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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.
Reporter can be reached by email:

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)

Why should we vote, ask Balangir villagers

Merinews, March 27, 2009
Satyajit Nayak

Balangir district in western Orissa is fast heading towards an extreme shortage of both food and water. Balangir needs special attention. At the government level, it needs quick release of funds and execution of programmes on a war-footing.

IF IT was Kalahandi in the mid-1980s that was known for its abject poverty, frequent droughts and stark hunger, it is Balangir’s turn now to cry for help. This district in western Orissa is fast heading towards an extreme shortage of both food and water. The continuous drought has resulted in over 80 per cent loss of paddy crop. And the drinking water sources are fast drying up. There is a surfeit of only despair and desolation.

A vast majority of the people do not have money to buy food. Even government statistics admit that more than 87 per cent of the people in the district are below the poverty line. With the paddy harvest lost to drought and no other work to be found, over two lakh people from Balangir have migrated to other states.

The situation is worse in Balangir because only five per cent of the land is covered by irrigation. Drought and migration may not be new to Balangir -- this season has seen the largest migration since 1960s. At least 40,000 people have left Balangir this year by train alone, according to official figures.

Balangir’s present plight is the result of years of neglect by the State Government and the lack of initiative on the part of those who represent the district in Bhubaneswar and Delhi since Independence. The region has bad roads, poor irrigation, degraded forests and little industry.

Since decades, Balangir has been continuously represented by the royal family members both in State Assembly as well as Parliament. They are millionaires but still their district is the poorest in India. They prefer to work from there bunglows in Bhubaneswar and Delhi rather than opting to stay in their own constituency.

They might be doing some developmental work for the people but it is insufficient as they have ruled for decades, much more was expected from them.

Lakhs of people from Balangir are forced to migrate in search of livelihood. Be it pulling rickshaws in Raipur, slaving at brick kilns in Vizianagaram or working at great risk on high-rise buildings in Mumbai. They are all devoid of their basic rights.

A villager from Bongomunda village in Balangir district told me a year back: “These politicians only remember us during elections. They will send money, desi liquor etc to get our vote; but after winning we again becomes strangers for why should we vote? Nothing has changed since decades.”

Balangir needs special attention. At the government level, it needs release of funds within hours and execution of programmes on a war-footing. Help from voluntary agencies is also required. Two international agencies -- CARE and UNDP -- have already come forward to help on the request of the district administration.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sahara Power to set up 1,320 Mw project in Orissa

Businessstandard, Feb 10, 2009
Press Trust of India / New Delhi February 09, 2009, 20:52 IST

Sahara group firm Sahara India Power Corporation today said it would set up a 1,320 Mw coal-based thermal power project in Orissa.

"Sahara India Power Corp would set up a 1,320 Mw coal-based thermal power plant at Balangir in Orissa at an investment of Rs 5,604 crore," a company release said.

To be built on an area of 1,500 acres, the first unit of 660 Mw capacity would commission in about four years. The second unit is expected to be commissioned in nearly five years time, it said.

The plant would be set up through joint venture participation with power companies from different parts of the world, the release said.

The company would also develop non-conventional power plants using the latest and emerging technologies. It would set up a 5 Mw Grid Interactive Solar Photo Voltaic Power Plant at Dhenkanal in Orissa at an investment of Rs 125 crore.

Sahara Power has tied up with Solar Integrated Technologies (USA) for supply and installation of the required plant and equipment.

The company is also planning to set up 25-Mw wind power projects in Orissa. It has proposed to set up a 2,000 Mw coal-based power plants in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh at an estimated investment of Rs 8,000 crore each.

Call for government medical colleges in Orissa

Merinews, Feb 10, 2009

Central government has upgraded five more medical colleges to the standard of AIIMS all over the nation. It has also sanctioned two more premier referral institutes on the lines of AIIMS, at Raiganj in West Bengal and in Uttar Pradesh..

IN A letter, Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik was urged to take new initiative to convert either VVS Medical College, Burla to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) standard or proposed a similar institution in backward regions such as for Western Orissa Development Council (WODC) initiated medical college in Jaring or Balangir.
Recently, Central government has upgraded five more medical colleges to the standard of AIIMS all over the nation. Central government has also sanctioned two more premier referral institutes on the lines of the prestigious AIIMS, one at Raiganj in West Bengal’s North Dinajpur district and the other in Uttar Pradesh.

Despite high profile foundation ceremony for both the private medical colleges at Balangir and Jaring in Orissa before the election, they have not yet met the expectations even after five years. Situation of proposed private medical college in Balangir is worst among the three proposed private medical colleges through WODC initiative in Rourkela, Jaring and Balangir. In future, private medical college in Rourkela may be successful like in state capital region.

Though Orissa has severe shortage of medical professionals such as doctors and has less number of government medical colleges compared to Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra etc, medical college is more than an educational institution for local people in backward pockets. It serves as a hospital for secondary and tertiary health facilities providing better service and facilities for local people in backward region, where finding good quality private hospitals like Apollo, Kalinga Hospital, etc is very difficult.

Private medical colleges and hospitals rarely meet what government medical colleges provide towards local health facilities to poor people who have little support to even travel to the state capital from Koraput, Kalahandi or Balangir regions or pay the required fees.

Keeping backward regions in mind, West Bengal government has proposed to establish similar AIIMS like institution in North Bengal, whereas Chhattisgarh government has established government medical college in Jagdalpur region. Similarly, Tamil Nadu government is establishing a medical college in Tiruvarur and Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka governments are focusing in other backward pockets in their states.

However, Orissa government has only initiated, through WODC, private medical college in backward and less deserved regions. It does not make sense, when state government is establishing fully government medical colleges in capital region such as Capital Hospital medical college, Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) medical college at the same time encouraging private player to open medical college in regions like Balangir, Kalahandi etc and as a result such institutions in backward places are struggling to meet local expectation even after five years, where as other proposed private medical colleges in Bhubaneswar region have already started their courses and hospital by this time.

In fact, it creates a wrong impression that Orissa state government is more concerned towards establishing government institutions in state capital region such as Law University, Capital medical college, ESIC medical college, Culture University, Ravenshaw University, IIT, NISER, WCCU, etc by ignoring other backward parts except consolation given to Kalahandi and Berhampur regions recently for their respective local demand for national institution since decades in the form of engineering colleges.

Orissa government should write to central government to establish a similar AIIMS type institution in KBK region or upgrade VSS Medical College to an AIIMS type institution along with completely taking out medical colleges proposed in Balangir and Jaring from private players.

Converting regional diagnostic centres at Baripada, Bhawanipatna, Koraput and Sundergarh to full fledge government medical colleges will be an excellent idea for the state government as these locations were chosen based on backwardness, tribal population and geographical requirements. Similar regional diagnostic centre in Capital Hospital has been converted to a government medical college. Indeed, it will serve in greater interest of the state along with present government medical colleges in Cuttack, Berhampur, Burla and Bhubaneswar apart from recently proposed medical college in Talcher/Angul by Central Coal Ministry which will be logically expected to be equivalent to government medical colleges.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Develop rail network in kandhamal

Expressbuzz, Feb 4, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: Agami Odisha and several organisations staged a demonstration in front of the headquarters of the East Coast Railway here today demanding development of railway network in Kandhamal and other backward regions of the State.

In a memorandum addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the organisations maintained that Kandhamal and Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput (KBK) regions are most backward areas of the country.

Similar backward areas in the country like the north-eastern states have received special treatment from the Railway Board but the KBK region has been neglected for decades, the memorandum alleged and demanded a special package for the region.

Alleging step-motherly attitude of the Railways towards the State, the memorandum maintained that Khurda Road- Balangir and Lanjigarh Road- Junagarh railway lines in Orissa were approved much earlier than Muzaffarpur-Sitamarhi and Sultanganj-Deogarh railway lines in Bihar, but only 10 per cent work has been completed.

But both the projects in Bihar have been completed.

During last 15 years more lines were approved in Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal than in Orissa, it alleged and demanded that a Kandhamal rail link should be sanctioned.

Former MP and CPM leader Shivaji Patnaik participated in the demonstration.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

NRI seeks rail infrastructure in Orissa’s backward region, Jan 31, 2009
January 31st, 2009 - 4:05 pm ICT by IANS - Send to a friend:

Bhubaneswar, Jan 31 (IANS) An Oriya NRI based in Lebanon has urged the government to develop railway infrastructure in Orissa’s most backward districts to ensure the economic prosperity of the region.The Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput (KBK) region, known for its economic backwardness, has been neglected by the central government for years, Digambara Patra, an Oriya academic based in Beirut, told IANS in an email.

Patra said he had Friday written letters to President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik stressing the need for developing a railway network in the region.

“Railway infrastructure development is one of the keys to success and can bring economic prosperity to such a backward region,” Patra, who works as an assistant professor at the department of chemistry in the American University in Beirut, wrote in the email.

“Unfortunately, in railway development, the Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput region is being neglected…In the last couple of years, Indian Railways has committed Rs.50,000 crore (Rs.500 billion) investment only in Bihar for various ongoing and new projects, but it has neglected Orissa, especially the KBK areas,” Patra said.

He pointed out that the central government had in the past has established a Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) project in Sunabeda, Koraput and an ordinance factory in Balangir and both had increased the employment potential in the regions. But the neighbouring Kalahandi region has not been considered for any major industrial project, Patra said.

He added that “setting up a new East Coast railway division in the region would help speed up railway projects in the impoverished western and southern Orissa, which are poorly connected by railways”.

NRO reminder on KBK rail, Jan 31, 2009

Critical infrastructure like national highway, railway line and telecommunication is poorest in Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput (KBK) region in Orissa.

And Naxalism takes advantage of the backward region due to hilly and forest terrain.

However, infrastructure owes in general and rail connectivity in particular in KBK is being neglected severely and has not yet been considered by the Centre.

It is clearly evident from struggling ongoing projects since decades in KBK region such as Lanjigarh road – Junagarh and Balangir – Khordha road lines.

In last couple of years Indian Railway has committed Rs.50,000 crore investment only in Bihar for various ongoing and new projects where as Orissa, especially KBK, is being continuously neglected since decades by Indian railway.

Politicians have often used backwardness of KBK in general and Kalahandi in particular to show case their eagerness towards the poor people in the society though they fail to scrutinize high rate of unemployment rate among semi-skilled and skilled laborer in the region.

While Indian Railway has proposed to establish new factory in UP, Bihar and Kerala, it has coolly forgotten Orissa, alleged Digamabara Patra in a memorandum to Dr. Man Mohan Singh.

Lanjigarh road is located in the border of Kandhamal, Rayagada and Kalahandi.

A factory based at Lanjigarh road/Bhawanipatna will enormously benefit Kalahandi, Rayagada, Kandhamal, Boudh, Nuapada, Balangir, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Gajpati, Sonepur and Malkangiri equally as it is centrally located to all the districts, feel Dr. Patra.

A leading Non Resident Oriya (NRO) argues for a new East Coast railway division in Lanjigarh road/Bhawanipatna.

This will help to speed up the railway projects in Kalahandi, Rayagada, Kandhamal, Boudh, Nuapada, Balangir, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Gajpati, Sonepur and Malkangiri districts many of which are poorly connected by Indian railway.

Completion of Lanjigarh road – Jungarh line completely in 2009-10 , conneting Khordha road – Balangir line in Eleventh Plan has been urged.

Immediate approval of the projects like Lanjigarh road – Phulbani – Angul line Junagarh – Nabarangpur – Jeypur – Malkangiri – Balachandar road line and Kantabanji – Khariar – Dharamgarh – Ampani – Nabarangpur – Jeypur line has been urged by Dr.Patra, who teaches in American University of Beirut.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Centre approves 4 polytechnics, Jan 24, 2009

Centre has approved to open 4 polytechnics in Malkangiri, Boudh, Gajapati and Samabalpur district

In order to lure the youth of the Maoist predominant areas for technical education the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has chalked out program to establish more diploma engineering institutions.

So Orissa being largely affected by Left Wing Extremism has been benefited handsomely.

Malkangiri, the worst affected by Maoist menace has been allotted a polytechnic.

Each polytechnic will cost Rs.12 crore and the MHRD has provided Rs.8 crore as the first instalment.

Vir Vikaram Yadav, Director Techinal Education, speaking to said that the State Government is trying to cover all the districts with polytechnics.

While the State Government has 13, there are 7 private polytechnics imparting diploma in engineering.

With these 4 new institutions, many other districts are left.

Districts carved out in 90’s like Kendrapada, Jagatsinghpur, Bhadrak, Nayagarh, Nawarangpur and Sonepur also do not have any polytechincs.

Mr.Yadav said that the State Government has also decided to cover all the blocks with Industrial Training Institute (ITI).

Accordingly plans are afoot to cover 125 blocks which are yet to have an ITI.

In the meantime the Directorate of Technical Education & Training (DTET) has prepared a Vision Document keeping in view the growing demand for technical education.

Government of Orissa is also preparing a memorandum for the National Knowledge Commission, which will be included in the agenda of the Centre to provide future course for technical and technological development.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tribal Central varsity to be set up in Koraput: Union Minister

The Pioneer, Jan 16, 2009
PNS | Sunabeda

The Union Government would set up a tribal Central university in Koraput district, said Union Minister of State for Rural Development Chandrasekhar Sahu while addressing the annual function of the women’s college here.

Attending the function as the chief guest, Sahu advised students to be self-sustained and utilise their knowledge acquired due course of their academic pursuit for social development. Education should not be confined to getting a job only, he added.

Attending as the chief speaker, DAV College principal Harisankar Mishra said eradication of poverty is must for bringing an improvement in education. The function was presided over by college principal Pabitra Kumar Bedanta.

Among others, former Minister Raghunath Patnaik, Koraput MLA Taraprasad Bahinipati, Ayodhya Samal and Indira Priyadarsini Patnaik also spoke. Sahu distributed prizes to the deserving candidates.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Civil Society favor K'mal rail, Jan 9, 2009

Civil Society of Orissa will demand railway connectivity to Kandhamal.

So the members of the Civil Society will stage dharana in front of the Orissa East Coast Railways (ECOR) headquarters here on 3 February.

They will also present a detailed picture of the continuous neglect and step motherly attitude of the Indian Railways to Orissa

It seems that they have lost high hopes pinned on Kalyan Coomar Jena.

People from all walks of life in Orissa were very happy as Mr.Jena took over reins of Indian Railways.

Least said is better about the Chairman of Railway Board, said many members of the Civil Society.

During Jena’s tenure, Bihar got the maximum and Orissa as usual suffered a lot.

There are only cosmetic changes and lollypops for Orissa, lamented they.

So the leading members of the Civil Society are furious with the Indian Railways authorities.

They have decided to vent anger in public in a peaceful way on 3 February here.

Their main demand is to connect Kandhamal with railways network.

People from all walks of life participated in the meeting held here on 7 January and they voiced the demand for new rail line in Kandhamal.

They were unanimous over the issue as they felt that once the connectivity will be there, the problem will eased.

Professor Chitta Baral, leading voice of NROs gave out details how Orissa has been neglected during Lalu Prasad Yadav regime when Mr.Jena is the Chairman of the Board.

Among others Braja Kishore Tripathy, MP, Sibaji Pattnaik, former MP, Dhananda Mishra, Narendra Mishra, Sudarsan Das also raised pertinent issues.

Engineer BC Praharaj, Ajaya Pattnaik, Bimal Mishra,Rajesh Mishra and SN Mishra pointed out the requirement of the state so far railways infrastructure is concerned.

Political personalities including Sura Jena, Biswanath Mohapatra,Tapasi Praharaj, Deba Parija, Bikram Swain vented their ire against the authorities.

Social activists like Tusar ray, Sashiprabha Bindhani, Madhu Bhai, Manoj Jena, Abhaya Singh, Pradipta Pradhan, Dillip Sabat also spoke on the occasion.

More than 70 members of the Civil Society and at least 20 from Kandhamal participated in the brain storming.

ECOR was represented by TK Joshi and Sanjay Mishra.

Civil Society has decided to organize a meeting prior to 3 February in Kandhamal to raise awareness.

It has been decided to publicize a composite document on Rail neglect in Orissa.

The meeting was organized by Agami Odisha, Swabhiman Odisha Munch, Loksamukhya and Focus Orissa.

All Participant organizations almost vowed to make the people of Orissa aware about Railway neglect and fight for the Railway infrastructural development in Orissa.

Er.Lalit Mohan Pattnaik of Agami Orissa coordinated the meeting.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Letter to CM: Proposal to Convert Govt Auton. College Bhawanipatna to Unitary University

Orissadiary, Dec 25, 2008

Dear honorable Chief Minister, Mr. Patnaik,
Unitary University provides many additional advantages to autonomous college to design/introduce new courses depending on local need in the graduate and post graduate level, to substantially improve research activities, to employ permanent faculties who can support in research and education in the long term development of the institution and importantly ushers in more funds from the state and UGC to improve infrastructure, teaching programs, and research facilities.

Recent decision by the state Government to convert Ravenshaw College, UCE Burla and Khallikote College are welcome decision in that respect.

Coincidentally, these institutions were affiliated with Utkal University (Ravenshaw College), BPUT (UCE Burla) and Berhampur University (Khallikote College) representing Central (Ravenshaw College), Western (UCE Burla) and South (Khallokote) Orissa regions. However, none of them belong to KBK region or are affiliated with the Sambalpur University (except UCE’s association in the past).

UGC has recommended “College with Potential for Excellence” (CPE) status so far to only five Colleges from Orissa, out of which two of them, Ravenshaw Autonomous College Cuttack and Khallikote Autonomous College Berhamapur, are (being) made Unitary University by the state Government. Other three are GM Autonomous College Sambalpur, Govt. Autonomous College Bhawanipatna and Fakir Mohan Autonomous College Balasore.

Government Autonomous College Bhawanipatna, being one of the prides of the KBK as well as Western Orissa regions, caters to the flame of learning since about last 50 years. It is enjoying the status of “College with Potential for Excellence” (CPE) since September 2004 being one among the first 47 colleges of the whole nation. It is among the first 3 colleges and only College in KBK region to receive CPE honor.

Despite being located in a backward and underdeveloped region, Government (Autonomous) College Bhawanipatna has established itself for maintaining high quality in education in this part of the state. Students of this College have been securing top ranks at the University level as well as state level in various fields of education.

KBK region is known to be backward in higher education and research facilities. Lack of sufficient teachers/lecturers in major Govt. Colleges in the region has been a serious concern.

Unitary University would facilitate highly skilled professionals in the various fields to join as permanent faculties, such as, as Assistant, Associate and full Professors, in such institutions and will fulfill deficiencies in shortage of lecturers in Autonomous College in Kalahandi.

In major Govt. and private institutions in Kalahandi shortage of lecturers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, optometrists, agriculture and horticulture professionals etc are always noticed as there are only few professionals in various fields at the local level.

Where as local students in Kalahandi are struggling to get employment in the local level and some of them are forcefully migrating to other states in search for opportunities. There is a high percentage of local youth with bachelor degree without any employment. Many of them [such as Mr. Ajit Barik (OBC), Mr. Surudhan Hans (OBC), Mr. Raita Hans from Gambhariguda, P.O. Khairpadar, Dharamgarh], are working as barber or daily laborer despite having bachelor degree and OBC certificate with them. This contradiction in place like Kalahandi is surprising but it is a real fact and mainly due to improper planning in higher educational policy, specially, at the local level.

On the other hand, there is no state University in Kalahandi or KBK region to meet local requirements. Being an autonomous college, Government Autonomous College, Bhawanipatna has limited flexibility to introduce new courses on nursing, pharmacy, optometrist, agriculture, horticulture, banking and services, metal processing, information processing, computer science, medicine etc in the diploma, bachelor as well as postgraduate level course to fulfill local demand.

A Unitary University, however, will give this institution independency to introduce new courses not only in the discipline mentioned above but also in the field of medicine, agriculture, technology etc based on local requirements as a “Real University”.

Government Autonomous College Bhawanipatna is located on NH 201 and has 60 acres of land and towards its north-east more than 100 acres of land are under the possession of the State Government and some private individuals which are lying vacant and can be utilized for horizontal structural growth. If situation arises like for Ravenshaw University, there is sufficient of land near to Bhawanipatna for future possible expansion of a new separate campus.

Recently, Human Resource Development, Govt. of India has selected locations for IIT/IIM/WCCU based on region and not based on population and other parameters. In fact, as per Government notification Amarkantak was chosen for “Indira Gandhi National Tribal University” because it is centrally located tribal region in Maharastra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.

Kalahandi is the central district in KBK region. Even including other backward districts of Kandhamal, Boudh and Padampur sub-division, Bhawanipatna, could be ideally suited as a central location in this region. All major towns/districts of KBK as well as Boudh, Kandhamal and Padampur (Bargarh Dist) could be easily reached within 200 km by state/national highways from this place.

Based on location, available infrastructure, local & regional requirements, quality and importantly merit Government Autonomous College Bhawanipatna deserves to be a Unitary University.

Making Government Autonomous College Bhawanipatna a Unitary University will help this institution to improve its infrastructure to introduce new courses and improve its research facilities in this part, specially, in a backward part of the state that does not have any state University to meet all local requirements in employment and education.

We urge you to immediately approve and make the Government Autonomous College Bhawanipatna to a Unitary University in the next cabinet meeting.

Thanking you

Best regards

Dr Digambara Patra
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry
American University of Beirut
Beirut, Lebanon

Meeting on “Railways in Orissa” & our demand to sanction a Rail Link in Kandhamal

Respected Sir,

We would like to invite you to our session on Railways in Orissa and our demand to sanction a Rail Link in Kandhamal. The gathering will comprise of concerned Odia Budhijibi inside and outside of Orissa as well as political activist and representative from different Political party. Agami Odisha member Prof Chitta Baral from Arizona University ( USA) will give a presentation on Railways.

This programme is being conducted jointly by Agami Odisha. Swabhiman Odisha Munch , Lokasamukhya and Focus Orissa. Being convener of this programme, I will be highly obliged for your august presence in our meeting on 7th January’09 at Red Cross Bhawan by 10.30 AM. Please find our leaflet attached.

Thanking You,

Yours Truely

Date & Time-7th Jan’09 at 10.30AM to 2PM ( Lunch)
Redcross Bhawan, Unit-9,Bhubaneswar

Convener) Er. Lalit Pattnaik.
Working President Agami Odisha

Naveen's pre-poll gift to Kalahandi, 28th December, 2008

The State Government has decided to open an engineering college and an agriculture college in Kalahandi district. This was decided at a high-level meeting presided over by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik here today. Naveen has directed the authorities concerned to start the construction of the two colleges immediately.
Work on the two colleges will start during the current financial year. A provision of Rs 5 cr each will be made for this. The engineering college will be established at Bhawanipatna with 240 seats. The seats will be filled up through joint entrance examination and admissions will start from the next academic year. The proposed college has got the approval of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
The new agriculture college, with 48 seats, will function from the next academic year in the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) at Bhawanipatna. This will be the third agriculture college in the State after Bhubaneswar and Chiplima.
The Chief Minister said establishment of these two colleges in Kalahandi will help in the economic growth of the district. Among others, Chief Secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathy, Development Commissioner TK Mishra and senior officials attended the meeting.
Spokesperson of Kalahandi Central University Kriyanustan Committee Akshaya Kumar Nanda welcomed the decision and said in Bhawanipatna that the move will boost higher education in technical field in the district having no technical college.
However, the proposed two colleges are no alternative for Central university for which the people are fighting. Similarly, president of Sikshya Vikash Committee Gopabandhu Behera said setting up of a Central university is the prime demand of the people