Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lingering projects for 8 years leave people high and dry

The New Indian Express, April 30, 2013
30th April 2013 12:04 PM
Regular supply of drinking water remains a distant dream for the residents of Bhawanipatana town as the projects started by the administration about eight years back are yet to be completed.
The projects have been underway in two phases under Regional Long Term Action Plan (RLTAP) and Urban Infrastructures Development System (small and marginal town) since 2003-04. Those aim at providing nine million litres of water per day to the residents of the town.
Under the projects, water will be pumped into the wells from river Hati and then distributed across the town through pipelines, said Assistant Engineer of Kalahandi Public Health Department (PHD) sub-division Prafulla Raito. Setting up a treatment plant at Bandopala, laying of pipelines with overhead tanks and service reservoirs are features of the projects, he added.
However, though the project has entered the second phase, completion seems to be out of sight. Meanwhile, revised estimate and tendering has escalated the project cost.
On the other hand, rising temperature and scarce water have made life miserable. Over one lakh people of the town depend on old and dilapidated pipelines that were laid in the 1960s for a population of about 20,000. Besides, the water pumped from river Sagada is not sufficient for the entire population.
Although the PHD claims to be supplying 4.02 million litres of water per day, the residents alleged that only half of the quantity reaches them.
Giving an account of the pending works in phase-I of the project, Raito said the intake well has tilted even before completion and needs to be repaired. Renovation and extension work of NH-201 has damaged pipelines through which water was being drawn from river Sagada and ` two crores will be required to repair them.
This apart, agitator for the water treatment plant in Bandopala is yet to be procured.
The overhead tank on the weekly market premises of the town was sanctioned `51.9 lakh. After being re-tendered for the third time, though ` 44.88 lakh has been spent ` 50 lakh more is needed as per revised estimate, said Raito.
He added that phase-II of RLTAP at an estimated cost of ` 8.19 crore was approved in 2009-10. Its main components were to lay pipelines from treatment plant at Bandopala to the town, construction of five lakh litre capacity service reservoir at Ashasagar and three ground storage reservoirs with each having a capacity of 7.5 lakh litres. Although distribution pipes have been procured, the tender for laying those is yet to be floated and the construction of the reservoirs has not begun. 
“Due to revised estimate, the project cost has escalated and it cannot be said when exactly the works will be completed and at what cost,” said Raito.
Meanwhile, the residents pointed that contaminated water is pumped from the tube-wells in the area. As there is no control over sinking of tube-wells, the water table in the area is fast receding. At some places, tube-wells are pumping out mineral laced water. According to sources, there are 505 public and 1000 private tube-wells in the area at present.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Aluminium capacity growth hinges on Odisha resources

Business Standard, April 29, 2013
Soon after the closure of its bauxite-starved one-million tonne (mt) alumina refinery at Lanjigarh, an official of Vedanta Aluminium was asked whether the company would consider moving the plant out of Odisha in case the raw material deadlock was not broken. Not an outrageous question by any means. Denied mine development at the 90 mt bauxite deposit in the Niyamgiri hills because of cancellation of stage-two environment clearance in August 2010 by the central ministry of environment and forests and incessant protests by the local Dongria Kondh tribals, the company, for whatever reasons, was not bailed out by state-owned Odisha Mining Corporation organising supply from its own sources. This is despite an earlier understanding. Vedanta ran the refinery as long as it could, braving severe logistical challenges in getting bauxite from wherever possible, at high cost. Refinery operations were finally suspended on December 5, 2012.

Undaunted, the Vedanta official said, "If an aluminium complex can be run in Odisha, then you don't stand a chance anywhere else in the country. This is the only state which is richly endowed with both bauxite and non-coking coal." Has Vedanta finally got a reason to see light at the end of the tunnel in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on bauxite mining in Niyamgiri? The court order says clearances to the mine venture would be subject to gram sabhas deciding cultural and religious claims of the tribes and forest dwellers of Kalahandi and Rayagada districts. Odisha Mining Corporation Chairman Saswat Mishra is on record saying, "This is a positive order. The apex court judgment has sorted out most allegations levelled against the project in the past... The order is a step closer for doing mining at Niyamgiri hills but it is too premature to think mining can begin soon."

So, the agony of Vedanta refinery, which is to be expanded to five mt, subject to sorting out regulatory issues, is not going to end too soon unless, of course, the state starts feeding the plant with bauxite from its own sources. Is it not time, the state started considering giving Vedanta access to small deposits in non-forest areas and also mines that have remained closed? London Stock Exchange-listed Vedanta Resources of which Vedanta Aluminium is an associate, says it is largely because of the Lanjigarh refinery setback that the group's alumina production during 2012-13 was down 43 per cent to 527,000 tonnes. In the absence of supply from Lanjigarh refinery, Vedanta perforce has to get the intermediate raw material alumina from multiple sources to keep the 500,000-tonne smelter at Jharsuguda running. But there is a big extra cost involved in sourcing alumina from different parts of the country. The reason why India is seen as a highly cost-effective aluminium production centre is because it facilitates fully integrated operations from bauxite mining to alumina refining to metal smelting backed by low-cost coal fired power. All aluminium cost calculations for Vedanta have, however, gone haywire because of the Lanjigarh refinery impasse.

The long staying ordeal notwithstanding, Vedanta Aluminium Managing Director Sushil Roongta remains firm in his belief that India, sitting on bauxite resources of 3.5 billion tonnes (bt) and non-coking coal resources of 293 bt, has all the potential to become the world's second largest aluminium producer after China. In 2012, of the world primary aluminium production of 47.388 mt, China alone had a share of 21.671 mt. India's production last year in comparison was 1.714 mt. Russia, with production of 4.026 mt, Canada with 2.781 mt, the US with 2.07 mt and UAE with 1.814 mt are ahead of us in producing nations' table. No doubt, India could have made much faster progress in growing aluminium capacity had it not been for enormous delays in getting allocations of bauxite and coal deposits and securing environmental and forest clearances. Unarguably, the project which suffered maximum delays is Utkal Alumina's 1.5-mt alumina refinery in Odisha's Rayagad district. The original promoters Norsk Hydro and Alcan (now part of Rio Tinto) quit the project citing frustratingly long delays. The project is now almost ready for commissioning, thanks to Hindalco playing the rescue act.

For identical reasons, Dubai Aluminium sold its 24.5 per cent ownership of Raykal Aluminium to Vedanta. Raykal Aluminium of which the principal promoter is Larsen & Toubro got prospecting rights over nearly 280 mt of bauxite deposits at Sijmali and Kurumali in Rayagad and Kalahandi districts of Odisha as long back as in 1993. With Vedanta coming on board, chances of renewal of prospecting rights and their finally becoming licences have considerably improved. The Indian process is so slow that even if the mines at Sijmali and Kurumali finally become operational, it will not be before some years. "We have got to keep faith with Odisha to grow our aluminium industry. The state alone has bauxite resources of 1.81 bt and coal resources of 71.45 bt," says Roongta. While Vedanta will finally have 1.75 mt of aluminium smelting capacity in Odisha, NALCO should have a capacity of 1.067 mt in the state. In the coming years, Hindalco will have total capacity to smelt 1.7 mt of aluminium with Odisha figuring prominently in that.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Niyamgiri Hills: SC judgement and its ripple effect

livemint, April 25, 2013
Businesses will find it increasingly difficult to generate escape velocity
Sudeep Chakravarti 

The extractive industry may see in the Supreme Court’s 18 April judgement on Vedanta Resources Plc sourcing bauxite from Orissa’s Niyamgiri Hills a window of opportunity. All it will take is a gram sabha, or village council, decision to open mining to feed the corporation’s alumina refinery in next-door Lanjigarh. There could also be some rejoicing because Orissa Mining Corp. Ltd, joint venture partner with a Vedanta subsidiary in this bauxite mining venture, is rooted in an eastern state where violation of human rights often appears to be a part of industrial policy.
And so it might be tempting to ask: what’s a gram sabha decision or two in the face of a state’s might? This, surely, is now a nearly done deal; perhaps a decade late, but inevitable nonetheless. The compact of overbearing government and aggressive business can’t be denied.
To those who think that way, the fact that the mining project hasn’t got off the ground for all these years on points of procedure, popular protest and law should underscore the sober truth that both public opinion and judicial writ increasingly count in the way India does business. A presumptuous set of pylons exist in Lanjigarh to carry ore on a conveyer system from Niyamgiri Hills to the plant, not yet the permission to do so. Moreover, even if acquiescence for the project by gram sabhas were to come about, one cannot discount the ripple effect this judgement will have in Orissa and across India for free, prior and informed consent.
A tiny example. In Goa, where I live, the government has for the past two months gone on overdrive to diminish the power of the gram sabha in order to promote the primacy of the state’s Town and Country Planning department, for long a wide-open window for the construction industry. Villagers and activists are already studying the Supreme Court judgement as precedence to rock the government and its pet projects back on their feet. In areas where iron ore mining, both legal and illegal, was conducted until it was banned in the wake of enquiries by the Justice M.B. Shah commission, in most cases forested areas and in several inhabited by indigenous tribes, the judgement will likely boost the institution of the gram sabha to the detriment of mining lobbies.
The boost this judgement can bring will go beyond aiding the project-affected, and strengthening the Forest Rights Act and tribal empowerment across the country—not to speak of the likely furor as the Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill, 2011, winds its way to becoming an Act. I expect the judgement will help spark investor awareness and investor activism, among the weakest and most callous links in the chain of corporate accountability in India.
It may be too much to expect the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to adopt the combative mode of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC is at present embroiled in litigation with the A-team of business interests in the US, the National Association of Manufacturers, Business Roundtable, and United States Chamber of Commerce. This tag team is seeking to negate SEC’s 2012 ruling that mandated declaration of the use of conflict minerals by businesses. Were Sebi to be even permitted such powers by government, it is likely that vast areas of business in India would come to a standstill on account of what is clearly “conflict” land acquisition and “conflict” mining, besides other violations.
Elsewhere, there is the example of the Thun Group, an agglomerate of four banks—BarclaysCredit SuisseUBS and UniCredit—that formed in Thun, Switzerland, in 2011. This group declared: “In support of the UN Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework we, the undersigned banks, have been collaborating in reviewing how the Principles [of human rights] may apply within our sector. We are considering the particular challenges we face as universal banks when addressing human rights issues, notably the scope and depth of our human rights-related responsibilities and the due diligence requirements commensurate to these.”
In other words: are we funding human rights violations? The sub-text: we could be liable for these. The Thun Group expects to publish a best-practice guideline for banks this year.
All this may seem a bit distant in India, and there certainly is cause for cynicism as India ranks high among the worst perpetrators of human rights violations across the board. But the “Niyamgiri judgement” and its ilk judiciously open the window for strengthening the laws of the land and their application. Businesses will find it increasingly difficult to generate escape velocity.
Sudeep Chakravarti is the author of Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country and Highway 39: Journeys through a Fractured Land. This column focuses on conflict situations in South Asia that directly affect business.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

SC order has opened Pandora's box in Orissa

Indian Express, April 25, 2013
Debabrata Mohanty : Thu Apr 25 2013, 03:29 hrs
The Supreme Court judgment last week directing Orissa to hold gram sabha meetings in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts over whether bauxite mining can be allowed in the Niyamgiri mountains has opened Pandora's box for projects in the state.
Though Vedanta and the Orissa Mining Corporation hailed the judgment as a "window of opportunity" after years of glo-om, the SC order asking the gram sabhas to decide on the cultural and religious rights of Dongaria Kondhs over the Niyamgiri mountain plateau may have made things more complex.
The NC Saxena Committee was the first to say, in August 2010, that bauxite mining in Niyamgiri would deprive the Dongarias of their rights over the mountain, sealing the fate of Vedanta's 1-million-tonne alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi. The Ministry of Environment and Forests subsequently rejected the company's application for final forest clearance for its mining project.
Days later, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had descended on Lanjigarh and backed the MoEF decision, while promising the tribals that he would be their emissary in Delhi. It's quite another matter that in the two years hence, Rahul has never returned to Lanjigarh to enquire about the same tribals.
Since then it has been downhill for Vedanta in Kalahandi, left scampering for bauxite from all over the country till finally closing the refinery. The closure has also severely affected the operation of its aluminium smelter in Jharsuguda district.
If the gram sabhas — to be supervised by a district judge appointed by Orissa High Court — indeed decide against mining in Niyamgiri, it would almost be the end of the road for Vedanta, the single biggest industrial investor in Orissa in the past 10 years. Vedanta can challenge the gram sabha decision in the SC, but that would again be a time-consuming process hitting the company's bottomline.
The SC judgment may have also added more obstacles to mining projects elsewhere in the state. The Khandadhar mines of Sundargarh district, where Posco plans to seek iron ore for its steel project, is also an area rich in biodiversity. Educated by the Niyamgiri experience, local politicians are already setting the stage for a similar fight here.
Perhaps aware of the difficulties ahead, the state Steel and Mines Department has said Orissa would henceforth not commit any mining leases to companies — hardly a development that would draw investment to this backward state.
Debabrata is a special correspondent based in Bhubaneswar

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Campaign to re-start Vedanta refinery in Odisha

newstrackindia, April 24, 2013

Bhubaneswar, April 24 (IANS) At least 1,000 people affected by the Dec 5, 2012 closure of the Vedanta alumina refinery in Odisha staged a demonstration near the plant Wednesday seeking its reopening, a company official said.
The one-million-tonne-capacity alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, about 600 km form here, was shut down due to a shortage of bauxite, the key raw material used to produce alumina.
The demonstrators, mostly those affected by the refinery's closure, gathered at the main gate of the plant and met Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) president Mukesh Kumar and submitted a memorandum demanding restarting of the unit, the official told IANS.
"The closure of the plant for more than four months has crippled the economy and a large numbers of people are struggling for their livelihood in our region covering Kalahandi and Rayagada district," said Chandra Pesnia, an area resident and demonstrator.
"We have been trying to procure bauxite to run the plant but our attempts went in vain. However, after the decision of the inter-ministerial committee of the state government April 30 we may be able to take some concrete steps," VAL president Mukesh Kumar said.

ECoR originating income up 29%

Business Standard, April 19, 2013
Loads 133.4 mn tonnes of freight last fiscal, 10.46% higher than 120.77 mn tonne achieved during 2011-12
East Coast Railway (ECoR) has logged 28.81 per cent growth in its total originating earnings at Rs 11,612 crore in 2012-13, as against Rs 9,015 crore in 2011-12.

In freight business, ECoR loaded 133.4 million tonnes of freight in last fiscal, 10.46 per cent higher than 120.77 million tonne achieved during 2011-12. The zonal railway surpassed its freight target of 130 million tonnes assigned to it for 2012-13.

On the passenger front, EcoR carried 88.58 million passengers in the last fiscal, an increase of 2.58 million travelers compared to the previous year.

"In spite of operational constraints in single line, adverse climatic conditions and threats on security, 2012-13 has yielded spectacular performance," said Indra Ghosh, general manager, ECoR at the 58th Railway Week celebration here.

He said, ECoR has completed introduction of all new trains and extension of one train service to different destinations.

The operating ratio of ECoR stood at 44.85 per cent, lowest in Indian Railways.

During 2012-13, the zonal railway augmented 20 coaches on permanent basis and 1,893 coaches on a temporary basis in 186 pairs of trains to clear extra rush on day-to-day basis. ECoR has completed the broad gauge line from Lanjigarh to Bhawanipatna, third line between Bhubaneswar and Khurda, fourth line between Kottavalasa and Simachalam North and electrification of 30 level crossing gates.

The Railways have also commissioned a scrap depot at Mancheswar, passenger reservation system at seven stations, unreserved ticketing system at 25 locations, retiring rooms at four stations and touch screen terminals at five locations during the last fiscal. "The Railways will shortly be in a position to open Lanjigarh-Junagarh new line and Khurda Road-Begunia section of Khurda Road-Bolangir new line," said an ECoR release.

About 232 railway staff and officers were felicitated on the occasion and the overall efficiency shield was awarded to Waltair division for its best all-round performance.

Subrat Tripathy, senior deputy general manager cum chief vigilance officer and Susant Kumar Purohit, deputy general manager, ECoR also spoke on the occasion.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Shah report will unmask BJD: KV

Times of India, April 21, 2013

BHUBANESWAR: With an apparent aim to woo the tribal electorate, state BJP president K VSinghdeo on Saturday started the second phase of his statewide mass contact campaign fromKalahandi district, saying the ruling BJD would stand exposed once the Justice M B Shah Commission submits its report on illegalities in the mining sector in Odisha.
"The Shah commission report would unmask the BJD," Singhdeo told a public meeting at Kesinga, hours after he embarked on Phase II of his campaign from Amath. He further ruled out any poll pact with any party and took an indirect dig at the BJD, dubbing the latter as 'backstabber'. "There is no question of tying up with those who stab from behind and are responsible for Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati's killing," he said, scotching all speculation of a possible pre-poll pact between the BJP and BJD.
Singhdeo, who took as the state BJP chief from Jual Oram on March 13, had during the first phase of his campaign, which started from Hindol in Dhenkanal district on March 29, made it clear that the saffron party would make the slaying of Saraswati in Kandhamal in 2008 an election issue during the next assembly and general elections slated in 2014.
BJD's MLA from Dharmagarh (in Kalahandi) Pushpendra Singh Deo rubbished the BJP allegation, saying: "Blaming BJD for Saraswati's killing is baseless."
The state BJP chief would over the next six days tour Nuapada, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Koraput and Gajapati districts to addressing public gatherings, party sources said.
Meanwhile, a BJP delegation comprising Khariar MLA Hitesh Bagarti, Umesh Khandelwal and Anil Dhir visited the village of Sunari Sikuan in Khariar block to meet the family of Baikuntha Sabar, who was last week found dead after allegedly killing his wife Munga. Sabar was a landless tribal.
"They have left behind four young daughters and old parents. The children are severely malnourished and their old grandparents are in no condition to take care of them. What is surprising is that no one from the administration has come forward to help them," Dhir said.

Three-pronged strategy to eliminate child labourers

The New Indian Express, April 20, 2013

The State Government is working on a convergence model on a pilot basis under which families of the child labourers are being linked to various poverty alleviation schemes. The Government plans to replicate the model in other districts soon.
The pilot project is being implemented in Cuttack and Kalahandi. Under the project, a three-pronged strategy has been adopted which includes an Education Action Programme (EAP) for children in the age group of 5 to 14 years and vocational training for children between 14 and 17 years. The third strategy is to link at least 500 families of direct beneficiaries to the Education Action Programme so that child labour can be eliminated by addressing issues of poverty through the convergence model.
According to Labour Commissioner Hemant Sharma, the Government will also soon come out with a State Action Plan on child labour which will spell out its strategies to fight the social menace. The draft action plan is ready and will be discussed with different stakeholders at a State level workshop. The strategies of the action plan will focus on enforcement, rescue and rehabilitation, education, skill development and awareness activities. A State-level monitoring committee would be put in place for the purpose.
Currently, children rescued from workplaces are enrolled into the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) schools in the State. Although 1,030 NCLP special schools were sanctioned by May last year, only 618 schools are functioning where 28,840 children were enrolled.
So far, 1,23,899 children have been brought into the mainstream, the NCLP reports claim.
 In Odisha, no comprehensive survey to find out the population of child labour has been carried out which keeps the actual scenario extremely complicated. The last survey, carried out in 1997, puts the population of child labours at 2,15,222 of which 23,761 were working in hazardous sector and 1,91,461 in non-hazardous sector.
However, non government sector  organisations working on child labour dispute the figures.
In fact, the Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA) describes out-of-school children as child labour and their number stands at 31,000 in the State. The OPEPA authorities are currently planning to re-assess the number and match it with the NCLP.
The Government recently has opened seasonal hostels in Bargarh, Kalahandi and Nuapada to enrol children of migrant labourers. More than 5,000 children have already been admitted in the current season in the hostels.

Friday, April 19, 2013

SC ruling on Odisha mining a positive order, says Orissa Mining Corporation

Business Standard, April 19, 2013
Hailing the Supreme Court ruling on bauxite mining in Odisha's Niyamgiri Hills, the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) has said "it is a positive order" for the company and for the state government.

OMC had moved the Supreme Court in 2011 challenging the order of Ministry of Environment and Forests' (MoEF) cancelling the stage two environmental clearance granted to the Niyamgiri Bauxite Mining Project of Sterlite Industries Ltd, a Vedanta Group firm.

The ministry had refused the next stage forest clearance to OMC and Sterlite's mining project in Niyamgiri Hills area in Lanjigarh in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts, accepting its Forest Advisory Committee's (FAC) recommendations for withdrawal of the clearance.

The Supreme Court directed that clearance to the Sterlite venture would be subject to the Gram Sabha deciding the cultural and religious claims of the tribes and forest dwellers of Rayagada and Kalahandi districts.

"Most of the issues have been sorted out by the Supreme Court and issues related to customs and religious rights (of the tribal) have been referred to the Gram Sabhas (of Rayagada and Kalahandi districts). It is a positive order for the OMC and for the state government," OMC Chairman and Managing Director Saswat Mishra said on Thursday.

"The apex court judgement has sorted out most of the allegations that were levelled on the project in the past, including loss of forestry, loss of ecology and individual claims received from the two districts," Mishra claimed.

He also claimed the Supreme Court order is "a step closer" for doing mining in the Niyamgiri hills, but cautioned it will be "too premature" to think that mining in the Niyamgiri hills can begin soon.

"Mining lease has not yet been given. Then as per the Supreme Court direction, it has to be cleared by the Gram Sabha and MoEF... Mining lease will have to be executed. There are many issues and it will take a minimum of 2-3 years to do mining at the site," Mishra said.

The Supreme Court also directed MoEF to take a final decision on granting Stage-II clearance for the project within two months, once the Gram Sabhas decide on the claims.

When asked about the likely meeting of the Gram Sabhas, Mishra said OMC has no role to play in it and all matters would have to be placed before them by the state government and Union Tribal Affairs Ministry.

The apex court has also directed Vedanta group, which has an alumina refinery in the area and a partner of the OMC, to take corrective steps and rectify the alleged violations by it of the terms of the environmental clearance granted by Environment Ministry.

The court, however, said that the corrective measures taken by Vedanta shall be considered by the MoEF while taking any final decision.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Vedanta can mine in Odisha's Niyamgiri Hills if Gram Sabha allows: Supreme Court

IBNlive, April 18, 2013

ew Delhi: Vedanta will be allowed to mine in the Niyamgiri Hills in Kalahandi district of Odisha only if the Gram Sabha allows, said the Supreme Court on Thursday, adding the final decision on the project would be taken by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in consultation with the Gram Sabha.
The Gram Sabhas of Rayagada and Kalahandi districts of Odisha will decide in three months on issues arising out of bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri Hills, said the apex court. The Environment Ministry will take action on the report of the Gram Sabhas in the next two months, it added announcing the judgement.
In 2008, the Supreme Court had given phase 2 clearance to Vedanta to mine at Niyamgiri but after Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's rally in Kalahandi, the Ministry of Environment and Forests cancelled the clearance in August 2010.
The project was cancelled in August 2010 after a report highlighted various environmental threats and the endangering of the Niyamgiri's Dongria Kondh tribe. Vedanta and the Odisha Mining Co-operation, who are the original lessee of the mines, had then moved the apex court challenging the cancellation.
The mining project was planned to supply up to 150 million tonnes of bauxite to Vedanta Aluminium, India's largest producer of the metal, for a 1-million-tonne a year plant in the state that was shut in December because of lack of the raw material. India, the world's fifth-biggest producer of bauxite, has been limiting its issue of bauxite leases, mainly because of protests over land acquisition.
(With additional information from PTI and Reuters)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Supreme Court verdict on Sterlite's bauxite mining project in Odisha tomorrow

NDTV, April 17, 2013
New Delhi: The Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on the validity of centre's withdrawal of environment clearance for bauxite mining in Odisha tomorrow.

State owned Odisha Mining Corporation, which has a joint venture with Sterlite had challenged the environment ministry's withdrawal of environmental clearance.

In 2008, the apex court had given permission to Sterlite India Company of the Vedanta Group for diversion of 660 hectares of forest land of Niyamgiri Hills.

On August 24, 2010, the environment ministry withdrew the Stage II forest clearance for mining bauxite and temporarily withdrew the Stage I clearance, after the NC Saxena panel recommended that mining in Niyamgiri would severely affect the ecology as well as the primitive tribal group of Dongria Kondhs, living on the mountain slopes.

It also withdrew the earlier permission given to Vedanta for expansion of its 1 MT alumina refinery to 6 MT at Lanjigarh block of Kalahandi.

Vedanta shut down its Lanjigarh Alumina Refinery on December 5, citing shortage of bauxite. As per the memorandum of understanding with Vedanta, Odisha Mining Corporation was supposed to supply up to 150 million tonne of bauxite for Lanjigarh Refinery from Niyamgiri.
During the last five years of curtailed operation, the company claimed it had lost about Rs. 2,500 crore on an investment of Rs. 5,000 crore in the Lanjigarh plant.

State plans seven community colleges

Times of India, April 15, 2013
Ashok Pradhan, TNN Apr 15, 2013, 09.29AM IST

BHUBANESWAR: The state government is planning to open seven community colleges to produce job-ready workforce and entrepreneurs in the coming academic session. These would provide flexible short-term soft skill programmes of at least four months' duration to students of various streams.
Cashing in on the Union government's community college scheme, under which the Centre plans to open around 200 such colleges in the country on a pilot basis, the state has recently made proposals to open these in the existing infrastructure of seven autonomous colleges at Berhampur, Jeypore, Bhawanipatna, Rourkela, Keonjhar, Baripada and Balasore.
While the existing colleges would provide space to house the community colleges, a private party will be involved to install laboratories and equipment and arrange manpower for the new concept through central funding. According to the state government's plan, each community college would require an initial capital of Rs 1.2 crore to Rs 1.5 crore to be funded by the Centre.
Sources said the government is mainly aiming at imparting soft skills like communicative English, basic management lessons, knowledge about arranging funds for starting a new venture, among others, to the undergraduate students. "This would make them employable or become entrepreneurs," said Upendra Sahu, the deputy secretary of the higher educationdepartment involved in making the community college plan for the state.
Sahu said since it is a pilot programme by the Union government, there are plans for seven autonomous colleges only. Depending on the success of the concept, it may be extended to other colleges in subsequent phases.
"The main aim of the community colleges is to make students employable or equip them with enough skills so that they can go on to become entrepreneurs," said Mihir Das, officer in-charge of performance tracking cell of the higher education department.
Sources said the government is planning to involve Centurion University for the public private partnership project. The university, in discussion with colleges and local industries, will devise the curriculum most suitable to the locality concerned.
According to Nasscom, India produces around three million graduates and postgraduates every year of whom only 25 per cent technical graduates and 15 per cent of the other graduates are employable. Community colleges will attempt to improve the pool of employable manpower.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Vedanta nudges Odisha again for bauxite supply

Business Standard, April 13, 2013
VAL has been persistently urging the state government to arrange bauxite supplies from alternative sources
Vedanta Aluminium, which has shut its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh due to bauxite unavailability, has written to the Odisha government once again for ensuring supply of the raw material.

"Thousands have become jobless. We shall be grateful if urgent action is taken for ensuring bauxite supply in line with the memorandum of understanding between Odisha government and VAL," said Mukesh Kumar, president of the company.

The company had entered into a pact with state run miner Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) to source bauxite from the ecologically fragile Niyamgiri hills with deposits of around 70 million tonne.

Since its shutdown, VAL has been persistently urging the state government to arrange bauxite supplies from alternative sources as the pact ensured supply of 150 million tonne of the raw material to feed the company's one million tonne refinery.

In February, VAL requested the inter ministerial group of the state government, constituted for raw material supply to state-based industries, to expedite processing of pending applications of OMC, especially those bauxite leases falling under non-forest areas.

These applications are either at PL (prospecting license) or ML (mining lease) stages.

The company had also approached the government to allow OMC or any private player to the excavate low grade bauxite deposits buried in exhausted iron ore mines of Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and Rungta Mines.

The state government has already conducted a hearing on the lease renewal of a bauxite mine of Rungta Sons, but nothing has moved since then.

"Further to the presentation made by us before the ministerial committee on February 15, we would like to bring your kind attention that the plant is still under temporary shut down as no arrangement for bauxite could be made," Kumar said in the letter.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Villagers get power supply for their own initiative

The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar), April 12, 2013

After years of wait and struggle, inhabitants of Labenswar, a remote tribal dominated village in Bhawanipatna block, finally saw their houses get power supply.
Although they had earlier urged the District Electricity Committee for electrification of the village, their request was turned down as many trees and forest areas were needed to be cleared for the purpose.
But, their efforts bore fruit when under Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Bidyutkaran Yojana, villagers erected poles by themselves without felling any tree.
The electrification initiative was inaugurated by Kalahandi Collector Govinda Chandra Sethy on Wednesday.
The village is home to 70 households and all villagers belong to the BPL category. 
Like Labenswar, 909 villages have been given power supply under the Yojana till date.
The Yojana is being implemented in the district by NTPC since 2009 with an aim to electrify 918 villages.
Besides electrification of villages, there is a target of electrifying 904 partially electrified villages and hamlets out of which, work in 346 has been completed through Wesco.
While work in the remaining 373 is over, they will be charged by year-end, said Additional General Manager of NTPC HS Prasad.
To tide over low voltage issue, district administration has decided to upgrade all transformers in the region with funds of Rs three crore from Development of Electricity and System Improvement (DESI).
Sources said under Revised Long Term Action Plan, Rs  7.25 crore have been released to Wesco to set up 33/11 KV substations at Bandhpari of Lanjigarh block, Kegaon of Golamunda block and Mohangiri of Madanpur Rampur block.
This apart, the NTPC is installing three 33/11 KV sub-stations in Thuamul Rampur, Karlamunda and Jaipatna.

Locals demand restart of Vedanta plant

The Hindu Business Line, April 11, 2013

Demanding resumption of operations in Vedanta alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Odisha’s Kalahandi district, a large number of locals today said livelihood of over 15,000 people was badly hit after the plant was shut down in December last year.
A delegation of locals meet Kalahandi district Collector Gobinda Chandra Sathy today and apprised him about the problems being faced by them following closure of the refinery due to lack of bauxite.
“We handed over a memorandum to our district Collector where nearly 10,000 people from our region have signed. We will also go to the Chief Minister with these signatures, even more, and will request him to take steps to resume the alumina refinery of Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL),” said Sridhara Pesnia, President, Lanjigarh Anchalika Vikash Parishad.
A similar delegation also met the Collector of adjoining Rayagada district, Sashi Bhusan Padhi today.
They reiterated the same and made a request to take immediate steps for resuming the refinery at Lanjigarh. They said that they will also meet the Chief Minister to show their plight.
The Vedanta alumina refinery was shut down from December 5, 2012 due to acute shortage of bauxite, the raw material to run the pant.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Kalahandi electoral roll revision on

The New Indian Express (Bhubaneswar), April 11, 2013

The Kalahandi administration has started a special revision programme of electoral roll-2013 for the district.
Kalahandi Collector Govinda Chandra Sethi said during the revision process, there will be thrust on identifying bogus voters, names of deceased persons or persons who are no longer staying in the constituencies.
“There will be correction if names of voters are mentioned in more than one booth or constituencies. There will be door to door campaigns as well,” he said.
From April 21 to May 5, there will be a special campaign in the district for receiving claims and objections and from April 25 to May 6 there will be a photography drive in 2477 polling stations where photo coverage is less than 80 per cent. The final electoral roll will be published on June 1.
Earlier, the district administration had consulted political representatives of five Assembly constituencies in the area before undertaking the special revision programme of the electoral roll.

Odisha begins land scouting for Jeypore airport

Business Standard, April 10, 2013
he direction from the dept comes after AAI recently submitted pre-feasibility report on Jeypore airstrip spread over 60 acres
The state general administration (GA) department has asked the Koraput district collector to identify 310 acres of land for development of an airport at Jeypore.

The direction from the department comes after the Airport Authority of India (AAI) recently submitted the pre-feasibility report on Jeypore airstrip spread over 60 acres of land.

"One of the preliminary requirements of the report is 310 acres of a single patch land with good road connection and without any natural barrier", Premananda Khuntia, joint secretary, GA department wrote to the collector.

It may be noted that a technical team of AAI had visited Jeypore in January this year for pre-feasibility study for developing the air strip into an airport.

"The exercise for identification of 310 acres has already started. We will be submitting the report to the district collector soon", said an official of Koraput district administration.

Recently, at the inaugural ceremony of the new domestic terminal at Biju Patnaik airport, Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh had committed to develop the Jharsuguda airstrip into an airport after the allocation of land.

It may be noted, for providing connectivity to tier-II and tier-III cities and far flung areas, the civil aviation ministry is planning for 15 more airports under the Union government's greenfield airport policy.

Singh has also urged the state government to prepare a roadmap for the development civil aviation infrastructure in the state.

Odisha has 12 functional airstrips and 16 helipads. The state government is also working on a dedicated policy for development of civil aviation.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Apolitical politician

Note: Rahul Gandhi's well advertised Niyamgiri trip is now being scrutinised, critics in the national level are arguing that  as a soldier of Kalahandi, Rahul Gandhi has not followed development of Kalahandi, it is high time Rahul Gandhi should catalyse to establish a central Govt. Rural University, a medical college, Railway Wagon factory, railway lines, Central Agriculture University etc in Kalahandi

The Asian Ages, April 9, 2013
His critics sarcastically describe him as the crown prince of the world’s largest democracy. His supporters say he represents the youth of a country in which roughly two out of three people are below the age of 35. Is Rahul Gandhi a Prime Minister in the making? Is he willing to take on the mantle held by his great-grandfather, grandmother and father? Is he ready for the position his mother could have held in May 2004 but preferred not to?
Or is his apparent reluctance to assume a more powerful and influential role in the working of the country’s “grand old party” a clever ploy? Is it that Rahul Gandhi does not want to be seen presiding over a humiliating electoral defeat of the Congress in the coming 16th general elections? If, of course, his party performs creditably, he can share some of the plaudits. Is this a kind of win-win situation for the vice-president of the Congress who turns 43 on June 19 and who has spent nine years as a member of Parliament?
Is his diffidence for real? Or does he sincerely believe that humility in a political leader can become a source of strength, especially when compared to the naked ambition displayed by his political opponent, the 62-year-old Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi who is now officially a key player in the top echelons of the Bharatiya Janata Party?
On January 20, at the Jaipur session of the All-Indian Congress Committee (AICC), Rahul Gandhi made an emotional speech telling his party colleagues at one stage: “Last night each one of you congratulated me. My mother came to my room and she sat with me and she cried... because she understands that power so many people seek is actually a poison.”
On April 4, addressing a gathering of well-heeled tycoons at a conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry in the capital, Rahul Gandhi held forth for nearly an hour and a half in a rambling speech that was long on generalities and short on specifics. He sounded almost philosophical on occasions, while raising questions the answers to which he did not clearly have.
“Millions of Indians are brimming with energy. We are now sitting on an unprecedented tide of transformation. This tremendous movement of people and ideas will define this country in the 21st century,” he said to a round of applause from his audience comprising corporate captains who invariably tend to be deferential towards the powerful. India’s political and administrative systems needed revamp, he added without elaborating on how this would be done during a speech that was replete with analogies and anecdotes.
Flashback: It is 1985. Rahul Gandhi’s father, then all of 40 years, is speaking at the centenary session of the AICC in Mumbai. He promises to rid his party of “power brokers”. He asks a rhetorical question: “What has become of our great organisation? Instead of a party that fired the imagination of the masses throughout the length and breadth of India, we have shrunk, losing touch with the masses.”
Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother’s assassination by her bodyguards (with whom he learnt to play badminton) was followed by the most spectacular victory the Congress had ever won. In 1984, the party on its own won 404 out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha; 415 with its allies. Five years later, Rajiv Gandhi was no longer India’s Prime Minister. The number of Congress MPs came down by more than half to 197 seats in 1989 and then rose to 232 in 1991 after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. The numbers of Lok Sabha MPs belonging to the Congress in the next five general elections stood at 140 in 1996, 141 in 1998, 114 in 1999, 145 in 2004 and 205 in 2009. Where this number will stand after the coming general elections is anybody’s guess.
Like his father, Rahul Gandhi still seems uncomfortable in the dirty world of Indian politics. Like his father, his approach appears technocratic. In his speech at the CII conference, he mentioned the names of the Prime Minister and the “father of the nation” only once each. But the individuals whose names cropped up frequently were “Montek, Sam, Nandan and Sunil” (presumably, Bharti Mittal), clearly revealing his mind-set.
One cannot fault Rahul Gandhi for many things he said: the need for inclusive, job-creating growth, and the necessity to give a voice to the underprivileged. But the fact remains that India’s reality is extremely complex and not easily amenable to simplistic solutions. These “motherhood” statements were all very fine, but what was more significant was what he did not state. Inflation was not mentioned even once. Corruption came up but in an oblique context. No reference was made to the brutal gangrape of a young woman in Delhi which shocked the nation and made hundreds hit the streets.
His track-record so far has been far from impressive. The performance of the Congress in the February-March 2012 elections to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly was pathetic. In Gujarat, he campaigned for his party only at the final stage. In July 2008, he had referred to Kalawati from the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, whose husband, son-in-law and daughter had all committed suicide. But his views on what should be done to strengthen Indian agriculture and bring down the incidence of farmer suicides are not known. In May 2011, he took up the issue of alienation of agricultural land in Bhatta-Parsaul in Uttar Pradesh. Earlier, in August 2010, he had addressed tribals at Lanjigarh in Orissa saying: “I am your soldier in Delhi.” He has not followed up any of these important issues that he himself flagged with any degree of diligence.
Rahul Gandhi’s advantage is that he has a long way to go. But he has to try much, much harder if he is to survive and grow politically. By drawing a fine distinction between an insensitive government and a responsive party, between a corrupt and decrepit administration and an alert and transparent civil society yearning for change, he may not exactly be helping himself or his party’s cause. After all, it is his party that has ruled the country for almost five decades.
The writer is an educator and comment

Odisha: Mid-Day Meal Kitchen Brings Smiles to Five Thousand Children in Lanjigarh

Indiaeducationdiary, April 8, 2013

Report by India Education bureau, Bhubaneswar: “My daughter Chumki has hardly remained absent at the primary school in my village Basantpada since last 8-9 months. In fact, she is showing more interest to attend classes unlike earlier,” said Trilochan Gahir of Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district of Odisha. 

The father was initially unaware about the reason of a positive change that was taking place until Chumki told him one day that, “The taste and quality of the mid-day meal food in our school is so nice that I don’t skip school. The food is supplied to our school from the kitchen made by Vedanta at Lanjigarh”
Reiterating 7-year old Chumki’s version a Primary School teacher said, “The food is hygienic and of good taste. 

Children love to eat the mid-day meal at schools. The food from the centralised kitchen is being provided to the schools since 16th August 2012. We are thankful to Vedanta for this initiative”
It is not only Basu, but as many as 5000 students of primary and upper primary schools of Lanjigarh Panchayat in Kalahandi district are provided hygienic and nutritious food cooked at the Centralised Kitchen of Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL), Lanjigarh. The company has collaborated with the Government of Odisha and Naandi Foundation to set up a hi-tech centralized mid-day meal kitchen in Lanjigarh.

Fresh, healthy and nourishing food cooked in this kitchen caters to students from 50 schools covering many villages viz. Jaganathpur, Basantpada, Biswanathpur, Lanjigarh, Balabhadrapur, Pokhribandh, Chhatrapur, Jodabandh, Niyamgiri Vedanta Nagar etc. The project aims at improving the hygiene and nutritional value as well as increasing enrolment along with the retention of children in schools.

Dr. Mukesh Kumar, President & COO, VAL said, “The centralized mid-day meal kitchen intends to provide quality food to the children of Lanjigarh area. This would facilitate the government run mid-day meal programme and benefit students studying in the remotest of schools.”

As part of the MoU, Vedanta Aluminium Limited, has set up the centralized kitchen, where food will be cooked and sent to schools. Naandi Foundation will be responsible for cooking and management of the kitchen and also for delivering the food at the doorstep of the schools. The district administration will provide ration and other necessary items as per the mid-day meal scheme of the Government of Odisha. 

Apart from a one time investment of more than 1.5 crores for building and equipment, Vedanta incurs a revenue expenditure of around 40 lakhs rupees annually. Slowly, but surely a quiet revolution is taking place in Kalahandi.

Vedanta Highest Private Corporate in Odisha for CSR Contribution

Indiacsr, April 8, 2013

INDIACSR News Network
BHUBANESWAR: Vedanta Aluminium Limited, Lanjigarh has incurred an expenditure of Rs 135.14 crore on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) since 2000 becoming the highest contributor as a private Corporate in Odisha to spend for development of the community, as per a written statement by Industry Minister Niranjan Pujari said in the state assembly.
CSR_in_OdishaAmong all Corporate houses, state owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) tops the list with a spending of Rs 286.79 crore on CSR whereas next to OMC is VAL with Rs 135.14 crore spending. Major industries operating in Odisha have spent Rs 806.03 crore on CSR activities since 2000 including VAL and OMC.
“The CSR activities undertaken are mainly for infrastructure development like roads, electricity supply, drinking water, healthcare support & conducting camps, educational support & sponsorship, sports promotion, cultural activities, support drinking calamities, plantation, community development, & self employment capacity building, self help groups and women & child care”, industries minister Niranjan Pujari said in a written reply in the state assembly.
Other industrial players with substantial CSR spends during 2000-12 are Jindal Steel & Power Ltd- JSPL (Rs 54.97 crore), Tata Steel (Rs 47 crore), Bhushan Power & Steel Ltd (Rs 44.21 crore), GMR Kamalanga Energy Ltd (Rs 35.76 crore), J K Paper (Rs 27.58 crore), Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd- MCL (Rs 23.60 crore) and National Aluminium Company-Nalco (Rs 23.29 crore).