Thursday, September 30, 2010

Appeal to have a Jagganath Temple in Kalahandi by ISKON

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Central varsity; a forgotten chapter, Sept 30, 2010

After lot of agitation and pressure on the Government of India, Odisha got its share of a Central University.

The Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) allowed the Central University of Odisha to be placed at Koraput.

Though it was expected to be established at Bhawanipatna, insistence of Odisha Government forced MHRD to allow it at Koraput.
Then Professor (Dr.) Surabhi Banerjee was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University.

After that the Executive Council was formed with luminaries like Professor M S Swaminathan, Professor M R Madhav Menon, Professor M M Salunkhe, Professor Pramod Tandon, Professor Sushanta Dattagupta and few others.

Today the Executive Council is meeting at New Delhi for its’ sixth meeting.

The Executive Council never met at Koraput during last 2 years.

And it always meets either at Bhubaneswar or New Delhi.
Vice Chancellor spends most of her time commuting between Kolkota-New Delhi-Bhubaneswar.

Hardly she visits Koraput and takes stock of the situation, lamented an insider.
Registrar of the University sits at Bhubaneswar and Financial Advisor is also following the foot steps of the Registrar.

And students are left to themselves with faculty members to take care of the situation.

Problems are galore and for day to day difficulties there is nobody to take care of as the VC and Registrar stays hundreds of miles away.

This is the only University in the country, where such type of arrangements are tolerated, rued a leading educationist.

Leading Non Resident Odias(NRO), those who were creating tremendous pressure on the Central Government to establish the varsity seemed to have sealed their lips, laments he.
And the Minister Higher Education is yet to visit the campus for a detailed study of the problems faced by the students.

He came for inauguration of the University along with Union Minister HRD Kapil Sibal.
Hardly Government of Odisha consulted by the CUO authorities and establishment of its’ permanent campus at Koraput is hanging in balance, said sources.

Now nobody seems bothered about the affairs of the only Central University of the State, which has turned out to be a forgotten chapter, lamented he.

2 yrs on, Central Varsity of Odisha still neglected
Oct 1, 2010,
Pioneer News Service, Koraput

After a lot of agitation and pressure on the Government of India, Odisha got its share of a Central University about two years back. The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) allowed the Central University of Odisha to be located at Koraput.

Though it was expected to be established in Bhawanipatna, the Kalahandi district headquarters, the State Government’s insistence forced the MHRD to set it up at Koraput. Then, Professor Surabhi Banerjee was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the university. After that, the university’s executive council was formed with luminaries like MS Swaminathan, MR Madhav Menon, MM Salunkhe, Pramod Tandon, Sushanta Dattagupta and a few others as its members.

But the executive council, which held its sixth meeting in New Delhi on Thursday, has never met at Koraput during the last two years. The meeting is held either in Bhubaneswar or New Delhi. The Vice-Chancellor spends most of her time commuting between Kolkota, New Delhi and Bhubaneswar. She hardly visits Koraput and takes stock of the situation.

The Registrar of the university sits at Bhubaneswar and Financial Advisor is also following in the footsteps of the Registrar. And students are left to themselves with faculty members to take care of the situation. Problems are galore and for day-to-day difficulties there is nobody to take care of as the VC and Registrar stay hundreds of miles away.

This is the only university in the country where such type of arrangements are tolerated, rued a leading educationist. Leading non-resident Odias (NROs), who were creating tremendous pressure on the Central Government to establish the university, seem to have sealed their lips, lamented he. And the State’s Minister Higher Education is yet to visit the campus for a detailed study of the problems faced by the students. He had come here only for the inauguration of the university along with Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal.

The State Government is hardly consulted by the university authorities, and establishment of the university’s permanent campus here is hanging in balance, said sources.

Orissa to add 12 more specifications to UID, Sept 29, 2010
Bhubaneswar, Sept 30 (PTI) Orissa government today decided to include at least a dozen more specifications to the Unique Identity (UID), christened as "Aadhaar", a national project launched to document profile of every individual in the country. This was decided at a high level meeting attended by chief secretary, director census, Orissa and other officials. While UID would have details of an individual like his or her name, sex and other datas, the state government has decided to include information like card holders ration card number, BPL/APL number, NREGS data, Driving License number, PAN number, photo i-card number, passport number, kissan and credit card number, LPG consumer number, Rastriya Swasthya Vikas Yojana number, pension I-d number and pass book number. As the Central government is undertaking a big exercise to prepare UID, it would be appropriate to add some more data regarding a person, said chief secretary B K Patnaik adding that six important places in the state were identified to execute the gigantic work. Stating that the work for the bio-metric data collection for preparation of UID would start in December from eight KBK (Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput) districts, he said demographic data capturing work had already been started by identifying as many as 95 lakh families. The people of Orissa could expect getting UID from May/June, 2011, an official said adding a sub-committee had been formed under the chairmanship of additional development commissioner (ADC) where secretaries of housing and urban development, IT, labour and employment and civil supplies and consumer welfare department, were members.The director of census will negotiate between the state government and the Centre.

HC urged to form lawyers panel to visit cholera-hit areas

IBNlive, Sept 29, 2010
Cuttack, Sept 29 (PTI) Alleging that there were contradictory government reports over the cholera outbreak in the state, a miscellaneous case was filed in Orissa High Court urging it to form an Advocate Committee to visit the affected districts and submit a report. Advocate Dilip Mohapatra who has filed a PIL in the matter yesterday told the court that there were discrepancies in the report submitted by the south zone Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC) Chandrasekhar Kumar to the government and the affidavit made in the court by Health Department Additional Secretary Anand Chandra Mishra. While the government affidavit painted a rosy picture about the situation, the RDC after visiting parts of Kalahandi district on September 22 and 23 in its report expressed dissatisfaction, informed the petitioner.Meanwhile, the government also submitted its affidavit detailing the status of the situation in at least nine districts under the grip of cholera. The division bench of Chief Justice V Gopalgowda and Justice Indrajit Mohanty has posted the matter to be heard next on October 8.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

K’handi YC burns effigies of CM, Health Minister

The Pioneer, Sept 29, 2010
PNS, Bhawanipatna

In protest against the spreading diarrhoea in Kalahandi district, members of the Youth Congress, led by observer of State Youth Congress Sukumar Deo and accompanied by other party leaders, set on fire the effigies of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Health Minister Prasanna Acharya in front of the district Collectorate here on Monday.

The agitators also submitted a memorandum to the Collector demanding improvement in health services in the district.

Dist Youth Congress president Trilochan Panigrahi, District Congress Committee president Himanshu Das, former Minister Ras Bihari Behera, Zilla Parishad members Anil Naik and Samanta Khamari, DCC general secretary Jaidev Naik and Utchhab Sahu were present during the protest rally.

MoEF hearing on Vedanta refinery project on Sept 30

The Pioneer, Sept 29, 2010
PNS, Bhubaneswar

The Vedanta Group on Tuesday sought the State Government's help for getting Central nod for its different projects including Vedanta University at Puri. Vedanta Aluminum Limited (VAL) requested the Government to respond to the Ministry of Environment Forests (MoEF) queries on Vedanta's proposed `15,000 crore university project at Puri.

VAL of Vedanta Group, which is alleged to have violated several laws, is scheduled to appear before the MoEF on September 30 for hearing on its Lanjigarh refinery issue.

Senior vice-president of Vedanta Group AK Samal met Chief Secretary BK Patnaik and apprised him about the various issues concerning its different projects. After the meeting Samal told mediapersons that the VAL has been asked to appear before MoEF for giving reply to the show cause notice.

VAL's proposed mining project at Niyamgiri hills was rejected by the Ministry last month after the NC Saxena Committee said Vedanta was violating the Environment Protection Law and the Forest Conservation Act. Vedanta was issued a show cause notice by the Ministry to reply to questions raised by the Saxena Committee on August 31. The company was also accused of procuring bauxite from 11 'illegal' mines in Jharkhand.

Claiming vociferously that the VAL had committed no mistake in implementing various laws and had abide by the directions of Supreme Court, Samal said that things would be clear at the September 30 hearing in Delhi. "We are hopeful that the MoEF will realise that the company has done no mistake both in its proposed mining project as well as refinery project at Lanjigarh," he quipped.

Samal also raised the functioning of its new thermal power plant at Jharsuguda during his meeting with the Chief Secretary. "Besides, we have urged the State Government to respond to the MoEF's queries on Vedanta's proposed `15,000 crore university project at Puri," Samal said.

The Anil Agarwal Foundation's world class university project was at a standstill after the Ministry raised some questions on alleged violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Act.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kalahandi Express: Sept 30- Oct 6, 2010

Elephant of Kalahandi

Dharitri, Sept 28, 2010

Nuakhai Bangalore 2010 Celebrated With Great Flavour

Shared by Shri Satyajit Nayak

On 26th Sept 2010, “Nuakhaibhet Cultural and Welfare Association” organized the 10th anniversary of “Nuakhaibhet” celebration in National Games Village, Bengaluru. This function is organised in consonance with “Nuakhai”, the harvest festival widely celebrated in KOSAL (western parts of Odisha). Non resident Kosali's residing in Bengaluru, has been organizing this function since last ten years.

Renowned cartoonist Dr. Aswini Kumar Rath from Balangir graced this function as Chief Guest. On this occasion “Nuakhaibhet Cultural and Welfare Association” also felicitated Aswini-Abani, the only cartoonist brother duo of the world. Internationally prize winning cartoons of Aswini-Abani were also exhibited during this occasion.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary year of the celebration a souvenir “Surta” was released containing articles on the festivals, food, culture and also progress at Bengaluru. Prime Minister

Dr.Manmohan Singh and Smt. Sonia Gandhi expressed their wishes to the community through this magazine.

Chief convenor Mr.Abhimanyu Gadtia gave an overall perspective of “Nuakhai” as a function and its importance in maintaining the cultural harmony. Sri Gopal Mishra, Sri …. (san barsa agyan) also addressed the gathering.

“Chitrasen Musical Group” from Titlagarh, Odisha, spellbound the audience with their sambalpuri musical performances with instruments like “Nissan”, “Tasa” and “Dhol”. Many local artists also added colours to the function with their folk songs and dances.

Apart from the cultural activities the most popular program was the Western Orissa quiz competition, which generated a lot of curosity amongst the present audience.

Also ladies Musical chair,Children Drawing competition and Nuakhai Talent Hunt was enjoyed by all and one.

Many intellectuals from Bengaluru and outside were present in the function which was attended by more than 500 people.

People also enjoyed the local cuisines of Kosal like Kardi bhendi Khata, Alu putal etc

Monday, September 27, 2010

Vedanta care for schools, Sept 27, 2010

Aluminium Major’s social initiative arm, Vedanta Foundation has extended its’ support for all round development of at least 20 schools in the Tribal Zones.

In an innovative move the Department of ST & SC Development has roped in the support of the top corporate giant to facilitate better and special education to the tribal students of Kalahandi and Rayagada.

Ashok Kumar Tripathy, Principal Secretary charted out the program and the major corporate sector has been brought in for better development of educational institutions in Tribal Zones.

So Vedanta Foundation has agreed to adopt 20 schools with 6000 students for their multiferous development.

Both Vedanta Foundation and Department of ST & SC Development are busy in taking up a “Programme of Action”.

This move will encourage the use of computer by students of Tribal Schools.

Secondly, improvement in the achievement level of children through use of computer related education & multimedia is being taken up.

The initiative is on for capacity building of teachers, who will in turn take care of the children in future.

This move will increase the presence and retention of Tribal students by creating an environment where learning will be fun, said an official.

The present collaborative effort would enable the State of Odisha to leverage the Foundation’s expertise, experience and finances in various forms of education, particularly computer aided learning and computer education, admitted the senior official.

And both the State Government and Vedanta Foundation have identified synergies in their respective objectives and are desirous of working in concert to better realize their objectives in the State of Odisha.

Accordingly a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed recently the Department of ST & SC Development and Vedanta Foundation.

Taher Vohra, Project Head-CEP, Joyram Mishra, CRE and Sanjeev Kumar Chadha, Director Tribal Affairs signed the MOU in presence of Vinod Kumar Special Secretary of the department.

Such initiative will be extended to other corporate sectors in other industrial areas for all round development of tribal schools, said an official.

375 hit by diarrhoea, 7 dead in Koksara in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, Sept 27, 2010
Bikash Khemka | Bhawanipatna

At least 375 diarrhoea-affected men, women and children have been treated in two Primary Health Centres (PHCs) of Ampani and Koksara under Koksara block since June. The epidemic has spread to 42 villages, including Ampani, Siuni, Kaudala and Koksara and seven persons have reportedly died of the disease this year in this block alone.

Though the numbers of patients are increasing day-by-day, lack of space in PHCs have become a headache for the Kalahandi district administration. A large number of patients are being treated on floor due to lack of bed facilities. Out of 1,246 tube-wells in the block, 36 are not only defunct but have become non-reparable.

Locals allege that drinking water pipes installed by the Public Health Department (PHD) have developed cracks and the polluted roadside water is mixed with pipe water. Consumption of the contaminated water is the main cause of of diarrhea. When the disease breaks out, the district administration officials and the local MLA rush to the villages, but they never care to visit the villages to ensure prevention of the epidemic, the locals allege.

Meanwhile, District Collector Rupa Mishra has visited Koksara block twice after the outbreak of diarrhoea. Koksara Block Development Officer Trilochan Singh told the media that 300 packets of bleaching powder were used for disinfection of all ponds, rivers and tube-wells. Villagers are eating karadi (bamboo shoot) and dead fish, for which the disease is spreading, he added.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Brake on development

Expressbuzz, Sept 23, 2010
B G Verghese

The minister for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh’s order stopping Vedanta Aluminum Ltd and the Orissa Mining Corporation from mining bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills to feed the company’s adjacent Lanjigarh aluminum refinery plant located in one of the country’s poorest districts in the name of tribal interest tends to miss the wood for the trees. It is based on the report of a four-member expert group under N C Saxena set up following adverse findings of the Forest Advisory Committee on Forest Rights Act violations.

Truth often has many dimensions and in some cases the lesser truth may mask the greater. Balance and perspective are thus important. The two reports the minister relied upon contain some sweeping generalizations based on exaggerated inferences that appear to suffer from tunnel vision. The Niyamgiri Hills extend over 250 sq km of which only 7 sq km of one hilltop falls within the proposed mining lease area. Of this, only 3.5 sq km will be mined and backfilled in phases leaving no more than 20 ha of exposed mine face at any time. The Dongria Kondh and Kutia Kondh, who respectively inhabit the upper slopes and valleys of these hills, number less than 8,000 and are classified as primitive tribes. They practise jhum (which means that these are not primeval forests), collect fruit and herbs and live on the margins of subsistence, malnourished, illiterate, isolated. None will be displaced by mining. The laterite hilltops underlain by a hard bauxite pan do not hold rain, sustain little forest and are uninhabited. The removal of the bauxite layer and replacement of the laterite overburden with plantations will, according to the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute, actually encourage infiltration, recharge the underlying aquifer and improve the water regime to everybody’s benefit. The Saxena report, however, states that the entire Niyamgiri range may suffer a “major ecological and hydrological disaster”. The very survival of “20 per cent of the Dongria tribals” will be threatened as their habitat will be “severely disturbed” and road construction will bring in wildlife and timber poachers. Mining will destroy a significant tract of forest land leading to economic adversity for the tribals. The charge that the proposed mining area amounts to a cultural invasion of the sacred abode of the celestial Niyam Raja is contested. Earlier accounts would locate this site several km away atop Hundijali Hill. The expert groups worry about biodiversity loss and the impact of the Niyamgiri mine on a proposed South Orissa elephant corridor. They are sharply critical of violations of the Forest Rights Act, the alleged procurement of bauxite from 11 illegal Jharkhand mines and commencement of refinery expansion from one to six million tonnes before requisite settlement of individual and community tribal rights. The allegations misinterpret the law. Enclosure of 28 ha adjacent to the refinery for an approved village plantation is also seen as an illegality. Why were prior approvals and clearances repeatedly granted? The Orissa government’s counter argument is that the Forest Rights Act only came into force with the promulgation of its Rules in January 2008, and cannot be applied retrospectively to prior project clearances, action on which has sometimes been delayed by dilatory bureaucratic procedures in MoEF itself. The Saxena Committee retorts that the FRA was enacted to set right “historical injustices” suffered by the tribal people. But when does history begin? Historical injustices are often best made good by future action. Orissa too wants to industrialise, capitalising on rich mineral resources which the Supreme Court has said are national assets in regard to which tribals have entitlements but not ownership. The Fifth Schedule, PESA, now FRA and the Supreme Court’s seminal Samatha judgment of 1997 show the way towards harnessing tribal justice to national interest. The Saxena Committee’s conclusion follows that deprivation of primitive tribal groups “to benefit a private company” could “shake the faith of tribal people in the laws of the land which may have serious consequences for the security and well being of the entire country”. Quite clearly, the reference is to provoking the growth of Naxalism. The commonly cited causative factors underlying Left-wing extremism are oppression and neglect. Does the Vedanta project fit this diagnosis? Has not this project, though yet in its initial phase, started an indubitable process of transformation and kindled hope? Vedanta will make profits. Why not, if honestly earned and suitably taxed, if a good employer, and a dynamic corporate citizen acting as a development trigger with a commendable record of CSR. A tall order? Maybe. But should this not be the goal rather than adherence to a barren philosophy of touch-me-not-ism?

The Niyamgiri Hills have been untouched for centuries. Yet the Dongria Kondhs remain primitive. Why? Not on account of development but for lack of it. Yes, development often causes disturbance and even trauma. But this is soon offset by good R&R, appropriate compensation, new stakeholder partnership models, attractive income and employment opportunities and a whole multiplier effect. Vedanta is active in skill development, education, health, nutrition, provision of safe drinking water, solar lighting and formation of self-help groups on all of which it has spent over `100 crore. The company is further committed by a Supreme Court order to earmarking 5 per cent of its annual net profit or `10 crore, whichever is higher, for economic and social development of an area within a 50 km radius of the project site and to greening the area through a special purpose vehicle.

Poverty is the enemy of the environment with mounting population pressure. Tens of millions of distress migrants move across India every year for lack of development. The country needs to add 12 million jobs annually to keep abreast of a burgeoning labour force. We need faster and more inclusive and participative growth and the necessary infrastructure to sustain this. To this end, bauxite must be mined and aluminum produced. The combination of bauxite and coal in close proximity enables India to produce cheap aluminum and assume a commanding position in the global non-ferrous market. Those who have ruled the roost so far fear this prospect and have made the Dongria Kondh their mascot. Tribal India must get a good deal and historic justice. It must be enabled to progress. The environment must be enhanced. A right balance must be found. The current impasse affects not just Vedanta or Orissa. Rahul Gandhi’s rhetoric was misplaced. Stop Vedanta in the wrong manner and for the wrong reasons and we may stop India.

Workshop on Employee Provident Fund at Lanjigarh, Sept 24, 2010
Lanjigarh: A workshop on employee provident fund has been organized by Employee Provident Fund Organization, Odisha at the campus of Vedanta Aluminium Limited, Lanjigarh on September 23, 2010. Mr. Venkat Reddy, Vice-President of Vedanta Aluminium Limited inaugurated this one-day workshop aimed at creating awareness about employee provident fund. More than 70 senior officials of Vedanta and its associate companies participated in this workshop.

Mr. Bibhishan Padhan , Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Orissa explained about responsibility of employers towards employees included under Employee Provident Fund Scheme 1952. Mr. Rabindra Kumar Samal, Regional Provident Fund Commissioner (Grade II), Sub-regional office, Berhampur elaborated on various benefits given to employees under the Employee Provident Fund Scheme. Assistant Provident Fund Commissioner, Mr. Laxmidhar Sahu gave details on types of forms to be filled up by the employees and different types of benefits under PF Scheme.

Mr. Ranjan Behera, Assistant Labour Commissioner, Bhawanipatna also attended the program. Mr. Suniti Dhal, Associate Manager (HR), Vedanta Aluminium Limited thanked the guests and officials for participation in the program.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Don't stop mining, provide alternatives to displaced: FM, Sept 24, 2010

With reference to the recent cancellation of approval for Vedanta's mining project in Orissa, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee says that instead of stopping mining activity, alternatives should be provided to the displaced. The comments come even as a group of ministers (GoM) headed by Mukherjee is considering a mining ministry proposal to share 26% mining profits with those displaced by mining activity.

"Answer does not lie in the companies stopping mining activities. Answer lies in providing alternatives to those displaced-in what form we can compensate them and make them beneficiary of economic development-that is the challenge. And for that we are addressing the issue," Mukherjee said.
Don't stop mining, provide alternatives to displaced: FM
Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, also came out in support of the profit sharing mechanism.

"The proposal is good for everyone who lost their land. We support the proposal," he said.

15000 in engineering college seats vacant, private colleges in Orissa cry foul

Economic Times, Sept 23, 2010
BHUBANESWAR: At a time when Orissa is emerging as the education hub in the eastern India, non-filling of more than 15,000 seats in engineering colleges and 2000 seats in MCA programme exposes the state government’s failure to put up a good show in counseling and lackadaisical approach of some government officials.

As the final counseling session for engineering candidates in Orissa ended recently, an alarming number of 20,000 seats from the available 37,893 seats have been left vacant. Similarly, from the 3,675 seats available for the MCA programme, around 2000 seats have been left unoccupied, official sources said adding that even if the management is allowed to fill up their quota of 15% seats, more than 15,000 seats will remain vacant in the colleges in this academic session.

The Orissa figures come in sharp contrast with the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh where around three lakh students took admission in 630 colleges this academic session. The colleges in Andhra Pradesh rely on their own state and Orissa to fill up seats. Whereas Orissa, despite having a number of feeding states such as Jharkhand, Chhattishgarh, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, fail to have full-capacity students.

According to informed sources, some “unfamiliar” processes like e-counseling, gaps in communication and sudden changes of counseling dates deprived huge number students in taking admissions in the colleges.

“The procedure of e-counseling stood as a major bottleneck for rural students who are not either not exposed to computer networking or lack e-infrastructure. Absence of proper communication through print and electronic media also played its role. Most of the students could not know till the last moment in which colleges they have been selected to get admission,” said Antaryami Badu, joint chairperson of Aryan Institute of Engineering and Technology.

Sources said – in some instances - suspected hijacking of passwords by government appointed nodal officers also resulted in much harassment to students and parents. The nodal officials – using the hijacked passwords – sent students deserving admission in standard colleges to some poorly managed colleges. This kind of irregularity saw that many colleges not getting good enrollment of students while others walked with many.

The students and engineering colleges had alleged that the options registered by students had been tampered with. On this allegation, the board has assured to investigate into the matter.

"The investigation regarding the irregularities in e-admission is going on," Industries Secretary Sourav Garg said.

Following allegations of tampering of best option registered by students, the Orissa private engineering college association [OPECA] had demanded re-counseling. Accordingly, two spot counseling for admission into engineering, MBA, MCA and other technical streams were conducted on August 21 and 22. Only 2200 seats in engineering colleges were filled up.

General Secretary OPECA Binod Das said, “non-filling up seats will have indirect ramifications on Orissa’s future economy. Orissa will not have adequate share in the technical job market.

Mr Das further demanded that the private colleges be allowed to fill up the vacant after all counseling is exhausted within the prescribed norms. He also demanded to hike the AIEEE quota to 25% from the existing 15%.

“Besides, after completion of one-round of JEE counseling, all vacant seats, including the ones reserved for NRIs, should be handed over engineering colleges to fill up the vacant posts,” Mr Das said adding that the state government in its affidavit filed recently before the Supreme Court had nearly agreed to our view points.

Sources said that the Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT), which controls the private engineering colleges, is not in favour of holding a second Orissa Joint Entrance Examinations on the ground that it lower the standard of education. Despite repeated attempts, BPUT registrar Dr Achyutananda Acharya could not be reached for his comments.

Mukesh Kumar: "We Don’t Want a Repeat of Niyamgiri"

Fobes India, Sept 24, 2010
Mukesh Kumar, head of Vedanta Aluminium’s Orissa operations, talks to Prince Mathews Thomas about losing the battle with the Dongaria Konds

Mukesh Kumar

Age: 48 years
Profile: Chief Operating Officer, Vedanta Aluminium Limited, Lanjigarh
Education: B.Tech, Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh. M.Tech, Doctoral Studies - Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
Career: Three decades in the engineering and metals industries. Before joining the Vedanta Group, he was COO, Engineers India Ltd and head of its business unit in the Middle East

What has been the loss for Vedanta?
We have suffered for three years. Already Rs. 8,000 crore has been invested in the area. Now it will take us another two or three years to start a mining project.

The environment ministry revoked the clearance to your bauxite mining plan in Orissa based on the N.C. Saxena report. What has been the impact?
As of now, the project is going on as it is. Let me make one thing clear. We are not anywhere in the picture. The mines do not belong to us but to the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC). The proposal to mine was submitted by them. Our interest is that we are having an agreement with OMC to source 150 million tonnes of bauxite. The real dispute is between the state and the Centre.

But the Supreme Court ruling in 2008 that approved the mining project was directly concerned with you.

The fact is that the Supreme Court ruling had cleared the mining project. This is the first time in the history of the Ministry of Environment and Forests that a project’s clearance has been revoked after clearing the first phase [of environmental clearance]. After the Supreme Court cleared the case, no one can take up the issue again except for the President of India. So I don’t know why things have changed now.

Do you think that the issue has become political, especially after Rahul Gandhi aired his concerns about tribal rights?
It is not right for me to comment on this. The project is economically and physically viable. If one traces back, it was demanded by the Congress party on November 28, 1996, in the Parliament. It had said that the bauxite deposit in Orissa should be developed. That was the growth vision for Kalahandi. Now I don’t know what has happened suddenly.

But the N.C. Saxena Committee had cited violation of Forests Rights Act by Vedanta, including that the consent of the Dongaria Kond tribe was not taken.

That is wrong. In fact, in the Forests Rights Act, there is no such provision that public consent has to be taken to clear a project. And even if one takes into account the community rights, here in this case it was not applicable. The mining lease area is on top of the Niyamgiri hills. The hill top does not have any vegetation and thus no grazing of livestock or farming can be done.

This committee [headed by N.C. Saxena] had gone to the area with a local NGO, which had beforehand made sure that some cows were brought there so that the committee officials could take photographs. For the seven years that we have been here, we have never seen any animals grazing there. Anyway, if people are staying at 500 metres above sea level [like the Dongaria Kond tribals are] and have a lot of grazing place around them, would they travel 2 km beyond and at a much higher height to graze their livestock?

One of the alternatives for deposits in Orissa is on the Gandhamardan hills, which also has religious significance in Hindu mythology.

Yes, we realise that the Gandhamardan hill is also auspicious and is sensitive. We do not want a repeat of Niyamgiri.

Are there other options to source bauxite for the refinery?
We are talking to the Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation and are in the final stages of negotiations for the supply of bauxite from the state. But bauxite from Gujarat is not economically viable. There are only a few options.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Prioritizing the criteria for location of Innovation University or IIT across India

Current Science, Vol 99, No. 6, Sept 25, 2010
PDF Link

Fire in train engine, Sept 22, 2010
Bhawanipatna (Orissa), Sept 22 (PTI) A fire broke out in the engine of the Howrah-Koraput Samaleswari Express train at Kesinga railway station, about 50 km from here today but it was put out immediately, police sources said.Railway personnel quickly controlled the fire in the engine traction motor, they said.Another engine was requisitioned to take the train to Kandel, the sources said.

No Book and No Teacher in Kalahandi

Shared by Dr Sanjib Kumar Karmee
Samaja, Sept 22, 2010

Niyamgiri, Vedanta and Our Sipahi

Shared by Dr Sanjib Kumar Karmee
Samaja, Sept 23, 2010

Doctors to support healthcare in Orissa

The Hindu, Sept 23, 2010
Aim to facilitate and supplement the existing healthcare facilities, with special focus on health education French non-governmental organisation Doctors of the World (Medecins du Monde) has tied up with the Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) to provide health care facility and awareness in Bhawanipatna in Orissa.

Talking to reporters here on Wednesday, Pierre Micheletti, former president of Medecins du Monde (MDM) said the aim is to facilitate and supplement the existing healthcare facilities, with special focus on health education. “We do not want to duplicate what the government is doing but support the existing facilities in Bhawantipatna,” Dr. Micheletti said, adding that the State was chosen as the VHAI has been working there for several years.

Explaining the rationale behind providing its services in India, Dr. Micheletti said that the organisation was interested in learning from the Indian civil society groups, and possibly replicating its experiences in other developing countries. “India being a vibrant democracy with a huge human resource, it has the potential to train people who can then provide services in other parts of the world,” he said. Also, India being a producer of generic medicines and because a civil society culture is already in existence, it would be easy for the Doctors of the World to provide humanitarian aid in the field of healthcare.

Promoting healthcare
The organisation has been running a project in 10 slums of Jaipur since 2007 in collaboration with a local non-governmental organisation to promote maternal and child healthcare. The three-year project in Orissa will focus on malaria and Tuberculosis as the region is prone to these diseases. However, the larger aim of Dr. Micheletti is to “de-Westernise the humanitarian movement.” Non-governmental humanitarian aid is mostly dominated by the Western model of organisation, funding and operational visibility which may or may not be successful in developing countries, he said. They are now looking for partners and allies outside the Western countries.

Kendriya Vidyalaya fails to meet people’s expectations

The Pioneer, Sept 23, 2010
Biswajit Padhi, Khariar

With the inauguration of second Kendriya Vidyalaya of Nuapada district in Khariar within a span of one month, MP Kalahandi has scored another victory. While calling it a victory of the people, chief guest of the function MP Kalahandi Bhakta Charan Das said he is committed to the development of education infrastructure of Nuapada district, which has one of the lowest literacy rates in the State.

He exhorted young men to come above party lines and use the elected representatives as slaves to bring development. MLA Khariar Hitesh Bagarti thanked people for their selfless contribution, which made the unattainable task attainable. Nuapada Collector PK Hota listed out the other development projects, which are underway in the district. Nuapada is one of the backward and border districts of Odisha where the official literacy rate is only 42 per cent with women literacy rate a meagre 26 per cent.

Sources in the State Education Department admit privately that the figures have been inflated to justify some of the Government spending in the district. Though this is the second Kendriya Vidyalaya in the district, parents though elated are apprehensive of the quality of education in the newly opened central schools.

Only three out of the six teachers in the primary classes are appointed by Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan and the remaining are local teachers. This puts a question mark on the quality of teaching, said a parent on condition of anonymity.

What has really pained the public here is that the new policy of admission floated by the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan doesn’t recognise merit.

All the admissions are based on guidelines which give precedence to working status of the parents, said Tapas Kumar Pati. Out of 40 seats in each class, 16 seats will be reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as per the guidelines. The new guideline has ensured more than 50 per cent of the seats going to parents belonging to reserved category, which has raised doubts in the minds of the parents, admitted a parent on condition of anonymity.

Principal Bhagaban Nayak delivered the welcome address and headmaster of Raja AT High School KK Das proposed the vote of thanks.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Orissa appoints 140 doctors on adhoc basis, Sept 22, 2010
Bhubaneswar, Sept 21 (PTI) With water-borne disease spreading in tribal dominated districts, the Orissa government today appointed 140 doctors on an adhoc basis, officials said."At least 20 doctors from among the 140 persons will be posted in cholera-hit Rayagada district," said health and family welfare minister Prasanna Acharya.Of the 140 doctors, 77 were earlier appointed on contract basis, he said adding that the government decided to go for adhoc posting as the Orissa Public Service Commission (OPSC) takes a lot of time for making regular appointments."The service of the adhoc doctors will be regularised in due course with proper permission from the OPSC," the minister said.The move comes in the wake of an outbreak of diarrhea and cholera in certain districts besides new diseases like dengue, swine flu and others rearing their heads in the state.As many as 56 doctors, appointed as assistant surgeons, were given appointments in KBK (Kalahandi-Balangir- Koraput) districts, sources said.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Voice of Western (Odisha)

Kalahandi Express, Sept 5-11, 2010

A New Central School in (Raj) Khariar

  • Probably, beside one in Nuapada, a new central school (Kendriya Vidyalaya) in (Raj) Khariar will start soon as per our local MP who had taken this issue to the ministry.
  • There was problem with the documentaion and land in Dharamgarh for the central school. Sub-collector of Dharamgarh has promised us to take all necesaary step to make it possible in Dharamgarh in next year. Our local MP also promised to take the issue so that local demand of Dharamgarh gets fulfilled.

Monday, September 20, 2010

In Naxal hotbed, varsity shows the way to development

Indian Express, Sept 20, 2010

Located hundreds of kilometres away from Orissa’s corridors of power, Koraput mostly evokes images of impoverished tribals dying of starvation or cholera-like epidemic. The added menace of Maoists spreading tentacle in the district since the past six years has made the place a veritable hell. However, this image notwithstanding, since last one year about 300 boys and girls have flocked to Koraput to study anthropology, sociology, English, Oriya and journalism at the Central University there. The university, which a fortnight ago completed a year of its existence and works from a once-dilapidated Central government building, may well be the brightest spot in the Maoist-scarred region.
Since the past few years Koraput has become the new hub of Naxal activity in the state. The series of major rebel attacks in the district, starting with the February 2004 one in which over 1,000 Maoists attacked Koraput town and looted 200 sophisticated guns and other weapons worth Rs 50 crore, has made the district a danger zone. There have been other big attacks in recent times, including the April 2009 raid on public sector aluminium major Nalco’s bauxite mine in Damanjodi in which 10 jawans of the Central Industrial Security Force were killed. This April, 11 policemen, including 10 jawans of the elite Special Operation Group, were blown off by a landmine blast while clearing the road. 

If such bloodletting in its backyard was not enough, the Central University at Landiguda village near Koraput town faced other daunting challenges as it did not have its own premises and had to take the decrepit building of the Central Silk Board on rent. But its Vice-Chancellor Surabhi Banerjee, currently the senior-most woman V-C in the country, was not deterred by the situation.
“I knew it was a Maoist hotbed. But if the Maoists say they are working for the development of tribals, are we not making an effort towards development too?” asked Banerjee.
Banerjee, who deftly divides her time between Koraput and New Delhi, networking with the HRD Ministry officials for getting more facilities and more teaching disciplines, faced more challenges as the Naveen Patnaik government did not offer much help, despite all verbal assurances. “We had to build everything from the scratch — starting from the building to getting hostels for students. In a place like Koraput there’s hardly any building worth taking on rent. The biggest problem was getting faculty here as the distance and location of the varsity was a deterrent. One has to travel by road or board a train and that means a loss of three days. Several times people from Delhi just don’t come here saying that it’s a backbreaking journey,” said Banerjee.
Despite such challenges, in the first year of its existence 470 students applied for admission to MA courses of which 150 got through. Of these 150, 13 were tribals and 29 Dalits. Incidentally, there were 77 women students compared to 73 men. This year, there are 15 tribal students among the 148.
The university now has its own video-conferencing facility which was used by Sam Pitroda to deliver the first foundation day lecture from New Delhi.
“We have not faced any Maoist threat since the day we came here. It’s been peaceful and a happy time at the university. I was selected for the Indian Institute of Mass Communication at Dhenkanal, but I chose this place as it’s the only university in Orissa offering MA in the subject,” said Sujit Sahoo, a second-year MA Journalism and Mass Communication student at the varsity. 

Banerjee has ambitious plans for the university, including its own medical college and hospital. In the past few months, the university has signed a slew of MoUs with eminent institutions for starting courses in health sciences, MBA, MCA, legal education and biodiversity, among several others.
It has signed MoU with the Public Health Foundation of India for establishing a School of Health Sciences where Masters in Public Health Management, nursing sciences and allied health sciences will be taught. Similarly, an MoU with British Council has been signed for a course in spoken English. Another MoU will be signed with Narayana Hrudayalaya, Bangalore, for training in medical and allied health sciences. Banerjee said the trained manpower will be a boon for the ailing healthcare sector in the region. Jamia Hamdard University, New Delhi, has extended help in the field of allied sciences. As the university enters its second year, it intends to tie up with the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation for setting up a School of Bio-Diversity and Conservation of Natural Resources, and with the Chennai Institute of Mathematical Studies that will offer a five-year integrated M Sc in Mathematics. From the next academic year, M Sc courses would be offered in information science. Besides, within the next two to three years, the university will shift to its own premises at Sunabeda in Koraput. The campus will be spread across 450 acres.
Keeping in mind the local tribal population, Banerjee is planning a Centre for Tribal Welfare and Communication Development. The university has already conducted courses for tribals in mushroom cultivation.


Kalahandi in grip of diarrhoea

The Pioneer, Sept 15, 2010
Bikash Khemka | Bhawanipatna

After Rayagada, Kalahandi district is coming under the grip of diarrhoea. Last year, 63 persons had died due to the epidemic unofficially whereas the district administration had claimed only 26 deaths.

This year, the number of diarrhoea deaths is likely to go up as the living conditions of the villagers have not improved. The reason behind the deaths is the polluted drinking water.

Last year, Health Minister Prasanna Acharya had visited Lanjigarh block to take stock of the situation and committed to fill 71 doctors’ posts which were lying vacant in Kalahandi district. But it is yet to materialise.

In the first week of the current month, six persons had died in Koksara block due to diarrhoea. This week, two persons have reportedly died in Lanjigarh block and one died in Gudialipadar GP of Bhawanipatna block. Reports said that at least five persons, including two 14-year-old girls, have been affected by diarrhoea in Gudialipadar GP. The person who died in GP on Monday was a 55-year-old woman Baidehi Naik.

This is despite CDMO Sushil Rath’s claim that no death has been reported from Gudialipadar GP.

On Tuesday, in village Kankutru in Lanjigarh block, Tirime Majhi (40) died and her daughter Muni (15) was admitted to the local health centre in a critical condition. Another person, Pati Majhi (48) of Basantpada in the block also died due to diarrhoea. A doctors’ team has been pressed into service and patients are being brought to the health centre with the help of VAL ambulance in Lanjigarh.

In Koksara block, six affected persons are being treated in the hospital. There are also reports that in Jaipatna and Thuamul-Rampur blocks, several people have been affected by the epidemic.

According to official reports, all possible measures are being taken by the administration to combat the diarrhoea in all affected blocks.

Open University to come up with IGNOU’s cooperation

The Pioneer, Sept 15, 2010
PNS | Bhubaneswar

The State Government has decided to establish an Open University with financial and technical assistance of the Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU) and Distance Education Council.

This was decided in a meeting at the State Secretariat on Monday between Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and vice-chancellor of IGNOU and chairman of Distance Education Council Professor Rajsekhar Pillai.

The State Government will provide all facilities for the Open University. The land for the Open University will be provided in the campus of the Utkal University.

In the first phase this university will be functional at all sub-division level. In every sub-division one college will act as nodal college or study centre.

The Odisha Open University Bill will be placed in the next session of Assembly. The Chief Minister expected that this Open University will stress on the higher education of the tribal people. When set up, Odisha Open University will be the 14th Open University in India.

Among others, Higher Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister Aditya Prasad Padhi and Secretary of Higher Education Madhusudan Padhi were present.

Gastro claims 144 lives in five districts

The Pioneer, Sept 14, 2010
PNS | Bhubaneswar

The health situation in Rayagada, Nuapada, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Malkangiri districts on Monday worsened as cholera, diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases took an epidemic form with the alleged death of around 144 tribals due to the diseases. The official toll has been pegged at 39.

The disease spread to 12 more villages on Monday, taking the total number of villages affected in the district to 138. The worst affected Rayagada district is among the most underdeveloped parts of the country and is often in the news for starvation deaths.

People in remote parts of the districts are still taking mango kernels and tamarind seeds as their principal food in absence of an effective delivery system to provide subsidised rations a their doorsteps.

Though the major reason of the spread of the diseases is water contamination, nothing fruitful has so far been done to provide purified water to the people of the affected areas of the districts.

"According to medical reports, many people got affected as they drank contaminated water. The Government has undertaken a massive chlorination drive in all the affected villages. Additional teams of doctors and paramedics have been dispatched to Rayagada and other districts contain the spread of the disease," Health Minister Prasanna Acharya said.

The Minister informed that for institutional treatment of the affected, the Government had increased the incentive for bringing a patient to hospital from `100 to `200.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said Health Minister Acharya and Secretary Anu Garg would visit Rayagada on Tuesday to make an on the spot assessment of the situation.

"The Health Minister and Secretary will visit Rayagada district on Tuesday. The State Government has sent 30 doctors and 40 paramedics to Rayagada to help our doctors teams deployed there," the Chief Minister said.

Meanwhile, refuting allegations that poor people in the KBK region died of gastroenteritis by consuming mango kernel and other 'uneatable' stuff in recent months, the Odisha Government on Monday claimed that `2 a kg rice scheme was doing well in the area.

"Alegations that people are deprived of cheap rice in KBK region is incorrect. The scheme is doing very well across the State," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told mediapersons.

Reacting to the opposition Congress allegations on cholera and diarrhoea deaths in the tribal-dominated areas, Patnaik said the State Government had taken adequate steps to contain spread of water-borne diseases in the southern region.

A Congress team led by its working president Lalatandu Bidyadhar Mohapatra, however, claimed that poor people had fallen ill by consuming mango kernel and other uneatable stuff in Kashipur block of Rayagada due to non-availability of cheap rice.

"A large number of people in Kashipur showed us dry mango kernel being consumed by them. In the absence of safe drinking water, people get infection by consuming water from springs and ditches," he alleged.

Claiming that 45 people have succumbed to diarrhoea and cholera in Kashipur alone, Mohapatra said over 100 people had died in Rayagada.

"The situation is totally out of control in Rayagada where people are dying without medicines, water and food since the last three months," he said.

Describing the situation in KBK region as the 'worst', the OPCC working president said while gastroenteritis had taken epidemic form, the State Government was yet to respond to it.

The Congress leader also alleged that the people in Rayagada district were deprived of jobs under NREG.

Panchayati Raj Minister Prafulla Samal, however, claimed that NREG was being properly implemented in the State.

‘Odisha 3rd in attracting investment’

The Pioneer, Sept 12, 2010
PNS | Bhubaneswar

Gujarat has emerged as a leader among top five States which are Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, in becoming a preferred investment destination for 20 States as on March 31, 2010, according to a study undertaken by ASSOCHAM.

While releasing the study, Chamber secretary general DS Rawat said, Odisha has attracted investments of `98,5929 crore. However, Odisha gave least priority to investing in irrigation development.

Mining has got the highest shares in live investments in the States. Odisha, of total proposals worth `9,85,929 crore, attracted 42.3 per cent in electricity, 34.0 per cent in manufacturing, 7.3 per cent in services, 0.3 per cent in real estate, 0.5 per cent in irrigation and 15.5 per cent in mining.

NRO bats for educational balance among different regions in the State

The Pioneer, Sept 6, 2010
PNS | Bhawanipatna

Non-Resident Odias (NROs) laud the step taken by the State's Department of Higher Education to establish an Odisha State Open University.

However, it is surprising to note that the headquarters of the Odisha State Open University has been proposed in Bhubaneswar in the preliminary draft Bill without any public discussion, they rue.

This is totally unjust and irrational, feels leading NRO Digambara Patra. In any modern democratic society nowadays, the State or national level institutions are distributed regionally all over the region, said Patra citing the example of African nations which have three capitals.

With the modern technology and communication, distance hardly plays any role for Open University education. On the other hand, according to economists, establishment of any such institution do play an important role to indirectly boost the local economy. Unfortunately most of the time Odisha's capital region has taken all these benefits keeping the backward regions in the dark, he lamented.

Earlier, State-level universities such as OUAT, Utkal University of Culture, Sri Jagannath Sanskrit University, National Law University, etc were already established in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri regions. These institutions have directly boosted the local economy.

In this context the proposed Open University should come in a backward place which is far away from the State capital and logically deserves to balance the existing regional imbalances, he justified.

Kalahandi/Nuapada regions are not only backward and far away compared to many other locations in coastal and eastern Odisha, but also is the central district among the backward KBK, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Bargarh and Boudh districts. Bhubaneswar is the central location in the eastern bordering Odisha from Jaleshwar to Parlakhemundi, similarly Kalahandi region is the central location in the west bordering Odisha from Baljod in Sundargarh to Motu in Malkangiri, he pointed out.

The headquarters of the Odisha State Open University should rather come in Kalahandi/Nuapada region as it will boost the local economy of this backward place and will not harm in growth of the institution, he said. In addition it may help to dissipate growing regionalism in the State and balance the existing regional imbalances, he added.

It is strongly suggested and requested that the preliminary Bill should be modified and the headquarters of the proposed Open University should be located in Kalahandi/Nuapada region, Patra urged.

Kalahandi labourers hold demo, seek justice

The Pioneer, Sept 5, 2010
Pioneer News Service | Bhawanipatna

Hundreds of labourers of Kalahandi district staged a dharna before the office of the Superintendent of Police on Saturday demanding justice to them in the wake of the brutal attack on some workers by outside elements on Tuesday night when the L&T management directed thousands of labourers to stop the company’s extension work for 15 days.

It was already reported earlier that when L&T could not fulfil the workers’ demands there was a hue and cry and ransacking of its office inside the Vedanta Aluminium Ltd’s premises at Lanjigarh on Tuesday.

Kalahandi SP Sudha Singh told The Pioneer that no outside elements were involved in the incident. It was completely an internal matter, she said.

However, she further said she has registered the labourers’ complaints against the accused outsiders on Saturday and, accordingly, proper action would be taken.

K’handi lawyers bat for better justice delivery system

The Pioneer, Sept 1, 2010
PNS | Bhawanipatna

A general body meeting of the Kalahandi Bar Association was held here on Monday along with people’s representatives and mediapersons to discuss public interest in general and the justice delivery system in Kalahandi district in particular.

The agenda of the meeting was immediate posting of a Special Judge (Vigilance) and Family Court which has already been notified, construction of District Judge Court building at Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi-Nuapda Judgeship, establishment of a permanent bench of the Odisha High Court in western Odisha particularly in Kalahandi, immediate implementation of settlement operation and notification for mutation of land and a bypass road of National Highway-201 at Bhawanipatna.

Bar Association president Jagannath Mund told reporters that the lawyers would take to streets if demands are not fulfilled.

Junagarh MLA Gobardhan Das said that in 2001 the State Government had decided to post a Special Judge (Vigilance) in Kalahandi, but unfortunately the commitment has not yet been fulfilled. He has raised this issue in the Assembly, he added.

Bar Association secretary Subrat Bohidar, assistant secretary Sailesh Behera, ex-president Gajendra Padhi, treasurer Subhransu Sahoo, executive members Hemanta Chauhan, Hareram Chalan and Nihar Ranjan Mishra were present at the meeting. The association also condemned the Bagalpur police firing and misbehaviour of the police with a High Court judge.

Orissa in grip of cholera; toll rises to 140

CNN-IBN, Sept 13, 2010

Bhubaneswar: The death toll due to cholera in Orissa has risen to 140 following a fresh casualty in worst-hit Rayagada district.
Just last month Orissa's Kalahandi and Rayagada districts were in the limelight when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the ruling Biju Janta Dal held parallel rallies there to woo tribal voters. But now when a deadly outbreak of cholera claims nearly 140 lives in the region, the political luminaries who had claimed to be soldiers fighting for the cause of the tribals, have strangely vanished.
Paranga Majhi, a villager, said, “We don't have any source of safe drinking water. So we are forced to use water from dirty rivers and ponds. That's why we are falling ill.”

35 people have died in Rayagada alone. Kalahandi, Nuapada, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj and Malkangiri are among the worst affected. The rising death toll has pressed the panic button in the state health department. An emergency team of 50 doctors and paramedics have been rushed in.

Bikas Patnaik, Deputy Director, Health Services, Orissa commented, “We are taking all possible steps to provide clean water immediately where required apart from providing emergency health care."
The government is going one step further to tackle the cholera outbreak. It has announced a cash award of Rs 100 for those who bring cholera patients to government hospitals, a saree or a dhoti and a soap for the patients themselves. But the bigger concern is the lack of adequate medical staff.
According to the population of Orissa, the state should ideally have 12,000 doctors. But now there are only 3000 odd government doctors serving the state. What is more shocking is the fact that more than 1000 sanctioned doctor's posts are lying vacant in the state for past many years. No wonder the health service scenario in the state especially in rural Orissa is quite pathetic.

Orissa calls disaster force to tackle cholera

Indian Express, Sept 14, 2010

With number of deaths due to diarrhoea and cholera in Orissa’s Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) districts and more specifically Rayagada district on the rise, the state government on Monday pressed the Orissa Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), specialised in search and rescue operations during disasters, to bring in patients from inaccessible areas.
In a re-run of the 2007 cholera outbreak in which 150 people died in Rayagada alone, 49 people have died in the district due to cholera and diarrhoea till now.
Despite the administration pressing more medical teams to the affected areas in Rayagada, many more were reported sick. About 666 patients from 102 villages have been treated over the past weeks in the district.
The near-epidemic situation in the districts has been caused by contaminated water. In Rayagada, six persons have died since Sunday while three died in Gajapati district. 

The announcement doubling cash incentive to bring in patients from interior villages have had little effect on the deathtoll.
The Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik asked state Health and Family Welfare Minister Prasana Acharya and Health Secretary Anu Garg to rush to Rayagada.

Orissa to start dam project in drought-prone KBK region soon

IBNlive, Sept 17, 2010
The project having potential of irrigating about 31,830 hectare of land in Balangir (29,850 hectare) and Sonepur (1980 hectare) districts, would have 1230 square km of catchment area. Earthen dam of 1410 meter was required to be built for the project.Of the total 29 villages to be affected, 16 villages to be fully submerged due to the dam prorject. Other 13 villages would be partially affected, they said adding that the state government had decided to rehabilitate the people according to the norms of the state government's Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) policy-2006.To rehabilitate 1266 families belonging to four villages, rehabilitation colony was being developed while the government had identified two other places to settle others, they said. In Bolangir-Sonepur districts, irrigation potential is only three per cent which is lowest in the world, official sources said adding that there was no major irrigation project in Balangir.As Balangir receives scanty rainfall, the district faces acute drinking water problem besides water to the agricultural land.

NEAA suspends green nod to Vedanta's bauxite mining project

The Economic Times, Sept 17, 2010
NEW DELHI: Vedanta Resources got another jolt on Friday with the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) suspending the green nod to its $1.7 billion bauxite mining project in Orissa and asking the environment ministry to "revisit" the proposal.

Yesterday, the company, in its reply to the showcause notice slapped by the environment ministry, had claimed that it had not violated any forest rights at the project site in Niyamgiri hills of Kalahandi district.

Last month, the ministry had rejected the stage-II forest clearance for the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) and Sterlite Bauxite mining project citing a series of violations and issued a showcause notice in this direction to file a reply.

However, in the ruling that was made public on Friday, the NEAA took serious note that the environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report which formed the basis for the ministry for granting clearance was never placed before the public for hearing.

"The EIA which was conducted in 2005 and on the basis of which the clearance was granted, was never in public domain for local people during the two public hearings held in Raiguda and Kalahandi during 2003," it said while terming the action as non-compliance of ministry's notification.

Moreover, it said, a perusal of rapid EIA by (Vimta Labs) reveals that it lacks analysis in respect of human miseries which the project is likely to inflict.

The Authority ruled that "therefore it remits the matter to the Ministry with direction to revisit environment clearance including the aspect of public hearing and take appropriate action. Till this process is over, the environment clearance stands suspended."

The Authority had examined "whether environmental clearance suffered from inadequacy of safeguards" as the Supreme Court on 8 August, 2008, had granted clearance for diverting 660.749 ha (the project site) of forest land to undertake bauxite mining.

"This order has also exposed the functioning of the EAC which gave nod to the project even though the EIA report was not available to the locals to study its impact. This is violation of the rules," said Supreme Court advocate Ritwick Dutta who had fought the case on behalf of the petitioners including local NGOs.

The company has been maintaining that there has been no violation on its part and it is a law-abiding company having high respect for the law of the land.

Orissa mulls three options on Niyamgiri

The Financial Express, Sept 17, 2010
Bhubaneswar: Even though Vedanta Resources has initiated the process of saving its plant from closure, the Orissa government is yet to take a decision on the revival of the Niyamgiri bauxite mines in Kalahandi district.
Acting on the report of the Saxena Committee and the recommendation of the Forest Advisory Committee, the Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) withdrew the forest and environment clearance accorded to Niyamgiri mines which had been granted to the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC).
On August 24, the MoEF, which had accorded Stage I forest clearance for the Niyamgiri mines, rejected the state government’s proposal for giving Stage II forest clearance. The MoEF denied the clearance on the ground that the Forest Conservation Act, the Environment Protection Act and the Forest Right Act had been violated.
“We are yet to take a decision about our future course of action on Niyamgiri,” said Orissa steel & mines minister Raghunath Mohanty. “We have three options,” he added, elaborating, “either we will again approach the MoEF for reconsideration of its decision, or we may go to the Supreme Court challenging the MoEF’s decision, or we may abandon the mines.”
However, sources in the OMC said serious thought is being given to approach the MoEF and clarify that the ground on which the forest clearance has been withdrawn is not justified. Since the Niyamgiri bauxite mines project is being implemented as per the guidelines of the Supreme Court, the state government is also planning to move the apex court challenging the MoEF decision.
Even though the lease agreement for the Niyamgiri mines, which promises about 78 million tonne of bauxite deposits, is yet to be signed with the OMC, the latter has firmed up a joint venture with Sterlite, a group company of Vedanta Resources, for operation of the mines.
The joint venture has been approved by the Supreme Court, and the joint venture company has already invested Rs 110 crore for the periphery development and other welfare works in the mining areas.

Govt trashes Vedanta reply

Hindustan Times, Sept 17, 2010
Tightening it screws over Anil Aggarwal promoted Vedanta Resources, the environment ministry has claimed that its view were never sought on the company plan to expand its aluminum refinery in Orissa. Vedanta in a reply to the ministry’s show cause notice on August 31 for cancelling environment clearance to its plant in Kalahandi district had said the ministry’s clearance for six fold expansion was not required. The reply was submitted on Wednesday.
The firm had reportedly contended that the clearance was granted under Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006, which didn’t require a separate approval for expansion. Any expansion within the premises of the approved project was considered deemed approved.
The ministry does not seem to agree and is likely to ask the firm whether it sought ministry’s views about its expansion plans or not. “Obviously, if you increase the size of the plant its environment impact will be more. It has to be examined,” said a government functionary.
What has amazed the ministry is that the facts now being raised by Vedanta were never brought before the N.C. Saxena committee, which had inspected the plant in Lanjigarh and sought explanation about the expansion.
“No such explanation was given,” said a panel member Pramod Kant, who had visited the firm and given details of the expansion-related work.
The firm had started six-fold expansion of its refinery in Lanjigrah without obtaining ministry’s clearance. The refinery got permission for output of one million tonnes in 2003 and had applied for expansion in 2007, for which permission is yet to be given.
If the expansion is allowed, the entire bauxite reserves in Nyamgiri hills will be exhausted in four years, creating an ecological havoc, the report said.
What is apparent is that the issue of cancellation of clearance to Vedanta is heading for a long haul. The ministry is willing to hear Vedanta officials on the show cause notice after examining the reply.
But, if the firm is aggrieved with the ministry’s final view it can approach the Supreme Court, which had approved the project in 2008.

Vedanta paid price for breaking law: Rahul Gandhi

The Economic Times, Sept 15, 2010

KOLKATA: In a development that could soothe the frayed nerves of investors, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Thursday decoupled the environment ministry’s rejection of Vedanta’s bid to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills from other projects waiting for the government’s go-ahead.

Mr Gandhi told a press conference in Kolkata that action against Vedanta’s project should not be seen as part of a “corporate versus tribals” issue, but as one that falls in the violation of law.

“What was going on there (Niyamgiri hills in Orissa’s Kalahandi district) was illegal. It is not an issue of corporates versus tribals. The real issue is illegal mining. It is criminal,” Mr Gandhi said.

Mr Gandhi, who anchored his party’s biggest tribal outreach on the environment ministry’s action against Vedanta, said he would be in the vanguard of every movement that struggles for the legitimate demands of marginalised sections. He referred to his 2008 remark that he was the tribals’ “sipahi” in Delhi.

“I have a soft corner for all Indians. But there are some Indians who do not get the same kind of benefits as others do,” he said.

On its part, Vedanta has denied that it violated laws in Niyamgiri. “Vedanta is a law-abiding company and has high respect for the law of the land,” Vedanta’s chief operating officer of Lanjigarh project, Mukesh Kumar, told ET.

He also said the denial of permission for bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills would not impact the operation of its Lanjigarh refinery and that efforts are on to obtain other mines.

Coming back to Mr Gandhi’s media interaction, he also stressed the need for a more acceptable land acquisition package. “We cannot allow transfer of land from poor to rich with no benefits going to the poor,” he said.

While acknowledging that hurdles cannot be allowed to come in the way of development, Mr Gandhi said resistance to land acquisition can be overcome only through a package that is a mix of cash and annuity benefits. “You need to acquire land for development of roads and railways. It is a fact. Haryana has a new land acquisition policy which is helpful for the poor,” he said.

It may be recalled that Sonia Gandhi had last week asked the government to emulate the Haryana model while working out its rehabilitation and relief bill.

Vedanta: No plans of quitting Orissa

IBNlive, Sept 15, 2010

New Delhi: Vedanta on Wednesday submitted a reply to the Ministry of Environment and Forest in response to a showcause notice filed by the environment ministry inquiring why the plant should not be shut down for violating environment laws.
The Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had on August 31 issued a showcase notice to Vedanta and had also stated that if a reply did not come within 30 days the plant would have to be shut down.
Vedanta has been accused by the Ministry of Environment and Forest for not taking consent of the tribals under the Forest Rights Act for violations of conditions under Environment Protection Act and violations under Forest Conservation Act by taking over community forest land without the permission of the tribal population residing in the area. 

Vedanta in its reply on Wednesday has stated that it has documentary proof that no violations were made, that they do not plan to quit Orissa and are in fact looking at sourcing bauxite from Gujarat to keep their refinery running at Kalahandi Orissa.
Vedanta also stated that Orissa accounts for 70 per cent of the country’s bauxite reserves with nearly 3000 million tones of bauxite. And if an aluminium plant cannot operate out of the state then it can’t anywhere else in the country.

RITES, SAIL to sign pact on wagon manufacturing unit

The Financial Express, Sept 14, 2010

New Delhi: RITES, a public sector unit of Indian Railways, will sign an agreement with Steel Authority of India (SAIL) on Tuesday to set up a wagon manufacturing factory at Kulti in West Bengal. The factory will have a capacity to manufacture 1,200 wagons per annum.
“The project cost is envisaged to be around Rs 85 crore in phase I going up to Rs 120 crore in phase-II,” the railway ministry said. The agreement will be signed by SAIL director (finance) Soilesh Bhattacharya and RITES MD VK Aggarwal in the presence of steel minister Virbhadra Singh and railway board chairman Vivek Sahai.
In addition to manufacturing 1,200 wagons, the factory will have the capacity to rehabilitate 300 wagons. The factory can manufacture BOXN type wagons including specialised high-end wagons, the ministry said. It can also undertake manufacturing modern stainless steel wagons with marginal investment in plant and machinery, the release stated.
As per sources, SAIL will provide its surplus land at Kulti for construction of the factory. Railways has planned to increase the supply of wagons by procuring 18,000 units this fiscal.
Railway minister Mamata Banerjee has also announced plans to set up five wagon factories in joint venture or PPP mode at Secunderabad, Barddhaman, Bhubaneshwar/Kalahandi, Guwahati and Haldia.
Railways has also issued draft wagon investment policy to encourage companies to invest in wagons so as to increase the availability of wagons with the national transporter.