Saturday, July 31, 2010

Images of Protest against Vedanta in London

Shared by and Contributor: Susie Price

By Susie Price
Last Wednesday (28 July), I joined about 75 other demonstrators to protest against Vedanta’s activities in Kalahandi and the devastating effect their activities are having on the lives and livelihoods of the indigenous tribes who live near their bauxite mine in Lanjigargh. Having just returned to the UK after spending two years working for an NGO called Antodaya in Bhawanipatna it was one way I thought I could continue my connection with the District. The demonstration took place outside Vedanta’s annual general meeting which was held in a building close to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London and participants included campaigners from ActionAid, Survival International and Amnesty International, a number of smaller UK-based organisations who have been campaigning against Vedanta as well as individuals including Bianca Jagger (a human rights campaigner who is the ex-wife of the iconic British rock-star Mick Jagger). Michael Palin (a UK comedian and travel writer) has also voiced his support for the campaign. The demonstration was organised to maintain pressure on Vedanta and its shareholders with regards to the plight of the Kondh tribal people based in and around the Niyamgiri hills and the demonstration was covered in the UK media including Channel 4 news, Reuters, the Guardian and the Financial Times. One of the aims of the campaign is put pressure on Vedanta to clean up their ac by persuadinge major shareholders to sell their investments in the UK-listed company. Institutional investors who have already done so include the Norwegian Pension Fund, the Church of England, the Joseph Rowntree Trust and PGGM. In addition institutional-shareholder, Aviva (the largest UK insurance group) voted against three resolutions at Vedanta's meeting on Wednesday to show its concern over the bauxite mining project and the lack of environmental reporting. As an ex-resident of Kalahandi it was heartening to see such support from UK organisations and individuals.

Urge to expedite K'varsity, July 30, 2010

The people of Kalahandi are really grateful to the Naveen Patnaik Government to have granted establishment of two professional institutions for the first time.

Professor Gopa Bandhu Behera, retired professor from Sambalpur University in his letter to the Chief Minister has lauded his initiative to set up institutions in this part of the state.

Never before the Government had started any institution of Higher Education Institution of their own, said Prof.Behera.

The people of Kalahandi have started all institutions on their own with their hand-to-mouth financial situation.

People's participation was always there.

However the people are not able to dare for institutions like University, management institutes etc.

Prof. Behera has reminded that they had moved for the establishment of the Central University.

But the Chief Minister was good enough to say that since he has committed for Koraput he will sanction other institutions.
The Task force has recommended establishment of SWO University at Bhawanipatna.

Prof.Behera said that the present Government is an objective Government.

If one examine objectively, he will find that Bhawanipatna is another centre (Bhubaneswar being one) waiting for development.

The recommendation of the Task Force on Higher Education can be operated phase-wise.

Hence the establishment of a University at Bhawanipatna has to be in the first phase.

This opinion has also been affirmed in OSA at California, USA.

If a suitable OSD is appointed the University can flourish, observed Professor Behera.

A good job done in forming a Task Force under the Chairmanship of a great physicist, Dr. Trilochan Pradhan should not go in vain, said he.

Professor Digambara Patra, a leading NRO was all along bating for the varsity and now another leading educationist of Western Odisha has added his might for the new Centre of Higher Learning in the most educationally backward area of the state.

NRO urges CM for recognition of Ghumura dance

The Pioneer, July 31, 2010
PNS, Bhubaneswar
Noted Non-Resident Odia (NRO) Digambara Patra has written an e-mail to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik urging him to give due weightage to Ghumura folk dance form and its exponents while recommending artistes for the prestigious Padmashri award.

While Odissi, Chhau, Ranapa and other folk dance forms have been getting national recognition, Ghumura lacks patronage from the State Government, he lamented asking whether scholars of Ghumura lack political lobby or the form belongs to KBK and does not belong to a particular region continuously favoured by the Odisha State.

Ghumura is more popular than Ranapa and it is much ahead of many other dance forms in Odisha in terms of popularity of folk dance and it is more scholarly researched, cultivated and has a history of at least a 1,000 years, he remarked in his mail, a copy of which has also been sent to the President of India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Commissioner-cum-Secretary, State Department of Culture and all MPs from Odisha.

Alleging favoritism by various Chief Ministers towards their home district Ganjam in the name of south Odisha, he lamented that the Government was not giving equal recognition to Ghumura and its scholars.

Ghumura is one of the most sought after and leading folk dance forms in Odisha.

It is classified as a folk dance but it bears more resemblance with other classical dance forms of India and the dance is not limited to tribal only, he said.

The dance is associated with social entertainment, relaxation, love, devotion and friendly brotherhood among all class, creed and religion in the present days and can be classified as classical dance, he advocated.

Ghumura dance is still popularly hidden in the village level in south Odisha, western Odisha, central Odisha and some parts of Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Kalahandi is mainly known as land of Ghumura and has taken a leading rule in popularising and retaining its unique identity of Ghumura dance.

Ghumura dance has got the opportunity to represent the nation in various international events worldwide, he said.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Well done Pushpendra Singh Deo: CM to hold talks for rail wagon factory in K’handi

Note: Indeed this was a good initiative by Pushpendra Babu that was awaited  since a while. The efforts of people in Kalahandi who took this issue to Puspendra Babu, Balabhadra Babu and others since past few days (after news report about meeting of Koenjhar-Mayurbhanj MLAs with the CM for Wagon factory) are appreciable. There are many people behind the scene who needs to be applauded. Though I was bit upset when I found Balabhadra babu bit ignorant over importance of this issue over my phone call two months ago, but at the end his meeting with the CM while taking this issue makes me happy, such initiative is required for development of Kalahandi region.Of course support of our local MP, MLAs, leader of opposition, local BJD, Congress and BJP leaders are too praise worthy. I believe if Orissa CM takes it positively, then Central Govt might look it positively. Bhakta Babu has promised us to take the matter further in central Govt. But we need to wait till CM takes this issue officially as he is the main person to allot land and hope he will not change stand like Central University experience for Kalahandi.

CM to hold talks for rail wagon factory in K’handi
The Pioneer, July 30, 2010
PNS | Bhubaneswar

Expressing his willingness to set up the rail wagon factory in Kalahandi district as per the proposal of Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday assured a representative group of senior citizens of the district that he would talk to Banerjee to this effect soon.

A eight-member representative group headed by Labour and Employment Minister Puspendra Singh Deo and former Minister Balabhadra Majhi met Chief Minister at his Secretariat chamber. The group informed the Chief Minister about the decision of Railway Minister to set up a rail wagon industry either in Bhubaneswar or in Kalahandi.

They requested Patnaik to set up the proposed industry in Kalahandi district as it is not only a backward region but also a central place of backward KBK region. They said the proposed factory if set up in the district, it would certainly help bring development in the said region.

They also suggested the Chief Minister that the said project should be set up at Chapatkhanda of the district. They said there would be no land acquisition problem if the project comes up there.

Chief Minister agreed to their proposal and assured them that he would soon talk to Banerjee to this effect.

The group also informed that they would submit memorandum on the subject to Prime Minister Manmohan Sing, Railway Minister Banerjee and Loksabha Speaker Meira Kumar on August 18. Other members of the group include Bishnu Gahir, Jawahar Biswal, Arjuna Chand, Ashok Agrawal, Sumanta Pujari and Damodar Mishra.

Sambad, July 30, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Image from London protest againt Vedanta

Shares by Shri Dillip Kumar Das

India's child minors toil despite labour lawa

The Guardian,
Shared by Shri Dillip Kumar Das

88,000 fake ration cards

Down to Earth Magazine
Sahred by Shri Dillip Kumar Das

Indravati Dam in risk!!!

Samaja, July 29, 2010
Shared by Dr Sanjib Kumar Karmee in Western Orissa group

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ghumura - A Popular Folk Dance Form of Orissa

BreakingNewsonline, July, 28, 2010

NewsRoom: Numbers of national recognition have been given to different dance forms such as Odishi, Chhau, Ranapa etc and in various other spheres from Orissa, but not any single recognition for Ghumura so far?

Is it because scholars of Ghumura lack political lobby or because it belongs to KBK and does not belong to a particular region continuously favored by the Orissa state? Ghumura is more popular than Ranapa.

Ghumura is much ahead of many other dance forms in Orissa in terms of popularity of folk dance. It is more scholarly researched, cultivated and has a history of at least thousand years.

Not to blame achievement of any other folk dance, however, despite not being suitable in terms of connectivity and distance for rest of South Orissa, the favoritism, including for RDC office, educational institutions, High Court branch etc, by various chief ministers towards their home district Ganjam in the name of South Orissa may be well established by making rest of South Orissa including undivided Kalahandi, Koraput and Kandhama—Boudh backward, neglected and marginalized in various areas that include culture too.

Ghumura is one of the most sought and leading folk dance form in Orissa. It is classified as folk dance as the dress code of Ghumura resembles more like a tribal dance, but recent researchers argue different mudra and dance form present in Ghumura bear more resemblance with other classical dance form of India and the dance is not limited to tribal only.

The dance is associated with social entertainment, relaxation, love, devotion and friendly brotherhood among all class, creed and religion in the present days and can be classified as classical dance. Traditionally this dance is also associated with Nuakhai and Dasahara celebration in large parts of South and Western Orissa.

Ghumura dance is still popularly hidden in the village level in South Orissa, Western Orissa, Central Orissa and some parts of bordering Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Kalahandi is mainly known as land of Ghumura and has taken a leading rule in popularizing and retaining its unique identity of Ghumura dance.

Ghumura dance has got the opportunity to represent the nation in various international events Delhi, Moscow, Kolkata, and various other cities in India.

Despite that it’s most neglected and marginalized by Government of Orissa, which is not giving equal recognition to Ghumura and its scholars and playing politics over the matter.

Contributed by Dr. Digambara Patra, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.

Greenko proposes to set up energy, oil city in Ganjam

The Pioneer, July 28, 2010
PNS | Bhubaneswar

Greenko Group on Monday expressed its willingness to set up an energy and oil city at Sonepur in Ganjam district. A consortium representing the group met Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and presented the proposal to this effect at the State Secretariat.

Presenting the proposal, director of the company SK Challamsetty said the Group wishes to set up the city which includes energy academy, a port, energy project, desalination plant, fabrication and infrastructure for township. “The group has set a target to spend Rs 5, 000 crore on the project of its own and expects to attract another invest of Rs 10,000 crore from ancillary industries,” said Challamsetty.

Challamsetty told the Chief Minister that engineers, geologists, drilling engineer, fabricators and other technical persons would be given in the proposed energy academy. Besides, the academy would work for encouraging small businessmen to get involved in the oil sector. The company has proposed to set up a port in the city in the premises of which a dock will be constructed to repair ships.

Among others, Chief Secretary TK Mishra, Principal Secretary BK Patnaik, Energy Secretaray PK Jena, Industry Secretary Sourav Garg, Commerce Secretary Satyabrata Sahu and CMD of IDCO Priyabrata Patnaik were present.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Good initiative by Kapil Sibal to have inclusive agenda

 Kapil Sibal wants inclusive agenda
Economic Times, July 26, 2010

After fulfilling all promises in his 100-day agenda, HRD minister Kapil Sibal wants to make some fundamental ET in an exclusive interview. Excerpts:

How will innovation universities change higher education?

We have not adopted a top-down approach, ours is a bottom-up one. So far we have spoken of inclusive agenda of development, we are now thinking in terms of an inclusive education agenda. The idea is to empower institutions at the base of the pyramid. State universities are the foundation of higher education segment. State universities need to have greater freedom so confirm to realities of 21st century. The Centre is willing to give a helping hand.

Is that all required to improve institutions?

There is proposal to help state universities, which make up bulk of higher education segment. The Centre can help by giving more funds to strengthen these universities. This would help build infrastructure and quality. But state governments need to step up and provide policy framework. This framework will give universities more freedom. UGC can make grants beyond what it already does. But state governments must allow for more freedom so that state universities can transform themselves.

Are state only expected to provide for a more liberal policy framework?

Over the years, the Centre’s share of expenditure in public education has increased, while states’ share has come down. This mismatch should be corrected.

Many institutions suggest quality can be improved with freedom in admissions policy...

There should be democracy. An institution should have the right to decide on what basis it wants to admit students. At the same time there should not be unnecessary pressure on students. So some institutes can decide to admit on the basis of Class XII results — on the basis of merit. While other institutes could admit on the basis of the national aptitude test, or look at the aptitude test as an add on. There is also the option of add on subject tests. So the class XII results determine subject knowledge, aptitude tests will assess raw intelligence, and add on tests will assess special knowledge.

So each institute can determine the basis on which they admit, rather than doing so through individual entrance tests. The idea is to reduce tests, while still giving each institute the freedom to admit students that fit in with the specific focus of the institute. Let me give an example, what is the difference between Yale and Harvard law Schools. Yale is focused on research while Harvard is more business minded, so corporate law is a focus. So in their admissions policy they would show a preference for those who fit in to their respective focus areas.

Will this make the education system more inclusive?

Right now we have entrance exams to exclude students, to keep some people out. I want to reduce stress for students, but also exclude exclusion. If we were a more mature system, I would say that interviews would be the final basis of deciding who gets admitted and who doesn’t. But we are not mature enough. Allowing for discretion would not help. So I want to put in place a system that doesn’t give space for discretion.

“Niyamgiri of Dongria Kondhs “: the true story behind the scene….., July 26, 2010
By: Shivani Raghuvansh
I am sure you must be wondering where I went. Well, I was in Niyamgiri - Lanjigarh meeting different people and learning various traditional art & craft. Quite aware of the scenario – things have been made to look a lot complicated. Everyone is living a life of uncertainty. But one thing is clear; people in Kalahandi including Dongria Kondhs are now looking for development and overall growth.

I’m now leaving Niyamgiri – Lanjigarh, carrying love and affection of this beautiful place and people. During my long stay here and association with Dongria Kondhs, I only wonder how much time more this place and the people have to wait for inclusive growth.

Except Vedanta, no one has bothered to look into the actual apathy of these 8,000 Dongria Kondhs living in the forests of Niyamgiri, Lanjigarh, falling in the district of Kalahandi in Orissa. Their health & medical check-ups, education to their children, livelihood opportunities, training of Dongria Kondhs youth, sanitation etc. issues, which were completely ignored, have been addressed only by Vedanta.

Things have been made to look a lot complicated. People of Orissa – Government – Industry, all living in uncertainty. The Government of India is now solving this jig-saw-puzzle, and I hope to see the solution to the benefit of all concerned.

But I need to tell you the true story of “Niyamgiri of Dongria Kondhs” before I leave this place. It is an example of how much media, politicians and bureaucrats have been mislead on Dongria Kondhs and also on the bauxite mining. It is a true story of how the vested interests mislead world about Niyamgiri and how Dongria Kondhs were made celebrity tribe and their peace was disturbed, just to halt the bauxite mining in India. This is where the talks of community engagement, displacement, legal permissions, forests acts, tribal acts, and pollution and human rights issues crept up.

Perhaps our Indian democracy, the world’s largest democracy, gives complete freedom of speech and expression, which has been misused and exploited for igniting and exploiting the sentiments of innocent and ignorant people. Most of the big companies are facing these problems in India, and we cannot ignore Posco, TATAs, and Reliance.

Bauxite mining issue became more prominent when Vedanta decided to set-up its world class 5 million tonne alumina refinery in Lanjigarh, right on the foothills of Niyamgiri and a World class aluminium smelter at Jharsuguda in Orissa with a capacity to produce 1.75 Million tonnes of aluminium.

Vedanta’s strength of investments and latest global technology was enough to understand that bauxite mining and aluminium scaling was becoming a reality after 25 years and Indian aluminium was preparing to rule the world.

To halt this move, a well thought out campaign was planned with clear cut mandate to some how stop the project - instigate the people and circulate false and fabricated information – primarily on softer issues like Tribals, Environment and Pollution and spread the fear in tribals. Further, hide the positive information, particularly in terms of what company was doing for the people of Lanjigarh.

The stories of tribal displacement of Dongria Kondh, were falsely circulated. Rather the truth was that mining project did not involve any displacement of Dongria Kondhs, as there is no habitation at the mining site. Contrary to what was said, this was never the voice of Dongria Kondhs.
As much was also circulated about their deity ‘Niyam Raja’ which has been strongly contested by Dongria Kondhs themselves.

The protest of Dongria Kondhs was also tailor made. Some of these innocent community members along with some activists were made to stand with some banner in their hand to show the protest, what protest, they till today do not understand. Every thing was being fabricated and built on breach of faith of these innocent people.

It is very important to know, what technology we have today. If the last refinery was built 25 years ago and that too does not create any pollution problem, it is more than certain that the plants built now, with utmost latest technology, will be much more cleaner and environment friendly. So where is the question of pollution when the technology has made plants ‘zero discharge’?

The irony is that such pollution is sensed, seen and believed by these vested interests sitting thousands of kilometers away from Orissa or India.

Rehabilitation colony built for the displaced people, (due to Alumina Refinery of Vedanta), was also condemned saying no one wanted to stay there. When journalists visited, they were amazed to see it fully occupied and children playing and ladies sitting out in lawns. Later one of the journalists remarked, how some one can propagate so much false information when we can see all facilities like water, electricity, community centre, play grounds, roads etc. in the Vedanta colony. The children are going to Vedanta school and they are very happy. All the eligible members of the displaced families have been given jobs by Vedanta.

If this not the meaning of inclusive growth, than what is it ?

These vested interests have gone to the extent of limiting Niyamgiri mountain range, which is actually a range spread across 250 sq. km, to a single mountain. The mining is to take place in just 4 km that also 30-35 metres from the top. Easily calculated, it is less than 1% of the Niyamgiri. Mining will be done in phases, and thus the opened blocks would be filled accordingly.

Irony is, these vested interests who have been talking about human rights and development of tribals, themselves have no agenda for development of these tribals. What they have been doing is only criticism and passing provoking statements - a thought for reputed reporters and journalists and people at large.

The company initiatives on community development work were never neither noticed nor acknowledged by these people. How can a company that has association with more than 2.5 million people of 550 villages and vast local support, has been blamed for human rights? What human rights?

I have seen Dongria Kondhs participating in the livelihood training programmes organized by Vedanta in majority. Their children are going to Vedanta child care centres, electricity has come in some villages, and there are regular medical and sanitation drives in villages where hundreds of villagers participate.

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, former Hon’ble President of India, himself inaugurated the mid-day meal kitchen in Lanjigarh that provides mid-day meal to over 20,000 rural children.

I have seen the employees of this company working day and night when diarrhea broke down in these tribal villages. They were the only one who provided health services at the door steps of these villagers including Dongria Kondhs. None of these vested interests were available for any help; rather, even they were treated by Vedanta doctors.

Apathy is that these innocent people have been equated with characters like ‘Avtar’. Their popularity has been encashed for traveling by air, staying in 7 star hotels and building their names by writing columns in eminent magazines.

What ever has been done, the belief is that truth will finally prevail. Dongria Kondhs – Lanjigarh - Kalahandi will see the development and people will have better living conditions.

Who are these vested interests? I leave the question to you.

But I have only one request, staying away from my house for days together, I have tried to know the truth from close. Now I leave it to you to ensure that it is heard.

Naveen seeks Rs 4500 cr from centre for KBK region

Economic Times, July 25, 2010
BHUBANESWAR: Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday sought a grant of Rs 4,550 crore for the proposed 8-Year Perspective Plan to expedite development process in the backward KBK (Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi) districts.

Participating in the 55th Meeting of National Development Council (NDC) deliberations at New Delhi, Mr Patnaik raised the issue of backwardness of the KBK region and said early release of funds would help the state government carry forward the development and welfare measures launched for the districts.

The chief minister made it clear that Orissa had been striving hard to achieve sustainable and inclusive higher economic growth, accelerate overall development and a faster rate of poverty reduction. He claimed that the state government was quite hopeful to attain these objectives based on the impressive and steady growth in the economy.

“The state economy has grown at an average annual rate of 9.51% during the 10th Plan and at 8.73% per annum in the first three years of the 11th Plan, at a faster rate than the national average, despite challenges posed by the global economic slow-down. Such a positive trend has helped the state make higher plan outlays over the years and give emphasis on developing productive infrastructure including roads and irrigation,” Mr Patnaik said.

The chief minister said the union government should address expeditiously some other pressing issues such as funding for various initiatives under the Right to Education Act and sharing of funds between the Centre and states in ratio of 90:10 in view of low resource base and other development needs of states.

Mr Patnaik also focused on the need to roll out more centrally funded schemes to address the issues of urban poverty, livelihood, health, housing and infrastructure, immediate attention to address the issues of abnormal delays in allocation of coal blocks / coal linkage and environmental and forest clearances for new power projects. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cardboard cutout of South Orissa based on RDC? Updates...

1. I tried to find center of gravity based on paper cutout, though its a rough estimation the center point fell around Lanjigarh - Kalyansingpur region (exactly in the boder between Kalahandi and Rayagada near Devigiri).

2. Its not like I negotiate to have Wagon Factory at Kalahandi for a HC branch which does not suit all the regions. Having visited many time I feel the pain of people of Malkangiri, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Nuapada etc while visiting Berhampur. Honestly we have more buses from KK region (read undivided Koraput & Kalahandi), even from sub-divisonal level, to Bhubaneswar/Cuttack than to Berhampur. Same is the rail service. Which is better connected Cuttack or Berhampur for KK region? It takes another couple of hours to visit Cuttack from Berhampur. Night journey is more comforatble to Cuttack than to Berhampur. from KK region. Why then additional branch?

3. Kalahandi, Nuapada are Boudh are part of South Orissa since RDC was made. They became part of Western Orissa by protesting to be part of Sambalpur University instead of Berhampur University due to connectitvity. There is nothing lik Western Orissa RDC, its North RDC located in Sambalpur. WODC includes part of undivided Kandhamal too. I will not deny Kalahandi is part of Western Orissa but it is part of South Orissa too as official data show. Bank or World Bank classify Kalahandi as South Orissa, so the RDC. When SOSA is demanding HC branch, it is mentioning 10 disitcts of South Orissa, which are they?

4. Which major project Kalahandi grab in the name of KBK? Indeed idea of KBK was generated primarily keeping undivided Kalahandi in mind. Stavation death and Kalahandi Syndrome are known facts of past history. Is there any Kandhamal, Koraput, Balangir or Berhampur Syndrome defined by social worker?

5.  Some part of Kandhamal (such as Phulbani) and Gajapati will be nearer to Berhampur than Bhawanipatna/Rayagada, they may not like the idea, but most backward region in Kandhamal, such as Tumudibandh, Baliguda, Kotagarh, etc region will be much closer to say Bhawanipatna or Rayagada or any other possible central location.

6. I agree Berhampur is an old city and must get attention to become one of the leading city in Orissa. Indeed I compare like Rourkela. However, for this to make one does not need to make the other backward region to remain in the dark or make them uncomfortable.

7. RDC is not for employment generation in the region. People in KK regions are suffering for RDC,  progress is much slower, state capital is far way to monitor things directly. Samablpur is also not near compare to the distance between Berhampur and Bhubaneswar. 

8. If some of you think social parameter shows Kalahandi is developed put it out of KBK. I explained Abhisekh in a comment in Tathya, I had read this HDI taken in 2005 a year ago, it does not reflect every thing. We can not say Khurdha and Mayurbhanj are equally developed based on this data and Jagatsingpur is backward compared to Mayurbhanj. Due to lack of primary health facilities in 2007 hundreds people died in Thuamul Rampur, in 2009 it was again in Lanjigarh, how if it was a developed district? Below map shows some of the official data on tribal population and literacy rate.

9. Instead of negotiating and bursting emotionally for our dear city better to understand the situation in a broad manner which benefit this backward locations and their people. HC Branch and RDC will not make Berhampur a great city either.

For those who are interested to make cardboard cutout of South Orissa here is the map.

I never said Bhawanipatna is the center except the following:
  • From Bouda in North to Motu in South, central place for South Orissa could be Thuamul Rampur.

  • From Khallikote in East to Kundai (Nabarangpur) in West, central place for South Orissa could be Lanjigarh/Muniguda.

  • From Parlikhemunid in South East to Beltikri (Nuapada) in North West, central place for SO could be Lanjigarh.

  • Major town close to these central locations will be Bhawanipatna. 
(NOTE: I do not have problem if central location comes any place in the district of Kandhamal or Rayagada) 

Additional information:

Out of 10 districts SIX have border (Koraput & Boudh have just touched) with Kalahandi, perhaps Kalahandi is only district in South Orissa having direct border with maximum number of districts. Only Malkangiri, Ganjam and Gajapati do not have any border contact with Kalahandi in South Orissa.

Ganjam has border with only TWO districts whereas SEVEN do not have any border contact with Ganjam in South Orissa.

South Orissa's RDC should be at a more appropriate location
Merinews, July 25, 2010
Based on Revenue Division (or RDC), classification of South Orissa (SO) consists of 10 districts including Ganjam, Gajapati, Kandhamal, Boudh, Rayagada, Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Nuapada. 

ORISSA CHIEF Minister had written a letter on November 8, 2007, to then High Court Chief Justice suggesting that circuit or permanent benches were required in Sambalpur and Berhampur for Western and South Orissa respectively.

Based on Revenue Division (or RDC) Classification, South Orissa (SO) consists of 10 districts including Ganjam, Gajapati, Kandhamal, Boudh, Rayagada, Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Nuapada.

From Bouda in North to Motu in South, central place for South Orissa could be Thuamul Rampur.
From Khallikote in East to Kundai (Nabarangpur) in West, central place for SO could be

From Parlikhemunid in South East to Beltikri (Nuapada) in North West, central place for SO could be Lanjigarh.

Major town close to these central locations will be Bhawanipatna.

When Ganjam was carved out of South Orissa, Bhawanipatna also had an edge over Rayagada. On the other hand, if Kalahandi, Boudh and Nuapada are counted as part of Western Orissa based on University and WODC classification and not by administration (RDC) and Ganjam is counted as South Orissa then Rayagada will be suitable location in rest of South Orissa.

Even if one thinks for a branch or regional station in Rayagda, Bhawanipatna or Koraput for South Orissa, Ganjam district is still very well connected to Bhubaneswar or Cuttack in best possible way in the state by road (golden quadrangle NH) and railways (main line). Most of the locations in Ganajm are closer to Bhubaneswar or Cuttack and could be reached faster than let us say to Rayagada/Bhawanipatna, of course Koraput is very far from Ganjam.

When such thing occurs, perhaps people in Malkangir, Nuapada, Boudh or Nabarangpur may suffer more while visiting Rayagada or Bhawanipatna than those people from Ganajm while visiting Cuttack. Place like Khallikote, Bhanjanagar etc in Ganjam are even much closer to Cuttack. It does not justify cause of separate high court (HC) branch in Ganjam like the case of Keonjhar, Angul etc. Otherwise in every 170 to 200 km Orissa will need to have a HC branch and regional station. On the other side, Kalahandi, Rayagada, Koraput, Nuapada, Nabarangpur etc are not closer to either Cuttack or Bhubaneswar. Even Sambalpur is far away from these locations compared to the distance between Bhubaneswar/Cuttack and Berhampur.

Ganjam is very close to rest of costal district in the state with a tribal population of three per cent, whereas rest of South Orissa districts (including Gajapati) has 30 to 50 per cent tribal except Boudh which has 13 per cent. Literacy rate of Ganjam is much higher than rest of South Orissa districts and close to Balasore. Other districts in South Orissa are more prone to Maoists than Ganjam. Having a large border with Bay of Bengal and based on its geographical location, Ganjam can very well be classified as coastal Orissa (or Eastern Orissa) along with other districts like Balasore to Puri, instead of Ganjam being part of South Orissa.

Earlier Ganjam was classified as South Orissa due to strong political influence and innocence of rest of South Orissa was taken granted. Parala Maharaj, Biju babu and Naveen babu come from the region and have continuously favoured Berhampur time to time over other backward districts in South Orissa.
South Orissa will be more appropriate for Gajapati, Kandhamal, Rayagada, Koraput, Malkangir, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi, Nuapada and Boudh, all of them are socially backward compared to Ganjam.
There should not be a complaint if on the lines of Rourkela, Berhampur should see development but this should not happen in the name of South Orissa or as a regional station for whole South Orissa.
In the name of South Orissa, politically Behrampur has enjoyed lots of governmental attention such as RDC, educational institutions (it is the most favoured destination in the state after capital region in terms of state government institutions) etc while others are continuing to suffer. Now this exploitation must stop somewhere.
RDC for North in Orissa is located in Sambalpur for the districts of Bargarh, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Balangir, Sonepur, Deogarh, Sundergarh, Keonjhar, Angul and Dhenkanal, the central location for all these districts more or less comes in the Sambalpur district. 

Similarly RDC for Central (Eastern or Coastal) in Orissa is located in Bhubaneswar for the districts of Mayurbhanj, Balesore, Bhadrak, Jagatisingpur, Kendrapada, Jajpur, Cuttack, Puri, Khordha and Nyaagarh, the central location for all these districts could be Jajpur (part of undivided Cuttack), but if Ganjam becomes part of it, central place will be Bhubaneswar/ Cuttack and in that case area wise three revenue divisions will be similar.
The political depravity and favouritism should be stopped by Orissa government. The RDC located in Berhampur is unable to monitor work in Kalahandi, Nuapada, Boudh, Nabarangpur etc and lots of Central government grants are returning back. Kalahandi failed to spend MGNREGA money last year. The progress is much slower than expected.
The RDC for South Orissa should rather be relocated in central location of South Orissa and so should the probable location of high court branch in South Orissa be evaluated.

Woman dies due to doc's 'negligence' in K'handi

The Pioneer, July 25, 2010
Bhawnipatna: A women died after a family planning operation due to the doctor's negligence at Jaipatna. In this connection her husband Safi Mohammad has lodged a complaint against the doctor Ramakanta Gantayat at the Jaipatna police station of Jaipatna on July 19. Safi Mohammad, resident of Mahavir Pada in the town had admitted his wife Sairabanu to Jaipatna hospital for a family planning operation on July 15. After the operation due to severe pain in the lower abdomen of Sairabanu, the doctor referred her to the District Headquarters Hospital. But she died on the way to the hospital near Banamalipur under Junagarh block. After reaching the DHH, the doctor declared her brought dead. She is survived by three children. In this connection a case no 100/2010 under section 304 (a) has been lodged by the police on the basis of her husband's FIR. Her husband Mohammad has demanded compensation for the family.

THREATS TO MEDIA FUNCTIONING IN ORISSA: A Special Report from the Free Speech Hub of the

 Note:Our sincere thanks to senior journalist Prasanta Patnaik, this is executive summary of a long report.
The intimidation of journalists in the form of physical attacks, threats and initiation of legal proceedings against them has reached a peak in Orissa. There have been 12 physical attacks on reporters, stringers or camera persons this year, and 6 cases of threat and intimidation, up from 3 attacks in 2009. Between 2004 and 2009, four cases of sedition were filed against stringers or reporters and a writer.
The attacks occurred either in retaliation for reports written or while the media- persons were on reporting assignments. The perpetrators fall in many different categories: sarpanchs(3), politicians and their henchmen (3), a bank manager, students, Central Industrial Security Force jawans, and Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel. In three cases the police were present but chose not to act. Cases filed have not made much headway. (Details of cases and the current status of police complaints filed are in the annexure below this report.)
The profession of journalism is undergoing changes in Orissa. This is partly an outcome of the rapid growth of the print and the electronic media as well as the hold that political parties and businesses have acquired over these. The most widely broadcast channels and the largest circulating daily are owned by powerful people. Given this reality, reporting the depredations caused by national and international business houses that have descended on the state to exploit its ample natural resources has become a perilous task.
As mining and industrialisation-related growth accelerates along with protests against these by the displaced populations, it is in the interest of the pro-development lobby to suppress all type of negative publicity. This is done by controlling the media through ownership, doling out largesse in the form of advertisements to others and intimidating those who cannot be neutralised by these. Among the worst affected are the faceless, and often nameless, stringers who form the feeder lines for the city-based media and have to bear the first brunt of media suppression by the powerful.
The attacks on journalists are inextricably linked to the changing equation between the state and civil society, brought about by the triumvirate of aggressive industrialisation, political interests and competitive media houses.
The state government either actively supports the corporations branding the critical media as Maoists, anti-national or seditious, or plays the role of a spectator. Its failure to take swift and punitive action in these cases has sent a clear message: the messenger can be shot.
This report by the Free Speech Hub Coordinator GEETA SESHU is based on visits to Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Puri, and Jajpur (Kalinganagar). Telephonic interviews were conducted with journalists who were attacked in Behrampur, Angul and Athgarh.

Attacks on journalists in 2010:
·        On February 9, Dinesh Das and Ashok Pradhan, journalists from Pioneer and a local Orissa newspaper, Athgarh Prahari, respectively, were assaulted by Premananda Gochchayat, the Sarpanch of Dhaipur, Athgarh, for reporting on corruption in the NREGA scheme.
·         On February 20, Abhay Pati, a reporter of OTV, was assaulted by the Manager of Cuttack Urban Co-operative Bank, Jajpur, Gour Prasad Das, when he was covering a vigilance raid on the banker’s house.

·        On March 16, journalists covering a clash between members of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the opposition Congress party were attacked allegedly by BJD workers and police personnel in Bhaapur Block of Nayagarh district.
·         On April 5, three journalists - Amulya Kumar Pati of the New Indian Express, Manas Jena and Sujit Mullick, stringers for Oriya newspapers -   were attacked by supporters of State Finance Minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadei when they went to report a police lathi-charge and firing on villagers of Baligotha, Gobaghat and other villages in Kalinganagar on March 30.

·         On April 22, ten journalists representing different newspapers and television channels were severely beaten up by the management and hired security guards of the privately-owned Silicon Institute of Technology in Bhubaneswar, when they went to cover students protesting the death of their colleague, Shamsuddin, allegedly due to food poisoning in the college canteen.

·         On May 6, Biranjan Mallick, a journalist working for Khabar, an Oriya newspaper, was tied to a tree and beaten up for investigating an NREGA scam in Balanga, Puri district.

·         On May 8, several jawans of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), a paramilitary force, attacked journalists and a television camera crew to prevent them from filming their assault on a truck driver who had fatally run over the young daughter of a CISF jawan in Angul.

·         On May 31, journalists who went to MKCG Medical College, Behrampur, to cover a clash between relatives of a patient who had died due to the alleged negligence of the medical students in charge, were attacked by the students in full view of the police.

·         On June 9, Akhand, a journalist working for Kanak TV in Pipili, Puri district, was severely beaten up by Pravakar Behera, a local politician and ward member of the ruling BJD, for writing about the latter’s illegal tree-felling.

·         On July 1, Suryamani Mishra, a journalist working with Khabar who has written against communalism, land scams and the builder mafia, was attacked by unidentified persons in Bhubaneswar.

·         On July 13, Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel molested an ETV journalist (name withheld) and her cameraman, Debasis Mullick, when they were covering the ISKCON rath yatra in Bhubaneswar.

·         On July 23, Ramnarayan Das, a reporter of ‘The Samaja, was assaulted by the former sarpanch of Nirakapur in Khurda district when he went to report on the self-immolation bid of a social worker. The attack took place in the presence of the area tahsildar and the police.

Threats and intimidation:
·         On January 3, 2010, Banka Bihari Bishoi, a, reporter The Samaja, was abused and threatened by the Nabrangpur District Collector Rupa Mishra, ostensibly because his newspaper did not give the latter adequate coverage.

·        On February 13, Bolun Gangopadhyay, a freelance journalist from West Bengal, who was on her way to Niyamgiri, site of the resistance to the Vedanta Alumina refinery and bauxite mining projects, was picked up by police on suspicion of being a Maoist.
·        On March 11, the Chhatrapur police raided the residence of well-known journalist and writer, Dandapani Mohapatra, without a search warrant, alleging ‘links’ with Maoist leaders.
·         On April 6, the Lok Pal, Justice P K Patra, was asked to take action against the media for reporting on his order on the irregularities in the acquisition of land for the Rs 15,000 crore Vedanta University project of the Anil Agarwal Foundation.

·         On May 10, senior journalist and correspondent of India TV, Prasanta Patnaik protested the increasing surveillance and monitoring of his movements by police in Bhubaneswar and demanded security for himself and his family.

·         On June 9, accomplices of a Bhubaneswar ganglord sent a dire warning to Bhabani Das, a photojournalist working for Orissa daily, The Dharitri, and asked him not to report on their activities.

Most journalists work or write for media houses that are run by business groups having interests in mining, real estate or education.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Letter received from Under Secretary, Labor & Employment Department, Government of India on ESIC medical college

Copy of RTI answer received by Madhusmita Panda in July 2009

Response to few emotional comments: HC Branch of South Orissa should come in central location

Don't play with the sentiments of the people of south orissa and Berhampur
By Pabitra on 7/24/2010 2:34:05 PM (The Pioneer, Bhubaneswar edition)

This is simply non-sense and it is very much clear that if the High Court Bench will be established in any place then it is in Berhampur and any move to deny Berhampur and South Orissa their right to justice will be fercely opposed. The NRO should know that it is not in any one's interest to play with the sentiments of the people, else every action will be matched with equal and opposite reaction.

Concentrate on your teaching mr. professor
By Surja Patra on 7/24/2010 2:09:59 AM (The Pioneer, Bhubaneswar edition)

It is ridiculous to complicate the high court bench to somewhere else than berhampur. first of all politics by the bar in cuttack is an impediment to setting up the bench in berhampur. Berhampur being connected very well to all places in south orissa is the best place. Else Cuttack is better than some interior place in south orissa. Mr Prof you seem to be getting newspaper space for some good ideas and some ridiculous idea as this. practice what you preach.

Anonymous said... (in Kalahandia blog)
Has Bhawanipatna not got everything in the name of Kalahandi? Does Bhawanipana town with all the facility reflect the truth of Kalahandi? First let a portion of these go to other towns of Kalahandi. I thnik that
Titlagarh should be made the district headquarter of Kalahandi instead of Bhawanipatna.

Anonymous said... ((in Kalahandia blog)
Utter Non sense. Kalahandi has no business deciding where the HC bench of South Orissa is going to be established. If at all people of Kalahandi want the bench for western orissa at Bhawanipatna then they are welcome to do so. But, trying to foil the long drawn agitation for HC Bench at Berhampur for the southern region will be met with stiff resistence. HC Bench at Berhampur is non-negotiable and if that demands sacrifices then people of south Orissa are reday to make that. 

It is also equally important others do respect sentiment of others. Reactions will be there, so the counter reactions, but truth remains as it is. It is incorrect to say Berhampur is well connected in South Orissa, if so Cuttack too, as Cuttack and Berhampur enjoy best possible communication in Orissa in terms of road and railways, why does Berhampus need a HC branch in the name of South Orissa?

Berhampur has been (mis)using South Orissa tag in its favor like a burglar.

A GOAT remains a GOAT even if many blind & emotional people term it a LAMB.

Berhmapur is above 400 km from many locations in Nabarangpur, Malkangiri, Nuapada and Boud, above 300km from Koraput, above 200 km from Kalahandi, Rayagada and Kandhamal. All these people in undivided Kalahandi Koraput and Kandhamal (KKK) suffer due to poor connectivity and administration from Berhampur. Berhampur is too far from Nuapada, Boudh, Nabarangpur, Malkangiri, Koraput, etc. (refer to the map given in link below)

Titilagarh is in Balangir. Bhawanipatna is central place in Kalahandi (correction: earlier I had mentioned Junagarh without referring map). Raja medical college is in Junagarh block, people in Kalahandi are proposing to have Agri Univ, KV in Dharamgarh (other Sub-division). Kalahandi Festival is celebrated both in Bhawanipatna and Dharamgarh. Kalahandi people were demanding to make Model College and polytechnic in Dharamgarh but Govt made polytechnic college in Bhawanipatna. 

I have clearly said if Kalahandi, Nuapada and Boudh comes under Western Orissa High Court Branch, then South Orissa High Court Branch should come in Rayagada as its center and convenient to all parts of South Orissa.

Whether it’s non-negotiable or NOT, it is day light robbery and corruption to have High Court Branch in Berhampur meant for whole South Orissa. People from Koraput, Nabarangpur, Malakngiri,  Kalahandi, Nuapada, and Boudh suffer a lot when things are made in Berhampur. It is totally nonsense to demand HC Branch for South Orissa in Berhampur rather than Rayagada or Bhawanipatna. 

As a historical city it offers many things, but its not the case here.

Read more:

Government widens scope of Saxena panel to scrutinise Orissa mining project

Economic Times, July 24, 2010
NEW DELHI: Armed with the Attorney General’s opinion giving it the right to deny forest clearance for bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri Hills, the environment ministry has broadened the scope of the NC Saxena Committee. Going beyond the implementation of the Forest Rights Act and impact on wildlife and biodiversity, the panel will now also study the displacement that the project will cause, the proposed rehabilitation plan.

The four-member committee under NAC member NC Saxena was set up in late June to determine whether to allow the diversion of nearly 661 hectares of forest land in the Niyamgiri hills in the Kalahandi and Rayagada districts of Orissa. The proposal to mine bauxite from the Lanjigarh mines in the Niyamgiri Hills was submitted by the Orissa Mining Corporation. The Anil Agarwal promoted Vedanta will source bauxite mined by the Orissa Mining Corporation for its alumina plants.

The environment ministry has broadened and redefined the scope of the committee. Going beyond the scope of investigation spelt out in the June 29 order, the committee will now investigate and ascertain the status of implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 in and around the proposed project area. The panel will study the “likely physical and economic displacement” that the project will cause as well as the “resource displacement” of forest users and the plans for their rehabilitation.

The impact of the project on the ecology of the land has been included in the panel’s scope of investigation. It has been given a carte blanche to study any issue that they may consider to be germane to their report. In the June 29 order, the committee’s scope was limited to ascertaining whether the Forest Rights Act has been properly implemented, determining the impact of the project on the livelihood, culture and material welfare of the Dongria Kondhs, a notified primitive tribal group, and impact on the local wildlife and biodiversity.

The widening of the panel's scope came after Attorney General GE Vahanvati opined that the Supreme Court nod to Vedanta Resources' bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri does not bind the environment ministry to give an automatic clearance to it, and that the project must be approved only on "merits".

The other members of the committee are Tata Institute of Social Sciences director Dr S Parasuraman, retired IFS officer Promode Kant, and associate professor at Delhi's Institute of Economic Growth Amita Baviskar. The committee will submit its report in late August.

Lanjigarh tribals allege Vedanta violation of FRA

Business Standard, July 2, 2010
he local tribals and activists have vented their strong opposition to the diversion of 660.749 hectares (1632.66 acres) of forest land for the proposed bauxite mining on the Niyamagiri hills at Lanjigarh in south Orissa's Kalahandi district by the Vedanta Alumina Limited (VAL) before the visiting committee of the Union minister of environment and forests (MoEF).
The four-member committee headed by N C Saxena, member of National Advisory Council, was on a visit to the Niyamgiri hills to check the allegations of violation of forest rights of the tribals.
The locals alleged before the committee that the company has violated the Forest Rights Act by forcible acquisition of forest land.
The four-member committee visited different villages to be affected by the bauxite mining by the Vedanta in the Niyamagiri hills in Kalahandi district in the last three days.
The committee also visited Raygada district on Friday to hear the grievances of the people to be affected due to mining of bauxite by the company.
“We have talked to the committee about the grievances of the affected people pertaining to the violation of Forest Rights Act and Human Rights Act. Now, the committee will decide about the future of the plant”, said Sidharth Nayak, an activist.
Since around 8000 Dongria Kondhs, a primitive tribal group, are living in the vicinity of the Niyamgiri hills, social and environment activists have strongly opposed bauxite mining in the hills and have urged the MoEF not to grant the environment clearance for it. Responding to the concerns of the activists, the ministry has formed a fresh panel headed by Saxena to look into the allegations.
The Saxena Committee will ascertain whether the Forest Rights Act has been properly implemented and also determine the impact of the bauxite mining project on the livelihood and culture of the Dongria-Kandha tribals. The committee is expected to submit its report next month to the ministry.
Meanwhile, the company has already started operations of its 1.4 million tonne per annum refinery plant at Lanjigarh. Bauxite for the refinery is being brought from Vedanta’s mine at Bodai-Daldali in neighboring Chhattisgarh.

Kalahandi Bar flays HC lawyers’ stand

The Pioneer, July 24, 2010

Bhawanipatna: The general body meeting of Kalahandi Bar Association unanimously condemned the decision taken by the members of Odisha High Court Bar Association regarding opening of a High Court bench in western Odisha and bandh called on July 19 protesting the statement of the Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily. Further, the members unanimously agreed to welcome and convey thanks to the Minister for his statement regarding opening of a permanent High Court bench in western Odisha.

Irregularities alleged in Upper Indravati project

The Pioneer, July 24, 2010
PNS | Bhawanipatna

Several irregularities have come to light in the Upper Indravati Irrigation project, Khatiguda under East Division in Kalahandi district. In 1995, this project had come under the scanner of the Vigilance Department and the CBI and the probe is still continuing.

Sources said the farmers of Kapsara, Badli, Ranjiguda, Gopbra and Katrukumar under Bhawanipatna block are expected to be benefited after completion of the projects of Right Canal Division (RCD)-2 and Right Canal Division-3, but there have been many damages in the canals.

When contacted about the damages and low quality material used, the SDO said he has appraised the matter to executive engineer and chief engineer in written but no action is taken. According to farmers of Kapsara, water will flow in reverse direction between RCD-2 or 3 after the project starts. A high-level probe will reveal several loopholes in the ongoing project, demanded the farmers.

NRO seeks HC bench in central location of S Odisha

The Pioneer, July 24,  2010
PNS | Bhubaneswar

In a mail to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, noted non-resident Odia (NRO) and Assistant Professor of chemistry, American University of Beirut, Digambara Patra has demanded establishment of a high court bench in a central location of south Odisha instead of Berhampur.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Drought year stares Orissa as monsoon plays truant

Economic Times, July 22, 2010
BHUBANESWAR: Orissa seems to be heading for yet another drought year if the monsoon trend so far is any indication. Scanty monsoon rains and soaring mercury levels have led to sweltering heat in Orissa, with most places recording maximum temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius.

And there seems to be no relief in sight as the metrological centre here said the southwest monsoon has been subdued over the state and may play truant in the coming days.

June ended with state deficit of nearly 22-35% rainfall. Normally, July is the month of highest rainfall in several districts, where the average rainfall per day in July is 10 to 12 mm. But the month did not begin with a smile. In July rainfall continues to be deficit from the beginning. By now the state experiences about 121 mm rainfall in July in normal monsoon conditionsagainst which the state has received about 83 mm.

“Considering cumulative June and July rainfall, only three districts, namely Cuttack, Malkangiri and Nayagarh received excess rainfall. Eighteen districts are deficient, of which, Nuapara, Kalahandi, Bolangir, Gajapati, Angul and Kendrapara received much lower rainfall, just sufficient to meet the evapotranspiration. Except Kendrapara all other coastal districts have received normal or excess rainfall”, Prof S Pasupalak, Agrometeorologist based at Orissa University of Agriculture & Technology [Ouat] on Thursday told “The ET”.

He, however, admitted that the district average could be misleading. “For example, there are some blocks in Mayurbhanj and Baragarh where rainfall is quite deficit, although districts per se are not. This is because of absence of even a single widespread rainfall in the current year”, he added. .

The capital city had some rains on Thursday and around July 25; the rains are expected thanks to the low pressure, likely to be created south of Orissa.

“But it is likely to stay close to the coast and shall turn to an extended circulation over the land from the south Orissa to Chhatisgarh on North West direction. This would not favour Orissa”, Mr Pasupalak added sang that the rainfall will continue from Sunday up to next five days.

“But it is likely to be scattered to fairly wide spread without widespread moderate or heavy rainfall. Moderate rainfall is expected only at some places. At least 75 mm water is required for puddling, a prerequisite for rice seedlings to transplant. It means 100 mm rainfall is required in a week. But widespread rainfall of this amount is not likely to occur in next seven days. As result rice operations would be delayed”, Mr Pasupalak predicts. 

AG tells ministry it can refuse forest clearance for Vedanta project

Times of India, July 23, 2010
NEW DELHI: The Union environment and forests ministry has armed itself to tighten the noose against the Vedanta project in Orissa. It has sought and received an opinion from the Attorney General that the ministry, despite a Supreme Court order, still holds the legal mandate to refuse forest clearance to the company.

Alongside the ministry has also widened the scope of investigations headed by the National Advisory Council member, N C Saxena, into the impacts of and legal issues concerning the project.

While the AG's advice to the ministry could help bolster its case for not providing the mandatory forest clearance under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, an adverse report from the four-member Saxena committee could provide the ground to the ministry to block the controversial project on issues of tribal rights and concerns.

Issues have been raised earlier about the impact of the project on the wildlife and forests of the area as well as tribal entitlements under the Forest Rights Act.

The ministry has already received one report from a committee, which had pointed to serious deficiencies in the project and its unfavourable consequences on the primitive tribal group -- Dongria Kondh -- living in the region where bauxite mines for the Vedanta aluminium plant exist.

As per orders of the apex court, sister concern Sterlite Industries was given permission to work on the project while Orissa Mining Corporation is to excavate in Lanjigarh tehsil of Kalahandi for the bauxite.

The environment ministry had tended to earlier take the view that the Supreme Court order had vitiated the need for the company to apply for a clearance to divert forest land in Lanjigarh. It had perceived that the court had handed the ministry a fait accompli.

But the AG has now suggested that the SC had only permitted the company to go ahead and apply to the ministry and ordered the ministry to provide clearance in accordance with existing regulations and laws.

On the other hand, the N C Saxena committee has now got the mandate to "inquire and investigate any issue which the committee members might feel necessary for the purposes of their report". The committee, unlike what its terms of references provided earlier, would also look at the issues of `resource displacement', physical and economic displacement that could be potentially caused due to the project. The earlier MoEF committee had pointed the weakness of the project on these counts.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Draft law unveiled for ‘Innovation Universities'

The Hindu, July 22, 2010
Breaking free of conventional higher education concepts, the Manmohan Singh government has taken the first step towards implementing its proposal for creating 14 ‘Innovation Universities' by circulating draft legislation for comment by various stakeholders.

The Innovation Universities are aimed at making India a global knowledge hub. Each one to be built around a theme or subject, these unique universities will enjoy total autonomy with regard to appointments, collaborations, resource generation and nomenclature of degrees awarded by it.

These will be open to all irrespective of nationality, gender, ethnicity and disability, provided at least half the students admitted to pursue any programme are Indians. There is, however, no mention of caste-based reservation.

Endowment Fund
As per the first draft of the Bill circulated by the Union Human Resource Development Ministry to the heads of all higher educational institutions like Central universities, Indian Institutes of Management and Indian Institutes of Technology, and members of the task force on the National Commission for Higher Education and Research, each University for Innovation will have to establish a University Endowment Fund but will have the freedom to receive donations, contributions from alumni and other incomes as long as 80 per cent of annual income is used for development of research infrastructure. Each university will be a not-for-profit legal entity and no part of the surplus revenue will be invested for any other purpose except growth and development of the university.

Welcoming autonomy for these institutions, one academic joked that while autonomy lies at the heart of innovation, many existing universities could be truly innovative if only the autonomy in the draft Bill had been extended to existing universities.

Other academics are critical of the lack of clarity on reservation.

The Innovation Universities are primarily intended to be private institutions. However, the HRD Ministry can also make grants to develop them, in which case the President would be the Visitor and the government would have a larger role to play in their functioning.

Each university will have an independent Board of Governors that will be empowered to discharge all functions by enacting statutes to provide for its administration, management and operations. The Board will delegate its powers to the Academic Board headed by the Vice-Chancellor that will perform financial, management and administrative functions including appointments and collaborations, the Board of Studies that will specify programmes of study to be offered, Faculty of Knowledge Manpower Assessment to study and assess through research trends in emerging fields of knowledge of relevance, and the Research Council that will interface with the research funding organisations, industry and civil society.

Intellectual property
In the case of a publicly-funded university, any new knowledge created from research that leads to an intellectual property will have to be reported to the government for retaining title. The Centre may refuse title on the grounds of public interest or exceptional circumstances, or national security. The Central government will protect, maintain and utilise the publicly funded intellectual property for which the title vests with it and it can give directions for prohibiting or restricting the publication of information to any person or entity which it considers necessary in the interest of the country. The income or royalties arising out of publicly funded intellectual property will be shared by the University for Innovation with the intellectual property creator in accordance with the provision.

The establishment of 14 Universities for Innovation is expected to set benchmarks for excellence for other institutions of higher learning through “path-breaking research and promoting synergies between teaching and research.” Each such university will stand for “humanism, tolerance, reason and adventure of ideas and search for truth.” It is expected to attempt to provide a path for humankind free from deprivation and seek to understand and appreciate nature and its laws for the well-being of the people. Further, these institutions will seek to “provide society with competent men and women to meet the knowledge needs of the country and perform service to the nation and to humanity and cultivating the right moral and intellectual values.”