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Monday, June 1, 2009

ESIC’s medical hanging fire

Expressbuzz, May 29, 2009

ROURKELA: The proposal to set up a Rs 500-crore medical college and hospital (MCH) by the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) in the State has not made much headway as the State Government continues to dither over its location.

The State Government’s reported proposal to set up the MCH at Balangir was virtually turned down by the ESIC owing to inadequate ESIC stake-holders there. Sources said now the government has proposed the MCH in Bhubaneswar.

CITU Orissa unit general secretary Bishnu Mohanty recently met the ESIC director-general and impressed upon him to locate the MCH at Rourkela. Reiterating that Rourkela is the ideal location, Mohanty argued that since 70 per cent of the Insured Persons (IPs) of ESIC are concentrated in Sundargarh and its neighbourhood mining and industrial districts of Jharsuguda, Keonjhar and Sambalpur no other place in Orissa would best cater to the needs of the poor working class. Moreover, sources said, the MCH would also extend sophisticated health care to the general public of the areas at affordable cost.

At present, the Ispat General Hospital (IGH) at Rourkela caters to the needs of people of the industrial and mining belt apart from adjacent Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand states.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Election results mirror unequal growth pattern within Orissa

The Pioneer, May 29, 2009

Digambara Patra

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) won overwhelmingly in the recently-held simultaneous Assembly and parliamentary elections in Orissa. However, it failed in the backward western and southern regions except Ganjam due to unequal growth within the State in the past decade.

It is normal that a small fraction of local population in an affected locality opposing industrial activities would vote against the ruling party, but percentage of such votes rarely played any role, whether it was Lanjigarh, Jharsuguda, Paradip, Puri or Kalinga Nagar. Supporting the belief further the BJD also got poor response in southern and western regions such as Bargarh, Nabarangpur, etc where there was no industrial activity.

Anti-industry protest was not an election issue by any major political party such as the BJP or the Congress in Orissa unlike the case of the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. For example, in Kalahandi anti-Vedanta protest rarely got any support outside Lanjigarh block, that too among the affected people and few groups in Bhawanipatna who had professional and political reasons. Most of the general public outside Lanjigarh block was never excited to oppose Vedanta. Vedanta being the only the major industry in the district, a large number of intellectuals in the district outside Lanjigarh region was indeed in support of the project. Thus, a theory put earlier based on anti-industrial sentiment was illogical.

Another theory argues that election results also rule out the possibility of Rs 2-a-kg rice scheme had any big role. Was 25 kg of rice every month at Rs 2 the reason in this election the BJD would have done wonders in southern and western regions, where higher percentage of voters is benefited from the scheme? The BJD did not receive any overwhelming response in backward and poverty zones of western and southern parts, including the KBK region, unlike the coastal region. This idea is also supported by a few others.

In fact, if the fate of first-phase elections comprising the western and a large part of southern region (32 seats out of 70, 46 per cent won by the BJD) would have been repeated in the second phase polls, the BJD would not have got a majority or might have lost this election.

Many analysts fail to explain why people voted overwhelmingly (71 seats out of 77, 93 per cent won by the BJD and alliance) to the BJD and alliance in the second phase election. BJD MP Baijayant (Jay) Panda reasoned the BJD’s overwhelming success is solely due to Naveen Patnaik and his Government’s developmental initiatives and success. Most of the people may buy this argument; however, in that case looking at the voting trend in the State, Panda fails to explain why the BJD failed in western and southern parts compared to rest of the State.

Scrutinising all the points, one thing is clear: The growth in Orissa is either not equal or not properly reaching the western and southern parts, except Ganjam district. Ganjam can also be classified as part of the coastal region rather than southern as per geography where the BJD also won overwhelmingly. If overall development is an indication in this election, the Congress would not have won in a huge margin for MP seat and overwhelmingly got four MLA seats in Kalahandi, an anti-Congress bastion, unlike any other district. Kalahandi had voted the BJD-BJP combine in the last two elections overwhelmingly. Kalahandi was the only Parliamentary constituency in the whole southern and western Orissa where the alliance had won all the MLA and MP seats including an Independent MLA in Nuapada, a rival BJD candidate who retuned to the BJD later on.

Out of the 15 parliamentary elections the country has gone through since Independence, the Congress has won only four times in Kalahandi; first time when the Congress wave was sweeping all over the nation under Indira Gandhi’s leadership after the fall of the Janata Party Government; second time when Indira Gandhi was killed and the nation voted sympathetically and overwhelmingly for Rajiv Gandhi; third time when Rajiv Gandhi was killed in 1991 people voted the Congress again sympathetically all over the nation; and this is the fourth time the party has won the Kalahandi parliamentary seat, of course with a huge margin.

When one compares the situation of main roads, bridges and educational institutions where the State Government has more role to play, unlike the case of railway, in Kalahandi, Nuapada, Nabarangpur, Bargarh, etc, these are similar as before. The conditions of main roads are as they used to be decades ago, only exceptions being a few village roads built under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. A bridge promised by the BJD Government since 2000 near Junagarh has not materialised yet after two elections. In contrast, the Bhubaneswar region is developing like never before.

In today’s India, even rural people can see what is going around. Visiting Bhubaneswar these days gives a pleasant feeling with wide roads whereas travelling from Balangir to Nabarangpur via Bhawanipatna on NH 201 gives a different impression. People from Nuapada district or Padampur almost spend the whole day to reach Jaipatna in Kalahandi district whereas Berhampur to Bhubaneswar or Sambalpur to Bhubaneswar can hardly require a few hours.

The unequal growth is clearly visible at the ground level and could be due to either unequal distribution or corruption. In both cases, it is the role of the State Government to distribute internally within the State and implement it properly at the ground level.

Unfortunately, the Chief Minister visits Kalahandi, Balangir, Koraput and Kandhamal (KBKK) and other backward western Orissa regions only during election time or unless there is serious trouble in the region like Maoists or floods which rarely occurs in five years. In the last five years he visited Kalahandi four times, out of which three times just before this election; one time for laying foundation stones and other two times for election campaigning to two different regions within the district; and first time was an aerial survey during a flood in the Aatigaon region.

Whereas one can find him visiting Ganjam and some other coastal pockets at least once, if not so often, in a year for some kind of inauguration, this or that, in addition to his visits during trouble hours. Such visit makes a difference in the ground level, as it puts officials in alert and helps to monitor the progress properly in an interval when the CM is supposed to be good, proactive and honest as people in the State thought.

This is the time a serious rethinking is needed on the basis of regional growth in the western and southern parts of the State if the BJD won this election only due to the development and nothing else, and the BJD dreams for a developed and peaceful Orissa for tomorrow, in the CM’s own language. Otherwise, it will encourage regionalism and divide people internally within the State.

-- The writer, a non-resident Oriya, is Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, American University of Beirut, Lebanon

IGNOU ties up with MS Swaminathan Foundation to open four community colleges: One in KORAPUT

Times of India, May 26, 2009

CHENNAI: Emphasising the potential of community colleges to equip unskilled sections of the population with academic and professional capability, V N Rajasekaran Pillai, vice-chancellor, IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University), said that it was important to integrate such potential into the system of higher education.

Speaking on Monday at a regional meeting on community colleges here, organised at the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) by IGNOU in association with the Tamil Nadu Open University (TNOU), Pillai said: "School dropouts will be eligible for admission in the third year of college after completing the two-year associate degree programme offered by IGNOU at community colleges; 89% of children enrolled in school across the country do not pass Class X, and 11% of those admitted end up being dropouts."

Pointing out that it was important to contextualise these programmes, Pillai said IGNOU had shortlised 71 colleges where the courses would be introduced and was hoping to be able to shortlist 200 more this year. "IGNOU in association with MSSRF will open in July four community colleges - at Koraput in Orissa, Wayanad in Kerala, Poompuhar in Tamil Nadu and in Pondicherry," he said.

Since the programmes were innovative and flexible, the course content could be modified by colleges to cater to the needs of the local population, such as translating it into local languages or addressing topics that are of relevance to beneficiaries. Pillai added that since community colleges were varied, there was a need to put in place an independent accreditation system, following an international pattern, to monitor them.

M S Swaminathan, chairman, MSSRF, said that community colleges could help provide vertical mobility to those in the unorganised sector. "Though the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) provides the rural population work for 100 days a year, community colleges can serve them for the remaining part of the year if they take off in terms of skill formation," he said. Swaminathan said he hoped to see a community college in each of India's 6,000 blocks as they could lead to a transition from unskilled to skilled work.

The event also saw the inauguration of IGNOU's virtual counselling and distance education centre at MSSRF, which will help academics connect with the rural population for educational counselling and assess their needs.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Classes in Central varsity to begin from August: V-C

The Pioneer, May 25, 2009
Lalmohan Pattanaik | Jeypore

Addressing a Press conference here on Saturday, Vice-Chancellor of the Central University, Orissa, Dr Surabhi Banerjee informed that the classes in the university at Koraput would start from August this year. The university would function temporarily at the COATS (Council of Analytical Tribal Studies) and the courses would start from under-graduation to higher studies, she said.

On a two-day tour to Koraput district, the VC visited Deola village where the proposed university will be set up over 575 acres of land. She also visited Koraput Railway Station to inspect the connectivity. She thanked the district administration to locate such a suitable land and hoped that, after completion of construction and infrastructure in place, the university would be first of its kind at the international level. After visit of the representatives from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the construction work would be carried out on their approval, she said.

There will be an entrance test for taking admission into the university and the entrance test would be conducted in around 15-16 centres all over India and for Orissa in Koraput, Bhubaneswar and Sambalpur. Subjects like English, Oriya, Social Sciences, Anthropology, Tribal Studies and Journalism and Mass Communication would be taught in the university, besides other higher and professional courses. Different kinds of schools will be opened on the campus like the Jawaharlal Nehru University and the head office of the university would function at Koraput and the transit office to recruit lecturers, readers, professors, management and other staff will function at Bhubaneswar, the VC informed.

The Central Government has approved the university for five years for the time being and the classes would start in the COATS which is being managed by Sabara Srikshetra Jagannath Mandir Management Committee and the existing Gyan Mandir, library and tribal museum are an added advantage for the students of the university, she said.

Among others, Registrar BK Mishra, Financial Advisor P Pati and Liaisoning Officer and Coordinator Ganesh Chandra Roul attended the Press conference.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A View: Neglected South Orissa

Contributor: Annada Prasad Udgata,
May 8, 2009

We are called dakshini because we are from south Orissa. Are we considered second class citizens in Orissa itself? Are our area considered second to north Orissa? Is it because we accepted it like that? Is it because we are not aware of our rights? Or because we do not shout for it. Are we content with what we get? Do we have problems and grievances? If we have any, are all our ex and present chief ministers not aware of our problems? Do not they know that we do not have proper roads, proper schools, many are also unemployed? Do they know that there are many people leave Orissa for other states because they do not get two meals a day. What has the government done for south Orissa in their entire 60 years after independence? Orissa signed MOU with many companies for Rs. 4,00,000 crores investment for the year 2006-2007 and Rs. 7,00,000 crores for 2008-2009. Where is this investment gone? Did a part of that even reach south Orissa? Look at Bhubaneshwar -Rourkela road of around 400 kms, which is known as steel belt, look at kalinga Nagar. Every few kilometer has a factory. This Rs. 400000 crores and Rs. 700000 cr is gone there or going to go there. What we got is the news that Orissa is prospering at par with Maharashtra and Gujurat. Why can not they put those factories and that money in South Orissa?

Why our local elected representative could not even do anything for us? Why there are more number of ministers from north Orissa? Are they more intelligent? Why is this disparity? They cannot create employment, they can not industrialise our area, they cannot give us jobs, they cannot give us any guarantee of income. If not, then how do they become our leaders and guardians? Why should we elect them? We are a mineral rich state, yet we are not self sufficient. One look at other states will tell a different story. How do the other states prosper even though they are not mineral rich states? How is that possible for other states?

People out side Orissa do not know where the state is! If at all some body knows then knows by Kalahandi, death due to starvation, which was visited way back by Late Rajiv Gandhi.Then Rahul Gandhi visited Gunupur to brandise Orissa as a tribal state or by kandhamal for the recent riots. If we are a tribal state do our politicians do any thing for us? True, that people die in these areas due starvation and malnutrition. What did our politicians do for them? Did the govt. try to give an occupation or some work to the poor to feed themselves? Yet we elect them again and again and they betray us. Many of our intellectuals go out of the state by not finding enough opportunity to use their trained skill. How many people from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat come to Orissa or go to other states to earn their lively hood or to study? Why is this centralisation of resource? Orissa remains an ignored state because of our inefficient leaders. So what ever they got are channelised to northern part of orissa and they are content that they did a good job. Why cannot Infosys, TCS and Wipro have an office in Koraput or Bolangir. If Nagpur, Aurangabad and Baroda can become a prominent investment destination, why cannot Malkanigiri, Baudh, Nawarangpur or Mohanaa? Karnataka and Hyderabad can become cybercities not Bramhapur. Why?

Our farmers are not able to farm their land because of lack of water supply and other problems. Why have we less dams and canals? Who will make them? These farmers and their keens go to other states and work as labour. Few of them die unnatural death due to accident at site and incurable diseases due to overwork and expose to vulnerable conditions.

Why do our students go to other state to study? Why can not we have our own colleges? How many IAS or IPS officers Orissa generates a year compared to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh? Do you think we are not capable or intelligent to become IAS or IPS? Answer is, we are not trained. If it is true, who is responsible for that? Why can not we have our own facility, instead we depend on other states for every thing? Why business men go Raipur, Kolkotta and Vishakhapatnam for shopping? Why cannot people from these states come to Jaipur or Phulbani?

Why are not we connected with railways? Many people from south Orissa have not seen a train in their life. If there is no infrastructure development, then how do we prosper? Why there is no will, no political inclination to do that? How long we suffer? All our Ex/ current CMs are from north Orissa. Even if they are from south Orissa, they feel ashamed to say that they belong to south Orissa. No govt. does any thing special for south Orissa. But all Chief Ministers get elected from South Orissa to do better for North Orissa.

Do we have patience to tolerate them? They are here to commit for betterment and betray us. No. We will not trust these sweet talkers any more. The only cure is let us fight for our selves. Let the people of south Orissa get united raise our voice to help our selves and fight with the system to make a number one state. Join the movement. Jai Hind.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Second Campus of Central University of Orissa in rented house in Bhubaneswar!!!

The Samaja, April 26, 2009

No central varsity in K'put, April 26, 2009

First it was Centre.

And now it is turn of officials.

All play with the fate of the much-awaited central university in Orissa’s Koraput district.

Centre took a lot of time for granting a central university for Orissa.

Though it was expected that the proposed new varsity will come up at Bhawanipatna, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik decided it to set up at Koraput.

That’s only keeping political advantage in sight.

And the centre after lot of noise sanctioned Rs 1.20 crore for the central university at Koraput.

However, now its officials were not in a mood to go to the tribal dominated district.

The reason: lack of facilities like airport and modern health care units.

Surabhi Banerjee had been appointed as the first vice-chancellor of the central university at Koraput.

But, Prof. Banerjee, are in no mood to move to Koraput.

Sources said, the VC had been persuading the state government officials to open temporary campus of the varsity in the state capital instead of going to Koraput.

The newly formed central university authorities claimed that the academic activities could begin from temporary campus here till the building was constructed at Koraput.

By the time, the building would be over; Prof Banerjee’s term could end.

Therefore, though the credit of becoming the first VC of the central university at Koraput goes to her, she will skip the tribal dominated district.

Prof Banerjee’s attempt to open temporary campus is, however, not supported by many in the state.

The authorities could find a suitable place for running the temporary campus in Koraput itself, they argued.

But Prof. Banerjee was not ready to accept the fact because of one simple reason that they would stay in Koraput.

Though Koraput did not have air link, it was well connected with rail line.

Therefore, the students and faculty should have no problem in making to and fro from the place.

Despite that, Koraput, the major district in the infamous KBK region, would be literally deprived up of getting a central university even as it had been sanctioned by the centre.

The central university in Koraput in all probability will face the fate of the Western Orissa Development Council (WODC) which had its headquarters in the state capital for a long time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Orissa government: Has it done enough for the poor?

Merinews, April 18, 2009
by pradeep baisakh

The Orissa government has not delivered on NREGS and therefore the ruling party lacks the moral right to ask for votes from rural labourers. It has faltered in terms of providing work and wages to the workers in time.

HAS THE Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government of Orissa led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who is now the most popular Chief Minister of the country according to an ‘India Today’ survey, done enough for the poor labourers in the rural patches of the state by way of delivering on NREGS to plead for their votes in the ensuing general and assembly elections?

If you roam around several villages in Lamtaput, Nandpur and Machhkund blocks of Koraput district, you will find people just loitering around and wasting their time. When asked “why are you wasting your time? Do not you have any work available in your village?” The answer you get is a big ‘No’. In several villages like Enugu, Logum, Litiput among others no work under NREGS is available during this lean agricultural season forcing people to migrate or simply stay in the village and do nothing. Recently, thirteen 13 Logum village migrated to do work on railway tracks in Secunderabad.

Collector Gadadhar Parida (recently transferred elsewhere) says “As many as five out of14 blocks of Koraput have no regular BDO. In Lamtaput post office, there are no additional staffs to open passbooks of people for making NREGS related payments.”

After repeatedly asking, Parida with reluctance admits that the block and panchayat level officials are not showing much interest to take up NREGS work after introduction of the bank payment system. It may be noted that the bank payment system under NREGS has almost checked the prevailing PC (percentage cuts) culture (where a fixed percentage of the welfare expenditure is siphoned of by the officials involved in the implementation) existing in the panchayat and block levels. Therefore it obvious that the officials at these levels are demotivated!

During the survey on NREGS conducted in Orissa in October 2007 by G B Pant Institute, Allahabad, it was revealed that as much as 22 percent of the money goes as percentage cuts to the JE, BDO, Sarpanch, VLW, computer operator at the block level and others apart from the percentage that the contractor keeps for himself. The Collector laments “currently we are in a state of under utilisation of funds under NREGS”

Very poor performance in comparison to other states:

In several such districts of the state like Bolangir, Nuapada, Malkanagiri, Nawrangpur, Sundergarh, Ganjam etc where migration is rampant, NREGS has effectively failed check this trend. According to official figures, in the last financial year (2008-09) the total number of house hold provided jobs are meagre 9.4 lakhs as against about 51 lakhs job card holders in the state. Admittedly, all these card holders did not apply for work so not qualified to get job, the plea the government officials generally take- but people not applying for work does not qualify the perception that they are not needy but they are unaware about the demand driven character of NREGS. And the onus to generate awareness lies on the state. A inter state comparison till 5th March 2009, reveals that Orissa has been able to spend only 48.7 per cent to the total allocated fund whereas states like Bihar has done 63 per cent, Chhatisgarh 76 per cent and Jharkhand 63 per cent. Total percentage of work completed by this date is: Bihar-47 per cent, Chhatisgarh-51 per cent and Jharkhand-32 per cent and Orissa-a meagre 6.49 per cent!

Political and administrative will is lacking:

There have also been continuous complaints from different parts of the state about not providing work despite applications. In January, 2008 about 110 job card holders from Hanumal and Hantalput villages of Koraput district reportedly staged a dharana in front of the block office to demand payment of unemployment allowances as they were not provided work in time even after application for the same.

Complaints have also come about non payment and about in surmountable delay in payment of wages under NREGS to the workers. According to reports by the grass root activists, labourers of Hatipokna and other villages under Tentulikhunti block of Navrangpur district did not receive wages for more than five months till February 2009. Provision of compulsory payment of wages through banks and post offices has aggravated the already worsening condition of irregular payment. Though the bank payment system works well in Andhra Pradesh, in Orissa due to involvement of lengthy and cumbersome procedure and due to lack of any serious attempt by the government to streamline the transaction system, the statutory provision of wage payment within 15 days has been being unceremoniously flouted.

The grievance redressal system in the state is in complete disarray. Complaints of the workers lie unattended by the responsible officials at the block, district and state level for months together. A visiting delegation of Central Employment Guarantee Council (CEGC) in November 2007 submitted 20 complaints to the Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Panchayati Raj department of the state. They are yet to be heard.
If this is the situation at the state level, it can well be imagined what the situation would be at the block and district levels. All these have accumulated to create a situation where people have started losing faith on the efficacy of NREGA to address their work need and poverty by consequence. Though distress migration is characterised by inhuman working condition and various forms of exploitation-physical, mental and sexual, with the political and administrative class taking no interest on delivery of NREGA, the people of the state have no option but to go for it.

With this dismal show on providing guaranteed employment to the rural mass, does the government command any moral right to ask for votes from the rural labourers? The government may not actually need to bother much as Umi Daniel of Action Aid puts it “About two lakh migrant workers from western Orissa and more than four lakh from Ganjam district will be completely away from the election in the state!” Yahan honge tabhi to hamare khilap vote de payenge!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dongria Kondh demand Execution of Supreme Court’s Order on Niyamgiri

Reporter: Kailash Tudu

Lanjigarh: The Dongria Kondhs are one of the primitive tribes living in Niyamgiri in Rayagada and Kalahandi Districts of Orissa, India. Though they reside above huge volume of bauxite, primary source of aluminum, development is yet to reach them after six decades of Indian independence. Literacy level is very low. Poverty and unemployment is everywhere. Through primary occupation is agriculture; a small land base and low agricultural productivity have led to their low income and poverty. Malnutrition and disease are very common among this Dongria Kondh community. Few Dongria Kondh villages are lucky have basic services such health facilities and education.

However, after the Supreme Court’s order on August 2008, about mining from Niyamgiri, a new hope has been originated among the community. Encouraged by the Supreme Court’s direction regarding mining from Niyamgiri by the Vedanta Aluminium, the Dongria Kondh community are hopeful that a new era of development is awaiting for them.

In the Landmark judgment, the Supreme Court directed the Vedanta Aluminium to spend Rs. 5 Crore or 10% of the profit, whichever is higher for development of people in the periphery area of the Alumina Refinery set up by the company. The money shall be spent through a Special Purpose Vehicle for Schedule Area Development – with Vedanta, Government of Orissa and Orissa Mining Company as its partner. The books of the account shall be audited by the Auditor General of Orissa and reviewed by the Supreme Court’s Central Empowerment Committee.

However, even after eight months of this land mark judgment, no initiative has been taken either by the company or the government. The Dongria Kondh community is waiting eagerly when the SPV will start function and their fortune will change. “We have no opposition to mining, as long as our development is ensured. We demand the government and the company should make the SPV operational,” said Senapati Sikoka. The voice is echoed by several other dongria kondh community members. All of them demand mining from Niyamgiri and investment for their development.

“The Dongria Kondhs stay in the immediate periphery of the plant. So with their fortune is going to change once the mining starts,” feels Dhan Majhi. The Dongria Kondh community is very encouraged to see various development interventions by the Company for Tribal development. Now they are getting regular health services at their door step though mobile health unit. Child Care Centers are also established for proper nutrition and pre-schooling of children. Roads and communication facilities in Lanjigarh has also improved. Vedanta has not only taken care of their basic need, but also started intervention for livelihood development of people in Niyamgiri. Recently, it has trained 120 Dongria Kondh women on leaf-plate making. The product has huge demand in local market and the company has also assured them to provide market linkage, once mass production starts. “We may need not to go to wage work once this leaf-plate business starts”, says Anda Majhi, a Dongria Kondh woman from Khemdipadar. They can earn more than Rs. 100/- per day sitting at home by making machine stitched leaf-plates.

As stated by the Chairman of Vedanta Mr. Anil Agrawal, Niyamgiri Bauxite Mine will be operational very soon. However, the tribals are not patient enough to wait for the ‘very soon’. They want immediate opening of Niyamgiri Bauxite mine and early operationalisation of Special Purpose vehicle, as per directive of the Supreme Court.

Reporter can be reached by email:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Decades of struggle has not brought INC, BJD and BJP come politically to address problems in KBK

Dr. Manmohan Singh, Honorable PM of India
Ms. Sonia Gandhi, President of Indian National Congress Party (INC)
Mr. Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Orissa and President of Biju Janta Dal (BJD)
Mr. Jual Oram, Vice-President of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

CC: Media

Dear Dr. Singh, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Naveen Patnaik and Mr. Jual Oram,

Though your respective parties have come with your own manifesto for Orissa assembly and for national general elections, it has rarely promised anything towards long term development of KBK region.

The manifesto by INC, BJD or BJP do not mention important and urgent infrastructure requirement of KBK region such as in higher education, health, railway, industry, major bridges and highways.

Kalahandi, Koraput and Nabarangpur Lok Sabha constituencies are among the bottom five constituencies in India in socio-economic development by a survey carried out by India Today. Promised made by various political parties in Orissa during this election largely concentrates on subsidy in rice which is required for poor people in KBK but is not enough. Without addressing other important issues such subsidy will keep people in KBK region still in the same risky acute poverty level. Instead of making them self-dependent and respectful in the society it will by default drag them to live like beggar largely depending on Governmental aid.

KBK has to go a long way to meet national average standard in many social indicators and in human development index. To achieve long term sustainable growth KBK needs simultaneous major developments in intensive agriculture, highway infrastructure, railway, higher education, technical education, health and industries apart from generous promises such as subsidy in rice, pulses, free power, etc by political parties during this election time.

KBK at this moment needs intensive irrigation projects, new railway line, railway factory, Govt. medical colleges, state highway, new bridges and downstream industrial development. Many of the local demands have not been addressed since past two decades despite promised made by Chief Minister of Orissa and other leaders such as on a high laying bridge over Hati River near Junagarh, railway link between Balangir and Koraput via Nuapada, Kalahandi and Nabarangpur, a railway coach factory in Kalahandi in past two elections.

When there is similar policy adopted in other part of the state in a different name, tall claim of Biju KBK Yojana specially designed towards KBK development is meaningless and futile. On the other hand without any targeted goal and with a small budget Biju KBK Yojana is a political eye wash to the people of KBK region as this region is home to 20 % of Orissa’s population covering 31 % of geographical area of Orissa. Based on factual data and social need KBK region should have a budget at least not less than 30 % of the state budget which is not the case in infrastructure and social development programs.

Serious health problem and diseases such as malaria, AIDS are becoming acute in the region. A proposal of a downstream industrial park in Kalahandi is in cold storage since past five years. No initiative was taken for directly connecting various district headquarters within KBK districts by state highways.

Unfortunately, even after decades of struggle INC, BJD or BJP have not yet come politically together to addresses problems in KBK some of which were badly expected such as new irrigation projects in Nabarangpur, Balangir, Koraput, Sonepur, Nuapada, Malkangiri, Rayagada and Kalahandi districts, high over bridge near Jungarh over NH201 which is heart line in connecting KBK internally, approval of Kantabanji-Jepore and Lanjigarh road –Angul via Phulbani railway lines, railway coach factory in Kalahandi, Government polytechnique colleges in all KBK districts and Government medical colleges in Kalahandi, Balangir and Koraput, a KBK state highway to connect Bongomunda (Balangir) with Raniguda (Koraput) via Sindhekela, Kegaon, Dharamgarh, Moter, Jaipatna and Mukhiguda and completion of Khordha-Balangir & Lanigarh road- Jungarh railway lines.

Without political involvement and consensus, solution to socio-economic problems in KBK, one of the most socio-economically backward regions in the nation will be impossible.

Therefore, I urge to immediately address and include the above in your party manifesto towards long term development of KBK.

Thank you and with kind regards

Digambara Patra

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tribal Leaders vow to oppose false propaganda by NGOs

Reporter: Kailash Tudu

“Villages still exist in the foothill of the mining site and people are engaged in agricultural activities. However, the NGO people misguided us by saying that our entire hill be destroyed and rivers and streams shall dry up. I will reveal this reality to entire Dongria Kondh Community”. This was the first reaction of Taalu Sikoka, after he visited Panchapatmali bauxite mining site and interacted with tribal villagers in the periphery area. Taalu was not only persons to have such reaction. Seven others from Dongria Kondh Community had similar reaction.

In order to verify several misinformation by some of the NGOs regarding bauxite mining from Niyamgiri hill, a team of eight persons, from Patsali, Guma, Luma and Dangamati villages visited Panchapatmali bauxite mining site, Asia’s largest bauxite reserve. The tribal leaders were amazed to see the positive impact of bauxite mining. In spite of repeated propaganda that bauxite mining will dry up all rivers and streams from the hill, they found that water flow in the streams is as usual and in some cases more than usual. “Forest Cover is also increased with the plantation by the mining company”, said Maandi Sikoka.

While interacting with local villagers they found that the villagers were doing double crop. None of the villagers is displaced; neither the hill has been collapsed. Rather the development activities taken up by the mining company has enhanced lives of people in the area.
“We won’t allow these NGOs to misguide us further. Now we see the reality and will let others know about this in our villages. If mining can change our lives so positively, then it was our foolishness to oppose the Mining from Niyamgiri,” said Drika Kadraka.

Some of the NGOs were mobilizing people against bauxite mining from Niyamgiri with their false propaganda. They were telling that the entire hill will collapse due to mining. Similarly, the rivers and streams will vanish. And agricultural activities will be severely affected. There will be lot of tree cutting and the tribal cannot collect any livelihood from the forest. Even the villagers shall be displaced.
In order to check the reality, they visited the nearest operational bauxite mining site. “It has opened our eyes,” said Taalu.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

India Yatra, Hindustanf Times review present aspiration of Kalahandi

India Yatra, Hindustan Times, April 3, 2009

........... The new demands reflect the new aspirations: A central university in Kalahandi; colleges for engineering and medical sciences; more teachers in schools; better prices for farm produce; and a railroad network to help improve business......
... railway line and railway coach are being damanded in Kalahandi (in video & voice)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Advani raises hope for people in KBK region

The Pioneer, April 3, 2009
PNS | Bhubaneswar

LK Advani’s announcement to construct a Kantabanji-Jeypore railway line if the NDA comes to power, has raised high hopes among the people of Koraput, Nabarangpur and Kalahandi.

Coming to know about the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate’s assurance, leading NRO Digambara Patra has appealed to the civil society in the State to highlight the advantages of this lifeline for these three underdeveloped districts. Addressing an election meeting at Khariar on March 31, Advani had said a Kantabanji-Jeypore rail line via Khariar, Dharamgarh, Ambapani and Nabarangpur would be sanctioned if the NDA is voted to power.

The proposed rail line covers Balangir, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Nabarangpur and Koraput districts, said Patra, who belongs to Kalahandi and teaches in the American University of Beirut. It was also proposed for survey in the 2008-09 Railway Budget speech made by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, he said.

The three Lok Sabha constituencies — Nabarangpur, Koraput and Kalahandi — are at the bottom of the socio-economy ladder in India, a recent India Today survey showed. Railway development in these areas will not only boost infrastructure but also bring employment in the region, feels Patra.

A railway factory in Kalahandi will also bring about development as there is no Government-run industries in the region, whereas Koraput and Balangir have got HAL and ordnance factories, respectively, from the Central Government. A railway factory in Kalahandi has been a longstanding demand, said Dr Patra.

Not a single rail line has been sanctioned in Kalahandi, Balangir, Koraput, Nuapada, Malkangiri and Nabarangpur districts in the last 10 years, he pointed out.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Advani promises Kanatabanji Jeypore through Nuapada, Kalahandi and Nabrangpur Railway Line

Advani assures Kanatabanji Jeypore through Nuapada, Kalahandi and Nabrangpur Railway Line
and Promise to include Bargarh dist with KBK

The Pioneer, April 1, 2009

Advani on recovering black money from Swiss banks

Nimai Charan Sahu/Rakesh Joshi | Sambalpur/Bargarh/Nuapada

NDA prime ministerial candidate LK Advani on Tuesday said black money is crippling the economy of the country and there should be efforts to bring back the million crores of rupees deposited in Swiss banks by Indians. He was addressing an election campaign meeting of the BJP at Paikmal in Padmapur sub-division in Bargarh district.

“I have requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to raise this issue in the coming G-20 nations’ conference,” he said. Once recovered, this huge money could be invested in health, education, rural development, irrigation and all other developmental sectors, he added.

Surprisingly, unlike other BJP leaders, including Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley who visited Orissa recently, Advani did not utter a single word against Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik or his BJD in his entire address. He only appealed to the people to vote for the BJP and the NDA both in the State and for the Centre for strong and stable Government.

However, BJP State president Suresh Pujari, BJP candidate from Bargarh Lok Sabha seat, Radharani Panda, Padmapur Assembly seat nominee Pradip Purohit and the party’s State secretary Aswini Sarangi, in their speeches, severely criticised Patnaik and the BJD. District party president Sauri Charan Barik presided over the meeting.

Advani strongly criticised the Congress and UPA Government at the Centre for the present crises everywhere. Price rise of all products including essential commodities severely affects poor people of the country in spite of the tall claim of the UPA Government on low rate of inflation, he said. He assured that if the NDA comes to power, Padmapur sub-division of Bargarh district would be included under the KBK programme for its socio-economic development.

Earlier, launching the election campaign in the State from Khariar in Nuapada district, Adavani said his Government would stress on providing good governance including transparent and progressive Government to the people.

Lauding the efforts of the Vajpayee Government, he said besides making the India an atomic power, the Government was putting stress on connecting the entire country with roads. “While I had laid the foundation stone of road from Gandhinagar to Silichar, I was not able to see the completed road in Silchar which incidentally comes in Assam from where Manmohan Singh has been elected. Development of agriculture and farmers will be the priority of the BJP which had given the farmers a Kisan credit card,” he said.

Though his speech centered mostly on national issues, he touched on local issues and said their demands of a railway line between Kantabanji and Jeypore through Nuapada Kalahandi and Nabrangpur would be fulfilled if the BJP is voted to power.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Orissa as a special catagory state

The Pioneer, March 30, 2009

While inducting former State Youth Congress president Rohit Pujari into his party, BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik said last week how national parties like the Congress and the BJP are not interested in making Orissa a special category State for speedier economic development. It is strange such a realisation has come to him after a decade of his association with the BJP during half of which the saffron party was in power at the Centre. The timing of airing such realisation is undoubtedly self-serving. It is to hammer home his oft-repeated point that only a regional party like the BJD can do justice to the State. But the hollowness of his line of thinking is self-evident. See what happened to the special treatment given by the Central Government for the development of the KBK districts. Selected as a test-bed for economic regeneration by no less a person than PV Narasimha Rao, the former Prime Minister, the districts were smothered with wheel-barrow loads of cash. Though it is difficult to get the exact amount of money that was pump-primed into that area, it can be safely said that not less than Rs 1700 crore of special assistance was spent there during the ten year period from 1997 to 2007. But, economically, the districts remain where they were before the start of the grandiose development plan. If Patnaik wants a similar economic uplift to be replicated throughout the State through his demand for special category status, then the State is economically doomed for all time to come. Funds are not a problem. The problem is commitment to development and a corruption-free administration. Demand for special category status is a political slogan disguising as an economic catchphrase. And again, not much of a disguise, at that!

Friday, March 27, 2009

BJD expects more from Congress camp

Expressbuzz, March 27, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is waiting for the announcement of the Congress list for finalising candidates for some Lok Sabha and Assembly seats going to polls in the first phase on April 16.

Sources said the BJD expects that some senior leader of the Congress will join the regional outfit after the Congress list is out. BJD today did not announce its candidate for the Kalahandi and Sundargarh Lok Sabha seats. While the Sundargarh seat is likely to go to CPM, speculation is rife on its candidate from the Kalahandi seat.

The Congress is also yet to finalise its candidate from the Kalahandi seat. While Congress working president Bhakta Charan Das is interested to contest from the parliamentary seat, there are also other strong contenders including former minister Bhupinder Singh and former MP Rahas Behari Nayak.

The seat will witness a triangular contest after the snapping of ties between the BJD and BJP. Bikram Keshari Deo of the BJP who won from the seat for three consecutive terms is seeking re-election for the fourth time.

Former State Youth Congress president Rohit Pujari was awarded with the Sambalpur seat after he joined the BJD yesterday only hours after resigning from the Congress. The BJD is now in search of a suitable candidate who can challenge Deo.

The BJD has not announced candidates for the Bissam Katak (ST), Chhatrapur (SC), Aska, Sanakhemundi, Kantamal, Narla, Sambalpur, Talsara (ST), Brajrajnagar, Bonai and Bijepur Assembly seats. Out of these, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has announced candidates for the Narla, Sambalpur and Talsara seats.

However, the BJD has objected to the unilateral announcement of the list by the NCP as it does agree with some of the constituencies and candidates.

The BJD was scheduled to announce the list of candidates jointly with the CPI and CPM.

However, seat-sharing talks though going on well are yet to be over indicating that there are some differences on a number seats. While the delay over announcement of candidate for the Bissam Katak (ST) seat is yet to be clear, the Chhatrapur (SC), Aska, Sanakhemundi and Brajrajnagar seats may go to the CPI. The CPM may get the Kantamal, Bonai and Bijepur seats.

Excise collections surge 25.96% till February

Businessstandard, March 27, 2009

The collection of excise duty in Orissa surged by 25.96 percent in the first eleven months of the current fiscal, compared to the corresponding period of the previous fiscal. It increased to Rs 479.35 crore from Rs 380.59 crore during this period. More than 40 percent growth in the collection of excise duty during February has contributed to this growth.

The government collected Rs 45.47 crore in February 2009 compared to Rs 32.36 crore in February 2008. If the present trend continues, the collections for the current fiscal will exceed the target, sources said. The state collected Rs 524 crore in 2007-08 with the March 2008 collection being Rs 144 crore. Since, the model code of conduct is in force, no license shop could be opened in March this year. Despite that the department hopes to achieve the target set for 2008-09.

“We require Rs 130 crore in the current month to touch the target set for 2008-09. Since the Orissa State Beverages Corporation (OSBC) will pay Rs 30 crore for the renewal of the wholesale license, there will not be any problem in achieving the target”, an official associated with the process said.

It may be noted, the OSBC has already paid Rs 340.1crore upto the end of February 2009 compared to Rs 266.18 crore paid during the corresponding period of the previous fiscal.

Sources said, the growth of excise duty collections up to February this year was 39.45 percent in Nawarangapur district compared to the previous year. While growth of excise duty collections increased by 31.2 percent in Bolangir district to Rs 6.13 crore, Jagatsinghpur recorded a growth of 30.27 percent to Rs 8.79 crore. However, the performance of districts Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Dhenkanal was not satisfactory.

List of candidates reflects void in BJD

The Statesman, March 27, 2009
Statesman News Service

BHUBANESWAR, March 26: Chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik will contest from his home constituency of Hinjili for the third successive term while as many as five of his ministerial colleagues and 22 sitting MLAs have found place in the list of candidates announced for the first phase polls on 16 April.
The first phase is to be held in the western and southern parts of the state comprising of 70 Assembly and 10 LS seats. This belt was by and large dominated by the BJP which has snapped ties with the BJD, hence most of the candidates nominated by the BJD today were new faces.
The list of eight LS candidates reflected the void in the BJD ranks as it had to pitch in many sitting MLAs for LS seats and even nominate rank defectors.
The BJD has nominated Oriya film actor Sidhant Mohapatra for the Berhampur LS seat which had been allotted to the BJP in the 2000 and 2004 elections.
Interestingly, the dearth of candidates for the BJD in this belt was evident from the fact that a couple of turncoats and relative green horns like Mr Rohit Pujari, the youth Congress president who had joined the BJD yesterday was rewarded with the prestigious Sambalpur LS seat. Mr Nityananda Pradhan, a former CPI state chief, who had deserted the party has been given the BJD ticket for Aska LS seat even as the BJD is in seat adjustment with the CPI.
Surprisingly, the BJD dropped one of its former ministers Mr Nagendra Pradhan from the list of MLA candidates.
Equally, baffling was the omission of any candidate for the Kalahandi LS seat. Speculations are that Mr Bhakta Charan Das, the working president of the Congress is unhappy and he may switch over to the BJD to contest from the Kalahandi LS seat.
Mr Das lost the elections continuously for the last three times as far as Kalahandi LS seat is concerned and the Congress is unlikely to nominate him. So he is likely to join the BJD and try his luck, said reliable sources here.
The eight nominated for the LS by the BJD today are Mr Jayaram Pangi, a sitting MLA for the Koraput LS seat, Mr Dambaru Majhi for the Nawarangpur LS seat, Mr Sidhant Mohapatra for Berhampur, Mr Nityananda Pradhan for Aska, Mr Rudramadhab Ray, a sitting MLA for the Kandhamal seat, Mr Kalikesh Singh Deo, another sitting MLA for Bolangir, Mr Rohit Pujari for Sambalpur and Mr Hamid Hussain for Bargarh.

Politics over aam admi

The Statesman (Kolkata), March 27, 2009

Against the BJP’s last election slogan of “India Shining”, the Congress is desperately trying to project that the UPA’s five-year rule has amply benefited the aam admi and reduced their sufferings.
Congress leaders are certain that these people will remain obliged to them for the welfare schemes launched by the UPA government ~ the NREGP to provide 100 days’ guaranteed jobs to villagers, Bharat Nirman to build infrastructure and thereby create more jobs, the Indira Awaas Yojana to build homes and the Rajiv Gandhi Urban Renewal Mission to facilitate urban infrastructure and ensure jobs in urban areas. These are the major flagship projects of the UPA regime which are expected to yield huge electoral dividends.
Pranab Mukherjee, acting finance minister, could not desist from campaigning for his party while presenting the interim budget by saying that the aam admi will definitely recognise the hand that has vastly removed their distress.


But what is the reality? Are the ordinary people really better off, particularly when the dual economic crisis of inflation and recession has been plaguing their lives for the past three years without any government safeguard? It is clear that the economic growth during the past five years, whatever shine it might have had, has remained mostly jobless.
A comparison of the two decades ending and beginning in 1993-94 shows that unemployment grew from 6.06 per cent to 8.28 per cent a year. As a result, the number of people employed registered a negative growth of 5.02 per cent in the latter decade when it actually increased by 1.73 per cent in the former. In conformity with declining population growth rate, both of labour force and work force grew lowly in the latter decade. But what is more worrying is the fact that although the gap between the two was negative by 0.31 per cent a year in the former decade, it has become positive by 0.22 per cent a year in the latter, implying labour force growth outweighing the work force growth to cause unemployment.
While the fall in employment in recent years is more acute in the organised sector, a fallout of recession, unorganised sector jobs have largely been low paid as well as irregular in nature. Thirty seven crore of unorganised workers countrywide, 93 per cent of the total work force, are still deprived of social securities and a protected national minimum wage law. Suggestions of the Second Labour Commission, National Commission on Enterprises in Unorganised Sector and the National Campaign Committee for Unorganised Sector Workers to bring legislations in these regards were ignored by the UPA government.
Minimal success of providing jobs under the NREGP has grossly contributed to the growing gap between labour force and work force growth in the rural areas. While persons registered under this scheme was only 28.2 per cent in 2007-08, the average job availability nationwide was only 21 days in 2008, with the states varying widely in respect of its success.
Similar is the outcome of other job providing schemes introduced one after another without tightening the operating mechanism at the state levels. This failure has intensified rural people’s distress to accentuate the poverty problem. Mani Shankar Ayer, Congress leader and Union panchayat minister, himself asserts that 84 per cent of the rural people have to live on a paltry Rs 20 or even less. Even a sizeable portion of them can earn only Rs 9 or even less per day.
This is the real condition of the rural masses who constitute the Congress’ aam admi. Against this, India has four in the list of top 10 billionaires in the world. What a glaring disparity!

The ordinary Indian citizens are mostly farmers whom our leaders forgot while signing the agricultural treaties under the WTO; this paved the way for unrestricted import of agricultural produce, preventing farmers from getting supportive crop prices and thereby pushing them, hugely indebted, towards committing suicide. This is no doubt the saddest event since independence; the much hyped dazzling economic growth over the years pales into insignificance.
In the decade since 1997 as per the National Crime Records Bureau, 1.83 lakh farmers committed suicide, while it is more than 1 lakh in the past five years. Maharashtra, the home state of Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, who is one of the prime ministerial aspirants this time, heads the list with more than 5,000 suicides, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.
The much publicised loan waiver scheme of Rs 60,000 crore has only benefited the rich farmers and the banks without reaching the needy.
The UPA leaders are feeling relieved that a huge sum of Rs 2,29,341 crore has been spent on rural economy, apart from fertilizer subsidy and special packages, to boost agriculture and infrastructure, including roads, health, water and sanitation. In it, NREGP and Bharat Nirman, the UPA’s two mostly favoured job providing schemes, took Rs 30,000 crore and Rs 40,900 crore, respectively. But where has the money gone?
A Wardha farmer says that the money has travelled to the city markets through the village rich to be mostly used in urban real estates and has never reached areas like Bundlekhand, Kalahandi, Vidarbha, Telangana, Hassan or Wynad where incidence of suicides is growing alarmingly.
P Chidambaram in the past four years and Pranab Mukherjee this year have provided enough sops and freebies to the agricultural sector without any noticeable uplift. The problem lies more in marketing the crops than production. This simple truth has never been understood by our leaders. Our farmers have never got the assured markets and lifting the quantitative restriction on imports of major farm crops has put the last nail in the coffin.
Another very vulnerable sector is hand weaving which has also been pushed to the brink of ruin by the unrestricted import of cheap silk or imitation silk cloth from China and embroidery machines under the liberalised import regime of the WTO. Already 47 weavers are reported to have ended their lives in the Varanasi sub-division of Uttar Pradesh, being unable to meet the basic needs; government schemes have only helped the rich traders to prosper instead of the weavers.
Unorganised farmers in search of a voice seem to have found one. Kalavati, an uneducated village widow, is now a very famous name as she leads an association of farmers’ widows in Yavatmal district of Vidarbha in Maharashtra under the banner of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti. It is now a growing army of 1.6 lakh-plus widows. The samiti members are demanding compensation from the government for the death of their husbands. It also wants proper facilities of marketing instead of government doles, without which, as Kalavati has rightly realised, farmers will refuse to sell food, making agriculture a losing proposal. Then half of the farmers will flee the villages, while the other half will stick to farming only to ensure survival of their families.
It’s high time our leaders took this warning seriously and acted without delay to strengthen and extend cooperative societies, so that agriculture is sustained for the real benefit of the aam admi and economic growth becomes an inclusive one.
(The writer is Reader of Economics, Durgapur Government College)