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.