Western Odisha for KBK-Boudh-Kandhamal region.

And the Open University could come up in Keonjhar in North Odisha for Angul-Keonjhar- Mayurbhanj- Balasore region, said he.

Film in Hyderabad unravels KBK migrant workers’ woes

The Pioneer, March 24, 2010
PNS, Bhubaneswar

Wealth amidst Dust was screened at the Tathya National Livelihoods Festival at Hyderabad on Saturday. The short video enlarges on the precarious living conditions of the migrant labourers from western Odisha’s Balangir and Nuapada districts who migrate every year to eke out a living in the brick kilns in and around Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh.

The video was earlier screened at Hyderabad International Film Festival (2007) and at various International and National workshops on Human Rights.

“There are about 1000 kilns in and around Hyderabad that support Rs 50,000 crore construction industry, but it hardly alleviates sufferings of the poor tribals and Dalits from western Odisha,” Vishy, the film maker rues quipping unfortunately, the Centre did not recognise them under the recently passed Building and Construction Workers Act that makes the film more relevant in understanding the livelihoods of one of the most invisible working group.

On one hand, if India’s claim to exclusive economic growth has hugely contributed to the nation’s wealth, on the other side, it has created very difficult conditions for large number of unskilled labour and women in particular, Vishy observed with a curt comment “Wealth Amidst Dust is a contemporary commentary on failure of governance.”

The video has raised many public debates on implementation of Acts like the Inter State Migrant Workmen Act, Right to Education of Migrant Children, Human Rights of Working Women in Unorganised Labour.

An estimated 30 million people are in inter-state migration and 6 million constitute children and the film focuses on the invisible nature of their existence in a foreign land where rule of law is far from their realms of existence.

The film also brings out the hardships faced by the citizens in their own country raising various Acts and Laws that come into conflict with illegal nature of kilns operation which is parallel to any other unorganised work in the country.

More than 4 lakh people seasonally flow from western Odisha to Hyderabad alone to work in the brick kilns out of which about 42 per cent are women and 36 per cent are children.

The film gets close to these people and captures the exploitative working conditions, unsafe shelters, wages, working hours, health problems, and status of the children, women and adolescent girls.

With little or no assets, skills or education, these migrant labourers end up losing even the meagre privileges of being in their own village and do not belong to any land.

Children drop out of school to accompany their parents only to be sucked into the vortex of hard labour, lack of education and a future.

Failure of monsoons and more so abject failure of the State Government, in providing them with support in source areas, force them to migrate in semi-bonded conditions.

The direct impact of such circumstances contributes to immense suffering of children and women. Women in particular are deprived of safe shelter, protection against abuse and access to health and hygiene.

The film attempts to capture oppressive nature of brick kiln operations that results in abuse and exploitation of woman and children, lack of enough food and various health hazards.

In particular adolescent girls are forced into work even during menstrual cycle as they are part of the unit which is exclusively designed to meet work requirements of brick making.