Wednesday, October 31, 2012

K’handi poverty: Vedanta fiasco adds insult to injury

The Pioneer, Oct 30, 2012

Recently, an article published in an English daily newspaper said bauxite mining of Vedanta in Niyamgiri hill in Kalahandi district as antithetical to the interest of the local tribes and scrapping of the project as a boon for the State.
However, despite concerns for mineral loot, pollution and devastation of the hill’s ecology, the project must not be seen from political or environmental light alone.
Rather an unbiased assessment of the situation says the Vedanta project is not altogether a bane in the area. Illegal expansion of Vedanta’s refinery can’t be an excuse for not giving mining right to the company in the Niyamgiri hill. The author has said that if Vedanta’s 5 MTPA refinery is operated to full capacity by raw materials from the Niyamgiri hill, all the bauxite deposits of about 72,000 million tonne would be exhausted in just less than four years.
If the raw material would run out, then the refinery would stop operation. Will any company commit the blunder of investing in huge amount of money in a project just for four years as did Vedanta in Kalahandi? The Saxena Committee, of which the author is a member, had recommended that the mining rights to the company should not be given.
But the question is if the panel had felt that Vedanta project would come to a standstill in just four years with no bauxite left in the locality, it would have asked the company to limit its capacity to only 1 mtpa and stopped the expansion of the project. But it had not done anything of that sort.
Further, Dongria Kondh or Jharnia Kondh (by mistake author says Kutia Kondh) did not start the protest against Vedanta until Niyamgiri mining snowballed into a major issue. The tribals are rather divided on the issue; a section of Dongira Kondh has been supporting Vedanta mining, while another is protesting it. Jitu Jakasia is a well known figure in support of Vedanta.
All the campaign against Vedanta started initially during the refinery construction when forest laws were found to be broken in which NGOs spearheaded the campaign, which was subsequently supported by a few local Congress leaders in Odisha.
When NGOs and local leaders failed in their initial motive to stop the refinery (Congress lost the State election and in Kalahandi miserably in 2004), they shifted the focus to Niyamgiri and instigated the Dongria Kondh against Vedanta. Secondly, use of mining area by Dongria Kondh is controversial. An honest committee would have invested time, patience and knowledge to understand the fact with a neutral bent of mind before depending on the data of the politicians who are well known anti-Vedanta campaigners in Odisha.
As per official records, there are no inhabitants in the mining region of Niyamgiri. So not a single family will be displaced, nor will any body lose any agricultural land if mining is done in the hill. A State Government record also verifies that the whole Niyamgiri is not proposed for mining, except the hill top region where bauxite is concentrated.
NGOs have used selective data of Niyamgiri to sell the story of their interest, but none of them has shown ever the video of actual mining region. The NC Saxena Committee has used very nice green picture with even buffalos grazing in the mining area to bring home the point of opposing the mining in the serene location. Some NGOs have given beautiful image of plantation, trees, rivers, paddy, etc in the mining region too. Some even showed that Vansadhara and Nagavali rivers are flowing out from Niyamgiri which is completely false. The Google Map shows origin of both the rivers is in Thuamul Rampur -Kalyansingpur region.  Being a committee member, the author has tried her best to defend the issue but unfortunately only politically rather than looking into the actual interest of a backward and poor area which was well known for starvation death just a year before Vedanta came to the location.
The skin disease issue is also fabricated.  I do not think chimney and water or air pollution can be a cause to stop such a project because the same thing is happening in public sector Nalco, Balco and Hindalco, to name a few, in Odisha and other parts of the nation. Many of them have worst records than Vedanta in terms of pollution and chimney. In general, Forest Act has not been able to regulate well all big projects across the nation.
Compared to many other mining areas, Niyamgiri could be relatively better positioned in terms of environmental hazards in the country. 
However, taking advantage of weakness of Vedanta in terms of violating forest laws, the NC Saxena Committee decided to keep the ignorant tribals and local people in Lanjigarh/Niyamgiri poor and starve for another generation and gave unwittingly the Congress a vantage point to score political benefit.
(The writer, a local of Kalahandi district, works as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at American University of Beirut in Lebanon)

Friday, October 26, 2012

33 crore for electricity in KBK

The New Indian Express, Oct 26, 2012

With an additional allocation of  120 crore under the revised long-term action plan (RLTAP) for undivided KBK districts, the State Government provided Rs 33 crore for strengthening electricity distribution system in the backward region.
A high-level meeting chaired by Development Commissioner RN Senapati here recently decided to allocate an additional Rs 21.81 crore for development of rural road while Rs 22.67 crore more was allocated to the Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Scheduled Castes (SC) Department for development of infrastructure in educational institutions. The additional allocation was made following a request from the department for more funds for construction of boys and girls hostels in seven high schools upgraded to Plus Two level. The department was earlier given
Rs 28 crore from the special central assistance (SCA).
An additional allocation of Rs 20 crore was made to the Works Department over and above the Rs 16.81 crore provided in the budget for 2012-13 for improvement of inter-district roads and the Vijayawada-Ranchi corridor.
Though the Government was ready to sanction funds to the tune of Rs 90 crore, the Secretary of the Works Department told the meeting that utilisation of fund would not be possible within short time.
The meeting also approved the demand of the Water Resources Department for more funds with an additional Rs 13 crore over and above Rs 10 crore sanctioned earlier for setting up new lift irrigation points to create additional irrigation potential under Biju Krushak Yojana (BKY).
Under the modified allocation of funds to KBK districts, the Government sanctioned an additional Rs 9.52 crore to the Housing and Urban Development Department for drinking water supply to the urban poor. The amount was in addition to Rs 10 crore sanctioned earlier under the special plan, official sources said.
The original allocation under SCA was Rs 130 crore and the amount was distributed among eight departments, including Agriculture and Women and Child Development.
The Development Commissioner asked the departments concerned to submit their revised action plans under RLTAP for the current financial year for onward transmission to the Planning Commission.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Vedanta resumes power plant operation

The Pioneer, Oct 23, 2012

After nine days of shutdown, the Vedanta Alumina Ltd (VAL) on Monday restarted its 75-MW captive power plant (CPP) at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district. And, according to sources, the company’s refinery is also expected to resume its operation soon.
The resumption of the CPP followed VAL’s sourcing of 30,000 tonnes of bauxite from the Balco's Kawardah mines in Chhattisgarh.
The company also expects 90,000 tonnes of bauxite from the Gujarat Mineral Develop
ment Corporation (GMDC). In the first phase, 45,000 tonnes of the raw material mineral would reach Lanjigarh on October 26, sources said. The company needs 10,000 tonnes of bauxite everyday to run the plant at full capacity.
On September 6, Vedanta gave a formal notice to the State Labour & Employment Department for a temporary closure (stoppage of work) of the alumina refinery with effect from December 5. But due to further scarcity of bauxite, the company was forced to shut down the refinery temporarily on October 13.

Police Commemoration Day held at B’patna

The Pioneer, Oct 23, 2012

Rich tributes were paid on Sunday to police personnel who laid down their lives while on duty in various parts of the country on 53rd Police Commemoration Day.
Kalahandi SP Safen Ahmad Khan and senior police officers laid floral wreaths at the Police Martyrs’ Memorial at Bhawanipatna. The day is observed every year on October 21 in memory of the jawans, who laid down their lives in 1959 while repulsing a Chinese attack.
“Today is the day to remind our people who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the country,” SP Khan said.
Kalahandi Collector Govinda Chandra Sethi, DRDA PD Gouri Parasara and the Chief Judicial Magistrate, among others, were present.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mismanagement in Paddy Procurement in Kalahandi!

Shared by Sri Dushmantakumar Panda
Samaja, Oct 7, 2012

50000 animals sacrificed for Chhattar

Times of India, Oct 23, 2012

BHUBANESWAR: Like every year, faith took precedence over reasoning at Bhawanipatna inKalahandi district. Nearly 50,000 animals were sacrificed along the main thoroughfares of the town on Monday to propitiate Manikeswari during 'Bijaya Yatra' of the annual Chhattar festival.
This happened despite the best efforts of the administration to check animal sacrifice. The number is 20% more compared to last year, sources said.
"Animal sacrifice took place despite our best efforts. We had launched awareness campaigns a week before the festival, but that didn't bear fruit," said SP (Kalahandi) S Ahmed.
More that one lakh people took part in the procession of Manikeswari, the presiding deity of the area. She was taken in a procession from Jenakhal after Sandhi puja to Bhawanipatna, which is the permanent abode of the deity, amid the rhythmic beats of Jenabadya, Nisan and Ghanta (traditional musical instruments) and dancers performing 'Ghumura' and martial art forms.
Devotees lined up along the road for a glimpse of the goddess. "We believe that we will get rid of out vices and diseases by sacrificing animals. Every year we participate in the festival to invoke the deity's blessings," said Madhu Chandan, a devotee.
The municipality authorities were asked to clean the bloodied roads after the festival. "We engaged around 50 sweepers to clean the roads after the rituals. The civic body was entrusted with the cleaning work two days before the festival," said Loknath Tiwari, executive officer of the municipality.
Every year before the start of the sacrifice ritual on Asthami, two swords belonging to the goddess are washed in the pond located behind the Bhawanipatna royal palace. These are then worshipped and brought back to the temple in a procession. Then a buffalo is sacrificed at the Budharaja or Vairab temple, a satellite shrine of the Manikeswari temple.
This is the only time the deity is worshipped during the year. Following this ritual, the Chhattar or umbrella of the goddess, along with two swords of the deity, are taken out for the procession.

Lakhs witness deity’s Chhatar Yatra

The New Indian Express, Oct 23, 2012

23rd October 2012 10:37 AM
It was a sea of human heads. Over three lakh devotees witnessed the famous Chhatar Yatra of Goddess Manikeswari here on Monday.
 Besides devotees from various corners of the district, those from neighbouring districts and states participated. On the midnight of Astami, after the Sandhi puja, the ceremonial Chhatar of the deity was carried secretly to Jenakhal on the outskirts of the town, 3 km from the temple.
 At about 5.30 am on Monday after the performance of secret rituals at Jenakhal, the Chhatra of the deity started its return journey to the temple accompanied by Jena Vadya, Ghanta, Kahali and Ghumura. The chorus created a thrilling experience. Devotees performed puja and thousands of them offered animal sacrifice on either side of the route. In contrast, another group of devotees released doves on fulfilment of their wishes. District administration and police took adequate measures for peaceful organisation of the yatra.
 However, the tradition of sacrifice continued despite the government ban. A government officer said as sacrifices are carried out in an unorganised manner along the roads it is hard to stop the practice by force.
In some cases the devotees who cannot make it to the yatra, sacrifice animals at places about five to six km away from the yatra during the ‘muhurta’.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vedanta Khushi : Tribal Children Of Odisha Demand Education

Orissadiary, Oct 22, 2012

Lanjigarh: Indian Government has been keenly working towards the welfare of tribal population in the country - their health, education, nutrition, and overall upliftment. These tribals have been hiding from the main stream for long now. When the country is seeing overall development, there is a necessary need to bring them as well in the main stream and particularly their children, who are far away from quality education.
The uneducated parents have left their children deprived too of quality education.
State Odisha happens to be topping the list of States that houses highest population below the poverty line and also in case of tribal population - mentions the recent study by UNICEF. The report also mentions that Odisha is also the State where tribal communities constitute almost half of the state’s poor population. The literacy rate in these communities is among the lowest in the country with high numbers of school dropouts.
Even after knowing all this, there are still many voices who insist on NOT TO BRING THESE TRIBALS IN THE MAIN STREAM and want to neglect them, leave them, where they are and how they live.  The districts of Kalahandi and Rayagada where the Dongria Kondh and Kutia Kondh tribes reside, the belief is still alive to keep the medicine on the roof-top for the almighty to eat for their cure.
VEDANTA KHUSHI campaign has reached these tribal areas and through consistent counseling has pursuated the children of tribals to go to formal schools.  These tribal children belong to Bissumcuttack, Muniguda and Kalyansinghpur blocks of Rayagada district which is predominantly inhabited by Dongria Kondh community. Now these tribal children demand education.
100 tribal and backward children would now be going to formal school.  They are being provided quality education through "Kalinga Institute of Social Science (KISS)", Bhubaneswar. All the students have been provided with free uniform, books, stationery items, boarding and lodging facilities, as part of the academic support.
The Kalinga Institute of Social Science (KISS) has been formed with the objective to bring tribal children into mainstream education with adequate facilities in a sustainable environment that would ensure a new beginning and a bright future.
In the first phase of the initiative, 63 tribal students in the age group of  5-8 years have been sent to this Institute.  The rest 37 students would be sent in the second phase.
When we know that India houses the maximum number of children in the world and also that 1/3rd of the malnourished children live in India, and further that there are States who are high on tribal population, all of us, including the Government, Corporates and people at large need to come forward and be part of this change.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Vedanta to restart Odisha refinery from Monday

Business Standard, Oct 20, 2012
Plant was shut since last week on bauxite unavailability
Jayajit Dash / Bhubaneswar Oct 20, 2012, 18:33 IST

A week after going for a temporary shutdown of its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh (Odisha), Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) is gearing up to restart the plant from Monday, buoyed by bauxite supplies to the tune of around 40,000 tonne from Bharat Aluminum Company's (Balco) Kawardah mines in Chhattisgarh.
As bauxite availability dried up, VAL was forced to shut down the refinery last Saturday.
"Nearly 40,000 tonne of bauxite have reached our refinery premises. We have sourced the raw material from Balco's Kawardah mines. The bauxite stock will be enough to run our plant for 5-6 days if we operate it at 60-70% capacity, which represents the minimum threshold value of the plant”, a company source told Business Standard.
Balco has two captive bauxite mines in Chhattisgarh- Kawardah and Mainpat, with a combined production capacity of 1.9 million tonne per annum. The Mainpat mine is  currently closed.
VAL needed 10,000 tonne of bauxite every day to run the plant at full capacity.
VAL will first start its captive co-generating plant (CPP) to generate steam, necessary for running the refinery. It may be noted that along with shut down of the refinery, VAL had also closed its CPP last Saturday as there was no consumption of steam.
Meanwhile, VAL is eyeing bauxite supplies from Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation (GMDC) after bagging the contract from the state PSU.
"The first bauxite shipment has been loaded by GMDC. We hope to get it within a few days. In all, we will get 90,000 tonne of bauxite from GMDC”, said the source.
The company is also in talks with private firms of Gujarat and Maharashtra that are currently engaged in bauxite exports.
VAL had approached both Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (Fimi) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (Ficci), seeking ban on bauxite exports. While VAL was struggling to keep its refinery operations afloat for want of bauxite, the raw material continued to be exported by private miners in Gujarat and Maharashtra due to better price realisations.
VAL has not been alloted any mining lease in Odisha and fully depends on externally sourced bauxite to run its refinery. It had entered into a pact with state controlled miner Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) for supply of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills.

However, attempts to mine bauxite at the ecologically sensitive hills were red flagged by the Union environment ministry that had scrapped the Stage-II forest clearance on August 24, 2010.

Around 6,500 people, including 550 employed directly, 5,000 engaged indirectly and 1,000 self-employed in and around the plant depended on VAL refinery for their livelihood. The company claimed to have spent Rs 150 crore on the development of the local area and community.

Minors forced to work as beggars

Reported by Sri Anshuman Patra
OrissaPost, Oct 19, 2012

Dharitri, Oct 20, 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

Odisha: DAV Vedanta International School organises Shishu Swasthya Mela at Lanjigarh

Orissadiary, Oct 19, 2012
Report by OD bureau, Lanjigarh: Nearly 1500 children between 5-9 years of age from peripheral villages of Lanjigarh attended a mega health fair “Shishu Swashthya Mela” organised by DAV Vedanta International School on 16-17 October 2012. The objective of the two-day programme, held at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district of Odisha, was to create awareness about childrens’ health and identification of deficiencies. Health check-up of children was done and subsequently curative measures were advised in case any deficiency was detected.

The health fair had 20 doctors providing their services to participants from 25 peripheral villages of Lanjigarh viz. Trilochanpur, Basantpada, Jagannathpur, Rengopali, Sindhbahal, Chhatrapur, Balabhadrapur, Kenduguda, Niyamgiri Vedanta Nagar, Nangalbeda etc. Speaking about the Shishu Swashthya Mela, Shukla Chakrobarty, Principal of DAV Vedanta International School said, “A lot of attention is required towards children and we all should come forward to build a healthy society. This health camp is one of our efforts to improve the health condition of children.”

The Shishu Swashthya Mela was inaugurated by Dr. Mukesh Kumar, President & Chief Operating Officer, Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL), Lanjigarh in presence of senior VAL officials - Mr. Koustav Ratan Kundu and Mr. Manoj Agrawal.

The DAV Vedanta International School at Lanjigarh is the only English medium school in this region. Nearly 500 children study in the school, of which mostly come from tribal communities belonging to nearby villages.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

RI For Murder-BID

Reported by Sri Anshuman Patra
Orissa Post, Oct 17, 2012

Dharitri, Oct 17, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Odisha wary of pvt land, displacement issues for 2 more UMPPs

Business Standard, Oct 16, 2012
Each of these UMPPs would have capacity of 4000 MW & are being taken up at a total investment of Rs 60,000 cr
Jayajit Dash / Bhubaneswar Oct 16, 2012, 10:46 IST

After zeroing in on sites for establishment of two more Ultra Mega Power Plants (UMPPs) in the state, the Odisha government is keen to have a detailed assessment of private land needed and people to be displaced by these projects.
"Before a final decision is taken on the matter of UMPPs, you are requested to make an assessment of the extent of private land and the number of persons likely to be affected by the land acquisition in the locations under your jurisdiction and furnish a report to this department immediately”, B S Panda, additional secretary (energy) wrote to the collectors of Bhadrak and Kalahandi.
It has been decided to set up the second UMPP at Bijoypatna in Chandbali tehsil of Bhadrak district and third UMPP at Narla under Kesinga sub-division in Kalahandi district. The sites have been selected after field visits by officials of Power Finance Corporation (PFC), the nodal agency for implementation of UMPPs.

Each of these UMPPs would have a capacity of 4000 MW and are being taken up at a total investment of Rs 60,000 crore.
Meanwhile, the bidding process for the first UMPP proposed at Bhedabahal in Sundergarh district has already begun. This UMPP needs 3100 acres of land and PFC has formed a fully owned subsidiary- Odisha Integrated Power Limited for executing this project. This UMPP would inject 1300 MW to the state grid.
Water for this UMPP has been allocated from the Ib river and check dams and barrages would be put up on the river for this purpose. It may be noted that Meenakshi, Meenakshi-B and Dipside Meenakshi coal blocks have been alloted for the UMPP with a total reserve of 880 million tonnes.
Two other subsidiaries- Sakhigopal Integrated Power Company Ltd and Ghogarpalli Integrated Power Company Ltd have also been formed by PFC for executing the other two UMPPs. The second the third UMPPs would contribute 2000 MW each to the state grid.
The state Chief Secretary B K Patnaik has advised the PFC officials to set aside ayacut land for UMPPs and ensure that there is minimal displacement from these mega power stations. Moreover, he has stressed that the ash pond for such power plants need to be located far away from areas of human habitations

Monday, October 15, 2012

Odisha govt urged to arrange bauxite for Vedanta Aluminium

Business Standard, Oct 15, 2012

Voicing concern over the fate
of workers due to shutting down of the refinery of Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) in Kalahandi district, a senior BJP leader today asked the Odisha government to arrange bauxite from some source for the resumption of operation of the alumina plant.
"Shut down of refinery at Lanjigarh two days ago due to acute scarcity of bauxite has come as a blow to about 3,500 workers engaged in the plant as their livelihood is now at stake," BJP leader and former Odisha Minister Pradipta Nayak told reporters here.
In the interest of workers and others associated with the plant indirectly, the state government must take steps to provide raw material to VAL from some source, including a bauxite reserve, he said.
After successfully operating its refinery for seven long
years without getting any bauxite from the Odisha government, VAL announced temporary shutdown of its refinery plant on October 15 due to lack of raw material.

Refinery closure to hit Vedanta's aluminium smelter

Business Standard, Oct 15, 2012

A day after shutting down its bauxite refining unit at Lanjigarh temporarily citing unavailability of bauxite ore, Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL), has said it can hardly run its smelter facility at Jharsuguda for a month in the absence of enough alumina to run the plant.
“Amid raw material supply problems, we can run the smelter plant hardly by a month or so,” said an official of VAL smelter plant.
The company has invested in two greenfield aluminium smelting plants at Jharsuguda. While the first smelter with a capacity of 0.5 million tonne per annum (mtpa) capacity is producing aluminium using alumina processed at Lanjigarh, the work on the second smelter with 1.1 mtpa capacity is currently on.

With the Lanjigarh refinery now shut down, the fate of the aluminium smelter at Jharsuguda is also doomed, sources said.
Earlier, VAL had decided to participate in the alumina export tender of its competitor National Aluminium Company (Nalco) to buy alumina for its smelter. But this has been vehemently opposed by the empluees unions of Nalco.
Yesterday, VAL had started the process of shutting down the Lanjigarh alumina refinery after it had become increasingly difficult to keep its operation afloat amid bauxite stock dwindling to zero level. Though the company, through an advance notice, had sounded the state government last month to close the refinery on December 5, it pre-poned the closure process.
“Unless and until we have bauxite stock for at least 10-15 days, we have to keep the refinery plant closed,” Mukesh Kumar, Chief Operating Officer and President, VAL.
The company has already intimated the Kalahandi east electrical division of Western Electricity Supply Company (Wesco) regarding its intention to close its captive generation plant. The company will source 8-10 MW power from the state grid for idle running of systems of the plant and township.
“We are trying our level best to source bauxite and have already sent a team to Gujarat for sourcing of the raw material,” Kumar said.
Vedanta had won the contract for sourcing 90,000 tonnes of bauxite, but the supply of which are likely to commence only after 10-15 days.
The company is also waiting for the withdrawal of Ministry of Environment and Forest circular for environmental clearance required at the time of renewal of mining lease which has been nullified by the Delhi High Court for sourcing of bauxite from Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh.
The aluminum major has been running its one million tonne per annum refinery at 25-30 per cent capacity for last 8- 10 days. To run the refinery plant at full steam, VAL needs 300,000 tonnes of bauxite every month.
The closure of the refinery is set to put at stake livelihood of 6,500 people, including 550 employed directly, 5,000 engaged indirectly and 1,000 self-employed in and around the plant. The company claimed to have spent Rs 150 crore on the development of the local area and community.
VAL has not been allotted any mining lease in Odisha and fully depends on externally sourced bauxite to run its refinery. It had entered into a pact with state controlled miner Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) for supply of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills. However, this was red flagged by the Union environment ministry which scrapped the Stage-II forest clearance of the mining project on August 24, 2010.
Following Niyamgiri debacle, VAL had filed 26 applications with the state government, seeking alternative bauxite deposits. But the state government is yet to take any action on them.

Who shut down Vedanta?

Tathya, Oct 13, 2012
Bhubaneswar : 13/October/2012 

Who is responsible for the shutdown of an alumina refinery of Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) at Lanjigarh in backward Kalahandi district?
Is it Vedanta Group Chairman Anil Agarwal or Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik or the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi?
For whose fault uncertainty prevailed over the livelihood of about 7,000 people?
A series of question now hits the common man who is indeed worried over such development of the state.
Though temporarily, VAL announced shutdown of its 1mtpa alumina refinery, the incident has come as a major setback for the industrialization process in the state.
The shutdown could have an adverse impact on the state and its Chief Minister’s image at least in the investors’ community across the world.
The message is clear and loud now that investor’s interests are not protected in Odisha.

When the big ticket projects like POSCO and ArcelorMittal are unable to implement their projects, VAL’s shutdown has added salt to the injury.
VAL’s refinery project was shutdown despite the fact that the plant was sitting on the heap of bauxites. “About 80 Million Ton of bauxite is reserved around 30 km radius of Lanjigargh,” said an industry insider.
This is not all; one can easily watch the Niyamgiri bauxite reserve by standing at the premises of the refinery plant.
“While the company thought of setting a refinery plant at Lanjigarh, country’s one of the backward area, it had no idea that the plant would be shut down for bauxite,” said a senior company official.
The State Government also signed MoU with the company with assurance that it would make raw material arrangement for the refinery. “We have not received a gram of bauxite from the Odisha Government even during last seven years of operation,” said the senior official.
The company, which had already invested Rs 10,000 crore plus in the Lanjigarh project, took this decision after informing the State Government, said he.
VAL’s cry for bauxite, however, did not reach the State Government even as it had committed to supply the raw material.
The State Chief Secretary B K Patnaik recently told reporters that the State Government cannot do anything immediately as bauxite mining required several formalities and clearances.
Interestingly, the Chief Minister of the bauxite rich Odisha, also could not stop shutdown of the project. A delegation of refinery plant’s employees and local people had recently apprised the Chief Minister.

However, there was no result as the local people and the employees’ fate entered into an uncertain phase. Nobody actually knows when the refinery will resume operation.

“We will start production after stocking certain amount of bauxite,” a top official said.

While VAL claims that it is not responsible for the shutdown of the plant, Odisha Government maintained that Centre has been approached for early clearances for the plant.

Though Odisha Mining Corporation was granted Stage-II environmental clearance for mining at Niyamgiri hills, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) showed red flag to the Rs 5,000 crore mining project.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is said to be instrumental in rejecting environment clearance to the mining project at the eco-sensitive Niyamgiri hills.

Gandhi scion came all the way from Delhi to Lanjigarh to assure the tribal people that they will not suffer due to VAL.  

The industry circle is now raising question; who is next in the line to close the shop due to raw material shortage in the mineral rich Odisha. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Vedanta refinery shuts in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, Oct 13, 2012

Vedanta Aluminium Ltd closed its refinery at Lanjigarh temporarily on Saturday without any stock of bauxite to run the plant. "We closed the refinery as we didn't get any alternative," Chief Operating Officer of the company Mukesh Kumar said.
The COO also said the refinery will be closed till its bauxite is obtained. The top officials of the company had informed about the closing of the Rs 4,500 crore company three days back as the production rate of the aluminum company had gone down to 30 to 35 per cent in last ten days.
The company on Wednesday, in a letter to the authorities of Wesco, had requested to supply of 8-10 MW of electricity to the refinery as the captive power plant would too be closed in a few days. To continue alumina production, the refinery needs 10,000 tonnes of bauxite. The company served a notice to the State's Labour Department about the problem on September 6 and informed that it would shut down the plant temporarily from December 5.
The company officials had met the Chief Minister and demanded alternative mines to run their refinery. On the other hand, Minister of Mines RK Singh said the State Government was reviewing the demands of the company. The company would bring 90,000 tonnes of bauxite from the Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation to run the plant, but that would probably reach the plant site in October last week. Hence, the company took the decision to close the plant till the time of the arrival of bauxite, sources said.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Repair of Indravati Left Canal Needs Attention

Reported by Sri Anshuman Patra
Dharitri, Oct 13, 2012

Vedanta Aluminium to close Orissa unit

The Indian Express, Oct 13, 2012

Vedanta Aluminium, which runs a one million tonne alumina refinery in Lanjigarh block of Orissa’s Kalahandi district, will shut its unit from Saturday. This comes least two months before it had served notice for closure due to acute shortage of bauxite.
A senior official of Vedanta Aluminium said, “Though we had served the mandatory three-month notice on state labour department under the Industrial Disputes Act last month for closing down the unit on December 5, we have to shut down early. We were hoping to get some bauxite from Gujarat through tender but that would not be possible before October 23. We have given notice to Grid Corporation of Orissa over shutting down of our 75 megawatt captive power plant at Lanjigarh.”
Vedanta needs 10,000 tonnes of bauxite every day, but till last month it was getting anything between 4,000-7,000 tonnes a day.
The refinery has been facing a crisis of bauxite ore supply after the environment ministry in August 2010 withdrew the stage II forest clearance for the diversion of 660.749 hectares of forest land for mining bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tribal varsity campus project hangs fire

Note: Thanks to The New Indian Express for highlighting this issue again. RTI has exposed it earlier and we have been filing many grievances in this regard.

The New Indian Express, Oct 12, 2012

The proposed regional campus of the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU), Amarkantak (MP), in Kalahandi has remained a non-starter. This despite the fact that lack of access to higher education is depriving tribals of getting gainful employment.
As the State Government had chosen Koraput for the Central University, the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) favoured Kalahandi for setting up the IGNTU off-campus, the proposal of which was placed before the Centre by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik himself.
In 2010, the then Additional District Magistrate (ADM) had identified the required 300 acres of land in Benda Jhola and Kumudabahal village in Thuamul-Rampur panchayat samiti of the district and informed the same to the Department of Higher Education, Odisha.  However, after receiving the letter from the ADM, the Higher Education Department allegedly did not forward the same to the MHRD and the authorities concerned at the IGNTU, Amarkantak, nor take any necessary follow-up action.
Under public criticism over the delay of two years in initiating work on the project, the State Government has yet again sought information from the Kalahandi administration on whether the identified 300 acres is free of cost, presence of an approach road connecting either the State or National Highway, electrical connectivity and drinking water facilities in the identified land. In a directive to the Kalahandi Collector last week, the Director of ST & SC Development Department, S K Popli, had sought the details at the earliest.
Educationists said having a campus of IGNTU in the educationally backward district (EBD) of Kalahandi would give a fillip to tribal education and open up employment avenues. “It is because the institute offers courses on business administration, tourism management, computer science and information technology. Besides, it could play a role in mainstreaming the tribals in society. By not expediting the IGNTU project, the State is not espousing the cause of tribals,” said an expert.
IGNTU was set up under an Act in 2007 with jurisdiction over the entire country.

Hearing resumes Friday on Odisha bauxite mining case Read more:

New York Daily News, Oct 11, 2012

New Delhi, Oct 10 — The Green Bench of the Supreme Court resumes hearing Friday on the high-profile case involving mining of bauxite ore in the the Niyamgiri hills of the impoverished Kalahandi district of Odisha.
In a writ petition, the state-run Orissa Mining Corp challenged the orders of the union ministry of environment and forests that cancelled the approvals, even though they were granted via two judgments and 32 strict conditions that, they said, were being complied with.
In the previous hearing last Friday, counsel for Orissa Mining Corp, K.K. Venugopal, even charged former minister for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh with contempt of court for undermining the powers of the judiciary.
Industry circles are watching the case closely, since it could have a bearing not just on similar cases of environmental concerns versus development, but also impact on the domestic prices of a key metal -- aluminium.
The apex court's verdict could in many ways decide the fate of the six million tonnes per annum aluminium unit of Vedanta at Lanjigarh, also in Kalahandi district, which depends on the bauxite mined from Niyamgiri hills. Nearly $3 billion has been invested there.
Counsel for Orissa Mining Corp. have said that even when they were granted approvals and the conditions were being complied with, Ramesh set up a three-member review panel. When that panel ruled favourably, he appointed another with four members.
Subsequently, after taking into account the report of the four-member review panel, the minister, before being shifted out to the rural development ministry, reversed all the approvals, the petitioner told the three-judge bench headed by Justice Aftab Alam.
Counsel for the ministry of environment and forests, however, said the permissions were withdrawn after the review committees found various new violations of environment laws -- a charge denied by the petitioners.
Those opposed to the project say mining operations in Niyamgiri hills will not only destroy its sacred habitat but also spoil the livelihood and social wellbeing of the tribespeople there.
But those in support argue that these aspects have been thoroughly looked into by the apex court through specialised agencies that feel the mining project does not involve any physical displacement of people, as no habitation stands on the lease area.
The supporters also rubbish claims that Vedanta would have made super profits due to the cheap availability of bauxite. To the contrary, they say, it is the global producers who were worried since aluminium prices in India could have come down sharply.
They also state that for the first time in India a special funding arm, called Lanjigarh Project Area Development Foundation, was set up with a contribution of 5 percent of the profits before tax of the project to develop the local area.
The result of that has been an English medium school with 500 children, the bulk of whom are first-generation school-goers, a modern hospital, piped water to the villages, all-weather roads, electricity, centralised kitchen and agro-based small units.
Late last month, the Odisha government promised the employees of Vedanta Aluminium steps to ensure regular supply of bauxite, so that thousands of jobs are saved and the factory does not close down.
"I'll follow it up and take the matter forward in consultation with the chief secretary. All necessary steps will be taken," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik then told a delegation of the "Save Vedanta Movement", an association of employees.
"If the company closes down, lives of more than 20,000 people will be affected. We want the government to take immediate measures for supply of bauxite to the company so that we and our region will prosper," said Srikant Bohidar of Lanjigarh.

Vedanta Aluminium Ltd to stop operations at Lanjigarh power plant

Times of India, Oct 11, 2012

BHUBANESWAR: The Vedanta Aluminium Ltd. (VAL), which will soon close down its refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, has also decided to discontinue operation of its 75 mw captive power plant there.
The VAL on Wednesday informed this to the local executive engineer of the power distribution company, WESCO, the reason being to buy electricity from the public grid for keeping some of the highly sensitive machineries of the refinery and the captive unit alive. "Since the refinery is going to close down, there is no need for keeping the power plant running. All that we need 8 to 10 mw of uninterrupted power for idle running of the systems of the whole project. Hence, we have approached the WESCO," said a Vedanta functionary.
The letter said the refinery had been "facing great difficulties for the last two months in maintaining supply of our main raw material, Bauxite. Hence, we are forced to close the plant to avoid further damage to various systems of the plant'. The VAL had earlier intimated the state government about its plan to close down the refinery from 5th December. "The plant presently has bauxite to last only for two to three days. I doubt whether the refinery can run till the first week of December. We may close the factory much before 5th December," the VAL official said. Anil Agarwal's VAL has thus far invested more than Rs 50,000 crore for setting up the integrated alumina and aluminium complex, which includes the one mtpa refinery at Lanjigarh due for expansion to 6 mtpa capacity 70 percent work on which has already been completed, 1.75 mtpa capacity aluminium smelter, 1215 mw captive power plant and 2400 mw independent power plant, all at Jharsuguda.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Too much load on District Hospital

Shared by Sri Sachin Kumar Agrawal
The New Indian Express, Oct 4, 2012
By Uma Shankar Kar - BHAWANIPATNA

04th October 2012 12:47 PM

The district headquarters hospital, the only referral hospital of Kalahandi, is in a mess.

It is plagued by both acute shortage of doctors and beds in different wards. Such is the situation that patients in male and female Medicine, Children and Maternity wards can be seen lying on the floor while the verandah outside remains crowded.

The latrines, urinals and dining space are in a pathetic condition due to heavy load of patients. The patients instead are forced to use the nearby public toilet.

Social activist Devi Mishra, who visits the hospital daily helping needy patients for the last 15 years, said it is high time the Health Department took note of the situation and increased the bed strength of all wards, particularly that of the Medicine, Paediatric and Maternity.

The hospital with a bed strength of 165 meets only half of its requirement.

In the male and female Medicine wards, there are 23 and 26 beds respectively while on an average more than 50 patients are admitted to these wards daily.

Same is the case with the 22-bed Maternity ward which sees around 45 to 50 patients turning up for delivery every day. Many prefer to avoid the rush and head for nursing homes and the mission hospital at Bisamcuttack.

The Paediatric ward is worse. While there are only 25 beds, on an average 70 to 75 patients are admitted to the ward daily.

In such a chaotic situation, the doctors and nurses have a difficult time attending to the patients.

To add to the owes, posts of ENT Specialist, Pathologist, Anaesthetist, level-1 Surgical Specialist are lying vacant. The Paediatric ward is also being managed by one specialist.

Altogether 38 posts are lying vacant against the sanctioned strength of 176.

However, it is alleged that as many as 18 doctors had been unauthorisely remaining absent since long.

CDMO Gunasagar Saha admitted that the beds are less compared to the patient in-flow to the hospital. The doctors are doing their best despite constraints, he said, adding that the government has been moved to enhance the bed strength and fill up the vacant posts.

Saha further said memos had been issued to the 18 absentee doctors.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why India could remain forever poor

The Indian Express, Sept 30, 2012

If there is one story that contains in it all the reasons why India remains a poor country, it is the story of the Vedanta aluminum refinery in Odisha. Now that economic reforms are back on the government’s agenda, it is a story I hope high officials, high-minded judges and busybody NGOs listen to carefully. Why do I tell it this week? Because earlier this month, Sterlite Industries gave notice that they are closing their Lanjigarh refinery because it is bleeding to death. It has lost Rs 2,500 crores trying to stay alive these past two years. When it closes, 6,500 people will lose their jobs in one of India’s poorest districts.
On a tour of Kalahandi’s villages, during the 1987 drought, I saw poverty so horrific that memories of children dying slowly in barren mud huts remains etched painfully not just in my mind but in my heart. The rains failed that year so the economy based on a single annual crop collapsed and thousands of Adivasi families were forced to live on a diet of birdseed and mango kernels for months. Women started selling babies they could not longer feed.
You would think then, would you not, that if someone was prepared to bring investment to such a desolate place he would be applauded, welcomed with open arms. The very opposite happened and for the wrong reasons. The first people to start protesting against Vedanta were foreigners. Had the refinery functioned on bauxite from the nearby Niyamgiri hills, aluminum could have been produced in Lanjigarh at $1,500 a tonne, instead of the global cost of $2,050. This caused alarm bells to start ringing in the ears of the international aluminum industry and soon powerful foreign NGOs appeared in Kalahandi to stop the project. Greenpeace and Amnesty International are still there supposedly to protect the interests, and sacred hills, of forest-dwelling Adivasi tribes.
The ‘foreign hand’ would not have mattered if the Government of India had not intervened to make the functioning of the refinery impossible in different ways. One of which was to declare that bauxite could not be mined in the Niyamgiri hills. There continues to be confusion about whether this was for environmental reasons or whether it was to protect Adivasis from losing their land. But, once mining was banned, the Orissa Mining Corporation that had signed an agreement with Vedanta to supply it with 150 million tonnes of bauxite, could no longer do so. It has so far been unable to supply an ounce. Vedanta’s environmental, governmental and NGO problems began after an investment of more than Rs 15,000 crores had already been made in the refinery so for two years it functioned on bauxite imported from other states. An unviable situation so the project will now close.
The Adivasis can now go back to living in primitive harmony with nature without schools for their children, without healthcare, without electricity or clean water and without the possibility of ever improving their lives. Will they be happy this way? Only according to urban NGOs who build flourishing businesses on romanticising desperate poverty and a way of life that they themselves could not abide for a single day.
What is interesting about the targeting of Vedanta by such a range of vested interests is that if it were a public sector company, it could have gone ahead and raped the Niyamgiri hills without anyone noticing. It has happened often in the past and continues to happen across the country. So when the Prime Minister sets in motion his new phase of economic reform, he should ask himself why. Could it be because those who would like to see India’s private sector remain the stunted creature it once was would like it to go back to being that way?
Judging from the tirades of NGOs and leftist political parties, this seems to be the case. They want all the country’s natural resources to remain in the hands of the state even if governments lack the money and the technology to exploit them. They appear never to have asked themselves why it is states that are richest in natural resources whose people remain mired in horrible poverty. Sadly they have been able to get away with the rubbish they talk in the name of the poor because the Prime Minister has never explained the need for economic reforms.
If all he can come up with is the kind of speech he made last week about ‘money not growing on trees’, then there is not the smallest chance that the reforms will succeed. The noise made by those who are either economically illiterate or have a vested interest in India remaining a poor country forever is too loud and the mood of negativity they have created too deep. The lies they have told are widely believed.

State Govt. may be pushed to send a proposal for a HC Bench in KBK

Note: I received the following acknowledgement and information. Now the state Govt. may be pushed in this matter.
Please refer to your e-mail representation dated 28.04.2012 addressed to OSD to PM regarding subject mentioned above.
2.                  In this regard, it is informed that setting up of a Bench of a High Court is considered only if a complete proposal in terms of section 51(2) of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956 is received from the State Government concerned, including the consent of the Chief Justice of the High Court and the Governor of the State and also if it satisfies the broad guidelines and criteria recommended by the Jaswant Singh Commission.

3.                   The matter can be taken up by the Central Government only when a complete proposal is received from the concerned State Government as detailed above. No such proposal has been received from the Odisha State Government.

Bhupindar visits hunger death-hit village in Kalahandi

The Pioneer, Oct 2, 2012

Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Bhupindar Singh on Monday visited the village Telisarabahali of barapadar gram panchayat under karlamunda block in Kalahandi district and met the villagers and family members of Balakumar who allegedly died of starvation on Sunday.
Sing told mediamen that the man had not eaten anything for three days and died of starvation. He learnt it from the villagers.
He also said people of the village had told him that the Anganwadi in the village had not received any food material for fifteen days for which supply of cooked food to the children was stopped.
But on the other hand, Karlamunda BDO said they had given 25 Kg of rice to the family of the deceased on September 28.
Sources said the block has paid `5,000 to the family members for his funeral rites.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A nice poem on Kalahandi: by Sushil Kumar Bag

Note: Excellent presentation, especially last paragraph expose the reality.