Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tribals need Industry and Development: Dongria Kondhas

Contributor: Rosaline Naik
Dongria Kondhas give memorandum to District Collector demanding Industry

“Provide electricity, water and roads, give industry and development to the adivashi”, this was one of the slogans of more than 400 tribal Dongria Kondhas living at the foothills of the Niyamgiri hills who gathered at Bhawanipatna to give a memorandum to the District Collector of Kalahandi, Orissa demanding industrialization and development.

In the memorandum, the tribal people demanded development, health, education for their children which industrialization will bring with it. To give the memorandum to the District Collector, the Dongria Kondhas had arranged a rally of more than 400 people from Town Hall to the office of the District Collector at Bhawanipatna.

Speaking on the occasion, Dhan Majhi, President of Niyamgiri Adivasi Vikash Parisad, said, “Our children also need educated, they need good health and life style. For this industrialization is necessary in our area.”

Katli Majhi, President, Dongria Kondha Unnayan Samiti, said, “Industrialization brings a lot of livelihood to our family members. Women members of the Dongria Kondhas are earning a good amount of money due to Vedanta’s efforts. For the sake of development we need industrialization at any cost.” They have also stated that Central Government's decision to stall Vedanta Aluminum project at Lanjigarh is the most unfortunate incident in the history of Kalahandi district and is not good for the Kondhas.

A similar rally was organized by more than 300 Dongria Kondhas at Rayagada to give a memorandum to the District Collector. Here also a rally was organized demanding industry and development.

Pro-Vedanta rally demands industrialisation

The Pioneer, Oct 31,2010
Pioneer News Service | Bhawanipatna

With the Central Government's recent nod for continuation of Vedanta's one million tonne bauxite mining but a loud no to further expansion, it seems that the unaware tribals are up in arms in Lanjigarh on the Vedanta issue.

Reports said that the preparations for which began three months earlier by the primitive tribal group under the banner of Loksangram Manch and Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti, Rayagada and Kalahandi took out a rally from Kadamguda village to Vedanta's main gate at Lanjigarh on Saturday. Thousands of tribals from Lanjigarh , Muniguda and Raigada attended the rally demanding closure of the plant. Four platoons of police force were deployed and Section144 of the CrPC was imposed near the plant to avoid any untoward incident.

Meanwhile, the pro-industry group had also planned to take out a rally at Lanjigarh but reports further said that police had denied the permission to hold a rally to avoid clashes among both the groups.

However, the pro-group planned to submit a memorandum under the banner of Niyamgiri Adibasi Bikash Parisha and took out a rally holding placards on Saturday from Townhall to Collectorate here and submitted a memorandum for the betterment of tribals demanding industrialisation should continue.

The memorandum further said the tribals living at the foothills of Niyamgiri hill are not developed yet. With the establishment of industries, the tribals' lives would improve with roads, hospital and electrification.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kalahandi Express, Oct 21-27, 2010

Kalahandi Express, Oct 14-20, 2010


Note: Perhaps activism is crossing limit in India due to attractive money, personal interest and immediate fame without bothering national interest  and understanding basic economy., Oct 29, 2010
Allow me to put things in perspective right away. Most of you are painfully aware of the following facts: about 1.5 million Indians die of malaria every year; more than 1.5 million Indians succumb to TB every year and more than 2 million young children are killed every year by diarrhoea and related stomach disorders. I have absolutely no doubt that all right-thinking Indians often feel ashamed by these appalling numbers and the heartbreaking human misery that is hidden behind the statistics. And yet, India is awash with activists and NGOs who keep trumpeting from every available rooftop that AIDS is a kind of Biblical scourge that is devouring India. So persistent, so loud and so powerful are the voices of these activists and NGOs that many Indians think AIDS is one of the biggest killer diseases to stalk India. But how many unfortunate Indians are actually killed by AIDS? Not even one for every Indian that dies of malaria, TB or diarrhoea. Common sense demands: then why ignore TB and malaria and create such a hoopla about AIDS?
You guessed it. It just so happens that a certain corporate baron and philanthropist called Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates have been donating hundreds of millions of dollars for tackling AIDS in Third World countries. Yes, they do donate equally well to address some other health issues too, but the very word of AIDS conjures up magic that opens doors to vast donations, funds and incredible opportunities to travel around the world and schmooze with assorted do-gooders. So it is AIDS that everyone talks about – including page 3 people. Try talking and arguing with these activists about why we should be paying more attention to malaria and TB. The best response you will get is a derisive snort while the more ideologically evolved activists will accuse you of being a reactionary, a Neanderthal, a feudal and worse. Forget the jargon, AIDS is sexy. Who cares about TB and malaria?
Don’t you think that just about sums up the state of activism in India?
Let me make a few points here. First: no one with common sense will deny that AIDS is a serious problem. Second, the unfortunate fact is that TB and malaria are bigger problems. Third, anyone who denies this has a serious problem of misplaced priorities. If you are a CEO running a company or even senior manager running a division, you will know that priorities are critical. That’s what students of basic economics are taught: priorities determine the balance between unlimited needs and limited resources. Th at is what a good politician learns very quickly: how to prioritise the numerous – and often conflicting – demands. Th at is how societies, nation states and civilisations have evolved: by learning to prioritise and then trying to balance the conflicting priorities.
There will always be a conflict between security and human rights. Both are very important for a young democracy like India. There will always be a conflict between industrialisation and environment. Both are very important for sustainable growth of the Indian economy. There will always be a conflict between infrastructure projects and the people whose lives the projects will disrupt. Both matter. There will always be a conflict between new technologies like GM in agriculture and the preservation of existing pool of seeds and know-how. Both matter. There will always be a conflict between globalisation and the threat it poses to local communities and livelihoods. The real challenge is to nurture both.
Nobody (no one at least in his/her right senses) has ever said that balancing these conflicting priorities is simple. It has always been an incredibly tough, complex and demanding challenge, and will always remain so. Well governed societies with dollops of common sense seek a balance between these conflicting priorities. A democracy with the rights to free speech and protest offers the best method of resolving these conflicts. As philosophers have always known: democracy is a terrible way of governing and managing societies, but humanity is yet to find a better way. Indeed, the world is full of ‘isms’ and no sensible person will claim that the ‘ism’ they profess to believe in is the only solution.
The problem with contemporary India is that activists not just blindly believe that their ‘ism’ is the best; they also want to ram it down the throat of all Indians. God knows what ‘ism’ the Goddess of Small Things Arundhati Roy believes in. The fact is: Indian democracy has given her the freedom to rave, rant, protest, write, excoriate, condemn and demonise anything that tickles her fancy in a manner that no other Third World country would allow (I wonder what would be her fate if Arundhati Roy spouted venom of the kind she spouts here in Saudi Arabia or China or any of the hitherto Marxist paradises that existed before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991). I personally think she has every right to speak the way she speaks because we are indeed a democracy. In any case, she had publicly seceded from India back in 1998 when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government went ahead with nuclear tests. The problem is not that. The problem is the utter contempt she has for the other point of view; the complete unwillingness to even consider that India confronts twin problems of internal security threats and human rights abuses. No wonder she was wallowing in ideological pleasure when she described the murderous Maoists as Gandhians with Guns even as they were planning to ambush and kill more than 75 CRPF personnel – most of them poor Indians whose cause she claims to espouse. So she travels from seminar to seminar, rally to rally, protest meet to protest meet condemning the Indian State and the security forces.
In her lexicon and world view: the only internal security threat that India faces is the Indian State. Now, what would happen if policy makers actually implemented her vision and embraced terrorists from Pakistan and her Gandhians with Guns as the real patriots of India? I suspect, she couldn’t care less. As the Activist Number One of India, her job is to denounce and condemn. And Roy – and hundreds of thousands of activists like her in India – have learnt the art of propaganda very well. I feel proud of India as a democracy when people like her rave, rant and shout. But I really start worrying about the future of India when persistent propaganda leads the government to start thinking of doing what she wants. Taken to the logical conclusion, the Roy solution is to dismantle the entire Indian armed forces, the paramilitary forces and the police.
The manner in which the ilk of Roy are chipping away at the foundations of the Indian State and society is so insidious that many people like you and me do not seem to recognise the terrifying consequences of the sustained hate propaganda they have launched. But I have little doubt that India will soon pay a price.
The more immediate impact of activists is on industrial projects. Week aft er week, we get to hear that pressure from activists has prompted the government to abandon an industrial or infrastructure project. The most immediate ones are the Vedanta and POSCO projects in Orissa. Let me not get into the details of the projects. Let me also clarify here that this magazine – and its sister publication The Sunday Indian – has often attracted the ire of corporate India in the form of legal notices and cases when we have highlighted their misdeeds – particularly when it comes to cheating poor citizens of their livelihoods while going for ambitious industrial projects. And yet, I do think that policy making in India is reaching a stage where we are happy to throw the baby away with the bath water. Th is is what the former collector of Kalahandi Pradeep Jena has to say about the now doomed Vedanta project: “When I was a district collector of Kalahandi, I have seen how people were happy and cheerful when it was declared that Vedanta Alumina Refinery Project proposal will be finalised at Lanjigarh. There was a welcoming atmosphere everywhere in the district since Kalahandi had not a single industry at that time. Public notion was that, overall development of the area and people can be achieved through industrialisation. But thereaft er, social activism gradually started against the project. Then gradually public opinion changed. I found it strange when I saw those, who once were welcoming the project, turning hostile towards industrialisation overnight. I don’t know why some people strategically want to keep away those primitive tribes from modern society and lifestyle?”
I mean, there is no doubt that Vedanta – and the off icials who allowed it to – violate rules and norms must be punished. But must the poor of Kalahandi be perpetually denied the benefi ts of industrial growth just because activists are convinced that they are better off in pristine poverty with a life expectancy of less than 45 years and infant mortality of more than 300 per thousand? I have been following the Posco controversy too where a committee appointed by Minister of Environment Jairam Ramesh has declared that the Posco project violates tribal rights. Now, I have done my schooling in Orissa and fi nd it preposterous when the esteemed committee members say that tribals are being forcibly displaced by the Posco project. There never were tribals living traditionally in that area; the closest they lived was hundreds of kilometres away. Ask anyone in Orissa and she will tell you this is a fact. And yet, we – even in the media – have collectively swallowed this nonsense that the land needed for the Posco project is a traditional habitat of tribals!
That brings us to the darker side of activism which all of us know but feel too polite to publicly shout about. Says Rajesh Sharma, News Editor, Sandesh Daily, Ahmedabad, “The role of all these so called ‘activists’ is very clear. Most of them have a clear agenda to blackmail the industrialists. They raise the issue, protest heavily, hold rallies and dharnas and when the situation worsens as per their planning, they simply signal the other party for compromise. Not surprisingly, they ‘charge’ a heft y amount for setback. Th is kind of pre-planned and well intentional drive of protesting industrial projects is uprising. The time has come for authorities to take charge of the situation and give them a lesson.”
It is the proliferation of ideologically fanatical, India-hating and downright greedy activists that is giving a bad name to what was once considered a noble cause. I mean, look at someone like Aruna Roy. The lady gave up her job as an IAS officer and has been working with villagers in Rajasthan as an activist for close to four decades. Most people like you and me cannot even comprehend the dedication and commitment that Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy has displayed. But how many times have you heard her going out of her way seeking publicity and spouting venom against India?
The fact is: activism is now a sunrise sector where the opportunity to make tons of money and seek your 15 minutes of fame exists alongside the simple desire to help. No wonder the number of NGOs has grown from a little more than 1 lakh in the 1970s to more than 1.1 million currently. No wonder that foreign donations according to government have gone up during the same time from a few hundred thousand dollars to more than 4 billion dollars every year. No wonder that aid agencies like Oxfam lament that less than 500 NGOs in India actually follow ‘honest and transparent’ accounting practices.
I will provide one more example to conclude my argument. Everyone knows that Indian agriculture faces a crisis of stagnation and productivity, that the Indian farmer is in desperate need of help. But the largest number of NGOs and activists working in this sector are those who relentlessly oppose GM crops. They were so successful in city aft er city in portraying GM crops as an evil force during public hearings and debates that Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh refused to allow them in India. Suffice to say that activists and vested interests in Europe spend millions of dollars opposing GM crops because it is primarily an American technological success. I am not saying GM crops off er a solution to India. But can we at least talk and debate about it please?
And what can India do about these India hating, development hating and ideologically fanatical activists and NGOs? If we remain a democracy, they have a right to be destructive. I am personally convinced a majority of Indians will sooner or later see through these gimmicks for what they are.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Plastic technology centre to come up in Orissa

Times of India, Oct 29, 2010

BHUBANESWAR: Orissa will have the country's first Advanced Plastic Processing Technology Centre (APPTC) at Balasore soon. The Planning Commission has approved the establishment of APPTC at a total project cost of Rs 15 crore.

Official sources said, Central Institute of Plastics Engineering and Technology (CIPET) would be the apex body directing and controlling the project activities as per the directives of the department of chemicals and petrochemicals.

"Around 70 percent of the plastics industries of Orissa are situated in and around Balasore. So the government of India has decided to set up the centre in the coastal district. The State government has also agreed to share 50 percent of its cost and provide land for setting up of the APPTC," said an official of CIPET.

Due to globalization of trade and cost pressure, plastics industry in Indian context is looking forward to exploit the opportunities available in the export as well as domestic market. This would facilitate establishment of large-scale production facilities and processing plants to cater to the requirements.

"It is also envisioned that during the end of XI Five Year Plan, around 100 more plastics processing industries are expected to be established. Establishment of plastics park and the upcoming plastics processing industries in and around Balasore will boost the requirement of well trained technical manpower for the plastics industry," he said.

APPTC will in fact fill up the demand and supply gap of skilled manpower of the processing industry in the eastern region of the country by conducting long-term and short-term training programs in the areas of Plastics Processing Technologies (PPTs).

"The technology centre will meet the increasing requirements of the trained technical manpower for the plastic industry. Establishing APPTC will not only result in fulfilling the requirement of additional skilled technical manpower in the area of plastics processing but also will facilitate in rendering the Technology Support Services (TSS)," said local MP and Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers Srikant Jena.

"The raw materials availability for the plastic industries in Balasore can further be increased to ensure sustainable development as one petrochemical complex is also coming up at Paradeep to be developed by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC)," he informed.

Source said, the centre may come up at Baliapal, nearly 30 km from Balasore, where government buildings built at the cost of Rs 4.5 crore during the late 80s are lying unutilised. Last year an experts' team from CIPET had visited the spot and submited a report to the government. The infrastructure has been built on around 150 acres of land under the rehabilitation package during the proposed National Test Range (NTR) which was stalled in 1992 due to vehement opposition.

However, during the first year of its establishment, the centre is expected to train and develop around 150 students in the field of plastic processing through long-term academic programmes and around 100 participants through short duration training programmes in the areas of plastic processing technology.

Once the APPTC become full-fledged, the total intake of the students for long term courses will be 480 for three long term courses. In addition, the APPTC will also train 250 technical personnel from plastic industry every year through short term technology upgradation programmes.

The centre will also play a catalytic role in providing technology support services to the plastic and allied industries in and around Balasore. Further, it is expected that more than 150 plastics processing/allied industries are likely to be started. This will boost the skilled manpower requirement in the area of plastics processing.

Moreover, as Balasore is well connected with other parts of the State and also the neighbouring States, the industries located at these places will also utilize the services of the proposed Balasore plastics park.

Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik says rooting out corruption priority of Government, Oct 29, 2010
Bhubaneswar: Text of address of CM Naveen Patnaik during vigilance awareness week celebration.

I am glad to be here on the occasion of the celebration of Vigilance Awareness Week. This Awareness week is being observed all over our country. The observance of this period reminds us once again to reaffirm our commitment to the movement of rooting out corruption from all sections of society.

The focus of my Government is good governance and development. Containing corruption also remains a basic factor in achieving higher economic growth and poverty reduction. So the efforts against corruption initiated by the State Government always remain a priority.

We have enacted the Orissa Special Courts Act in 2007 to ensure speedy disposal of disproportionate assets cases, and the Orissa Special Courts Rules, 2007 have been framed accordingly. This is a unique piece of legislation in the entire country.

In pursuance to the enactment of the Act, two Special Courts have been established in the State for trial of disproportionate assets cases against persons holding high political and public offices. These Courts have two Authorized Officers to confiscate the property of Corrupt Officers. This is a bold and unique step taken by the Government.

The State Government has already established 9 Special Vigilance Courts and has also notified 3 more Special Courts at Kandhamal, Kalahandi and Koenjhar. This is a pioneering effort by my Government.

I congratulate Orissa Vigilance Department for its relentless efforts against corrupt officials. It has earned the reputation of being one of the best anti-corruption wings in the country. Not only they have registered a large number of cases but also achieved 50 per cent conviction which is a commendable achievement.

The State Government has been taking exemplary actions on convicted officials including dismissal from service. Over the years our Government has established its commitment to eradicate corruption and people of the State have responded overwhelmingly by reposing their faith in our actions and on the Government.

You have just now taken a solemn oath not to offer any bribe to any one and maintain absolute honesty in all your dealings in life. People should come forward in exposing the corrupt. Today, the State is marching ahead in all spheres of development. Hence, it is all the more important for each one of us to ensure that corrupt practices do not derail the process of economic growth and development. My government is taking all steps to stop the menace of corruption with active public participation which is manifested by increasing number of Trap cases over the years.

The pledge you have taken today on this occasion, I am sure, will go a long way in spreading the message of honesty and integrity as the universal way of life, and to be practiced by one and all, for the betterment of our State as a whole.

Kalahandi Plan panel reviews welfare works

The Pioneer, Oct 29, 2010
Pioneer News Service, Bhawanipatna

A review meeting of the District Planning Committee was held under the chairmanship of Revenue Minister and chairman of Kalahandi District Planning Committee Surjya Narayan Patro at the Collectorate here on Wednesday.

The meeting was attended by Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Bhupinder Singh, Labour and Employment Minister Puspendra Singh Deo, Zilla Parishad president Sarat Naik, MLA Dusmanata Naik, Collector Roopa Mishra and other district-level officers.

The meeting decided that Rs 26.56 crore would be granted from the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) while Rs 6.5 crore would be spent under the Biju KBK Yojana. The committee also planned to spend Rs 545.14 crore during the year 2011-12 at the district, block and panchayat levels.

As money is not being spent in a time-bound manner, Minister Patro while expressing his dissatisfaction over the matter wanted that action should be taken against the concerned officials for negligence in Government-sponsored works. The meeting also decided to blacklist the fraud contractors.

Minister Patro inaugurated a new tehsil building at Kesinga on Thursday.

Govt to move SC over Vedanta row

The Pioneer, Oct 29, 2010
PNS, Bhubaneswar

The State Government is planning to knock on the door of Supreme Court challenging Centre’s decision for not giving stage-II clearances to Vedanta Alumina Limited (VAL) to mine Niyamgiri Hills at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.

“We are consulting Advocate General on the matter and after getting his consent we would proceed,” said Secretary of Steel and Mines Department Manoj Ahuja.

It is to be noted that the State Government had recommended to the Union Government to give environment and forest clearances to the Vedanta Alumina Limited which has a one million tonne capacity bauxite refinery plant in Lanjigarh. The Union Government had given stage-I clearances in 2008. But it did not give stage II clearances to the company to mine Niyamgiri Hills for bauxite on the NC Saxena Committee findings that said the VAL has violated the requisite laws.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Poet speaks for the voiceless - Sanjaya Mishra pens the tale of migration and poverty

Sourced from: KDDF
The Telegraph, Oct 28, 2010

Balangir, Oct. 26: Young poet Sanjaya Mishra has chosen poetry as the medium to depict the poverty, pathos and hunger of Balangir.

Mishra’s series of poems titled “Urmila” is a major work in this connection. In this series, Urmila, the wife of Laxman, talks about the different aspects of poverty in Balangir.

The poet says that he has taken the character of Urmila as a symbol of the hunger in the district. “In the Ramayana, Laxman, along with Rama and Sita go to the forest leaving behind Urmila to look after the old Dasaratha and Kausalya. Similarly, many hungry people in present day Balangir migrate to other states for work leaving behind the numerous Urmilas to look after the old and ailing family members. I have tried to highlight the burning issue of poverty in this part of country through these legendary characters in my poems,” said Mishra, who has so far penned more than 100 poems in the “Urmila” series and some of them have already been published in different magazines.

In his poems, Mishra focuses mostly on the deprivation, poverty, distress, migration and the other socio-cultural problems and pathos of the people of the migrant community. Crop failure, failure of entitlement and other dimensions of rural poverty forms an integral part of his poems. What drove Mishra to write about these people of the lesser god?

“I live in Kantabanjhi, which is the epicentre of migration in Balangir. I have seen the suffering of the people from close quarters. I want to serve them through my poems. I intend to give a voice to the voiceless,” he said.

Mishra has been writing poems in both Oriya and Sambalpuri language for the last two decades. His Sambalpuri poetry collection Maraguda published in the year 2006 won appreciation. The title of the book, which means lost civilisation, talks about the flora, fauna, folk tradition, culture, local beliefs and customs, folk gods and goddess in a lively manner. His piece on Hirakud dam in the same collection has been widely acclaimed.

The poet has done extensive research on folk ballad of western Orissa. Santosh Rath of the Oriya department of Jawahar College of Patnagarh describes Sanjaya as an excellent poet.

“His collection of ballads from different parts of western Orissa and its analysis is a rare work,” Rath said. Mishra is now attached with the department of Oriya in Jawahar College of Patnagarh in the capacity of a research scholar supported by UGC.

He has been selected for the travel grant fellowship by the Kendra Sahitya Academy and also selected for the SAARC poetry festival for his literary excellence.

His publications include Agantuka (1999), Bhangi Padiba Agaru (2006) and Dhasa(2010).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rajendra Abhyankar: Mining India's development

Business Standard, Oct 27, 2010
Government and industry should together evolve mining policy based on global best practices

Rajendra Abhyankar / October 27, 2010, 0:43 IST

Vedanta, Posco and Sindhudurg. The issue is the same — the need for a well-thought-out policy relating to extractive and resource-based industry. The government’s withdrawal of mining permission to Vedanta on the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa’s backward Kalahandi district; the divided verdict by the Gupta Committee on the Posco iron ore project; and the environment ministry’s concern on 49 mining licences issued by the Maharashtra government for bauxite and iron ore in the eco-sensitive Western Ghats raise the issue of a fundamental conflict between the real cost of sustainable development and the national imperative to raise living standards of all Indians.

Rahul Gandhi’s dramatic championing of the Dongria Kondh tribe raised the status and expectations of the country’s politically neglected tribal population. More importantly, it raised the issue of charting the future development of affected populations beyond existing constitutional provisions in order to nurture their culture and way of life without detracting from the equal need to bring them acceptable advantages of enhanced living standards.

Without a policy frame, somewhat like a directive principle, which addresses this core issue, national legislation relating to environment protection, coastal zone regulation and forest rights will not by itself achieve the desired result. The appointment of ad hoc expert committees to pronounce on this issue neither provides a consistent policy nor detracts from the presumption of political partisanship.

International experience in countries with indigenous populations like Australia, the US, New Zealand, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Indonesia and others is not the best guide. The conflict between preserving indigenous cultures and sharing the benefits of growth and modernity has been starkly posed everywhere with only a modest degree of success. Policy in this regard has nevertheless moved from paternalistic underpinning towards seeking genuine and informed consent of the affected peoples.

The issue assumes urgency since most of the country’s mineral-rich districts are co-terminus with tribal lands notified in Schedule V of our Constitution. The existence of over 30,000 illegal mines around the country brings out the relatively lax application of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (Pesa) Act which requires consultation with tribal panchayats or gram sabhas. It is necessary to take a view not only with regard to Vedanta and Posco that have in-principle approvals, but also the existing illegal mines in the operation where tribal rights, sanctuaries and cultures would have been affected or destroyed.

Indian industry needs assured supply of minerals and metals as also oil, gas and other intermediates to fuel growth. The extractive industry too needs an adequate rate of return on investment. The likely scaling down of projected investment in this sector because of stop-go policies could have a deleterious effect on the targeted FDI inflow for infrastructure growth in communications, industry, agriculture and services.

India needs a national policy on mining covering new mines and all existing mines — legal, conditionally approved, and illegal. The reports of the N C Saksena and Meena Gupta committees were the culmination of the work of a number of earlier committees set up by government. The dissonance in the latter’s findings raises questions of both propriety and transparency.

The government’s new-found resolve to deal with the issue across-the-board, given strong political will at the top, should enable the development of an environmentally sustainable, rights-based and cost-effective policy for value-realisation of our natural resources. A considerable body of case-studies has built up internationally where major multinational entities in extractive and hydrocarbon sectors have shown the way.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) non-binding guidelines on corporate governance and sustainability for the European corporate sector provide an excellent basis for considering a set of national guidelines which could eventually become law. These guidelines are being effectively observed in specific cases of violation of the rights of people dispossessed or deprived by new and existing mining, exploration, infrastructure and industrial projects.

A number of “best practice” examples can be cited, e.g. Canadian mining company Goldcorp agreeing to commission an independent human rights impact assessment study and submit a detailed action plan to ameliorate violation of communal property rights in its Guatemala operations; BHP Billiton setting up a global ethics panel for quarterly review of non-compliance with the company’s code of business conduct, and their sustainability committee which focuses on HSEC (health, safety, environment and community) risks; and Anglo-American’s Social Way guidelines methodology which uses a 24-criteria scorecard that includes issues like rights of indigenous peoples and complaint and grievance procedures for stakeholders.

India’s resource-based industries need a “road map” for future development that addresses issues relating to environmental sustainability and also provides a code of business conduct that can address the issue of making affected populations stakeholders in the enterprise. The exercise could be started by getting existing permission-holders, like Vedanta and Posco, to submit a plan of action in regard to their proposed or ongoing operations which takes into account the issues listed above. It will provide the framework for a cohesive and national policy.

The author was India’s ambassador to the European Union

Marketing hassles: Kalahandi farmers suffer

Expressbuzz, Oct 27, 2010
BHAWANIPATNA: The ripe paddy is all set for harvest next month. The farmers of Kalahandi, however, sway between hope and despair with marketing hassles being their biggest worry.

It has been targeted to procure 3.20 lakh MT rice from farmers during the current kharif season despite an erratic monsoon leaving non-irrigated pockets struggling to meet their water needs and pests affecting crops in irrigated pockets.

To ensure a free and fair procurement, a meeting of Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies was convened by the district administration and the district-level procurement committee yesterday to chalk out strategies.

It was decided that State agencies like Orissa Civil Supplies Corporation, NAFED, MARKFED and TDCC will be entrusted with the job of procurement. Of them, OCSC will procure about one-third through Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies.

Eligible rice mills will lift the stocks from the societies as custom millers under the Corporation. It has been decided that rice mill owners who had delivered 80 per cent of the stocks lifted by them by October 25 last year or caused 100 per cent delivery by October 30 will be considered for procurement.

It was revealed in the meeting that of more than 100 rice mills till now only 54 have been found eligible while the rest are defaulters. To counter bogus entries of farmers, special care will be taken and identity cards will be issued basing on land records.

Platforms for drying up paddy and storage units at procurement points will be created. The Agriculture Cooperative Societies have been directed to ensure construction of platforms from the commission amount received last year.

The meeting, chaired by Kalahandi Collector Rupa Mishra, was attended by Supply and Revenue officials, representatives of cooperative societies, farmer and miller representatives.

However, farmers are apprehensive that due to crop infection and pests in many areas, particularly in irrigated pockets, there may be a problem in ensuring FAQ variety of paddy.

The farmers also alleged that they had suffered losses last year during kharif procurement season for lack of storage in the service cooperative societies and delay in lifting of stocks from the societies by the custom millers. They wanted the issue to be sorted out failing which the farmers will continue to suffer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

VAL to approach MoEF for reconsideration of order, Oct 22, 2010

Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) has decided to approach the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) for reconsideration of its decision to disallow the capacity expansion of its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Orissa from 1 million tonne to six million tonne and that of captive power plant from 75 Mw to 300 Mw.

"We will go back to MoEF for reconsideration of their decision to disallow the expansion of the Lanjigarh plant", Mukesh Kumar, president and chief operating officer of VAL told Business Standard.

He said, MoEF has disallowed the expansion mainly on the ground that public hearing for the project was held after the start of work on it. "We had told MoEF that main work on the expansion had started after the public hearing and we will reiterate that in our reconsideration request", Kumar said.

Similarly, VAL had maintained that it was under the impression that fresh environment clearance was not necessary for the expansion as it was being done within the existing premises and there was no change in the process or product mix. The company had furnished the legal opinion of KK Venugopal, an eminent lawyer, to support its stand. Though MoEF has termed the submission of legal opinion as a after thought to the violation of norms, the company has decided to stick to this stand.

"Already in case of Jindal Power’s plant in Chhatishgarh, MoEF has condoned start of expansion work without prior clearance. So, we expect similar relief from the ministry if there are any lapses", Kumar argued.

He said, the company’s stand in many other issues like forest land, pollution, water use have been vindicated by MoEF as it allowed VAL to run the I million tonne refinery at Lanjigarh. "With access to Niyamgiri mines denied by MoEF earlier, we will continue to run this refinery sourcing bauxite from different sources", he said.

On the ministry’s instruction not to source bauxite from any mine which did not have environment clearance, he said, "we have already furnished details on 23 mines in different states from where we are bringing our bauxite and all of them are legal sources".

Kumar said, 60 per cent of the 30 lakh tonne bauxite required for Lanjigarh refinery is being met from the company’s own mines at Korba in Chhatishgarh. Besides, the company has signed agreement with Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation for supply of five lakh tonnes of bauxite over next nine months.

Layer poultry estate to come up near Baripada

Expressbuzz, Oct 26, 2010
BHUBANESWAR: The first layer poultry estate in the country focusing solely on egg production is soon going to take shape at Gobardhan Sula near Baripada in Mayurbhanj district.

Land for the around Rs 10-crore project involving the Centre, State and farmers has been demarcated and work for establishment of the facility is set to commence soon. It is targetted to be up and functional within a year.

The estate would have participation of 100 farmers from the Scheduled Tribes and backward sections with a capacity of two lakh layer birds.

Each farmer would have at least 2,000 layer birds and the egg production per day is envisaged to be over 1.60 lakh.

The one-of-its kind facility would give a huge boost to egg production in the State that is lagging far behind in terms of both availability and consumption in the country.

The present per capita availability of eggs in Orissa is around 37 compared to the National average of 43.

Production of eggs is around 28 lakhs per day with 22 lakh coming from the commercial layer sector and around six lakh from other sources against a requirement of 64 lakh eggs.

With as many as 17 districts lacking any commercial layer farms, the State government is planning to encourage enterprise in such regions.

The vision of the government is to achieve one crore egg production per day by 2020, Minister for Animal Resources Development and Fisheries Damodar Rout said.

Inaugurating the State-level poultry entrepreneurs meet, with special focus of layer enterprise, he said that 48 hatcheries are being established while the existing ones are being expanded.

Poultry development through the SHGs is also a major programme with the groups provided with high-yielding layer chicken varieties.

The State though has become self sufficient in poultry meet production.

With over 4,600 broiler farms, production of meat has touched 56,000 tonne in 2009-10 from 53,000 tonne in 2008-09.

Among others, Secretary ARD Satyabrata Sahu, Apicol Chairman BK Rath and Director AHVS Ashok Kumar Sahu were present.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Digitalisation fails to stop tender-fixing in K’handi, Nuapada

The Pioneer, Oct 23, 2010

The introduction of e-tender by the ruling BJD Government appears to have failed to bring transparency as the tender-fixing in various works have been a habitual practice in Kalahandi allegedly under the nose of the Government officials in connivance with the contractors.

On the other hand, the roads, canals, bridges and culverts easily get damaged in minor rainfall let alone the heavy and incessant downpour due to sub-standard works while the gullible public is taken for a ride as a part of regular phenomenon in the district here.

Even petty contractors have become crorepatis after handling contract works in the Indravati Project and PMGSY in the last couple of years.

The contractors work without any fear of punishment as they allegedly grease the palms of the big shots and both the ruling and opposition leaders every year.

Once the fixed commission-money exchanges hands, the contractors give a damn to the public property.

In the recent bidding of the Indravati Project, large scale irregularities have been alleged in the awarding of contract works. In the Left Canal Division (LCD-3), Dharmagarh Division, eighteen contractors had filed their bids on four contract works amounting to`8.71 crore and accordingly, the EMD money was sent through e-filing with the scanned copies of the demand draft on October 12 deadline and the bids were opened on October 20.

While six contractors had filed their `1.79 crore bid, five had of `1.71 crore, three of `2.44 crore and four of `2.80 crore.

On 18 and 19, the documents were to be verified by the officials, but as they did not produce the EMD-money demand draft physically, their biddings were reportedly cancelled while two contractors allegedly produced their demand draft as EMD money and got four tenders after verification of all the documents on 20.

Sources confided, other contractors and high level officials allegedly got a large amount of money from the contractor duo having become the single bidder in the entire e-tender system, otherwise dubbed as tender fixing, but officially they produced that the eighteen contractors had given their bids.

The same process has reportedly been followed in the e-tender of Lower Indra Project near Raj-Khariar of Nuapada where the tender papers were dropped on October 16 amounting to `55 crore and bids were opened on 21.

As Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik holds the Water Resources portfolio, locals here have demanded high level enquiry into the recent bidding in Kalahandi and Nuapada.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

President wants a Central varsity in her hometown, Oct 22, 2010
New Delhi: President Pratibha Patil's proposal for an IIT exclusively for women in Amravati, her hometown and former Lok Sabha constituency, may have been rejected but now she's pushing for a Central University there and may very well get it too.

Sources said that Patil has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting that the existing Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University, established in 1983, be upgraded to Central university status.

The PMO had forwarded this proposal to Union Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry for its views.
Highly placed sources have confirmed that the HRD Ministry, while advising against upgrading the existing University, has suggested that a new Central University for women can instead be established at Amravati
Incidentally, of all the 40 odd Central Universities in the country, none is exclusively for women.
The President of India is also Visitor to all Central Universities in the country.
President Patil's husband Devisingh Shekhawat has also served as Amravati Mayor.
President Patil's husband is described as an educationist and social worker on the website of the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The HRD ministry announced 14 new Central universities in states as recently as 2008.
They are still struggling to find their feet. Of these, 12 were new varsities, and two were state universities upgraded to Central university status: Hari Singh Gaur University at Sagar, Madhya Pradesh and Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University in Uttarakhand.

President wants a Central varsity in her hometown

 Indian Express, Oct 22, 2010

President Pratibha Patil’s proposal for an IIT exclusively for women in Amravati, her hometown and former Lok Sabha constituency, may have been rejected but now she’s pushing for a Central University there and may very well get it too.
Sources said that Patil has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting that the existing Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University, established in 1983, be upgraded to Central university status.
The PMO had forwarded this proposal to Union Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry for its views.
Highly placed sources have confirmed that the HRD Ministry, while advising against upgrading the existing University, has suggested that a new Central University for women can instead be established at Amravati but in the 12th Plan period.
Incidentally, of all the 40 odd Central Universities in the country, none is exclusively for women. 

The President of India is also Visitor to all Central Universities in the country.
President Patil’s husband Devisingh Shekhawat has also served as Amravati Mayor.
President Patil’s husband is described as an educationist and social worker on the website of the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The HRD ministry announced 14 new Central universities in states as recently as 2008.
They are still struggling to find their feet. Of these, 12 were new varsities, and two were state universities upgraded to Central university status: Hari Singh Gaur University at Sagar, Madhya Pradesh and Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University in Uttarakhand.

Friday, October 22, 2010

No politics while establishing Govt medical college and super specialist hospital in KBK

Oct 21, 2010
Prof. Dr. Abhijit Sen, Member of Planning Commission

Honourable President of India, Smt Patil
Honourable Prime Minister of India, Dr Singh
Honourable UPA Chairperson, Smt Gandhi
Honourable Chief Minister of Orissa, Shri Patnaik
Honourable Congress General Secretary, Shri Gandhi
Honourable Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Dr Ahluwalia
Honourable Union Minister of Health and Family Affairs, Shri Azad
Honourable MPs from Orissa
Department of Health, Orissa
Members of Planning Commission

Dear Prof. Dr. Sen,
Your recent visit to KBK and realisation of the importance of a medical college and super specialist hospital [1] (The New Indian Express, Bhubaneswar Edition, Oct 20, 2010) in KBK region are significant.
As you understood during your visit, there are no secondary and tertiary health facilities in the whole KBK region, so is the lack of health professionals. Every year hundreds of lives are lost, especially in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts, due to inadequate health facilities. Although KBK region consists 30 % of geographical area and 20% of population of Orissa state, it does not have any fully state Government funded medical college, whereas three neighbouring districts such as Cuttack (SCB medical college), Khurdha (Capital medical college) and Ganjam (MKCG medical college) have respective three medical colleges in Coastal Orissa, in addition multiple Government institutions such as AIIMS, ESIC medical college, Railway Medical college, etc and about 10 more private medical college are being proposed in the region [2].
In addition politics is costing a lot for backward district like Kalahandi in health.
For instance presently Kalahandi is represented by MP from Congress Party and has sent maximum number of Congress MLAs (4 out of 5) to Orissa assembly compared to any other district in Orissa. Therefore, the Orissa state Government is playing foul politics against Kalahandi which is evident from the fact that despite a long standing demand from various intellectual groups across the state to have a Govt medical college in Kalahandi through KBK funding [3-6] (Orissa diary, Jan 7, 2009; The Samaja, Dec 17, 2009; The Pioneer, Bhubaneswar Edition, March 25, 2010), recently Orissa state Government has recommended to the central Government to establish a Government Medical college through RLTAP (Revised Long Term Action Program) for KBK in Koraput [7] (The Pioneer, Bhubaneswar Edition, Aug 23, 2010). This is quite injustice and unaccepted because of following reasons.
1.    Due to diaherra in 2010 many lives were lost in Rayagada district whereas in all previous years 2009, 2008, 2007, etc most of the lives were lost in Kalahandi district.
2.    Even in 2010 the large number of death was encountered in Kalyansighpur, Bisam Cuttack, Kashipur and Muniguda regions of Rayagada district. All these regions are close to and bordering with Kalahandi district. Kashipur was part of Kalahandi till 1967.
3.    Beside Kalahandi and Rayagada, other districts which are prone to diaherra are not only Koraput, Nabaragpur and Malkangiri, but also Kandhamal, Nuapada and Balangir.
4.    Central district to these entire above district is Kalahandi.
5.    Central location to all KBK districts is Kalahandi.
6.    Central location to tribal cluster of KBK, Kandhamal, Boudh, Gajapati and Bargarh is also Kalahandi.
7.    There was a long standing demand in Kalahandi region to establish a central University and Government medical college. Though WODC had initiated to establish a private medical college in Jaring, it is not working out due to inadequate interest of private player since past six years. Since past few years people in the region, who basically are poor, have been demanding a Government medical college in the region instead of private one.
8.    Because of the above reason in Dec 2009 the MPs from Western Orissa and KBK also together raised in the parliament to establish a Government medical college and super-speciality hospital in Kalahandi, the central location of KBK-Kandhamal, for the benefit of whole KBK region (The Samaja, Dec 17, 2009).
9.     In past an online petition [4] and many letters have been given to Government of India by various people to establish a central Govt. medical college in Kalahandi for KBK region.
10. Not a single Central Government funded institution has been established in undivided Kalahandi whereas both undivided Balangir and Koraput are given quite a few numbers. Among them undivided Koraput district has few public sector industries beside recently established Central University of Orissa and proposed CSIR facilities.
In this respect we urge you to look into the matter carefully, rationally and logically rather than blindly supporting state Government’s recommendation, and in the line of North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute for Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS) in Shillong kindly recommend for a similar institute such as KBK Rajiv Gandhi Regional Institute for Health and Medical Science (KBKRGRIHMS) with 1000 bed Super Specialty Hospital in Kalahandi through special KBK funding.
Thanking you and best regards
Digambara Patra
1.    The New Indian Express, Bhubaneswar Edition, Oct 20, 2010
3.    Orissa diary, Jan 7, 2009
4.    The Pioneer, Bhubaneswar Edition, March 25, 2010
6.    The Samaja (Oriya), Dec 17, 2009
7.    The Pioneer, Bhubaneswar Edition, Aug 23, 2010

Vedanta hopes to get Centre''s nod for expansion in future

IBNlive, Oct 22, 2010
Bhubaneswar, Oct 21 (PTI) Happy over the Centre allowing its 1 mtpa refinery to operate at Lanjigarh in Orissa's Kalahandi district, Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) today said it was hopeful of getting permission for expansion of the project to 6 mtpa in future. "As the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had not either countered or rejected our submissions made during the hearing, we are hopeful to get expansion permission after submitting certain requisite documents," VAL's chief operating officer Mukesh Kumar told PTI. Rejecting the Centre's denial of permission to its expansion proposal as a setback to the company, Kumar said "it was a negative development". On different conditions put by the Centre while allowing operation of its existing refinery, the COO said that the company had no hesitation to meet all "such". "Conditions are always there for big industries. We are and we will follow all pollution norms," he said. "We have already stopped expansion works for last four months," Kumar said.

Centre clips Vedanta expansion plans

The Times of India, Oct 22, 2010

BHUBANESWAR: The Centre on Thursday drew the curtains on the controversial Vedanta refinery project at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district of Orissa, limiting its operation to just one MTPA (matric tonne per annum) capacity under stricter conditions.

The government cancelled the company's application for the refinery's expansion to six MTPA and the captive power plant there from 75 mw to 300 mw. It also ordered to stop any construction relating to expansion of the project and ''maintain status quo at the site.'' Moreover, the company has been directed to source bauxite for its plant only from those mines which have ''prior environment clearance.''

The action against the project, owned by Anil Agarwal, assumes significance as it raised considerable storm in the political circles from Bhubaneswar to New Delhi. Earlier, the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) had refused permission to the company to mine bauxite for the refinery from Niyamgiri hill, home of the primitive Dongria Kondhs.

The issue had even seen Congress leader Rahul Gandhi flying down to the area to tell the tribals that he would fight their case. The ruling BJD, which showcased the project as a proof to its industrialization drive, had dubbed the Centre's move as a ''conspiracy'' and conducted statewide padayatra.

While consigning the mining plan to the backburner, MoEF had kept the refinery's operations alive by seeking explanations for alleged unauthorized expansion and violations environment and forest laws. The decision coming after reports by expert teams pointing out serious violation.

Vedanta's refinery expansion plan rejected; faces legal action  
The Hindu, Oct 22, 2010
Environment Ministry asks the company to maintain status quo at the site

Orissa government directed to take action against company
Vedanta asked to undertake strict pollution monitoring

NEW DELHI: In another setback to Vedanta Aluminium's Orissa ambitions, the Environment Ministry has rejected its plan to expand its Lanjigarh refinery six-fold and directed the State government to take legal action against the company for illegally beginning the expansion without permission.
This comes almost two months after the government rejected the company's proposal to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills near the refinery in Kalahandi district. Both decisions were taken on the basis of the N.C. Saxena Committee report that detailed the company's violations of environmental norms.
The Vedanta Aluminium had a $5.8-billion plan to increase the production capacity of its Lanjigarh alumina refinery from the current one million tonnes to six million tonnes per annum.
In a letter dated October 20 to the Vedanta, the Ministry directed it to “maintain status quo at the site and no further construction activity shall be undertaken with respect to the expansion project.” The terms of reference granted to the company, as well as the public hearing conducted in April 2009 were cancelled. The Secretary of the State Forest and Environment Department was directed to take action against the company under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
At a hearing held by the Ministry on September 30, the Vedanta officials admitted that they had completed 40 to 45 per cent of the construction work for expansion despite the fact that they had no prior environmental clearance. They pleaded that the clearance could now be granted “considering the magnitude of the project and the wide ranging benefits,” including a 5 per cent profit sharing with the local community mandated by the Supreme Court. “They are ready to pay any penalty for violation but not to stop the project,” according to the minutes of the hearing.
In another order, the Ministry asked the Vedanta Aluminium to put strict pollution monitoring and control facilities in place at the existing one million-tonne per annum refinery, and also develop a green belt in 25 per cent of the plant area. It will not be allowed to source bauxite from any mine without prior environment clearance. It was also asked to submit a Rs. 10 crore bank guarantee to the State pollution control board to ensure its compliance with these directions.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vocational training in tribal residential school

Expressbuzz, Oct 21, 2010
BHUBANESWAR: The State Government has decided to start vocational training programme in 100 residential tribal schools.

This was decided at a high-level meeting presided over by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the Secretariat here today. Vocational training will be imparted on five or six trades in these schools. Students can take admission in one of the trades after class VIII. The State Council of Vocational Training will conduct examinations and issue certificates.

Vocational training classes will also be introduced in general schools. As there is large employment opportunities in the field of nursing, it was decided that nursing schools and colleges will be opened in different areas of the State in the private sector. Training can be arranged for the nursing students at district headquarter hospitals.

Besides, a decision was taken to improve the quality of vocational education in junior colleges. Chief Secretary Bijay Kumar Patnaik and senior officials attended the meeting.

A tale of Tel valley civilisation uncovered

Expressbuzz, Oct 21, 2010
Riyan Ramanath V

BALANGIR: While Gumagad, the first century BC military strategic hub, speaks volumes of a flourishing kingdom in the Tel river valley, a copper plate recently found at Kapsila village in Balangir district hints at existence of several kingdoms on either side of the valley.

Historians, who recently evinced interest in exploring more facts about the valley civilisation, opined that further excavation can unravel the history buried under the earth. This copper plate was interestingly found near the archaeological site of Kharligad near Gumagad.

Utkal University Archaeology Prof Sadasiva Pradhan, who got the copper plate from a Brahmin, said it contains information regarding the civilisation. He, however, had sent it to eminent epigraphist Sadananda Agrawal for deciphering.

According to Agrawal, as per the information on the copper plate, the civilisation dates back to the 8th century AD.

“The Udayapur area, the capital of Rashtrakuta kings who ruled the valley, is still dotted with standing structure and ruins. These are mostly found at Amathgad. Ruins of a medieval fort too exist here,” said Agrawal.

Earlier, Prof Pradhan had excavated the Gumagad site, where he found a strategic military hub of the first century BC. It was set up by a contemporary of King Kharavela.

Studying further into the formation on copper plate, Agrawal said that a king called Khadgasingha had donated a village Remudaka (modern Remanda) in Saintala. This also throws light on the civilisation.

He feels that further excavation by expert archeologists with the government’s support would shed more light on the civilisation.

The other four copper plates found earlier at Terssingha village also spoke of the Tel valley civilisation.

Those plates had information regarding the two capitals - Udayapur and Parbatadwaraka - which were under the rule of Rashtrakutas and local chieftains belonging to different clans.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Prime Minister laid the foundation stone for the campus of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Hyderabad

Call to expand S&T human resource pool

The Hindu, Oct 20, 2010
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for expanding the human resource pool in science and technology to maintain the competitive advantage in the knowledge economy.

Towards this end, there was need to create an environment where “our latent capacities through innovation and excellence” could flower. The scientific and technological prowess of a nation was a major determinant of its state of development and innovation and knowledge would be key factors in progress in the 21st century, the Prime Minister said.

Dr. Singh was addressing a gathering after laying the foundation stone for the campus of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), near the University of Hyderabad here on Tuesday.

He emphasised the need for fostering an environment that would promote and nurture scientific advancement and make the country a world leader in creating intellectual property. For this, it was essential to strengthen the scientific infrastructure, draw the brightest minds to scientific research and create institutions of excellence.

Dr. Singh complimented TIFR for three elements of its vision for the new campus – unification of traditional disciplines under common themes even while maintaining the rigour of individual disciplines and convergence of fundamental and applied sciences.

IIT-Kharagpur medical college in two years

Indian Express, Oct 20, 2010
The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, is upbeat about the medical school they believe will come up in the next two years. According to senior officials of IIT-Kgp, the Centre is likely to introduce a bill in the Parliament in the next session to change IIT Act so that the institute can run a medical college.

“We have decided to name the medical college Bidhan Chandra Institute of Medical Sciences in the honour of the first chief minister of the state,” Damodar Acharya, the director of IIT-Kgp said.

Acharya said the institute which will come up in 2012 will have an investment of Rs 500 crore. Recently the institute, with support from the Indian Railways, tied up with the 250-bed Railway hospital at Kharagpur. “We plan to use the Railway hospital as a teaching hospital. For medical research, we need to connect with a hospital that has a steady number of patients. This hospital gets about 1 lakh patients every year and will help us in research,” he said.

The institute officials said they are also open to join hands with premier healthcare institutions in the country and abroad. “Our focus will be post-graduate medical education and research,” said A K Majumdar, the deputy director of IIT-Kgp.

According to officials of the institute, the oldest IIT in the country has a history of diversifying into other domains. The institute first set up a B-School, then a law school and now is venturing into medical education.

KBK needs a medical: Plan panel member

Expressbuzz, Oct 20, 2010
KORAPUT: “Considering the precarious health scenario of the district, a multi-speciality medical college is required for KBK region,” said Planning Commission member Abjijit Sen during his visit to Koraput today.

Speaking at a meeting, he promised to apprise the Cabinet of the need to declare Koraput district as one of the worst affected areas by Maoists and for recruiting tribal youths in Army, Navy, Air Force and paramilitary forces.

Several villagers under the leadership of former MLA Taraprasad Bahinipati met Sen and apprised him of alleged irregularities in the execution of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and other Centre-funded welfare programmes in the district.

Sen also expressed concern at the deteriorating condition of NH-43. He reviewed the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS), National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), MGNREGS, Revised Long Term Action Plan (RLTAP), Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and Sarva Sikhya Abhiyan (SSA).

Earlier, the Planning Commission team visited Deopottangi, Padapadar and Maliput villages of Pottangi block to review development programmes. Advisor L P Sankar and Deputy Advisor Indu Patnaik are members of the team. District Collector Rajesh Pravakar Patil, DRDA project director Ruparosan Sahoo, Sub-Collector Poonam Guha accompanied the team.

People can’t be made to bathe in red mud

Expressbuzz, Oct 20, 2010
Felix Padel/ Samarendra Das

When news spread that the red mud pond in a Hungarian alumina refinery had broken open on October 3, spilling toxic sludge over a huge area, killing people and livestock, this confirmed our worst fears regarding new refineries going up in Orissa and neighbouring states. For Hungarians a nightmare scenario has begun, as their country faces to its worst-ever environmental disaster. Apart from villagers killed or maimed by the toxic sludge, many farmers face economic ruin, as their fields are contaminated beyond repair. How much worse would a similar disaster be in India, where the population density of farmers is much higher?

For a start, among Vedanta’s less reported sins is its pollution of the Bansadara River right at source. When the Central Empowered Committee (advisory body on forests to the Supreme Court) advised against mining Niyamgiri, it also recommended cancelling permission for the Lanjigarh refinery. Among other reasons was the sitting of the refinery right next to the Bansadara, where it forms out of perennial streams coming down from Niyamgiri. Within weeks of start-up, from the end of 2007, heavy contamination of the river by red mud and other wastes has been repeatedly reported by the Pollution Control Board as well as villagers who have lost livestock and developed horrendous skin rashes.

But how could things be otherwise? When villagers depend on a river for washing and drinking over centuries, and it suddenly becomes contaminated, what do they do? Toxic red mud, a by-product of refining bauxite into alumina, has never been disposed of safely. Despite claims to the contrary, it has always contaminated water sources. If Vedanta’s refinery remains at a one million tonne per year capacity, it will produce approximately a million tonnes of red mud a year.

These red mud lakes constantly contaminate ground and river water, as well as posing an ever-growing threat of disastrous spills. At Balco/Vedanta’s Korba refinery in Chhattisgarh we have seen and photographed children flying kites on a red mud lake, while the red mud spills down onto fields where cattle graze towards running streams.

But could this toxic waste have any positive uses? In 2008, Vedanta joined an international Red Mud Project ( Interestingly, Jamaica and Australia, two of the world’s largest bauxite-alumina producers, both banned early attempts to make bricks out of red mud, since red mud is toxic not just from dangerously corrosive caustic soda. It is also radioactive. “Dead on the ball there!” as a member of London’s International Aluminium Institute exclaimed when we mentioned this.

Bauxite is formed in alternating seasons of rain and sun over millions of years, that leaches out some minerals and keeps others, including at least 22 radioactive elements. Strange this has not been highlighted in news of the Hungarian disaster! Strange, too, that the red mud website, consulted in November 2008, revealed not only that Australia and Jamaica had banned building uses, but also that 2.5 million tonnes of red mud was used in 1998-9 alone for cement in India, while China was using even more to make bricks.

Red mud is only one aspect of the prohibitive costs of an aluminium industry. Another is the high water consumption. The Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy in Germany calculates that one tonne of steel requires 44 tonnes of water. For aluminium, producing one tonne would consume an estimated 1,000 tonnes of water. Already ‘water wars’ have erupted near the Hirakud dam between farmers and new aluminium smelters and steel plants, who have signed deals for priority treatment and are guzzling H2O.

The role of mountains as storehouses of water also needs taking into account. If Orissa is among India’s most fertile states, this comes from a wealth in water that depends on intact minerals in the mountains. Mine the mountains, and the water runs off in the monsoon. The drying up of streams is already well-documented in north Orissa. It is also attested by tribal villagers living around Orissa’s biggest bauxite mine on Panchapt Mali, who observe that streams which were perennial have now dried up.

Orissa has witnessed 25 years of resistance to bauxite mining. The recent, historic decision of the Union ministry of environment and forests not to allow Niyamgiri to be mined echoes a similar decision in 1987 for Gandhamardan — probably the best forested of all the bauxite capped mountains after Niyamgiri. Gandhamardan’s numerous waterfalls stand as a testament to the success of the Balco movement.

One resonance is the claim by industry reports that ‘mining will not harm the water regime — it will actually improve the run-off’. This argument was given on behalf of Vedanta in a report from the Central Mining Planning & Design Institute in Ranchi, submitted to the Supreme Court in August 2006, which stated that during mining ‘micro-cracks will develop in the side of the mountain’ that will ‘facilitate run-off’ and thus ‘recharge groundwater’. This involves a ludicrous distortion of science. If monsoon water runs rapidly off a mined mountain, this makes it clear why perennial streams run dry. Mining devastates mountains as storehouses of water — a fact observable from too many devastated ecosystems.

Toxic red mud is one of many dangers if the aluminium industry is not kept within careful limits. The USA decided as far back as 1951 to start outsourcing most of its aluminium production to other countries, so that the bill for heavy subsidies and environmental hazards would fall elsewhere. As an American expert declared, the industry “is no great maker of employment, uses little skilled labour, and adds little to the independent development of an area” (Dewey Anderson’s Aluminum for Defence and Prosperity). Or in the words of Bhagaban Majhi, a tribal leader in the Kashipur movement against Hindalco/Utkal’s bauxite-alumina project, how can it be development to destroy a mountain that has existed for millions of years?

“Can you call displacing people development? The people for whom development is meant, should reap its benefits. After them, succeeding generations should reap benefits. That is development. It should not be merely to cater to the greed of a few officials.”

(Felix Padel and Samarendra Das have analysed the industry in a recently published book Out of this earth: East India’s Adivasis and the Aluminium CarteI)

Centre puts brake on Lanjigarh refinery expansion

The Economic Times, Oct 20, 2010
NEW DELHI: In yet another blow to the Anil Agarwal-owned Vedanta Alumina Ltd , the environment ministry has decided to halt the company’s plans of expanding its Rs 4,600-crore Lanjigarh refinery in Orissa. The existing one million tonne Lanjigarh refinery will, however, continue to be in operation.

The ministry has found the Lanjigarh refinery’s expansion to be “unauthorised” and in serious violation of environmental laws. It has decided to revoke the permission given to the company to study the environmental impact of increasing the capacity of the plant from the current one million tonne per annum to six million tonne. A formal order to this effect is expected this week.

The ministry had issued a showcause notice on August 31 for the unauthorised expansion of the refinery. The existing one million tonne refinery, which had been given environmental clearance in September 2004, too had been issued a showcause for not complying with the conditions of the clearance. The ministry is of the view that the violations have been “procedural”, can therefore be corrected.

The showcause was issued in the aftermath of reports by government agencies and the Saxena review panel that Vedanta had undertaken construction without obtaining the required environmental clearance. The expansion project was slated to cost Rs 8,000 crore, of which the company has already spent Rs 3,000 crore.

Issuing of terms of reference for undertaking an environment impact assessment and environmental management plan is the first step in the environment clearance process. The terms of reference are issued by the ministry’s expert appraisal committee after a study of the application for environmental clearance. The withdrawal of the terms of reference would mean that Vedanta would have to begin the process of seeking environmental clearance for expanding its existing 1 million tonne refinery all over again.

When contacted Vedanta spokesperson declined to comment. “As we have not received any communication in this regards, we would not like to comment,” the company spokesperson said. In its reply to the showcause notice, the Anil Agarwal-promoted firm had argued that the ministry was contradicting the Environmental Impact Assessment notification of 2006. It had argued that the notification stated that environmental clearance was not required for capacity expansion if there was no change in "process or technology”.

However, if no clearance was required then the question is why did the company apply for environmental clearance for the expansion project in Aug 2007. Vedanta had made a written submission to the notice on Sept 15, and a personal hearing was given on Sept 30. A senior environment ministry official said that investigations and study of material revealed that there was "clear, unequivocal, and unambiguous" violation of environmental norms by Vedanta. The ministry had also issued a showcause for violations by the 1MT refinery.

Sources said that the violations have been adjudged to be “procedural". This would mean that after the company addresses the issues raised in the showcause, which include the encroachment of forest land, use of illegally mined bauxite, the refinery will be allowed to continue operations.

Following Vedanta Alumina Limited application in August 2007, the expert appraisal committee issued the terms of reference for undertaking a detailed environment impact assessment and environmental management plan in March 2008. Vedanta submitted the final environment impact assessment in June 2009. The expert committee took up the report for consideration in August 2009, when it asked for additional information from the company. It also decided to undertake a site visit to assess the pollution control measures being adopted in the existing refinery and to suggest additional measures in keeping with the higher plant capacity.

On September 1, 2009 the ministry asked for information on the status of land acquisition, the protection of dwellers’ rights on the acquired land, details of the source of bauxite, compliance with environmental clearance for the 1MT refinery, and a copy of the showcause notice issued by the Orissa State Pollution Control Board . In December, the Orissa Pollution Control Board informed the ministry that the company had already begun construction work at Lanjigarh and this was confirmed through a plant inspection undertaken by the ministry’s eastern regional office in May this year.

The report stated that "the unit has carried out substantial construction relating to expansion activities for increasing capacities from 1MTPA to 6MTPA of the alumina refinery for which environmental clearance is yet to be accorded by the ministry." The extensive construction work on the refinery expansion was confirmed by the NC Saxena committee reviewing the Niyamgiri bauxite mining proposal in August.