Monday, January 31, 2011

VAL committed to science college

Shared by Dr Baba Mishra

The New Indian Express, Jan 31, 2011

Vedanta assures quality science Education at Orissa through Science College, Jan 31, 2011
Report by Suchismita Sahoo; Bhubaneswar: Today the management committee of upcoming Vedanta Science College organized a day long conference on “Emergence of Science Education” in the society at Lanjigarh.

As 21st century every human life is more dependent on technology the knowledge on scientific innovations is becoming essential for all of us . “Science education would not only help in getting employment but also will help us to enhance a quality life in science oriented society’, said Prof. Arun Kumar Pujari, Vice-Chancellor, Sambalpur University during a conference. More than 200 students and faculty members from 15 colleges in Kalahandi and Rayagada participated in this conference.

The objective of the conference was to make the people conscious about the value of science education at degree level as well as to discuss about the proposed Vedanta Science College at Lanjigarh. Dr. Mukesh Kumar, President and COO, Vedanta Aluminium Limited, said, “Vedanta Science College was a long pending demand of the people of Western Orissa. Vedanta is committed to create a state of art Science College that will promote quality science education in western Orissa”. Quality Science education can help in developing technical manpower for industrialization in Orissa, he added.

The proposed Vedanta Science College will start its academic session from 2011 and will provide education in subjects of Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Mathematics, Zoology, and Environmental Science. As the local students of the region depend on Bhawanipatna, Rayagada and Bhubaneswar for degree level studies on science subjects, Vedanta Science College can make a valuable contribution to the local people around Lanjigarh,

Prof. Gopabandhu Behera and Dr. A. K. Nanda, who are also the Governing Body member of Vedanta Science College were also present on the dais.

Also present on the occasion were, Mr. Sanjay Kumar Pattnaik Vice-President, VAL, Mr. C Joseph, in-charge of the Vedanta Science College, Dr. Nabakrushna Panda, Principal, Govt. Autonomous College, Bhawanipatna, Mr. S. P. Nanda, Principal, Govt, Women’s College, Bhawanipatna, Mr. Sudershan Rath, Principal, Bisamcuttack College, Mr. Bharat Rath, Principal Rayagada Govt. College.

Vedanta exploring other bauxite sources

CNN-IBN, Jan 31, 2010
Stating that Orissa was home to around 1800 million tonnes of bauxite, the Vedanta refinery COO said a huge volume to the tune of 800 million tonnes were reserved in Kalahandi region where company's alumina plant was located."Area within about 30 km radius from Lanjigarh houses around 800 million tonnes of bauxite," he said adding apart from pursuing major bauxite sites, Vedanta was also exploring other small reserves in the region.Vedanta would be able to operate its plant with expanded capacity for the next 35-40 years if it is allotted around 35 per cent of the bauxite reserve stored in Kalahandi region alone, Kumar said."We are working with a positive approach and hope to overcome the crisis created following environment ministry's rejection of mining operation in Niyamgiri hill by exploring these wide range of options," he said.Moreover, Orissa is believed to have the potential of another 1000 million tonnes of bauxite reserves, Kumar said adding that the government is undertaking an exercise to explore these potential.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vedanta honours meritorious Kalahandi students

The Pioneer, Jan 29, 2011

The Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) felicitated three meritorious students of Kalahandi with the Vedanta Gyanashree Award for showing outstanding results in the district.

Rural Development and Law Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh presented the awardees a laptop each in presence of VAL COO Mukesh Kumar and Collector Roopa Mishra.

Congratulating the students Kumar said, education is an important tool for the future generation and Vedanta will always try to boost the students for the overall development of the district.

Somya Parimanik of Durga Madhav Uchcha Vidyapith, M Rampur bagged the award for securing 17th position in the matriculation examinations held under the aegis of Board of Secondary Education, Odisha while Bishesh Sahoo of Vimla Convent School, Bhawanipatna for being they topper with 94 per cent marks in the ICSE and Sradha Satpathy of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Bhawanipatna who topped in the CBSE examinations in the district with 95 per cent marks.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Orissa seeks Rs 2085 crore in Railway Budget for 2011-12

Note: Among section of new line Badrachalam road - Talcher via Malkangiri, Jeyopore, Jungarh should get priority as it will connect Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Nabarangpur, Rayagrada and Titilagarh region with state capital Bhubaneswar along with Khordha road - Balangir line.

Business Standrad, Jan 26, 2011

BS Reporter / Kolkata/ Bhubaneswar January 26, 2011, 0:51 IST

In the run up to the Railway Budget for 2011-12, the Orissa government has requested the Ministry of Railways to sanction Rs 2085 crore for the state in the current financial year for various railway projects including new rail links, extension of existing rail links, improvement in passenger amenities, introduction of new trains and increase in frequency of trains.

The state government has sought Rs 350 crore for the Khurda Road-Bolangir rail link (289 km), Rs 250 crore for the Paradeep-Haridaspur rail link (82 km), Rs 150 crore each for the Angul-Duburi-Sukinda Road rail line (90 km) and Talcher-Bimalagarh (154 km) rail line and Rs 60 crore for the Lanjigarh Road-Junagarh rail link (56 km).

For gauge conversion, the state has sought Rs 20 crore for the 89-km Rupsa-Bangriposi and Rs 30 crore for the 90-km Nuapada-Gunupur.

Similarly, for doubling projects, the state government has requested the Ministry of Railways to allot Rs 760 crore. Presently, 20 doubling projects are under execution in order to further augment line capacity. Allocation of funds for the second bridge on Kathajori and Kauakhai and Haridaspur-Jakhapura (third line) needs to be sharply increased.

The proposals for new doubling include Rayagada-Koraput rail link and patch doubling of Kottavalasa-Kirandul line. The state government has requested the Ministry of Railways to sanction doubling of this rail link which connects the port city of Visakhapatanam with the iron ore rich area of Kirandul.

For undertaking new electrification works, the state has sought Rs 100 crore from the Ministry of Railways in 2011-12. It has also requested the ministry to sanction funds for the development of multi modal logistics parks and container freight stations at Kalinga Nagar, Angul, Jharsuguda, Rourkela and Choudwar.

The Railways ministry has been requested to sanction some new rail links in 2011-12. These include Rupsa-Burhamura-Chakulia (35 km), Nuapada-Gunupur-Theruvali (79 km), Banspani-Barbil (15 km), Bhadrachalam Raod-Malkangiri-Jeypore-Junagarh-Lanjigarh Road-Talcher-Bimlagarh, Bargarh-Nuapada via Padampur (120 km), Talcher-Gopalpur (245 km), Puri-Konark (35 km), Rupsa-Bangriposi-Gorumahisani (35 km), Badampahar-Keonjhar (70 km), Berhampur-Phulbani (169.8 km) and Khurda Road-Rajathgarh (59 km).

The Orissa government has proposed to set up a dedicated industrial corridor in the Meramandali-Angul-Talcher-Chhendipada belt linking the coal mines, power generating units and steel plants.

This proposed corridor, to be co-habited by multiple users, is estimated to cost Rs 2192 crore. The state government has requested the Railways ministry to finalize the policy to construct such dedicated rail corridors in coal and mineral bearing areas.

The state has also given proposal for introduction of 16 new trains. This includes Duronto type super fast trains between Bhubaneswar-Mumbai, Puri-jaipur, Bhubaneswar-Pune, Bhubaneswar-Bangalore and Puri-Surat. It has also presented proposal for introduction of a super fast express between Visakhapatanam and Allahabad, express train between Koraput and Visakhapatanam, express train from Titlagarh to Bhubaneswar via Rayagada, express train from Keonjhar to Howrah, express train from Barbil to Visakhaptanam, super fast express from Rourkela to New Delhi, inter-city express between Puri and Tata via Keonjhar, express train between Berhampur and Rourkela, direct train between Bhubaneswar and Kalka, express train service between Jagdalpur and Kolkata, inter-city express between Berhampur and Puri and passenger train services between Barbil and Puri as well as from Rayagada to Bolangir.

Moreover, the state has sought Rs 25 crore for five new coaching terminals and Rs 50 crore for seven 'Adarsh' stations (model stations) and two multi-functional complexes.

Visually-challenged Bhawanipatna boy traced at Jatni

The Pioneer, Jan 25, 2011

A 13-year-old hostel inmate of the Red Cross School for the Blind here was found after three days of his missing by an NGO Padmashree Society of Jatni in Khurda district on Thursday.

The visually-challenged student Debasish Panda was reportedly missing in the melee at the LBS Stadium here on the concluding day of the Kalahandi Utsav Ghumura on Monday while thousands of people were enjoying the Utsav, the police said.

According to reports, out of the total 36 hostel inmates, the concerned guardian had taken 13 students for a visit to the Utsav and Debasish went missing unfortunately.

The police said, after getting the information that the Khurda-based NGO had found the partially-blind boy and the NGO wanted to have his identification by his family members, the police then sent for his father, a resident of Nuapada district, and sent him to Khurda accompanied by a cop for his identification and to bring him back here.

However, the detailed information would be available after a thorough enquiry was made with the boy as to how he landed at Khurda from Bhawanipatna, Town IIC Haresh Pandey told the media.

Uncertain Vedanta fate takes it toll on ancillary units

The Pioneer, Jan 26, 2011

With an aura of uncertainty looming large over the Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) at Lanjigarh in the district here, everyone is in a state of dilemma, starting from the contractors, shopkeepers, businessmen and vehicle owners.

Reports said that Vedanta' s COO Dr Mukesh Kumar had informed the local contractors and vendors on December 31 that the Lanjigarh-based VAL was going to wind up very soon as it is not viable for them to run the industry with no chance of mining here.

The message of Mukesh was informed to mediapersons by the ancillary unit owners, vendors and contractors of Lanjigarh, Biswanathpur, Muniguda and Ambadola at a Press conference held at Lanjigarh on Tuesday where all of them vented their plights on the uncertain future one by one before the media.

They threatened to take to the streets and commit suicide if their problems were not resolved by the Government and district administration.

They also submitted a memorandum to Kalahandi Collector Roopa Mishra on January 8 in presence of VAL commercial head Rajesh Mahata. According to reports, the businessmen have availed loans from different banks, private finance companies and open market to run their business.

All the members of the contractors' union, labour union, business association and truck owners' association were present at the Press conference.

Earlier it was assured by VAL that the Vedanta project would flourish and simultaneously the ancillary units will also get the best benefits out of it as an advertisement was published on behalf of the joint hands of Vedanta and District Industry Center (DIC) for setting up ancillary units at Lanjigarh.

Accordingly, they had all planned to establish their respective units at Lanjigarh while the prevalent uncertainty has caused them sleepless nights.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rights body monitor to probe displacement in Lanjigarh

Times of India, Jan 20, 2011
BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will soon send its special rapporteur to study displacement of people at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district due to Vedanta's refinery plant and the problems faced by them.

The commission took the decision at its two-day camp sitting here in response to petitions filed on the matter. "In the matter of Vedanta, the commission took a strong note of the land acquisition policy of the state and directed that all the affected persons should be rehabilitated. The commission asked its special rapporteur to examine the action taken report of the state government," a NHRC release issued here said.

NHRC member Satyabrata Pal said: "We have received two complaints on Vedanta, one on displacement of people at its alumina refinery plant and another on the mining issue. Since the mining issue is all but put at rest for now, we are only examining the complaints relating to the refinery and displacement caused by it." The NHRC heard a total of 52 cases, including complaints on Tata Steel project at Kalinga Nagar and that of Posco's near Paradip on which the commission directed the state government to "submit a comprehensive report on rehabilitation and compensation status of displaced persons".

NHRC chairman K G Balakrishnana told mediapersons that Orissa should take utmost care to safeguard human rights in view of the emerging industrial activities.

"Orissa is aiming at massive industrialization. We are apprehensive about whether human rights will be violated when such massive industrialization takes place."

Cloud on Red zone scheme

NOTE: This report failed to analyse in a logical way. Kalahandi, Nuapada, Balangir, Sonepur and Nabarangpur were included in IAP as KBK district (as part of Koraput was already red area) which was clearly mentioned while announcing the program. Though Balangir is a BJD constituency and Kalahandi a congress, state Govt had demanded more funds for KBK which center denied and included in IAP and backward district program.

The Telegraph (Kolkata), Jan 21, 2011

New Delhi, Jan. 20: Twelve districts that face no apparent Maoist threat have recently been added to the list of those worst affected by the rebels, officials said.

They hinted that powerful politicians with influence in these 12 districts were eyeing a share of the development funds earmarked for the Red zones.

Of the 12 districts, at least eight fall within the Lok Sabha constituencies of Congress MPs. Seven of the districts are in Madhya Pradesh and were apparently included under pressure from an influential MP from the state. Four are in Orissa and one in Chhattisgarh.

The original list was of 48 districts. The home ministry had proposed they be brought under the “integrated action plan” the Planning Commission had prepared last year, earmarking Rs 25 crore for each district.

The 48 “worst-hit” districts had been selected from among 83 Maoist-hit districts (from nine states) that were part of the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme. Only one Bengal district, West Midnapore, was on the list of 48 although Purulia and Bankura too are on the SRE list.

None of the 12 districts added later, whose inclusion has boosted the “worst-hit” list to 60, were on the SRE list.

Before the government finalised the project, the Planning Commission made presentations before several ministries. “During the presentation before the finance ministry, it was noticed that most of the districts were in the backyards of BJP MPs, so some Congress districts were added,” a source said.

Six of the seven Madhya Pradesh districts added — Shahdol, Anuppur, Umaria, Mandla, Dindori and Seoni — fall on the turfs of Congress MPs. Only Sidhi is represented by the BJP. In Orissa, Kalahandi and Nuapada come under a Congress MP while Bolangir and Sonepur are BJP areas. Chhattisgarh’s Kawardha is in a BJP constituency.

Image of Kalahandi Utasav Ghumura-2011 at Dharamgarh from Jan 15-17, 2011

Contributed by Ingit Panda

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Vedanta will not reapply for refinery expansion

Business Standard, Jan 20, 2011
Piyali Mandal / New Delhi January 20, 2011

London-based Vedanta Group today said it was not going to apply afresh for ‘green’ clearance to expand its aluminium refinery project in Orissa’s Kalahandi district, even after being advised by the Union environment and forests (MoEF) ministry to do so.
The linked bauxite mining project there was disallowed by the ministry last year, after a damaging report by the NC Saxena committee appointed by it. The committee had found several illegalities with the refinery project at Lanjigarh, too. It had said Vedanta was in illegal possession of 26 hectares of forest land and was in expansion mode even before any sort of clearance from the ministry.
Accordingly, the ministry had scrapped the proposal for six-fold expansion of the refinery, from a million tonnes per annum to six mt. The ministry of environment and forests has now asked Vedanta to re-apply for expansion of the refinery, while it maintains a firm No against mining the Niyamgiri Hills for bauxite.
High level sources in Vedanta said the company would not file again. “Fresh applications are filed for a greenfield (new) project. This is an expansion project. About 60 per cent work is already complete. We will not make any fresh applications. We will also not drop the court challenge, and pursue it,” a company official said.
A petition by Vedanta ALuminium challenging the Centre’s decision is currently before the Orissa high court. The next hearing in the case is on February 2.
Early this week, Vedanta chairman Anil Aggarwal had a meeting with environment minister Jairam Ramesh. Sources say the minister showed he was willing to review the Lanjigarh project on a fresh application. The minister could not be spoken to for his comments.

The turnaround in the case of Vedanta comes on the heels of the environment ministry’s decision yesterday to allow the Lavasa project in Pune to procced, with penalties, though it was illegal. The minister, who has taken some strong positions on environmental issues, has recently been seen as softening his stand, as in the Lavasa decision.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is Education meaning A Certificate ?

Shared By SATYA SIDHARTHA PANDA (through Kalhandia yahoo group)

Bangalore -INDIA

Input: Degrees /Certificates.

Output: Is Jobs / Money only? Or what else ……

What is education? Is it book /class learning or is it beyond the class room? No, not at all .Is it diverse knowledge? Not even that.

Well, you consider a man as educated if only he can pass some examinations and deliver good lectures. The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion-is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one`s own legs.

Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested, all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making assimilation of ideas.

We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one`s feet. Education bring light to the poor ;and bring more light to the rich ,for they require it more than the poor .Bring light to the ignorant ,and more light to the educated , for the vanities of the education of our time are tremendous .

But our present day schools and colleges give secular education. There is neither ethical discipline nor spiritual instruction. The youth /students have not spiritually high ideals of life .The study only to get emoluments .This is very sad indeed. That is the reason why they turn out to be spiritual bankrupts in the end.

Remember that education must teach not merely some means of earning livelihood, tenets of citizenship etc .True education must impart initiation into the life of noble aspiration, of sacred values. Remember that all studies are intended for the enlightenment of the mind and the illumination of the soul.

Education must be best calculated to promote plan living and high thinking.

I will just give you copal of Marks, I am sure these are not your marks, English – 47, Math – 38. These are the marks secured by an Individual in his HSC Examination. I am sure these marks are neither yours nor mine.

These are the marks of Narandra. The Great man of India is Swami Vivekananda.

I want to draw a line in your thinking process. Is it the scholastics achievements are very important in the life or we want something beyond the number games of the school or collages in our career. I do not want to out of mind, the importance of this scholastics Achievement of each on of us.

But it's very important to understand that life is beyond the class room. Life is beyond the kind of marks secured in the examination.

The Great presentation and Communication Guru of Canada, `Balders' has written his Experience in his Autobiography and one of the experience which has stimulated me. Once he was waking near Mountain and saw two people are breaking the stones .He want near to this two People and asked to the first person, Hello what you doing? The First person replied you stupid, not able to see me what I am doing? Then he asked to the second person "Hi what you doing and the second person smiled and said I am building a temple, church, gurudwara and Masjid. Balders surprised.

You see the difference.

The real Education:
Education should teach the pupils to love God and man .Education should instruct the students to be truthful,moral,fearless,humble and merrciful.Education should teach the students to practice right conduct ,right thinking ,right living ,right action,self-Sacrifice and attain knowledge of the self .

The Devas, the Asuras and the men received education under prajapati.They learnt the triad of self-restraint, Liberality and mercy .This is a real education.

Narada was a student under sanatkumara and learnt that the Infinite is Bliss; that there is no bliss in anything finite, and that one should wish to understand the infinite. This is a real education.

Education are your eyes to see God in all faces, to behold unity of self in all beings. Education must be best calculated to promote plain living and high thinking .Each student must be taught that his first and for most duty is to attain Self-realization and to cultivate universal relation-"Human Values"

I hold that true education of the intellect can only come through a proper exercise and training of the bodily organs, e.g.hands, feet, eyes, ears, nose etc .In other words an intelligent use of the bodily organs in a child provides the best and quickest way of developing his intellect .But unless the development of the mind and body goes hand in hand with a corresponding awakening of the soul, the former alone would prove to be a poor lopsided affair .By spiritual training I mean education of the heart . A proper and all-round development of the mind, therefore, can take place only when it precedes pair passu with the education of the physical and spiritual faculties of the student /Youth.

Education should prepare you to face life with courage and fortitude ,as a man of character .It should eradicate your gross nature and animal instincts and transform you into a noble soul .Education must concern itself with varied aspects of living and must give you a sense of duty ,of responsibility ,as an individual , as a member of your family ,of society , as a citizen of the nation ,of the world .It must give you a broad outlook, the capacity for balanced judgment ,and a keen intellect .

Education must aim at forming a moral and spiritual attitude towards life. The real advancement and well being of every society and nation depend upon the right kind of educational basis.

"Education is for Life not mere Living."
Swami Satya Sai Baba

Orissa: Business community in Lanjigarh threaten to suicide if Vedanta closes its alumina refinery, Jan 19, 2011
Report by Prabhu Prasad Routray; Lanjigarh: Hundreds of representatives of Contractors Association, Labours Association, Association of Truck Owners, Association of Small Entrepreneurs of Lanjigarh, Biswanathpur, Ambodala and Muniguda area threatened to suicide if Vedanta Aluminium Limited closes its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh which provides livelihood to their families. They came to this conclusion after senior management of the plant informed them about the current situation of the alumina refinery at Lanjigarh.

"We have come to a difficult situation as on December 31, 2010, senior management of VAL informed that Vedanta is going through a rough time as the refinery is incurring heavy loss of Rs. 500-600 crores, so it will be difficult to run the refinery," said Binod Gaud, member of the Contractor's Association.

The association demanded immediate clearance of the Niyamgiri Mining project for the survival o t refinery at Lanjigarh.

After this the association members had met the district administration of Kalahandi to inform them about their situation. "We had met the district collector of Kalahandi and handed over a memorandum saying if the company closes down the refinery our families will come to roads. So please give us alternate ways to earn our livelihood," said Mahesh Agrawal, another member.

They said that it is not possible to find a single person at Lanjigarh area who is not employed directly or indirectly because of Vedanta. More than 10,000 people depend indirectly to VAL.

According to the members, they have invested lakhs of rupees for the company. They have taken loans in building infrastructure like buying vehicles, developing market complex, building houses etc. Apart from this, thousands of people depend indirectly to the alumina refinery for their livelihood. However, if the alumina refinery at Lanjigarh is closed, they will fight to exist.

NHRC Pulls Up Orissa Govt Over Starvation Deaths

OUTLOOK, Jan 18, 2011
The National Human Rights Commission today asked Orissa government to submit a detailed report on health, education and public distribution delivery system in Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput region after 12 children in that area died allegedly due to starvation.

The rights body issued the direction at its camp sitting here while disposing a case of alleged starvation death of 12 children in Nabarangpur and Balangir districts in 2010.

The issue was taken up by the NHRC which conducted an investigation through its special rapporteur Damodar Sarangi last year.

Besides NHRC chairperson Justice K G Balakrishnan, three other members disposed the matter at the camp sitting.

Though the state government in its report to the NHRC claimed that the death of 12 children in KBK region was not due to starvation, the Commission refused to accept the argument, NHRC secretary K S Mani said.

"Poverty, malnutrition and hunger are rampant in the KBK region. This made children susceptible to starvation deaths in the area," Mani quoting the NHRC remark on the matter.

This apart, the Commission also expressed displeasure over lack of action by the state government over the years in reducing poverty, disease and malnutrition in the Kalahandi- Balangir-Koraput region.

Though the NHRC had earlier made several suggestions in this regard, the state government did not act upon it, the Commission observed.

"Children might not have died of starvation. But within a few days so many children dying in a particular area is a matter of concern," it observed.

In another case, the NHRC also asked Orissa government to issue a circular to Puri district administration where washermen and barbers were treated like bonded labourers.

The Commission's full bench comprising Justice Balakrishnan, Justice B C Patel, Satyabrata Pal and P C Sharma also came down heavily over the denial of compensation to the affected people due to Salandi-Nalia River Sanskar project.

"The Commission asked the state government to take care of the affected families before displacing them or affecting their living for setting up the project," Mani said.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A response to completely stopping mining in Odisha

Dear Dr Prakash,

I am not sure whether this mail will reach the focusOrissa group due to moderation, so I copy it to you.

Such idea of stopping mining in Odisha is completely double standard as like Saxena has said recently on Niyamgiri.

Firstly we do not have sound human resource to take the advantage. Secondly we are very much under developed in terms of infrastructure, education and health. Thirdly for the national and global interest of human civilisation.

As per the suggestion, if Russia, Canada, Australia, Iran, Iraq, Soudi Arbia, Qatar and other gulf countries also decide in the similar line to stop (exploring &) exporting fossil fuel, will we in India able to cope? A 10 dollar change in crude oil price is putting our common man in high inflation in present days, not only in Delhi but also far off KBK.

We import more coal from Austarlia, at least 60% of oil and gas are imported from Gulf countries. If Orissa stop mining, definitely India has to import more coal, iron, chromium, bauxite from other countries. Will the nation able to bear the cost for energy (for all of our houses, computers etc), steel (for housing, agriculture, tracotor, power tiller, & infrastructure), bauxite (for daily use & hardwares) etc? Fortunately, Orissa has 37% forest and recently Govt is asking to limit the mineral export from the state upto 40% to benefit the state largely in industrilisation, employment and economy, so that quality of living and poverty improves in Odisha.

If we will be asking the Government not to make road, supply drinking water, hospitals, etc and asking everyone to go back 500 years backward then probably it might be possible but this is also not sure as 500 years ago metal was still part of our society.

For our own living we consume extensively metal, fossil fuels, but we expect to stop it completely. Who will do it first? My grandfather, a retired civil servant, sold his car after retirement in 1976 and used bullok cart in Kalahandi. I did not find second one to follow him rather find more people buying motor bikes, cars day by day since my childhood.

Since my childhood I have been also seeing more NGOs filling rooms in the most expensive hotels at Bhawanipatna and renting AC cars in the name of poverty, envrionment etc, whereas povety has not yet subsidised. In this reagrd, my question is how many of these NGOs/activists will stop using fossil fuel/metal themselves first?

As a general trend, when there is public demand few people will keep coming to do business. In my native place no one sells toilet paper as there is no demand. So if we stop ourselves using aluminum (known as metal of the poor), no company in the world will come for bauxite. You might be knowing that aluminum utensils are extensively used in every house in rural Orissa/India. Could we able to convience them first to use the earthen pot and not metal pot? If India export buxite (Orissa has huge reserves) perhaps they will be first hurt in the price (I read somewhere that Niyamgiri mining could have further made aluminum cheaper in India benefiting poor people & house hold use). Similarly the haripin dongria kondh women wears comes from these mining activity though its not a bigger issue.

I am sure none of the people who are advocating this idea have a sound knowledge of governance and inter-related economy, otherwise they would not be so foolish to comment on such a deep routed problem so lightly.

In human history mining and metal have been esstential since ages: iron age, bronze age, cupper age etc. Today if we stop mining tomorrow we will depend more on polymer, much more environmental and health hazadous than metals.

I am sure all these noises are due to money/finance coming though various philanthropic channels from abroad such as Ted Turner. Otherwise very few understand the deep inside the human existance, civilisation and evolution.

Good science, technology, innovation and development could only balance the envrionment and human living. Rest what we see now in Odisha is only noise coming out due to few irresponsible philanthropic money without getting any long tem solution for human civilisation and environment.

As Gandhi has rightly shown to us by rejecting suits instead of KHADAD, let these people who are making so much noise first wear the KHADAD, we will be happy to follow them.

In this case we can easily count the golden days for environment as well as human civilisation. Unfortunately, most of them are "chameleon" and "fund hunters", people like me trust very little that they could do anything positive for the environment except stopping development.

If I had money for environment, I will bet more on research and green technology rather wasting these money in hotel bills, transportation, meeting, bribing news paper and writing articles in Odisha.

With best regards


Vedanta applies afresh to MoEF for Orissa project: Srcs, Jan 18, 2011
Trouble-struck Vedanta Resources has made a fresh application to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to expand Lanjigarh in the Orissa project, reports CNBC-TV18 quoting sources. It is learnt that the London-based company drafted a new application accommodating the earlier concerns raised by MoEF.

The company’s COO Mukesh Kumar is likely to meet the Environment Secretary today to discuss the matter. Earlier on Monday, Chairman Anil Agarwal met Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh in the Capital and discussed the company’s Orissa bauxite mining and alumina projects.

Since last year, it has faced wrath of the MoEF on the issue of expansion of its aluminium refinery and also denied permission to mine bauxite at Niyamgiri in Orissa. Vedanta’s bid to buy Cairn's Indian venture is also caught in the logjam awaiting government approval

Monday, January 17, 2011

Vedanta Group Chairman Anil Agarwal meets Ramesh

Business Standard, Jan 17, 2011
Vedanta Group Chairman Anil Agarwal today met Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and sought clearance for Vedanta Alumina Limited's (VAL) Stage-II bauxite mining project in Orissa.

Sources in the Ministry said the Vedanta chief requested Ramesh to reconsider his decision to reject its Stage-II bauxite mining in Niyamgiri Hills for Lanjigarh refinery.

The Minister pointed out the case filed by VAL challenging the Centre's decision was currently before the Orissa High Court but asked Agarwal to "make a fresh application" before the Ministry, sources said.

Later, when asked about the meeting and whether the project was discussed, Agarwal said, "we discussed it."

The Orissa High Court will be hearing the case on February 2.

Besides the VAL, Orissa government too has filed separate petitions relating to the case while several PILs, including one by Lanjigarh Anchalika Vikash Parishad, were also filed in the HC seeking to quash the October 22, 2010 notice of Environment Ministry.

Disallowing mining in Niyamgiri Hills of Kalahandi district, the Ministry had scrapped the proposal of six-fold capacity of the refinery from one million tonne per annum capacity to six million tonne per annum.

The Ministry had stopped sourcing raw material for Vedanta�s Lanjigarh refinery from mines for not having environmental clearance.

The Ministry had asked Jharkhand government to ensure that mines from the state supplying raw material to Vedanta refinery get environmental clearance.

The Centre had ordered the Vedanta to immediately halt expansion work of the refinery project asking the company to fulfil a number of conditions before operating its existing alumina refinery.

It was alleged that Vedanta was in illegal possession of 26 hectares of forest land and it was in an expansion mode to enhance its capacity.

Letter to Editor: Must analyse both sides of the coin!

Dear Editor,

I am not sure why Felix Padel, who has written a book relating Niyamgiri & environment, extensive knowledge about the region and very well involved with opposing Vedanta, has written an op-ed in one of the popular English news paper quoting:

"Vedanta vehicles carrying bauxite, coal, oil and machinery to Lanjigarh have trashed this road so thoroughly that normal vehicles take long detours to avoid sections between Therubali and Bissamcuttack, and Bissamcuttack to Muniguda."

I know this road has been worst recently. But Vedanta's vechicles transport alumina/coal to/from Jharsuguda through NH201 Bhawanipatan, Biswanathpur from/to Lanjigarh road, but I am not clear how Muniguda-Bissam Cuttack-Rayagada road is affected by Vedanta's heavy vehicles. Lanjigarh to Muniguda, Therubali to Bissamcuttack, and Bissamcuttack to Muniguda should not be affected by Vedanta unless Vedanta has some other interests. Company may have used few light vehicles time to time, but it does not seem there is any major interest of the company presently in the region. The road largely affected due to Vedanta's heavy vehicles movement is Lanjigarh-Bhawanipatna-Balangir-Jharsuguda.

I am not saying Vedanta is doing every thing right, but we must understand both sides while chosing right or wrong, other wise we will be misused by both sides. Extactly that is what happening in Lanjigarh and Niyamgiri. If NGOs/activits/politicians could misuse poor tribal, how we expect honesty from Vedanta?

Recently I try to instiagte a bit why Vedanta's midday meal program has not started and I found it had suffered due to problem in PPP mode. Most of the Govt program in the region do not work fully or are slow due to corrution. I have seen myself signboard of Rajiv Gandhi Gramya Vidyut Yojana in many villages of Kalahandi without even electric poles.

Vedanta might have failed in many ways, but there are equally lots of propagenda and misinformation being ciriculated by NGOs/activists to suit and favor them. None of them will tell that NOT all Dongria Kondh is against Vedanta, there are supporters of Vedanta too, but NGOs will paint the whole community for tribal rights.

A person from Odisha knows well from literature that most primitive tribal in Odisha are Bonda and compared to them Dongria Kondha are much more modernised with their living, education, etc. Today Bonda are quickly adopting modern life without any industries in the vicinity, similarly other famous primitive tribal are PARAJA, today some of the PARAJA use bikes, wear trousers, T-shirt, drink Papsi/Coke etc. Jitu Jakasia, a Dongira Kondh supporter of Vedanta studying management with the help of the company, is a good example how education and opportunity could change the tribal who was once opposing the company, today his family and friends want to see development of the company. I was told that few of the Dongria Kondh leaders even share foreign liquiour and ciggarrete with the opposing NGOs.

Though the decision to stop Niyamgiri mining is being discussed as controvercial,

same Saxena who has rejected Niyamgiri mining few moths ago is now saying (as published in Indian Express) that Dongira Kondh want TV, mobille phones, development etc and 500 jobs to Dongria Kondh might have saved Vedanta.

How could it be possible, if it was a case of envrionment, law and issue of tribal right and living, such as like Bushman in Africa?

Perhaps ignorant and lack of education costing the tribal community. Their emotion is being technically used by NGOs, activists, Communists and politicians together in their favor, so that they could milk philanthropic money in the name of environment, tribal right etc for their survival of NGOs/activities or increase more ignorant tribal vote bank in their favor.

The same emotion is also well being used to make them maoists. Perhaps, in the name of Vedanta/corporarte, Communists would get fertililty to spread maoism that why they are at the foothills of Niyamgiri.

Working for environment and tribal rights are good things, but the way it is being used or done in Niyamgiri and Lanjigarh region will not benefit local or tribal community.

"Vedanta may be selfish, but how honest others are?" This is where people of Odisha need to begin their understanding and exploration.

Thank you and best regards

Digambara Patra

Reply by Felix

Dear Digambara

Thanks. The section of the road that I know best is between Lanjigarh & Rayagada, so this is what I write about. I'm sure the section north to Jharsaguda is also bad, but I barely know that area. Rayagada-Lanjigarh is very bad because many materials have been transported to L from Rayagada since 2004, & still are being transported.

all best


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kalahandi Ghumura Utsav kicks off

Expressbuzz, Jan 16, 2011
BHAWANIPATNA: The final function of the mega annual cultural event of Kalahandi - Kalahandi Utsav Ghumura- 2011 - began yesterday on a colourful note. Organised by Zilla Sanskruti Parishad, it is scheduled to be held till January 17 at the Lalbahadur stadium in Bhawanipatna. The Utsav is being simultaneously organised at Bhawanipatna and Dharamgarh.    The Utsav is a platform to encourage, motivate and showcase the art, culture, music, drama, literature and handicrafts of the district. Folk dances different districts of the State and other states like West Bengal and Chhattisgarh will be staged as a part of the event.Apart from this, a Pallishree Mela, KBK Craft Mela, Krushi and Krushak Mela and handloom stalls are being organised.At Bhawanipatna, it has been planned to organise a ‘Kabi Sammelani’ and seminar on the topic ‘Challenges before Kalahandi in agriculture and allied sectors’ and KBK-level volley ball tournament during the festival. Earlier, archery and boating competitions were organised for tribals at Mahulpatna. At Dharamgarh, the main attraction of the festival is the stage that has been prepared depicting the heritage of Saiba pitha Belkhandi. Besides, a photograph exhibition of personalities, events, tourism places and heritage sights are being organised.The festival at both the places were inaugurated by Power Minister Atanu Sabyasachi and Labour and Employment Minister Puspendra Singhdeo. Zilla Parisad president Sarat Naik attended.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Western Orissa awaits seven hospitals

Times of India, Jan 14, 2011
BHUBANESWAR: Few of the proposed seven medical colleges in the state have come up till date. Three medical colleges were proposed in 2004 for western Orissa, facilitated by Western Orissa Development Council (WODC), but they are yet to see the light of day. Other subsequent proposals are still in very early stages.

The planning and coordination department sanctioned Rs 10 crore each for medical colleges in Rourkela, Jaring ( Kalahandi district) and Balangir and the state government had provided 25-acre land each to these proposed colleges.

Officials said the proposed medical college at Balangir has faced a dead-end. After WODC advertised seeking private partnership for the proposed colleges, there were two responses. But both the parties failed to qualify in the technical expertise criteria.

Before this, three private parties, selected for Balangir college, quit at various stages. First, GSL Trust of Andhra Pradesh was selected for medical colleges at Balangir and Rourkela and a MoU was signed on January 31, 2004. But the MoU was cancelled since the trust did not commence work. The government signed another MoU with Sri Balaji Educational and Charitable Public Trust on October 6, 2006 for Balangir. After its delay in the start of work, the MoU was cancelled and RVS Educational Trust was selected as a private sponsor. The trust expressed its inability on February 17, 2010 to execute the project.

Work for the medical college at Jaring in Kalahandi, being undertaken by Selvam Educational and Charitable Trust, Tamil Nadu, is under way, after a MoU was signed on January 30, 2004. A 500-bed hospital was supposed to function by January 30, 2008, (five years from the date of MoU). But as of now the hospital is ready in part. While a building for the 300-bed hospital, three operation theatres and a seven-bed ICU is ready, the hostel buildings are yet to be ready.

"The outcome of the inspection by the Medical Council of India in May 2008 was not satisfactory. The trust filed a fresh application before the MCI on November 30, 2010, and the team visited the site once again in April-May," a senior health department official said.
Construction of the Rourkela college is being undertaken by Vigyan Bharati Charitable Trust after the government signed a MoU on July 4, 2008. Construction work is on. WODC officials are, however, optimistic. "Barring the Balangir college, the other two projects at Rourkela and Jaring are doing reasonably well. They should be commissioned as early as 2012," said WODC chief executive officer Aswini Mishra.

The government is helping the Sahyog Healthcare and Research Foundation of India to open a 50-seat medical college and 150-bed hospital in Keonjhar. A MoU was signed on November 27, 2010. "We are waiting for the government to hand over possession of the land. Within six weeks after that we will commence work," said Sahyog trustee Debasi Sahoo.

Similarly, there is proposal for MCL to start a medical college in Talcher. Besides, Mata Amritamayi Charitable Trust has shown interest in opening a medical college in the state while ESI is planning another medical college near Chandaka on the outskirts of the state capital. The state government has also decided to approach Nalco and SAIL to open medical colleges here.

Armed robbers loot Rs 30 lakh from bank employees

Times of India, Jan 14, 2011
BALANGIR: Around five robbers on Thursday night looted Rs 30 lakh from bank employees, who were carrying the cash in a security van from Bhawanipatna ICICI bank to Umarkot in  Kalahandi district.

The robbers, reportedly, held the three employees and the security guard at gun point near Koksara and decamped with the money. The robbers are still at large. Sources said, after the bank closed at 5 pm, the robbers, who are suspected to have had prior information about the cash transfer, blocked the van's path and asked the employees to get down. "They first terrorized the employees by shoving guns to their faces, then snatched the cash and fled," said IIC (Koksara) Prakash Mishra. He said no one was hurt. Soon after the robbery, the robbers fled into a nearby forest.

"We have launched massive man-hunt and detained one person as a suspect. We are interrogating him," said the IIC. He quoted an employee as saying that the robbers had two firearms, apart from some sharp weapons.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Governance deficit syndrome in Orissa

Expressbuzz, Jan 13, 2011
Sachi Satpathy
At the 53rd meeting of National Development Council at New Delhi on May 29, 2007, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said, “Orissa has set a target for providing assured irrigation to 35 per cent of agricultural land in all the blocks during the 11th Plan period. Moreover, there should be additional funding under AIBP (Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme) to augment irrigation infrastructure in the state”. However, the state government could neither achieve the said target nor keep away the sanctioned money from corrupt hands.

In its report for 2009, the CAG mentioned that by March 2009, only nine out of 33 projects under AIBP assistance were in the completion stage, leading to a cost overrun of `3,537.26 crore and time overrun of two to 12 years. The CAG in another evaluation report, which was tabled in Parliament on May 7, 2010, voiced serious concern over the slow progress of the irrigation projects for farmers in Orissa and mentioned that while the union government provided assistance and loan to the tune of `1,835 crore in the last 10 years to the Orissa government, the irrigation department, which is handled by the CM, could utilise only `370 crore. The track record of departments handled by the CM — whether it is water resources (massive corruption and inaction), forest and environment, works (identified as the most corrupt department in the state) or general administration (poor human resource utilisation and no action against the erring officials) — says a lot about the governance deficit syndrome in the state administration.

The plight of farmers in Orissa can be assessed from the National Sample Survey Organisation’s (NSSO) consumer expenditure survey (2007-08), which found that the monthly per capita consumer expenditure (MPCE) for the rural farmer household is the lowest for Orissa (`559), whereas Kerala (`1,383), Punjab (`1,273) and Haryana (`1,034) have the highest rural MPCE figures in the country. The poverty of farmers in Orissa is also clearly reflected in the number of farmer suicides in the last 11 years. According to the government of Orissa, a total of 3,509 farmers committed suicide during the last 11 years. The official record says that a total of 48,631 people committed suicide in Orissa between 1997 and 2008.

About 75 per cent of lift irrigation projects are defunct in the state. The other indicator such as electricity being used for agricultural activities has come down from 5.5 per cent to 1.3 per cent. The storage facilities for agricultural products are almost missing in the state, and farmers are not getting quality seeds on time.

The target of assured irrigation to at least 35 per cent of the total cultivated land is found to be ‘constant’ for the last 10 years. If at all there is any announcement on irrigation by the chief minister he keeps on saying “30-35 per cent of the total cultivated land”. The CM has reduced his number from 35 per cent to 30 per cent, recently, may be due to the reduction of cultivated land in the state over a period of time. When the target is the same for 10 years, the achievement must be a number between minus and a big zero. Added to that, there is a perception among the common people that “the present government generally comes up with the old official announcement in a new press release on repeated basis at certain time intervals”.

It is not only the paddy cultivators who suffer in the state; suicides by cotton cultivators are also increasing in the state. There are almost five lakh cotton growers in the state who are not getting any concrete support from the government. Cotton cultivation is being taken up in most of the backward districts such as Bolangir, Kalahandi, Rayagada, Ganjam, Boudh, Nuapara, Koraput, Angul, Gajapati, and Dhenkanal. However, government’s apathy towards these farmers has forced them to commit suicide or leave cotton cultivation forever. Like paddy cultivators, who are facing distress sale, cotton growers are facing a lot of problems in marketing their produce. Without any government support at the district level, these distressed farmers are forced to sell their produce at throwaway prices. So the plight of farmers has worsened due to continuous neglect and the recent crop damage due to rains has added to their woes. The farmers need continuous support from the government.

This is where Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has an edge over Naveen Patnaik. Patnaik is only talking about anti-corruption drive (but there has been no action on OHSDP scam, mining scam, Indira Awaz scam, coal scam, Vedanta university land scam) whereas Nitish has already started opening schools in property confiscated from corrupt officials. Nitish feels that he needs policy support, not money, from the Centre. In Orissa, the misguided CM has taken a wrong path and is wasting valuable time and mandate given to him by the people. Many policymakers believe that the ‘bottom up’ approach followed by Nitish Kumar (as against the ‘top down’ development approach of the present government in Orissa) will certainly become an accepted model for a poor state. Nitish rightly believes that his ‘bottom up’ approach will take care of micro problems, which ultimately helps to resolve the macro ones. Due to the governance deficit, Orissa, which is almost governed by the Orissa High Court, is going through the saga of the Lalu Prasad’s regime in Bihar that believed only in tall claims and no action.

Five NH projects to be commissioned in three years

NOTE: Why so much less spending for NH in KBK

Business Standard, Jan 13, 2011
The work on five major National Highway (NH) projects in the state- Bhubaneswar-Puri, Bhubaneswar-Sambalpur, Bhubaneswar-Chandikhole, Sambalpur-Bargarh and Remudi-Rajamunda (NH-215) will begin in February 2011. While work on four-laning of the Bhubaneswar-Puri NH is expected to be completed soon, the remaining projects will be commissioned within three years."The work on these NH projects will commence in February 2011 and the projects are expected to be commissioned within three years. The work is being taken up on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode and the cost assessment will be made by NHAI. Another review meeting will be held within the next two weeks to expedite forest clearance and land acquisition for these projects”, the state Chief Secretary B K Patnaik told media persons after a high-level meeting.

While work will be taken up for four-laning of Bhubaneswar-Puri (60 km) and Sambalpur-Bargarh (88-km) NHs, the Bhubaneswar-Sambalpur and Bhubaneswar-Chandikhole (62 km) highways will be six laned. As per the thumb rule Rs 4 crore will be spent per km on building these highways.

Presently, the state has an NH network of 360 km which includes the 450-km Golden Quadrilateral stretch.It may be noted that the Orissa government has allotted Rs 1131.65 crore till the end of November for construction and repair of various road projects in the 30 districts of the state as against a total expenditure pegged at Rs 1407.01 crore for 2010-11 in the State Budget.
The allocation of 1131.65 crore includes Non-Plan expenditure of Rs 417.82 crore and Plan expenditure of Rs 713.82 crore,

The highest allocation has been made for Ganjam district (Rs 184.83 crore) followed by Khurda (Rs 117.82 crore) and Keonjhar (Rs 69.69 crore).

The funds allocated for other districts are Angul (Rs 32.44 crore), Balasore (Rs 36.31 crore), Bargarh (Rs 21.03 crore), Jajpur (Rs 71.10 crore), Kalahandi (Rs 17.55 crore), Bolangir (Rs 34.83 crore), Korpaut (Rs 24.06 crore), Sundargarh (Rs 63.24 crore), Puri (Rs 41.46 crore), Mayurbhanj (Rs 39.42 crore), Nayagarh (Rs 27.38 crore), Malkangiri (Rs 4.57 crore), Nuapada (Rs 17.71 crore) and Rayagada (Rs 16.22 crore) to name a few.

The state works department had completed the construction of 919 km road network in 15 projects in 2009-10. The department spent 98.4 per cent of the Non-Plan outlay and 94 per cent of the Plan outlay during the last fiscal.

The department expects to spend Rs 863.75 crore under the Plan and Rs 765.8 crore under the Non-Plan scheme in 2010-11.

Nabarangpur continues to miss the train

Expressbuzz, Jan 13, 2011
NABARANGPUR: Even after six decades of agitations and demands, a railway line in Nabarangpur district continues to be elusive.

Home to over 10 lakh people, Nabarangpur district comes under schedule area of the Constitution dominated by tribals and Dalits. The district these days is making headlines due to increased Maoist activities. People here feel it is unfortunate that in a poor and backward district like Nabarangpur, development of rail network has so far not received much attention even in the post-Independence era. Absence of a railway connectivity is being attributed as a primary reason for backwardness of the district and heightened Maoist activities.

As many as seven districts, including Nabarangpur and Malkangiri in the State, do not have any railway connectivity.

Intelligentsia here said that the Indian Railways makes huge profit from its operation in Orissa. “The current policy of the Railways is flawed and detrimental to the backward areas like the KBK. Of all zones, SECR, ECoR and SER are the top profit-making zones. The profit mostly comes from transporting minerals available in the backward districts of Orissa,” they said.

MP Pradeep Majhi said he had urged the government to consider railway project in KBK region as national project. He has demanded early completion of Lanjigarh Road-Junagarh-Nabarangpur-Jeypore-Malkangiri-Bhadrachalam line.

Survey work for this line was completed long back and work from Lanjigarh Road to Junagarh in Kalahandi district is going on. This line will pass through most of the Maoist-infested and tribal-dominated areas of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Shankar Acharya: New threats to growth

Business Standrad, Jan 13, 2011
Everyone knows about the “old” threats to sustained rapid growth in India, including poor infrastructure, dysfunctional labour markets, competitive populism, the weak record of human resource development, painfully slow reforms and the reduced dynamism of industrial countries, post-crisis. Despite these genuine handicaps, the resilience and recovery of the Indian economy in the face of the global financial and economic crisis was quite remarkable. At its trough in 2008-09, growth only slowed to 6.7 per cent, recovered to 7.4 per cent in 2009-10 and surged to nearly 9 per cent in the first half of 2010-11, with almost all forecasters now expecting full year growth at or above 8.5 per cent. The latest official estimates indicate that gross domestic investment stayed buoyant at 35 per cent of GDP in the first half of 2010-11, holding out the prospect of continued strong growth in 2011-12. And it has now become conventional wisdom to expect 8 per cent plus growth rates for the next decade or two as globalisation, “catch up” and favourable demographics continue to propel the Indian economy forward.

All this is true. But developments during 2010 have spawned new threats to sustained rapid growth. First, there is the return of the “twin deficits” problem after almost two decades during which one of them, the current account deficit (CAD) in the balance of payments, was muted. Second, the latter half of 2010 has seen the resurgence worldwide of energy and food inflation. Third, the proliferation of major scams and scandals (telecom 2G spectrum allocation, the Commonwealth Games, the Adarsh Housing Society, the Radia tapes and so on) has further weakened the government’s ability to take and execute decisions in all areas, including economic. Fourth, an activist environment ministry has sharpened the conflict between development and the environment, including through a number of high profile retrospective challenges to major investment projects. Last, but not least, economic reforms appear to have stalled completely. Some of these merit elaboration.

Return of twin deficits

The twin deficits of the late 1980s precipitated the external payments crisis of 1991. Since then the CAD has hovered around 1 per cent of GDP, with a three-year foray into positive territory in the early noughties. In the five years prior to the global crisis, 2003-08, the CAD averaged less than 0.5 per cent (Table). The collapse of world trade during 2008-09 saw the CAD rise sharply to 2.4 per cent of GDP and further to 2.9 per cent in 2009-10. Despite the restoration of (new) normalcy and the recovery of exports, the CAD has risen disconcertingly higher to 3.7 per cent of GDP in the first half of 2010-11, prompting RBI to voice significant concerns in its December 2010 Financial Stability Report: “The current account deficit is widening while capital flows continue to be dominated by volatile components. External sector ratios have deteriorated…”. The central bank omitted pointing out that the problem has been aggravated by its own 18-month old, unannounced (non-transparent?) switch to a policy of minimal currency market intervention, despite an unprecedentedly steep appreciation of the rupee in real terms. While CADs in the range of 3-4 per cent of GDP can probably be managed for a couple of years, they are unlikely to be sustainable indefinitely, given the predominantly domestic orientation of the India economy. And what can’t be sustained, won’t be! Something will give and it could well be growth.

Unlike the CAD, we have been used to high fiscal deficits since the mid-1980s. Interestingly, the most successful period of fiscal consolidation occurred during the five years 2003-08, which saw the combined (Centre and states) fiscal deficit reduce by more than half, down to 4 per cent of GDP by 2007-08 (see Figure). It is no coincidence that those were five years of low interest rates, an unprecedented increase in savings and investment, record high growth and low inflation. The populist burst of 2008-09 took the deficit back up to 8.5 per cent of GDP that year and even higher to 10 per cent in 2009-10. Given the global recession, such fiscal profligacy helped cushion India’s economic slowdown in the crisis. But the case for renewed consolidation had grown strong by late 2009 and the government announced a gentle three-year path for deficit reduction in the Budget for 2010-11. In fact, the budgeted, modest deficit reduction for the current year is likely to be met only because spectrum auction revenues have been three times higher than budgeted (an extra 1 per cent of GDP). And the revenue deficit (roughly equal to government dissavings) is unlikely to drop significantly below the high level of 2009-10. Absent such enormous one-off bonanzas, further deficit reduction next year (and beyond) will be difficult in the face of expanding entitlement programmes and higher subsidies, implying that interest rates are likely to remain high and act as a dampener to investment and growth.

Energy and food inflation
For several months now, rising oil prices have been putting pressure on India’s external payments, the government budget and the finances of the oil companies, which are obliged to sell most distillates (including diesel, kerosene and LPG) at subsidised prices. Even the recent freeing up of petrol prices is at risk. International institutions (such as the IMF and IEA) indicate that international oil prices are expected to harden further. Food inflation has spiked upwards in the last two months, thanks to a global surge in food prices and the unreformed structural weaknesses of Indian agriculture and marketing/distribution systems. All this threatens the already high levels of general inflation and is expected to trigger further policy interest rate increases by RBI. Higher interest rates will weaken investment and growth.

Other impediments to investment
The numerous scams and scandals that have dominated news media in the recent months have brought Parliament to a standstill and drained the limited capacity of an already weak government. As if this were not enough, a number of high profile rulings by the environment ministry have halted several major mining projects (notably in Orissa) and the Lavasa township project in Maharashtra, while raising significant issues with respect to India’s most successful private port, Mundhra, in Gujarat. From an investment/development perspective, the questioning of large, completed projects sends a seriously negative signal to investors at home and abroad. “Animal spirits” are bound to be damped, to the detriment of investment and growth.

Such setbacks would matter less if economic reforms were proceeding smoothly and helping increase the productivity of available resources. Unfortunately, reforms have been on a slow train since 2004. Now, with Parliament stalled and government in a defensive mode on a variety of scams, the train seems to have been shunted to a siding. The political landscape does not augur well for an early resuscitation of economic reforms. The recent history and dim prospects for the induction of the long-heralded Goods and Services Tax are a good example. This continued hiatus in reforms will inevitably take its toll on medium-term growth performance.

So, while it may be comforting to read in reputed foreign publications about India’s “transformative growth” to becoming the world’s third-largest economy by 2020 or 2025, the actual strengthening of anti-growth forces during 2010 raises some serious doubts about the nation’s long-term economic trajectory.

The author is honorary professor at ICRIER and former chief economic adviser to the Government of India. The views expressed are personal

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

HC to hear Vedanta mining plea on Feb 2

The Pioneer, Jan 11, 2011

The Orissa High Court on Monday fixed February 2 for adjudicating the petition filed by Vedanta Aluminiom Limited (VAL) challenging the decision of the Central Government rejecting the company's stage-II bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills for its refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.

Although the matter came for hearing before a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice V Gopala Gowda and Justice Harjinder Singh Bhalla on Monday, the Bench adjourned the case to next month after hearing it partly and issued notice to the Centre.

The Bench is likely to go in for a joint hearing after tagging all the matters pertaining to the issue. Besides, the VAL, the State Government too has filed a petition in the matter while several PILs, including one of the Lanjigarh Anchalika Vikash Parishad, have been filed in the HC seeking to quash the October 22, 2010 notice of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

Disallowing mining in the Niyamgiri hills of Kalahandi district, the MoEF scrapped the six-fold expansion proposal of the VAL refinery from one million tonne per annum capacity to six million tonne-per-annum capacity. The MoEF stopped sourcing of raw material for Vedanta's Lanjigarh refinery from the mines not having environmental clearances.

The MoEF even asked the Jharkhand Government to ensure that the mines of the State supplying raw material to the Vedanta refinery get environmental clearances. The Centre also ordered Vedanta to immediately halt the expansion work of its refinery project and even asked the company to fulfil a number of conditions before operating its existing alumina refinery.

It may be mentioned here that allegations were levelled against Vedanta that it was in illegal possession of 26 hectares of forestland and was in an expansion mode to enhance its capacity to six million tonne from the existing one-million-tonne capacity.

Bhakta blames State Govt for farmers' plight

The Pioneer, Jan 10, 2011
PNS | BHawanipatna

Kalahandi Congress MP and former Union Minister Bhakta Charan Das has threatened to take to the street with farmers against the 'failure' of the State Government in taking timely action to address the plight of farmers hit by crop loss caused by unseasonal rain.

Instead of an exact assessment of crop loss, the BJD Government is accusing the Central UPA Government of neglecting the State's farmers in order to cover up its own fault, Das alleged.

Das demanded to know why the BJD MPs did not seek a two-hour discussion on the farmers' issue in the last Parliament session. He accused the Naveen Patnaik Government of shirking its responsibility in having a bilateral discussion with the UPA Government on the issue.

Das was addressing a public meeting at Gandhi Chowk here organised by the Kalahandi District Congress Committee. He assured farmers that they would get relief in the FAQ norms from the Centre in the matter of paddy procurement very soon as he had a discussion wiith UnionAgriculture Minister Sharad Pawar in this regard.

He wanted to know why the State Government is not providing compensation on crop loss up to Rs 500 per quintal. Why the State is providing tarpaulins to each farmer so that they could save their crops during untimely rain, he also asked.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dr Mahendera Kumar Mishra, a Kalahandia, receives Vir Shankar Shah-Raghunath Shah National Award

Thanks to Saket Sahu for sharing this.

NOTE: Our hearty congratulation to him.

Vir Shankar Shah-Raghunath Shah, Thakkar Bapa Awards on January 11, Jan 10, 2011
Folkdances and tribal cultural programmes to be held at Ravindra Bhawan

Bhopal, January 9, 2011 (Abdul Ahad Farhan): A three day award ceremony of 2nd Tribal National Award, instituted by Tribal and Scheduled Caste Development Department of Madhya Pradesh Government is being organised from January 11, 2011 at 7pm at Ravindra Bhawan, Bhopal. 2009-year Vir Shankar Shah- Raghunath Shah National Award and Thakkar Bapa National Award will be conferred during the ceremony. At the award ceremony, Tribal and Scheduled Caste Development Minister Mr. Kunwar Vijay Shah, Culture, Public Relations and Higher Education Minister Mr. Laxmikant Sharma, Minister of State for Tribal and Scheduled Caste Development Mr. Harishankar Khatik will be guests. Madhya Pradesh is the first state where national level awards for promoting tribal activities have been instituted.

Mr. Jivya Soma Mashe from Maharashtra and Dr Mahendera Kumar Mishra of Bhuvaneshwar have been chosen for the accolade of Vir Shankar Shah-Raghunath Shah National Award while Vanbandhu Parishad, Kolkata will be conferred on with Thakkar Bapa National Award. They will be given away Rs 2 lakh and citation to each.

The awards have been instituted for lifelong outstanding works on the promotion of tribal culture, customs, traditions and tribal life. To select the persons for awards, a high level committee was constituted comprising of members Dr. Jaidev Taneja, New Delhi, Mr. Jyotindra Jain, New Delhi, Mr. Ramakant Rath, Orissa and Dr. Devraj Birdi, Bhopal. The committed selected unanimously Mr. Jivya Soma Mashe from Maharashtra and Dr. Mahendra Kumar Mishra, Bhuvaneshar.

Mr. Jivya Soma Mashe has drawn the lives of tribal culture in his painting. He has done outstanding works in giving new lease of life of tribal culture. He assimilated into tribal culture at the age of 13. Mr. Mashe redefined the lives of tribal in his painting. On the other hand, Dr. Mahendra Kumar Mishra was chosen for award for his outstanding works on tribal research, survey, collections and write ups. He was born on April 1, 1952, at Litiguda village (Kalahandi) in Orissa. After obtaining graduate and post graduate degrees in Oriya, he received doctorate of philosophy by researching on tribal traditions of Kalahandi.

He has command of local dialects and interest in collecting folk literatures. He has penned six books on tribal culture, folk tales, and traditions. Besides, he has also mentioned the study of Gond tribe and culture, Kalahandi art and culture etc in the books. Dr. Mishra has translated many writes ups into Oriya, which were published by various known publishers.
The Thakkar Bapa National Award: The award is given for lifelong rendering social services to the welfare of members of tribal community. The high level committee comprising of Mr. Om Thanvi, Noida, Mr. Achyutanand Mishra, Bhopal, Mrs. Geetashri, New Delhi, Pro. Bandhubhagat, Ranchi, Jharkhand, Mr. Snehmaya Rai Chaudhary, Tripura, Dr. Devraj Birdi, Bhopal, Mr. Sanjay Bandopadhyaya, Bhopal, unanimously selected the name of Vanbandhu Parishad, Kolkata for second Thakkar Bapa National Award.

This organization has been rendering its services for last two decades for the elimination of illiteracy and creating awareness among the tribal of education and health. Around 27 branches of this organisation have been opened at various parts of the country. 32 thousand single teacher schools are being conducted with benefiting eight lakh tribal people.

On this occasion, the winners of ‘Pratibimb’ (photography on tribal life) competition under the banner of Samajh-Jharokha monthly magazine of Vanya Prakashan will also be felicitated. Out of total 157 entries, 55 photographers have been short listed for the felicitation. They include Mr. Devendra, Ratlam, first (innocent smile), Mr. Kailash Mittal, Indore second(returning home), and Mr. Rajendra Malviya, Indore third (school chale hum). Besides, consolation prizes will be given to Mr. Nitin Khatri (Indore beautiful smile), Mr. Manit A. Walmiki, Maharashtra (Baiga mother and child), Mr. Ramesh Soni, Dhar (Datun), and Mr. Jagdish Malviya, Ratlam (tribal child washing cloths).

Rs 31,000 will be given to first winner while Rs 21 thousand for second and Rs 11 thousand for third winner. Consolation prizes contain Rs 2501 and citation. Besides, tribal artist Mr. Shambhudayal Shyam will be conferred on with Jangarh Singh Shyam award constituted in memory of noted painter Jangarh Singh Shyam for the 2009 year. A cash amount Rs 25000 and citation will be given to him.

The Tribal and Scheduled Caste Development Minister Mr. Shah informed around 26 entries were received from 22 tribal artists. The high level committee selected the name of Shambhudayal Shyam unanimously. His paintings are mirror of tribal philosophy, culture and beautifulness. Various tribal cultural programmes including folkdance, exhibitions and other tribal lifestyles will be organised at Ravindra Bhawan. The tribal artists of far flung areas of Madhya Pradesh will be performing as a part of award ceremony.

Regional diagnostic centre slips into coma

Expressbuzz, Jan 10, 2011
BHAWANIPATNA: Even after five years of inception on January 26, 2006, on the premises of the district headquarters hospital at Bhawanipatna, the regional diagnostic centre is yet to become fully operational. Shortage of technical staff and experts to run the equipment, no maintenance, frequent voltage fluctuation are some reasons behind non-functioning of most of the machinery at the centre.

The centre has equipment like ultra sound cardiac monitors with paediatric defibrillator, CT scanner and accessories, electrolyte analyser, digital ECG machine, video gastro scope, X-ray including dental X-ray, Orthopaedic table, pulse oximeter etc. It is also housing a well-equipped pathology laboratory. However, ironically most of these machines are mere showpieces being non-functional.

In the absence of pathologist, the pathology laboratory is being run by technicians. Similarly in the absence of neuro-surgeons, electroencephalogram (EEG) is not being carried out at the centre.

Sources said despite presence of machineries, patients have to depend on private hospitals in Andhra Pradesh and local private clinics.

Chief District Medical Officer Sushil Chandra Rath said steps are being taken to make the centre completely operational but in the absence of specialists and trained technicians, the process is getting delayed.

"Most of the machineries need regular maintenance. We recently repaired the CT scan by spending `15 lakh," he added.

The most dangerous fundamentalism

Note: Vedanta's vechicles tranasport alumina/coal to/from Jharsuguda through NH201 Bhawanipatan, Biswanathpur frpm/to Lanjigarh road, but I am not clear how Muniguda-Bissam Cuttack-Rayagada road is affected by Vedanta's heavy vehicles.  Lanjigarh to Muniguda, Therubali to Bissamcuttack, and Bissamcuttack to Muniguda should not be affected by Vedanta unless Vedanta has some other interests. This should be scrutinized for neutrality of the article.

Expressbuzz, Jan 10, 2011
Felix Padel
The road from Rayagada north to Bissamcuttack and the Kalahandi border is in a state of rampant disrepair. A smashed lorry lies overturned in a ditch — one of  countless accidents in recent years. At least two policemen are among the last five years’ hundreds of fatalities, both run down by lorries serving Vedanta — an inspector in Lanjigarh, and a constable in Rayagada. Vedanta vehicles carrying bauxite, coal, oil and machinery to Lanjigarh have trashed this road so thoroughly that normal vehicles take long detours to avoid sections between Therubali and Bissamcuttack, and Bissamcuttack to Muniguda. Yet it has to be said, this road is as green as any in the country for the moment, winding through a maze of rice fields, mango groves, forests and hills, with long sections shaded by stately mango and other massive trees.

But never fear! World Bank to the rescue, with multi-billion loans for renovating key roads in Orissa that will facilitate the mining industry and its export of ore. The widening of dozens of roads has already led to the cutting of hundreds of ancient trees that lined them, and if it continues unchecked, will cause the death of thousands more. The north-south road from Rayagada to Ambadola is said to involve a loan of `122 crore. In each town it passes, houses and trees will go.

In Bissamcuttack alone, are several trees I’ve known and loved for a quarter of a century, including two vast boro gocho (banyan trees): one has blessed hundreds of marriages in women’s pujas; the other has been for many years a shrine of Brahma-Vishnu Mahadev, at which 24-hour bhajans (osto prohoro) are performed at frequent intervals throughout the year.  To comprehend what’s happening here, we must take a hard look at the history of Orissa’s loans. Why is it among the most indebted states in India? To create an infrastructure for the mining industry: the state government has taken foreign loans to pay for mega-dams, coal mines, railways and roads. All have to be paid back with interest. This is what gave the World Bank leverage to force through the first electricity-privatisation of any state — a process involving huge, well-documented scams.

The same thing is happening in Jharkhand and other states. How do high growth rates fit with patterns of debt? Who’s really deciding the financial policy of Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal? The agenda is already set by economists such as Jeff Sachs, adviser to the Planning Commission, who has defined India’s challenge as converting “a densely populated subcontinent of subsistence farmers into a modern and largely urban society” (Common Wealth p.219).  Today’s missionaries are the developers, and their agenda is set in Washington and London. Neoliberal economics is ‘the most dangerous fundamentalism’ — a closed system of dogma backed by the banks. Critics have pointed out the contradictions: no ‘developed country’ ever got rich by opening up to the ‘free market’ — quite the reverse.

Wherever roads are widened, the timber and liquor mafias follow. Among the first users of roads into the Niyamgiri range, overseen by the Dongria Kondh Development Agency and funded by the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna, was the timber mafia. First to die on the new road to Lanjigarh was Sukru Majhi, an activist against the refinery. Locals say it was no accident.

Residents in the Kalinganagar and Posco areas link new roads such as the Common Corridor being built for Tata and a new road towards Dhinkia with the invasion of liquor shops spreading alcoholism and debt. Damanjodi, cited as ‘good development’, has massive alcoholism in the town and surrounding villages, as well as over 500 sex workers. Closing illegal liquor shops has been a prime demand of adivasi activists.

As for liquor, mahua is a sacred drink for adivasis, and one of the world’s best when distilled properly. British administrators interfered with this, alternately making its manufacture illegal and placing a heavy tax on it. For over 100 years, liquor shops have spread indebtedness — among the prime mechanisms for the alienation of tribal lands, as shown in Gopinath Mohanty’s novels and countless other sources.  In effect mahua is a ‘low-caste’ drink that respectable people in a town will not drink. With good reason, since you can’t get good quality in a town. In non-tribal dukaans, mahua is spiked with battery fluid or worse.

A irony here: indigenous drinks despised and misused, while fake ‘foreign liquor’ sells at over 10 times the price. But where’s the taste of nature in an Indian whisky or beer? Scottish distilleries are a source of pride and employment throughout remote parts of Scotland, giving a taste of malt and peat, and advertising factory tours to show off their high standards. Where’s this relationship with the grain gone in Indian brands? What grain? Grown where? Distilled how? By whom? The ‘taste of nature’ is still strong in rum and Maharashtran wine, where the source in sugarcane and grapes is there for the tasting. If the alcohol business in India were taken in hand, there are wonderful drinks that come fresh from nature. Their traditions are bound up with adivasi landscapes in the countryside. When the mafia controls them, quality goes.

The corporate invasion of adivasi landscapes involves corruption at every level, including culture and history. Ashoka’s Kalinga war killed 1,00,000, enslaved 1,50,000 and killed many through famine and disease. Today’s mining companies re-enact those atrocities. Historical irony cannot get blacker than calling a massive steel complex on tribal land Kalinganagar.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Letter to CM: Proposed NTPC medical college in Boudh or Phulbani, Jan 8, 2011
Dear Honorbale Chief Minister Mr Patnaik,

I am glad that MCL and NTPC are establisning medical colleges in Odisha and Talcher has been selected for the proposed medical college by MCL.

Since past couple of years it is being raised that taking distance and geographical location into consideration each undivided district should have at at least a medical college along with super-specialtiy hospital.

The argument is also recently advocated by Higher Education Task Force formed by Govt. of Odisha.

As per Government information there are 3 government and 3 private medical colleges in the state. Central Government is establishing an AIIMS type medical College at Bhubaneswar. State Government also cleverly highlighting establishment of medical colleges in Kalahandi, Keonjhar, Bolangir etc though WODC initiated not a single medical collge has been functional even after 7 years of MoU whereas more medical colleges are being added in Cuttack-Bhubaneswar region.

Recently central Govenment has committed 6000 new medical colleges including ministry of railway and ESIC. Ministry of Railway and ESIC have already proposed another two medical colleges in Bhubaneswar. Vedanta University is establishing another medical college in Puri and Sri Sri University may establish in Katak/Cuttack. Refering to University demand in Kalahandi, in 1991 late Biju Patnaik had said at Bhawanipatna that University can not be established in everone's kitchen yard. Perhaps ignoring the urgent need for medical college and super-speciality hospital in far off places from Bhubaneswar, the medical colleges presently being considered and proposed by state Government around Bhubaneswar-Cuttack and surrounding region is nothing different from "Biju Babu's kitchen yard".

Many people are unable to find justification why state Government prefers Government medical college in state capital regions and private one in KBK as it is evident that WODC initiated private medical colleges in Kalahandi and Bolangir are not yet started even after 7 years, where as in the last year budget state Government has alloted 30 crore for Capital (hospital) medical college in Bhubaneswar despite AIIMS, Railway, and ESIC medical colleges and Regional Paramedical Training Center are being established and 3 private medical colleges are already in function in Bhubaneswar. This is excluding many well known private hospitals such as APPOLO, LV Prasad, Global Hospital etc branches at Bhubaneswar and new private medical college proposals.

Even due to various controvercies recently people of Kalahandi were hopeless for the proposed WODC initiated medical college. I also learned that Vedanta's initiative to take WODC initiated medical college in Kalahandi could not be materialised due to other involved private parties. In this circumstance why the state Government is not pursuing to Vedanta to build a fresh medical college and hospital in Kalahandi, one of the demand critic of Vedanta's is also advocating?

Kalahandi is not first district to have two private medical colleges, there will be more than 5 Government and 5 private medical colleges in Bhubaneswar-Cuttack region itself, WODC initiated medical college is being established in Rourkela and state Government had already plan to propose SAIL for a medical college in Rourkela. Central University of Orissa has a proposal to build a medical college in Koraput in future and state Government may ask NALCO to establish a medical college in undivided Koraput district beside one being proposed in Rayagada by PPP mode. Similarly Ganjam and Cuttack have Government medical colleges and few private parties are interested to establish private medical colleges in these districts. State Government has also plan to establish medical colleges in PPP mode in Balasore, Naraj (Cuttack) and Rayagada beside a proposal submitted to defence department for a medical college in Balasore. In case things go positive for WODC medical college at Jaring (which is presently in doubt) and Vedanta takes interest tp estblish a new medical college then Kalahandi might get two private medical colleges (one in Bhawanipatna by Vedanta and other in Jaring, Junagarh by WODC) which will not be wrong.

Similarly no party has ever taken any interest to estblish a medical college in undivided Boudh-Phulbani distirct, another backward district in South-Western Odisha. Medical problem in the region needs urgent attention.

Since the medical college at Talcher will serve the purpose for undivided Dhenkanal district (Angul+Dhenkanal) and Boudh-Phulbani is the adjacent disitrict of Angul district where NTPC is located, I request you to consider establishing the prposed medical college by NTPC in Boudh or Phulbani for undivided Kandhamal district.

Thank you and best regards

Digambara Patra

Dr. Digambara Patra
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry
American University of Beirut
P.O. Box: 11-0236, Riad El Solh
Beirut 1107-2020, Lebanon

Image of Chilling Weather in Thuamul Rampur, Kalahandi Jan 2011

Contributed by Sri Dillip Kumar Das

Irresponsible activism

Indian Express, Jan 9, 2011
Tavleen Singh
Last week in the Idea Exchange page opposite was the interview of a man who has been responsible for terminating a project that could have turned India into a hub for aluminum production and brought enormous prosperity to Orissa. I read the interview with N C Saxena carefully to try and understand what he did and was astounded to discover his reason. He said that if Vedanta had provided 500 jobs to local people, the environmental inquiry committee that destroyed its bauxite refinery in the Niyamgiri hills would have taken quite a different view. 

The reason why this was so astounding an admission was because it is impossible to believe that someone prepared to invest more than Rs 11,000 crores in a project should not have been able to take care of 500 jobs. Mr Saxena admits that the adivasis of Niyamgiri were as keen on improving their lives as anyone else. “They also want to see TV and own cell phones, because now they have seen that some of them who are lucky enough to get a job in the factory have a cell phone. They also want to have that kind of life. No one has given a thought to what can be done to improve the lives of the 100 or 500 families there.” 

So, we have a situation in which because 500 people did not manage to get jobs in the refinery, an investment of Rs 11,000 crores will go waste and a project that could have helped double the revenue of Orissa stands terminated. Even more worrying is that a member of the committee that recommended the closure of Vedanta’s refinery should admit that they did this despite noticing that the adivasis would have benefited if the project had not been closed. It is important here to note that Mr Saxena is on Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council (NAC) so we must assume that he represents a wider consensus at the top.
As someone who visited Koraput and Kalahandi during the drought in 1987 when adivasi women were selling their babies for as little as Rs 40, may I say that the poverty I saw was hideous. The sight of small children dying slowly of hunger on the dirt floor of mud huts is one of the worst things I have ever seen. Things have improved since then but only barely as most adivasis in most parts of India continue to live off what they can make from marginal farming. Their lives are so devoid of even minimum comforts that nobody can hope that they should continue to live forever off their small scraps of land. And, yet there are mighty NGO crusaders these days who want to ‘preserve’ what they call ‘tribal culture’.
They see the hideous poverty and the mud huts of ‘forest dwellers’ as charming and romantic without noticing that the adivasis do not agree with them. This is evident from the fact that it is from the ranks of adivasi forest dwellers that the Maoists recruit their troops. This is evident from the eagerness with which adivasis embrace modernity and the benefits of the 21st century any chance they get. The young adivasi girls who greeted Rahul Gandhi when he went to Niyamgiri to tell them that he was their ‘sipahi’ in Delhi had hairpins in their hair that could only have come from a modern shop.
This brings me to another interesting aspect of the closure of Vedanta’s refinery. Nobody seems sure why it happened. Rahul Gandhi in his speech the day after the refinery was closed said he was happy that the adivasis had managed to save their land. The Environment Minister announced that he was closing the refinery down because it violated forest laws and now we hear from a member of the ministry’s inquiry committee that the problem was 500 jobs. What is really going on? 

Whatever it is, the only people who are winning are those who would like to see India’s poorest people remain poor forever and ever. If Vedanta’s project had not been closed and if Posco manages somehow to go ahead with its steel plant, the revenue of one of our poorest states could double. How can this be a bad thing? 

Only massive private investment can bring the schools, hospitals and basic living standards that India’s poorest citizens desperately need. For more than sixty years, taxpayers’ money has been poured into government schemes that have served mostly to make some officials very rich. So when a major private investment is delayed or cancelled on flimsy grounds, it is an act of extreme irresponsibility. It is India’s misfortune that this kind of arbitrary action is becoming the leitmotif of Dr Manmohan Singh’s government. As an economist, he knows the irreparable damage being caused. Why does he not stop it?