Thursday, December 27, 2012

Distribution of forest land patta under forest act mismanaged

Reported by Sri Debendra Bisi
Sambad, Dec 26, 2012

'Rift' in Kalahandi BJD on organisational poll-eve

The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar), Dec 26, 2012

Severe infighting has come to the fore in the Kalahandi district BJD unit on the eve of the organisational polls of the party. Two senior leaders demanded the ouster of the district president and former minister Balabhadra Majhi.
 In a letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, former MP Dhaneswar Majhi and former MLA Bira Sipka have demanded ouster of Balabhadra and sought a leader with clean image for the growth of the party in the district.
 The two leaders have alleged that Balabhadra had failed in membership drive of the party as he could enrol only 872 active members from 13 blocks of the district.
They alleged that out of these 229 active members were enrolled from Bhawanipatna Assembly constituency alone.
 Raising questions on the loyalty of Balabhadra towards the State leadership, the two former MLAs alleged that his native village is more than 80 km from Bhawanipatna and most of the time he remains at Bhubaneswar neglecting the party organisation in the district. During the daytime he takes your (Naveen Patnaik) name but at night he dances to the tune of your detractors, they said.
 Alleging that there are no women active members of BJD in maximum number of blocks of the State, the two leaders said the population of Kalahandi district is 15.73 lakh but the number of BJD workers are only 21,800. This shows how Balabhadra has performed, they said and demanded his immediate ouster.
 The two leaders alleged that more than 800 four-wheelers and 1,000 two-wheelers with BJD workers attended the Odisha Jana Morcha’s (OJM) rally at Bhawanipatna on November 19 with the tacit assistance from Balabhadra and former minister Pushpendra Singhdeo.
The brother of Pushpendra, Anil Singhdeo of Jaipatna block attended the OJM meeting with BJD workers, they added.

Weather played truant in Kalahandi

The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar), Dec 27, 2012

27th December 2012 12:20 PM
It has not been a very good year for the cotton growers of Kalahandi. The large area under cotton cultivation, notwithstanding, growers in Kalahandi are worried over getting the right price against their yield.
 Errant weather condition in the kharif season has adversely affected cotton yield in many parts of the district. This year, 42,813 ha has been covered under cotton which is 17 per cent more than the coverage in 2011-12. Last year’s coverage was 39 pc more than 2010-11.
 Due to delayed but continuous rains, earthing and hoeing operations for cotton crop could not be done properly affecting growth. Farmers are now apprehensive of low yield.
“The total yield of cotton is expected to be around 4,80,000 quintals this time,” Subject Matter Specialist-Cotton (SMS-COTTON), Narayan Upadheya, said, adding that adverse weather conditions have affected cropping works in many areas.
 Sources said it was decided to sell cotton in four regular mandis of Regulated Marketing Committee (RMC) at Karlapada, Utkella, Biswanathpur and Utchla, besides three temporary mandis at Gudipata, Panimonda and Tuting.
 Though cotton mandis started functioning from November 26, poor transaction has worried the farmers further.  The first mandi opened at Utkella on November 26, but only 42 quintals of cotton were sold. The MSP has
been fixed at `3900 per quintal.  So far, only eight mandis - five at Utkella and three at Karlapada - could be opened and only 840 quintals of cotton sold. And the mandis that have been opened lack basic facilities like rest sheds, weigh-bridge machines, storage houses and ginning and pressing facilities.
Farmers alleged that participation of Cotton Corporation of India has been lacking which is why they are not getting good price for the crop.  Most of the farmers are storing their produce at home now waiting for congenial atmosphere in the mandis.
Cotton cultivation was initiated in Kalahandi in the 70s and it brought in new horizons. Over the years, it turned out to be the major cash crop. Apparently, Kalahandi was a paddy growing area till agricultural scientists introduced cash crops like cotton, onion and pulses.  Over the years, the coverage of area under cotton increased from 2223 ha in  1995-96 to 42,813 ha, the highest in the State so far.

Congress seeks special status for Koraput-Balangir-Kalahandi

Times of India, Dec 27, 2012

BHUBANESWAR: The Congress has demandedspecial status for eight backward districts underKoraput-Balangir-Kalahandi (KBK) like it has happened in Karnataka. Parts of the South Indian state were accorded special status for development of backward region under Article 371 of the Constitution in the last session of Parliament. This status is expected to end disparities in development and employment opportunities as more central assistance will pour into the region, said experts.

Chief spokesperson of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) Narasingha Mishra said the criterion, for which Article 371 was amended for parts of Karnataka recently, holds good for the eight districts of Odisha.

"Almost 84% people in the KBK region belong to the below poverty line(BPL) category. Since Independence, reports of starvation deaths, malnutrition, child sale and large scale migration are taking place in KBK areas. Although there is a special provision like KBK scheme and a body like Western Odisha Development Council (WODC), they are not enough to address the acute backwardness of the region," argued Mishra.

He said when Article 371 could be amended for making special provisions for other states, why not Odisha. "Different parts of the country, which were ruled by erstwhile kings, are steeped in backwardness. The KBK area was also ruled by kings and zamindars," said Mishra.

Earlier Article 371 was amended for Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Goa and Maharashtra. The economic, social and educational backwardness in the KBK is strong enough reason to amend the article, Mishra said.

He said the recent amendment to 371 (J) was meant to develop the backward Karnataka, which was previously ruled by Hyderabad's Nizam. The ex-state of Hyderabad was divided into three parts when the states were reorganized in 1956.

"Of the three parts, one part is now with AP and others are with Maharashtra and Karnataka. While AP and Maharashtra parts are already getting special financial assistance from the Centre after Article 371 was amended for these areas, the Karnataka part was recently conferred Article 371," said Mishra.

Carbon credits yield AP ryots a fortune

Times of India, Dec 27, 2012
VISAKHAPATNAM: In 2007, P Narsimharaju ofGarudabili had never heard of carbon credits. Neither had he heard of earning revenue by just growing trees. Unable to capitalise on the 60 acres of degraded land that he owned in Anantagiri Mandal of Visakhaptnam district, Narsimharajuwas facing an uncertain future.

However, after becoming part of a programme developed by Veda Climate Change Solutions Limited (VCCSL) to sell carbon credits, his fortunes changed. Half a decade later he has banked in Rs 1.63 lakh for growing eucalyptus and an additional Rs 28 lakh for selling the wood to a paper mill.

And Narsimharaju is not alone. He is among 1500 farmers owning 1600 hectares in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa that claim to have become the first lot of farmers in Asia and the second in the world to rake in the moolah by selling carbon credits.

The 1,500 farmers of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Rayagada, Koraput and Kalahandi in Odisha earned Rs 85.28 lakh by selling 79,811 carbon credits, for which they received their cheques on Wednesday at a programme organised at Gitam University in the city.

Expressing his happiness on receiving the cheque, Narsimharaju said, "We'll continue to be part of the project in the coming years." The farmers were part of a project aimed at improving rural livelihoods through carbon sequestration by adopting environmental friendly technology based agro-forestry practices in partnership with Biocarbon Fund of the World Bank.

Another farmer, Shanmukha Rao D of Vizianagaram, who earned around Rs 58,000 conceded that the going was tough and said that support in the form of providing manure and technical support is needed to sustain the effort.

According to VCCSL executive director Sai Kishore Nellore, the project was initiated in 2004 with the intention of improving the lives of farmers in rural areas by allowing them to raise tree plantations on highly degraded agricultural lands. Following that, a project idea note was prepared and subsequently a team from the World Bank visited the country for inspection in 2006. "We conceptualised the idea and wanted to contribute globally by using a local platform," Nellore said.

During the next year, VCCSL entered into an Emission Reduction Purchase Agreement (ERPA) with the World Bank for sale of carbon credits generated under this project at $4.05 per carbon credit. Each carbon credit is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide sequestered.

With the project implemented successfully, Nellore said the next plan was to grow mango and cashew by including 2,500 farmers with 2159 acres in the state. On the one hand, it will prevent monoculture crop and on the other it would help them test different levels of carbon sequestration that can be achieved by growing variety of trees.

While growing trees earned them carbon credits, selling the wood after a period of five years to paper mills helped them earn additional income. M V Ramana Murthy, manager (plantation) of J K Paper Limited, said, "Farmers are receiving a net benefit of Rs 3,000 per tonne of eucalyptus grown. This is excluding transport." Also, J K Paper Mill Limited provides high quality plant species throught its plantation research centre.

‘Vivekananda’s message even more relevant today’

The Pioneer, Dec 26, 2012

A team of the Shri Ramakrishna Ashram of Madanpur Rampur of Kalahandi district has moved around different parts of the country along with a 18-feet statue of Swami Vivekananda preaching the message of Swamiji during his 150th birth anniversary.
On December 22, the team arrived in Bhubaneswar and a public meeting was held at the premises of the Kalinga Buddha Vihar. The meeting, which was attended by students, teachers and intellectuals of the city, was addressed by MP Baisnab Charan Parida, MLAs Amar Prasd Satpathy and Pratap Sarangi, former Vice-Chancellor of Utkal University of Culture Dr Bimalendu Mohanty, Prof Sarat Chandra Rath of the Odia Department of Utkal University and social activist Arya Kumar Jnanendra.
 
The speakers emphasised that Swami Vivekananda during his lifetime moved throughout India motivating the youth to work for the people. Present-day youth should follow his teachings by remembering his contributions towards India. One should learn to sacrifice for the betterment of the poor. The rich and privileged should think of their countrymen and help them get over the mire of poverty. Sacrifice and service should be the motto of the nation.
 
They said Swami Vivekananda had asked people to give up jealousy and conceit. He had advised people to work united for others. "Kill self first if you want to succeed" and one must not sacrifice his own faith were his words to the people. His words are more relevant today than before. The meeting was presided over by Swami Bairagyananda. A vote of thanks was offered by advocate Saroj Kumar Mishra.

Right to Jungle and Land Act: Poor performance in Kalahandi

Reported by Sri Debendra Bisi
Sambad, Dec 22, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

VAL unlikely to start operation in Lanjigarh in near future

Economic Times, Dec 23, 2012
MUMBAI: Country's largest aluminium maker Vedanta Aluminium (VAL) is unlikely to start operation at its Lanjigarh unit in the near future as it is yet to secure bauxite supply to run the plant. 

"It is very difficult to give a timeline. Unless we get secured source of supply of raw material, we will not be able to reopen the plant," President of Vedanta Aluminium, Mukesh Kumar told PTI. 

He also said there was no formal communication from the Odisha government regarding supply of bauxite.Vedanta Aluminium shut down its one million tonne Lanjigarh refinery unit a fortnight ago, due to shortage of bauxite. 

The unit requires 10,000 tonnes of bauxite per day to run at full capacity. Kumar said the company was not able to source the bauxite from other states. 

Earlier, the company sourced bauxites from Gujarat, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. However, after the halting of operation in mines in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, the plant was not able to source raw material from other states. 

Talking about possible layoffs at the plant, Kumar said there would be some layoffs due to the shutting down.

Minister asks stakeholders to end practice of child labour

The Pioneer, Dec 22, 2012

Forest and Environment Minister Bijayshree Routray has called upon all stakeholders to combat the inhuman practice of child labour.
He was inaugurating a workshop-cum-panel discussion here for prohibition of child labour in the State as part of the Convergence Child Labour Project of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) held under the auspices of the State Labour Institute.
 
Child labour is simply understood as depriving childhood of children by engaging them in works, which should be performed by adults, and also engaging them in activities which are harmful to their physical and mental development, robbing them of schooling and entertainment, enslaving and separating them from their families, speaker said during the discussion.
 
Under the National Child Labour Project (NCLP), as many as 772 special schools are functioning in 24 districts of the State for non-formal education and vocational training to rehabilitate the children after withdrawing from work. While 36,526 children are presently enrolled in these schools, 1,34,258 children have already been mainstreamed, claimed officials.
 
The ILO in coordination with the Labour & ESI Department has taken up the Convergence Child Labour Project, which prompts a collaborative effort of coordinating the key activities of various Departments, mainly Labour & ESI, School & Mass Education, Women & Child Development, ST & SC Development and Panchayati Raj.
 
The key activities under the project are identifying child labour-prone areas, focusing on the families of the child labourers, strengthening linkages, withdrawing and preventing children from doing hazardous works and testing and adopting important interventions. Kalahandi and Cuttack have been taken up as the pilot districts under the project with support from the ILO. 
 
Labour Commissioner Hemant Sharma gave n introductory speech.

VAL lay-offs seem illegal: Odisha

Business Standard, Dec 23, 2012
Company CEO says no provision for giving advance notice on temporary closure
Nirmalya Behera / Bhubaneswar Dec 23, 2012, 00:15 IST


The move of Vedanta Aluminum Limited (VAL) to lay off staff at its closed alumina refinery in Lanjigarh might be illegal, as the state labour department claims to not have received any official communication regarding the shutdown of the plant.
“Prima facie, VAL’s decision to lay off staff seems illegal”, said a senior official of the state labour department. “However, the picture will be clearer only after examining the lay-offs notice from the company”, he added.
VAL CEO, Mukesh Kumar, on Wednesday said the company had been forced to take a decision to lay off employees at its Lanjigarh plant, and the details of the plan would soon be worked out.

“When the notice for closure of the plant is not proper, how can we accept the lay-offs proposal of the company”, asked the labour department official.
“There is no formal or informal intimation received from the company in this regard till date”, said State Labour Commissioner Hemant Sharma.
The labour department claimed the closure notice given by the company on September 6 was “not in the proper format”, as stipulated by the provisions of theIndustrial Disputes Act 1947.
VAL had closed its plant on December 5. It had issued a three-month advance notice and had attributed the cause of closure to economic unviability of the plant in the absence of assured supply of bauxite.
According to Section 25 (o) of the ID act, an employer has to give a 90 days’ notice in the prescribed format to the appropriate government authority, stipulating the reasons for the closure.
The official added a company, under such circumstances, if found guilty of non-compliance, might be liable for penalty or imprisonment according to the provisions of the Act.
Kumar said, “We have followed the format laid out in the relevant section of the Industrial Dispute Act, without mentioning so in our letter to the labour department. There is no provision for giving advance notice for temporary closure in the Act, which prescribes the procedure for permission for permanent closure of an establishment. As our intention was not to shut down the plant for good, we had not mentioned about Section 25 (o) of the Act, though we have followed the format provided under the law”.
“We will submit the lay-offs plan to the government according to the provisions of ID Act”, he added.
About 2,000-2,500 contractual employees engaged in bauxite loading and unloading and transportation have already lost their jobs, as a fallout of the closure. VAL had 620 executives on its rolls, of which 75 quit two months ago, because of uncertainty surrounding the future of the refinery.
Even in the idle state, the company has to spend about Rs 10 crore to Rs 11 crore a month towards salaries, electricity bills, payments to contractors, establishment cost and maintenance.
"There are 550 executives left with VAL, and they are being paid salaries on time”, said Kumar.
Around 6,500 people, including 550 employed directly, 5,000 engaged indirectly and 1,000 self-employed, in and around the plant depended on the VAL refinery for their livelihood. The company claimed to have spent Rs 150 crore on the development of the local area and community.
VAL's announcement on the lay-off contradicts a recently submitted report of the district labour office (DLO) -Kalahandi, saying there was no retrenchment at the company's refinery.
"The management of VAL-Lanjigarh has stopped production of alumina from December 5, according to the notice to the government, but has not closed the main gate of the establishment and retrenched any workman or employee”, the DLO said in his report to the State Labour Commissioner.
VAL had gone for a temporary shutdown of the refinery and intended to resume operations only after having five to six months of assured supplies of bauxite. To run the one million tonne per annum (mtpa) refinery plant at maximum capacity, VAL needed 300,000 tonnes of bauxite every month.
VAL had designed its refinery in Odisha, keeping in mind the locally available bauxite. The aluminium major had entered into an agreement with the state-controlled miner Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) for the supply of bauxite. But, attempts to mine bauxite at the ecologically sensitive Niyamgiri hills under OMC’s leasehold were blocked by the environment ministry that scrapped the Stage-II forest clearance on August 24, 2010.
The company’s bid to continue the refinery operation by sourcing bauxite from other states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhatishgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh was also thwarted by logistical, regulatory and procedural issues.

209 new Revenue Circles to be opened in 8 dists

The Pioneer, Dec 22, 2012

In order to strengthen revenue administration at the rural level to ensure right to public services in time, the State Government has decided to open as many as 209 new Revenue Inspector Circles covering eight districts.
According to Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Surjya Nmarayan Patro, the proposed RI circles would be opened in seven backward districts, Kalahandi, Jharsuguda, Mayrubhanj, Subarnapur, Balangir, Nuapada and Sundargarh and Khurda. He said steps have already been taken to appoint 209 RIs and 209 Assistant RIs in the proposed RI Circles. Besides, 209 employees engaged on contract under the department would be appointed as peons in the new RI Circle. All the staff would be posted as per the 1983 Revenue Service Rules.
Patro said while 32 RIs and Assistant RIs each would be appointed under six tehsils of Kalahandi, 22 RIs and Assistant RIs in two tehsils of Jharsuguda, 71 RIs and Assistant RIs in eight tehsils of Mayurbhanj, seven each in two tehsils of Subarnapur, 52 in six tehsils of Balangair, 11 in two tehsils of Nuapada, four each in tehsils of Khurda and 10 each in three tehsils in Sundargarah.

Travelogue Antaranga Odisha released

The Pioneer, Dec 22, 2012

A travelogue Antaranga Odisha written by journalist Harihar Panda and published by Deepak Kumar Pani on behalf of Mediamind was released at a function here on Friday.
The book relates the experiences of the writer during his travels across the State. It contains narration on 19 spots of seven districts with details of their cultural and historic importance.
 
The 128-page book is printed entirely in glossy art paper with self-descriptive photographs. The beauties of Konark and Chandrabhaga along the marine drive are explained in the first chapter.
 
The typical Odia cuisine at Satapada on the blue sea mouth has is given importance in the second part. The history of the Parikud palace, attack of British soldiers and the story and mythology behind Kalijai are focused in this chapter.
 
As ones knows, Thuamul-Rampur block of Kalahandi district is known for its poverty, but the writer has explored a hidden treasure of natural beauty amalgamating the mountains, streams, tribes and their habits with details of root charts.
 
Kandhamal and Koraput are described in the fourth and fifth chapters. One finds something different in these chapters while travelling around Phulbani, Daringbadi, Dhimamaska, Mandashur, Belghar and Tidipadar.
 
Bondaghaat is described here as a most beautiful mountain of Odisha. The Bonda tribe’s lifestyle, ornaments, Haats and dancing style are explained out of experience.
 
Talsari, Chandipur, Panchalingeswar and the history of the merger of India’s first-ever Princely State in Independent India are dealth with in the last chapter.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Kalahandi loses 2 crore rupees every month in Kerosene distribution

Reported by Sri Debendra Bisi
Sambad, Dec 21, 2012

Sonia Gandhi instructs railway minister to speed up construction of Wagon factory in Kalahandi

Thanks to Prof. Chitta Baral for sharing this.

Dharitri, Dec 20, 2012


2,500 contract workers at Vedanta refinery jobless

Business Standard, Dec 21, 2012

A fortnight after closure of its one million tonne alumina refinery at Lanjigarh on December 5, Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) said it will inform the Odisha labour department in two days on its plan to lay off employees.
“We have been forced to take a decision on laying off employees at our Lanjigarh plant. But the details on how many employees are to be retrenched and the people who are to be redeployed are yet to be crystallised. We will inform the state labour department in two days regarding our lay-off plan as per Industrial Disputes Act,” said Mukesh Kumar, chief executive officer, VAL (Lanjigarh).
Already 2000-2500 contractual employees engaged in bauxite loading and unloading and transportation have lost their jobs as a fall-out of the refinery closure, Kumar said.

VAL had 620 executives on its rolls of which 75 have already quit two months back on uncertainty surrounding the future of the refinery complex. “There are 550 executives left now with VAL and they are being paid salaries on time,” said Kumar.
Even in the idle state, the company has to spend about Rs 10 to 11 crore per month towards salary, electricity bill, payment to contractors, establishment cost and maintainance.
Around 6,500 people, including 550 employed directly, 5,000 engaged indirectly and 1,000 self-employed, in and around the plant depended on the VAL refinery for their livelihood. The company claimed to have spent Rs 150 crore on the development of the local area and community.
VAL’s announcement on lay-off contradicts a recently submitted report of the district labour office (DLO) -Kalahandi stating that there was no retrenchment at the company’s refinery.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Rs22,000 cr to be spent in 5 yrs on additional irrigation potential

The Pioneer, Dec 11, 2012

The State Government on Monday set a target of investing a whopping Rs22,000 crore during next five years for creating additional irrigation potential in 9.36 lakh hectares.
The ambitious programme of expanding the irrigation potential would be undertaken from the current fiscal till 2016-17, informed Urban Development Minister Raghu Nath Mohanty on behalf of the Chief Minister while replying to a debate relating to the admissibility of an adjournment motion on failure of the State Government in irrigation front in the Assembly on Monday.
Refuting the allegation of the Opposition that the Government had failed to provide irrigation facilities during its 12-year tenure, the Urban Development Minister said that during the period from 2000-01 to 2010-11, irrigation facilities had been provided to additional 5.28 lakh hectares. Besides, a number of steps had been taken for the development of farm sector and farmers.
Mohanty said that during the 12th Five Year Plan, the State Government had targeted to provide irrigation facilities to additional 15 per cent of land. Under the programme, as many as 15,000 check dams would be constructed across the State and as many as 1.50 lakh hectares of crop land would be provided with irrigation through 75,000 deep bore wells, he said. Besides, during the next five years, as many as 9,704 lift irrigation projects would be set up to provide irrigation to 1.79 lakh hectares of land.
The programme, the Minister said, envisaged setting up of 174 mega lift irrigation projects to provide irrigation to 2.14 lakh hectares. He informed the House the Government had a target to complete as many as fifteen ongoing major and medium irrigation projects, including Kanpur, Lower Indra, Upper Indravati extention, Renali right canal, Subarnarekha, Anandpur barrage, Telingiri, Reta, Manjore, Rukura, Baghalati, Rajua, Mahendra Tanaya barrage, Rengali left canal and Deo irrigation project during the 12th plan period.
The Minister, however, denied the allegation that the State Government was providing more water to the industrial units. He said that the Biju Setu Scheme was being reviewed so as to take up more water harvesting structures. However, the entire opposition Congress and BJP members staged a walkout expressing their dissatisfaction over the Minister’s reply particularly over the Government’s silence over the question of implementation of the important Lower Suktel irrigation project in Balangir district.
Participating in the discussion, Congress members Santosh Singh Saluja ,Naba Kishre Das, Prafulla Makji and Pasad Harichandan slammed the State Government for its peculiar election promise. While during the 2000 election, the ruling party had promised 100 per cent irrigation facilities, it came down to 50 per cent during 2004 and again the per cent dwindled to 35 in 2009. Even the Government had failed to honour its commitment and forgotten to provide 35 per cent irrigation facilities.

Football tournament in Dharamgarh: Rajesh Chauhan and Dillip Tirki get impress with Kalahandi's richness in agriculture, art and sports

Reported by Sri Ingit Panda
Samaja, Dec 20, 2012




Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Aluminium to lay off employees, no hope of revival of refinery

Economic Times, Dec 20, 2012
BHUBANESWAR: Vedanta Aluminium on Thursday will inform Odisha government its decision to lay off employees at its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh with no hope of an immediate revival of the plant, the company's chief operating officer Mukesh Kumar told ET. 

VAL, a unit of London-listed Vedanta Resources, was forced to close down its refinery with a million tonne a year capacity two weeks ago due to non-availability of bauxite, the key raw material used to produce alumina. 

"We will send a notice on Thursday to the labour commissioner under section 5 of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 for retrenchment of staff. I am forced to issue the notice as we don't have any other choice left but to retrench staff. There is no hope for revival of the plant in near future due to lack of bauxite," he said. 

The Act requires any plant employing more than 100 workmen to take prior permission from the state government for lay-off, retrenchment and closure. VAL has about 550 employees on its payroll. 

In the past three months, about 70-75 employees, including engineers and executives, have already left the refinery, according to Kumar. The Lanjigarh plant had been facing bauxite shortages since its commissioning in August 2007 as the state government could not fulfill its commitment of supplying bauxite from the nearby Niyamgiri hills through state-run Odisha Mining Corporation, which held the lease due to regulatory and legal issues. 

The refinery requires 10,000 tonnes of bauxite a day to operate at full capacity and the VAL had been lifting bauxite from the open market, which also has dried down. Odisha has a rich deposit of bauxite, pegged at 1,849 million tones, of all categories. 

Ironically, during 2003-09, only 28.8 million tonnes of bauxite ore has been produced mostly from Panchpatmali mines of the maharatna National Aluminium CompanyBSE -0.82 %. Some 7,000 people, mostly locals, would be seriously affected due to the retrenchment, a company top official said. VAL had announced to shut down the refinery on December 5. The Lanjigarh refinery has already incurred financial.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Additional coaches in trains to tackle winter rush

Times of India, Dec 16, 2012

RAIPUR: To tackle the heavy rush during the winter vacation, additional coaches are being added to few express trains on different schedules. The Bilaspur-Chennai express (12851, 12852) would have an additional AC II coach from December 16 2012 to January 7, 2013. Likewise, train no. 12849, 12850, Bilaspur-Pune Express (December 20 to January 11, 2013), train no. 18207, 18208 Durg-Ajmer Express (December 17 to January 15, 2013), train no. 18205, 19206 Durg -Navtanwa Express (December 20 to January 12) and train no. 15159, 15160 Durg-Chhapra Express (December 16 to 19) would have an additional AC II tier coaches each.
Also, due to the heavy rush of candidates travelling for the railway board examination, railways have added additional general coaches to relieve them of stuffed trains. The trains which would have additional coaches are Bilaspur-Raipur passenger, Raipur-Bhawanipatna passenger, Raipur-Gevra Road passenger and Raipur-Itwari passenger.

No retrenchment in Vedanta refinery, says DLO

Business Standard, Dec 18, 2012

The company’s bid to continue the refinery operation by sourcing bauxite from other states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhatishgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh was also thwarted by various logistic, regulatory and procedural issues
Even as Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) has shut down its Lanjigarh refinery for want of bauxite, the company has not retrenched any employee, said a report submitted by district labour officer (DLO), Kalahandi.

VAL has closed its plant from December5 basing on a three-months advance notice to the state government and had attributed the cause of closure of refinery to economic unviability of the plant in the absence of assured supply of bauxite.

“The management of VAL, Lanjigarh, Kalahandi has stopped production of alumina from December 5 as per the notice to the government but it has not closed the main gate of the establishment and retrenched any workmen or employee”, the DLO said in his report to the State Labour Commissioner.
VAL employs around 535 executives, 52 contractors and 3175 contract labourers while one labour union is functioning in the refinery.
The situation in and around the factory is normal and peaceful so far and the number of affected workmen due to stoppage of production is nil, the DLO informed.
However, the state government sticks to its guns that closure notice given by the company was “not in the proper format" as stipulated under the act.
We have not received any information in the prescribed format from the company, maintained Deputy Labour Commissioner Narendra Kumar Samantray. He said that the closure notice would be taken into cognizance by the state government only after receiving it in the prescribed format.
According to Section 25 (o) of the Industrial Disputes Act, an employer has to give a 90 days’ notice in the prescribed format to the appropriate government authority, clearly stipulating the reasons for the intended closure.
The DLO said in the letter that he has no knowledge regarding the permission of the state government for the closure of refinery.
It appears that as per the 25 (o) (3) (4) the management can close the establishment within a period of one year, the DLO said.
The company has said that it has gone for “temporary” closure and it will resume its operation only after having five to six months of assured supply of bauxite. To run the one million tonne per annum (mtpa) refinery plant at full steam, VAL needs 300,000 tonnes of bauxite every month.
VAL had designed its refinery in Odisha keeping in mind the locally available bauxite. The aluminium major had entered into an agreement with state controlled miner Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) for supply of bauxite. But attempts to mine bauxite at the ecologically sensitive Niyamgiri hills under OMC’s leasehold in Lanjigarh district were red flagged by the environment ministry that had scrapped the Stage-II forest clearance on August 24, 2010.
The company’s bid to continue the refinery operation by sourcing bauxite from other states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhatishgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh was also thwarted by various logistic, regulatory and procedural issues.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Funds erratic in Kalahandi

The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar), Dec 10, 2012

10th December 2012 01:44 PM
Funds allotment for implementation of the MDM scheme has been irregular in this district.
The scheme in Kalahandi covers 2,554 schools - both primary and upper primary - comprising 2,73,210 students. The annual requirement of rice under the MDM is 72,473 quintals and Rs 26.11 crore  towards cost of grocery and fuel. This apart, Rs 5.61 crore is required for payment of honorarium to cook and helpers.
The per day cost of MDM for each primary school student is Rs 3.60 and Rs 5.39 for  upper primary student.
While SHGs are managing MDM in 1,533 schools, headmasters along with school managing committees take care of it in 998 schools. Nandi Foundation is involved in the remaining schools.
 As far as financial management of MDM is concerned, every headmaster has a joint account with either the SHG or SMC concerned in which, the required funds is deposited by the District Inspector (DI) of Schools. Rice is supplied to the schools through block offices.
 However, release of funds for buying grocery and honorarium of cook and assistants has been erratic. As a result, school authorities are either having to spend money from the school resources or purchase items on credit. As per reports, funds to meet the grocery cost has been made available by the DI of Schools till August for Bhawanipatna block only. Similarly, money for honorarium has been provided till September. In the remaining 12 blocks, schools have to provide the meals from their own resources.
 To make things worse, there is no supervision on the quality of food being provided to children. Although officials like DI of Schools, DPC of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, BDO and block-level coordinators are assigned to monitor functioning of the scheme, they are unable to do so for additional responsibilities arising out of vacancies. Out of 37 school inspector posts in the district, 20 are lying vacant.

Can Vedanta restart Lanjigarh refinery?

Business Standard, Dec 11, 2012
While govt restored bauxite supplies and allotted new mines, winning regulatory nod won't be easy
Dillip Satapathy / Bhubaneswar Dec 11, 2012, 01:00 IST

Eight years ago, Kada Majhi, a tribal woman of Kinari, a village in the Kalahandi district of Odisha, eked out a living with paltry wages as a daily labourer. WhenVedanta Aluminium started constructing a one-million-tonne-per-annum aluminium refinery at Lanjigarh, she, along with her husband and five children, shifted to Niyamagiri Vedanta Nagar, a model township, set up by the company to rehabilitate persons displaced by the project. Since then, the economic profile of the family has improved significantly. While Kada, 32, started working as a tailor in the Maa Manikeswari Self Help Group, promoted by Vedanta Aluminium, after required skill training, her husband got a job in the factory that fetched him Rs 15,000 per month. The children study at the DAV Vedanta International School — the first in the Majhi family to ever enter a classroom. The same story of improved fortunes runs across the 121 displaced tribal families settled in Vedanta Nagar, most of whom for the first time have accessed modern amenities like a pucca house, electricity, piped drinking water, healthcare and education — all free of cost.In fact, the sudden change in lifestyle of these families had in the past led to agitations in the nearby villages — people there demanded similar benefits even at the cost of taking away their land. While most of the displaced persons have been provided permanent jobs by the company, drawing a salary of Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per month, about 500 of the 1,800 project-affected persons (those who lost their land and not home) have been engaged by contractors and earn up to Rs 5,000 per month. No wonder, ever since Vedanta announced that the refinery would be closed due to non-availability of bauxite, they are a worried lot, with a question mark over their future and livelihood. “What will our children do? Where can we find another job if this plant closes down”, asks Kada.“The dream of several educated youth in Kalahandi district to get the job in their own district will be shattered if the plant is not revived”, says Parimita Behera, an assistant manager in the plant. Incidentally, Vedanta Aluminium is the only large industry in Kalahandi, a tribal district which ranks among the poorest in the country. The anxiety is all pervasive in Lanjigarh, which saw a spurt in economic activity over the last decade, catapulting it from a small village to a small town with the arrival of Vedanta. The factory currently engages about 3,500 people — 550 on the company’s payroll and another 3,000 through the contractors. There are also about 5,000 others who earn their livelihood by working in small shops, garages, filling stations, hotels, transport businesses, etc, in and around the town. But amidst the dismay, a tinge of optimism is displayed by the locals who hope the shutdown of the refinery may be “temporary”. “We expect the plant will reopen soon. The government should take urgent steps to supply bauxite”, says Sridhara Tensia, president of the Lanjigarh Anchalika Bikash Parishad.
The company, in its advance closure notice to the government, had expressed its intention to shut the refinery temporarily from December 5, citing non-availability of bauxite. It had urged the government to arrange alternative sources of bauxite (other than the controversial Niyamgiri deposit) for the revival of the unit. More than two years ago, Vedanta Aluminium had sought bauxite supplies from seven alternative mines, five in Rayagada and two in Kalahandi, after the Union ministry of environment & forests had scrapped the stage-II forest clearance for Niyamgiri lease in August, 2010.
CASE HISTORY
Timeline of Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery and Odisha Mining Corporation’s Niyamgiri project
1997: Anil Agarwal-owned Sterlite Industries signs MoU with Odisha govt for bauxite mining project at Niyamgiri
Mar ‘03: Sterlite applies to MoEF for environmental clearance for the proposed refinery at Lanjigarh 
Sep 22,’04: MoEF grants the refinery environmental clearance on condition that Sterlite got mining clearance before operationalisation of the refinery 
Sep ‘05: The Central empowered committee (CEC) recommends that mining should not be permitted in the Niyamgiri Hills 
Feb ‘06: The Supreme Court refers the matter to MoEF’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) — which looks into diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes — and asks for a report in three months
May, ‘07: CEC reiterates its stand that MoEF had acted irresponsibly and with undue haste in granting clearances to Vedanta
Aug ‘07: Vedanta Aluminium commissions 1mtpa refinery
Apr 26,’09: Public hearing held for six-fold expansion of Vedanta refinery.
Apr 28,’09: MoEF clears Niyamgiri mining project
Aug 24,’10: MoEF scraps Stage-II forest clearance for Niyamgiri lease
Mar 9,’11: Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) moves Supreme Court against MoEF
Sep 6,’12: Vedanta Aluminium serves three-month closure notice to Odisha govt to close refinery by December 5
Dec 5,’12: Vedanta Aluminium shuts down Lanjigarh refinery and 75-Mw captive power plant attached to it 

The Odisha steel & mines department, though belatedly, has started the process of identifying other prospected bauxite deposits where mining operations can commence with the statutory clearances. But the task of allotting another mine to Vedanta Aluminium is not easy.
The search for bauxite
“There is no dearth of bauxite in the state which sits over a deposit of two billion tonnes, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of the entire country’s reserve. While exploration and prospecting have not been taken up in most mines, in others, the opening of mines will take at least three to four years due to cumbersome regulatory and approval process,” says a senior Odisha government officer. Even then, there could be problems. “Who can also guarantee that Niyamgiri-type agitations will not show up there too, stalling the mining activity? Moreover, the Niyamgiri case is still locked up in the Supreme Court and there is nothing the state government can do about it," the officer adds.
After being denied access to the Niyamgiri deposits, Vedanta Aluminium was sourcing bauxite from other states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat to keep its refining operation afloat. But this was thwarted with regulatory, logistic and procedural issues coming in the way. “During the last five years of curtailed operation, the company has lost about Rs 2,500 crore on an investment of Rs 5,000 crore in the Lanjigarh plant”, says Mukesh Kumar, chief executive officer, Vedanta Aluminium. On the other hand, the company, he claims, has contributed Rs 830 crore to both the Centre and the state government in the form of taxes and spent another Rs 170 crore on peripheral development activities in Lanjigarh. Now, in the idle state also, the company has to spend Rs 10 to Rs 11 crore towards salaries, electricity bill, payment to contractors, establishment cost and maintenance.
Vedanta Aluminium, on its part, is trying to secure some bauxite supply from places like Gujarat and Maharashtra to get the Lanjigarh plant going. It is currently in talks with some exporters there. The FoB (freight on board) price of bauxite being shipped to the United Arab Emirates, China and Japan is $26 per tonne, which is almost same as the price at which the company procures the raw material from Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation. It is not the price, but the availability, that is a concern. Most of the exporters have prior commitments, putting pressure on availability in the open market. It is estimated that this year bauxite exports from India may cross 3 million tonnes. If the government does not ban the exports or, at least, impose duty to discourage export, no bauxite may be available for domestic industries without mines and it will lead to same situation as in the case of iron ore, according to Kumar.
Kumar says that unless the company has a bauxite stock that can meet its requirement for four to five months, it will not reopen the plant. “There is no point reopening and then shutting down again. Running the plant at low capacity (20 to 30 per cent) in the absence of adequate bauxite also is a big risk to the machineries,” he adds. Vedanta Aluminium requires about 10,000 tonnes of bauxite per day, or 3.65 million tonnes a year. Out of this, it is assured of about 3,000 tonnes (1.1 million tonnes a year) from a mine of its sister concern, Balco. This leaves a gap of 7,000 tonnes per day, or 2.55 million tonnes a year. If it wants to restart the plant with at least four months of bauxite stock, it will need to procure at least a million tonnes straight away. In spite of the helping hand from Balco, this looks a herculean task under the present circumstances.
Uncertain prospects
Faced with these bleak prospects, the company is pinning its hopes on the outcome of a case pending in the Supreme Court on resuming mining at Niyamgiri. Odisha Mining Corporation, which had entered into a pact with Vedanta Aluminium for the supply of bauxite from its Niyamgiri deposit, has gone to the Supreme Court after the ministry of environment & forests cancelled the forest clearance for the mining activity following persistent protests by some tribal community and social activists. The hearing on the case has recently been deferred to January 11 with the court seeking more details from both the Centre and the state government on compliance of the Forest Rights Act at the project site.
Whatever may be the outcome of the case, the protesters are unrelenting. “It is a very calculative move by Vedanta Aluminium. The company has shut down the refinery to put pressure on the government and create public opinion in its favour when the matter is being heard in the Supreme Court”, says Prafulla Samantara, a social activist who had gone to the Supreme Court against the company’s proposed bauxite mining at Niyamagiri complaining about its adverse impact on local flora and fauna and the primitive Dongaria Kondh tribes inhabiting the hill steps. “We will continue to oppose the project till it is permanently closed,” he adds. The opponents even brought out a rally celebrating the closure of the plant, a day after it was shut down.
With the odds heavily stacked against the project, no doubt, it is going to be a long winter ahead for Vedanta Aluminium and the people dependent on it in this poverty-stricken tribal belt.


Hrusikesh Mohanty contributed to this article

Monday, December 10, 2012

Odisha scouts new mines for Vedanta

Business Standard, Dec 10, 2012

After the shutdown of Vedanta Aluminium’s one million tonne alumina refinery at Lanjigarh on December 5, the Odishagovernment seems to have woken up, albeit belatedly, to the raw material crisis that has stalked the company for last five years.
In a bid to help revive operations of the Lanjigarh refinery, the steel & mines department has started the process of identifying prospected bauxite deposits where mining operations can commence with the statutory clearances.
The department has urged the mines directorate to furnish the status of Niyamgiri, Karlapat and other prospected bauxite deposits which are available for taking up mining operations directly by the state government or through Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC).

The Director of Mines said, finding such a deposit will take some time. “It will take at least three months to find out the deposits, boundary area demarcation and other issues of possible bauxite mines including information from the state geology department. Then only we can suggest a name,” said Deepak Mohanty, director of mines with Odisha government.
Searching for an alternative bauxite source became necessary as VAL blamed the Odisha government for not keeping its promises made in the MoU to provide bauxite linkage to its alumina refinery.
Though VAL had signed a joint venture agreement with OMC for sourcing of bauxite from the latter’s Niyamgiri deposit, the mining operation could not be taken up in the area due to persistent protests by tribal community and green activists, finally leading to the cancellation of forest clearance to the project by Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in August 2010. After the Niyamgiri fiasco, VAL had sought bauxite supplies from seven alternative mines more than two years back. Out of seven alternative bauxite mines sought by Vedanta, five were in Rayagada district with the remaining two in Kalahandi district. The five mines being eyed by VAL in Rayagada district include Sarambai, Malipadar & Kutamal spread over 177.694 hectares; Siadimal spread over 4.95 hectares; Badamaribhata on 4.89 hectares; Kutamal and Kashipur spread over 4.966 hectares and Kutamal on 4.98 hectares.
In Kalahandi district, the company had applied for two mines- Punjam, Raipadar and Ranapur (580.43 hectares) and Kariapat, Salpara and Jilgaon (3,172.74 hectares).
The company was even keen on Gandhamardhan bauxite deposits to feed its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh.
The Gandhamardhan bauxite mines are spread over Bargarh and Bolangir districts over an area of 2,365 hectares with a reserve of 207 million tonnes. OMC, which is a bonafide applicant for the Gandhamardhan mines, has been granted prospective license but the mining license is yet to be granted due to pending forest clearance.
However, the state government's inaction in processing bauxite lease applications had forced the VAL refinery to plunge into a crisis. Though Vedanta chief Anil Agrawal had met the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in early November and urged him to ensure bauxite supply to the Lanjigarh refinery, it did not yield any result.
Now, as the state government wakes up to the gravity of the situation, officials feel there is no quick solution to the problem. “Mining cannot be done overnight just after identifying a site with clearances. We will have to make a mining plan, get it approved, and build infrastructures in the area. These things take time and will require about three to four years assuming there will not be any protest from locals,” said Saswat Mishra, chairman-cum-managing director, OMC, which has gone to the Supreme Court against the MoEF order cancelling forest clearance for Niyamgiri deposit.
The Supreme Court has fixed January 11 as next date for hearing the case. It has asked both the state government and central government to come up with their replies on compliance with forest act and find out the effect of blocking mining due to forest laws on the state of economy, respectively.
Due to the Niyamgiri fiasco, VAL totally depended on externally sourced bauxite to operate its refinery. After running the refinery at a depleted capacity ranging from 40-60 per cent, VAL served a three-month closure notice to the state government on September 6, before finally going for shutdown on December 5.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

SC defers hearing on Niyamgiri case

Business Standard, Dec 7, 2012

The Supreme Court on Thursday deferred the hearing on the petition challenging cancellation of forest clearance ofNiyamgiri bauxite mine belonging to Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) to January 11 next year.
“The court heard submission of all the parties and the hearing has been adjourned to January 11, 2013,” said Saswat Mishra, Chairman cum Managing Director, OMC.
Ajit Jadav, the counselor of Vedanta Aluminium, which is a intervener in the case, said, the court has asked for some more details from both the Union government and the state government on compliance of Forest Right Act (FRA) at the mining site.

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest ( MoEF) had withdrawn the forest clearance for Niyamgirgir mines following protracted protests by local tribals and green activists over alleged FRA violation.
This mine is critical for the Lanjigarh alumina refinery of Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL), which had entered into a joint venture agreement with OMC for sourcing of bauxite for the project.
The next hearing date could be the concluding date of hearing of the case, said sources.
VAL has already closed down its one million tonne a year alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district saying that the factory will remain shut until sufficient bauxite is available to run the unit.