Monday, November 29, 2010

Procurement woes for K’handi farmers

Expressbuzz, Nov 29, 2010
BHAWANIPATNA: Farmers of the district are spending sleepless nights over the delay in paddy procurement. It was targeted to procure 4,80,000 metric tonne (MT) of paddy this season.

Though it was decided to start procurement at regulated marketing committee (RMC) mandis from November 15, it was delayed till 21 and till date only 5,328 quintals of paddy have been purchased against 5 lakh quintals procured by this time last year.

Against 84 mandis identified for procurement, many are yet to start functioning.

The district administration had made special arrangements for hassle-fee procurement. To monitor the process, Revenue and Agriculture department officials and tehsildars were entrusted with the work as nodal officers.

A round-the-clock control room was opened in the Collectorate. Despite all this, the procurement has been erratic much to the disappointment of the farmers.

Besides the delay, they are also lamenting about the fair average quality (FAQ) norm set by the administration for paddy procurement.

Farmers of areas that were affected by flood and pest attacks are unable to meet the FAQ specification and some of them are facing hardship in transporting the paddy stock to the mandis from their villages in the absence of vehicles.

In many other areas, harvesting is nearing completion and farmers are storing paddy in ‘khalas’ waiting for mandis to open.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Orissa Magic

Expressbuzz (Kochi), Nov 27, 2010

Art and Crafts Exposition’s Orissa crafts fair at the Women’s Association Hall on Diwan’s Road is drawing in huge crowds. There are 40 artisans from Orissa at the expo displaying their products.The main attraction of the exhibition is the handloom section.Saris from different states including Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat, Punjabi phulakaris, Rajasthani dress materials, kalamkari and mangalgiri dress material, Kashmiri tops and dress materials, salwars and much more await you. The Orissa handloom saris are in demand this year as well. Ikat sari, bomkai sari, Cuttack sari, bandha and pasapalli are the varieties you may choose from.Check out the palm leaf writings that have a place of prominence in Oriyan houses and temples.For them, palm leaves are so auspicious that they print new year cards and wedding invitations on them. The patachitra paintings are special as they are done on specially treated cloth or patas. The artists mostly use red, black, yellow, white and indigo blue in these paintings. Like patachitras, Orissa’s appliqué work, which also originated as a temple art, is hugely popular. Saris and other attire designed with appliqué work are in demand at the sale.Sarangpur wooden items, Chennapatna toys, bangles, one gram gold jewellery, semi-precious silver jewellery, Rajasthani paintings, black and white metal idols and tribal paintings catch your eye for their uniqueness.The saris are priced from Rs 300 upwards while the salwars and dress materials are priced from Rs 250 onwards. The exhibition offers 20 percent discounts on handlooms and 10 percent discount on handicrafts. Drop in before December 6.

Sri Sri Ravishankar to lay foundation of the proposed Agriculture College under the proposed Sri Sri University Cuttack in Dharamgarh, Kalahandi

NOTE: Efforts of Bhakta Charan Das, MP Kalahandi and Vision Kalahandi 2020 are appreciable.

Sambad, Nov 27, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Government unveils Rs3,300 crore plan for Naxal districts

DNA, Nov, 26, 2010
With an aim of tackling Naxalism through development, the government has unveiled a special Rs3300 crore action plan in 60 affected tribal and backward districts across nine states.
The Integrated Action Plan (IAP) is intended to provide immediate redressal to problems of the people in tribal and backward districts in the sector like healthcare, drinking water, education and roads.
The IAP would be given as an additional central assistance scheme on 100% grant basis to be implemented in two years, home minister P Chidambaram said about the decision taken at the meeting of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs held last evening.
"In the current year (2010-11), a block grant of Rs25 crore will be made available to each of the 60 districts for which the schemes will be decided by a committee headed by the distrcit collector with district SP and district forest officer as members," Chidambaram said here.
The projects would have to be completed by March in a "concrete" and "visible" manner, he said.
The works would be taken up by district collectors by December 1, he said, adding the block amount of Rs25 crore will have to be utilised in the remaining four months of the current fiscal.
Elaborating on the action plan, he said the grant would be utilised by a committee headed by district collectors of the state to undertake doable projects like construction of link roads, Panchayat Ghar (office building) etc.
The government, he added, proposes to call a meeting of the collectors of the 60 districts shortly to apprise them about the scheme and also the urgency to complete projects within the stipulated time frame.
During the financial year 2011-12, the block grant will be raised to Rs30 crore per district and it will be reviewed for implementation in the 12th Plan at a later stage.
"Construction of roads and schools and proper implementation of public distribution system will take place in all these Maoist-hit areas," Chidambaram said.
The IAP scheme will focus on improvement in governance and specific pre-conditions will need to be complied with by the states before availing of the second tranche of the proposed additional financial assistance in 2011-12 under the state component of the IAP.
However, these conditionalities will not apply to the district components of IAP, Chidambaram said.
The existing Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi (KBK) plan under the Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) will continue as before with annoual allocation of Rs130 crore for all eight districts in Orissa put together.
"The eight KBK districts have also been included under IAP and will get additional block grant of Rs25 crore per district in the current year and suitable additional amount under both state and district components of IAP in the subsequent years," he said.
Naxals have destroyed a lot of infrastructure over the years with 362 telephone towers, many school buildings, roads and culverts being targeted in 2009 alone.
Government is also implementing an ambitious development scheme for 35 worst Naxal-affected districts in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. According to an estimate, about 40,000 sq km areas in Naxal-affected states are under the control of Maoists.
Naxal violence has claimed the lives of over 10,000 civilians and security personnel in the last five years.
Out of a total of 10,268 casualties between 2005 and May 2010, 2,372 deaths have been reported in 2009 as against 1,769 in 2008 and 1,737 in 2007.

 Integrated Action Plan for 60 Naxal-hit districts 
The Hindu, Nov 27, 2010 
Vinay Kumar
Each to be given a block grant of Rs. 25 crore

Schemes to be decided by a panel, headed by Collector
Scheme will focus on improvements in governance

NEW DELHI: With the aim of giving a fillip to development schemes in tribal and backward regions, mostly affected by Naxal violence, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Friday approved the commencement of an Integrated Action Plan (IAP) in 60 selected tribal and backward districts.
The IAP would be given as an additional central assistance scheme on 100 per cent grant basis. It is aimed at quick resolution of problems concerning healthcare, drinking water, education and roads.
In 2010-11 alone, each of the 60 districts will be given a block grant of Rs. 25 crore, with the total coming to a whopping Rs. 1500 crore. In 2011-12, the grant will go up to Rs. 30 crore each.
“This is in pursuance of the Finance Minister's announcement in his budget speech of 2010-11 and the Prime Minister's address to the National Development Council on July 24. The scheme will, to begin with, be implemented over two years – 2010-11 to 2011-12,'' Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters.
Schemes would be decided by a committee, headed by the district collector. The superintendent of police and district forest officer would be its members. The IAP would be reviewed for implementation in the 12th Plan at a later stage, Mr. Chidambaram said.
The existing Kalahand-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) plan would continue, with an annual allocation of Rs. 130 crore for all the eight districts in Orissa put together. The eight KBK districts have been included in the IAP. They would get an additional block grant of Rs. 25 crore each in the current year and suitable additional amount under both State and district components of the IAP in the subsequent years.
The IAP would focus on improvements in governance and the States would have to comply with specific preconditions before availing of the second tranche of the proposed additional financial assistance in 2011-12 under the State component of the IAP. However, these conditionalities would not apply to the district components of the IAP, according to the CCEA decision.
The scheme would focus on effective implementation of the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (Forest Rights Act). While the district component would be administered by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, the State component will be administered by the Planning Commission.

Media exposure rocked mining boat in Niyamgiri: Filmmaker, Nov 26, 2010
Panaji, Nov 26 (IANS) International media exposure acts like oxygen and helps to optimise the effect of people's agitations against rampaging multinational corporations, according to a leading Indian documentary filmmaker.
Suma Josson's short film 'Niyamgiri, You Are Still Alive' virtually plays out the plot of James Cameron's much appreciated animation film 'Avataar' here on earth.

Set in the Niyamgiri Hills in the Kalahandi district of Orissa, the film is about the struggle of the Dongaria tribe whose existence is threatened by the coming of mining giant Vedanta Resources, which plans to set up a bauxite mine by carving up the ecologically sensitive area.

'While local struggles are important, I feel that it is important to get international groups to raise these issues with the international media. Organisations like Actionaid and Survival International played a big role in bringing Niyamgiri to the limelight,' Suma told IANS.

'The MNCs come, blast the eco-sensitive areas, displace indigenous groups who have been living there for eons, and leave behind black deserts. I felt that I had to document this process, what was there before and what happens after. Fortunately, as of now, the project appears to be stalled,' she also said.

Vedanta Resources has been criticised by human rights and activist groups for the firm's proposed operations in Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa, which threatened the lives and identity of the Dongria tribe. The Niyamgiri Hills are also claimed to be an important wildlife habitat in Eastern Ghats, according to a Wildlife Institute of India study.

In a recent decision, union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh rejected the Vedanta Resources proposal to mine the Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa for bauxite, amidst cheer from green groups.

The US-educated Suma, who has already made both feature and documentaries, said she had been working on Niyamgiri since 2007 and made a couple of campaign films on this issue.

'I made 'Niyamgiri, You Are Still Alive'. It is a film which I made after the decision from the MOEF,' she said.

Asked about her expectations from screening the film at the 41st International Film festival of India (IFFI) this year, she said: 'Any issue such as this, needs to be seen by as many people as possible so that they are aware of a story with a positive outcome. The points raised by the MOEF could set a precedent and used both in the court of law and in other platforms.'

Suma now hopes that the government does not renege on its bold decision.

'Well, I am hoping that the government keeps its word and Vedanta (Resources) is asked to leave Niyamgiri so that the adivasis and eco-systems around can co-exist in harmonious ways as has been happening since time immemorial,' she said.

Commenting on whether documentaries such as Niyamgiri convey a positive signal to similar social groups seized in the grip of the gargantuan mining behemoth, Suma said: 'From day one, the adivasis have been firm in their decision to protect Niyamgiri and give up their lives for it.'

'Such struggles have been going on all across both in India and other places, but it is also important to note that the government recognised this -the illegal manner in which Vedanta operated and put a stop to it.'

Thursday, November 25, 2010

10 more courts to be set up

The Pioneer, Nov 25, 2010
Pioneer News Service | Bhubaneswar

Law Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh on Wednesday informed the State Assembly that the Government has proposals to set up 10 more courts in the State. He was replying to a question of Amar Prasad Satapathy.

The proposed courts include two family courts-one at Jaipur in Koraput district and another at Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi district, two additional district judge courts-one at Padmapur in Baragarh district another at Chhatrapur in Ganjam district, two senior division civil courts-one at Kujanga in Jagatsinghpur district and another at Rajgangpur of Sundargarh district, three junior division civil courts-one at Dhamnagar in Bhadrak district, one at Biramitrapur in Sundargarh district and another at Betanati in Mayurbhanj district and one vigilance court at Baripada in Mayurbhanj district.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Letter to CM: Prioritizing elevation to state/unitary university based on necessity, and not by politics

Dear Honorable Chief Minister Mr. Patnaik,

It is unfortunate that the State Government is not taking initiative to elevate colleges to state University based on priority of regional requirement, but has decided to elevate Khallikote Autonomous College at Berhampur and Gangadhar Meher College at Sambalpur to unitary university status.

I am not opposed to elevation of above two colleges to unitary universities, but instead of giving priority to necessity of a state University in backward KBK region, the state Government is bringing politics over the issue.

When Ravenshaw Unitary University and VSS Unitary University are on their path to deliver, I do not know why Unitary University status for the above two colleges bring more significance to Higher Education Department despite that fact that they are located in a stone through distance from other state Universities.

The necessity of a state University in Kalahandi for KBK region bears importance because for practical purpose as the local students and people of KBK suffer while traveling to Sambalpur or Berhampur Universities due to long distance and poor communication.

Perhaps, a student or faculty from a college in Jayapatna, Dharamgarh, Sinapali, Umarkote, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Koraput etc may understand better what distance and communication mean to him/her while communicating his/her university.

Higher Education Department is possibly excited for the conversion to Unitary University as Khallikote is located in stone through away distance from state capital to become Oxford of India, though it’s unable to hire many vacant lecturer posts across the state.

The demand for a state University in KBK is also pending since two state Universities were established in North part of Odisha. From Utkal University, two state Universities and a Unitary University have already been carved out, where as not a single state University have been carved out either from Sambalpur or Berhampur University as per regional requirement.

Since there are many new proposals as per recent Higher Education Task Force recommendation, the state Government and Higher Education Department must chalk out a plan to convert to such state and unitary universities in the priority basis in a phase wise manner, without any political motivation.

I would be surprised if the Higher Education Task force would have ever recommended such elevation to unitary universities in priority basic compared to requirement of a state University in KBK region? If was the case, based on what criteria?

Logically and taking into consideration of practical purpose, for Odisha at this moment urgency of a state University in KBK region is more important over conversion of Unitary Universities, which are already Autonomous Colleges and when the cities/regions have already general state Universities.

Kalahandi is located in the centrally in KBK and Government Autonomous College Bhawanipatna (GACB) is one of the first three colleges of Potential Center of Excellence received from UGC along with Gangadhar Meher College at Sambalpur and Ravenshaw College at Cuttack.

GACB is the only College in KBK region which has received this recognition and the demand for a University in Kalahandi has been since while, our late Chief Minister Biju Patanik was once attached in Kalahandi for the same cause.

Even taking into the implementation of higher education task force recommendation in phase wise manner, state University in Kalahandi should get first priory over any other location due to above facts.

In my opinion, in the priority basis the recommendation should be for a state University in Kalahandi, followed by a state University in South Orissa, state University in Central Orissa, One Branch campus in Eastern Orissa (Cuttack), State University in Western Orissa, One Branch Campus in Keonjhar for North Orissa, Branch campus in Phulbani for South Orissa, Metropolitan University in Rourkela, Unitary University for GM, Khallikote and RD Women Colleges, 2nd Branch campus in Eastern Orissa (Puri), 3rd Branch campus in Jagatsingpur, 4th branch campus in Jajpur/Kedrapada, State University in Parliakhemundi for South Eastern Orissa and so on.

I hope you will look into the matter for appropriate action.

Thanking you and best regards

Digambara Patra

Kalahandi needs varsity

Thanks to Dr Baba Mishra for sharing this.
The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar), Nov 23, 2010

Sagar Mohanty, MD, Nexus Technoware Solution Pvt. Ltd (NTSPL), Bhubaneswar awarded with the “Rashtriya Udyog Ratna Award - 2010

Indian Achievers Forum, New Delhi organized the 26th Indian Achievers Summit on November 22, 2010 at Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi. The topic of the summit was "The Challenges of Economic Growth & Social Development” This seminar highlighted the contribution and effort of many individuals and organisations across fields of industry, commerce, banking, education,   technology, engineering, information technology, tourism, social work etc. The Chairmans, Chief Executives, Directors and promoters of various organisations participated in this seminar from all over the country and abroad.  Many leading technocrats, doctors, educationists and other professionals were also present during this event.

During this summit Mr.Sagar Mohanty, MD, Nexus Technoware Solution Pvt. Ltd (NTSPL), Bhubaneswar has been awarded with the “Rashtriya Udyog Ratna Award - 2010” for his outstanding achievements in the field of Information Technology.

The chief guest of this seminar was Dr.Buta Singh, Former Home Minister, Government of India, Shri Govindrao Adik, M.P. Rajya Sabha, H.E. Mr.Ousmane Tandia, Ambassador of the Republic of Mali in India, Shri B. S. Ramoowalia, Former Union Labour Minister, Government of India, Shri Joginder Singh, Former CBI Director, Shri Suneel Shastri, Chairman, Lal Bahadur Shashtri Foundation, Mr. Harish Chandra Uniyal, Executive Director, Indian Achievers Forum and various others delegates who attended the summit.

Free cataract operations fail Kalahandi patients

The Pioneer, Nov 24, 2010

Following the free cataract operation done by Sambalpur-based NGO Grace Vision here, 16 patients are suspected to have gone completely blind, according to reports.

While the district administration confirmed that 25 patients have been infected, investigations revealed that the number of the infectedpatients may increase.

This has been witnessed for the second time in the last three years in Kalahandi. Earlier, nine patients had lost their eyesight in 2007 at Mandel village under Narla block following which each victim had been compensated with `1 lakh by the administration.

Report said that 1,210 patients were operated free of cost recently by Grace Vision at the Dharmagarh hospital. Out of these around 16 to 21patients felt pain in their eyes in the post-operation days after reaching home which was later detected as being infected when they turned up again to the hospital for check up.

District Collector Roopa Mishra told The Pioneer that the Dharmagarh Hospital doctors had attended the patients round the clock but after being discharged they generally do not follow the doctor's advice resulting in infection which turns critical for the doctors to handle.

However, a medical expert can better confirm the exact reason behind the infection while the enquiry is on and 25 patients have been shifted to Bhubaneswar. All possible steps will be taken by the administration for each and every patient, Mishra informed further.

Being asked on the number of patients who have completely lost vision, the Collector said that the exact information would be given after going into the details

Sramik Sangh demands Vedanta expansion plan

The Pioneer, Nov 23, 2010

Criticising the Central Government’s decision of stalling the expansion plan of Lanjigarh-based Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL), members of the Nirman Sramik Sangh (NSS), Bishwanathpur sat on a dharna followed by a demonstration here on Saturday. The Sangh submitted a memorandum through the Collector addressed to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Supreme Court Chief Justice, Union Labour Ministry and the Revenue Divisional Commissioner. They have appealed not to halt the VAL’s expansion plan that generates adequate income sources in the region to thousands of workers. Slogans like ‘we can not allow the company to close’, ‘can you give alternative?’ and ‘save industry, save employment’ rented the air during the demonstration.

While the daily wage workers were terminated by the L & T group during the expansion four months before, suddenly, the Central Government slapped its order to stop the expansion work, fumed the agitators.

This has rendered around 4,000 workers jobless employed indirectly by the VAL. They had come for their bread and butter from every block of Kalahandi and other districts, they complained. “A lot of people used to migrate to other States for their livelihood earlier, but after setting up of an aluminium refinery at our region, we were getting jobs and other sources of income,” NSS member Jilu Majhi said.

For the last four-five months, our situation has worsened as the expansion project has been closed. We want immediate resumption of the VAL’s expansion plan, appealed Majhi.

Jilu had earlier protested against the industrialisation at his nativity, but afterwards changed his mind when he could realise about the development work being undertaken at Lanjigarh region. NSS president Gopal Das, Gata Majhi and Patra Majhi were also present at the dharna.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The Telegraph, Nov 23, 2010
A visit to Vedanta’s refinery in Lanjigarh makes Uddalak Mukherjee ponder some of the challenges that confront India’s development model

In August 2010, the Union minister of environment and forests denied permission to Vedanta Aluminium Limited to mine bauxite from Niyamgiri. Two years earlier, in a controversial judgment, the Supreme Court had permitted operations at VAL’s refinery in Lanjigarh and directed the company to invest five per cent of its profits or Rs 10 crore (whichever amount was greater) in development works within 50 kilometres of the project area. Subsequently, a special purpose vehicle — the Lanjigarh Project Area Development Foundation — was created with a corpus of Rs 20 crore to develop this block located in Orissa’s Kalahandi.

As someone interested in the complexities spawned by development, I was keen to examine VAL’s welfare activities in Lanjigarh. My objective, however, was not to see whether VAL had violated environmental norms. What I wanted to explore, instead, was whether the development that VAL claimed to have brought about was more inclusive and effective than the programmes undertaken by the State. Also, how had the tribal community, such as the Dongria Kondhs, and the people of Lanjigarh responded to VAL’s initiatives?

Before travelling to Lanjigarh, I got in touch with a VAL official and informed him about my intent to do a story. The response was prompt and warm, and, in a way, expected. After the spate of recent setbacks — the freeze order on mining has been followed by the Orissa High Court declaring illegal the government land on which Vedanta had proposed to set up a university in Puri — the company was keen to demonstrate how Lanjigarh had benefited from its corporate social responsibility projects. In a matter of hours, my travel itinerary had been made, a comfortable accommodation arranged and the places that VAL thought I should visit identified. From a journalistic point of view, the arrangement was far from ideal. There was the possibility that I would be shown only VAL’s version of the truth. Yet, I consented to the proposal for two reasons. Given the paucity of time, I had to depend on the logistics, thoughtfully provided by my host, to gain access to the trouble spot and, hopefully, the truth. My stay in Lanjigarh would also give me an opportunity to experience how institutions — the State, civil society or large corporations — try and influence neutral attempts to discern the truth.

An overnight journey to Kesinga and a difficult, but enchanting, three-hour road trip brought me to VAL’s guest house in Lanjigarh. Soon enough, a sleek power-point presentation was organized to share the details of the CSR activities — 50 childcare centres catering to the educational and nutritional needs of 1,500 children; 400 anganwadis in Kalahandi and 600 in neighbouring Rayagada; an adult literacy programme covering 118 adults in the nearby Rehabilitation Colony; a state-of-the-art English medium school, the only one in Lanjigarh; mobile health units that provide healthcare to 115 villages (malarial cases, I was told, have come down from 80 to 20 per cent in Lanjigarh, while the malaria mortality rate has declined to 0.8 per cent from 1.1 per cent) ; livelihood programmes such as leaf-plate making, pineapple and bamboo farming to augment the income of Dongria Kondhs; electrification drives that have lit up 11 villages comprising 700 households in Lanjigarh (the electrification drive under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Bidyutikaran Yojana has managed to bring electricity to only two villages in Lanjigarh).

These programmes may be localized, and are certainly inadequate to address the district’s overall backwardness. But given the State’s indifference, the people in this remote area have been forced to rely on whatever little VAL is providing. The State’s failure in this aspect is borne out by chilling data. Kalahandi is among India’s 10 most backward districts. The Food Security Atlas of Rural Orissa 2008 states that in 2005-06, the infant mortality rate stood at 119 per 1,000 live births, the highest in the world; the district also has the highest malaria mortality in the region; according to the last census, the literacy rate is 45.94 per cent; the Orissa Monitoring Report by a member of the Central Employment Guarantee Council revealed that of the Rs 56.6 crore allocated under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the district has spent only Rs 11.9 crore; Kalahandi also has 5,625 days of pending unemployment allowance. The last two facts indicate that even when funds are available, the absence of an effective delivery mechanism has impaired State welfare programmes.

To see how people have responded to what VAL claims to be equitable development, I was taken to a couple of places the next day. The first, Phuldumer, a village on the lower slopes of Niyamgiri, was where I met the spirited Katli Majhi, a Dongria Kondh woman, and her friends. Thirteen families reside in this picturesque village that has not received a single day’s work under the MNREGA and whose residents are illiterate. In a local dialect, the women parroted what I had been told the night before. Thanks to VAL’s livelihood programmes, they now depended less on cultivating lentils, mustard, turmeric and more on the income generated by leaf-making. Each family earned approximately Rs 3,000 every month, and possessed bank accounts. The women agreed that these days, they ate, dressed and lived better but seemed unsure whether their prosperity had made them equal to men. After all, unlike the men — most of whom had gone to the local haat on the day of my visit — they cannot dress in the manner they like or work at the refinery. While iniquitous social relationships remain unchanged, what has altered is their tie with the surrounding mountain and the jungle. The first taste of material comfort has reduced their dependence, and perhaps respect, for the natural world.

The residents of Niyamgiri Vedanta Nagar, which I visited next, appeared equally mesmerized by the seductive powers of development. The Lanjigarh refinery has displaced six tribal-dominated villages — Kinari, Borbhatta, Kothadwar, Sindhbahal, Narayanpur and Rengapeli — and nearly 120-odd families have been rehabilitated in Niyamgiri Vedanta Nagar, Most of the residents I spoke to seemed content with the compensation. Large portions of the money, they said, had been spent in procuring consumer products like television sets and motorbikes. The men worked in the refinery, but they could not tell me whether they were permanent employees, what they did or whether they were entitled to employee benefits. Some women now worked in self-help groups and the children were receiving an ‘English’ education. An education, a house, a vehicle — each of these is an important marker of respect and equality in the eyes of the residents.

Evidently, the exposure to a different economy had shifted their cultural and ethical moorings. Despite their tribal roots, very few of the colony’s residents sported the brass jewellery or tattoos that I had seen in Phuldumer. They loathed farming, dismissed the allegations of VAL posing a threat to Niyamgiri’s environment as a “conspiracy of NGOs”, and swore that they can let go of the mountain but not the refinery.

But a great number of people are battling to save the mountain, and it was time to hear what they had to say. Meeting them proved to be more difficult than I had imagined. For the first time during my brief stay, my hosts seemed to be irked when I demanded that I be taken to meet those agitating against VAL. Yet when I attempted to set up a meeting with two men who were leading the agitation against Vedanta, they declined to meet me. They informed me over the phone that villagers near the refinery had tracked my movements with the Vedanta team, thereby strengthening the suspicion that I was disinterested in independent inquiry. They relented much later, and a clandestine meeting was set up in Bhawanipatna. A night’s journey brought me to Bhawanipatna, and early next morning, I found myself talking to two members from Green Kalahandi and the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samity. Not surprisingly, they tore into most of the facts that Vedanta had touted as evidence of development. Phuldumer was only one of the 112 villages inhabited by the Dongria Kondhs, and many of the villages — especially the ones situated on the higher slopes in Rayagada — were battling the company’s incursions into their lives. Two years back, pollutants emitted from the refinery had reached Bhawanipatna and two deaths had been reported as a result of the contamination in the Bansadhara waters (VAL, which has signed a MoU with the Institute of Mineral and Materials Technology, claims that a zero discharge system is in place in Lanjigarh). The men also accused the local administration of colluding with VAL to terrorize protesters. The police, they said, had imprisoned five women in Chattrapur village after implicating them in false charges of theft and only one FIR could be filed against the company in the last seven years. However, the two activists were forced to concede that if VAL were to be ousted, the people would have no choice but to depend on the crumbs thrown intermittently at them by the State.

Much of what I saw in Lanjigarh was consistent with what I had seen during my travels elsewhere in an India threatened with a painful transition. After failing to provide the most rudimentary facilities for health, education and employment to marginalized communities, the State is now increasingly depending on private enterprise such as VAL to bring welfare to the people. However, in the process, it has also bartered its monitoring role, thereby increasing the possibility of irregularities on the part of private corporations. The Saxena committee report, which was examined by the Forest Advisory Committee and the Union minister before the latter stalled VAL’s plans, alleges that the company is guilty of flouting environmental norms. In India, it is often alleged that even the law sides with the affluent. But before congratulating the MOEF for its unprecedented act of putting the interests of tribes over those of big business, one must pause and reflect how, in Niyamgiri’s case, both “in principle” forest clearance and environmental approval had been given by the FAC earlier. Had there been a lapse in the FAC’s 2007 assessment? And if VAL is indeed guilty of wrongdoing, should not the earlier lapse be investigated?

Another disturbing feature is the complete breakdown of dialogue between VAL and its opponents. Without dialogue there can be no democracy. Lanjigarh’s vitiated atmosphere is a reminder that the need for dialogue can be replaced by a willingness to speak the language of violence. Company officials complained bitterly that activists often burnt down vehicles carrying essential supplies. On their part, VAL’s opponents point out how the murder of Adasi Mahi, a Dongria Kondh who had deposed before the Saxena committee, remains unresolved. It this lack of trust that sharpens the need to co-opt and exploit the media. The subtle attempts by VAL’s officials to thwart my visit to the villages surrounding the refinery and the initial hostility exhibited by the two men I met in Bhawanipatna point to the shrinking ground for objective enquiry. The media ought to resist the encroachment of this critical space more vigorously to protect its credibility.

I had visited Lanjigarh in the hope of finding some answers, but I returned with two questions that troubled me particularly. The Dongria Kondhs in Rayagada continue to resist VAL in the name of protecting the fragile environment, and their community rights and customs. But the tribal women in Phuldumer seemed to have unquestioningly embraced the markers of modernity and development. Is India’s development model equipped to include such seemingly contradictory needs?

Second, informed choice is integral to a democracy. But the ineptness of the State has made the equipment needed for informed choice — particularly education and awareness — a rarity among marginalized communities. The tribal voice — cleverly appropriated by politicians, corporations, civil rights activists and the media — is as complex and layered as the outlook towards development. Is the State willing to address this complexity and thus make tribal people equal partners in the process of change?

Two days after the Centre vetoed VAL’s plan to mine Niyamgiri, Rahul Gandhi declared himself a sipahi of the tribal people. After Lanjigarh, I often wonder whether he knows that he leads an army of the mute.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

AMU Murshidabad campus opened; CM, FM feature inaugural, Nov 20, 2010

By Zaidul Haque,,
Sir Syed Ahmed Nagar (Ahiran), Murshidabad: Aligarh Muslim University's (AMU) campus was officially inaugurated yesterday in Ahiran, rechristened as Sir Syed Ahmed Nagar, in Murshidabad district of West Bengal. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and VC P K Abdul Azis included dignitaries who featured the opening ceremony.

Addressing the gathering CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya said: “This is the most memorable day in my life. In West Bengal there are 18 universities, but none in West Bengal. This new AMU campus has been added to the list. I think that in future a full-fledged university campus will be set up.” He also said this Murshidabad campus of AMU will help in spreading education in West Bengal. It will help in upliftment of the Muslim society of Murshidabad. AMU is imparting modern & secular education to 30000 students at 95 departments. He hoped that with the AMU campus in West Bengal backward Murshidabad will come forward.

The CM Bhattacharya recalled: “When I heard about AMU concern to open its campuses around the country, I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to establish a campus in Murshidabad also. I also contacted Mr Pranab Mukherjee and requested him to help the state for this. He was always with us and for his active support AMU campus has been opened here.”

Beside the CM, at the inaugural ceremony were present renowned personalities including Central Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Minister of State of Central Human Resource Department D Purandeswari, Central Minister Mr Bansal, State Higher Education Minister of West Bengal Prof. Sudarshan Roychowdhury, Member of Rajyasabha Moinul Hasan, MP Mannan Hossain MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, local MLA Moinul Haque and others along with AMU VC P K Abdul Azis and Registrar V K Abdul Jalil.
Earlier, the program began with the recitation of verses from Holy Quran by Maulana Saud Alam Qasmi. This was perhaps the first time in West Bengal when a program started with the recitation of Holy Quran in the presence of CM of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Union Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Speaking as Chief Guest Union Finance Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee said: “AMU campus of Murshidabad would be significant in the North-East. The whole project has already been approved and his department initially sanctioned Rs 50 crores. Union HRD also sanctioned Rs 25 crores.’
“Murshidabad was once the capital of united Bengal, Bihar & Orissa. But now Murshidabad is far behind in education and economic development. AMU may play a role to recover the lost pride of the area,” he added. Mukherjee represents a Lok Sabha constituency in Murshidabad.

He also said that the establishment of AMU campus in Murshidabad was the right of Muslims of this district and that is to be fulfilled now.

Pranab Mukherjee said AMU is exceptional in India where one can study from Nursery to Doctoral degree. It will be helpful to spread education among women in Murshidabad.
He announced that initially form January AMU will start academic session from a rental house whose owner is his friend and businessman Mr Sajahan Biswas.

Vice Chancellor of AMU P K Abdul Aziz said he is proud of AMU campus in Murshidabad with the help of both state & Union Govt. He also expressed gratitude to the local people for their cooperation.
Beside the Ahiran Railway Station 265 acres of land have been earmarked for the campus. Due to AMU campus this area will now on be called Sir Syed Ahmed Nagar.

CU School of Health Sciences next year

Expressbuzz, Nov 21, 2010

KORAPUT: The School of Health Sciences under Central University of Orissa will function at Koraput from the next academic session in May 2011, announced University Vice-Chancellor Surabhi Banerjee today. She added there was also a proposal to establish a medical college under the varsity and an interim report had been submitted to the Human Resource Ministry recently.  The Central University had signed an MoU with Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) for establishing the School and for collaboration in teaching and research in Masters in Public Health Management.The School will also run courses in Nursing Sciences and Allied Health Sciences, Surabhi said.An MOU was also signed with Narayana Hrudayalaya, Bangalore, for training in medical and allied health sciences. Delhi-based Jamia Hamdard University has also agreed to extend help in the field of allied sciences.

INDIRA GANDHI SADBHAVANA AWARD - 2010 to Sagar Mohanty, Managing Director Nexus Technoware Solution Pvt. Ltd.

Mr.Sagar Mohanty, Managing Director, Nexus Technoware Solution Pvt. Ltd (NTSPL), Bhubaneswar has been awarded with the “INDIRA GANDHI SADBHAVANA AWARD - 2010” for Outstanding Individual Achievements & Distinguished Services to the Nation. The award was presented jointly by Former Governor of Sikkim, Chaudhary Randhir Singh with Former Union Minister & Governor Tamilnadu, Dr.Bhishma Narain Singh, on the occasion of National Symposium on “Life & Works of Late Smt. Indira Gandhi” held on 19th November 2010 at New Delhi to mark the 92nd Birth Anniversary of Late Smt. Indira Gandhi.

Dr. G.V.G Krishnamurthy (Former Election Commissioner India), Mr. Oleg N. Laptenok (Ambassador of Belarus), and Maj. Ved Prakash (Secretary, All India Congress Committee) were the dignitaries present on the award giving function.

Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik urges Industries to focus on jobs, Nov 19, 2010

Bhubaneswar: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday set the four factors of employment, development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), capacity-building and meaningful corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities as must-do for industries planning to operate in the state.
Inaugurating the five-day Enterprise Odisha 2010, the 15th edition of the flagship annual event of the Odisha State Council of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at the Exhibition Ground here, he appreciated the efforts of the CII in exploring the international linkages for the industries in the state for the first time by attracting the participation from South East Asian nations in the event whose objective is to showcase the products and services of industries in the state and provide a platform to the producers and consumers to directly interact.
Present on the occasion, industries minister Raghunath Mohanty said that a meeting of the representatives of CII with the chief minister has identified several action areas including employment generation and CSR activities.
He appreciated their initiative in formulating District Development Projects for the districts of Koraput, Jajpur, Kalahandi, Balasore and Balangir.
Industries secretary T Ramachndru pointed out that every inch of the land in the state was fit for some sort of industrial activity and thanked the CII members for bringing in their capital and entrepreneurship to set up industries here.
He suggested that the industries take care of employment beyond the unskilled workers only and patronise the local small entrepreneurs who are being marginalized in the current phases of industrial activity.
Chairman, CII Eastern Region Kurush Grant said that as India's premier business association, CII is looking forward to working closely with the Odisha government for all round development of the state.
He said that the skill centre at Balasore and Green Bhubaneswar project as some of the CII initiatives which is expected to take the collaborative effort to new heights.
Chairman of the CII State Council RK Jena delivered the welcome address and set the backdrop for the discussion by mentioning the RBI report which has put Odisha at the top of the list of States for which industries have received sanctions of investment from the banks.
Odisha has logged approval for investment of more than Rs 75,000 crore.  Maharastra and Gujarat are in the second and third spot respectively.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanks to Sri Rama Chandra Khuntia for his letter to Minister for Road Transport and Highways Supporting our Proposal for Highways in KBK

NOTE: Our sincere thanks to Sri Khuntia for taking this move. We appreciate his support.

19 November, 2010

Dear Shri Kamal Nath Ji,
As you know KBK is the most backward region of Odisha. Instead of having any clear vision about the development KBK region, the State Government of Odisha is using KBK as a political weapon. In the State Government’s proposal for Rs. 800 Crore Special Grant for infrastructure development, no concrete proposal has been included for construction of highways linking KBK districts. In my view the following routes are very important for development of KBK region :

(1) Construction of Four lanes on Bolangir to Koraput via Bhawanipatna, Nabarangpur Highway (NH 201 & NH 43);

(2) Construction of two lane highway from Nuapada to Dooduma (Koraput) via Subaneda, Indra Dam, Sinapalli, Dharamgarh, Moter, Jaipatan, Indravati dam, Muran dam, Kolab;

(3) Construction of two lane highway from Umarkote to Parliakhemundi via Jharigram, Gotomunda, Dharamgarh, Junagarh, Karlapat Kiapadar, Jaykaypur, Gunpur;

(4) Construction of Four lanes on NH 217 – Nuapada to Phulbani via Bongomunda, Titilagarh;

(5) Construction two lane highway from Nabarangpur to Phulbani via Mahulpatna – Thuamul Rampur – Lanjigarh – Tumudibandh;

(6) Construction of two lane highway from Vijayawada to Ranchi via Jeypore-Dasmantpur-Kashipur (of Rayagada) – Bhawanipatna – Madanpur Rampur – Kantamal (of Boudh) – Sonepur – Sambalpur.

In my opinion, the proposed route of Vijayawada – Ranchi highway by State Government does not serve any fruitful purpose except connecting the above two cities through Maoists influenced districts of Odisha. A better, short and convenient route with development of business and trade point view would be Vijayawada to Ranchi via Motu – Malkangiri – Jeypore - Dasmantpur-Kashipur (of Rayagada) – Bhawanipatna – Madanpur Rampur – Kantamal (of Boudh) – Sonepur – Sambalpur – Rourkela. Moreover, this would cover a large part of KBK region including 5 out of 8 districts and major towns of Odisha.

Similarly, road development in Maoists influenced districts in Odisha could very well be done by constructing Koraput – Baripada highway via Phulbani, Keonjhar etc.

I shall be grateful if you kindly consider my above recommendations while finalizing the proposals for development of highways in KBK region.

With warm regards,

Yours sincerely,


Shri Kamal Nath Ji,
Minister for Road Transport and Highways,
Government of India,
New Delhi

Dear Shri Digambara Patra Ji,

Thanks for your e-mail suggesting verious construction of highways for development of KBK region. I have written a letter to Hon. Minister of Road Transport and Highways in the matter. A am enclosing herewith a copy of the same for your information.

yours faithfully,


Updating wikipedia on Kalahandi and History of Kalahandi

We are updating wikipedia on Kalahandi and History of Kalahandi:

Please support us with information, pictures and improving the language.

Thanks in advance

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Land largesse for corporate 'univs'

Business Standard, Nov 18., 2010

When the Orissa High Court on Tuesday described the Vedanta Group’s acquisition of 6,892 acres for its university project in Puri “illegal and void”, the judges were merely articulating a widespread concern.
In fact, when Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) recently got 110 acres from the Madhya Pradesh government for its foray into education, it raised many eyebrows. Ditto with Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB), to which 70 acres had been allotted by the Punjab government on a 99-year lease at Rs1 an acre, annually.
For Vedanta University, the Anil Agarwal Foundation had acquired about 4,500 acres of the 6,892 acres allotted to it. “It’s a good revenue model and an attractive business proposition for many business houses. They get land — a resource that will be scarce a few years down the line — at throwaway prices. If they are serious about giving back to society, why don't they purchase land at market rates? The Infosys Technologies training campus in Mysore is also built over acres of donated land,” said Premchand Palety, director, Centre for Forecasting & Research (C-fore), New Delhi.
Infosys Technologies’ Global Education Centre (GEC- II is located at its 337-acre Mysore campus. Infosys spent over Rs2,000 crore to set up the centre, of which Rs1,700 crore was spent on education- and training-related infrastructure.
Industry players said a fairly good engineering institute can be set up on 10 acres. While a good management institute needs no more than 5 acres and a medical college requires 25-30 acres. “So, why does one require hundreds and thousands of acres to set up an education institute or training centre?” asks Palety.
While the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, is spread over 67 acres in Vastrapur, Gujarat, IIM-Bangalore is spread over 100 acres.
Some academicians say if the country’s premier institutes can make do with less land, there is no reason why corporate universities need so much of it. This only shows a kind of land grab, as in the case of special economic zones, where around 40 per cent of land acquired belonged to tribals.

“In the name of setting up education institutes, most of these business houses are setting up technical institutes, and not universities. Only technical education assures quick returns along with a ready pool of takers,” says the director of a Bangalore-based management institute.
Consultants advising private companies on their education ventures agree. “Setting up a technical institute is the easiest, as the initial investment required is low and the returns quick. Mostly, the initial cost is covered at most within eight years. That’s why most business houses aren’t interested in setting up a multi-disciplinary university,” said a Delhi-based consultant, who is advising at least a dozen companies on their education ventures.
He adds that many of these businessmen opt for land in states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan, as governments there are ready to give cheap land in the name of development.
However, officials at the All-India Council for Technical Education, the country’s technical and management education regulatory body, disagree. AICTE says it is confident that corporate houses will improve the education scenario. Possibly, this is why it is working on a proposal wherein companies formed under Section 25 of the Companies Act may be considered to run technical colleges.
“We believe that institutions run by business houses are more professionally managed than others. So, their request for more land is not the issue. One cannot invest a lot of money to purchase land and then set up the institute, too. We also believe they would be more transparent,” said an AICTE official.
As ISB Dean Ajit Rangnekar says, “An educational institution’s life-span does not cover years or decades, but centuries. A hundred years from now, 70 acres may limit the campus. Every major university in the world faces a severe shortage of space because the initial estimates of land were grossly inadequate.”
Most companies don’t agree with the land-grab comparison, either. Sunil Bharti Mittal-promoted Bharti Enterprises, which runs Satya Bharti Schools in partnership with state governments and a few vocational courses, plans to set up a university. “Even the thought of equating the setting up of education institutes to a way of land grabbing is bad. It’s not land for commercial use, but to create temples of tomorrow,” said Rajan Bharti Mittal, vice-chairman & managing director, Bharti Enterprises.
Amitabh Jhingan, partner and education leader at Ernst & Young, agrees. “The corporate world needs some amount of support. Land is not a large proportion of the entire exercise, anyway. The cost of setting up an institute is the highest. Besides, there can’t be a possible alternate use to the land.”
Bakul Dholakia, who has been heading the Adani Group's Institute of Infrastructure & Management in Gujarat, says if the land allotted for an education site is not being put to use properly, it can amount to land grabbing. “If you liberalise education, the demand for land for education may go up. In that case, such a situation may arise. But that is certainly not happening in the near future,” said Dholakia.
Many companies, however, are spending on the prevailing land prices instead of depending on government grants. For example, Shiv Nadar, promoter of the $5.5-billion enterprise HCL, is planning a university over 286 acres on the outskirts of Delhi and has invested in the land on his own, says an official from the Shiv Nadar Foundation.
Azim Premji University, which is being set up by the Azim Premji Foundation on 50 acres in Sarjapur near Bangalore, is buying land directly from the owners.