Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Env Ministry forms new panel on Niyamgiri Vedanta mining

PTInews.com, June 29, 2010
New Delhi, June 29 (PTI) The Environment Ministry has formed a new panel to look into issues related to alleged violation of forest rights of tribals in Orissa's Niyamgiri, where it has held up clearance to a bauxite mining project of Vedanta Resources.

The Ministry issued a notification regarding setting up of a four-member panel headed by N C Saxena from National Advisory Council (NAC). S Parasuraman from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Promode Kant and Amita Baviskar -- both from Institute of Economic Growth -- are the other members.

The move has come against the backdrop of reports that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has asked the Environment Ministry to "clear the project (bauxite mining) after a thorough scrutiny and due consideration of all aspects.

Vedanta’s Orissa plan to take off

Economic Times, June 29, 2010
NEW DELHI: Plans by Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in Niyamgiri to feed its aluminium refinery in Orissa could fructify after years of delay and allegations of violation of tribal rights and environment norms by the promoter of the project. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has written to the environment ministry to give clearance to the project after “a through scrutiny by the expert appraisal committee and due consideration of all aspects,” a top government official said.

The environment ministry is likely to take a final call on the fate of the project possibly within three weeks, an official in the ministry said. One of the options it is evaluating is to give conditional clearance to the project with higher net present value for the forest land and greater safeguards to protect the Dongria Kondh tribe. Another option being considered by the environment ministry is to challenge the studies on forest and wildlife impact, arguing that they were shoddy.

Vedanta Resources said in a statement that it is the “affected party” and has been complying with all statutory guidelines. It did not comment on the clearance for the project by the PMO. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh did not respond to phone calls and text messages. A report by two members of the study team sent by the Forest Advisory Committee, the nodal agency for all forest and environment clearances, said earlier this year that there were no forest or environment issues related to the project and, therefore, it should be given the go-ahead. However, the report had pointed out that issues relating to tribal communities need to be addressed.

Usha Ramanathan, a member of the team, had flagged the poor implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and the deleterious impact of the project on the local primitive tribal group, the Dongria Kondhs. It was on this issue that the environment ministry had withheld the clearance.

But now, the tribal affairs ministry has told the environment ministry that it has been informed by the Orissa government that the Forest Rights Act has been implemented by the company. The tribal affairs ministry has not raised objections to the project and neither has it communicated any reservations about it to the PMO, an official in the ministry said.

Given this fact, the environment ministry would have little choice but to give a go-ahead since issues relating to relief and rehabilitation (R&R) and tribal rights don’t fall within its domain. “There also seems to be a perception that the environment ministry is possibly exceeding its brief. It should just be concerned with environment and forest issues. Other issues relating to R&R and tribal rights are not under its jurisdiction. It’s for the ministries concerned to take a call,” said a senior government official.

The bauxite mining project is crucial for Vedanta Resources. Uncertainty in getting forest clearance for bauxite mining has forced it to delay listing plans for Vedanta Aluminium, a subsidiary.

Despite the global spread of its operations, the bulk of Vedanta’s revenues and profits originates from India. Sterlite, its flagship Indian arm, is 52% owned by the promoters, the Agarwal family. Institutional shareholders include MFs like UTI, which own 3.5%, insurance companies (3.9%) and FIIs (14.5%).

A coalition of NGOs and activists, foreign and Indian, has for long carried on an unremitting campaign against plans by Sterlite, the Indian arm of Vedanta, to mine bauxite in Orissa. The mining activities were approved by the Supreme Court in 2008, though the company is yet to receive final regulatory approval from the environment ministry.

Activists allege that bauxite mining in Niyamgiri would destroy the environment and displace the tribal community.

A senior Sterlite official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, saw the hands of what he described as “foreign mining giants” behind the activities of the NGOs. Shareholder meetings of Vedanta in London have routinely attracted demonstrations by activists and tribal people from Orissa who are allegedly facing displacement.

Given this fact, the environment ministry would have little choice but to give a go-ahead since issues relating to relief and rehabilitation (R&R) and tribal rights don’t fall within its domain.

“There also seems to be a perception that the environment ministry is possibly exceeding its brief. It should just be concerned with environment and forest issues. Other issues relating to R&R and tribal rights are not under its jurisdiction. It’s for the ministries concerned to take a call,” said a senior government official. The bauxite mining project is crucial for Vedanta Resources.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The amount of fund given to WODC is nominal but the expectations are high in the state level: Few good proposals by Prof. Niranjan Panda for WODC, but WODC needs more fund in the state Govt budget for early accomplishment

Samaja, June 28, 2010

Opp demand for takeover of hospital construction rejected

The Pioneer, June 28, 2010
PNS | Bhubaneswar

The demand of the Opposition in the State Assembly for the Government to take over establishment of a hospital in Junagarh in Kalahandi which is being constructed on public private partnership has been turned down.

The Government will hold discussions with the private party constructing the medical college hospital and take immediate steps for completion of the project, said Health and Family Welfare Minister Prasanna Acharya. The Minister said this while replying on a private bill moved on Thursday by Congress MLA Gobardhan Das for the Government to take over the hospital . Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh taking part in the discussions opined that the Government should take over the responsibility and alleged that the medical is not functional now. As wrong information is being given the patients are being deprived of healthcare, Singh said. MLA Das said the chairman PNSof the group which has taken charge of constructing the hospital is behind bars after arrested under Section 302. In 2003, while laying the foundation stone Chief Minister had said the work will be completed by the end of 2005. He said that it was not true that patients are not coming there; in fact there are no doctors. Minister Acharya said the Western Odisha Development Council had given the proposal for setting up the hospital and Selvam Educational and Charitable Public Trust of Tamil Nadu was given. It was decided WODC would contribute Rs 10 crore and the Government wouldl give 25 acres of land tax free. Till June 9, 2009 WODC has given Rs 9 crore in seven installments. After the staff and faculty are recruited the MCI team will visit the college and give recognition, said the Minister.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

UPA-2's negligence of higher education

Original Source:  Rediff, 
Collected from Blog: mynews.in, June 16, 2010
It might have been a good idea to avoid political subservience of higher education and to ensure its autonomy, but recent experiences demand immediate reforms.
The provincial universities have already been lost at the hands of unscrupulous politicians, the central universities are fast moving towards deep degeneration, writes a disillusioned academic.
On completing a year in the second stint of the United Progressive Alliance government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made public the assessment of his government. But both the media and the prime minister glossed over one pertinent aspect of Indian life -- the state of higher education and its administration.
A very high functionary at the University Grants Commission, the chief of the All India Council for Technical Education, the chief of the Medical Council of India, the functioning of the National Council for Teachers Education have all been found steeped in corruption, and irregularities.
 There have been allegations leveled against the vice-chancellors of historic central universities like the Vishwabharti Shantineketan, Aligarh Muslim University and North Eastern Hill University, Shillong. The vice-chancellor of Allahabad University (now a central university, and once called 'the Oxford of the East'), is alleged to have indulged in recruitment-related irregularities. A parliamentarian raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, but the government remains as nonchalant about it as ever.
 The UGC and the Central Vigilance Commission have also taken note of all such irregularities, but these bodies do not have the teeth to do anything.
 The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library is a most prestigious institution for researchers, directly administered by the Union department of culture (currently under the prime minister). Its director, a reputed historian, has been found to be indulging in irregularities, but angry protests from a cross section of academicians have fallen on deaf ears.
 In short, the administrative health of higher education is extremely worrying.
 Is the UPA-2 government really sincere about addressing these issues? Going by the official pronouncements, it is really addressing these issues. The National Knowledge Commission, abolition of the UGC and few other such regulatory and funding bodies to merge them in one body of higher education and research, and the draft proposal of the Foreign University Bill are a few steps in the government's efforts towards reforming higher education.
 The ground realities are, however, far from satisfactory. Valid questions are being raised whether mere re-creation of the regulatory/funding bodies can really serve the purpose.
 There was talk of creating a special tribunal to adjudicate litigation pertaining to higher education, there are also proposals to have all-India competitive recruitment tests for non-teaching officers of universities, but the government is willfully allowing vested interests to keep such proposals confined merely to the level of ideas.
 Ironically, such undesirable things prevail when the prime minister happens to have been a professor in one of the most reputed institutions of higher education, and the minister concerned happens to be a noted lawyer.
 Their apathy for reforms in higher education and their neglect in nailing vice-chancellors and other high functionaries of the universities can be gauged easily by looking into the bizarre developments that have recently taken place in some of the above-mentioned universities.
 The vice-chancellor of NEHU has been taken as an advisor to the National Advisory Council. Most disconcerting is the matter concerning the AMU vice-chancellor. It is necessary to note that these two universities are supposed to be essentially taking care of the alienation felt by some weaker identities of Indian population groups.
 Despite the sensitivities attached with these universities, the irregularities are being either ignored or downplayed.
 Bureaucrats at the Union human resources ministry overlooked the current AMU vice- chancellor's academic and administrative credentials and approved his appointment in 2007.
 The Principal Accountant General (vide AB(C) 09-10/ 249 dated 17-11-2009 to HRD ministry) indicted the VC, the registrar and the finance officer for gross financial embezzlement and other irregularities. It says, 'There is a complete collapse of financial management in the university and the VC and the registrar instead of stopping this frequent financial irregularity themselves became a part of this'.
 Insiders keep crying for appropriate punitive action. A judicial inquiry has been instituted reluctantly by the government. It has avoided sending these functionaries on leave.
 Almost every entrance tests to various prestigious professional courses, conducted by the AMU, sees one or the other kind of irregularities, exposed through the Right to Information Act and the courts, but no deterrent punishment is being given to any of the high functionaries. Irregularities in academic recruitments are more like a routine.
 Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani in his popular and influential book, Imagining India, has rightly pointed out that most undemocratic exercise in democratic India is academic recruitments, to which it should be added, only surviving autocratic medieval monarchs in the Indian democracy are vice-chancellors of central universities.
 While there are Constitutional provisions to impeach the President and Chief Justice of India, there is no such provision to remove a vice-chancellor of a central university.
 It might have been a good idea to avoid political subservience of higher education and to ensure its autonomy, but recent experience demands immediate reforms. The provincial universities have already been lost at the hands of unscrupulous politicians, the central universities are fast moving towards deep degeneration with an increasingly large number of pliant vice-chancellors. The teachers' 'movements' are concerned only about their pay and perks; they hardly bother about academic improvements.
 Obsequious obedience and slavish allegiance to the vice-chancellors, with most outrageous forms of sycophancy and flattery for self-promotion are the order of the day at universities. In fact, they are the only way of going higher in academics.
 Even the best academicians are alleged to be involved in favouritism and nepotism, not to talk of petty victimisation of those who dare to disagree with them. Fearless violation of rules, statutes, and ordinances are increasingly becoming the norm of the day.
 When academics cynically use political opportunism and self-promotion, then one can easily imagine what impact it will have on the prospects of higher education in India! This degeneration is manifesting at a time when India is hopeful of emerging as a knowledge economy.
 Nilekani warns us, 'Reforms in higher education can not be bargained away -- they form the bedrock for a vibrant economy, the place from where we can, given the chance, build powerful and sustainable new ideas for our future.'
 The point is: Do Dr Singh and his vocal HRD Minister Kapil Sibal care about all these issues?
 The columnist is a professor at AMU who wishes to remain anonymous.

Now CSIR Lab/Institute can directly award PhD or Master degreee through ACSIR; and Central Univarsities in tribal areas may hike ST quota: could CUO at Koraput increase ST quota?

Cabinet clears way for varsities in tribal areas to hike ST quota

Indian Express, June 18, 2010

To safeguard interest of tribals in far-flung areas, the Centre on Thursday approved amendments to the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act that will enable reservation in central institutions for more ST and SC students than what is stipulated under the law.

These Central universities, most of which are located in the Northeast, will now be exempted from implementing 27 per cent quota for OBCs in admissions and instead increase reservation for STs. The amendments will be introduced in the coming session of Parliament, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.

“The amendments will provide a balance between the local policy at state level and the national policy on reservation. The amendments will ensure equity and inclusiveness and meet the regional aspirations,” Soni said. According to the amendments, the period for implementing the CEI Act shall be enhanced to six years from three years, as some of the CEIs are finding it difficult to adhere to the said time limit for creation of the requisite physical and academic infrastructure.

In another decision, the Union Cabinet also approved a proposal by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to set up the Academy of Science and Innovative Research (ACSIR) that will enable it to award post-graduate and doctoral degrees from this year. At present, scientists pursuing research in the 37 laboratories of CSIR across the country have to register themselves at different universities. The academy is expected to produce 1,000 PhDs in science and technology and about 120 PhDs in engineering annually from the fifth year onwards.

The Cabinet also cleared amendments to the New Delhi Municipal Council Act, 1994, that will enable elected representatives from the New Delhi area to become members of the NDMC. According to the amendment Bill, a Chief Minister, if representing the NDMC area, will chair the meetings of the council. Alternately, an MP of the area, if a minister, will chair the meetings. Currently, NDMC meetings are chaired by the chairman of the council, who is an IAS officer.

The Cabinet approved establishment of a Directorate of Currency (DoC) in the Finance Ministry, which would work towards enhancing security features in currency notes.

First common entrance by seven universities gets good response

Indian Express, June 21, 2010

The first common entrance conducted by seven new Central Universities has received encouraging response with nearly 6,000 candidates successfully appearing in the test. 

The Central Universities of Bihar, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kashmir and Kerala successfully conducted the first-ever Central University Common Entrance Test (CUCET) on June 19 and 20.

The test was conducted in 30 centres in seven states. Nearly 6000 candidates had applied for 37 programmes like Business administration, Computer technology, Development studies, Animal sciences, Economics and languages offered by these universities, official sources said.

The central universities of Jharkhand, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are offering five-year Integrated MA/MSc programmes.

The last date for submission of application forms was extended from May 31 to June 12.

Srinagar and Jaipur centres registered a significantly high number of more than 800 candidates each. The other preferred centres are Patna, Kasargod, Brambe (Jharkhand), Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Thiruvarur and Thiruvananthapuram.

Conduct of CUCET with seven participating central universities has ensured the realisation of a single window opportunity for candidates to write and seek admission through a common test.

A different kind of red terror

The Hindu, June 27, 2010

An alumina refinery in Orissa blithely continues to pollute the surrounding villages, despite the recommendations of the Supreme Court's Central Empowered Committee that it be closed since it poses environmental and health hazards…

The road from Bhawanipatna to Lanjigrah in Orissa is a bumpy ride through the kodali ghati (banana valley), with stretches of parched forest land interspersed with patches of green. You know it's Vedanta territory when you see the road packed bumper-to-bumper with Vedanta's huge “Bulktainer” trucks carrying alumina from Lanjigarh to Jharsuguda and back.

This view is eventually broken by a large spread of shimmering white sand within a barbed-wire enclosure at Chattrapur village. This is the ash pond of the refinery that contains alumina ash leftover from the processing of bauxite at the refinery of Vedanta Aluminum Ltd (VAL).

Two villages — Borbhata and Kinnari — and 120 families were displaced and resettled to make way for the alumina refinery at Lanjigarh. The irregularities in the displacement and resettlement process, as pointed out by the Supreme Court's Central Empowered Committee in 2005, is another story.

The more pressing problem at hand is the health and environmental hazards being faced by Rengopali, Banduguda and Chattrapur villages that fall at the foothills of the Niyamgiri hills.

Every morning, the villagers of Rengopalli village wake up to a stuffy smoke cloud enveloping their village. This is dust from the refinery which is located 500 metres from the village. The villagers of Chattrapur face the same problem from the ash pond located just outside the village, which contains the ash slurry generated from the plant.

Rengopalli is also at alarming proximity to the east and west cells of the Red Mud pond built for the refinery's alkaline waste disposal.

Red Mud, which is a mixture of sodium aluminates and un-dissolved bauxite residues containing iron, silicon, and titanium, is the final waste product in the process of extracting alumina from bauxite. In the currently operational west cell, a ton of toxic waste is dumped for every ton of alumina produced in the refinery.

Contested claim
Villagers of both Rengopalli and Banduguda complain of cattle dying and trees not bearing fruit due to water contamination in hand pumps and wells. The company, however, discards any concerns regarding groundwater contamination. “There is absolutely no contamination in ground water due to the red mud pond as enough precautions have been taken by Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore while designing the pond and it is being regularly monitored by the State Pollution Control Board,” says Dr. Mukesh Kumar, Chief Operations Officer of VAL.

According to the villagers, dust flowing in from the plant side has caused respiratory problems to a number of people and 14 villagers have died over the last two years due to Tuberculosis, a claim which VAL refutes on the ground that dust cannot fly towards the village off the alkaline slurry, as it is wet.

Based on its inspection of the site in December 2008 and February last year, the Orissa State Pollution Control Board directed the company to take measures to control the fugitive dust, improve the housekeeping of the ash pond, stop the seepage of caustic water from pipe lines and to stop the discharge of contaminated water from the refinery's clear water pond into the Vamsadhara among other things.

Another problem being faced by Rengopali is the submergence of a road to Basantpada due to extension of the red mud pond. The company, however, has offered to provide an alternative road from Rengopali to Basantpada, which the villagers have rejected.

They say that once this road is submerged they would have to go through the Niyamgiri hill top to reach the school, which they say would be inconvenient and dangerous for their children.

Another hazardous fallout of the refinery is the environmental damage it is causing to the Vamsadhara River which is the main source of water for the villagers and their cattle.

However, over the last one year, the villagers have been apprehensive of using the water of the river due to pollution. Some of the villagers from Rengopali also complained that during rains, chemical waste from the refinery flows directly into the river

According to the company, the river is absolutely unharmed as far as the dumping of effluents is concerned. “The recent inspection by SPCB on 03-04-03-2010 on the direction of Central Pollution Control Board has shown that there is no impact and surface water pH is below 7.5. Further, no case of death due to TB in last 8 years could be established as mentioned by villagers. Further, our plant is a Zero discharge plant and there is no question of discharge of any type of treated or untreated effluent from company to Vansdhara River,” says Dr. Kumar.

Ignored recommendation
In 2004, the Supreme Court's Central Empowered Committee had deputed a fact-finding team consisting of S.C. Sharma, Former Additional Director General of Forests (Wildlife), MoEF and S.K. Chadha, Assistant Inspector General of Forests (Wildlife), MoEF to carry out site visits in December, 2004. In its report submitted to the court in 2005, the CEC recommended closure of the project citing grave environmental and human rights concerns.

The CEC noted that “the Red Mud Pond and the Ash Pond are being established on the banks of river Vamsdhara with a part of the river actually covered by the red mud pond. A flash flood in the river can cause a breach in the pond resulting in a massive spill in the river of noxious and poisonous red mud which is a mix of highly toxic alkaline chemicals and heavy metals including radioactive element all of which could have disastrous consequences”.

It also cautioned that dangerous heavy metals and chemicals may leach the ground water and destroy all the plant life that comes into contact with it. The report further said that the rapid Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted by VAL had “glossed over this aspect” and was not sufficient for a project of this magnitude and thus required a much larger, more comprehensive EIA.

Surprisingly, in a 2008 judgment, the Supreme Court ignored the findings of its own committee and allowed the construction of the refinery to proceed, albeit under the banner of Sterlite Industries India Ltd. (SIIL) instead of VAL, a distinction that is practically meaningless as SIIL is a subsidiary of VAL.

This led many to raise eyebrows, including Union Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, as it was the first incidence where the court had differed from the CEC recommendations.

Students soon can opt for subjects from multiple disciplines together

The Hindu, June 27, 2010

The HRD Ministry wants to give students the flexibility of having multi-disciplinary subjects from streams of Science, Arts and Commerce together at Class-XI, XII and graduation.
Can a student opt for subjects like Physics, Economics and Sanskrit together at Class-XII or under-graduation level?
Such multi-disciplinary subject combinations, which have been denied to students in most of the state boards and universities, could be a reality soon.
The HRD Ministry wants to give students the flexibility of having multi-disciplinary subjects from streams of Science, Arts and Commerce together at Class-XI, XII and graduation.
The move has been initiated by HRD Minister Kapil Sibal who has been insisting on making education more student centric and promoting creativity.
The ministry has set up a ten-member panel, headed by S. C. Khuntia, Joint Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, to suggest on allowing flexibility in subject combinations to students at senior secondary and graduation level.
CBSE Chairman Vineet Joshi is the member convener of the committee which will submit its report by September this year, a senior CBSE official told PTI.
The matter was discussed at a meeting of vice chancellors and school principals held here on January 27 this year.
At present, students are able to study subjects of science, commerce and social science together at Class-XII level in certain boards like CBSE and ICSE. However, such combination is not allowed by the state boards.
Similarly, universities mainly allow students to either prefer Science, Commerce or Arts streams at graduation level. Students are not able to pursue multi-disciplinary subjects together.
The committee will also suggest mechanisms for comparing results of students under different boards.
This step assumes significance as experts feel there is huge discrepancy in the evaluation and examination systems of different boards, the official said.
There are allegations that competency level of students securing same percentage of marks in different states is not necessarily equal.
The committee will study the evaluation and examination systems of different boards and suggest mechanisms for inter-board comparability of results.
Introduction of core curriculum at Class-XI and XII and national level entrance test for under-graduate programmes will be among the other issues before the committee.
Introduction of grading system and Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluations at Class-XII will also be looked into by the committee.
Other members of the committee are Joint Director - NCERT, Secretary General-Council of Boards of School Education in India, Vice Chairman-UGC, Director-IIT Kanpur, Chairperson - Karnataka Secondary Education Examination Board, Principal Secretary (School Education)-West Bengal government, S. Sathyam - former secretary to Government of India and H. S. Srivastava - former HoD, NCERT.

Orissa: Peoples of Mukhiguda continuing protest in front of OHPC office

Orissadiary.com, June 26, 2010
Report by Himansu Bhusan Naik, Bhawanipatna: The peoples of Mukhiguda area are continuing  mass Dharana from 21st June in front of the OHPC office demanding power supply to the area from Upper Indrabati Dam power project.
It is to be mentioned here that the first two unit of 600 MW production capacity power plant inaugurated in the year 1999 and the third unit of 2,000 MW production capacity inaugurated during the year 2001. But still the local peoples of Mukhiguda area deprived of power supply from these power plants.
The staff colony of OHPC supplied with electric current from these power plants but not supplying the general peoples. If the area peoples will not be supplied with power from these plants, the peoples will be bound to create law and order situation. The Energy Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Naik is requested to look to the matter.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Govt may have to slash Nath’s 20-km-a-day target

Expressbuzz, June 24, 2010
New Delhi The government may have to curtail Kamal Nath’s 20-km-a-day target for building and awarding national highways in the country because of resource constraints and a tepid progress in award in 2009-2010. In fact, the Rs 8,12,661 crore financing plan prepared by the road transport and highways ministry and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in November 2009 has been referred to the B K Chaturvedi committee for revision under directions of the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on roads.
“There are various reasons that have forced the government to go on a backfoot on the original financing plan. Firstly, the NHAI was not able to award the targeted 12,000 km highway projects for 2009-2010 and managed to award just about 3,700 km projects. This has created a backlog. Meanwhile, construction cost has gone up by 10 per cent, affecting the financing plan. The other major reason is that cess collections have also been down by 3-4 per cent in 2009-10,” a senior government official associated with the process said. Year 2009-2010 went in sorting out a number of policy constraints for the sector including changes to the model concession agreement after which awarding picked up.
Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has also raised doubts over the feasibility of the financing plan that targets 20-km-a-day highway construction. In his views the NHAI “does not borrow on its strength and has a limited capacity available under government guarantee, which also has to meet the requirements of other critical sectors.” In the EGoM meeting held in May, he said that the resource availability for the National Highways Development Programme would depend on the needs of other sectors, which will emerge after the finalisation of the XIIth five-year plan.
In fact due to the resource constraint the original plan has been revised by the EGoM to building 60 per cent roads on build-operate-transfer model, 25 per cent on annuity and 15 per cent on engineering-procurement-construction basis.
Over the next twenty five years the estimated borrowings of NHAI are about Rs 1,90,000 crore as per the original financing plan, which will now change. But this is based on the presumption that 56 per cent of the roads will be constructed on build-operate-transfer model, 35 per cent on annuity and balance, and 9 per cent on engineering-procurement-construction basis.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Multi-speciality hospital at Jharsuguda by Vedanta is welcome: Should local demand of University along with medical college by Vedanta in Kalahandi be next?

Vedanta to set up multi-speciality hospital at Jharsuguda
Business Standard, June 25, 2010
After the successful operationalization of its smelter plant at Jharsuguda, Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) has now decided to set up a state-of-the-art, multi-speciality hospital at the same location at an investment of Rs 50 crore.

Through this hospital project, VAL intends to cater to the healthcare needs of the people of western Orissa in general and the locals in and around Jharsuguda in particular. The hospital will be spread over nine thousand sq metres.

Construction work on the hospital has kicked off in June 2010 and it is scheduled to be fully operational by January 2011. Mumbai-based Hosmac India Limited, a noted company in the field of hospital planning and management consultancy, has been roped in for the design and lay-out of VAL's hospital.

The overall layout of the hospital is designed keeping in view the comfort and convenience of the patients and their attendants. Despite being a high-class hospital in terms of its structure and services, it will serve the people belonging to different socio-economic groups and especially and will be dedicated to timely and affordable medical assistance to the poor.

To ensure a highly professional approach in the running of the hospital, VAL is negotiating with healthcare majors like Apollo Group of Hospitals and Fortis. Both these hospitals are expected to operate the hospital jointly.

“VAL is already in talks with leading helathcare chains like Apollo and Fortis. If we need to provide the best health care services to the local people of Jharsuguda, we must have the professional people, who have enough expertise in the sector. We are confident, that we will soon find out a suitable partner for us. Vedanta’s intention behind conceptualizing such an innovative healthcare infrastructure is to give a new dimension to the condition of the community health in the region”, a company source told Business Standard.

Recommendation of Higher Education Task Force of Orissa for Kalahandi

Following is the recommnedation of higher education task force for Kalahandi and a Govt College for Nuapada in the final report.
  • South Western Orissa University in Bhawanipatna
  • Center of BPUT in Kalahandi
  • Medical College in Kalahandi
  • Center for Arid Zone Cultivation in Kalahandi
Details across the state can be found in the final report by the task force.

The recommendations include:

Affiliating universities as:
  • South Orissa University in Jeypore
  • South Western Orissa University in Bhawanipatna
  • Western Orissa University in Balangir
  • South Eastern Orissa University in Parliakhemundi (earlier it was South Orissa Univ in Parliakhemunid)
  • Central Orissa University in Angul
  • Metropolitan University in Rourkela
Banch Campuses: New University branches in all dist of coastal, central and north Orissa, Phulbani and Rayagada such as Branch of Utkal University in Banki, Adarspur, Puri, Nayagarh, Khurdha, Jagatsingpur, Jajpur, Kendraapada, Dehnkanal and Bhadrak, branch of Berhampur Univ in Phulbani and Rayagada. branch of Fakir Mohan Univ in Balasore and branch of North Orissa univ in Keonjhar and Baripada.

Health Universities proposed for SCB, VSS and MKCG medical colleges to affiliate other medical colleges in their respective regions.

Management Education Univ and Open Univ in Bhubaneswar.

Centers of BPUT in Bhubaneswar, Bhawanipatna, Berhampur, Balangir and Baripada.

Unitray Univ for Rama Devi, GM and Khallikote colleges.

Center of Utkal Univ of culture in Cuttack, Sambalpur and Berhampur.

 Medical colleges in Balasore, Bhawanipatna, Bhubaneswar, Balangir, Koraput, Baripada, and Parliakhemundi.

Institute of Textile Technology in Bargarh, College of Diary Science & Technology in Parliakhemunid and Baripada, College of Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science Bhanjanagar and Chiplima, Institute of Tribal Arts & Culture in Phulbani and Institute of Colleges and University Teachers Training at Bhubaneswar.

There are many research centers but all research centers related to fundamental science are being surprisingly recommended in Bhubaneswar instead of distributing like BPUT centers, this is when Bhubaneswar has already many research institute of national importance like IoP, ILS, NISER, IMST, Institute of Material Science, Institute of Mathematics & Application, etc directly conducting research in fundamental science. For example the main objective of NISER fulfill all the proposal related to fundamental science suggested by the task force, why should similar centers should be made in the same locality rather breeding them in other geographical locations where fundamental research work is weak in the state?

Though task force has suggested in the text to distribute institution based on undivided dist and later on in the dist level, the number of recommendations in total does not achieve this goal either. Still among undivided dist Puri-Khurdha (Bhubaneswar), Cuttack and Ganjam (Ganjam+Gajapati) lead in total number of recommended proposals despite presence of many private and Govt institutions there by now rather than any undivided dist not having any university/govt medical college till now. In the case of divided dist also Khudha(Bhubaneswar), Cuttack and Ganjam lead the race contradicting task force’s own suggestion. None of the divided district in Western Orissa gets any branch campus of University. Backward dist like Gajapati has drawn extraordinary attention than any other equally backward districts like Nuapada, Nabarangpur, Malkangiri, Boudh or Sonepur by the taskforce.

Orissa opposition parties walked out of assembly over alleged irregularities in Rajya Sabha polls

Orissadiary.com, June 23, 2010
Report by Dipti Ranjan Kanungo; Bhubaneswar: Orissa opposition walked out of assembly over alleged irregularities in Rajya Sabha polls. Replying to the adjournment motion on disappearance of Sibaji Majhi, the FIR on the incident and subsequent police action, the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed in the House on Wednesday that the police had taken prompt action to trace the Congress legislature.

The Chief Minister said that two complaints were lodged with police alleging kidnapping of Majhi before the Rajya Sabha poll on June 17. One complaint was lodged at the Capital Police Station by the Kalahandi MP and party's working president Bhakta Charan Das on June 16, and another similar complaint lodged by Majhi's wife at Lanjigarh police station on the next day.

The police had taken prompt action to trace the alleged kidnapping Congress legislature Sri Majhi. A massive manhunt was launched in all probable areas to trace the legislature. All SPs of the state were requested to keep track on the Sri Majhi, besides his family members, relatives and friends were contacted to get information regarding him

The Chief Minister expressed that On June 17 night, the SP, Khurda received a telephone call in which the caller introducing himself as Sibaji Majhi, informed that he was in Kolkata in connection with the medical treatment.

Further the Chief Minister expressed that again on the next day June 18, Sri Majhi called the DCP, Bhubaneswar and informed that he was admitted in a private hospital here for treatment and also sought protection. However, Majhi who was now under treatment at a private hospital here due to chest pain, had already informed that he was not kidnapped.

Congress chief whip Prasad Harichandan termed Orissa police as "political police." "Neither Majhi's wife ,relatives nor media persons were allowed to meet Majhi, The ruling party had kept Majhi under police custody.

The chief minister expressed that as per the advice and restriction of the senior cardiology consultants to avoid crowd, Sri Majhi preferred not to meet people at hospital. Majhi's brother To-day (Wednesday) was allowed to meet him in the hospital. After reply of the Chief Minister, Speaker Pradip Kumar Amata rejected the adjournment motion.

From the opposition parties leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh, Congress Chief Whip Prasad Harichandan, Nabakishore Das , Gobardhan Das, Jayanarayan Das take part in the discussion, while Pravat Kumar Tripathy, Amar Prasad Satpathy, Sanjaya Dasburma countered them.

Congress members led by leader of opposition Bhupinder Singh expressing their dissatisfaction over reply of the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik demanded formation of a house committee to investigate into the alleged kidnapping, Congress and BJP members walked out of the assembly.

Starvation kills elephant in Koraput

Times of India, June 24, 2010
KORAPUT: Orissa has been witness to hunger deaths of people. It seems that the menace has caught up with wild animals. An elephant died due to starvation in Koraput district on Thursday.

Forest officials seized the carcass from a hill near Kontraambo village in Dasmantpur forest range.

With this incident, at least three elephants, including a tusker, have died in the district in the past 20 days. On June 4, a tusker died of indigestion at Narenga reserve forest and on June 16, another elephant had died reportedly due to weakness in the Bilaput hills.

Officials said the dead animal belonged to a herd of 14 elephants that is moving in the area for the past one month. "The autopsy report reveals that the stomach of the elephant was empty. It is a female elephant and she has succumbed to hunger. As the elephants are moving in a barren land for the past few days, they were unable to get food," said divisional forest officer (Koraput) Atish Kumar Behera.

"Since the area doesn't have any food for animals, we have decided to scare away the animals towards the border of Nabarangpur district where there is plenty of food. Tonight, as many as 200 people belonging to Vana Surakhya Samitis along with our officials will try to chase the animals towards Nabarangpur," he added.

Officials said only 11 elephants are left in the herd of 14 which had ventured inside the district from the Karlapat elephant sanctuary in Kalahandi district. During this time every year, elephants from the Karlapat sanctuary venture into forests of Koraput in search of food. It is a permanent elephant corridor.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Orissa gives green signal for Vedanta's expansion plans

Hindustantimes, June 22, 2010
The Orissa government Tuesday gave the green signal for capacity expansion of Vedanta Aluminium's alumina refinery at Lanjigarh to 6 million tonnes per annum, besides an increase in the throughput of its Jharsuguda smelter to 1.6 mtpa, an official source said.

The company will invest Rs 37,440 crore in the two projects, the source said.

The approval was given at a meeting of the State Level Single Window Authority (SLSWA) chaired by Chief Secretary T K Mishra here.

The approval will now be referred to the High Level Clearance Authority (HLCA) chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, said a senior official of the industries department.

VAL, which operates a 1-mtpa capacity alumina refinery at Lanjigarh, in Kalahandi district, proposed to expand the plant to 6 mtpa, he said.

This apart, VAL's proposal to expand its smelter plant at Jharsuguda from 0.25 mtpa to 1.6 mtpa also received the SLSWA's nod.

The company's proposal to expand its captive power plant from 650 MW to 1350 MW was also cleared by the SLSWA.

The SLSWA also cleared a proposal from Hindalco to expand its smelter capacity from 1.6 mtpa to 3.6 mtpa and its captive power plant from 367 MW to 967 MW at an investment of Rs 4,430 crore.

In addition, the SLSWA gave clearance to seven other mega-projects, including a proposal from Rohit Ferro Tech to manufacture stainless steel.

Rohit Ferro Tech, which has been manufacturing 1 lakh tonnes of ferro alloys at its Kalinga Nagar plant, proposed to establish facilities to produce 6 lakh tonnes of stainless steel at an investment of Rs 2,100 crore.

Other proposals which got SLSWA's nod included the Bhushan Steels' Small and Medium Industries park at Dhenkanal with an investment of Rs 3,000 crore, Ramakrushna Power Limited's 120-MW capacity power project with an investment of Rs 525 crore, SPI Port's 1,320-MW power plant with an investment of Rs 6,609 crore and two other power plants.

Blood donation camp organized in Vedanta Campus of Orissa

Orissadiary.com, June 22, 2010
Lanjigarh: A voluntary blood donation camp has been organized at the campus of Vedanta Aluminium Limited, Lanjigarh on June 20, 2010 by Chennai Radha Engineering Works, a partner company of Vedanta Aluminium Limited. A total of 33 units of blood were collected from voluntary donors from the two companies. The camp was organized to mark the birthday of Mr. S. Venkatesan, Chairman and Managing Director of Chennai Radha Engineering Works.

Vedanta Aluminium Limited, Lanjigarh provided all support for organizing the camp, which was inaugurated by Dr. Mukesh Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, Vedanta Aluminum. Addressing the Donors, Dr. Mukesh said, “Organization of this camp shows commitment of Vedanta and its associate companies for helping the society”.

Employees of Chennai Radha Engineering Works also planted saplings to mark the birthday of their chairman. Total 100 saplings were planted at Vedanta Alumina Campus. Mr. Venkat Reddy, Vice President of Vedanta Aluminium also planted sapling and donated blood.

Doctors and medical team members of District Red Cross Society, Kalahandi took blood from the volunteers. The donors were given certificates and identity card by District Red Cross Society, Kalahandi.

Dr. Sabita Swain, Chief Medical Officer of Vedanta Aluminium Limited and Mr. D. Mohan, Resident Manager of Chennai Radha Engineering Works managed the camp, which was conducted Niyamgiri Vedanta Nagar Hospital. In last one year Vedanta employees had donated about 200 unit of blood in three camps, organized by the Company.

Why should I not go to Kalahandi, asks Vedanta chief Anil Aggarwal

NDTV, June 22, 2010
The proposed bauxite mine in Orissa's Niyamgiri Hills by Vedanta, the 10 billion dollar mining giant has sparked protests in India and abroad. The environmental ministry, reacting to reports that the mining will impact the livelihood and traditions of the tribals who live in the vicinity of the mine has withheld a final clearance to the mine. Earlier this year, reacting to the controversy, the Church of England sold its shares in Vedanta, a FTSE listed company. But in a rare interview to NDTV, the CEO of Vedanta, Anil Aggarwal says he is going ahead with the project despite mounting unrest. Mr Agarwal, who is based in London, says that the Church sent a representative to the site which found no violations. He called their decision to sell their shares nothing but hype.

NDTV: The mining industry has always been a paradox. On the one hand it is worth billions of dollars, it is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy and yet it always comes into some amount of questioning when it comes to its societal or environmental norms. Is it a question of perception or is it a question of reality... that is a question a company like Vedanta and its Head, Anil Aggarwal has tackled for several years. And it's real pleasure to talk to you because you normally don't live in India, you are in London a lot of the time and so it is quite rare to get an interview with you.

Mr Aggarwal, this is also an opportunity to clarify so many of the questions which you doubtless face every day as the head of Vedanta, particularly with your mining operations. Does it concern you when you read headlines about the various charges made against many of your mining activities like in Orissa, for e.g., which has become like the biggest flash point for environmental activists, how do you react to those headlines?

Aggarwal: This is absolutely not true and there is no basis for it. You know we are a growing economy, we have just opened our doors, and we have huge resources. We are a poor country moving towards progress and we are therefore finding these challenges. We are a democratic country and because of that we have not even touched the mine. Where is the question of mining activities till we get permission? We are waiting for permission from the government to start the mining.

NDTV: Environmental Ministry has conducted a survey and they said that there seemed to be some kind of violation of the forest act which is why you have not got the go ahead as yet.

Aggarwal: No! No! One, the mine belongs to OMC - Orissa Mining Corporation, and then, somebody filed a PIL. The Supreme Court, in last 2 years, has put all the respective people in place to conduct an enquiry and they have given a clear cut verdict. The Supreme Court of India said that this is absolutely permissible and we should go ahead with the mining. It also said that the local people are very important, and that 5% of the profit should be spent on development of the area. Even if you look at other mining activities, everyone is saying the same thing. You should follow the Sterlite example.

NDTV: But you say that you have taken the people with you, the particular team that studied the Niyamgiri project had an environmentalist and also sociologists. Now a part of the report says that the tribals were not taken into consultation when you were planning the project. Would you agree with that charge?

Aggarwal: See, if you go there, you will see that we have built this company... this plant in the last 6 years, and 5000-6000 people have worked day and night to complete that project. Kalahandi is the most backward area of our country and is that why I should not go? Why should I not go? I mean, the whole world is there.

NDTV: That's where all the bauxute is.

Aggarwal: Putting 10,000 crores of money, I have gone there because there was a bauxite. In the last 25 years we have had the largest bauxite mines in India and in the last 25 years no bauxite mining has been done except by Nalco. You mean we should remain poor forever? Aluminium is a natural material to be produced in India.

NDTV: I think the question is not whether you should mine or not but how does it affect the local communities who as you say come from the poorest quarters of the country, but you didn't answer the question... were the tribals of the Niyamgiri hills taken into consultation about the project or about the fact they will be displaced?

Aggarwal: Unless a public hearing is conducted and people are in favour, no project can start. So there was public hearing. We have more respect for the locals than anybody else as we have been working with them. Nobody lives there, not a single family in the area where our mining project is. They live quite far... maybe 5, 10, 2 kms... those kind of distances. And they are our people and we have provided them with employment, we are giving them education, help in agriculture...whatever is necessary. The main thrust is towards developing the area.

NDTV: This is again I suppose a question of trying to fight the perception. Then why is Arundati Roy saying that if Vedanta is allowed to go ahead with its plans for mining, it would lead to the devastation of not just the Dongriakol tribal community, but eventually all those whose livelihood depends on the eco system.

Aggarwal: As far as we are concerned, that mine is not even in our name. The mine belongs to the government and we have only one condition, just one agreement with them and that is that when they get all clearances from the government and the mining is done, we will pay them. See, I'm giving you all the facts on the place.

NDTV: Yes. Once the mining starts, then the bauxite from that mine will supply to your refinery which is right there at the foot hills of the mine. So you can't exactly say it is not your mine or not your responsibility.

Aggarwal: At the moment it is not my mine. They have to give clearance... OMC owns the mine and OMC has an arrangement with Vedanta. If they get the clearance, then we will begin mining. At this moment there is no shortage of bauxite in India and the most abundant material available is bauxite.

NDTV: Ok, but are you saying that you are committed to ensure that the tribals of that region will not be displaced, will have access to forest and that their lives will not be disrupted?

Aggarwal: Government has such clear cut rules and regulations and the Supreme Court is involved, so how can we go wrong in the Orissa. It is impossible to say anything till all the clearances come. We can only talk about fundamentals. 25 years ago, we used to have Mica in Bihar and people said that if the Mica goes what will happen... will people find the alternative; it is the same thing here.

NDTV: Here the question is that there is a hill called the Niyamgiri hill that the tribals say they worship. So it also has a certain cultural and traditional significance for them in their day to day lives, and the mines will somehow destroy that.

Aggarwal: No no...We have full respect for their sentiments. Whatever it is has to be, has to be sustainable norms, and we have to follow that.

NDTV: Mr Aggarwal, are you concerned that the protests at Niyamgiri have now acquired an international resonance because after all you are an FTSE listed company. But that these protests in way have got internationalised... is that a matter of concern to you, for example, some of your shareholders like the Church of England have pulled out or sold their shares in Vedanta.

Aggarwal: See, they themselves have visited me. Why do you think they did that?

They have come and I have a report that says they didn't find anything wrong. Each of the investors is quoting this and specifically the Church of England representatives, who came here say they didn't find anything wrong,

NDTV: Then why did they pull the shares out?

Aggarwal: No... They must be owning 10 shares or 2000 shares... selling this does not us shake up...it is a hype but it is such a small thing as far I'm concerned. I'm looking at the fundamental...I am the Chairman of the company, I can't violate anything nor am I going to push things. I can do only what is right. I am looking to put India on the fastrack. For us, for 25 years no mining has taken place and it is the best thing to do for our growth to manufacture or to produce aluminium.

NDTV: Mr.Aggarwal, why has this become such a big issue in India? While you are right to say India does need to grow, the question is what kind of growth? Now, as you see a rise of Naxal violence, particularly in those areas where mining is increasing... that link is being made that this very stark difference between the millions of dollars being earned by mining and the extreme poverty of people who live there is pushing people to take up arms. It is pushing people into Naxal violence. Is that argument something you accept?

Aggarwal: I have no idea. I only know wherever we work we have tremendous peace, people prosper, people are with us, we pay high taxes, we look after people and they are very happy.

NDTV: l quote what the Home Minister says... if Naxalites are prepared to submit or give up arms, then we are happy to cancel all the bauxite mining contracts if it actually brings peace. Do you agree with that?

Aggarwal: You are pulling me in a different direction. I am not the right person; I don't know what you are talking about. I only understand that wherever we work, wherever any of our organisations are, we abide by the law. I really want India to be on the fast track and this year we should have a 5 billion dollar profit and we believe we are spending 5000 crores on development, education and child development.

NDTV: Tell me a little about that amount because I think there is some sort of gap between at least the perceptions of profits earned from mining and how much of that is going back. Recently you took out some big full page ads to talk about what you are doing, your websites mention sustainable developmental work, what are the activities that Vedanta is doing to plough the profits back in to the communities?

Aggarwal: We have to.... most of the wealth is going back to society. Yesterday I heard one of your news channels saying that 100 people had died in air accident, international papers and everybody was talking about it. In India, every minute 2000 children die of water borne diseases. Why not talk about that?

NDTV: So specifically what are you doing to address these issues, particularly in areas where you are conducting mining activities?

Aggarwal: In these areas, to eliminate poverty, every child having the right to a square meal, school education, right to health care services, medical treatment, and to fundamental English, we have started and are running almost 4000 anganwadis and we are very passionate about it.

NDTV: You are running 4000 anaganwadis all over the country?

Aggarwal; All over the country and probably 60-70 thousand children are involved. I am trying to see how we can eliminate poverty completely from Bihar, Orissa, Rajasthan, whatever we can do...provide mid-day meals. We are giving 3 lakh mid- day meals to school going children.

NDTV: Are these specifically in your areas... where you have mining activities or this is every where?

Aggarwal: We are in 7 states and in all the states whatever we can do something for the people ...our entire team is very passionate about it.

NDTV: Ok the government is actually proposing a new mining bill which I'm sure you are aware of... where they want to go one step beyond some of the things you are talking about to ensure that mining is more socially responsible, for example, one of the things they have proposed and the law minister was telling us recently about on NDTV is that mining companies that are listed should share 26% of the equity from the promoters' quota with those that are displaced or affected by mining. If you are not listed, you share 26% profit, is that an acceptable amount for you or is that an acceptable proposal....26%... that's a lot of money.

Aggarwal: If they open up and say these are the mines and please bid, there can be 10%, there can be 30%, I have no idea. People would say, whatever the profit is revenue, that is the right prospective government should go ahead with...instead of saying the tax.

NDTV: Open up which mines? Are you talking of the government controlled mines? Open up Coal mines. Allow private players to enter coal mining, which is at the moment is off limits to private investment.

Aggarwal: Whether it is coal or anything else, what you are talking about is opening the resource sector and putting the tax. Tax is an alarming word, but if you say this is an asset and we had to auction in the proper manner, I think people will voluntarily come and give lots of money.

NDTV: Let's assume they don't do that but they say whatever existing mining activity you are doing or any new mining activity you do, you have to pay this % to the government for local area development. Does that figure seem too high for you? Do you think that is a realistic figure?

Aggarwal: I have never seen something like this happening before. I have seen that the Supreme Court was very concerned about the mining and the Supreme Court decision in Imphal that they have taken in sterlite case to 5% profit to be given for development of local community; I think it was high, but still acceptable.

NDTV: You think 26% is high or what the Supreme Court has said in the case of Manipur?

Aggarwal: Manipur, also in the case of Orissa where 5% profit to be deployed for the local development.

NDTV: That seems a little high for you even if it comes from the Supreme Court but is high for you as an industrialist. Ok so 26% then would be a...it is a proposal...

But specifically looking at Goa, your experience in Goa, where you bought Sesa Goa which is the iron ore mining company, there are some issues with environmental clearance. I think one of your clearance have been suspended again. Do you believe that this is the peril of an industry like mining, or again you believe this is a battle of perception you are now fighting that wherever Vedanta goes, there is whole question of are you following the legal rule or are you not? Looking at Goa for example.

Aggarwal: Sesa Goa is a 50 year or 40 year old company and no change in its management has taken place. We are active investors and we have deployed the funds. The company is running with the same people and it is not a new thing. It is not like Vedanta has come and has done something. Vedanta has only provided resources for them to do what they are planning to do.

NDTV: But you own Sesa Goa now?

Aggarwal: Of course, but the management is same. It is not like I have gone there and started something new. That company has been there for a long time and is a pride of India and Goa. It is a great company, and its done work and whatever they do; they do it with great pride. We provide them enough resources so that whatever they plan, they can execute.

NDTV: What are your expansion plans in India...at the moment you have mines in Orissa, you have mines in Chhattisgarh as well in Goa, Rajasthan...what is the road ahead for you?

Aggarwal: We are making aluminium and we have a plan to producer 3million tonnes of aluminium. For copper we are the largest investors in Tamil Nadu, produce copper. We have also in Zambia, Austraila zincand we are very proud of that, In Chhattisgarh we produce aluminium, iron ore in Goa. These are all our individual companies and we have invested 20 billion dollar into this company and I am very very proud the way we have built these plants. If you say what India is, this will be one name...VEDANTA!!!

NDTV: Well Mr.Aggarwal, that is true. I mean it is quite a remarkable expansion of the company from where it started off but of course as you were saying there is this huge untapped potential in India as far as mining is concerned, huge bauxite deposits, coal deposits waiting to be extracted but at the same time I think there is a very strong case about the social cost of mining and the environmental cost of mining. As long as the balance is maintained that's the most important thing... to maintain that balance.

Aggarwal: If you look at how long you want us to be powerless, how long without water, look at the best countries - if they can build on richness, India has better richness than them. How long do you want to wait? I'm looking at India to be on the fast track where we can compete with the world.

NDTV: That's right, but just as I said, as long as one maintains the balance between growth and social responsibility... that's the most important balance.

Aggarwal: No this is a very important thing you have said. There is no question... in terms of America, in terms of our emission levels not even 6 %. How will we compare them to us though we are a modern industry because we are setting up all our plants in modern days? Those industries were setup 30-40 years back.

NDTV: So you are saying that balance is very important and we will hold you to that Mr.Aggarwal.

Aggarwal: No question no question; none of the Indian companies will do that. Thank you

Orissa has not shown any improvement in the post reform period in performance related to education and training, infrastructure, governance and the legal/regulatory structure: Study

Employment opportunities will occur in sectors where people have little experience: Study
Business Standrad, June 22, 2010

States with backward labour market ecosystems will see much of India's demographic dividend. While the demographic dividend is a rise in the rate of economic growth due to a rising share of working age people in a population, labour market ecosystem comprises labour demand, labour supply and labour laws. For instance, between 2010 and 2020, the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh will account for 40 per cent of the increase in 15-59 year olds but only 10 per cent of the increase in income. During the same period, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh will account for 45 per cent of the increase in gross domestic product (GDP) but less than 20 per cent of the addition to the total workforce.

These revelations were made by TeamLease Services and IIJT Education in India Labour Report 2009 titled 'The Geographic Mismatch & A Ranking of Indian States by their Labour Ecosystem'.

According to India Labour Report 2009, while high economic growth will create employment, its sustenance depends on the ability of people to benefit from these opportunities. This ability of India's people to take advantage is undermined by three mismatches—the skills mismatch, the sectoral mismatch, and the geographical mismatch. These mismatches need an emergency response because demographics only create a small window of opportunity.

"Our employment exchanges are dysfunctional; they gave about 200,000 jobs to the 4 crore people registered. The best performing employment exchanges were in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra but the most new registrations are in UP and West Bengal. The Delhi Government budget shows that it costs the government Rs 228,381 for a single placement. The employment exchange in Chitradurga in Karnataka has been unable to provide a single job in the last four years. Also, about 89 per cent of the 15-59 year olds have had no vocational training. The current training capacity is a fraction of the 12.8 million new entrants into the workforce every year.," the report adds.

The report also states that most employment opportunities will arise in sectors where people have little experience. The largest component of labour force growth is in rural areas but the most growth in employment is in areas that require greater human capital. Wage inflation projection till 2026 flag skill shortages; salesman, teachers, managerial/ executive, professional, electrical, finance, doctors, engineers, jurists, technicians, the report futher says.

"India’s geography of work is creating a tragedy because jobs are being created in different areas from where people who need them are. But demographics are not destiny and states can bend the curve with a radical overhaul of their education, employability and employment regime," says Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, TeamLease Services.

The India Labour Report 2009 has also ranked states on the basis of their labour ecosystem that covered performance related to education and training, infrastructure, governance and the legal/regulatory structure — areas that are mostly determined by state-level efforts. The aggregate labour ecosystem index shows that the topmost performers are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra — each has had significant improvements in its index values and ranks. The report finds that almost all the states have made significant improvement in the 2000s. However, Orissa has not shown any improvement in the post reform period, the study states.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Govt Medical College in Balangir is Welcome

AU favours Govt. Medical College
Tathya.in, June 21, 2010

Anaga Udaya Singh Deo has favoured to set up a Government Medical College at Balangir.

Minister Planning & Coordination has sent a proposal to Chief Minister in this regard, which is in Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), said sources.

After repeated attempt to attract private investors for the proposed Medical College at Balangir, Minister sees no way out but to set up the institution with Government funding.

Western Odisha Development Council (WODC) has time and again persuaded the private sector investors for the Medical College in this part of the state.

However the private sector showed lukewarm response to the WODC proposal and four times it failed in its’ initiative.

Tarun Kanti Mishra, Chief Secretary after analyzing the situation has strongly favoured for a Government Medical College at Balangir.

Mr.Singh Deo taking a positive view on the Chief Secretary’s proposal has favoured the idea and requested the Chief Minister to consider the suggestion.

Chief Secretary Mr.Mishra along with Balangir has also suggested setting up another Government Medical College at Balasore.

He said at present there are 3 Government Medical Colleges at Cuttack, Berhampur and Burla in Sambalpur.

There are 3 private Medical Colleges at Bhubaneswar and Hi-Tech Medical College has been allowed to set up a Medical College at Rourkela.

Central University of Odisha has been requested to set up a Medical College at Koraput.

Sahayog Foundation has shown keen interest to set up a Medical College at Keonjhar.

Ministry of Steel has been approached for a Medical College funded by SAIL at Rourkela by upgrading Ispat General Hospital (IGH).

Mahanadi Coalfield Limited (MCL) is setting up a Medical College at Talcher.

So a Government Medical College at Balangir seems the only option available.

With another Medical College at Balasore, there will be harmonious spread of Medical Colleges all over Odisha, felt the top most administrator of the state.

The proposal is pending with the Chief Minister and he will take the final call on the issue, said sources.

State receives 47% deficient rainfall

Times of India, June 20, 2010
BHUBANESWAR: Orissa received 47 per cent deficient rainfall against a normal of 101.2 mm in June so far, as the south-west monsoon that hit Orissa on Sunday last and covered the entire state turned weak. The weather office in the city forecast a revival in the system with widespread rainfall between June 24 to 25.

With monsoon playing truant, many parts of the state failed to receive widespread rain. This has also affected agricultural activities, particularly coastal Orissa, where farmers start agriculture operation on post Raja festival period. In western and interior pockets, even though mercury had dropped, the farming activities are yet to gear up.

"The monsoon remains in a subdued phase now. However the numerical weather prediction suggests that a system is likely to form along Orissa coast in between June 24 to 25 and cause wide spread rain across the state," said Sarat Chandra Sahu, director of local meteorological centre. He added, even though the monsoon current was weak, it continued to rain at several pockets across the state and had already covered the entire state.

According to the past 24 hours rainfall reports recorded at 8.30 hours on Sunday rainfall occurred at many places over interior and at few places over Coastal Orissa. The chief amount of rainfall recorded in the state are Lanjigarh (11 cm), Athagarh (8cm), Bhawanipatna, Deogaon and Madhabarida (4 cm each), Ambadola, Komna, Sambalpur, Rayagada, Khandapara, Umerkote, Titilagarh, Khairmal, Narsinghpur and Bonth (3 cm each).

The weather office further forecasted that under the impact of an upper air cyclonic circulation and trough line passing Jharkhand and neighbourhood, rainfall would occur at few places over the state with warning of heavy rain at isolated places.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Orissa plans ATDCs in backward dists

The Financial Express, June 20, 2010
Bhubaneswar: The Orissa government is planning to set up mobile apparel training and design centre (ATDC) in backward districts like Kandhamal, Koraput to improve the employbility skill of the people.

"We are now having an ATDC hub in Bhubaneswar and satellite centres in Berhampur, Rourkela, Cuttack, Baripada and Sambalpur," said the state textile and handloom minister, Anjali Behera. She said the mobile centres will serve the poor people living in interior parts of the state.The minister said ATDCs have trained as many as 1000 candidates and most of them have been employed in garment industire in Mumbai, Surat, Silvassa, Bangalore, Delhi, Tirupur. She said about 530 trainess, mostly riot victims and surrendered Maoists from Kandhamal, have been employed after being passed out from the ATDCs. State handloom secretary Arati Ahuja said the ATDCs are getting offer letters from big players like Arvind, Shahai, Poppys, Knitware, Unisource Trend, Victus, Sava.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

IIT-Kanpur plans presence in Bangalore, US, but why not a rural campus in the interior part of the country?

IIT-Kanpur plans presence in Bangalore, US
Times of India, June 19, 2010
BANGALORE: The Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (IIT-K) plans a presence in India's IT hub here, the US and Malaysia, institute director S.G. Dhande said here Saturday.

IIT-K intends to set up research centres in the US and Malaysia as part of a plan to compete with top universities, he said.

The presence in Bangalore, the US and Malaysia will be preceded by establishing a centre at Noida, near the national capital, the institute's first footprint outside Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Dhande told an innovation convention here.

The convention was organised by IIT-K alumni as part of the golden jubilee celebrations of the institute.

Dhande did not elaborate on the kind of presence the institute planned in Bangalore, which has transformed into a major hub of new economy sectors such information technology and biotechnology.

In Malayasia, the IIT-K plans a research centre in Penang while the facility in the US may come up either in Silicon Valley, Boston or Washington, Dhande said.

Opening up of centres abroad was essential to compete internationally, he said.

"If we want to be internationally recognised, we must have presence in different parts of the world," Dhande said.

Karnataka has been pleading with the central government that an IIT be set up in the state. The central government has promised to do so but no time frame has been indicated.

Government should make it mandatory for BPOs offering public services to have operations only in rural areas!!!

40% of Infy's new employees are from non-urban areas: CEO
Economic Times, June 19, 2010
BANGALORE: As much as 40 per cent of new employees of Bangalore-headquartered software major Infosys are from non-urban areas, a top company official said on Saturday.

CEO of the NASDAQ-listed firm S Gopalakrishnan quoted an informal survey in this regard.

"We were pleasantly surprised that 40 per cent of new employees joining are not from urban areas", he said to a question from an audience member at an innovation convention, organised by the IIT Kanpur Alumni Association as part of golden jubilee celebrations of its alma mater here.

The survey also revealed that one or either of the parents of majority of these non-urban area employees have not completed SSLC, he said.

Gopalakrishnan termed the entry into the company of the people from non-urban areas as a "quiet transformation" in changing lives of people and in creating "more middle-class".

In this context, he also observed that it's, therefore, is not necessary that businesses go to rural areas; instead, people from rural areas could be recruited.

But he also said many of the IT companies have operations in tier-II cities, and the Government is encouraging setting up of rural BPOs.

Gopalakrishnan suggested that Government make it mandatory for BPOs offering public services to have operations only in rural areas.

e-surveillance to tackle pest attack in 5 districts

The Pioneer, June 19, 2010
Sudhir Mishra, Balangir

It is a common sight in rural areas to find crops being affected by various pests causing heavy loss to the already burdened farmers and even leading to their suicides, thanks to the absence of proper surveillance, lack of prompt response and steps by the agriculture officials to contain it, besides the ignorance of farmers.

According to sources, around 8,000 hectares of paddy fields were affected by pests in the undivided Balangir district.

The major pest-prone areas are Degoan, Loisingha, Agalpur, Gudvela and Tusura and Ulunda area of Subarnapur district. They are riverside lands.

In Balangir district, the main pests found attacking the crops are the Swarming Caterpillar (SC), Brown Plant Hopper (BPH), Stem Bore (SB) and Leaf Folder (LF).

In case of pest attack, it is controlled by the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) measures consisting of seed treatment, summer ploughing, balanced use of fertiliser application, line sowing, optimum plant population, mechanic controlled method, biological control method and chemical method spraying, if required.

The major diseases affecting the paddy are Bacteria Leaf Blight (BLB) and Blast Sheath Blight (BSB).

The paddy leaf is divided into two parts -- leaf sheath and leaf lamina.

The pest surveillance is required for timely control measures and to minimise the loss due to pest attack on the crop.

Pest surveillance is the survey of pest attack in a wide area to observe the occurrence, pest and diseases especially in the paddy crop.

Normally, the field-level extension workers carry out two types of survey -- fixed plot survey and roving survey.

SB pest attacks the paddy in the nursery stage and the SC pest attacks and spreads rapidly overnight.

In the event of any incidence of pest attack, the ground-level agriculture officials inform the district-level agriculture officials, who in turn inform the directorate.

After receiving the information, the directorate informs the OUAT and other technical body about the malady and they send a team of scientists, who visit the field and issue advisory to the farmers.

However, a lot of time by then, around a week, has elapsed and the damage is already done, often resulting in an almost waste.

With the introduction of e-surveillance of pest, the other responses are all set to be a thing of the past.

According to the agriculture office sources, the e-surveillance is going to be taken up in five undivided districts of Sundargarh, Balangir, Sambalpur, Kalahandi and Koraput. The entire Balangir district has been divided into three units Balangir, Titilagarh and Patnagarh.

Under this pilot project, besides the plant protection officer, who is the coordinator, pest monitor and pest scout would be recruited.

The pest scouts would visit eight villages in a week and would submit their reports daily to plant protection officer on Wednesday and Saturday.

The scouts would carry out roving survey on fixed plots.

They would send data to the pest protection officer, who after verifying it, would send to the website to be created by New Delhi-based National Centre for Integrated Pest Management (NCIPM).

The other agencies to be involved in the efforts are Bhubaneswar-based CIPM, Cuttack-based Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) and the OUAT.

After getting the information, the CRRI and OUAT will look into it and immediately issue advisory to the field staff, besides alerting the leading farmers through SMS on their mobile phones.

There was the concept of Economic Threshold Limit (ETL) for each crop. After crossing the ETL, there appears the damage of crop and loss to the farmers. However, the ETL concept is getting outdated and there is also separate ETL for every crop.

As there are several eco-friendly insects in the field to control the pests naturally, the concept of Pest Defender Ration (PDR) has been introduced.

If the PDR is more than 2.1, the farmers are advised for going in for the chemical control when the climate is favourable.

A separate website is going to be launched and the recruitment process is going on to fill up the required personnel, informed an agriculture official.

The e-surveillance would be effective by July once crop comes up in the filed, added another official.

Land Laws and Illigal Land Tranfer in Tribal Areas by Dillip Kumar Das

The Surya Prabha, March 28, 2010
By Dillip Kumar Das

Friday, June 18, 2010

Flexibility for PM’s innovation varsities

The Telegraph (Kolkata), June 9, 2010

New Delhi, June 8: A new breed of “innovation” universities promised by the Prime Minister to spearhead cutting-edge research will be exempt from regulations mandatory for all other varsities, under a draft legislation pencilled by the human resource development ministry.

The regulations on teacher appointments, pay, student fees, course structure or infrastructural requirements will not be binding on these universities according to the bill, government sources told The Telegraph.

These varsities will, however, have to pick vice-chancellors through a mechanism laid down in the bill.

The innovation universities were earlier christened “world class universities” and represent Manmohan Singh’s vision to transform India into a global knowledge hub. These varsities will focus on collaborative research involving academicians from different countries.

Unlike traditional universities in India, these varsities will each have a focus area. They will offer a bouquet of programmes across streams but related to their focus area.

Climate studies, city planning, design and even animation are subjects which the HRD ministry is already mulling over as possible focus areas for these varsities. An innovation university on climate studies would offer courses tackling the economic, scientific, political — domestic and international — sociological and other aspects of the subject.

The ministry had earlier outlined plans to exempt the innovation universities from many rules binding on other varsities. But the draft legislation for the first time details how these varsities will be different in their governance.

“The bill will not create innovation universities…. It will merely facilitate the creation of these varsities,” a source explained.

Once the bill is passed by Parliament, the government will not need to bring a new law each time a new innovation university — public, private or set up through a public-private partnership — is to be started.

The ministry will merely table a draft memorandum of agreement with the new innovation university before the Parliament, which must approve before the varsity can start.

The innovation varsity bill, however, does require all such universities, including those which are privately run, to select vice-chancellors through the same mechanism as other varsities.

Under a proposed new overarching higher education regulator, the National Commission for Higher Education and Research, all central university vice-chancellors will be picked by a collegium of experts from a registry of potential candidates.

Bhupendra Singh meets Rahul Gandhi for Wagon Factory in Kalahandi

Sambad, June 3, 2010

Formation of Lawyers’ Collective to support legal resource centres in Kalahandi

At the instigation of ANTODAYA, the first meeting of the Bhawanipatna Lawyers’ Collective was held on 13 June 2010 when it was decided to extend legal support to the deprived and marginalised sections of the community on a no-cost (pro bono) basis. The Collective was formed to provide additional support to the RTI Clinics and Land Resource Centres which ANTODAYA has been organising with funding from the UN Justice Innovation Fund.

Read more about this on ANTODAYA Blog.

Pilot project to identify the poorest soon

Thanks to Shri Dillip Kumar Das for sharing this.

Economic Times, June 16, 2010

It will identify the poor under a new set of parameters to be adopted for below the poverty line census 2011

By Prashant Sood

New Delhi: The Rural Development Ministry will launch a pilot project across 256 villages next month in a bid to identify the poor under a new set of parameters to be adopted for the BPL (below the poverty line) Census 2011.

The government is giving highest priority to a correct listing of BPL people as part of its efforts to push for inclusion through better targeting of subsidies.

"There is great anxiety at the higher levels of government that work should be done correctly. Everybody including academics and activists are cooperating," Rural Development Secretary BK Sinha said.

A correct list will ensure that the benefits of central welfare schemes go only to the genuine poor and help the government prune its whopping Rs 60,000 crore Food Subsidy Bill.

Sinha said a large number of benefits flow from the BPL card, including concession in housing and ration, and non-deserving people endeavour to get the benefit. "The real poor are voiceless. This is the political economy of BPL cards."

Sinha said the 2002 BPL census based on a 13-point scoring method had drawn severe criticism from certain quarters and an expert group was constituted in 2008 to recommend a suitable methodology for conducting the census.

The group, headed by N C Saxena, recommended automatic exclusion and inclusion of certain groups and grading remaining households on a scale of 1 to 10.

The exclusion criterion suggested by the expert group includes families who own double the land of the district average of the agricultural land per household (if it is partially or wholly irrigated), those who have three or four wheeled motorised vehicles such as jeeps or Sports Utility Vehicles and families who have at least one mechanised farm equipment such as tractor, power tiller, thresher and harvester.

It suggested that income tax payers and families who have a person drawing a salary of Rs 10,000 per month in private organisations or employed in government on a regular basis with pension or equivalent benefits should not be counted in BPL category.

The inclusion criterion suggested by the expert group includes designated primitive tribal groups, households headed by a single women or minor, households with disabled person as bread earner, homeless households, destitute households which are predominantly dependent on alms and designated most discriminated against Scheduled Caste groups called Maha Dalits.

Sinha said the earlier design to identify BPL families was complex and left scope of manipulation.

"We felt the design should be simple. We brought experts together and discussed 4-5 methodologies and arrived at a unanimous opinion."

Sinha said to ensure accuracy of the data, the results of pilot study will be corroborated with NSSO (National Sample Survey Organisation) 66th round survey and a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) where people in the village will tell who were the poor living there.

"If we are able to correctly identify poor people, sixty per cent battle against poverty is won," he said.

Sinha said that the BPL individuals will also be assigned identity number by the Unique Identification Authority of India.

The Ministry, he said, will analyse the data from the pilot study before replicating the model across the country.

The BPL censuses have so far been held in 1992 (for Eighth Five Year Plan), 1997 (for Ninth Five Year Plan) and 2002 (for 10th Five Year Plan).

The Rural Development Ministry provides financial and technical support to states for conducting the census generally in the beginning of the five-year plan.