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May 15-21, 07

Jharkhand Grievance: Complaints caught in web

Jamshedpur, May 20: You have a complaint, but who’s listening?

The Jharkhand government set up an online grievance cell ( a couple of years ago, promising to redress problems within a week of their registration and display the status on the worldwide web. But only to remain on paper.

About 250 grievances have been posted, with complaints like against former chief secretary P.P. Sharma to request for postal address of departments. Not one problem has been redressed yet.

Some interesting grievances that attract attention of anyone browsing the official website are for example: grievance number 110 addressed to the Raj Bhavan by Lt. Col. B.P. Singh (retd.) on June 4, 2006.

“Request early action on my grievance no. 102, 100. This is regarding grabbing of my four-acre land in Brambey by B.N. Sharma, father of former chief secretary P.P. Sharma, now director-general of the Administrative Training Institute.” Singh first registered the complaint on May 26, 2006. Despite three reminders, its status remains the same. The website shows “no reply”.

Another grievance posted by one Binay Kumar Singh on February 19, 2006, goes thus: “I live in Pandra. Here one Pawan Saw Mill, which is illegally situated on adivasi land, is highly pollutant in nature. In addition to wood, it also takes up work of marble cutting. Due to air and sound pollution, it has become extremely difficult for us to reside in our house. Even during the night it continues to work. I have my retired ageing parents who are suffering from heart disease. It has now become a threat to our health and our right to lead a peaceful life. Recently an oil mill was also opened. This mill is also highly pollutant in nature. How industry department has given permission to open such industries in residential area needs to be examined.”

Another grievance posted by one Vinay to agriculture and sugarcane development department on August 13, 2005 is: “I need your postal address to send agricultural development plan for rural areas.” None of the complaints have been replied to nor have any action been taken on them.

An officer looking after the upgradation of the website, however, boasts: “We would have easily deleted the comments which are against us. We have not done so and boldly posted them on the Net.” He was referring to an anonymous grievance posted on August 15, 2006, to the agriculture and sugarcane development department. It asked: “If you cannot reply to a single grievance, then is it to fool us?”

High on power, low on delivery

The ongoing controversy over the alleged misrepresentation by Lanco-Globeleq Singapore during the bidding process for 4,000 mw Sasan ultra mega power project (UMPP) and the subsequent delays by the Centre in the resolution of the issue has dampened the mood of investors. On top of it, the power ministry’s admission that it was not possible to complete UMPPs—at least Sasan and Mundra, which has been awarded to Tata Power Company—in the 11th plan as they would spill over to 12th plan has raised doubts over the Centre’s will to develop power projects through public private partnership.

UMPP is the brainchild of former power secretary RV Shahi who took the initiative and roped in the Power Finance Corporation (PFC) as the nodal agency for the development of UMPPs. Initially, UMPPs were planned in Madhya Pradesh (Sasan), Gujarat (Mundra), Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh (Krishnapatnam), Maharashtra (Girye) and Chhatisgarh. These six projects with the total capacity addition of 24,000 mw entail an investment of Rs 96,000 crore.

Shahi, who pursued the progress made by PFC on the bidding process for Sasan and Mundra projects, succeeded in awarding them to the successful bidders before the end of December. Subsequently, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Jharkhand came forward with their desire to develop UMPPs and thereafter, PFC launched the necessary groundwork for the same. Shahi went on to argue that the development of UMPP with 800 mw unit, to be used for the first time in India, would help achieve the Centre’s target of capacity addition of one lakh mw by 2012. Meanwhile, Shahi’s extension ended on January 31 when the new power secretary, Anil Razdan, took over.

Even after Ernst & Young, the bid advisor for the UMPPs, said the bid of Lanco-Globeleq Singapore was invalid, there has been no decision from the PFC on the fate of the Sasan project.

The bid validity will expire on June 6 and efforts are now being made by the Sasan Power Ltd, a special purpose vehicle set up by PFC to extend the bid validity upto July 6. Otherwise, PFC would have to rope in fresh invites and it is convinced that bidders would not be able to quote a competitive tariff of Rs 1.19 per unit at which Lanco Globeleq Singapore outmarched other bidders.

As far as other UMPPs are concerned, there have been delays in the submission of financial bid for the Krishnapatnam UMPP by providing flimsy reasons such as non-availability of mega status. As per the revised date, the qualified bidders are expected to submit financial bids on May 25. However, due to recent developments involving Sasan project, investors are not sure whether PFC would stick to the May 25 deadline or postpone it further.

Seeking More

• Overall energy shortage in India is 8.8% . Peaking shortage is 14%

• Generation capacity has to be doubled by 2016 with requisite transmission and distribution systems

• Capacity addition of 78,577 mw is envisaged for the 11th plan

• The power ministry has ruled that aggregate transmission and commercial (AT&C) losses above 15%

• States said additional capacity of 25,817 mw could be added

• Power ministry has avoided inclusion of hydro projects in the 11th plan due to gestation period of over four years

• Additional projects include: 230 mw (2008-09), 1,220 mw (2009-10), 8,593 mw (2010-11), 15,754 mw (2011-12)

The first date of submission was March 9 but was postponed to April 12 and later, further deferred to May 25. This was conveyed to the qualified bidders at the last minute.

The request for qualification (RFQ) for submission of Tilaiya (Jharkhand) UMPP was delayed. The date of submission was March 20 but was postponed to April 10. The decision to postpone the RFQ submission was also conveyed to the bidders after the expiry of the deadline. RFQ from various bidders was submitted on April 10 and it has been more than a month now but the names of the selected bidders are yet to be announced.

The power ministry, which had initially been quite enthusiastic about the implementation of UMPPs, is yet to resolve the difference with the Chhattisgarh government with respect to the allocation of certain power at free cost from the proposed UMPP. In fact, there has not been any substantial development.

Similarly, due to the politisation of the issue, the proposed UMPP at Girye in Maharashtra would not be possible. Though the Maharashtra government, which is striving to meet the ever increasing power demand, is keen for the Girye site, it was unable to convince the locals and various political parties. Due to this, the power ministry and state government are looking at other sites in the coastal Raigad and Ratna-giri districts.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy expressed concerned over the turn of events in the case of Sasan project and observed that apart from non achievement of the targets, it may give bad publicity to the government’s move to set up other UMPPs and ultimately affect the goal of electricity for all. The committee noted “Having achieved only 21,180 mw capacity addition during 10th plan and with a target of 78,577 mw during the 11th plan, there is no likelihood of acheiving 1,00,000 mw generation capacity by 2012 as had been envisaged by the government. No effort should be spared to achieve this target. The power situation in the country needs daily monitoring and accountability to ensure progress as envisaged by the government.”

Apart from UPMM, Shahi had launched an exercise for the development of merchant power plants and held the maiden meeting with states on January 16. After a series of talks with states, Shahi had indicated that the capacity addition of at least 10,00 mw would be possible through merchant plants in various states in the 11th plan. Ironically, there has not been updates on coal linkages to merchant power plants.

On similar lines of UMPP, expression of interest for two tranmission projects were submitted by various bidders on January 31 and its been more than four months now, the power ministry has yet to notify the standard bid documents which is necessary to float the RFQ and request for proposal (RFP).

Moreover, it has been four months since applications were made by power developers for allocation of coal blocks but there has been no initiative from the power ministry to expedite the process of coal block allocation for power projects.

Jharkhand’s MLAs have beacon light vehicles

Ranchi, May 15 (IANS): Over 50 percent of Jharkhand’s legislators enjoy vehicles with beacon lights – quite contrary to the spirit of a law that restricts the number of ministers in states to 15 percent of the assembly strength in order to curb official expenditure.

Possessing vehicles fitted with beacon lights usually ensures VIP treatment as these vehicles are virtually accorded first right of passage and seldom stopped for police checks or towed away from no parking zones.

In the 82-member Jharkhand assembly, as many as 44 MLAs have access to beacon light vehicles. What’s more, it’s not just ministers who enjoy the facility, for even other MLAs of the ruling alliance and those of opposition parties have access to it.

While a law is in place to restrict the size of the council of ministers in various states to 15 percent of assembly strength, it has hardly helped in cutting down expenditure in Jharkhand.

According to the law, only 12 ministers, including the chief minister, are permissible in Jharkhand and logically, they can keep vehicles with beacon lights besides the speaker.

But in Jharkhand, assembly committee chairpersons are also allowed to keep vehicles with beacon lights. And Speaker Aalamgir Aalam has created 31 assembly committees, thus elevating 31 legislators to the post of chairperson.

The chairperson of each committee is entitled to keep one personal secretary, one office with a computer and other facilities – never mind if the state government hardly ever accepts the recommendations of these committees.

Here’s an example. Meinheart, a company, was entrusted with the task of preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the drainage and sewerage system of Ranchi.

It was given Rs.210 million for the DPR – something a legislator objected to as financial mismanagement. Soon an assembly committee was constituted that nailed officials and then urban development minister Raghubar Das. But present Urban Development Minister Harinarayan Rai has rejected the committee recommendation.

“If the government does not accept the recommendation of the committee, it lowers the dignity of the assembly,” said Sukhdeo Bhagat, a member of the committee.

The chairpersons of boards and corporations are also entitled to beacon lights. There are 32 such boards and corporations in the state.

The irony is while such VIP facilities are increasing along with the cost to the exchequer, the number of families living Below the Poverty Line (BPL) has increased by 100,000 in the last six years after the state’s formation.

A simple index can track real deprivation. Caste is so misguiding as policy tool

Is there a better question to ask, as the UPA completes three years, than who really is the aam aadmi? Who are India’s poor? How does public policy select the right beneficiaries? ‘Weaker sections’ is a vague expression. ‘Backward classes’ is a shade more precise, though we can go around in circles trying to define working class, lower class, proletariat, lumpen-proletariat, lower class, under-class and slave-class. Marxist taxonomy has contributed to further confusion. But it is obvious that class is fundamentally an economic construct.

Note that in 1963, when a 50 per cent cap was imposed by courts in the Balaji case, 50 per cent of India’s population was indeed below the poverty line (BPL). NSS (National Sample Survey) data show a BPL figure of 27.5 per cent in 2004-05 according to one method (uniform recall) and 21.8 per cent according to a different method (mixed recall). Today, if we continue to harp on 50 per cent, we fail to recognise India has changed. And we do harp on 50 per cent. 15 per cent for SCs and 7.5 per cent for STs add up to 22.5 per cent. Since courts allow 50 per cent, 27.5 per cent must be other backward classes (OBCs). That’s a far better justification of the 27 per cent OBC figure than the 1931 Census, though there is a minor complication because combined SC/ST share in the total population has increased to 24.4 per cent. There is a tendency to assume all categories of people must be poor — SCs/STs, OBCs, women, physically handicapped, ex-servicemen, those born from inter-caste marriages, dependents of army forces personnel killed in action, Muslims (after Sachar Committee).

They must all benefit, not from positive affirmation, but from its Indian counterpart, reservations and quotas. There is a joke floating around on the Net about a rich girl (in KG) who was asked to write an essay about a poor family. This family (the couple and their two children), their gardener, driver, guard and four dogs were all poor. The family hadn’t eaten chicken for two days, the Mercedes hadn’t been serviced, the AC wasn’t working properly, the house hadn’t been painted for one year, the last foreign vacation was six months ago and so on. The point should be obvious to anyone not inordinately dumb, unless that person happens to be a politician. By correlating class (which is what one should be after) with caste, a double mistake is committed. First, one assumes everyone in a backward caste is economically backward (the so-called creamy layer issue). Second, one assumes everyone in a forward caste is economically forward, even if that person happens to reside in the rural back-of-beyond of eastern UP. The worst BPL state is Orissa, with a BPL figure

of 46.4 per cent — worse than Bihar. Isn’t it incongruous that the backward caste (SCs/STs/OBCs and based on NSS 1999-2000 data) population should be 29 per cent in Orissa and 66 per cent in

Tamil Nadu?

To restate, there is no denying deprivation among backward individuals, but this backwardness is an individual characteristic. Any attempt to ascribe backwardness to collective identity (caste or even geography, as is done in identification of 200 backward districts) is incorrect even if it is seemingly simpler. There can be a legitimate debate about whether reservations (education or jobs) are the best mode. But the broader issue is of identifying the poor (poverty not meaning income poverty alone), an exercise also required for subsidy targeting. One needs a BPL census rather than an OBC census. But since that’s difficult and also prone to abuse, are there other indicators one can use, spliced into an index? Since some districts (around 100) lack any physical or social infrastructure worth the name, one can also build that collective element into the index. Such indices have been suggested by Purushottam Agrawal (JNU), Yogendra Yadav and Satish Deshpande (CSDS) and Sachar Committee. In addition, there are 13 parameters suggested by the Planning Commission. Whichever technique is used, if the overall beneficiary figure (including for reservations) is more than 20 per cent, we are going wrong. And we will also go wrong if the bulk of beneficiaries aren’t in states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Bihar, UP, Orissa, MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, not Tamil Nadu and Andhra.

However, an index is often too complicated. UNDP’s human development index (HDI) is a case in point, based on per capita income, education and health indicators alone. Its virtue is simplicity. Other indicators could have been included (and there was a debate when HDI first surfaced in 1990), but it transpires these three capture all we want. The National Family Health Survey found (1998-99) 47 per cent of children (under 3) are under-weight. A Nutrition Foundation of India study (2002) found 29 per cent of Delhi’s children (4-18 years) in a private school are over-weight. How many poor individuals are obese or over-weight? If we based reservation criteria on per capita income, BMI (body mass index) and mother’s literacy, we would probably do a far better job at identifying those who need reservations. Twenty other indicators can be added, but that loses the virtue of simplicity. As HDI (which is also an indicator of deprivation) showed, because of correlations, a few simple indicators often suffice. In any event, BMI is far superior to caste. Caste may lead to roads being named after specific individuals, but as a public policy tool, it is a road that leads nowhere. Remember the song ‘Road to Nowhere’? That has a line, “But they’ll make a fool of you.” That is what politics has always been.

The writer is an economist

Virgin mines to ease ore tangle

Ranchi, May 17: Little known till the other day, Ghatkuri mines could bail the Jharkhand government out of the stalemate over providing mining lease to investors and bring the industrialisation process back on track.

Situated about 16 km north of Chiriya mines in mineral rich West Singhbhum district, the state geology department explored the virgin mine for last six months. And the findings were inspiring. The Fe (iron ore) content of the mineral in the mines is 62 per cent, just one per cent less than that in Chiriya mines. Its iron reserves are more than 600 million tonnes — a quantity that companies like Arcelor-Mittal had been looking for its proposed steel plant.

The reserves could be higher than our initial findings, said geologist Arun Kumar, associated with the exploration. The geology department has sought the forest department’s permission to carry out drilling work — an exercise that would enable it to ascertain the exact quantity of iron ore reserves in the mines.

Divided into four blocks —Ruam, Lutuburu, Pansiburu and Rajabera — the Ghatkuri mine is located at Ghatkuri reserve forest. Sprawling over about 60 sq km, its mineral deposit is spread over 32 sq km.

Little was known about Ghatkuri till last year when the state government erroneously recommended mining leases to few private companies there unaware that the Union government had reserved that area for PSUs way back in ’60s. Before the Centre could act, the state government hurriedly withdrew the recommendations.

The private firms moved the Jharkhand High Court against the government’s decision thereafter, but the court gave its verdict favouring the state government.

The government initiated a move to find out the quantity and quality of iron ore reserves of Ghatkuri mine at this juncture. The mines department is already enthused by the findings at Ghatkuri, as they have given a feedback.

Although the government cannot give leases directly to investors at Ghatkuri, it can allot mining lease to Jharkhand State Mineral Development Corporation (JSMDC) — a PSU of the state government. JSMDC and private investors can enter into joint ventures for mining at Ghatkuri.

Hyderabad blast SIM card traced to Jharkhand

The West Bengal Police have picked up one Mohammed Shahid, a mobile phone shop owner from Jamtara district in Jharkhand for allegedly selling the Hutch SIM card, which was recovered from a mobile phone connected to one of the unexploded bombs in the mosque premises in Hyderabad on Friday.

Jharkhand Additional Director General of Police (Special Branch) Gaurishankar Rath, however, said Shahid was not arrested, as he was “apparently cooperating with the investigators.”

Shahid, a resident of Mihijam locality of Jamtara district, runs a mobile phone shop at Rupnarayanpur locality under Chittaranjan Township of the adjoining Bardhaman district in West Bengal.

Shahid has confirmed having sold the SIM card to one Babulal Yadav in June 2006. This is one of the two SIM cards that the police recovered from mobile phones connected to an unexploded bomb. Police are, however, convinced that the name Babulal Yadav is a fictitious one.

“Although, the West Bengal Police have not shared details with us, we have been told that he would be released,” Rath told Hindustan Times on Monday.

“Shahid has been taken to Kolkata where the sleuths from West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh are interrogating him. He would be released soon,” Jamtara DSP Rajaram Prasad said.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of West Bengal is assisting a police team from Hyderabad to probe Friday’s blast at the Mecca Masjid.

Incidentally, both Jharkhand and Bihar have no coverage for Hutch SIM cards, and Shahid must have kept it with him for customers from West Bengal .

“The buyer had submitted photocopies of a driving license issued in Babulal Yadav’s name as identity proof to procure the SIM card. We are in the process of varifying the document,” said a police officer in Jamtara.

“Shahid initially said he does not recall the details about the person whom he sold the SIM card. However, he has identified the photograph of the buyer. The police have also seized his shop’s sale-register that has the photograph of the SIM card buyer,” the officer said.

11 worshippers were killed and over 50 were injured on Friday when a powerful blast ripped through a heavy congregation at the historic Mecca Masjid near Charminar, the 400-year-old symbol of Hyderabad.

Information from the slightly damaged but still verifiable SIM card, recovered from the mobile phone used as the detonating device has led the police reach Mohammad Shahid at Mihijam locality in Jamtara district of Jharkhand on Sunday.

According to police, a very sophisticated technology was used to detonate the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) filled with a mixture of RDX and TNT in Hyderabad. “A phone call from anywhere in the world to the mobile attached to the IED is enough to trigger the blast,” said an officer.

Police sources said they hope to make some more progress by tracing the calls made or received from the mobile phone that used the SIM card.
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Jharkhand’s mysterious village of the deaf

Ranchi, May 19 – For generations, a village in Jharkhand has produced people who are hard of hearing. But the authorities have hardly lent an ear to their plight.

The problem has mysteriously persisted for decades in the Muslim-dominated Jhumarvad village of Deogarh district, about 350 km from here.

Shamshool Mia, a 62-year-old villager, said: ‘I am hard of hearing since birth. I consulted local doctors but their treatment failed to cure me. I will have to suffer it till I die.’

Shakeel Ahmad, another resident, said: ‘I have three sons and two of them are hard of hearing. We are unable to understand why the people of this village face a hearing problem.’

‘Even treatment makes no impact on us,’ he said. Ahmad pointed out that there was hardly a house in the village without at least one hearing impaired.

The problem has refused to go away.

‘My grandfather had a similar problem too. While my father was spared, I and my daughter have the same ailment,’ said Aabid Ansari, another resident of the village.

In the village’s primary school, there are 110 students, of whom 40 face the same problem.

‘It is indeed a difficult task to ensure that each student hears me properly. I have to speak loudly in the classroom,’ said a teacher.

Doctors are somewhat baffled.

Manish Kumar, an ENT specialist, said: ‘The disease might have resulted from some food habit or absence of the hearing vein. It can also be a reaction to medicines or injury in the ear. But the exact reason can be known only after investigating the villagers and studying their medical history.’

When Jharkhand Health Minister Bhanu Pratap Shahi’s attention was drawn towards the problem, he said: ‘I came to know about the plight of the villagers just two days ago.

‘I have asked the district administration to go to the village with doctors and investigate. If need be, we will send specialised doctors from Ranchi for treatment of the villagers.’

Unspent fund worries panel

PATNA: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on health and family welfare has expressed deep concern over non-utilisation of funds meant for elimination of leprosy in several states, including Bihar and Jharkhand. The funds were meant for training and other related activities.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee, in its 22nd report on health and family welfare tabled in both the Houses of Parliament in the current session, said that several states, including Bihar and Jharkhand, had huge unspent balances with them till March 2007. Sadly, Bihar tops the list of such states.

The committee noted that several states, including Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, which are yet to achieve the goal of elimination of leprosy, figure in the list. The committee fears that during the current year too, similar amounts would accumulate as unspent balances.

The committee feels that monitoring of the utilisation of funds is not being done properly by the department concerned. Unspent balances cause targeted beneficiaries to remain deprived of the scheme and, therefore, the prevalence rate in these states is coming down very slowly.

It said that it would like to be informed about the number of physically deformed people, who have been rehabilitated under the programme during the last five years.

Elimination of leprosy at national level has, however, been achieved since December 31, 2005 when the prevalence rate came down to 0.95 per 10,000.

A sum of Rs 40 crore was allocated for the year 2007-08 taking into account the fact that new cases will continue to come up for some time and that newly detected cases have to be provided with quality service so that they are treated in time.

This report could not have come at a worst time when WHO and the WHO goodwill ambassador for elimination of leprosy, Yohei Sasakawa, International Leprosy Union, Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation and other organisations are making an all-out effort to achieve the elimination target in these states at the earliest.

Treatment takes six months to two years with the highly effective multi-drug therapy (a combination of Dapsone, Rifampicin and Clofazimine). Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the disabilities traditionally associated with leprosy.

Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, fear, ignorance and the persistent social stigma prevent many from seeking treatment.

Most people have a natural immunity to leprosy. In fact, only about 5 per cent of the world’s population is susceptible to leprosy. Leprosy is not hereditary. It is not transmitted through casual contact.

Leprosy remains a major health problem in 24 countries, with the largest number of affected people residing in India, Brazil, Indonesia, Myanmar , Madagascar and Nepal.

A survey conducted last year has, to date, found over 800 leprosy colonies throughout India, of which states like Jharkhand accounts for 52, Bihar-42, Chattisgarh-34, West Bengal-39, Delhi-22 and UP-55. These colonies, generally isolated from the rest of society, become the permanent home for those who go there.

They are not funded by the government and most of the residents come to live there as society’s attitude towards leprosy has driven them away from their families.

NREGA audit gets underway in Jharkhand

NEW DELHI, MAY 18: A ‘unique’ social audit of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), one of the UPA government’s flagship programmes, is underway in Ranchi district of Jharkhand since May 14. Under the Act, a social audit is mandatory.

The 275-member audit team including economist Jean Drèze (Allahabad University), social activist Aruna Roy (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan), both of whom are former members of the National Advisory Council to the UPA, that set the scheme in motion. According to a press release by NREGA Watch, an informal coalition of organisations working for effective implementation of the scheme, the audit, which will cover 15 gram panchayats, will end with a public hearing on May 23 in Ranchi followed by consultations with the state government on May 24. Since corruption has derailed many employment programmes in the past, there is fear that NREGA may follow the same fate.

Hence, the need for social audit, says the release. Recent experience in many states, especially Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, shows that it is possible to eradicate corruption.

However, this requires rigorous enforcement of transparency measures, effective exercise of the right to information, and building a culture of public vigilance. Citing the success story of Andhra Pradesh, the release said because of social audits the state government had started recovering embezzled funds (Rs 5 lakh in 26 gram panchayats in 12 districts in the last month alone). Another areas prone to corruption is fudging of “muster rolls”. Last year’s audit found that 85% of muster rolls in one district were fake.

Helipad plan at CM home
- State to have two chopper harbours

Ranchi, May 20: The Jharkhand government does not have a helicopter after its hired Agusta crash-landed in Dumka last April, but the state would soon have two helipads at its disposal.

While one standard-sized helipad will be ready at the chief minister’s house by the end of August, another helipad of the same size would be constructed at Khunti, about 50 km from Ranchi.

The helipad at the chief minister’s residence, said officials, would save time and money and is also gives a safer alternative to Koda.

“Every time the chief minister flies, about 10 vehicles are on his cavalcade to or from the airport, about 15 km from Koda’s Kanke Road residence. But with a helipad on the doorsteps, the fuel money of the vehicles would be saved. It will also save time and avoid inconvenience to the people,” he added.

Koda is not the only person in the government set to get a facelift on the residence. A Rs 42-lakh, double-storeyed building would be constructed beside the Doranda-based government residence of building construction minister Ainosh Ekka.

Tenders have been floated for the three-bedroom building, with plans to finish it within five months.

Ekka wants to shift to the new house as his present accommodation is about 80 years old and often needs repair. The building construction minister has spent less than Rs 10 lakh on his official accommodation, unlike many ministers and bureaucrats who have spent over Rs 50 lakh, said an official.

The helipad, however, would be a novelty as Jharkhand would probably be one of the few states with such a facility on the chief minister’s house, an official said.

The plan to set up a helipad was mooted during Arjun Munda’s tenure as chief minister but government procedures delayed it, the government official added.

But to make optimum use of the helipad the government would first have to purchase a helicopter.

It had hired an Agusta from Indore-based OSS Aviation but chopper had crash-landed in Dumka on April 28. The government was reluctant to hire choppers and was looking to buy Dhruv choppers from HAL, said sources.

In 2003, Jharkhand government had given an advance of Rs 15 crore to HAL for two Dhruvs but was hesitant after India’s first indigenously built advance light helicopters crash-landed repeatedly. However, now it has decided to buy one and is waiting for the finance department’s nod to release the remaining payment.

Protests intensify against Reliance Fresh stores in Jharkhand

Protests against Reliance Fresh outlets are intensifying in Jharkhand as vegetable vendors on Thursday took out rallies in the state, accusing the firm of undercutting and pushing them out of the market.

The protesters were shouting slogans against the Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Industries and demanding closure of the stores in the state.

“If the Reliance does not wind up its shops then we will be left with no other option but to go for violent protests that happened in Ranchi,” said Vinod Baitha, a member of Vegetable Sellers Association (VSA) of Dhanbad district.

Echoing his sentiment Kunti Mahto, another vegetable vendor, said: “The state government is helping Reliance and acting against the poor who earn daily livelihood by selling vegetables. If Reliance is not stopped from selling vegetables then we will starve to death.”

Vegetable vendors also staged sit-ins in front of the deputy commissioner’s office in capital Ranchi and demanded closure of the Reliance Fresh outlets and release of the six arrested vegetable vendors.

On Saturday, vegetable vendors had attacked three Reliance Fresh outlets in Ranchi and damaged property worth Rs 5 million. Police baton-charged the protesters in which about two dozen vendors were injured.

Police arrested 17 people in Saturday’s attack and two cops were suspended for dereliction of duty. The Special Task Force of Jharkhand Armed Police has been deployed at Reliance Fresh stores.

IPS officers unwilling to come to Jharkhand

The Centre has rolled out a red carpet to IPS officers willing to serve in Jharkhand. The invitation, however, has failed to evince any response across the country from the elite men in the Khaki.

Since 2005, the Centre has been sending directions to all states governments, seeking them to depute “bright and willing IPS officers to Jharkhand.” The Centre has been issuing such directions after Jharkhand made a series of representations to it, highlighting that the state was woefully short of IPS officers.

“The latest such direction was issued on April 15, 2007,” Home Secretary Sudhir Triptahi told HT. ” The State Government is still waiting for a favourable response to this effect,” said a senior IPS officer.

Jharkhand is faced with an unprecedented shortage of IPS officers. It is left with only 70 IPS officers (excluding those on the Central deputation) to man the 110 cadre posts in Jharkhand police.

Not surprisingly, more than a dozen districts are being manned currently by State police service officers, who are yet to be promoted to the IPS ranks, while about 25 per cent senior IPS posts – officers who play a vital role in police administration investigations – are lying vacant.

The out-of- the box solution mooted by the Centre, according to a section of IPS officer, has apparently failed to yield desired effects because the Centre’s letter mentions that the “IPS officers are required in Jharkhand to fight the Naxalites.”

“This is in fact a de-motivator. Besides, the officers are unwilling to stay in Jharkhand on deputation due to operational difficulties and a lack of incentives,” a senior IPS officer told HT.

Officers, however, also blame the governments, the centre and the State, besides the Union Public Service Commission for having no long-term perspective. The shortage affects efficiency in multiple ways, they said.

Worse still, a number of IPS officers of Jharkhand cadre have shown inclination for central deputation. “It is not that the grass appears greener on the other side of the fence. On the contrary the service conditions, privileges and perks in Jharkhand are far better than what the government of India offers,” said a senior IPS officer.

“In Delhi, if you are on deputation below Joint Secretary level, you have to travel by public transport. In Jharkhand, the same officer would get a pool car which would be at his disposal all the time,” said a senior IAS officer.

But, the State Government’s inclination to post promoted IPS officers at crucial posts while leaving several regular IPS officers shunted to look after insignificant departments has also been a huge de-motivator, said an officer.


No summer vacation for Jharkhand schools this year

Ranchi: School teachers in Jharkhand have decided to protest a proposed move by the state government to keep schools open during the summer and boycott the classes.

According to a directive of the state’s Human Resources Development (HRD) department, all schools in the state would continue during summer and the classes, to be called summer camps, would be held during the morning hours between 7 A.M. and 10 A.M.

The summer camps will be held for a few weeks in all the 35,000 primary, middle and high schools in the state.

The directive, which was issued last week, has asked 67,000 teachers not to leave station during this period.

The teachers have announced to boycott the classes and also demanded that vacation is granted to both students and them.

“How the HRD can issue such a directive? We will oppose the directive and press that the vacation are given following the previous trend,” said Sanjay Trivedi, member of Jharkhand Primary Teachers’ Association, here Monday.

Other teacher organisations have also decided to oppose the HRD directive.

“If the department wants to organise summer camps then it should offer incentive for the teachers. And the teachers’ leave should be made optional on whether they want to enjoy vacation or want to take incentive,” Shiva Kumar, another teacher, said on Tuesday.

Jharkhand to open tribal university

Ranchi, May 18 -: The Jharkhand government will soon open a tribal university in the state to promote tribal languages.

Jharkhand Human Resources Development – minister Bandhu Tirkey said,’ The ministry has prepared the proposal and draft for opening up of the tribal university in the state. The draft will be placed soon in cabinet meeting to get the approval’.

‘After the state cabinet clears the proposal it will be sent to central government for final approval. There should be one tribal university in the state to promote the tribal languages of the state,’ said Tirkey.

The minister pointed out that a tribal university has been opened in Madhaya Pradesh and the Jharkhand government had sought the draft of that university.

Tribal inhabitants constitute 27 per cent of the total 27 million population of Jharkhand. There are 9 tribal languages and dialects of the state. They are Santhali, Oraon, Kharia, Ho, Mundari, Kurukh, Panchapargania, Nagpuri and Kurmali.

The state government has already issued a directive to its employees to learn one of the languages within 18 months. It has also decided to introduce tribal languages in the primary schools from the next academic year.

Tribal scholars are happy with the state government’s move to promote tribal languages. ‘It is indeed a matter of pride that the state government is planning to promote tribal languages which has been neglected for centuries. If tribal languages will not be promoted then it will become extinct,’ said Dukha Oraon, a schoolteacher.

Ranchi farmers welcome retail food chains

May 18: Farmers in Jharkhand capital Ranchi today welcomed the entry of big industrial houses in retail food chains, saying they would no longer be at the mercy of middlemen.

Vegetable farmers in Ranchi, which witnessed violent protests against opening of food chains by Reliance Industries Ltd. last week, said they have a better deal with the corporate chains.

“We were fed-up with the middlemen. Earlier, we had to take our vegetables to the middlemen who used to pay us a very low cost. But, we were compelled to sell to them in absence of an alternative, they had monopolized the business. Now, we have an option with Reliance who are paying us better prices,” said Deleshwar Sahu, a farmer.

Last week, street vendors attacked three stores owned by Reliance Industries in Ranchi, injuring over a dozen people.

It was one of the most serious cases of unrest linked to the entry of large, glitzy retail chains into the country’s fragmented 200 billion dollars food and grocery sector, which small shop owners see as a threat to their business.

The street vendors were agitated because Reliance outlets are selling vegetables at prices, much lower than the prevailing market price, driving away their customers.

“We have benefited a lot from the entry of big retail chains. Firstly, we save our time. Earlier we had to reach the market by nine at any cost and if we got delayed, the middlemen used to pay us much lower cost for the same vegetables. But since Reliance has entered the market, there is no time limit. We deliver vegetables according to our convenience,” said Laldeo, another vegetable farmer.

Reliance Retail Ltd., a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, is investing 5.6 billion dollars in hundreds of stores throughout the country.

Reliance has opened two stores in the city, where farmers are able to sell their produce directly.

Since it launched its retail operations last year, Reliance has more than 90 fresh vegetable and food stores. It expects to start opening hyper-markets in the next few months.

Other big national firms as well as the foreign players like Britain’s Tesco and Wal-Mart are planning to enter the fast growing retail food sector.

Late fillip to local language

Learn a tribal language within 18 months and clear a written test as well as an oral examination; or forego salary, increments and possibly promotion.

The state government’s decision to revive and implement this existing provision for its employees, both gazette and non-gazette, has been hailed across the board. Knowledge of one tribal language will help transform the administration, they all felt.

In Tamil Nadu, no IAS officer is posted as a district magistrate unless he or she is fluent in Tamil. Similarly, Hindi-speaking officers of All India Services posted in Bengal are required to learn Bengali.

The situation in Jharkhand is more complicated with at least five regional languages or dialects being spoken in different areas.

Latehar superintendent of police Ravikant Dhan is a Mundari-speaking tribal but is posted in an Oraon belt. Conceding his difficulty in communicating in Kurukh, the superintendent says he will find it difficult to clear the test in Mundari too without preparation.

In Singhbhum and Santhal Pargana, knowledge of Ho and Santhali is essential to communicate. But large number of teachers, engineers, government employees and doctors are not conversant with the languages.

A Santhal inspector posted at Bundu says he finds it easier to follow Mundari and Ho spoken in the area. But it is difficult for someone with no knowledge of a tribal language.

The fresh crop of IAS and IPS officers in the state are conversant with at least one tribal language. Deoghar SP Manoj Kaushik passed his test in Mundari and can converse with people in the Mundari-speaking areas. But in Santhal Pargana, Santhali, he admits, would have been more useful.

Ignorance of the local language hampers communication between magistrates and litigants, between police and the people and in government offices. The belated decision will go a long way to improve governance in the state, agree the babus.

A JAP commander, who does not know any local language, says that in many parts of the state, people do not respond to Hindi.

While Ranchi University is likely to provide resource persons and arrange for special classes, the Administrative Training Institute (ATI) and the Tribal Welfare Research Institute here are also getting ready to facilitate classes for government employees.

A section of the government feels that given the large number of employees, there is an urgent need for private coaching institutes to come up. Also, it would help if learning a tribal language is made mandatory in schools also for at least four to five years.

Joint secretary of the department of personnel P.C. Verma says that the state government has merely revived an old Bihar government order dating back to 1953. But while the rule was confined to only gazetted officers, Jharkhand government has now made it mandatory for non-gazetted employees as well.

The board of revenue, he informed, will be holding the examination and the interview. “The idea is not to turn them into scholars but to ensure that everyone has a working knowledge of at least one tribal language,” he says. This will also reduce the dependence of employees on interpreters and middlemen.

While hailing the decision, a bureaucrat hoped that the government, too, will keep in mind the linguistic proficiency and preference of employees before posting and transferring them.

“An employee who has learnt Santhali should not be posted, for example, to Gumla, where people predominantly speak Kurukh,” he adds.

The first virtual community of Jharkhand Region

May 21, 2007 at 11:39 pm Leave a comment

May 08-14, 07

Jharkhand may offer equity to displaced

The Jharkhand rehabilitation and resettlement policy, expected any day now, is likely to include a proposal to offer equity to the displaced villagers as an option for compensating them for the loss of land.

According to the draft policy, the displaced villagers would either have to be given one job per family or a lumpsum, half of which could be in the form of equity in the projects.

The policy is also likely to make the approval of gram sabhas a must for identifying land for the projects.

“The collector will determine the market rate and the compensation advisory committee will consider the collector’s recommendation,” the draft policy says. A rehabilitation advisory committee would suggest relief packages for the displaced.

The policy will make various MoUs between the state government and industries a reality. Many companies, sources said, could not acquire land due to the absence of such a policy.

Jharkhand government sources indicated that many projects—Tata Steel, Jindal Steel & Power, Hindalco—were at the land acquisition stage.

However, this is not the first time a state government is considering grant of equity in projects as compensation. Orissa’s rehabilitation policy has a provision for issuance of convertible preference shares to the displaced.

The value of the shares can be up to 50 per cent of the one- time cash assistance. The West Bengal government is also considering the option for its future projects.

However, industry executives say the displaced are unlikely to opt for equity as they will not know what to do the shares.

Ensure peace, Jharkhand told after Reliance Fresh protests (LEAD)

Ranchi, May 13 (IANS) The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Sunday asked the law and order agencies in Jharkhand to ensure peace and calm a day after the protests by vegetable vendors over the opening of Reliance Fresh shops here turned violent.

Thirteen people were arrested for violence Saturday and two policemen suspended for dereliction of duty following the attack on three shops of Reliance Fresh – a project promoted by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries.

According to official sources, the PMO contacted officials in Chief Minister Madhu Koda’s office to immediately look into the matter and issue necessary directions to ensure peace and calm in the state.

The union home ministry has also contacted Jharkhand police chief J.B. Mahapatra over the violence, for which five reports were lodged in two police stations – three in Lalpur and two in Bariatu, the sources added.

Among the 13 arrested is Uday Shankar Ojha, leader of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), who was reportedly taken into custody on the directions of the chief minister. At least two-dozen protesters were injured in a police baton charge, following which security at the outlets was enhanced, officials said.

According to a Reliance official, the protesting vendors damaged property worth Rs.5 million. One Reliance Fresh shop in Morabadi was badly ransacked and the protesters looted dry fruits and damaged vegetables and other commodities.

The vendors were unhappy with the arrival of Reliance to retail vegetables. ‘We have been selling vegetables for generations. Reliance Fresh is a threat to our very survival and causing employment problems,’ said Phulmani Devi, a vendor.

‘We will starve to death if Reliance is not stopped from selling vegetables.’

This was the second time in a week that vegetable sellers took out processions to protest the opening of Reliance stores.

The group buys the produce directly from farmers at comparatively higher prices and since middlemen are eliminated, it retails it at much lower rates compared with roadside vendors.

Five Maoist rebels killed in Jharkhand

Five Maoist rebels have been killed by police and paramilitary forces in Jharkhand’s Garwah district, police said on Sunday.

A gunfight took place on Saturday night between the rebels and the forces in a jungle area of Garwah, around 130 km from ranchi. Five guerrillas, including two women rebels, were killed in the gun battle that lasted for over four hours.

“We got a tip off and raided a Maoist hideout, where around 35 rebels were camping. While five were killed, the rest managed to escape,” said a police official.

Four self-loading rifles (SLR), one AK-47 and more than 500 cartridges were recovered from the guerrillas, the official said.

Maoist rebels are active in 16 of Jharkhand’s 22 districts. Nearly 600 people, including 290 security personnel, have lost their lives in Maoist violence in the last six years.

Reliance ready to roll on

Ranchi, May 13: Vandalism by local vegetable vendors at four newly-opened Reliance Fresh outlets yesterday has not deterred the company’s plans for Jharkhand.

“So far, customers are only buying fruits and vegetables. They would soon get the opportunity to pick up clothes and dress material from our Reliance Digital and Reliance Hyper Market — the new entrants in the state capital,” announced top officials over phone from Mumbai.

“Our plan is to open one outlet for every 3,000 household in the country and Ranchi will be a part of it,” they added. Giving details about its expansion, the Reliance officials said a new outlet would be coming up at Bahu Bazaar for non-vegetarian items.

Reliance Fresh today carried out its business as usual in three of its four outlets in the city —SPG Mart in Bahu Bazaar, Laxmi Narayan Market at Tharpakhna and Rathore Tower on Circular Road.

The Morabadi outlet could not function because the vendors yesterday had damaged it badly during their protest against venture of big companies in the vegetable and fruit retailing.

Company officials at this outlet were seen busy assessing the damage with insurance surveyors throughout the day.

The police, who had failed to act promptly yesterday, too, were seen on vigil. Despite being Sunday and courts being closed, the city police produced the miscreants before the chief judicial magistrate at his residence and later forwarded them to Birsa Munda Central Jail.

Those arrested included a peace committee member and JVM leader Uday Shanker Ojha, who had led the vendors in the protest. Ojha said supporting the vendors was his personal decision and the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha had nothing to do with it. “I was invited to lead the vendors in my personal capacity,” he added.

Meanwhile, in response to a bandh called in the city today, few vendors were seen at Lalpur, Bahu Bazaar, Kutchery and Naga Baba Khatal market. Daily Market remained normal.

Senior police superintendent M.S. Bhatia said more arrests are possible.

Chhatarpur MLA and JD(U) leader Radha Krishna Kishore visited the Reliance Fresh outlet on Circular Road and H.B. Road to express his solidarity with the company and build a public opinion against the Koda government.

“What can we expect from the government, which failed to provide security to vegetable outlets in the city,” he said, demanding proper compensation for the businessmen who were targeted during Reliance Fresh outlet attacks. Kishore said his party leader George Fernandes would be coming tomorrow to express his solidarity with the company and highlight the administrative failure of the state government. Jharkhand Pradesh Mahila Congress president Prat-ibha Pandey also visited the outlets.

Malaria cases rises in Jharkhand

With plasmodium falciparum malarial cases registering a definite rise in Jharkhand, the State’s health authorities are finding it hard to cap the steadily increasing spread of malaria through most of the State’s 22 districts.

Not too long ago, the Government of India had sounded an alarm after seven Jharkhand districts were found in its list of 100 ‘highly endemic’ districts countrywide.

The State Health department, hampered by resource and staff crunch, is up against a Herculean task trying to cap the spread of the dreaded epidemic.

What complicates the issue further is the fact of detection of an inordinately large number of drug resistance cases being reported from the endemic zones as also by the fact the disease is being detected the whole year through. Normally, malarial instances are at their ‘highest’ during the post-monsoon period.

Despite the Centre pumping in several crore rupees every year there seems to be no check on the vectors. Over 75 per cent of the cases in the highly endemic zones are said to be of the ‘Plasmodium Falciparum’ strain, which, as is known, often leads to the worst kind of cerebral malaria.

Nearly 100 per cent of the malaria cases in Simdega have been found to be of the Falciparum variety while 90.24 per cent cases in Jamtara too are from the same dreaded category. Falciparum cases were recorded to over 75 per cent of the total cases in Gumla, West Singhbhum and East Singbhum.

Moreover, certain primary health centers in the affected districts have reported resistance to drugs leading to a second line of treatment in these areas.

State Malaria Officer In-charge Dr P. Baskey told HT that, “1.91 lakh people were reported positive in the State during the last year from the 20.56 lakh blood smears examined. The total slides collected during the year were 20.74 lakh”.

Dr Baskey pointed out that there had been only four confirmed deaths, while some 18 patients were put under the ‘suspect’ category. However, the number of deaths, as per unofficial figures, is said to be fairly high.

The Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Apollo Hospital, Seva Sadan and Gurunanak Hospital officials admitted to a rise in malaria cases.

What makes the scenario worse is that the State lacks the proper infrastructure and manpower to tackle the disease. This, despite the Centre for Tropical Medicine & Parasitoloy (CENTROMAP), Kolkata Advisor Dr A. Nandy warning the State that recent findings had indicated biological modifications in the plasmodium vivax parasite making it life threatening on the pattern of the falciparum cases.

State Malaria Officer Dr AK Upadhyay said proper measures had been initiated. “There are sufficient stocks of drugs supplied by the Centre,” he said.

Progress path for reform & growth

- IIPA in charge of training talks about development plan


In an attempt to provide trained manpower for the management of PSUs, the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, set up the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) in 1958.

IIPA, now headed by Vice-president of India Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, provides training to IAS, IPS and top government officials. The institute is all set for its first regional office in Ranchi. Vice-president and in-charge of training at IIPA, N.P. Singh talks to Rudra Biswas on the institute’s future plan for Jharkhand.

IIPA has regional offices in every state. Are you planning to set up one in Ranchi?

We have plans to set up a regional office in Ranchi. State industries secretary Santosh Kumar Satpathy as returning officer has been given the responsibility to set up our office in Ranchi at the earliest.

What plans do you have for Jharkhand?

IIPA has already proposed to conduct a weeklong intensive training programme for its cabinet ministers. The training programme would cover administration, poverty, development plans and disaster management. A second course has been outlined for all IAS officials in the state.

Why has IIPA chosen to train Jharkhand ministers in the first instance?

Over the past four years, the state government has signed more than four dozen MoUs with national and international entrepreneurs. However, procedural problems continue to stand in the way of implementation. Our initiatives would help the state transform all its MoUs into reality.

What other plans does IIPA have for the state?

IIPA, at the national level, is promoting the concept of a Special Agriculture Zone for the states, which needs to take precedence over Special Economic Zones. We intend to pass on IIPA’s studies on special agriculture zones to Jharkhand so that the state can harness its farm potentials.

You have recently headed an IIPA delegation to China. Haw can your China experience help Jharkhand?

IIPA intends to share its China experience with the state government. IIPA’s study on an east China province called Guizhou would be most relevant to the state. This eastern China province resembles Jharkhand to some extent in terms of mineral deposits, industrial base and its dependence on agriculture. An opening up policy, freedom of investment, reforms, development and cultivation of talents pursued by the Chinese government has worked wonders for Guizhou. The state government can imitate the similar experience to suit its requirements.

East new hotspot for state students

Ranchi, May 13: With the examination season drawing to an end, students are bracing for admission into colleges. And a paradigm shift has been witnessed over the past few years in the academic preferences of Jharkhand students.

Keeping in mind the changed scenario, Association of Professional Academic Institutes, Calcutta, along with Educatif Heritage, Ranchi, has organised a two-day career fair for the first time at Capitol Hill today.

“The fair aims to bring the best colleges of eastern India on one platform for easy choice of the students,” said S.S. Singh, chairman, Educatif Heritage.

Bypassing old favourites Maharashtra and Karnataka, eastern India has once again emerged as a much sought-after destination for Jharkhand students.

Priyanka Raj of DAV Jahanabad, who aspires to pursue BBA, said: “I would prefer an institute in Jharkhand or Bengal since the cost of living is affordable.”

Colleges in the south and west used to be the traditional preference of students from Jharkhand, but performance in joint entrance examinations has ceased to be the yardstick for admission there. Now, only candidates capable of paying huge donations are taken in, acting as a turn-off for students from other states.

Abhishek Kumar of Hatia, said: “Though I qualified in the Maharashtra joint entrance examinations, I was asked to pay a hefty amount as donation for admission. This generally does not happen in colleges in Orissa and Bengal.”

“The number of companies coming for campus placement to colleges of Bengal and Orissa, too, is greater as compared to those coming to institutes in other states,” said another student.

“This encourages me to select colleges belonging to this part of the country,” she added. “If we can get quality education in or around our hometown, why do we need to go to other states?” said Payal Mazumdar.

Pied pipers’ of Deogarh rid town of monkeys

KALAMATI: They are being hailed as ‘pied pipers’ of Deogarh, their subjects being monkeys. If locals are to be believed, the simians simply dread their presence.

They not only exercise absolute control over the animal species but also relish their meat. They have the extraordinary capability to trap monkeys by nets and have a feast.

Residing in hutments a stone’s throw away from the busy Howrah-Mumbai National Highway 6, they behave and look savage, as if cut off from the civilised world.

Neither do they understand Oriya nor Hindi and communicate in language that is incomprehensible to the locals. They are now being identified with Munda tribals of Jharkhand.

Forest dwellers by nature, it has been barely a decade that they have settled here after moving around in dense forests of Jharkhand and Bonai in Sundargarh.

Since then, their small hamlet comprising 42 families has been referred to as ‘Mankadia Sahi’ in acknowledgement of the special relation they share with monkeys.

This apart, 10 families also stay in Shantinagar within Deogarh block. When Deogarh was hit by monkey menace and even forest officials failed to tame them, these Mankadias were called in.

Their words of ‘Dalo, Dalo, Halo, Halo…’ still reverberate in the ears of the residents who recall the event with gusto. Latika Tripathy recalled how monkeys had invaded the town destroying crop, injuring people, breaking virtually everything they could lay their hands on.

It was such tough a time that people refused to come out of their homes in fear of the simians. And the moment the Mankadias landed and shouted the words, monkeys lined up like the rats akin to the ‘Pied Piper story’ and vanished from the scene.

The community still maintains a primitive lifestyle depending on the jungles for food and sustenance.

They make ropes and nets out of the leaves and bark of Siali plants to use them for trapping monkeys. The members of the tribe wear minimal clothes with children wearing nothing.

The administration, however, has started efforts to integrate them with the mainstream.

Breaking away from the confines of her small town helped realise her Bollywood dreams

Two films in two weeks – now that’s what being in business means. And Tanushree Dutta is lapping up every moment of her days now, touring the country to promote her films.

“I have a different look and role in each of my three forthcoming films. From a tomboy in Good Boy Bad Boy to the girl-next-door in Dhol and the negative character in Raqeeb, I have been given the opportunity to try out such diverse roles. I am really thankful to my directors and producers for that,” says Tanushree.

The former Miss India also claims that she is now consciously moving away from her ultra-glamourous look and looking for meaningful roles.

“Age is on my side and I feel this is the right time to experiment with different roles. That is why I did not hesitate to accept the negative character I play in Raqeeb.

With age, artistes develop set images which are sometimes difficult to break. So I am trying out a wide variety of roles at the moment,” she says.

Tanushree has also decided to abstain from any more intimate scenes in her films. “It’s a strict no-no as far as on-screen kissing or lovemaking scenes are concerned.

Featuring the kissing scene in Chocolate, I was very unwilling to do it and even wanted to quit the film because of it. But I was convinced by the director that the scene was integral to the film’s plot and so I agreed. And later, it was just chopped off.

So what was the need for me to enact that scene? That incident was my first learning experience in Bollywood. Although Aashiq Banaya Aapne also had a kissing scene, it was necessary to the film’s plot, so I don’t regret doing it.

But I felt really bad when I was watching the film with my family. I come from a very conservative background, no one in my family is a filmstar and for them to accept those bold scenes was tough. So I have now decided that I will not do any scene which will offend the sensibilities of my family,” says Tanushree.

Hailing from the small town of Jamshedpur, Tanushree believes that she has taken a quantum leap in achieving what she has today.

“I did my schooling there, but shifted to Pune for my senior school and college, though I did not finish my college education. In hindsight, moving out of Jharkhand was the best move of my life.

I always had such high expectations from life and people in that protective environment just thought that I was dreaming beyond possible horizons.

But I had a lot of faith in myself and that has helped me a lot,” reminisces Tanushree. She also takes the criticism that her acting and personal styling have faced in her stride.

“I am learning, give me time. When I first came here, I did not even know how to put on lipstick properly. But I have progressed and try to improve my way of dressing and make-up all the time.

I have not been blessed with a makeover the way, say, Manish Malhotra did for Karisma Kapur. I know my personal wardrobe has ample scope for improvement, but I have learned a lot more about styles and the latest trends than when I first joined this industry,” says Tanushree.

Though she is open to having a personal stylist, Tanushree says no one has approached her yet! She is also confident that she will find her niche in Bollywood without the help of any godfather.

“I will not deny that it is great if you have a godfather in this industry in that it makes the path a little smooth. But there is no sweat if there is no one. Talent and hard work ultimately pat handsome dividends in this line.

And I am confident that I will be able to make it. Initially my parents were not happy with my decision to join films. We had frictions and debates on this issue.

“Very few people from Jharkhand and certainly no one from my family are in Bollywood and my parents had other dreams for me. My dad wanted me to be an MBA and my mom wanted me to be an IAS officer.

But when they saw how hard I tried to excel in Bollywood, how I did not let failures bog me down, they gave in and realised that this is what I am destined to be. Today my parents are my biggest critics and drive me to excel,” says the happy daughter.

Apart from Bollywood, Tanushree is open to working in regional films as well, and says that she is willing to give Bengali films a try, if she gets a good script and good banner to promote the film.

“See, I am a director’s actor. I am dependent on the director to extract the best performance out of me. And a good banner is a must because a film needs to be promoted. So, I have no qualms about working in regional films.

“But at the moment, I am keeping my fingers crossed that my forthcoming Hindi films do well and people appreciate all the hard work I, and my whole team, have put into the making,” says Tanushree, as she rushes off to catch a flight to another city to promote her films.

Hi-tech landmines baffle Jharkhand Police

Ranchi, May 10 : When some Jharkhand cops succeeded in tracing a radio signal-based landmine this week, they considered themselves lucky. For, Maoists in the state are increasingly going high-tech with their landmines, resulting in heavy casualties in the police force.

In Tuesday’s incident in Bokaro district, the landmine was recovered when a police party was on long range patrolling. The rebels had fitted an antenna in the landmine so as to blast it by activating a wireless set.

Landmine blasts have claimed the lives of more than 170 security personnel in Jharkhand in the last six years – and the high number of deaths is partly attributed to the different types of landmines used by the rebels on tarred as well as non-tarred roads.

“So far Maoist rebels have used wires to blast landmines, claymore landmines, camera flash landmines, mobile landmines and radio signal landmines,” a senior police involved in anti-Maoist operations told IANS.

“Maoist rebels change the technique of landmines to ensure a high casualty.”

In mobile landmines, for instance, cell phones are fitted in the landmine and an explosion is triggered if a call is made to the phone. In the camera flash landmine, a flash can cause the blast.

Even Jharkhand Director General of Police (DGP) J.B. Mahapatra admitted that the Maoists were equipped with the latest technology to detonate landmines.

“Maoist rebels use different methods to detonate landmines. The latest is radio signal technology which is detonated with the activation of wireless sets,” he said.

In Jharkhand, the guerrillas of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) have planted landmines on both tarred and non-tarred roads. Landmines on tarred roads are usually planted by alluring workers and contractors or threatening them.

Police have stopped long range patrolling during night due to the threat of landmine blasts. Security personnel have also been directed to get down from their vehicle on non-tarred roads.

Police officials involved in operations against Maoists say they do not have the latest technology to detect landmines.

Jharkhand officials irked by tribal language decree

Ranchi, May 10 – The Jharkhand government’s move to make knowledge of at least one tribal language mandatory for government officials has triggered anger among the mass of employees.

The promotion, increment and salary of government officials in Jharkhand will henceforth depend on their knowledge of one of four tribal languages – Ho, Mundari, Kurukh and Santhali.

Officials have been directed to learn one of them within 18 months and take a test to prove their proficiency. The results would determine promotions.

In Jharkhand, tribals constitute 27 percent of the state’s 27 million population. No tribal language has been given second language status in the state. But books exist in all tribal languages.

A senior officer says there is nothing new in the order.

‘The government has just implemented the undivided Bihar government order formulated in 1953. The order had directed gazetted employees posted in the then southern Bihar to learn a tribal language,’ said P.C. Hembrom, joint secretary in the personnel department and a tribal.

The language rule will affect all employees.

The officials argued that such orders were strictly implemented in states like Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

‘In Tamil Nadu, only those IAS – officers who have a knowledge of Tamil are posted in districts. In West Bengal, knowing Bengali is a must,’ said another government official.

Government business in Jharkhand is now conducted in Hindi. Officials say the move is aimed at creating better understanding between the officials and tribals so that development work can be expedited.

Most officials are not happy with the directive.

‘The move is just a way to appease the tribals. The order is motivated by vote bank politics. The ministers should first learn the tribal language as they are public representatives,’ said a furious deputy secretary who is originally from Bihar.

The officials also pointed out that any one tribal language is not spoken all over the state.

‘Santhali is spoken and written only in the four districts of Santhal Parganas. Ho, Kurukh and Mundari are spoken at different places. Employees are transferred from one district to another on a regular basis. How will learning one language help?’ asked the official.

Burnpur Cement plans 1mt plant in Jharkhand

KOLKATA, MAY 9 : Burnpur Cement Ltd (BCL), a West Bengal-based cement manufacturer, has tied up with ThyssenKrupp Industries India for setting up a million tonne plant at Patratu in Jharkhand with an eye on the 8-9% demand growth.

While the country’s installed capacity for manufacturing cement is around 165 million tonne per annum, demand is going up by 16-17m tonne every year.

ThyssenKrupp India is a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp AG of Germany, manufacturing boilers, sugar, cement and other plant machinery.

Ashok Gutgutia, vice-chairman and managing director of BCL, said the plant, to be set up in two phases, will involve a total investment of Rs 500 crore, of which Rs 120 crore will be invested in the first phase expected to be complete by 2008.

Gutgutia said BCL has already entered into an agreement with a consortium of eight banks led by the State Bank of India for term loan. It has also submitted the draft prospectus to the Securities & Exchange Board of India for an initial public offering to raise around Rs 25 crore.

BCL, which already has a 0.3m tonne grinding plant in Asansol, will also set up a clinker plant along with ordinary portland, portland puzzolana and portland slag cement units in Patratu, said Gutgutia.

The Patratu project is aimed at catering the cement-starved eastern, north-eastern and Nepal markets. Setting up a clinker plant in the eastern part would enable supplying quality cement to these markets at a lower cost, as it would save 15% on transportation.

At present, BCL as well as other cement manufacturing plants in eastern India bring clinker from Chhattisgarh that adds up to the cost.

100 cops held hostage

Dumka, May 13: Nearly 100 police personnel, including an inspector and officers-in charge of police stations, were being held hostage by angry villagers in this Jharkhand district and were yet to be freed when reports last came in.

Along with the police personnel, the block development officer and circle officer of Ramghar block under Dumka district have been held captive for over 11 hours today.

The trigger for the hostage drama occurred around 8 am yesterday, when a police team led by Rakesh Mohon Sinha, inspector of police of Jarmundi circle, went to Kuam village to clear a blockade on the Dumka-Ramghar road.

The village is located under Ramghar police station, some 40 km from the district headquarters.
The villagers had organised a road blockade since midnight in protest against a step by Ramghar police, which they felt was a blatantly unjustifiable move. Ramghar police had reportedly set free one Sonoti Besra, a 20-year-old woman, from the police station. The villagers accused Sonoti of being involved in the murder of a 24-year-old villager, Lobin Hembrom, on Wednesday night.

On Thursday, the villagers apprehended Sonoti and handed her over to Ramghar police. But the police set her free, without any clear or cogent reason. The villagers claimed that the murderers were close friends of Sonoti and had come to the village to kill Hembrom. The villagers are also holding Soni Murmu, mother of Sonoti, hostage along with the police and administrative officials.
Dumka deputy superintendent of police Charu Lakra rushed to the spot this evening.

Similar other allegations have been levelled against the local police earlier as well.

Jarmundi police on Thursday also set free another youth, Raju Kumar Khatic, who had been accused of raping a woman inside Basukinath Temple on Wednesday.

The woman, along with her husband and a sibling, came to the temple from Saraiyahat block for a special ritual. According to the norms of the ritual, the devotee was supposed to stay in the temple complex for a few weeks.

In the dead of the night, when the couple was sleeping in the temple premises, Khatic and two others allegedly sneaked into the temple precincts and raped the woman.

Other devotees present at the temple that night woke up on hearing the victim’s screams and nabbed Khatic. The two other youths involved in the incident, however, managed to escape. Khatic was handed over to police personnel on duty at the temple.

Vehicle check woes

Ranchi, May 13: The owner of a commercial vehicle could consider himself extremely fortunate if he can manage to get hold of a motor vehicles’ inspector (MVI) to get the mandatory fitness certificate.

With MVIs hopping from one district to another — as more than a district has been assigned to them — there is no check on the fitness of vehicles. Sample this: contrary to the provisions that each district should have at least one MVI, the state has five MVIs at present to furnish fitness certificates to commercial vehicles.

Under the motor vehicles rules, each commercial vehicle should undergo a mandatory fitness test every year to ensure that everything within the vehicle is in order.

Two decades ago, Ranchi had two MVIs as there was a huge demand for such tests. But over the years, though the number of public vehicles has increased, the strength of MVIs have reduced from two to one.

The Jharkhand Bus Owners’ Association had shot off two letters to the transport department demanding appointment of more MVIs in the state. But there has been no response from the government.

There are some apprehensive commercial vehicle owners who fear that the scarcity of MVIs is a deliberate move as a lot of money can be collected illegally from vehicles plying without the certificates. And the fitness certificate cannot be got unless one meets the MVI.

The joint transport commissioner, Mathius Burh, said the scarcity of MVIs is posing problems for the smooth functioning. But denied that there are ulterior motives in not filling up the vacant posts of the MVIs. The department, he said, had authorised private parties to carry out fitness tests of commercial vehicles in 11 districts. This helps in providing fitness certificates.

But bus owners’ association general secretary Kishore Mantri said: “The fitness verification centres are of little help. Even the certificates issued by the centres have to be countersigned by the MVIs.”

Jharkhand cops play matchmaker

Ranchi, May 8 – Police stations are turning into cupid’s corners in Jharkhand, with cops solemnising marriages of couples whose matches are not acceptable to their parents or to society.

Take Shankar Munda, a resident of Sikidiri block in Ranchi. His wife deserted him three months after their marriage and eloped with her lover.

Munda recently got married to his wife’s younger sister. The police station turned into a wedding pandal where the marriage was solemnised with all rituals.

‘We managed everything with the consent of the villagers and family members of the bride,’ said Ashok Kumar, an officer at the Sikidari police station. The marriage took place on May Day.

Another much-in-love couple was united by the Namkom police station here. The parents were against the marriage till the cops came to the couple’s rescue.

‘The marriage was arranged by the police after looking into the legal aspects. If the law permits, then the police step in to facilitate such marriages,’ said M.S. Bhatia, the senior superintendent of police, Ranchi.

In recent times, 10 such marriages were organised by the police in Jharkhand.

According to police, before arranging the marriage, they verify the couple’s age, job and other things.

‘We also try to get the girl’s statement recorded in court on whether she had come away with her lover with her own consent or not. If an adult girl runs away and wants to marry against the wishes of the family, then the police play the role of facilitator,’ said a police official.

The Taj is waiting

The bamboo here is solid and strong, but the Assam product sells more in Dhanbad, Resham Mukherjee wonders why Bamboo that’s found in the forests of Parasnath-Giridih ranges bordering the Dhanbad district is special. It’s strong and solid and far more difficult to carve and chisel than the hollow and flexible bamboo which the artists of Assam use.

And its products cheaper, since the price does not add up because of transportation cost and VAT charges. But in Dhanbad it’s the costlier Assam product which sells better. Simply because the local market has not been built up. Not just that, a lot of this bamboo is even smuggled out of the state by the bamboo mafia, which exploits the poverty of the local people to get its work done.

Bamboo thieves

It’s been almost a decade since the gangs started operating, and continue to stalk the Dhanbad-Giridih borders. According to the divisional forest officer Sanjeev Kumar, over half a dozen cases are registered every year. The gang hand over the contract of bamboo felling to the poor, who are ready to take it on for a paltry sum of Rs 30-50 per day. The trekkers are armed and outnumber the forest guards. Bamboo is tied in bundles of 20-30 and brought down. Treated with fumes, they take off for the mandis (markets)of Kanpur, Varanasi, Rajasthan and Delhi. The Giridih-Parasnath hills and hills of Tundi, Topchanchi and Beriomorh bordering Dhanbad are abodes of a special quality of bamboo, not easily found elsewhere. Earlier, it was auctioned by contractors but that discontinued from 1980. Later, forest officials took over. As production fell, contract business was stopped. And bamboo fellers raised their heads.

The quality of the bamboo apart, the artisans have been innovative in their designs as well. The replica of the Taj Mahal at the department of industries and commerce (DIC) in Dhanbad district is proof of that. Completed in eight days, it costs Rs 2,200. Anywhere else it might have found buyers. Not here. For not many even know it’s waiting to be bought. This, in spite of an ambitious government of India funded bamboo development project chalked for Jharkhand, which is worth Rs 1825.16 lakh, for the years 2000-2001 to 2010-2011. It was a project that hoped to generate employment among the poor tribals of the forest areas of Dhanbad and Giridih borders, easy victims of the mafia gang, who hire them to cut the bamboo from the forests for meagre payments. Its good quality has taken it places, with vendors sitting along the Grand Trunk Road, leading to Varanasi, not going without business. DIC officials admit that it has also been drawing a good number of buyers in fairs outside Dhanbad, including Delhi haat and the Udyog mela in the state capital.

But as Mithun Choudhary, an artisan at the DIC’s training and resource centre, rues, locally the skill goes unrecognised.

Sujit Mukherjee, owner of the only Assam cane products showroom in Dhanbad, says he has never heard about bamboo products made at the DIC resource centre in Dhanbad. He admitted that the cane products from Assam were costlier, especially after implementation of the value added tax (VAT) of 12.5 per cent.

“We hardly get to save. Already, there is a lot of expenditure on the transport. When the product is placed in the market, the price automatically shoots, and customers are not always ready to pay the hefty amount. If the local products are given to us, we can sell them and give them the returns proportionately. It would be profit both ways,” Mukherjee pointed out.

It’s a project that could well take off, but as of now, even the general manager of DIC, Samrom Barla, admits: “There are no state sanctioned projects as yet. DIC has hired only three craftsmen who make the products. They sell them from the centre itself or make them on order.”

As of now, the Taj here has few admirers…

‘ST girls top enrolment among marginal groups’

Scheduled Tribe girls have far better enrolment in schools than their SC, OBC and Muslim counterparts.

The first national evaluation of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas in 12 states has revealed that at 31.43%, ST enrolment is ahead of SCs ( 26.36%), OBCs (26.45%), Muslims (4.31%) and below poverty line families (8.75%).

Though Muslim girls have poor enrolment, sources pointed out that a large number of them have been included as OBCs. Further fine-tuning would give the real percentage of Muslim girls’ enrolment but there is unlikely to be major change.

The evaluation of KGBV schools — 1,100 out of 1,180 are operational in the country mainly dominated by marginal sections — has also revealed that states in the Hindi heartland like Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh are making innovations to attract girls to schools.

The study, carried out by independent experts for HRD ministry and conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat , Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh also revealed that the scheme has received “high priority and political attention”.

KGBVs have now become a sub-component of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. In fact, Andhra Pradesh has 7.4% more girls enrolled than the capacity since the state has introduced classes 9 and 10 with its own resources.

Bihar has shown some good results and the state is showcasing the success of how five physically challenged ‘Musahar’ girls going to KGBV in Bochacha block, Muzaffarpur, have become role models for other girls.

The evaluation shows it has other achievements too. With the capacity of 5,500 girls, enrolment is 3,972 out of which 1,948 are SCs, 797 OBCs, 170 BPL and 771 minority girls. Interestingly, SC girls outnumber daughters of politically powerful OBCs.

Bihar lays special emphasis on taking girls of single parents and orphans. Another highlight from Bihar is that girls who had never enrolled have also been welcomed in the KGBVs.

Other best practices have come from AP where detailed micro-planning is done to ensure that all girls are enrolled and child-wise data is available at the mandal level. In UP, MP, Jharkhand and Karnataka, household survey data is used for identification of the children.

Arunachal Pradesh is another success story where KGBVs are running as residential primary schools and a move to convert them into middle schools has already started.

Dark side of mining

The reality of Orissa’s iron ore mines, where the promise of prosperity is just empty rhetoric.

Hundreds of hectares of forests have been lost to mining over the years in a situation where encroachments are impossible to monitor. The most common illegality is to continue mining long after the lease has ended.

AS the shadows lengthen on Keonjhar’s main street, the tube-lit sign above Hotel Arjun flickers to life, illuminating both the entrance to the hotel and the cigarette seller next to it. A traffic policeman walks up to the crossing right outside the hotel and assumes his position at what is the most significant crossing in town.

Fifteen kilometres down the road, the ground shivers as a queue of trucks, over a kilometre long, shudders to life. Engine after engine revs up as several hundred trucks begin the next stage of their 325-km journey from the iron-rich Keonjhar district in north Orissa to Paradip port on the east coast. This has been the practice ever since the District Magistrate issued orders prohibiting truck movement between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Further up, the highway narrows into the first of many bottlenecks, and branches off, capillary-like, into un-metalled paths that lead into the heart of the district’s iron ore mines.

Across the Baitarani river, in Joda, Barbil, Deojhar and Thakurani, the low mountains are illuminated by high-powered halogens, as work continues at a relentless pace in the mines – visible as raw, red gashes on the otherwise thickly forested mountainside.

The source of an estimated 35 per cent of India’s total reserves of haematite, Orissa produced more than 46 million tonnes of iron ore in 2004-05, of which three quarters came from Keonjhar. Almost all of it was, and still is, carted away in nearly 30,000 trucks from the 119 mines that dot the district.

The trucks move north from Joda, to the Jharkhand border where they supply ore to Jharkhand’s rapidly expanding steel industry, and northwest to Haldia port. But the majority move south through Keonjhar town towards Cuttack and cut through to Paradip port, from where the ore is shipped in containers to one of the few countries that have a bigger appetite for steel than India – China.

Initially seen as the engine of an independent India – the first “swadeshi” steel mill was completed in 1920 by the Tata Iron and Steel Company at Jamshedpur in present-day Jharkhand just across the border with Orissa – it was cast into the shadows by the shining “new economy” of the 1990s.

A five-year rally in international prices has seen the iron and steel sector make a strong return on the business pages of newspapers.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed out in his keynote address at the India Steel Summit 2007: “In the last five years, the production and consumption of steel has grown at rates exceeding 9 per cent per annum. The pace of growth has further accelerated in the current year to over 10 per cent.”

The recently formulated national steel policy has set the production target for 2020 at 110 million tonnes of steel, and a doubling of the present capacity from around 40 million tonnes to 80 million tonnes by 2012.

A buoyant national economy and a booming construction sector are expected to add to the optimism in the steel sector, and nowhere is this felt more than in the office of Padmanabha Behera, Orissa’s Minister of Steel and Mines and Planning and Coordination. “We have signed 45 MoUs [Memoranda of Understanding] till date,” he told this correspondent, “and production has already started in 23.”

The Minister foresees a resurgent Orissa, propelled forward by his party’s mantra of “progress through industrialisation”. Behera believes that Orissa’s future lies in using its vast mineral wealth to generate employment and, of course, create wealth. However, not everyone in the State shares this vision.

Privilege and corruption

To understand Orissa’s trucks is to understand how privilege and corruption operate along dense, intricate networks where the legal and the illegal often overlap, making it impossible to make a concrete accusation. After all, what is an illegal mine? How can it be identified?

“It is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that the Union should take under its control the regulation of mines and the development of minerals to the extent hereinafter provided,” states the preamble to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, one of a raft of laws and bylaws passed to govern the mining sector.

First enacted in 1957, and amended almost every four years up to 1999, the MMDR Act serves as the central axis on which mining law is framed. The Act classifies minerals into “minor” and “major” lists, lays down procedures for the granting of reconnaissance permits, prospecting licences and mining leases, and classifies violations and encroachments. While States have complete control over all minor minerals such as clay, gravel, sand and building stones, major minerals such as iron ore come under the purview of the Central government. For such minerals, Central permission is required prior to the granting of licence.

Apart from the MMDR Act, mining is subject to The Mines Act of 1952, the National Mineral Policy (amended in 1994), and a slew of laws concerning land acquisition and environmental assessment.

Acquiring a mining lease for a major mineral like iron ore or coal for a particular area is relatively easy now. The process has been simplified over the last 10 years, a development that has coincided with the liberalisation of the mining sector. Mining leases are granted on a `first-come, first-serve’ basis, and the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy of 1999 allows for “up to 100 per cent foreign direct investment” in the mining and processing of minerals other than diamond, precious stones and atomic minerals. Thus, mining occupies a unique governmental space that is simultaneously highly legislated yet remarkably free of constraints for mine operators.

Under the laws governing mining, mines could be declared “illegal” on a number of grounds, the most obvious being that of mining in an area without applying for a lease. However, the pressure of rapid industrialisation has forced State governments to curb such practices.

Illegal mines

“No illegal mining is possible without political patronage,” says a senior officer in the Directorate of Mines, “and local politicians have realised that the land occupied by illegal miners can just as easily be handed over to giant corporations for similar favours.” This is not to say that outright capture of areas for mining has stopped entirely in the iron belt. The most common examples of illegal mining occur on the boundary of legality, where the violator can claim a degree of innocence on the basis of ignorance of the law.

The most common form of illegality is to continue mining long after the lease has expired. A document obtained from the Directorate of Mines under the Right to Information Act provides a complete list of mining leases in Keonjhar. According to the Directorate’s own figures, dated December 31, 2005, as many as 52 out of 119 mines, or more than 40 per cent of all mines in Keonjhar district covering 52 per cent of leased area, operate illegally on expired licences. Of these 52 mines, 10 belong to the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC), a government-owned enterprise, and operate on 7,051 hectares (1 hectare = 2.47 acres) or a fifth of the total area under mining in the district.

Many in the industry argue that the issue of expired licences is not an indication of corruption per se as the government has been dragging its feet for years over their renewal. The failure to renew leases, particularly those held by a State-owned corporation, seems inexplicable until one unpacks the terms of the mining lease.

As pointed out by Ritwick Dutta in a compilation titled “Undermining India”, the renewal of mining leases in forested areas has been the subject of much litigation since the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980. Given that most mines, including those in Keonjhar, fall within the purview of this Act, the key question was whether the renewal of a mining lease required fresh permission of the Central government. The Supreme Court, in successive judgments, particularly in State of Tamil Nadu vs Hind Stones in 1981 and Samatha vs State of Andhra Pradesh in 1997, has ruled that the renewal of a mining lease is actually the grant of a fresh lease. Thus, a good reason for mining companies and associated State officials to go slow on the renewal of leases could be that, theoretically, the company shall have to reapply at the time of renewal and would be subject to monitoring by the Central Pollution Control Board, the Ministry of Environment and Forests and a host of other agencies.

Forest Act and mining

The Forest Conservation Act mandates that the Central government shall after careful examination of the proposal denotify forest land earmarked for mining and the mining company shall be subject to a series of restrictions to minimise the ecological footprint of the mine. It is also a useful tool to ensure that the mining companies stay within the areas allotted to them. Of course, the Forest Act, like any other Act, is only as good as its implementation.

Another document from the Directorate of Mines lists 40 mines in Keonjhar that are operating without clearance from the Forest Department; the OMC, once more, is one of the worst violators. District Forest Officer P.N. Karat says that as of February 2006 all such cases have been dealt with. However, this assessment is impossible to verify independently. In the absence of firm leases, many companies have been granted temporary licences, most of which are issued without guidelines or monitoring.

The absence of adequate monitoring is probably the most disturbing feature of the industry in Orissa. The highly technical language adopted by both the mining companies and the state effectively silences any local articulation of opposition by people directly affected by the projects. Thus, people’s testimonies of a change in the colour of groundwater, an increase in the cases of asthma and respiratory conditions and a drop in the fertility of their fields are discounted in favour of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) readings collected by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) and the findings of groundwater studies conducted by the State Groundwater Board that pollution is present but is within the mandated safety limit.

Barbil, to cite just one example, is a small town in the heart of the mining belt where it is difficult to breathe freely even during the day when the trucks do not run. But a study obtained from the SPCB states that the SPM readings in Barbil are “only” 456 micrograms per cubic metre against a reference value of 500 micrograms per cubic metre for mining areas, and so is acceptable. However, the Central Pollution Control Board reference value for “residential and rural areas” – which villages outside the mines are – is 200 micrograms per cubic metre and for a reserve forest, which could be classified as a “sensitive area” under the SPCB guidelines, it is 100 micrograms per cubic metre. Thus, the same arbitrarily fixed “standards” used to declare mining areas “pollution free” can just as easily be used to declare them unfit for human habitation.

Similarly, the only way to verify if a mining area corresponds to the area mentioned in the mining lease is to either refer to detailed contour maps in the possession of the government (and hence unavailable to the general public) or physically plot the coordinates of the mine using a global positioning system (GPS), which no one in Orissa has access to. Such opacity on the part of all privilege-holders in the system makes its impossible to level definite accusations against any party. But, as in all camouflaged sites, in Orissa, too, the veil slips occasionally to offer a glimpse of the arrogance of mining corporations vis-à-vis the law.

Road to nowhere

The road to Deojhar, as with most roads to hell, is paved with the best of intentions. Ostensibly built to connect Deojhar village to the highway under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana Scheme, it has turned out to be a useful way to connect the mines to the national highway.

Few villagers use this road; there are too many trucks. Of late, the trucks plying on the Deojhar-NH 215 route have had to contend with more than just crater-size potholes – a fleet of bright orange earthmovers engaged in digging deep trenches along the road. These vehicles have been employed by the Jindal company, a consortium of companies with interests primarily in iron, steel and power, to supply water to their 2,000-hectare iron ore mine in the hills above Deojhar village.

“Jindal is laying a nine-kilometre pipeline to draw water from the Baitarani river,” says Arjun Saraswat, deputy general manager of Sarda Mines Private Ltd., the company that possesses the lease for the Jindal land. “This water will be made available through the soon-to-be-completed Kanpur dam project.” At the time of this article going to print, the digging was almost complete and pipes two feet (0.61 metre) in diameter had been laid along a stretch of 4.5 km.

But has Jindal acquired the necessary permissions for this pipeline?

“The Jindal company’s demand for water has been approved `in principle’,” says Harish Behera, Engineer-in-Chief (Water Resources) for Orissa. “But the technical parameters are to be worked out. No permission has been granted for any pipeline and, as of now, no project work has begun.” Behera is responsible for the allocation of water resources for the entire State, but seems to be unaware that the pipeline work has not only begun but is nearing completion. When confronted with photographs on the project work taken by this correspondent, he said “the matter is currently under litigation”.

What sort of litigation? For answers, one is directed to C.V. Prasad, Chief Engineer, Project Planning and Formulation, of the Orissa Water Department (Irrigation). Prasad is more forthcoming. “Jindal has been allotted 1,500 cubic metres of water an hour, drawn in a phased manner, from the Baitarani river project, but the project is still awaiting technical clearance. As of now, the construction is in violation of the law,” he says. Prasad adds that his office has written to the company several times asking it to stop construction, most recently on January 16. “We were under the impression that construction had stopped.”

Granting a project approval “in principle” is no indication of its merits or demerits; those are only evaluated in the technical approval stage when a detailed project report (DPR) is submitted. “In principle” approval only indicates that the company may go ahead and prepare a DPR. If Jindal’s pipeline does not pass muster the company will be forced to remove it. In going ahead with the project, it believes, perhaps, that government approval is a foregone conclusion or that such approval is of little importance.

The Baitarani pipeline also begs another question. At present, where is Jindal drawing its water from? Deputy general manager Arjun Saraswat admits that Jindal is currently drawing water from borewells in their area, but is unwilling to quantify the volume of water drawn every day. “It is only used for domestic purposes,” he says. However, officials at the SPCB office in Keonjhar reveal that Jindal uses a 10-kilolitre truck to carry out water sprinkling three times a day in the mining area, that is, 30,000 litres of water a day just for sprinkling.

Apart from this, the scale of the mining operation, with most of the permanent workers living in the mining area, suggests a reasonably high rate of water consumption even for domestic purposes. Even Jindal probably does not know how much water it uses because none of its tubewells is metered. However, one group of people has a fair idea.

Deojhar’s sorrow

Down the road from the mines, the residents of Deojhar have seen their streams dry up, the water table fall and the soil lose its fertility in the six years since Jindal began operations. “The very basis of village life has fallen apart since the project began,” says Sridhar Nayak, a leader in Deojhar. The crops have died, there is no place to graze cattle, people cannot collect firewood in the project area and the handpumps yield foul, yellowish water. Nayak says the inevitable dust that any project breeds has severely affected the health of the residents, particularly the young, among whom the number of cases of lung congestion has increased.

When the project first began, protests were quelled by a combination of cajoling and coercion. A significant police presence was backed by promises of jobs, economic regeneration, security and “progress”. Needless to say, none of it has materialised except, of course, the police, who regularly show up in impressive numbers to threaten `errant’ residents.

The promise of prosperity – schools, hospitals, jobs – is usually the classic argument used to justify the well-documented horrors of mining. Minerals are a country’s natural wealth, a gift from Mother Nature, a precious resource crucial to a nation’s progress. The booming international market for metals has also cast mines and minerals as earners of valuable foreign exchange. It is hard to unpack the cold, hard logic of capital and corporations without sounding like a hopeless rural idealist. However, the people of Orissa are now asking who the beneficiaries of the mining sector really are. What if mining did not benefit the people it affected the worst?

Firms show power interest

After 60 years of Independence, villages at remote corners of East Singhbhum district can look forward to electrification.

The Jharkhand State Electricity Board’s (JSEB) Jamshedpur circle is implementing the ambitious Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, a central government scheme, which will ensure cent per cent electrification of the rural areas in different phases.

About 170 villages under Ghatshila, Patamda and Jamshedpur divisions of the JSEB will be electrified by October 2008 under the programme which has to be completed within a period of 18 months from the time of commencement.

According to M.P. Chowdhary, the superintending engineer of Jamshedpur circle, the notification for commencement of the scheme here was made in February, but the real work towards its implementation has gaining momentum now.

Chowdhary, who is monitoring its progress, said the project had to be done in turnkey basis and for this three companies have shown their interest.

He pointed out that the companies have conducted a survey of the villages and would shortly meet the authorities concerned of the state power board for going ahead with the rural electrification project.

“According to the scheme, the interested companies have to provide the materials as well as the manpower for carrying out the project. And despite the fact that the project has to be completed within a time-frame of 18 months, the companies have to maintain the standards of rural electrification,” he said.

He added that the three companies which have shown interest in the programme are Nagarjuna, Neon and ABL.

First virtual community of Jharkhand Region

May 14, 2007 at 11:23 pm Leave a comment

May 01-07, 07

Jharkhand teacher tells kids about benefits of hooch

Ranchi, May 7 They learn the three Rs of course, but students in a Jharkhand school are also being taught the benefits of drinking ‘hadia’, the local intoxicant made of rice and the mahua fruit.

According to media reports, children at the Torpa middle school, 70 km from here, were asked Friday by a teacher in the morning assembly what the best beverage was.

When they replied water and milk, Sheela Kumari Horo retorted: ‘You do not know anything. The best beverage is hadia.’

The other teachers were stunned and one of them protested. To which Horo reportedly said: ‘You do not know anything as you come from Bihar.’

To justify her statement, she told the students that hadia had ‘scores of benefits. It keeps the stomach cool and clear and protects during the summer season.’

‘We will investigate if such incident has taken place in the school. I cannot comment as I was on leave,’ school principal Gurudayal Singh Munda was quoted as saying.

Hadia is offered to the tribal gods during festivals.

Electrosteel to make steel, plans to invest in Rs 4,900-crore Jharkhand plant

KOLKATA: Electrosteel Castings (ECL), the country’s largest manufacturer and exporter of ductile iron pipes, is venturing into steel-making. The company has just floated a special purpose vehicle (SPV) —Electrosteel Integrated — to set up a 1.3 million tonne integrated steel plant in Jharkhand. The total outlay on the proposed venture is estimated at Rs 4,900 crore.

Of the total project cost, Electrosteel Castings intends to infuse about Rs 500 crore as equity into the SPV. The investment will be taken up in a phased manner over a period of 30 months. “An SPV has been floated to undertake the new steel project in Jharkhand. The total cost involved in it would be around Rs 4,900 crore,” Umang Kejriwal, managing director, ECL, told ET.

The plant will produce long products like structurals, bars and rods. This backward integration initiative is expected to reduce ECL’s operating costs. A senior company source said that Electrosteel Castings will have a “significant” stake in the SPV. “The balance equity will, in all likelihood be taken up by a consortium of banks,” the source added.

Sinosteel plan spurs Chiria debate

KOLKATA: Chinese steel maker Sinosteel’s plans for an Indian footprint with a 5 million tonne (MT) steel project in Jharkhand will intensify the race for a piece of the prized Chiria iron ore mines.

The Madhu Koda-led Jharkhand government will once again be pitched in the midst of rival steel companies, all gunning for Chiria.

Of course, Sinosteel has made all the right noises about setting up the Rs 16,000 crore steel plant, linked to iron ore sourced from the open market. Jharkhand government officials said that the Chinese steel major has already sounded out the state government for a captive mine of its own.

Arcelor Mittal, which has also committed an investment of Rs 20,000 crore for a 10 MT plant, is also eyeing Chiria to source iron ore, and the Jharkhand government’s failure so far to offer any commitment has prompted Mittal to issue veiled threats of according priority to its Orissa project.

At the same time, the public sector Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), India’s largest steel producer, has further queered the pitch for the race for Chiria by staking claim for the entire 2 billion tonnes of estimated and proven ore reserves. SAIL has communicated to the steel ministry that the entire reserves of Chiria mines would be required to feed the expanded capacities of its brownfield and greenfield projects under the company’s Corporate Plan 2010 that will augment its steel capacity to 27 MT.

The Jharkhand government and SAIL have locked horns over the former’s plans to develop Chiria mines. The original mining lease for Chiria was vested with the erstwhile Indian Iron and Steel Company Ltd (IISCO) and SAIL inherited the lease following the merger of IISCO with SAIL.

“Chiria has some of the best ore deposits in the world. It is natural for every steel company proposing investments in this state to look at it as source of raw materials. But it is virtually impossible for the state government to allow all steel projects — Arcelor Mittal, SAIL, Tata Steel or Sinosteel — to mine Chiria deposits,” Jharkhand officials said.

“There are other reserves in Jharkhand. But each investor demands large contiguous deposits, which is difficult for the state government to meet,” the officials said.

In a communication to the Centre and Jharkhand, SAIL informed that its total requirement of iron ore over the next 50 years would exceed its previous estimate of 2 billion tonnes, and this, in effect, meant that the public sector company wanted the entire 2 billion reserves of Chiria for itself.

Indicating fresh round of squabbles between Jharkhand and SAIL, government officials said the state government was agreeable to the plan to source ore only for its expansion plans of the Bokaro plant, to ramp up production to 7 million tonnes and IISCO to 3 million tonnes, and not for the expansion of other SAIL plants.

107-year-old Jharkhand man loves to lie in his own grave

Hundreds of people are flocking to a remote village in Jharkhand to catch a glimpse of an old man who has built his own grave alongside that of his wife, and tending to it for the last six years.

Basanta Rai Guruji claims that he is 107-years-old and spends his day clearing weeds from the grave and derives comfort from lying in it.

A Hindu by faith, he belongs to a caste that buries its dead, Rai’s wife died in 2001 of cancer. Soon after burying her, he started digging his own grave, and now unfailingly goes there to pay obeisance to his wife. A photograph of his wife is placed near the grave, and Basanta prays for her soul’s welbeing with the help of burning incense sticks.

“I have made this grave for myself and my handicapped daughter, so that we could be interred here alongside my wife. I have done this because my wife was a very nice human being who would always go out of her way to help people at any hour of the day.

She was a do-gooder and would always be mobbed wherever she went, people knew her in twenty or so adjacent villages. She once accosted the local doctor in the dead of night and exhorted him to look after a patient who was in need of care,” Guruji said.

Guruji could give today’s younger generation a lesson or two on how to nuture and maintain matrimonial ties. His dictum has always been committment to one’s spouse. His advice is to do something that will leave a mark in the times to come like his wife did.

PMO, Plan panel want power policy fine-tuned

The revised accelerated power development reforms programme (APDRP), aimed at checking high technical and commercial losses of state utilities, is likely to be delayed by a few months.

The reason: The Planning Commission and the Prime Minister’s Office have sought changes in the policy to make it more result-oriented.

The revised programme, which was to be implemented from April 1, 2007, is now likely to come into effect in July-August.

At present, the national average of aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses is 34 per cent, with some states, like Jharkhand and Bihar, reporting losses of over 50 per cent. The revised APDRP is aimed at bringing down these to less than 15 per cent.

A senior government official said the power ministry was preparing a Cabinet note by including the revised guidelines.

The original APDRP — under which Rs 6,500 crore has already been released — did not succeed in cutting down the losses significantly. Experts blamed “too many pre-conditions” for the failure of the programme, under which states were supposed to unbundle their utilities, set up state electricity regulatory commissions (SERCs) and ensure 100 per cent metering.

The revised programme, on the other hand, lays stress on only one parameter — that states have to improve their collection efficiency, irrespective of whether they have unbundled their boards or have set up a regulator or not.

Earlier, 25 per cent of the loan component of states was converted into grants if the target was achieved. In the revised programme, if a state exceeds certain percentage (yet to be decided) of collection efficiency, the entire loan amount would be converted into a grant, said a senior government official associated with the programme.

But power ministry officials said funding was a big problem and hence only 50 per cent of the loan amount of states would be converted into grants.

Though no funds have been earmarked for the revised APDRP yet, last year (2006-07) the states got around Rs 1,000 crore.

About 160 towns have achieved AT&C losses of less than 15 per cent. These include Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

In comparison, losses in states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh range between 25 per cent and 70 per cent. For Bihar and Jharkhand, the figure is over 50 per cent. Uttar Pradesh has been reporting losses of 43-44 per cent.

During 2007-08, 50 more towns are expected to achieve AT&C losses of less than 20 per cent.

Adivasi girls falling prey to touts

GUWAHATI, May 6 – A well-oiled network of touts and agents has lately taken a sizeable section of the State’s Adivasi community for a ride by enticing young girls and engaging them as domestic help in several parts of the country. Not surprisingly, these agents, who bring the girls to the so-called placement agencies and subsequently supply them as per demand, reap handsome ‘profits’ while the gullible girls often fall victim to lecherous masters.

Informing The Assam Tribune about the alarming rise in such cases, Stephen Ekka, director, Promotion and Advancement of Justice, Harmony and Rights of Adivasis (PAJRA), said that the number of dubious placement agents in the State is rising in multiple proportions, especially in the Adivasi-dominated areas, as every year more than a thousand young girls are being taken away from the State to engage them as domestic help in Delhi and other metros of the country.

“The most affected areas of the State are places like Tongla, Sonitpur and Dekhiajuli, where almost every second house has one of their wards working in metro cities,” Ekka said.

“The agents are mostly educated ones, who after realising the market potential of domestic helpers in certain metro cities, start acting like a broker in their native places,” he said.

“According to a survey conducted by Domestic Workers’ Forum till 2005, in New Delhi itself, more than 50,000 girls from Assam, predominantly from Adivasi community, were engaged as domestic help,” he informed.

The figure has shot up considerably since then and currently it is roughly estimated to be somewhere around the 65,000 mark.

PAJRA is a Tezpur-based NGO, which works for the welfare of the Adivasi community in the State.

“Every year thousands of Adivasi girls from Assam are being engaged as domestic help in metros, which has become a cause of concern for the community as after a particular point of time they are subjected to various forms of atrocities,” Ekka said.

“Using them as domestic help is just the beginning and more often than not they end up finding themselves in brothels or are trafficked to different places,” he pointed out.

Wary of the menace, PAJRA is now conducting a survey to find out the exact number of Adivasi population, who are presently engaged in various parts of the country, especially in metros.

“The Adivasis, for their innocence and honesty, enjoy huge demand in the domestic-help market, for which the placement agencies are consistently on look out for young girls from Assam and also Jharkhand, which is a Adivasi dominated State,” he said.

It may be mentioned that present population of Adivasi population in the State is estimated to be around 60 lakh.

There are more than 500 such agencies spread all over New Delhi today and there are tribal girls from Assam and Jharkhand in almost every middle and upper-middle class home in Delhi.

Ekka added that PAJRA, in its efforts to check the exodus of Adivasi girls has already started awareness programmes (street plays) and is also trying to penetrate income-generating skills among the people.

“Certainly, income is an issue and we are trying to find out some alternative earning opportunities and also spread education to create a certain level of awareness,” Ekka added.

Jharkhand has twenty-year-old handwritten newspaper

Dumka (Jharkhand), May 1: Sexagenarian Gowrishankar Rajak of Jharkhand’s Dumka town has been bringing out a handwritten newspaper for last 20 years.

Despite being a matriculate, Rajak has chosen to serve society through paper and pen. His personal mission is to raise the public’s daily problems and search for solutions in his newspaper

Everyday, Rajak “publishes” at least 50 copies of his Hindi newspaper named “Deen Dalit”.

He doesn’t require any type-setting machine or printing press facilities like most newspaper organisations. He writes each word by hand.

These copies are pasted at vantage points across the town for people to read. It addresses issues and events related to the day-to-day life of the common man.

Rajak’s newspaper is also registered with the Registrar for Newspapers in India (RNI No.1274/1987).

Rajak, who actually earns his livelihood as a washerman, is passionate about bringing people’s problems to the fore and serve society.

“I am not into journalism for money or personal gains. It’s my service for the society and the country at large. It gives me gratification to serve the country in this form. I feel the need to discuss people’s problems with the intellectuals and reach a solution”, said Gowrishankar Rajak, the Editor and Publisher of “Deen Dalit”.

Gowrishankar Rajak has taken it upon himself to publish a newspaper and bring people’s woes into the limelight.

His efforts for a social cause have won him several admirers and supporters in his town.

Rajak says that he believes in remaining close to his grassroots.

“Deen Dalit newspaper is connected to the common man. There may be things that major papers miss out, but Rajak does not. For, his goal is to highlight and solve people’s problems.

He is connected to the people. We wish that his newspaper touches new heights and his mission be accomplished,” said Saurabh Kumar Singh, a Deen Dalit’s reader.

Although Rajak has received many honours and certificates, he regrets that the Government has not been of much help to him.

“I try to save money and then get fifty copies published which takes away quite a major part of my earnings. I encourage others to indulge in such acts which would benefit society,” Rajak candidly admits.

His family–a wife and four children-takes pride in Rajak’s crusade through paper and pen but they do point out the hard times that they have been through in the cause of society.

Free power trip hits a roadblock

NEW DELHI : Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh will have to give up their dreams for free power. These states have demanded that they receive a portion of the power generated in the state free of cost, much like the hydro-resource rich states do.

The ministry of power has categorically told these states that they can’t come in the way of the nation’s progress by asking for compensation. The issue was discussed at the recent secretaries conference organised by the ministry of power.

The chief ministers of these three states met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in December to discuss their strategy for capacity addition. They have argued that like the hydro-potential states, they should receive a portion of the power produced in their state free of cost to offset environmental costs on power projects. They argue that power produced by projects in their states is utilised by other states hence the need for compensation.

The ministry of power accepts that the issue of environmental impact is a legitimate concern, and is being addressed through environmental policy governing coal mines and power plants. There is a case for strengthening the regulations in this context.
However, the ministry feels that claim for free power on the grounds that hydro-rich states are given 12% free power is not appropriate. The reason being that the distress and dislocation in the case of hydro power projects is much more severe compared to thermal power projects.

More importantly, the hydro-rich states do not receive any royalty for fuel whereas coal-rich states benefit from royalty on coal. Besides, any initiative to give free power or power at variable cost from new thermal power plants would give rise to a similar demand from existing plants.

This would mean a claim that covers as much as 70,000 MW of generating capacities. Any allocation of free power will adversely impact the cost of bulk power. Raising cost of power is against the stated aims of the government. It will also affect the development of a competitive market in the long-run.

It’s simply unstoppable

JSW Steel’s prospects appear good. A good financial performance in FY07, planned capacity expansion and an optimistic outlook for the steel sector are the key positives for the company. The stock has been outperforming the market since January, but it still looks reasonably priced. At current valuation levels, there is scope for some more appreciation.


The company posted a 39% increase in net sales to Rs 8,594 crore for FY07, which was generated by higher volumes and price realisations. Saleable steel volumes grew 26%, with most of the growth coming from sales of hot-rolled (HR) plates, which saw an increase of 103%.

Sales of galvanised plates and coil (GP/GC) were lower, but realisations were higher, which contributed positively to the bottomline. Operating margins touched 26% in FY07, compared to 20% in FY06. The company has curbed rising input costs by reducing power costs. This led to 51% growth in profit to Rs 1,292 crore in FY07.

For the quarter ended March ’07, sales grew 58% to Rs 2,498 crore, while profit was 0.6% higher at Rs 413 crore, compared to the corresponding period last year. Operating margins touched 27%, compared to 20% in the fourth quarter (Q4) of FY06.

If the impact of other income is not taken into account, Q4 profits would have been 1.5 times higher than the corresponding period last year. The company is aiming at a volume growth of 30-35% in FY08. Given the positive outlook on steel prices, this can implies strong growth ahead.


JSW Steel completed several capacity expansions during the year. The capacity of the pellet plant grew to 5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) from 4.2 mtpa earlier. Hot strip mill capacity increased to 2.5 mtpa from 2 mtpa, while crude steel production capacity rose by 1.3 mtpa.

Recently, the company purchased UK-based Argent Independent Steel at an enterprise value of about $7.5 million (Rs 31 crore). The 0.15 mtpa processing plant caters to the automotive and construction sectors. The company has also taken over on an operating basis, the cold rolling facility of 230,000 tonnes from Jindal Steel and Alloys for Rs 63.3 crore. Most of the price paid is in terms of debt acquired. JSW Steel was allotted a coal block in Jharkhand, along with two other companies, that will help it to attain self-sufficiency in coking coal.

The company is in advance stages of setting up a cold rolling mill of 1 mtpa capacity. The mill is scheduled to be completed by the second quarter of FY08. Further expansion of the hot strip mill to 3.2 mtpa from the current 2.5 mtpa will be completed by the end of this financial year. The company is implementing a 2.8 mtpa expansion, which will take its total capacity to 6.8 mtpa.

In addition to this expansion, the company is targeting cost reduction by various means such as setting up a coal drying plant, increasing power generation by 40 mw from the second captive power plant to 130 mw and setting up an additional 30-mw captive power plant.

Further expansion plans to take the capacity to 10 mtpa by ’10 are also likely to be taken up towards the end of the year. These plans will result in an outlay of about Rs 7,000 crore. The company proposes to raise around Rs 1,000 crore in the current year through a qualified institutional placement (QIP) and it has taken an enabling approval to raise another $500 via ADR/GDRs and foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCBs).


JSW Steel’s last one-year stock returns stand at 68%. The Sensex has appreciated by 15% over the same period. Nine-month growth is 144%, compared to 29% for the Sensex. Despite the rally in the company’s price, we believe it is still trading at affordable levels.

At current price levels, the stock is trading at 7-8 times FY07 earnings. This is similar to Tata Steel’s valuation of 8 times and Steel Authority of India (SAIL)’s valuation of 10 times for trailing 12-month earnings. Given the strong growth scenario, a further appreciation in the stock is possible in the short term.

Elephants checkmate Jharkhand’s tribal hunters

Ranchi, May 1 This year, Jharkhand elephants did what the forest officials could not do in the past – chase away tribals who came to hunt and kill wild animals in Dalma sanctuary.

To celebrate the ongoing ‘Visu shikar’ festival, 400 tribal people of the Dalma Buru Sendra Sammittee (DBSS) had gathered at the wildlife sanctuary for a spot of hunting and killing when a herd of elephants saw them and chased them away.

The hunters, however, claimed to have killed a few boars and deer to mark the festival, local reports said. ‘We killed three boars and two deer for our festival,’ said a tribal.

Despite laws against hunting in India and a media appeal on wildlife protection by Deputy Chief Minister Sudhir Mahto, who is also in charge of the forest and environment ministry, the tribals went ahead with their scheduled plan to celebrate the hunting festival this month.

The state government appeal had said: ‘There is a tradition to hunt and kill wild animals on the occasion of Visu Shikar, but there is need to change the conservative method to celebrate the festival.

‘Come, we should take an oath to protect wild animals and celebrate our festival by not killing them.’

During the hunting festival, celebrated for a week from Monday, tribals wake up early, bathe and worship their god, ancestors and weapons.

Anthropologists say the festival originated to check the number of wild animals so that they do not pose a threat.

Villagers bring laurels for cleanliness

Jamshedpur, May 7: People of East Singhbhum can hold their head high. Seven panchayats of the district have won the President’s Nirmal Gram award, given to rural areas free of open defecation.

Apart from the East Singhbhum districts, three from Lohardaga and one each from Latehar and Dumka also won the annual award.

The East Singhbhum panchayats that were bestowed the honour are Lailam, Kasmar (Patamda), Dorkasai, Kala Pathar (Potka), Pipla (Jamshedpur), Kakrisole (Ghatshila) and Mauda (Bahragora). All these panchayats have more than 5,000 households. The other panchayats that won the award are Aludia (Latehar), Saraiya (Dumka), Torar, Arkosa, and Merle in Lohardaga.

The representatives of the East Singhbhum panchayats were today given a warm welcome in the district collectorate after they returned on Saturday from New Delhi, where they received the award from President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on May 4.

The award was institutionalised by the Union rural development ministry in 2005. The award is given to the panchayats that have become completely free from open defecation, including households and schools. The performance of the panchayats in maintaining high standards of cleanliness and hygiene is also taken into account while selecting them for the award, which was institutionalised by the Union rural development ministry in 2005.

“The cleanliness drive is undertaken by the district administration in collaboration with Unicef, which acts as a facilitator,” said Unicef district coordinator Nirmal Singh. About 5,000 panchayats were chosen for the award. This is the first time Jharkhand panchayats were selected, he said.

Upgrade plans on cards

Jamshedpur, May 4: The Tata Steel centenary project is set to be a Rs 100 crore development project in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa.

In this light Ratan Tata Trust signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Tata Steel on April 17, 2007, at Bombay House, Mumbai, for providing technical support to the Tata Steel Centenary Project (TSCP). Conceived as a part of their centenary celebrations, Tata Steel has decided to take up land and water management initiatives in backward tribal blocks of the three states.

“Through this project, the company aims to positively impact the livelihood of 40,000 poor tribal households. The project will cover a total of 400 villages through natural resources-based interventions,” said a spokesperson.

Benefits provided to tribals would include creation of assured irrigation facilities, setting up of water user co-operatives, development of waste land, promotion of horticulture and agro-forestry and encouragement for improvement of agricultural output through technological upgrade.

Health camp on gender bias

Ranchi, May 4: As part of an age-old tradition, whenever a male child is born in the villages of Godda district the midwife is awarded with 50 kgs of wheat. But if it is a baby girl, the award value reduces by 50 per cent. Probably, this is the first sign of gender discrimination in the villages.

Sebastian, one of the 10 community organisers, drew attention to this problem at the Capacity Building Programme for Community Organisers held by the Human Potential Development Centre (HPDC) today.

Manoj Khalkho, project coordinator of Catholic Health Association of Bihar (Chabi), an NGO, said the community organisers work for the upliftment of a particular community and tries to educate them.

“We are an NGO working for the betterment of the overall health of the rural folklore in Jharkhand and Bihar. Our effort is to make these villagers aware of the boy and girl ratio,” he said.

The two-day workshop witnessed community organisers presenting their reports on the various problems and issues, mostly related to the health.

Rather than going to a doctor the villagers still turn to a midwife for delivery of their babies, revealed Khalkho.

“Therefore, the community organisers try to spread awareness amongst these midwives for the safe delivery of babies. We try and solve health problems in the village there itself, taking assistance from the village elders and creating an awareness for them,” he added.

Village health committees are formed of the village midwife, a vaidh, the village headman and a village head worker.

Other than the report presentation, the community organisers also attended lectures on implementations and strategies of government policies applicable in villages.

Another lecture on creation of self-employment at the village level by the Indian Lac Research Institute was also held.

Where tribals walk on fire for better life

As Khiru Munda closes his eyes and walks on fire, with many others who do it every year during a tribal fire festival in Jharkhand, he is sure that divine powers will grant him his wish.

It is to appease god and to get wishes fulfilled that tribal people walk on fire during the Manda festival, celebrated for a month beginning in the Hindu month of Chaitya.

‘Every year scores of men and women walk on fire to appease Lord Shiva. There is a strong belief in the tribal society that Shiva fulfils the desires of worshippers,’ said Khiru Munda.

Devotee Lakshman Oraon said: ‘Many people pray for good crops, good health or money. Lord Shiva fulfils the desire of the people participating in the festival when they walk on fire.’

The festival, in existence for hundreds of years, is said to have originated over farming fears.

‘After Holi, the harvesting takes place and then the sowing season begins. Farmers worship Shiva, who is known to bless worshippers,’ said V.S. Uppadhaya, a retired anthropology professor of Ranchi University .

He added: ‘With the passage of time, the forms of worship have changed and now people celebrate the festival for more than a good harvest.’

After participants have fasted, a fire is ignited by burning coal in preparation for the nightly walk ritual.

‘There is this belief that those who are real followers of Lord Shiva do not sustain burns on their legs or feet despite walking on fire,’ explained Sukhdeo Soren, a priest.

On a ripe path?

A river of fruits is what the National Horticulture Mission promises, report Rudra Biswas and Amit Gupta. There is nothing to show on the ground though

Summer months in Ranchi were once marked by the generous availability of fruits at throw-away prices. The day would start with a glass of nourishing drink of bel juice mixed with milk and chilled water.

As the day progressed, one had a glass of a tangy drink made of local, unripe mangoes. Watermelons, litchies and succulent mangoes, most of them brought in from outside, were reserved for later in the afternoon.

The adventurous feasted on black berries, peaches and jackfruit. Those who have not had boiled jackfruit seeds, vegetable made of jackfruit or the drink made of ripe jackfruit, are clearly not aware of what they have missed.

But although Chianki in Palamau has had a citrus research station for the last five decades and the central horticulture institute itself at Namkom on the outskirts of Ranchi is not quite new, the region has traditionally imported both flowers and fruits from neighbouring states.

The Birsa Agriculture University (BAU), the Rose Society and the Netarhat school’s orchard that grew pears held out hopes every year of a horticulture revolution that never came.

And now the central government aided Horticulture Mission once again aims to increase the area under fruits and flowers from the current 1.02 lakh hectares to over 4 lakh hectares by the end of 2010. Only time will tell if this campaign, too, will bely its promise and flatter to deceive.

Mission director, Shashi Shekhar Prasad Singh, is naturally optimistic though. The mission, he spells out, will not only buy three refrigerated vans but will also provide 50 per cent subsidy to the growers’ cooperatives to buy these vans. Cold storages, he claims, are being set up and the Mission has already tied up with a Bangalore-based firm, which has offered to buy back all the exotic flowers that Jharkhand can grow.

Currently, he says, vegetable growers in the state lose out on 40 per cent of the vegetables they send out of the state because they get stale on the way. Cold storages and refrigerated vans will address the problem, he hopes.

Birsa Agriculture University, he informs, will be setting up as many as 10 mother nurseries in as many districts. Although the state continues to receive litchies from Muzaffarpur (Bihar) and mangoes from Malda (Bengal) and oranges from Nagpur, in five years, Jharkhand will give all of them a run for their money, Singh asserts confidently.

Others are not quite as hopeful. Forty lakh saplings will be required every year, claims an expert, to implement the National Horticulture Mission in the state. But the state continues to depend on neighbouring states and their nurseries, he points out. The progress so far is far from satisfactory, admits the agriculture department official.

The project got off to a bad start with 80 per cent of the cashew plantation, with saplings procured from orissa and Bengal , “dying” in Bahragora and Chakulia. The NGOs involved in the operation were show-caused, sparking off a blame-game.

With three more years to go, the state is yet to show a single cold-storage or a new food processing unit. Concerted effort by the government, NGOs and farmers will be required to reap the benefits of the centrally sponsored scheme, concedes a BAU scientist, P. Kumar.

Md Naushad, a commission agent at the Daily Market in Ranchi, says that not a single variety of fruit or flower is purchased by the traders from within the state. Vegetables, however, are bought in different parts of the state, for both local consumption and for sale outside. Horticulturists maintain that the state is ideally suited to produce carnations and gladiolus besides other flowers. Its soil is also ideal for orchards and vegetable cultivation.

Indeed, districts of Seraikela, East Singhbhum and Santhal Parganas, with moist and humid climate, have been earmarked for large scale cultivation of mangoes and guavas.

Gumla and Simdega districts have been asked to specialise in the production of litchies. Coconuts have been assigned to East Singhbhum whilst Ranchi, Lohardaga, East Singhbum, Seraikela and Hazaribagh districts have been designated as most suitable for large scale cultivation of spices like green chillies, ginger and turmeric.

The action plan further states that in the more dry districts of Palamau, Chatra and Latehar, which falls in the rain shadow area of the state, farmers would be encouraged to take up large production of amla and citrus fruits. Central assistance ranges from Rs 22,500 per hectare for cultivation of fruits whilst in case of spices, the grant is Rs 11,500 per hectare to be spread over the next three years.

For vegetables, the state horticulture mission is identifying local collection centres to be designated as “apni mandis” along with facilities of a cold chain that includes refrigeration vans to bring the produce from the collection centres, quick transportation facilities and a tie ups with wholesale buyers outside the state. A tie-up is also in place with a Bangalore-based firm, Florence and Flora for a complete buy back of all exotic flowers grown in Jharkhand.

Journey of a langur untold

He is a langur but he has miles to go. So he chose Indian Railways as the best mode of transport and, naturally, travelled ticketless.

On Wednesday, a langur – a large long-tailed monkey – created quite a flutter as he got down on platform No.1 of Ranchi railway station from a Bokaro-Allepe train, said an eyewitnesses.

After getting down from the train, he started playing soccer with a 10-year-old boy and even had a hearty meal of chocolates and chips provided by a station shop owner.

He also played with toys put on display in the shops. The passengers gathered to watch his activities. The langur stayed for around six hours on the platform.

Before leaving, the langur checked into a restaurant on the platform. There he was offered food and he sat on a table and finished the meal merrily.

He then boarded a Hatia-Patna train, where fellow passengers even offered him a berth.

‘The langur stayed on the platform for six hours. He didn’t hurt anyone and even played with children and entertained the commuters. The shopkeepers offered him chocolates, chips and other things, which he accepted happily,’ said Mohan Kumar, a shop owner at the Ranchi platform.

‘I’ve never seen a langur who travels by train and enjoys the ride without creating any trouble to passengers,’ said Rakesh Mishra, a fellow passenger.

The animal’s final destination was not known!

Web window to public records

Jamshedpur, May 7: From June, residents here will be able to collect certificates from a single website, thanks to a pilot project that is being undertaken by National Informatics Centre (NIC). The Common Service Centre, which is supposed to provide all government services at the village level, has developed a website which has the formatted software. “Through a trained operator, we will issue certificates of birth, death, caste, domicile and residence from the website,” said Sunil Verma, district information officer, NIC.

Even the application for certificates can be downloaded from the Internet.

A number will be provided to all applicants who seek the certificates. By logging on to the website and typing in the unique identity number, applicants can trace the progress of their certificate.

The project in Jamshedpur will be second of its kind in the state.

A similar project has just been started on experimental basis at Dhanbad.

“We are waiting for Internet connectivity as this is completely a web-based application. We should be able to start by the end of May,” said Verma.

“We are merely making use of the computerised process and allowing people of the city to take advantage of it,” he added.

As soon as Internet connectivity is made available to all blocks, the facility can be extended in block offices in East Singhbhum , said officials.

A printer will also be provided to make available the certificates from the block office. When the larger project of CSC is implemented through the public-private-partnership model, the controls will be handed over to them, said officials.

Lack of cyber laws nurture lovers’ nest

Jamshedpur, May 4: Cybercafes in the city have turned out to be a safe haven for lovers as they provide a private space and cost less than restaurants.

In a random survey carried out by The Telegraph at five cyber cafes in Bistupur, Adityapur, Sakchi, Kadma and Sonari, about 25 youths said frequent police raids at Jubilee Park and Tata Steel Zoological Park have forced them to visit cafes with their partners.

“Earlier, we used to meet either at Jubilee Park or at the zoo. The way police started raiding these two places frequently forced us to meet at cybercafes as they have a decent crowd and no one is bothered about what is going on in the adjacent cabin,” said a girl in an Adityapur cafe. Her boyfriend Vijay Prasad, a final-year student of Jamshedpur Co-operative College, said: “All the cafe owners in the city take special care of couples. Some even keep water bottles in the cabins so that we don’t have to move out of the enclosure.”

At a cost of Rs 15 per hour for browsing, another reason that has made the cafes a safe haven is that it is less expensive. “We meet at least five days a week. If we meet in a restaurant, minimum expenses per day would be not less than Rs 100,” said Md Kasim, a student of KMPM Inter College.

A Plus Two student of Rajendra Vidyalaya said: “We use the time both for dating and also surfing through websites to collect information about career options and even work on social science projects for school. At times we even download photographs required for projects.”

However, love birds have reason for concern. Following yesterday’s incident, deputy superintendent of police Madhusudan Bari said he has instructed all police stations to conduct surprise checks at cafes so that these places do not encourage indecent acts.

In the past one year, many states in the country have implemented rules to help curb cyber crime, but no such rule exists here.

According to a national rule model recommendation, state governments are advised to make it mandatory for all customers to provide a photo identity proof. Cafe owners are expected to keep a log timing of customers and terminals used, to prevent cyber crimes such as pornography, money laundering through Internet or anti-national activities. But state authorities do not seem aware of such rules.

“The Centre can’t impose the rule on states since cafes come under the shops and establishments strictly controlled by the state,” said Rohas Nagpal, president of Asian School of Cyber Laws, Pune.

May 7, 2007 at 10:58 pm Leave a comment

Apr 23-30, 07

Two-wheelers riding high
- Vehicular density yet to be calculated in city

Ranchi, April 30: It’s official. Two-wheelers are the hot favourite among city residents as over 30,000 of them have been added to the already congested roads in the last fiscal.

A total of 41,923 new two-wheelers have been registered with the Ranchi district transport office in the last financial year against a corresponding figure of 35,837 registered in 2005-06 — an increase of 6,086.

Of the total number of new vehicles registered at Ranchi, two-wheelers continue to rule the roost. Against the 25,424 two-wheelers registered with the office during 2005-06, the figure has jumped up to 30,185 over the previous year, an increase of 4,761.

Things have stood quite motionless in the four-wheeler segment. A total of 4,317 new four-wheelers were registered in the last fiscal as compared to 4,049 in 2005-06.

However, district transport officer Shivendra Kumar Singh strongly refuted the belief that all new vehicles registered at Ranchi every year are adding to the city’s vehicular population.

“Mere registrations do not imply that all the vehicles are plying within the Ranchi municipal area. A good number of two- and four-wheelers registered with us are plying in other districts too. There are cases where vehicles are exported to neighbouring states as well. Again, vehicles registered in other states enter Ranchi. Hence, an increase in registration of new vehicles cannot be interpreted in any way vis-à-vis increase in vehicular density,” Singh told The Telegraph.

According to official statistics released by Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC), Ranchi has a total of 470.71 km of pucca and kutchcha roads spread over 31 wards comprising the corporation area. Of these, 346.44 km are pucca roads while the remaining 124.27 km are kutchcha roads.

The district transport office, however, conceded that no study has ever been made to find out the average vehicular density of the city. Neither are there any statistics available to indicate the maximum number of vehicles that Ranchi is capable of accommodating, he said.

“The DTO, Ranchi office is also not competent to comment either on the present or projected vehicular density,” Singh stressed. Singh further pointed out that the daily traffic hold-ups witnessed on the roads of the state capital are also not indicative of the vehicle population as jams occur due to many reasons.

He agreed that the number of vehicles has increased in the past five years but was not sure of the vehicular density.

Maoists sing new tune, spread fear

“When Maoists in Jharkhand sneeze, Sonebhadra and Mirzapur districts in eastern Uttar Pradesh catch cold.” This is how BJP MLC Shyam Singh describes the import of the Maoists’ call to voters here.

Maoists are asking people in Sonebhadra, Chandauli and Mirzapur to vote for “their candidates”. “And their call carries some weight,” says Singh. Fifty-two constituencies go to polls on May 3, apart from a by-election to the Robertsganj parliamentary constituency.

The Maoists’ call, however, is a clear deviation from the past since they are traditionally known to issue ‘boycott polls’ diktats. What has made the Naxals change their stand?

Kameshwar Baitha, a CPI (Maoist) sub-zonal commander lodged in Garhwa jail in Jharkhand, is the one who has scripted the shift. Billed as a rebel with a difference, Baitha finished a close second as BSP nominee in the recently concluded Palamu (Jharkhand) parliamentary bypoll. His next target is to consolidate his hold across the border in Uttar Pradesh, where he has always been a force to reckon with. The 54-year-old has 12 cases of extremist activities pending against him in Sonebhadra. Jharkhand police claim Baitha’s son-in-law is a government official and one of his in-laws a police inspector in UP.

“The Maoists have always been debating the feasibility of contesting elections. But, I am no longer a Maoist. Once in jail, the membership ceases. I am only a BSP party worker, and my men are in Uttar Pradesh trying to ensure that the elephant has a cakewalk,” Baitha explains.

The explanation, however, has stoked fears across the border. Not surprisingly, the Samajwadi Party is making the loudest noises. Vijay Singh Gaur, SP MLA from Dudhi constituency, says “this Maoist diktat is a plan hatched by Mayawati”.

But there are takers for Baitha’s kind of politics. Says Kailash Ghasia of Nagwa, “Politicians remember us only during polls. They are not worth risking our lives for. We should vote the way the wind blows.”

From CRZ to SEZ: Naxal reins of terror

It was in August 2001 that the idea of establishing a Com-pact Revolutionary Zone (CRZ), from the forest tracts of Adilabad (Andhra Pradesh) to Nepal, traversing the forest areas of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar, was conceptualized at Siliguri in a high-level meeting of the Maoist leaders from India and Nepal.

The primary aim of CRZ is to facilitate the easy movement of extremists from one area in the proposed zone to another. The concept of CRZ was essentially seen as a prologue to the further expansion of Left-wing extremism in the subcontinent. Looked from this angle, the notion of CRZ seems to be moving in the right direction, for, there has been a remarkable Maoist growth between 2001 and 2007 in both India and Nepal.

As of now, while the Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist (CPN-M) has joined the interim Government of Nepal, their Maoist counterparts in India have carved out several guerilla zones in different parts of the country.

What was once a utopian concept, the idea and reality of CRZ in India has indeed made big strides. While the Maoists were busy executing their mega plan of CRZ, the economic policy of India marked a dramatic shift with the Government of India announcing the setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in its Export-Import Policy 2000.

As per the SEZ Act 2005, SEZs are geographical regions that have different economic laws to the rest of the country to facilitate increased investments and economic activity. The politics engulfing the whole issue of SEZs has definitely acquired a Maoist flavor, as can be clearly ascertained from the happenings of Kalinga Nagar, Singur and Nandigram. Recent happenings on the SEZs front shows that the idea of SEZs, which was originally formulated as a development strategy, has now become a rallying cry for Left-wing extremism. Couple of months back, during their ninth unity congress, the top ranking Maoist leadership from 16 Indian states decided to launch violent attacks on SEZs and projects that displace people.

The Annual Report of the “Central Military Commission” of the Communist Party of India- Maoist (CPI-Maoist) outlines the Naxal plan of creating disruptions at several proposed infrastructure and mining projects and steel plants.

The potential Naxal targets as mentioned in the report are the bauxite mining project of the Jindals in Visakhapatnam, the Polavaram irrigation project, steel plants proposed in Chhattisgarh by Tata, Essar and Jindal, the Center’s proposed railway line on the Rajhara-Raighat-Jagdalpur sector, Posco’s steel plants under construction in Orissa, power plants proposed by the Ambanis, a proposed steel plant in Jharkhand by the Mittal Group and the Kosi irrigation project in northern Bihar. The Naxal concept of CRZ and their brand of politics over the issue of SEZs is something which needs to be taken seriously.

The Naxal intentions are clear; they want to use SEZs as the most powerful weapon for the complete realization of CRZ. The link between the Naxal concept of CRZ and the new development mantra of SEZs is no coincident. The Naxals have grown stronger in the tribal districts of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Maharashtra, which attracts US$85 billion of promised investments, mostly in steel and iron plants, and mining projects.

Ironically, all these investments and projects are of no benefit to the locals, and in most of the cases, in the absence of a credible ‘Rehabilitation and Resettlement’ (R&R) policy, the locals are forced to loose their lands which are crucial for their survival. The Naxals have been quick to realize this and reflect it in their agenda. After the sad happenings of Nandigram, the Union Government was forced to take stock of the issues related to SEZs.

Recently, after including a few changes in the SEZ Act, the Central Government’s Empowered Group of Ministers on SEZs approved 83 new proposals in addition to the already notified 63 projects. The head of the government has already declared that SEZs is a reality. SEZs in itself is not a bad idea, but the problem lies with its poor implementation. ‘Rehabilitation and Resettlement’ holds the key to the successful realization of SEZs in India.

Government need to show that SEZs as a development strategy would result in equitable distribution of its gains. There is no denying that India is growing but certain sections are being continuously denied a share in this growth. Except for symbolic tokenism, such as the Employment Guarantee Scheme, the fundamentals of delivery are missing from most of the plans and projects.

It is this tokenism that has given an opportunity to the Naxals to hijack the issue of SEZs in their favor. Today, the Naxals have realized that the Spring Thunder of 1968 failed to give the desired results owing to wide differences in Indian and Chinese conditions.

Accordingly, they have reformulated their premises of Maoism. Unfortunately, the government is taking too long to realize that though its SEZs policy is based on the Chinese model, its success would depend a lot on its application to Indian conditions.

The writer is Lecturer, G M College, Sambalpur, Orissa

JSW plans to multiply capacity to 30 m tonnes

Bolstered by rising demand in the country, JSW Steel has decided to increase its overall production capacity to 30 million tonnes by 2020, multiplying from the current level of 3.8 million tonnes, aiming to use cash flows from a shorter expansion plan expected to be completed in three years to fund a larger growth scheme.

The company plans to set up greenfield projects of 10 million tonnes each in West Bengal and Jharkhand by 2020 and boost the capacity of its existing plant at Vijaynagar in Karnataka to 10 million tonnes by 2010, said Sajjan Jindal, vice-chairman and managing director of JSW.

JSW has also made a small acquisition in the United Kingdom. It has acquired the UK-based Argent Independent Steel Ltd at an enterprise value of 3.7 million pounds (about Rs 31 crore). The acquired company has debt of around 2.1 million pounds. The annual steel processing capacity of the company is 1.5 lakh tonnes.

“The company is not looking at acquiring major assets outside India as the domestic market offers tremendous opportunities,” Jindal told Hindustan Times.

The company has already started the first phase of its expansion to increase its capacity to 6.8 million tonnes in Vijaynagar, entailing a total capital expenditure of Rs 5,300 crore, to be completed by 2009.

Simultaneously, the company has decided to add another 3.2 million tonnes of capacity at the same place. In addition, it is setting up a cold-rolling plant with a capacity of one million tonnes and a separate hot strip plant of a comparable size.

The total capital expenditure involved in this expansion including the cost of setting up a blast furnace will be around Rs 17,000 crore, said JSW’s finance director Seshagiri Rao. This will be funded though the combination of debt and internal accruals.

The company has already tied up debt of Rs 5,000 crore, while tranches adding up to Rs 5,000 crore will be raised as long-term loans, Rao said. The remaining Rs 7,000 crore will be funded through internal accruals over the next four years, he added.

Jindal said the company had applied to the West Bengal and Jharkhand governments for leases to mine iron ore. “We are expecting to get the mining lease in the next 6 to 8 months. Once the mining lease rights are given, we will firm up our financial plan to fund these projecs,” Jindal said.

These two units will come up in phases with 3 million tonnes to be added every three years. “After 2010, we will have capacity of 10 million tones, which will generate enough cash to fund the further expansion,” Jindal said.

The company reported a marginal increase in profit after tax (PAT) at Rs 413.25 crore for the quarter ended March 31, as compared to Rs 410.68 crore for the same quarter last year. Total income (net of excise) increased 30.76 per cent to Rs 2,579.27 crore for the fourth quarter ended March 31, from Rs 1,972.43 crore in the corresponding quarter a year ago.

For the year ended March 31, the company posted a profit after tax of Rs 1,292 crore as compared to Rs 856.53 crore for 2005/06 while total income (net of excise) increased to Rs 8,699.59 crore from Rs 6,598.49 crore.

The group recorded a profit after tax after share of profit from associates of Rs 1,303.89 crore for the year ended March 31, while the total income (net of excise) was Rs 8699.59 crore.

Amendment to VAT provisions irks Jharkhand assessess

Jharkhand sales tax assessees are unhappy about some amendments in the states Value-Added Tax (VAT) provisions that make life more difficult for the taxpayer.

They said that the amendments have been made without consulting members of the Jharkhand Vat Amendment Committee, of which most trade associations of the state are members.

Jharkhand was among the last lot of states in the country to introduce VAT, with effect from April 1, 2006.

On March 9, 2007, the state brought in an amendment in its VAT provisions that said all three types of forms meant for transportation of goods would have to be authenticated by the department, and that too with retrospective effect from April 1, 2006. On implementing Vat, and while asking sales tax assessees to get forms printed on their own, the department said that only green forms which are meant for ‘importing goods from outside the state,needed to be authenticated by the department.

The two other forms, which didn’t need the department’s authentication earlier but now need it, are for transportation of goods within the state’ and for sending goods outside the state’. Prior to implementation of Vat, sales tax assessees were to file both monthly and quarterly returns. When Vat came into force, they were required to file only monthly returns. An amendment has now been made that makes it compulsory for the assessee to file quarterly returns again, over and above monthly returns.

“The monthly data given by the assessee is an elaborate one under Vat. Instead of burdening him further,the department can easily add them up to arrive at the quarterly figures,” said RN Gupta, president, Singhbhum chamber of commerce & industry.

CESC chooses Katikund for 1000mw Jharkhand project

JAMSHEDPUR: CESC Ltd has finally chosen Katikund in Jharkhand’s Dumka district as the site for its 1000-mw-pithead thermal power project, for which it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the NDA-led Arjun Munda government in September 2005.

Dumka falls in the Santhal Parganas region of the state, not far from adjoining West Bengal.

In the MoU, CESC had offered three alternative sites to the Jharkhand government—at Godda, Latehar and Chandil—to locate the project, of which only the Godda site was near a pithead.

The Katikund pithead site was decided upon later.

Sources said CESC vice-chairman Sanjiv Goenka and other company officials met Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda in Delhi on Friday and discussed the progress of the project in some detail.

This is the first time the RPG group will be investing outside West Bengal in the power sector. Its earlier attempt to enter Bihar around 18 years ago with a power project failed to take off.

The project, to come up at a cost of around Rs 5,000 crore, has now been envisaged in two stages of 500 mw each, instead of the earlier plan of two plants of 250 mw each in the first stage, followed by another with 500 mw capacity later on.

“We have applied for all clearances, but first let us get the coal block first,” a company source told FE.

CESC will apply for the coal block to the Union coal ministry after obtaining the necessary state recommendation.

Sources said the ministry was likely to take another 2-3 months to decide on the issue.

“The project will take off the moment we get signals from the Centre and the state government, as we have applied for everything, including land for the project, water, etc,” said the source.

While the first 500-mw unit is expected to come up in 36 months from the date all clearances are obtained, the second (500-mw) unit will be completed in another six months’ time.

Jharkhand will have the right to buy 25 % of the power generated by the power utility at rates to be determined by the Jharkhand State Electricity Regulatory Commission (JSERC).

According to the original MoU, in order to support Jharkhand’s industrial development, CESC will also be allowed to supply power directly to bulk consumers in the state at mutually agreed tariff and other terms and conditions.

Sources said the original MoU, which was valid for one year, has been revalidated between the parties.

Catholic priest beaten in remote India

Ranchi – A Catholic priest serving in a remote tribal village in India’s Jharkhand region was hospitalized last week after he was severely beaten, the UCA news service reports.

Father Isidore Toppo was reportedly recovering from injuries he suffered after he was beaten and left unconscious by unidentified assailants on April 24.

The Catholic Church has a strong presence in Jharkhand, a tribal region in eastern India that gained recognition in November 2000 as India’s 28th state. The prominence of the Church, and Catholic leadership in the drive for statehood, have sometimes provoked tensions with local Hindu groups.

Telling tales of three decades

- Government needs to protect and promote industries


Bihar Rubber Company Ltd, Ranchi, has been manufacturing good quality rainwear, industrial footwear and pillows made out of rubber for the Indian markets. “Unfortunately,” general manager Jyotirmay Basak said while talking to Rudra Biswas, “we do not get support from the government.”

The company, which is one of the oldest small-scale industries in Kokar Industrial Estate, is a subsidiary of Bengal Waterproof Ltd, which manufactures rubber goods under the brand name Duckback. The company was set up in 1975 with Basak as head of Jharkhand and Bihar operations.

Do you agree that the general atmosphere is conducive for the growth of small-scale industries in Jharkhand?

The general atmosphere is not at all conducive for the growth of any manufacturing unit. More than 40 MoUs have been signed by the state government to rope in outside entrepreneurs though manufacturing units here continue to be ignored.

What specific problems do you face?

The books say that Jharkhand is full of minerals. I ask, what do I do with all these minerals if I cannot explore them? The local district industries office remains useless.

Bureaucrats have been interpreting the law according to their own whims and fancies. Then there is the explosion of labour leaders.

Industries in Jharkhand do not just need protection; they also need promotion by the state.

Are you getting support from the state industries department?

Over the past 32 years, there has never been any effort on the part of the industries department to promote industries. However, things have begun to change slowly of late. Harassment by industry department officials have also become a thing of the past.

Steel PSUs back in business with great projects

The public sector steel makers are back in business in India. This is so if one goes by the plans of investment announced by the government owned Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL) and also the iron ore mining company National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC).

SAIL, for example, has ambitious plans – to raise capacity in each of the existing mills, set up a greenfield plant in Jharkhand, build a completely new plant at Burnpur (IISCO). It is not important to know what plans exactly they have at the moment. But, there are good economics to raise their Bokaro plant capacity to 10-12 million tonne, Bhilai to 10 million tonne, Durgapur to another 10 million tonne and Rourkela to about 5 million tonne.

They can have a 4-5 million tonne plant at Burnpur. They can have at least a million tonne stainless steel plant at Salem and raise the iron making capacity of VISL if it is possible. All these are in brownfield mode. They have announced a 5-6 million tonne greenfield plant in the state of Jharkhand and are planning to set up another 4-5 million tonne plant in Chhattisgarh along with NMDC and RINL. One is not sure whether they have the land ready for a greenfield plant in Jharkhand or for the joint venture plant in Chhattisgarh (The Chhattisgarh plant has not in any case gone beyond the drawing board). With their presence already in the regions, it may easier for them to get clearances earlier. If they get Nilachal, expansion possibilities are also enormous there.

RINL is currently executing a project to raise the plant’s capacity to 6.3 million tonne. They have been talking about going up to 18 million tonne. Most may write that, these plans as among many which do not see the light of the day. But, a careful examination will reveal solid reasons for the PSUs to go all out on expansion. SAIL for example, has iron ore and coal. They have most of the land required for the brown field cases. They have excellent manpower, somewhat ageing, but, can still draw new good talents, with the cover of government company safety.

The incremental capacity addition costs, as well known, are much lower in brownfield cases. Even the additional transport and logistics infrastructure for the incremental capacity will not be much and will not put any big burden on the government to create those. TRINL does not have captive iron ore or coal mines. But, they have some assured supply from NMDC.

The state government policies of allotting mines only to those who set up plants in their respective states have caused some difficulties for the company. But, they have land to expand, a port next door, and a well developed road and railway infrastructure.

With the joint venture plant in Chhattisgarh, they may be able to reassure themselves of a long term supply of high quality ores from that state. Both SAIL and RINL are real pots of gold when it comes to their real assets. At the moment, with steel prices so high and are expected to remain so for a long time, the cash flow to these companies will be massive. The typical public sector image – the work culture and the government interferences – may come on the way, but, there are definite changes as well.

A tough easy choice


Water or mines? The answer should be obvious, but thanks to the pots of gold that lie hidden in them, mines are robbing the countryside of its natural wealth.

Do you want water or minerals? The question need not always be this. But for many activists and communities arraigned against mines, it could be something as extreme, especially if it is someone in Vishakhapatnam fighting the depleting water levels, thanks to bauxite mining.

In Niyamgiri in the Lanjigarh block of Orissa’s Kalahandi district, the choice could be between the golden gecko (a rare lizard) sited there and bauxite. Vedanta has set up a refinery in a proposed wildlife sanctuary, though it has not yet got the permission of the Supreme Court to set up the mine. People are fighting to ensure it never gets the permission. At stake are 100 pure streams of water flowing down the valley which is the source of two rivers.

“Mines drink all the water, besides polluting them,” says Prafulla Samantara of the Lok Shakti Abhiyan of Orissa. He and Biswajit Mohanti of the Wildlife Society of Orissa are petitioners in the case against Vedanta.

Achyut Das and Vidhya Das, an activist couple, have been fighting the miners, Utkala Aluminium International Limited, from setting themselves up in Kashipur in nearby Raigarha district. “I have a non-bailable arrest warrant against me even now,” Achyut Das says smiling through his grey beard. There is a glint of victory in his eyes at the thought of a fight that has lasted for 15 years against a corporate.

In fact, Orissa, which has seen a massive flow of mining leases in the last few years, seems to be beset with landmines of resistance almost everywhere a mining site is planned. It is there even in the much celebrated Arcelor Mittal site in Keonjhar.

The conflicts end either in Kalinganagar type bloodshed or the ongoing use of police force, as in Jagatsingpur against those resisting Posco, or in a new rehabilitation policy announced by the Orissa government recently. Can a small room, a job for a member in the family and some cash substitute the vast wealth of land and forests? Again, there are examples of poorly managed resettlement of displaced persons in the past.

An asbestos mine abandoned decades ago continues to poison fields and the river in Roro in Jharkhand, thanks to negligence by its former owners, the Birla-owned Hyderabad Asbestos Company Ltd.

The law is incapable of holding them accountable. Petty sums are taken as guarantee for mine closure, point out activists. Tribal victims still walk Roro with dim vision and die of strange diseases.

“Not even a medical check-up was ever done,” Madhumita Dutta, an activist, points out.

In Jadugada, again in Jharkhand, a government firm has set examples of failure to build bridges with the people whose land it has decided to mine and spew with radioactive waste.

Uranium Corporation of India Ltd Chairman R Agarwal scoffs at the concept of public hearing and laughs at the possibility of health disorders among people in the area. He made a strange statement attending a workshop organised by the Centre for Science and Environment this week. “Poverty is the biggest polluter,” he said and walked out with his wife, even as activists from Jharkhand were virtually baying for his blood.

Three Jharkhand girls missing

Police suspect that three girls who went missing from their Jharkhand village have left for cities to work as domestic maids.

Gudia Khatoon, 12, Asmana Khatoon, 14 and Manisha Khatoon, 16, are all residents of Bansjari village under Mandar block, 70 km from Ranchi.

Their family members, who have filed ‘missing’ complaints, have stated that two other girls – Phoolmani and Ranjeeta Urain – had been trying to convince their daughters to work in the city.

‘According to the villagers, the three missing girls were last spotted with Ranjeeta and Phoolmani, against whom complaints are lodged,’ said a police official.

Said Asmana Khatoon’s mother: ‘These two girls work as mediators. First they tried to convince us to send our daughters to New Delhi. When we refused, they tried to convince our girls, who are illiterate and have never been outside the village.’

Ranjeeta’s visiting card names an agency that arranges domestic maids for Delhi residents. A police team is likely to visit New Delhi soon to trace the girls.

Every year thousands of girls go outside the state to work as domestic maids.

Jails in state to house more inmates

The capacity of the jails in the state has been enhanced by about three times, the state government informed Jharkhand High Court during the hearing of a public interest litigation.

The prisons can now house 18,000 inmates, the state government said before the court. Earlier, the jails could accommodate 5,988.

The Birsa Munda Jail in the capital was built to house 604 inmates but was crammed with prisoners thrice its capacity.

But the new jail in Hotwar can accommodate 3,415 inmates, the government said in an affidavit.

The jails in Hazaribagh, Dhanbad, Khunti, Tenughat, Giridih, Chas, Chatra, Latehar and Deoghar have also been expanded.

The Ghagidih jail in Jamshedpur can now accommodate 1,447 inmates, the affidavit said.

Wards that can house 100 prisoners each have been added to the prisons.

The government has also sanctioned the construction of a 100-prisoner ward in Madhupur sub-jail.

The capacity of almost all the jails in the districts has been increased, the counsel for the state government said before the court last Friday.

The state also informed the court that of the 2,822 prisoners accused of petty offences, 992 have been released on bail after efforts of the District Legal Services Authority.

Of the 237 aged and disabled prisoners, 46 have been granted bail, the counsel added.

After going through the records, the high court directed the secretary of the Jharkhand State Legal Services Authority to appear before it in person on May 7 and explain what has been done to the applications of the other accused.

The secretary has been directed to appear on May 7.

The court issued the order while hearing the PIL filed by Amit Kumar, a detainee in the Birsa Munda Jail since 2003. Through the PIL Kumar had brought up the plight of the prisoners.

He had also addressed a letter to the high court’s vigilance committee, which is headed by a senior judge.

Jharkhand’s straw artist gains popularity

Jamtara (Jharkhand): A retired man from a small village in Jharkhand is earning fame by making paintings with the help of straw.

Sixty-five-year-old Tarun Guha of Jamatara in Jharkhand is earning through his beautifully made paintings.

Guha’s creativity is visible at his workshop located in the locality of Hansipahari in Jamatara District, 250 kms from state capital Ranchi.

After his retirement, Guha thought of doing something to help locals earn their livelihood. Encouraged by the district welfare department, he started training villagers.

“The retired VDO of Jamatara asked me to do work that would benefit the villages and the villagers. I thought that straw was the only thing that I could get easily in a village, and now I have been using it for my paintings and training for the last six years. I have reached a level now that allows me to participate in various fairs across India.

The art that I make, you cannot see anywhere. I get many chances to earn in a year, but run out of material after going to four or five fairs. I get 40000-50000 rupees easily,” said Tarun Guha.

Tara Dafadar, an officer of the District Welfare Association, is planning to train villagers to get recognition for the state.

“If we give training to the villagers through our association, our district will get fame.”

Tarun Guha draws figure sharply on the paper, pastes straw beautifully and then places colour on it. When the picture gets framed, it gives an extraordinary eye-catching look.

Textbook scarcity stings students

Sivya Jha, who studied till recently in Kerala Public School at Sakchi (Jamshedpur) would not have failed in her annual examination in Class IX, insists her mother, if only she had access to textbooks.

Saira Parveen decided to switch from an Urdu-medium school to a Hindi-medium school because textbooks in Urdu disappeared from the market and were not available.

Suraj Prasad claims to have been running from pillar to post for the past 45 days to get physics, chemistry and biology textbooks for his daughter. But he has not been successful yet. Sanjay Sinha, a banker, claims to have offered to pay extra to the bookstores for the textbooks a month ago. But he still has not got the books.

As parents and guardians once again run from one shop to another, the shortage of textbooks appears to be getting worse.

Officials of the Jharkhand Education Project (JEP), which now has the copyright to print NCERT textbooks, admit that the state government used up the better part of one year to obtain the copyright and another year was spent in floating and finalising tenders.

Now that Saraswati Press at Calcutta, National Printers at Ranchi and Pitambara Books of Jhansi have been asked to print the books, they hope, the situation will start improving. But there is a fresh “mess”, says primary education director S.K. Sharma.

Syllabi for Classes I, III and VI have changed nationally during the 2007-08 session. But since JEP failed to secure the copyright for the changed syllabi, these classes in Jharkhand will continue to follow the older syllabi for another year, says Sharma. Syllabi for other classes are also being revised and by 2009, the school curriculum all over the country is likely to change from Classes I to XII.

JEP provides funds for free distribution of books to all girl candidates and students belonging to Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. HRD department does likewise for students in the general category and other backward class students studying in 38,000 government primary and middle schools.

The scarcity of textbooks has forced some students and schools to fall back on photocopies. Others are forced to beg, borrow and steal. But there is no explanation why books cannot be supplied if there is a demand for it.

While some people blame the state government’s decision to get the books printed on its own for the mess, others blame the allegedly low commission on NCERT books. Some dealers like Birendra Aurora of Pustak Mandir, Ranchi, alleges that the state is flooded with pirated version of books from one Anand Publisher of Delhi.

“The situation will take one or two more sessions to stabilise,” adds Aurora.

Lying vacant

With business not having picked up as expected, too many flats are waiting to be taken in Ranchi, says Rudra Biswas

A little more than six years after the creation of Jharkhand, there are no takers for more than two lakh square feet of office space, at some of the prime locations in the state capital,either on rent or purchase.

Property dealers warn the scene can only get bleaker if promoters and developers do not slash their prices. People would simply rather invest in Bihar, where they feel the deal is better.

“To let” signs are fast coming up in more areas, and rental charges are coming down, as the frantic search for customers begins. The houses that even four years ago were available at a rental of Rs 3,500, are now being offered at the slashed rate of Rs 2,000. Even then, there are no takers. “Promoters and developers will not admit. But the truth is there are fewer buyers of flats today. In all upcoming multi-storeyed apartments, there are many flats which are still waiting to be booked,” said R.S. Agarwal, president of the builders association, Jharkhand. “Even on the Main Road, the all important thoroughfare in the state capital, there are a number of multi-storeyed buildings and a shopping complex, where several floors are waiting for buyers,” he informed.

To add to the chaos, at least 500 building plans, submitted by promoters and developers, more than one and half years ago, are pending with the Ranchi Regional Development Authority (RRDA). These plans are expected to be cleared by March end. “That would mean an addition of at least 40,000 flats. Where are so many buyers?” he asked. Asked for reason behind buyers preferring Bihar, he said it was because of relaxed investment norms, so much that applicants are assured of allocation of land within 30 days of filing application.

Considering that even six years ago people from Bihar were coming to these areas to invest, it’s a trend that’s completely reversed. Business has not picked up in the way it had been expected to, with the result being that real estate business, too, has suffered. Ashok Garodia, a property dealer in Ranchi, agrees. “My building plans are still pending with the Ranchi Regional Development Authority. Information is that with no discernable industrial or business growth, there is a severe shortage of buyers. I do not know what would happen by the time my own building plans are cleared,” Garodia confided.

Prabhat Kumar Roy, a property dealer in Ranchi, too feels that unless rates are slashed, houses are destined to remain vacant. “Five years ago, a two bed-roomed house and garage commanded a monthly rent of Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,000. All such houses, located far away from the main city centre, today can expect not more than Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000, if lucky,” Roy said. Whatever happened to the real estate boom…

Flunked on study front

Both Jharkhand and Orissa have been pulled up for being laggards by a parliamentary standing committee on human resource development.

In a report presented to the Rajya Sabha on Friday, the committee, headed by Janardan Dwivedi, has expressed concern over the large number of districts in the two states without the sanctioned District Institutes of Education and Training (DIET).

While six of the 12 such institutes are functional in Jharkhand, 13 out of the 30 sanctioned for Orissa have come up so far.

Whereas the committee repeatedly pointed out to the department of school education and literacy in the ministry of human resource development about large number of DIETs remaining non-operational, there has been no visible improvement.

“For these states to come out of education backwardness, it is very important that they have requisite number of trained teachers at least for primary and upper primary levels,” the panel noted.

Investigation by the committee has revealed that more than a fifth of teachers (22.44 per cent) in Jharkhand are appointed on contract.

The committee has stated that this aspect needs attention, as only teachers with job satisfaction can be ideal teachers.

Jharkhand also takes a beating in training teachers under the 20-day in-service teacher training programme. About half the teachers (48 per cent) in the state have not undergone the training that is seen as a crucial factor for improving quality of teaching under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

The standing committee has said the Mahila Samakhya programme is dogged by the problem of non-registration of MS societies in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

As a result, this programme has shown under-utilisation of funds. Out of the Rs 140 crore allocated to the scheme for 20,380 villages in nine states, only Rs 77.15 crore could be spent.

Subsidy for solar heaters, not lights

Ranchi: Not a single government building here has a solar panel to harness energy and electrify the rooms.

Even the office of the Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Authority has no such arrangement, because the office is in a rented building, claims its director, S.E.H. Kazmi.

Though it is a power deficit state and its urban areas, too, suffer from prolonged power-cuts, no attempt has been made to harness alternative sources, say urban planners.

There is no law to make it mandatory for new buildings to provide for solar panels, which will push up the cost of flats by Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh. Nor does the government provide any subsidy for using solar energy in urban areas.

K.S. Narayanan, who supplies and installs solar power equipment, insists that Karnataka government provides 25 per cent subsidy to apartment blocks that use solar power. Even Kazmi admits that such incentive will be useful.

The state government does, however, provide subsidies for using solar water-heaters. As many as 44 commercial establishments, mostly hotels, in the state capital have grabbed the opportunity to install them. The subsidy being Rs 105 per litre, a water heater with a capacity of 100 litres and priced at Rs 15,000, is made available in the cities for one-third the cost. The buyer pays Rs 5,000 while the state government pays Rs 10,000.

Narayanan claims that an apartment block with 30 flats will require 15 KW. It will cost Rs 40 lakh, he admits, without any subsidy and the flat owners will have to fork out a little more than a lakh for it.

But it will be worth it, he says, because each of those flats will be able to operate a TV set, five tubelights and two fans, whenever power supply fails. “What is more, for the next 10 years the residents would not have to spend anything, except for changing the distilled water of the bottles.”

Solar power plants start functioning when lights go off and switch off when power is restored.

It is also entirely possible that with greater use, the price will come down substantially, Narayan says. The panel, he claims, will stop working only if there is no sunlight for three consecutive days. It does remain a doubtful proposition during the rainy season.

But in the long run, the cost is negligible. Because unlike diesel gen-sets, solar panels will not require regular fuel supply and will be cleaner and noiseless.

“Organisations like Power Finance Corporation encourage builders to install such solar power systems for which they provide soft-term loans,” Narayanan adds.

The government’s mandate, however, is to promote solar energy in rural areas. One wonders if the strategy will be more effective if solar panels are first promoted in urban areas.

Aiada to pay market rate for 2,200 acre expansion plan

Facing space crunch, the Adityapur Industrial Area Development Authority (Aiada), Jharkhand’s numero uno industrial area, is going ahead with its intention of acquiring around 2,200 acre of private land near the Sitarampur dam at the Gamharia end of the existing Aiada phase-I.

Over the years, all of the 3,000 acre under Aiada phase-I has been allotted to around 500 medium and small industrial units. To satisfy its immediate needs, Aiada is already engaged in ‘directly purchasing’ around 60 acre around the periphery of phase-I. So desperate is its need, that the authority is even willing to pay the market price, which currently hovers around Rs 4-5 lakh/acre.

However, Aiada which would have to put up infrastructure, including roads and a power sub-station on the that land it purchases, says it would be able to allot land to industry ”at comparable prices” which it till recently had been doing in phase-I. It is also in the midst of a technical clash with the forest department as around 1,221 acre of the 3,000 acre on which phase-I stands is said to be forest land, which awaits central ‘de-notification’.

Although acquired in the early 1960s with all the formalities having been completed, the acquisition is yet to satisfy a 1996 Supreme Court directive, which says no forest land, irrespective of ownership or possession, could actually be claimed by anybody unless it has been officially ‘de-notified’.

Aware of the complexity and the long-drawn process involved in acquiring forest land and faced with non-availability of land for accommodating new units, Aiada has chosen to expand on the 2,200 acre of mostly private land, 2.5 km from the periphery of phase-I.

”We need to have Aiada phase-II as there is no land available in phase-I. Tata Motors requires around 800 acre, 400 for their own unit and another 400 for their vendors,” said Vandana Dadel, managing director, Aiada.

Alternate energy can light up villages

Village electrification is vital for boosting the prospects of rural economy. The process of rural electrification through conventional grid connectivity has been slow despite several schemes of the government.

The 2001 census had identified 5,19,570 villages which do not get power, but can be connected with the conventional power grid.

About 56.48% households do not have access to power supply. The government had also identified about 18,000 villages in remote areas which are not possible for grid connectivity. These villages were, therefore, selected to be electrified by generation of power from new and renewable sources of energy.

According to the latest data available with the ministry of new and renewable energy, only 2,501 out of identified 18,000 remote villages have been electrified to date. Only 830 remote hamlets have been electrified under the programme. The ministry’s annual report, however, claiming success of remote village electrification has said that 1,177 villages and 2 hamlets in West Bengal, 395 villages and 34 hamlets in Uttarakhand, 325 villages in Chhattisgarh, 134 villages in Manipur, 118 villages in Jammu and Kashmir, 112 villages in Arunachal Pradesh, 58 villages and 178 hamlets in Tripura, 53 villages in Jharkhand, 39 villages in Assam, 30 villages in Madhya Pradesh, 20 villages in Mizoram, 18 villages in Orissa, 2 villages in Gujarat 558 remote village colonies in Kerala have been electrified by generation of power through new and renewable sources of energy.

The government has also claimed that in 2006-07 alone 264 remote villages and 236 hamlets in nine states were electrified through new and renewable sources of energy.

Projects are under implementation in 1,247 villages and 487 remote hamlets.

The ministry of power has claimed that since the launch of Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) in April 2005 till February 2007, 30,562 unelectrified villages in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Bihar and West Bengal have been electrified under the scheme. Besides intensive electrification of 7,175 already electrified villages has also been achieved, for catering to the needs of families living below the poverty line.

Keeping in view the electrification needs of about 5,19,570 villages and 56.48% of the households, several experts are of the view that generation of power through new and renewable sources of energy, distributed and managed on community basis (taking off grid transmission course) can be a better alternative for faster rural electrification.

The ministry for new and renewable energy sources has estimated a potential for 84,776 mwe grid-interactive power generation from non-conventional sources, like agro residues, wind power, small hydro projects, cogeneration from bagasse and from industrial wastes.

Water scarcity may compel investors to shift base in Jharkhand

Some of the industrial houses, which are keen to set up their plants in the Subernarekha basin, may be compelled to relocate their sites. Reason: Shortage of water in the basin.

Altogether 11 companies, including Tata Steel and Jindal Steel and Power Limited, have applied for clearance from the Water Resources Department to draw water from Subernarekha River for their upcoming plants. However, the huge gap in demand of water vis-à-vis its availability in the river has compelled the department officials to go slow on clearing the proposals.

The river has the flow of 1520 million cubic meter (MCM) water against the demand 1667.15 MCM, which also comprises the requirements of 11 upcoming industries. “We expect a deficit of 147.50 MCM water if all the proposals were approved,” said engineer in-chief of the department Phulan Prasad, adding that about 700 MCM water was being utilised from the river for irrigation, drinking water and the industrial purposes.

Citing the water commitment report, officials said that nearly 329 MCM water is being drawn from the river for irrigation, 220 MCM for potable water and 150.75 for industrial usage. M/S Tisco Limited is the major consumer drawing up 124.45 MCM water for its Jamshedpur plant. Five other industries like Hindalco Industries, Adhunik Alloy, Bihar Sponge and Iron Limited and Usha Martin, also draw water from the river.

“Since the river is not able to meet the burgeoning need at the moment, we are planning to approve only those proposals wherein the industrial houses are serious in setting up their plants for the larger benefit of Jharkhand,” said a chief engineer of the department.

The department is also planning to interlink the Subernarekha river with South Koel basin.

The industries that have applied for water from the basin include Jindal Steel and Power (140 MCM), Konto Steel (53 mcm), Bhushan Steel and Power (87 mcm), Kalyani Steel (5 mcm), JSW steel (132 mcm), Tata steel (166 mcm), Tata Power (80 mcm), Adhunik Thermal and Energy power ( 52.5 mcm), Tata’ future expansion (252.75 mcm), M/s Mini Ispat & Udyog Ltd (10 mcm) and Narsig Ispat Ltd (5.26 mcm).


National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) was initially launched in 20 districts of Jharkhand and another 2 Districts have been added in the year 2007-08.

In the State 8.69 lakh households have demanded employment and of them 8.46 lakh households have been provided employment up toDecember,06. The average number of households provided employment in a district of the State is 42,320 , while the national average is 91,685 households. Besides, 16 thousand households completed the 100 days guarantee of employment provided in the Act.

The number of person days of employment provided in the State is 308.14 lakh. The average person days of employment provided in a district is 15.41 lakh compared to the national average of 36.47 lakh person days.

The employment was provided on 42,571 works, out of which 15,836 works have been completed. The average number of works taken up in a district stood at 2,129 against the national average of 3,581.

An amount of Rs. 549.49 crore has been released to the State during 2006-07. Against this, the utlisation up to December, 06 is Rs. 369.59 crore, which is 40.42 % of the total availability.

The expenditure on wages is 58.68%, material is 39.97% and on administration is 1.34%. The average expenditure of a district in the State is Rs. 18.48 crore compared to the National average of Rs. 35 crore.

The Act provides that 1/3rd of the employment provided should be to women. In the State 34.67% person days of employment has been provided to women, 24.07% to SC and 40.35% to ST.

A visit to the State by the National Level Monitors in December, 2006 & January 2007 has revealed that NGOs have been assigned task of creating awareness in villages particularly to Job card holders and in some districts convergence with Janashri Bima Yojana of LIC has been initiated.

Jharkhand tribals to celebrate indigenous hunting festival

Despite the forest department’s drive to conserve wildlife by putting a ban on hunting and killing of wild animals, tribals in Jharkhand have decided to go ahead with their indigenous annual hunting festival starting April 30.

Dalma Buru Sendra Sammittee -, a central body of the tribals, has decided to go ahead with the age-old practice that involves hunting and killing of animals.

Every year, the forest department tries to sensitise the tribal people but with little success as dozens of animals including deer, boar and wild buffaloes are killed during the week-long festival, known as ‘Sendra’ among the tribals.

‘The hunting festival is inextricably attached with our religion and the sentiments of the people of our community. The state government should not do anything to stop us from practising our faith,’ said Demka Soy, convener of DBSS.

During the festival, the tribals wake up early in the morning and worship their deities and ancestors as well as their hunting weapons like bows and arrows. Then they go into the jungle in search of animals by beating drums and chanting of hymns.

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Apr 23, 2007

Dealing with rebels

Confusing signals emanating from the government cannot cloud the fact any longer that the state is at war. Naxalites have stepped up their activities and appear to be inching closer to the urban centres, to the great discomfiture of the government and the police.

The state government appears convinced that Naxalites can be driven back if only it can emulate the Andhra Pradesh police. It has been dithering over a “surrender policy”, hinting however that it would be so attractive that rebels would be tempted to lay down their arms. But notwithstanding the chief minister’s announcement that he is ready to talk with the rebels, it is by no means certain that the rebels want to either surrender or even talk to the chief minister. It is against this backdrop that the following suggestions are being made. These measures, emphasise members of the group, will go a long way to build confidence and involve larger sections of the people.

Hold panchayat elections

Without holding the panchayat elections and funnelling funds to the grassroots, there can be no political solution. While the Supreme Court is expected to take up the matter towards the end of May, it is not understood why the state and the Union government together cannot file a petition even earlier seeking the apex court’s permission to go ahead with the polls under the existing rules of Pesa (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act. After all, this is the Act under which panchayat elections have been held in all the scheduled areas of the country spread across eight or nine states. If the Supreme Court finally strikes down some parts of the Act, it will have to be implemented uniformly across the country and by all states. So, from the next election Jharkhand, too, will have to modify the Act. But till the apex court takes a final decision, the state should be allowed to go ahead with the poll. There is, after all, a complete vacuum of political activity in the villages. With mainstream political parties having retreated and their activity confined to the houses of their respective leaders, it is time to breathe life into panchayats and revive people’s participation in development and policy-making.

Modernise police

By modernising police, officials generally have meant equipping the police with more sophisticated fire-power, equipment, security, manpower and funds.

But, in the context of Jharkhand, the police modernisation should begin by studying the composition of the police force — the representation in terms of districts, tribes, subdivisions and up to the villages. One suspects that a large number of policemen in Jharkhand are drawn from Bihar and Gorkhas from Nepal and some even from UP and elsewhere.

With this kind of composition and lack of local connect, the police will never be able to combat the Naxalites. Recruitment should be carefully monitored to ensure that districts and villages are adequately represented. The police must be a representative force and have stakes in local conditions. The “outsiders” in the police should be distributed evenly across the state.

Modernisation will also entail pushing the bar higher, recruiting more women, making educational qualifications and training tougher and attaching NGOs to every police station so that citizens feel more confident in approaching the police.

Inject excitement

Easier said than done, perhaps. But with the National Games approaching, there is a golden opportunity to promote various sports activities in the villages, spotting talented sportsmen and women, giving away scholarships and picking some of them for training outside the state. With careful planning, job opportunities in the “sports quota” can be developed and tournaments with attractive prize-money can be promoted.

Mobile vans with video screens and suitable films, music, books and even medicine and doctors can be sent to the villages for education, entertainment and medical attention.

Police-people connect

When policemen are entrusted the responsibility to distribute medicines or condoms — or when they are forced to play “friendly” football and volleyball matches and promote clubs — the exercises are so unrealistic that they have failed more often than not. Policemen are feared and hated in villages and these activities do little to dispel the distrust.

Instead, policemen can be used more effectively in conducting surveys — about ration cards, about voters’ identity cards, about status of litigation involving villagers and property disputes.

The information will be useful to civil authorities and gradually people might start looking at policemen differently. The cops can also be utilised to report on the functioning of health centres and schools. It will be an unusual role for them but it will be more useful than policemen enacting plays to ridicule Naxalites.

Media and PUCL

It is in the state’s own interest to allow the media and civil liberties organisations, both within the state and outside, permission to interact with the rebels in jail.

This will help the judiciary and the police, too, to identify the innocent from the indoctrinated. Thousands of “innocent” people can then be released and rehabilitated, trials can be expedited and the state can inspire confidence by announcing compensation for cases involving violation of human rights.

Steel cos ask govt to modify MMDR

NEW DELHI: Domestic steel producers have asked the government to modify the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act to accord priority in allocation of captive mines to utilities producing two million tonnes of steel annually.

“We have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention in modification of the MMDR Act to accord priority to steel utilities with two MT capacity in allocation of captive mines,” said an Indian Steel Alliance (ISA) official.

“The MMDR Act needs to be changed to specify that all steel projects of a capacity of at least two MT are eligible for captive mines irrespective of their location and existing iron ore leases with steel producers are renewed,” he reasoned.

The procedure for allocating of captive mines need to be formulated and simplified. “Unless this is done, any allotment of mines to a party who is not a first applicant is likely to get embroiled in litigation and there will be no progress on the ground,” the official pointed out.

Arguing that the current global trend was for backward integration by steel producers, he argued that steel producers were looking to increase iron ore holdings and it is this search which has attracted FDI from Posco and Arcelor Mittal to Orissa and Jharkhand.

“Despite poor infrastructure scenario in these states, investors are coming forward to put up projects. If allotment of iron ore mines get delayed and remains uncertain, the projects may eventually” not see the light of the day, the ISA told the Prime Minister, the official said.

“We suggested to the Prime Minister that unless iron ore exports were curbed through policy measures, there will be an incentive for deliberate production of fines. In addition to the export duty, a quantitative limit should be levied at the level of exports of 2005-06 and it should be reduced co-terminus with the increase in the steel capacity,” the ISA official said.

The ISA official said the steel industry has solicited the expertise of consultancy firm KPMG to study the mining policy of India and suggest optimal legal and operational ways of accessing and using iron ore in order to avoid litigations.

The Indian steel industry is at the crossroads and its future direction and growth will depend on the decisions taken by the government. Development of infrastructure will be an enabler as well as a driver of steel demand and hence fresh steel capacities need to come up to meet the country’s growing demand for steel, he said.

“The Indian steel sector seeks government intervention and request that a suitable policy framework be created to promote the growth of the steel industry in India as steel is the backbone of industry and plays a major part in the transformation of a developing economy to a developed economy, the ISA official said
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Soft words for Santhali

Technology has come to the aid of a language in danger of becoming extinct. And in the process, of a tribe denied a voice for decades.

The project — creation of a software module for learning the Santhali language — is the brainchild of two faculty members of the departments of computer science and engineering and comparative literature at Jadavpur University. It is being funded by World Bank under Technical Education for Quality Improvement Programme.

Eleven months into the scheme, Samantak Das and Anirban Ray Chaudhuri, with help from other faculty members, students and a handful of organisations, have developed a Santhali word processing software, similar to Microsoft Word, but with fewer functions. It supports Al Chiki, Bangla, Devnagari, Roman and Oriya scripts, all of which are used to write Santhali.

The software will enable Santhali books to be printed using the latest technology. In the past, publication of Santhali books has often been hampered by the lack of a dedicated word-processing software.

“The software has a glossary (Santhali-Bangla-English) of about 1,000 words and provides transliteration support. This is of great help to those who are familiar with the language but don’t know all the scripts,” says Das, head of the comparative literature department. For example, ” tokoy”, which means “who” in Santhali, only needs to be written in the Roman script in the software for its representation in Al Chiki to be found out.

According to the developers, the first standalone multi-script Santhali word processing software is very much a work in progress. It has generated interest among organisations working with Santhalis, some of which, like the e-group Wesanthals, have collaborated on the project.

The software will be embedded in low-cost hardware and provided free of cost to three Santhali agencies, says Ray Chaudhuri of the computer science department. The feedback from the agencies will determine the course of the software’s development.

A teaching stint at Visva-Bharati prompted both Das and Ray Chaudhuri to take on the project. For them, it has been a labour of love. “We worked in our spare time, on a shoestring budget and had only two computers at our disposal. And we don’t want it any other way,” says Das.

Figures bear out the need for the project. The Santhali population is about 10 million and is spread out over parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and other Northeastern states. The literacy rate among the population is low (around 25 per cent) and the language survives primarily orally .

Dukhiram Hansda of Adivasi Socio Educational & Cultural Association asserts: “The software will emerge as a vital tool for the spread of Santhali. It will make publication of Santhali books simpler and thus help in the study of the language. Without spread of education, any language will die.”

Husband escapes murder slur
- Twelve-year-old boy bails out father

Hazaribagh, April 23: The 24-hour high drama over the dead body of a married woman petered out today in an anti-climax when the deceased’s mother arrived from Kanpur and withdrew charges that her daughter was killed by her son-in-law.

The body of Sunita Bansal, who had allegedly committed suicide, lay in the crematorium for over 24 hours after her relatives called up the police, here, suspecting foul play.

The police consequently ordered Abhay Bansal not to cremate the dead body and wait for the arrival of his in-laws.

In cases involving women burning to death, husbands have often been arrested on suspicion, even sent to jail before being acquitted after long-drawn trials in court.

In this case, the husband owes his freedom to his 12-year-old son, who stood by his father from the beginning and told police that it was his mother who was at fault.

Bansal, a trader, and his twelve-year-old son, Rajat, stood guard over the decaying body till Bansal’s in-laws arrived here today and satisfied themselves about his innocence.

While they spoke to the neighbours as well as Bansal, what tilted the scale was the testimony of the 12-year-old boy.

Rajat had all along maintained that his mother had committed suicide by setting herself on fire.

She had a mercurial temper and often quarrelled with his father , threatening to commit suicide and implicate him in her suicide note, he had claimed yesterday.

Today he repeated the claim before his maternal grandmother and apparently succeeded in convincing her that his father was innocent.

The relatives of the deceased then relented and allowed the body to be cremated and gave the go-ahead to the father-son duo for completing her last rites.

Recalling the evening of April 21, the 12-year-old boy declared that his father had rushed up after spotting smoke emanating from their rented flat.

But by then his mother had suffered severe burn injuries.

She was immediately taken to the sadar hospital, from where she was referred to Ranchi.

But she died on the way.

Mother of the deceased acknowledged that Sunita was impulsive and ill-tempered and she declared that she no longer had any complaint against her son-in-law.

Police officials said their investigation too confirmed that it was a case of suicide.

“But we shall wait for the post-mortem report before closing the case,” they added.

India ticking with AIDS time bomb

KANPUR: Most of Mumbai bar girls, 95 per cent of them being from UP alone, were found to be infected with HIV. Summers are particularly conducive for spreading the scourge, as large number of migrant workers from UP and Bihar, working in the megapolis, come home and infect their spouses, according to Dr IPS Gilada.

HIV surfaces more in religious places than state capitals. After visiting temples, people believe that freed of their sins, they can resort to illicit sex. Surprisingly, temple town Tirupati has more HIV infected than a cosmopolitan Hyderabad. Likewise Varanasi has more people living with HIV / AIDS, than other cities. If the trend persists, then in the next 10 years, India would have the maximum number of HIV / AIDS cases, worldwide.

Dr Gilada, Mumbai based doctor, presented these chilling facts while delivering a guest lecture on `HIV-AIDS, what should we do,’ here on Sunday, during GSVM Medical College golden jubilee celebrations. HIV is also transmitted with organ transplantation, breast milk, added Dr Gilada.

According to data, women constitute 40 per cent of HIV afflicted in India, 90 per cent of whom are monogamous. Now medicines are available that lowers the risk of transfer of HIV from infected mother to child, he added.

However, successful anti-aids vaccine would not be available until five years. Therefore Dr Gilada warned that taking precautions was the only way to protect oneself from HIV. Some vaccines are available that can prolong life of HIV / AIDS afflicted by 10 or 12 years, Dr Gilada added.

He also advised parents to tell children that they should resist those who touch their genitals or lure them with chocolates or take them to isolated spots. “In the era of cable TV and `choli’ movies, ads about alcohol and sex, disco clubs, it is important to prepare the youth to face the world,” remarked Gilada.

“Ab nahi aids khatarnak bimari- janch karane me hai samajhdari” , quipped Gilada. He advised people to go in for test after having unsafe sex or suspecting infection. “The test can confirm HIV presence between three weeks and three months,” added Giladi.

Dr Brijendra Nigam, demanded an anti retrial therapy (ART) centre for the city as HIV / AIDS graph is going up drastically, on the lines of those existing in Lucknow and Varanasi.

Seismic survey operations begin in Bihar-GV-ONN-2002/1

Seismic survey operations to be carried out by Cairn India will begin in Bihar this week. An airborne geomagnetic survey of the block has just finished and is being followed by the 2D seismic survey programme. It is anticipated that the 2D seismic field operations will be completed by the end of June 2007 before the commencement of the monsoon.

The onshore NELP IV block GV-ONN-2002/1 in northern Bihar was awarded under a production sharing contract (PSC) by the Government of India in 2004.

The seismic survey operations are scheduled to start in the districts of Samastipur, Darbhanga and Madhubani. The programme covers an area from Dalsinghsarai in the South to Jainagar in the North and from Singhwara and Ladania in the West and East respectively. Approximately 500 Line kilometres of data will be acquired. The aim of the seismic survey is to understand the structures below the surface.

A large team of skilled and specialized personnel will be deputed to Bihar, but there will be a requirement for the temporary engagement of a number of unskilled personnel during the course of the five month survey, many of whom will be sourced from the local community.

As part of the survey programme small teams of personnel with satellite navigation equipment will place marker pegs on the ground. Further teams will be drilling shallow holes along each survey line and they will be followed by the main seismic survey team who will lay out cables and equipment.

Cairn India permit teams will be present in all stages of the operation to explain the survey and associated crop compensation process to the farmers and local people. Company representatives are meeting with agricultural representatives in each district to discuss crop prices. Farmers are expected to be compensated within weeks of the survey moving over their properties.

The GV-ONN-2002/1 block in north Bihar is within the Ganga Basin, which is one of the largest sedimentary basins of India, but is under-explored and no hydrocarbons have yet been discovered. As per the PSC Cairn India has a seven year exploration period comprising of three phases, which commenced from the issue of the Petroleum Exploration Licence on 8th June 2005. As operator of the PSC, Cairn India holds a 50% interest in this Block with joint venture partner Cairn Energy PLC, through its subsidiary Capricorn Energy Limited, holding the remaining 50% interest .

Bringing Relevant Technology to Rural Areas

ZHENGZHOU, China, April 23, 2007 – Today in Henan province, Chinese government officials take ownership of two “InfoWagons” designed to open up new avenues of digital literacy for rural citizens.

At a small village at Luohe, Henan Province in Central China, Will Poole, corporate vice president at Microsoft, participated in a rollout ceremony marking the delivery of two of six InfoWagons donated by Microsoft as part of an innovative rural computing pilot program. The high-tech buses — each outfitted with 15 student PCs and one instructor PC — will serve as computer training centers on wheels as they circulate to rural villages throughout one of China’s most populous province.

Poole and other Microsoft executives also attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch the Integrated Information Training Center at Luohe township.

A relatively underdeveloped and primarily agricultural province, Henan is identified by Microsoft and MII as well-suited to a rural computing general services pilot program. The overall goal of Microsoft’s rural computing programs is to empower people by introducing them to the benefits of information and communications technology (ICT). The effort is central to Microsoft’s global rural computing vision and comes under the umbrella of Microsoft Unlimited Potential, an initiative that reflects the company’s commitment to promote sustained social and economic opportunity for the estimated 5 billion people worldwide who are underserved by technology.

“The entire IT industry agrees that technology access and affordability in the rural computing space is required, but relevance is an equally important consideration,” Poole says. “We, as an industry, need to work together to provide technology that has real application and usefulness in people’s lives. For example, delivering services that people find relevant for agriculture, healthcare, education and skills training, will help to address the unique needs of rural communities.”

Microsoft is working with China’s MII and the provincial governments to extend the benefits of technology to rural populations. Leading the drive are the six InfoWagons equipped with desktop PCs and IT tutors. To deliver services relevant to Chinese farmers and their families, the proposed InfoWagon pilot applications target real-life scenarios accruing to home, work and community. The concept includes PC@home to deliver healthcare information, entertainment and education; PC@work, which focuses on information browsing related to agriculture, crop prices and supply chain management; and PC@community, which focuses on an Information Center for computer training, information search, e-government and e-commerce experiences with the intention of improving the connection of China’s rural farmers with the global marketplace and the government.

Deployed initially in Henan and later expanding into the four additional provinces, the roving InfoWagons will give rural villagers the opportunity to experience and learn basic PC skills. Microsoft estimates that as many as 8,000 people will get trained this way by the end of 2007. Within five years, the InfoWagons are expected to reach 6,000 villages and bring digital literacy to 150,000 people.

To help sustain the digital literacy efforts initiated by the InfoWagon program, Microsoft plans to establish a permanent Integrated Information Training Center (IITC) in Henan. Also as follow-up, Microsoft plans to create a social computing environment in which wealthier farmers in dozens of villages agree to host donated computers in their homes and make them available for other farmers and community members to use.

Furthering Rural Information Efforts in China

Microsoft has also teamed up with partners in Shandong province on another endeavor to promote technology access for rural residents of China. Called the Shandong Rural Worker’s PC Program, the effort is part of the global Microsoft Partnerships for Technology Access (PTA) initiative. The Rural Worker’s PC Program, which is the first PTA in China, links Microsoft China and Shandong’s provincial government, the Department of Information Industry (DII), along with Intel Corp., Chinese PC manufacturer Haier and local broadband provider ChinaNetCom.

As with other Microsoft PTA projects implemented around the world, the Shandong Rural Worker’s PC Program is tailored around a government priority to improve the delivery of services using technology. PTA programs typically combine the know-how and resources of governments, technology companies, banks and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to help increase access to PCs and use technology to build economic and social opportunity within developing economies.

In support of the government’s commitment to a more “harmonious society” across the rural-urban divide, and as part of Microsoft’s Partnerships for Technology Access (PTA) initiative, Microsoft formed a public-private partnership (PPP) with the government of Shandong province, ChinaNetCom (CNC), Haier, and Intel to put a PC purchase within reach of rural workers. To make the PC relevant, as well as affordable, the Shandong Rural Worker’s PC Program is designed around four modules of applications relevant to farmers – farming activity, education, health, and entertainment. This effort is complementary to the government’s service transformation initiative to better serve farmers through e-government. To enable e-government, farmers need technology access and targeted services that will make technology adoption worth their while.

The stations are also designed to be self-sustaining models that benefit the rural communities that host them, while also providing retail or catalog outlets for the partners Haier and ChinaNetCom. The retail enhanced business model allows partners to provide technology solutions at a free or discounted cost to the government, who then offers the PC usage for free to the community.

Applications packaged on the PCs will focus on the four key areas identified as most user-relevant: agricultural production, such as giving rural workers access to online market information, crop pricing and government regulatory information; entertainment, such as movies and photo albums; access to healthcare resources and information; and access to educational content available on the Web.

Enabling Access to Basic Needs and Growth Opportunities in Rural India

Bipin Mishra, a kiosk operator in rural Madhubani, Bihar State, India, facilitating a videoconferencing session for Lalita Devi with a doctor in the city of Patna, India. March 2007
Click image for high-res version.

In India, Microsoft’s efforts to empower digitally disenfranchised rural populations include teaming up with an industry partner, Drishtee Dot Com Ltd., to implement pilot programs addressing e-commerce and e-health, and small scale business process outsourcing needs.

The e-commerce program, is a grass-roots effort that aims to provide global market linkages and a transparent, fair distribution channel to poor rural artisans with ICT intervention. The primary component of the project is a Web-based marketplace ( where creations by rural artisans (paintings, cloth embroidery, bamboo crafts, etc.) are showcased. Customers can browse the wares online, place orders and even request custom merchandise. Artisans access ICT kiosks in their villages to add product information to the portal and collect customer requirements. Some success has been demonstrated – artisans have experienced a 35-percent increase in income as well as greater process transparency, with final payment within 15 days of customers making a payment, as opposed to four months in the conventional distribution chain. Artisans also express a greater degree of comfort with and trust in the system.

Bachcho Devi of Jitwarpur village explains: “I have been painting for the last 40 years. But I have never received so many orders within such a short period as I have done since I registered with Drishtee. In two months, I sold 12 paintings and earned 10,000 rupees. I have never been able to earn such a big amount within 60 days before.”

“We’re proud to be middlemen, but we’re passing on information along with the product,” explains Satyan Mishra, managing director at Drishtee. “Our survey revealed that if a painting was being bought for 1,000 rupees in Delhi or the U.S., excluding freight cost, then the artist was only 100 rupees for it. Now if a painting is sold for1,000 to 1,200 rupees,then the artist gets at least 250-300, so we’ve added a substantial value to their work.”

Meanwhile, an e-health pilot program that Microsoft has undertaken, again in partnership with Drishtee, aims to provide an affordable, reliable healthcare alternative for rural communities in India. To address the lack of doctors in the villages — and the time and cost associated with traveling to a primary healthcare center — the telemedicine program provides medical assessments and counseling at ICT kiosks, through videoconferencing sessions with doctors. This is supported by linkages with a network of rural healthcare centers and district hospitals. The community thus has the option of first-level interaction with a genuine, qualified doctor within walking distance of their homes.

The kiosks at the front end of this system are equipped with a remote diagnostics kit for monitoring patient vital signs, such as temperature, blood pressure and cardiac health. These readings are then transmitted in real time to a doctor in a different location. The application built into the kit also enables storage of the patient information at a secure, centralized server, and enables the patient-doctor videoconferencing, which is currently being tested. In the future, testing of the videoconferencing tool may also extend to effective doctor-to-doctor interaction. For example, a primary-care doctor who conducts mobile health camps in villages could use the system to link up with a specialist for further consultation.

A doctor at a clinic in Patna, Bihar State, India talking to patients in remote villages. March 2007.
Click image for high-res version

A third type of Microsoft pilot program deployed in India is rural business process outsourcing (BPO), an initiative that aims to increase job opportunities and improve skill development. This initiative works towards setting up ICT kiosks in rural areas. These kiosks provide employment and skill-building opportunities for the local population. The kiosks offer services (such as data entry, data management, content localization, and engineering drawing) to companies located in urban areas at lower costs, with quality levels equivalent to similar service offerings in towns. Further benefits to urban industry include access to an untapped workforce with lower rates of attrition and multilingual capabilities. For the rural community, these centers provide earning opportunity along with learning and capacity building, particularly for local youth and women.

The Rural BPO initiative in India is led by the TeNet (Telecommunications and Computer Networking) group at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, (IIT-M) in Chennai with ideation and concept development participation by Microsoft.

Microsoft also supports digital inclusion in India through an innovative multi-party research project called Digital StudyHall. A collaborative effort supported by Microsoft Research India, Digital StudyHall seeks to improve education in low-income areas by establishing a low-cost infrastructure for sharing user-generated video. Digital StudyHall is building an extensive digital video database of K-12 materials generated through grassroots contributions. Simultaneously, education experts and teachers are exploring pedagogical approaches in which local teachers actively mediate the video lessons. Project supporters hope this community participation model will help train better teachers while delivering high-quality instruction to underprivileged children.

Digital StudyHall has deployed pilot “hubs” in three cities in India, and the digital video database currently includes 550 high-quality recordings of lessons in English, math and science spanning five languages. The research project shows promising change and is expected to be expanded to two additional countries over the next year.

Scalable, sustainable approaches to shared access and delivery of ICT

Microsoft’s commitment to create sustainable ICT access for underserved populations also spans a range of work in the area of telecenters — shared-access sites where public computers are made available on a no-charge or low-cost basis and provide additional services. Telecenters can be configured as community centers, learning centers or business centers, providing places where people can meet, communicate, learn new skills, get an online degree or access other relevant information resources.

Microsoft recognizes that the need for telecenters is greatest in underserved and rural communities. In India, for example, 70 percent of the population resides in rural areas, and an estimated 90 percent of the country’s labor force remains trapped in low-productivity, informal-sector jobs, according to the May 2002, People’s Daily News. In China, 61 percent of the population resides in rural areas as sited in the Worldbank India Country Overview 2006. The need for ICT access also extends to general rural areas and underserved communities in urban areas. For example, even people living in rural areas of the United States or Western Europe may need to travel half a day to access basic healthcare such as primary diagnostics and preventive medical advice.

To help alleviate such problems in developing as well as developed countries, Microsoft works with various governments and telecenter networks worldwide in an advisory role and technology provider capacity to collaborate on creating sustainable, scalable approaches to shared access. One recent effort is “Making the Connection: Scaling Telecentres for Development,” a resource guide targeted to governments, entrepreneurs and private-sector and community leaders. The book — a collaboration between the Academy for Educational Development, and Microsoft — provides a set of frameworks, best practices and case studies to guide telecenter development and helps organize the collective thinking that has accompanied the telecenter movement. Intended as a catalyst for new projects, it includes successes and failures as well as a specific focus on the factors critical to sustainability and scalability at national levels

Microsoft also recently announced the launch of a community Web site called Telecenter Knowledge Network, created in cooperation with The site is intended to serve as a constantly evolving community site where those involved with telecenter programs can share their findings, experiences and best practices with the broader community. The Web site also serves as a repository of peer knowledge and resources that can be used by individuals or organizations planning to develop or scale telecenter programs. For example, the content in the “Making the Connection” book is posted on the Telecenter Knowledge Network site in an open format where the worldwide telecenter community can access it and expand upon it in a variety of ways, from topically oriented expertise, such as networks or services, to country profiles, intended to create a snapshot of local initiatives.

Skeletal remains tumble out of a Bengal home

BURDWAN: Police claimed to have busted an international skeleton smuggling racket on Monday with the recovery of around 50 human skulls and skeletal remains from a house at Purabsthali area in Burdwan district. These skeletons were to be shipped to buyers in China, Bangladesh and Hong Kong, with each fetching Rs 1,200-2,400.

Raids at the house led to the arrest of six people. They were produced at the Katwa court where their bail petition was rejected.

IGP (law and order) Raj Kanojia said more raids would follow on the basis of their confessions. The police have proof that the gang was involved in digging up graves elsewhere in Burdwan, too, he said. CID has been told to probe the case.

Acting on a tip-off on Sunday night, three police teams led by ASP (headquarters) Chirantan Nag raided the house. After digging around the house, they recovered skulls and bones wrapped in bundles.

The skulls and bones were sent to the forensic department to determine how long the skulls had been in the Purabsthali house.

“We have reason to believe the gang has been operating in this area for at least five years,”said Burdwan SP Peeyush Pandey.

The six gang members, led by alleged kingpin Mukti Biswas, were arrested from a spot between Patuli and Jogyeswar Ghat on the river Bhagirathi. They claimed the bones were used to make aphrodisiacs. “We have to verify the claim,”said Pandey.

Sources said three of the gang members — Bairagya, Bhola and Ashok — would collect corpses from burial grounds and hand them over to Mukti, Tarun and Samaresh, who were responsible for processing and delivery of the consignment.

The police are probing whether bodies were procured from places other than burial grounds. Kanojia hinted that some of the bodies may have been retrieved while floating on rivers.

The district police got inkling about the racket when four skeletons were dug out of a burial ground at Goda on Wednesday. An alert was issued to all district police stations to look out for the gang.

XIM-B to open new campus in Orissa

One among India’s top 10 B-schools, the Xavier’s Institute of Management (XIM), Bhubaneshwar will soon be opening another campus in India . The institute has big expansion plans and is scouting for a 100 acre land in Orissa near its existing campus in Bhubaneshwar.

The new campus will be an extension of the Bhubaneshwar campus and XIM will need Rs 50 crore to go ahead with its expansion plans. The institute plans to raise the money through alumni support and other sources.

XIM has applied to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for permission to double the student admission capacity for both — its full-time and part-time business management programme. Currently the institute admits 60 students each to both the programmes and plans to increase the student capacity to 120 in the next year.

The institute also plans to increase the capacity further by 60 students in the next five years. It will celebrate 25 years of its existence in 2012 and wants to complete the expansion plans by then. “Once we have appropriate infrastructure — hostels, classrooms and faculty in place for new students — we will look at increasing the student capacity further,” says Father E Abraham, director XIM-B.

The institute has recently increased its fee from Rs 3.96 lakh to Rs 4.35 lakh for the two-year business management programme. The increase will come in effect this year. Says an XIM-B professor, “The increase in cost of education along with other expense like infrastructure maintenance, salary revision of faculty members and upgradation of facilities for students has made us revise our fee structure.” The new campus will have more emphasis on technology based learning. “We already have video conferencing facility in our present institute. We plan to bring it more in use at the new campus,” says Abraham.

XIM-B’s idea to have another campus in Orissa comes from the fact that steel and IT companies are setting up base in the state. South Korean steel major Posco and Arcelor Mittal have already announced plans to set up plants in Orissa and IT majors Infosys and Wipro too are bullish on the state. “This industrialisation of the state is a positive signal and will help us gain a stronger ground considering our brand value with the corporates,” says Abraham.

Incidentally, placements at the institute this year saw JP Morgan Chase offering the highest domestic salary of Rs 12.75 lakh per annum to the PGDBM batch. The highest international offer made was by Olam International at US $85,000 (Rs 37.4 lakh) per annum. The average salary for the batch rose by 23 per cent this year and stood at Rs 8.77 lakh per annum. The average domestic salary was Rs 8.52 lakh per annum while the median salary was Rs 8.5 lakh per annum. The institute saw maximum representation from he IT industry including companies like IBM, Cognizant, Infosys, TCS, Mindtree, Wipro, et al.

A total of 98 companies across sectors had shown interest in recruiting students and 72 of them were slotted for the final placement process. New companies on campus included HLL, Dell International, Deloitte Consulting, UBS, HSBC Global Resourcing, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Idea Cellular, Hutch, Grow Talent, Centurion Bank of Punjab etc.
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Recognition for Balasore Alloys

BALASORE, April 23: The Balasore Alloys, a part of Ispat group of companies, also a leading manufacturer of ferro alloys in Orissa, has achieved a mile stone by receiving TPM (total productive maintenance) recently. The distinction has been obtained by the company much before the scheduled target date.

The Japanese Institute of Plant maintenance auditors complemented the company for being the first manufacturer of ferro alloys in getting the TPM certificate.

The company had also received significant awards and recognition like India Manufacturing Excellence Award conferred in November 2006, Leader and Prestige and Quality Europe-06 for its management performance and export award from EECP
The company has been awarded with best productivity award for large and medium sectors for year 2006-07 for its significant improvement in productivity. Mr Rabindra Kumar Jena, the joint managing director of the company, received the award from Mr BL Raina of the eastern zone of CII.

“It was a land mark achievement for us as we are declared first among several industries in Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgrah and West Bengal.

Panchayati Raj System in India

For sustainable economic and social development to take place in any country, it is necessary that people participate in the political process. The process of participation is complex- and it is by no means clear that it is comprehensively inclusive. By this, I mean that it is not possible to assume that all sections of the population take part effectively in the political and democratic processes of society.

There are many reasons why people may not participate: from apathy to a sense of helplessness.

The institution of Panchayati Raj is specifically designed for the rural population with the basic objective of democratic decentralization and devolution of power with a view to ensuring rapid socio-economic progress with every individual being the architect of his/her own government.

‘Panchayat’ literally means assembly (yat) of five (panch) wise and respected elders chosen and accepted by the village community. Traditionally, these assemblies settled the disputes between individuals.

Villages responsible for their governance

Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayati Raj, as a decentralized form of Government where each village is responsible for its own governance. He coined the term “Gram Swaraj”, which when translated into English means Independent Village Republics. It was indeed the prophetic ability of the father of our nation to see that a country, which is primarily rural, cannot develop if the people in its villages are unable to make decisions that affect them most. The same sentiment was also expressed by our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, when he stated the following:

“India is poor because the villages of India are poor. India will be rich if the villages of India are rich. Panchayats should be given greater power; for we want the villagers to have a greater measure of real swaraj (self-government) in their own villages”.

The founding fathers Independent India recognized the concept of self-governance vide Article 40 in the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian Constitution and provided for the setting up of village Panchayats. However, as the Directive principles of State Policy are non-justiciable there was no pressure on any state to set up such a system. Many saw this Article as a concession to Gandhi, rather than as a serious matter to be immediately implemented.

After independence, India has strived to accelerate the process of development through active participation of the people at the grass-root level. The decentralization of socio-economic development programmes was conceptualized as early as the First Five year Plan. It was envisaged that the villages would undertake and execute the programmes of development with actual support of the State. The Community Development Programme launched in 1952 was a first step in this direction. Development was conceived as an integrated process. A need was felt for building development administration, which would be sensitive to the aspirations and needs of the people. This led to creation of development blocks. The community development programme was thought to be a pioneering step in the process of decentralized planning. It was expected to induce transformation in the rural areas with a focus on agriculture. However, it was soon realized that it had not been able to serve the purpose, to a large extent, because of excessive bureaucratic control. As a result it failed to mobilize and involve the rural masses in taking decisions about the activities that affected their lives directly.

Significance of decentralization

The significance of decentralization in accelerating the process of development was emphasized by the Balwantrai Mehta Committee (1957) which was set-up to make recommendations on new structures to be created to involve local people in the development process. The committee recommended the “establishment of an interconnected three-tier organizational structure of democratic decentralization at the village, block and district levels”. This led to the enactment of the Panchayati Raj Acts in various states in the fifties to implement the recommendations. However, the interest and support for Panchayati Raj, did not last long due to various reasons.

In the year 1993, the union government amended the Constitution of India. The amendments known as the 73rd and the 74th amendments, mandated the empowerment of local governments-rural and urban respectively, as constitutional entities. The 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution of India constituted a new chapter in the process of democratic decentralization in India. The amendments were seen as a revolution based on maximum democracy and maximum devolution.

The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 envisages States to establish a three-tier system of strong, viable and responsive Panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels. It also lays out 29 areas of responsibility that have been given to the Panchayats, which cover almost all aspects of village life.

Similarly, the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 envisages the establishment in municipalities in the urban areas. States are expected to devolve adequate powers, responsibilities and finances upon these bodies so as to enable them to prepare plans and implement schemes for economic development and social justice. These Acts provide a basic framework of decentralization of powers and authorities to the Panchayati Raj/Municipal bodies at different levels. However, responsibility for giving it a practical shape rests with the States. States are expected to act in consonance with the spirit of the Acts for establishing a strong and viable system of local self- government.

The Panchayat Raj system has a three-tier structure, viz (i) the Village Panchayat or the Gram Panchayat, (ii) the Panchayat Samitis and (iii) the Zila Parishad.

These bodies, which are legally local government, have pyramidal structure. At the base is the gram Sabha – the entire body of citizens in a village of “Grama”. This is the general body that elects the local government and charges it with specific responsibilities. This body is expected to meet at specific times and approve major decisions taken by the elected body. (Above this basic unit of democracy, is) the Gram Panchayat, which is the first level elected body.

The middle rung institutions are the Panchayati Samitis, which function as the Block Level; each Block consists of many villages. Finally, there are the Zila Parishads that function as the District Level. The purpose of these two institutions is mainly to co-ordinate the activities of the Gram Panchayats and to provide them with such capacities that cannot be created solely at the micro level. The powers that these Panchayats enjoy are enshrined in the laws enacted by each state, and, in India, there is considerable variation across states.

Responsive to people’s needs

In a geographically vast and demographically diverse country such as India where the center of power can often be unresponsive to the needs of a particular locality or community, the Panchayati Raj is intended to be a means to allow these communities/villages to make their own decisions that affect their development. With 70% of India’s billion plus population living in its more that 500,000 villages, the Panchayati Raj scheme was meant to ensure that challenges facing rural India are not solely solved by top-down, bureaucratic interventions. As the Noel laureate Amartya Sen has so definitively demonstrated, it is empowerment that leads to entitlements and entitlements that lead to enrichment. Today, with elections having been held to approximately 250,000 Panchayats, India is one of the most representative democracies in the world.

Recognizing limitations where gender is concerned, India has passed laws that make it mandatory for local governments to include women. One third of the seats in local bodies – gram or village panchayats, municipalities, city corporations and district bodies – are reserved for women. India is also the only country to ensure that out of 3 million elected office bearers, more than one million are women.

Today new provisions relating to the 73rd and 74th amendments have been incorporated in Part IX of the Constitution in India. As this point, I would like to introduce to you the basic features of part IX of the Constitution.

* Constitutional status to the Panchayats, giving them uniformity by making the three-tier system a permanent feature.

* Panchayats to be constituted in every State at three tiers: the village, intermediate and district level, except in States with a population not exceeding 2 million where there will be only village and district Panchayats.

* Establishing a village Assembly or Gram Sabha in each village, which would exercise such powers and perform such functions at the village level, as the State may provide by law.

* Members of Panchayats at all levels will be elected through direct elections. The election of the chairperson at the intermediate and district level will be through indirect elections.

* Seats are reserved for marginalized communities called Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes at all levels according to their population. Not less than one-third of seats are reserved for women.

* The office of chairperson will also be subject to this provision of reservation.

* A uniform five-year term has been granted to the Panchayats. However, in case of premature dissolution, elections must be held within six months of the date of dissolution.

* Panchayats are tacked with (i) preparing plans and implementing schemes for social justice and economic development; (ii) in regard to matters listed in the 11th Schedule.

* State legislature authorizes the Panchayats to levy, collect and appropriate suitable local taxes. The Government can make grants-in-aid to the Panchayats from the Consolidated Fund of the concerned State.

* Review of the financial position of the Panchayats will be undertaken by a State Finance Commission, which shall be constituted every five years.

* State Election Commissions shall be constituted in each state to ensure free and fair elections to the Panchayats.

Provisions relating to elections and constitution of Panchayats, reservations of elective offices for women and for the marginalized communities, setting up of an independent Finance Commission and State Election Commissioner in each State, maintenance of accounts and their audit are what might be described as mandatory provisions. These have been by and large complied with and have made Panchayati Raj irreversible at the grass roots.

When we look as the achievements of the previous decade- one thing is very clear. The innovation has empowered the village community. Along with widening the democratic base of India’s polity and bringing about significant changes in India’s federalism, Panchayati Raj has led to an amazing development – the emergence of women as leaders. Their participation at the three levels – district, sub-district and village level, has not only led to their personal growth but has also enabled them to respond to the needs of the more vulnerable sections of the village community. No doubt, there are many instances of women Panchayat members encountering resistance and exclusion, but there are now large numbers of women who are shouldering, with grace and dignity, enormous administrative responsibilities. In certain parts of India they have brought to their offices-immense courage, enthusiasm and creativity. Leadership in Panchayats has transformed them and their communities. They seem to have enjoyed their role and there is no greater proof for this than the fact that instead of the constitutionally reserved one third, women members and office bearers in Panchayats today account for approximately forty two per cent of the elected representatives. If there is one exhilarating aspect of the Constitutional provisions relating to Panchayats- it is this empowerment- with its elements of a high level of self-confidence and self-esteem combined with political awareness and a spirit of service.

The Panchayats in tribal areas of nine states- in what is called- Schedule V Areas have been given a special legal dispensation over what is available elsewhere. This special law is called The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Area) Act 1996 and it has been enacted in consonance with an enabling provision in the Constitution. This law recognizes the rights of tribal communities over natural resources, respects their traditional institutions and gives vast powers of self-governance to the tribal communities. The powers that are vested in the Gram Sabha authorize it to approve all development plans, control all functionaries and institutions in social sectors as well as manage water bodies and other natural resources, have ownership of minor forest produce, prevent alienation of land, manage village markets and resolve disputes. This remarkable law is the first law to empower people to redefine their own administrative boundaries.

Unique partnerships

As three fourths of the Indian population is in the rural areas and dependent on agriculture, we need inclusive and integrated growth. We need to integrate agricultural markets across the country and remove constraints. For Panchayats to effectively implement schemes of economic development, the Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India has forged a unique partnership with the Confederation of Indian industry for developing “Rural Business Hubs” through Panchayats on lines of the Chinese model of rural business hubs. The initiative aims at establishing direct linkages between the rural economy and corporate houses with an objective to utilize the locally-available resources and to brand and market rural products. These rural business hubs would be a bridge between the rural entrepreneurs and the corporate houses, thus channelising the latent resources at the village level. Indian corporate giants, like ITC (Indian Tobacco Company), HLL ( Hindustan Level Limited-the Indian arm of Unilever) and Reliance Industries, to name a few have developed innovative initiatives to tap into rural markets and establish supply chains for their produce.

Today the Panchayats are being further strengthened by being made the principal authorities for planning and implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 aims at enhancing livelihood security in rural India by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in every financial year.

As for the challenges that have been faced in the effective implementation of the Panchayati Raj, there have been many. In certain cases, at the local level, the bureaucratic methods of the state governments has slowly started to influence the functioning of the Panchayati Raj, apart from negatively affecting the transparency of the Panchayat system. There are instances in many states where the Gram Panchayats were being dominated by the higher castes, thereby marginalizing the lower castes. Thus, in some cases, the Panchayat was becoming an institution to perpetuate the caste inequities that already existed.

Although, the constitutional amendment was an empowering tool for local self governance in India, it was not a panacea for all the problems being faced by the Panchayati Raj system. The power rooted in caste, class, gender and sometimes even religion determines the very functioning of the Panchayati Raj system. While, legal reservations for these disempowered classes allows them access to the Panchayati system, it does not necessarily remove the larger power structure, which continues to determine who will have the final say in the functioning of the Panchayat. The real change will occur when in the informal power structures become more egalitarian.

I think I have been able to give you some kind of an idea of India’s Panchayati Raj. Indeed there are still miles to go, but we have made a beginning and in its ten years of fully formalized existence the Panchayati Raj system has been able to initiate important socio-political changes for the betterment of rural India.

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April 23, 2007 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

Apr 22, 2007

Jharkhand tribals play ghost to attain tantrik power

April 22 – Dressed colourfully, their faces masked, the tribals play ghost and beat drums to appease Lord Shiva for acquiring the powers of tantra. It is celebration time in tribal Jharkhand.
The Tamar block and nearby villages inhabited by thousands of tribals are all geared up to celebrate the Koka festival that continues for three months. Tamar is 70 km from Ranchi.

The revelry begins after Holi, the festival of colours, and ends with the arrival of monsoons. The tribals celebrate Koka festival for attaining tantrik powers.

The people invoke Lord Shiva, who is considered as the master capable of bestowing tantrik power. Koka festival is also known Chaitra Parav or Bhokta Parav.

‘There is a belief that Lord Shiva likes ghosts, trees and snakes, some of which are disliked by most. So we try to appease Shiva by faking as ghosts and invoking him to get tantrik powers,’ said Sohan Lal Rai, a tribal.

The festival is gradually grabbing the attention of other communities too. The Mahtos, a backward caste, also participate and celebrate the festival.

‘People from our caste are also celebrating the festival. There is strong feeling among the Koka celebrating people that if anyone wants anything and invokes Shiva, the wish will be fulfilled. The only condition is to remain like a ghost for a certain period of time,’ said Ramthal Mahto.

The participants first take a dip in the river and then dress themselves as ghosts. A procession is taken to the temple of Shiva in the village with the beating of drums, songs, dance and chanting of hymns. In the temple, the priests perform the rituals.

The people celebrate the festival for other favours too.

‘Some people celebrate to get good health, wealth and other things. Some pray for good crops. If a person’s wish is fulfilled, then he vows before Lord Shiva to become a ghost for three to five years,’ said Baitkunth Rai, another tribal.

It is believed that the festival started some 1,000 years ago, said V.S. Uppadhay, a retired professor of anthropology in Ranchi University.

No literate adult among 26 per cent rural families

At least 26 per cent of rural families in India and eight per cent of urban families have no literate member over the age of 15, says a National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report.

The report – the third of a seven-part series based on employment-unemployment data of the NSS’ 61’st round – says that in almost 50 per cent of rural families there is still no literate woman above the age of 15. This figure is naturally smaller in urban families, says the survey, placing female illiteracy above the age of 15 at 20 per cent.

Of the people surveyed, 73 per cent belonged to rural India, accounting for 75 per cent of the total population covered by the organisation. The literacy rate was 64 per cent during 2004-05, the report says, adding that it was 55 percent in rural areas and 75 percent in urban.

Sixty-four per cent of rural males and 45 per cent of rural females are literate. The literacy rates among their urban counterparts were much higher at 81 per cent and 69 per cent, respectively, said the report.

The highest incidence of illiteracy among those above the age of 15 is rural Bihar with records showing 38 per cent and the lowest is Kerala, recording only three per cent.

In urban areas, too, Kerala leads in literacy, with only one per cent of the state’s population above the age of 15 turning out to be illiterate. Literacy is marginally higher among urban Biharis than urban Rajasthanis, with 16 percent illiteracy in Rajasthan cities as against 15 percent in Bihar towns. West Bengal stands marginally better at 14 per cent.

The proportion of non-literates was highest in the bottom monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) class and it decreased gradually as the MPCE increased; this proportion was largely similar in rural and urban areas.

The literacy report, which provides statistics on literacy, attainment of general and technical education, current attendance in educational institutions, covers all of India except parts of Jammu and Kashmir, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands that remained inaccessible through the year.

The level of literacy in Jammu and Kashmir is adequately high and the situation in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is also better than most other states, said government sources.
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Rag me, but don’t Tag me

No one can deny that I am an extremely sociable being. I might be surly to a colleague on occasion. I may not meet up with friends for months. My extended family may have serious complaints about quantity time. But none of these lapses is caused by a congenital reluctance to be congenial. God promise!

In fact, I’m ready and willing whenever able to give time even to the local society for more dahlias or more dustbins, I natter with my Bihari ironing man, Gujarati milkman, Maharashtrian bai and Bengali fishmonger with dubious fluency but unflagging enthusiasm. I have even kept up a 10-minute banter from my window with a new neighbour before realising that my co-conversationist was their African cockatoo. Yes, I am an extravagant extrovert at the best of times. But these are the worst of times.

Net-net, I have turned into a bigger people-hater than Jonathan Swift, who infamously described mankind as “the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth”. The trigger for my recent lapse into Antisocial Boor Syndrome is someone called Mohan who has ‘Tagged’ me.

I know the social networking site, Orkut, did great service for all the old friends needing to post messages for young Minal Panchal who died such a random death at Virginia Tech, but that’s exceptional. ‘Tagged’ is the latest wave of this unstoppable invasion. I resisted being LinkedIn; i didn’t Ryze to that earlier bait. Now I’m being stalked by this new Radar of the Lost Ark. All these people uploading my friendship are not even as amusing as those ‘exiled aristocrats’ offering to offload their fortunes on me.

Excuse me, I don’t want to be tagged by Mohan. Or Sohan. Even Rohan. I don’t want to amble over to his Inbox, and, over a cosy cookie, divulge to him my cell number, landline number, and birthday. There’s nothing i can do to protect my email id because he has already laid his grubby paws on it, and invaded my space that’s spelt with two separate words, both of them in small letters. The branded MySpace is an earlier atrocity from the same monster-pool as Tagged.

Who is this Mohan-Shohan, I’d like to know, and what makes him think i’d like to know-show him? Without a perfunctory ‘please’, let alone permission asked for in triplicate, he has ‘added’ me ‘as a friend on Tagged’. And cheekily asked me to ‘Respond or Mohan will think you said No. :(‘. I’ve learnt the basic rule of m@il talk: never click on unknown squares because you never know what Pandora’s box you might enter.

Do me a favour, Mohan-whatever-you-are. Please don’t ‘add’ me, please subtract me. Using the native lingo of your tribe, let me tell you vocally, unequivocally and ungrammatically, ‘Please unsubscribe me’. Really, getting a cyber proposition for friendship is the equivalent of some tapori sidling up with a cocky “Aati kya Khandala?” Next, Mohan & Co will drawl out: “Clickenge, mailenge, chat karenge. Aur kya?”

Geeks! It’s scary! First we insist on locking ourselves away from our real friends, and then we desperately seek out the company of virtual strangers. Every real-time culture boasts a philosophy of the great human bond, that every one is part of one huge interconnected family. But connectivity has distorted this reality. Vasudev kutumbakam has turned into some rag-Tag ‘kutumbunkum’.

Sen`s trust examines anganwadis

REALITY CHECK: The Pratichi Trust is studying facilities under the Centre’s Integrated Child Development Services.

Pratichi (India) Trust, set up by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, is bringing under the microscope the state of children under six through a study of the anganwadis in six districts of West Bengal.

The trust, run with funds from Sen’s Nobel Prize money and central grants (undisclosed), has been conducting studies on health and education since 1998 and is all set to come out with its first report on anganwadis and the facilities available under the centrally-sponsored Integrated Child Development Services.

The ICDS is the only government-run service to provide nutrition and immunisation for children below six years. A report on children below the age of six done by volunteers across many states under the guidance of economist Jean Dreze was released by Sen last year. The report had found that the anganwadis run under the ICDS were in a very bad condition in many states.

The report had come last year just before the Supreme Court ruling that asked the central government to have an anganwadi under the ICDS in every human habitation.

The study of anganwadis is being done in six selected districts of Jalpaiguri, Dinajpur (South), Murshidabad, Bardhaman, Bankura and 24 Parganas (South), which represent the range of geographical variation in the state.

“As the ICDS holds the key to ensuring good health for mothers and children up to the age of six, we felt evaluating its status and role was important. The findings will be on the basis of a survey of close to 300 households and should be ready in another eight months,” Kumar Rana, senior research associate, Pratichi Research Team, said.

The preliminary field visits have been completed in four out of six districts chosen for the ICDS study — Bardhaman, Bankura, Jalpaiguri and 24 Parganas (South).

The Pratichi team’s method of investigation is through studying a small number of institutions, going beyond readily provided data, and include both directly observed ground realities and findings based on extensive interviews and conversations.

The trust had recently released its findings on primary education, which said mid-day meals had improved attendance of children in schools from 50 per cent in the past to 75 cent now.

Set up in 1998, the research team has conducted studies in the field of primary education in six districts of West Bengal, a comparative health study involving Dumka (Jharkhand) and Birbhum (West Bengal), a comparative study of private and government schools in Birbhum (West Bengal), various types of government primary schools in Kolkata, and self-help groups in Birbhum and Cooch Behar
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Orissa to reduce govt job quotas

BHUBANESWAR, April 22: In the midst of a row over the Centre’s move for quota in elite educational institutions, Orissa government today said it is contemplating to bring a bill in the next session of the assembly aiming to reduce reservation percentage for OBC candidates in government jobs.

Official sources today said the reservation for the OBC candidates could be reduced to 11 per cent from 27 per cent. The OBC candidates were getting 27 per cent reservation in jobs since December 1994. Nearly 65 per cent of seats were now kept reserved for different categories of candidates in government jobs.

”This is to contain the total ratio of reservation within 50 per cent in accordance with the Supreme Court interim order and a recent Orissa High Court judgement in this regard,” Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste development, minorities and backward class welfare minister Mr CP Majhi said.

He, however, said that there would be no change in the ratio of reservation for the ST and SC candidates in government jobs. While 22.5 per cent of seats were reserved for ST candidates, 16.25 per cent of seats remained reserved for the SC candidates.

”The ST and SC candidates would enjoy the reservation facilities as earlier,” he said. ”We have no other option than reducing the reservation ratio for the OBC candidates. We cannot compromise with the interest of ST and SC candidates who are economically backward,” said a senior official. The sources also said the government had also decided to implement reservation in contractual jobs. The government’s move has irked a number of ruling party MLAs who held a meeting this evening to discuss the course of action if the government tables such a bill.
”We strongly oppose the government’s move because reducing the quota for the OBC candidates would have a cascading effect on the society,” said BJD MLA and former minister Mr Ranendra Pratap Swain. Sources said the OBC MLAs from different parties have been discussing the issue to chalk out strategies on how to meet the situation if the government tables such a bill in the Assembly.

Chhattisgarh counts its elusive tigers

Raipur, Apr 21(ANI): Wildlife experts fanned out across the Achanakmar-Amarkanthak Biosphere Reserve in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh on Saturday for a tiger headcount.

Alarmed by reports of large-scale poaching in tiger sanctuaries, around 100 officials used speedboats or walked through creeks looking for tell-tale footprints, or pugmarks, in the famous biosphere reserve.

“We have been to all the water holes for the census and have marked the pug marks and other markings based on other information provided by the villagers, the excreta etc,” said D.N.Tripathi, a ranger.

“The work has not been compiled, but after collection of data, we will be able to know the exact number of tigers present here. So far, we have received reports of 10-12 tigers present here,” Tripathi added.

Conservationists, who have been highly critical of the Government’s efforts to protect tiger, have expressed reservations about the accuracy of the pugmark system. They say that the in the past, the method has masked the tigers dwindling numbers in the country’s national parks.

Last year, the government was criticized after reports said that the entire tiger population, (18) at the Sariska Tiger Reserve, one of the nation’s most prized reserves, had been killed by poachers and that the tiger population was falling rapidly.

In response, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh formed a Special Task Force to suggest ways to protect tigers.

The latest tiger census will use specially designed computer programmes, camera traps and radio-callers tracked through satellite to avoid any duplication in recording pugmarks.

A century ago, there were about 40,000 tigers in the country but now the official estimate is around 3,700.

Some environmental groups say the number could be as low as 2,000. Tigers are killed for their organs and bones, which are used in increasingly popular traditional Chinese medicine and can fetch up to 50,000 dollars in the black market.

IIM admissions: SC/ STs hurt, OBCs wait

The human resources development ministry seems to have violated the Supreme Court interim order of March 29 that explicitly said the stay on admissions in the Indian institutes of management (IIMs) did not apply to reservations for scheduled caste (SC) and scheduled tribe (ST) candidates.

The ministry had, on late Thursday evening, directed all IIMs to put on hold admissions till further notice. Highly placed sources in the six IIMs told FE that the HRD ministry was giving conflicting signals and blamed it for the “lopsided interpretation of the Supreme Court interim order”.

The interim order said, “It would be desirable to keep on hold the operation of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006, so far as it relates to Section 6 thereof of the other backward classes (OBC) category only. We make it clear that we are not staying the operation of the statute, particularly, Section 6, so far as the SC and ST candidates are concerned.”

This clearly means that admissions for SC/ST candidates should not be put on hold even if the impasse over the OBC quota is not resolved.

Of the 1,350 seats for the two-year post-graduate programme at the six IIMs, nearly 300 are earmarked for SC/STs. On the other hand, the number of seats being created for OBC students in the current year as part of the first phase of quota implementation would be a mere 90-100.

Future Tense

• Late on Thursday, HRD ministry directed all IIMs to put on hold admissions till further notice

• IIMs feel the ministry was giving conflicting signals; blamed it for a lopsided interpretation of SC order

• The interim order clearly states that admissions for SC/ST students should not be put on hold

“By holding back the lists pending the court’s final judgment, not only are the general category students affected but the interests of SC/ST students are being harmed as well,” said an IIM chief.

“The ministry seems to be interpreting the court order to suit its own OBC agenda. It is obvious there is a discrimination between backward classes with a clear tilt towards OBCs at the moment,” noted an IIM faculty member. “This being the case, how can the ministry expect us to toe its line and hold back our admission lists when it is not following the Supreme Court interim order in letter and spirit itself,” asked another IIM faculty member..

Adivasi Contributions to Indian Culture & Civilization

Adivasi traditions and practices pervade all aspects of Indian culture and civilization, yet this awareness is often lacking in popular consciousness, and the extent and import of Adivasi contributions to Indian philosophy, language and custom have often gone unrecognized, or been underrated by historians and social scientists.

Although popular myths about Buddhism have obscured the original source and inspiration for it’s humanist doctrine, it is to India’s ancient tribal (or Adivasi) societies that Gautam Buddha looked for a model for the kind of society he wished to advocate. Repulsed by how greed for private property was instrumental in causing poverty, social exploitation and unending warfare – he saw hope for human society in the tribal republics that had not yet come under the sway of authoritarian rule and caste discrimination. The early Buddhist Sanghas were modelled on the tribal pattern of social interaction that stressed gender equality, and respect for all members. Members of the Sanghas sought to emulate their egalitarian outlook and democratic functioning

At that time, the tribal republics retained many aspects of social equality that can still be found in some Adivasi societies that have somehow escaped the ill-effects of commercial plunder and exploitation. Adivasi society was built on a foundation of equality with respect for all life forms including plants and trees. There was a deep recognition of mutual dependence in nature and human society. People were given respect and status according to their contribution to social needs but only while they were performing that particular function. A priest could be treated with great respect during a religious ceremony or a doctor revered during a medical consultation, but once such duties had been performed, the priest or doctor became equal to everyone else. The possession of highly valued skills or knowledge did not lead to a permanent rise in status. This meant that no individual or small group could engage in overlordship of any kind, or enjoy hereditary rights.

Such a value-system was sustainable as long as the Adivasi community was non-acquisitive and all the products of society were shared. Although division of labor did take place, the work of society was performed on a cooperative and co-equal basis – without prejudice or disrespect for any form of work.

It was the simplicity, the love of nature, the absence of coveting the goods and wealth of others, and the social harmony of tribal society that attracted Gautam Buddha, and had a profound impact on the ethical core of his teachings.

(To this day, sharing is a vital and integral part of the philosophy of the Mullakurumba Adivasis of South India. When the Mullakurumbas go hunting a share is given to every family in the village, even those who may be absent, sick or cannot participate for any other reason. An extra portion is added for any guest in the village and even a non-tribal passersby will be offered a share. Not sharing is something they find difficult to comprehend.)

Nevertheless, tribal societies were under constant pressure as the money economy grew and made traditional forms of barter less difficult to sustain. In matters of trade, the Adivasis followed a highly evolved system of honour. All agreements that they entered into were honoured, often the entire tribe chipping in to honor an agreement made by an individual member of the tribe. Individual dishonesty or deceit were punished severely by the tribe. An individual who acted in a manner that violated the honor of the tribe faced potential banishment and family members lost the right to participate in community events during the period of punishment. But often, tribal integrity was undermined because the non-tribals who traded with the Adivasis reneged on their promises and took advantage of the sincerity and honesty of most members of the tribe.

Tribal societies came under stress due to several factors. The extension of commerce, military incursions on tribal land, and the resettling of Brahmins amidst tribal populations had an impact, as did ideological coercion or persuasion to attract key members of the tribe into “mainstream” Hindu society. This led to many tribal communities becoming integrated into Hindu society as jatis (or castes) while others who resisted were pushed into the hilly or forested areas, or remote tracks that had not yet been settled. In the worst case, defeated Adivasi tribes were pushed to the margins of settled society and became discriminated as outcastes and “untouchables”.

But spontaneous differentiation within tribal societies also took place over time, which propelled these now unequal tribal communities into integrating into Hindu society without external violence or coercion. In Central India, ruling dynasties emerged from within the ranks of tribal society.

In any case, the end result was that throughout India, tribal deities and customs, creation myths and a variety of religious rites and ceremonies came to absorbed into the broad stream of “Hindu” society. In the Adivasi traditions, ancestor worship, worship of fertility gods and goddesses (as well as male and female fertility symbols), totemic worship – all played a role. And they all found their way into the practice of what is now considered Hinduism. The widespread Indian practice of keeping ‘vratas’, i.e. fasting for wish-fulfillment or moral cleansing also has Adivasi origins

Mahashweta Devi has shown that both Shiva and Kali have tribal origins as do Krishna and Ganesh. In the 8th century, the tribal forest goddess or harvest goddess was absorbed and adapted as Siva’s wife. Ganesh owes it’s origins to a powerful tribe of elephant trainers whose incorporation into Hindu society was achieved through the deification of their elephant totem. In his study of Brahmin lineages in Maharashtra, Kosambi points to how many Brahmin gotras (such as Kashyapa) arose from tribal totems such as Kachhapa (tortoise). In Rajasthan, Rajput rulers recognised the Adivasi Bhil chiefs as allies and Bhils acquired a central role in some Rajput coronation ceremonies.

India’s regional languages such as Oriya, Marathi or Bengali developed as a result of the fusion of tribal languages with Sanskrit or Pali and virtually all the Indian languages have incorporated words from the vocabulary of Adivasi languages.

Adivasis who developed an intimate knowledge of various plants and their medicinal uses played an invaluable role in the development of Ayurvedic medicines. In a recent study, the All India Coordinated Research Project credits Adivasi communities with the knowledge of 9000 plant species – 7500 used for human healing and veterinary health care. Dental care products like datun, roots and condiments like turmeric used in cooking and ointments are also Adivasi discoveries, as are many fruit trees and vines. Ayurvedic cures for arthritis and night blindness owe their origin to Adivasi knowledge.

Adivasis also played an important role in the development of agricultural practices – such as rotational cropping, fertility maintenance through alternating the cultivation of grains with leaving land fallow or using it for pasture. Adivasis of Orissa were instrumental in developing a variety of strains of rice.

Adivasi musical instruments such as the bansuri (flute) and dhol (drum), folk-tales, dances and seasonal celebrations also found their way into Indian traditions as did their art and metallurgical skills.

In India’s central belt, Adivasi communities rose to considerable prominence and developed their own ruling clans. The earliest Gond kingdom appears to date from the 10th C and the Gond Rajas were able to maintain a relatively independent existence until the 18th C., although they were compelled to offer nominal allegiance to the Mughal empire. The Garha-Mandla kingdom in the north extended control over most of the upper Narmada valley and the adjacent forest areas. The Deogarh-Nagpur kingdom dominated much of the upper Wainganga valley, while Chanda-Sirpur in the south consisted of territory around Wardha and the confluences of the Wainganga with the Penganga.

Jabalpur was one of the major centers of the Garha-Mandla kingdom and like other major dynastic capitals had a large fort and palace. Temples and palaces with extremely fine carvings and erotic sculptures came up throughout the Gond kingdoms. The Gond ruling clans enjoyed close ties with the Chandella ruling clans and both dynasties attempted to maintain their independence from Mughal rule through tactical alliances. Rani Durgavati of Jabalpur (of Chandella-Gond heritage) acquired a reputation of legendary proportions when she died in battle defending against Mughal incursions. The city of Nagpur was founded by a Gond Raja in the early 18th century.

Adivasis and the Freedom Movement

As soon as the British took over Eastern India tribal revolts broke out to challenge alien rule. In the early years of colonization, no other community in India offered such heroic resistance to British rule or faced such tragic consequences as did the numerous Adivasi communities of now Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Orissa and Bengal. In 1772, the Paharia revolt broke out which was followed by a five year uprising led by Tilka Manjhi who was hanged in Bhagalpur in 1785. The Tamar and Munda revolts followed. In the next two decades, revolts took place in Singhbhum, Gumla, Birbhum, Bankura, Manbhoom and Palamau, followed by the great Kol Risings of 1832 and the Khewar and Bhumij revolts (1832-34). In 1855, the Santhals waged war against the permanent settlement of Lord Cornwallis, and a year later, numerous adivasi leaders played key roles in the 1857 war of independence.

But the defeat of 1858 only intensified British exploitation of national wealth and resources. A forest regulation passed in 1865 empowered the British government to declare any land covered with trees or brushwood as government forest and to make rules to manage it under terms of it’s own choosing. The act made no provision regarding the rights of the Adivasi users. A more comprehensive Indian Forest Act was passed in 1878, which imposed severe restrictions upon Adivasi rights over forest land and produce in the protected and reserved forests. The act radically changed the nature of the traditional common property of the Adivasi communities and made it state property.

As punishment for Adivasi resistance to British rule, “The Criminal Tribes Act” was passed by the British Government in 1871 arbitrarily stigmatizing groups such as the Adivasis (who were perceived as most hostile to British interests) as congenital criminals.

Adivasi uprisings in the Jharkhand belt were quelled by the British through massive deployment of troops across the region. The Kherwar uprising and the Birsa Munda movement were the most important of the late-18th century struggles against British rule and their local agents. The long struggle led by Birsa Munda was directed at British policies that allowed the zamindars (landowners) and money-lenders to harshly exploit the Adivasis. In 1914 Jatra Oraon started what is called the Tana Movement (which drew the participation of over 25,500 Adivasis). The Tana movement joined the nation-wide Satyagrah Movement in 1920 and stopped the payment of land-taxes to the colonial Government.

During British rule, several revolts also took place in Orissa which naturally drew participation from the Adivasis. The significant ones included the Paik Rebellion of 1817, the Ghumsar uprisings of 1836-1856, and the Sambhalpur revolt of 1857-1864.

In the hill tribal tracts of Andhra Pradesh a revolt broke out in August 1922. Led by Alluri Ramachandra Raju (better known as Sitarama Raju), the Adivasis of the Andhra hills succeeded in drawing the British into a full-scale guerrilla war. Unable to cope, the British brought in the Malabar Special Force to crush it and only prevailed when Alluri Raju died.

As the freedom movement widened, it drew Adivasis into all aspects of the struggle. Many landless and deeply oppressed Adivasis joined in with upper-caste freedom fighters expecting that the defeat of the British would usher in a new democratic era.

Unfortunately, even fifty years after independence, Dalits and Adivasis have benefited least from the advent of freedom. Although independence has brought widespread gains for the vast majority of the Indian population, Dalits and Adivasis have often been left out, and new problems have arisen for the nation’s Adivasi populations. With the tripling of the population since 1947, pressures on land resources, especially demands on forested tracks, mines and water resources have played havoc on the lives of the Adivasis. A disproportionate number of Adivasis have been displaced from their traditional lands while many have seen access to traditional resources undercut by forest mafias and corrupt officials who have signed irregular commercial leases that conflict with rights granted to the Adivasis by the Indian constitution.

It remains to be seen if the the grant of statehood for Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh ameliorates the conditions for India’s Adivasis. However, it is imperative that all Adivasi districts receive special attention from the Central government in terms of investment in schools, research institutes, participatory forest management and preservation schemes, non-polluting industries, and opportunities for the Adivasi communities to document and preserve their rich heritage. Adivasis must have special access to educational, cultural and economic opportunities so as to reverse the effects of colonization and earlier injustices experienced by the Adivasi communities.
At the same time, the country can learn much from the beauty of Adivasi social practices, their culture of sharing and respect for all – their deep humility and love of nature – and most of all – their deep devotion to social equality and civic harmony.


Abhishek Sheetal from the Munda tribe in Jharkhand wrote to us emphasizing how traditionally tribal societies valued gender equality, respect for nature and equality of all trades. This Munda fable is particularly illustrative:

There was a king who lost a war with Munda tribals. He sent a messenger to the king of Mundas. The messenger looked around but could not find the king or his palace. He asked one farmer as to where to find the king. The farmer replied, “He was here a while ago, let me see (he looks around)….Oh there he is (pointing to a man plowing his fields with his bullocks)… He is working there.”


1. What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy – Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya

1b. Stcherbasky: Buddhist Logic (New York, 1962), Papers of Stcherbasky – (Calcutta – 1969,71)
2. The Indian Historical Review, Vol. 16:1,2 Baidyanath Saraswati’s review of P.K Maity, Folk-Rituals of Eastern India

3. Bulletins of the ICHR (Indian Council of Historical Research)

4. Studies in the History of Science in India (Edited by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya)

5. Adivasi: A symbiotic Bond – Mari and Stan Thekaekara (Hindu Folio, July 16, 2000)

Note: The term Adivasi has been used broadly to represent those classified as Scheduled Tribe under the Indian constitution. Roughly speaking, the term translates as aboriginal or native people (or native dwellers).

Some Dalit activists now prefer to also be characterized as Adivasis. Others seek to bring all of India’s oppressed groupings under the ‘Bahujan Samaj’ umbrella. While the term Harijan is largely out of favour, there are some who simply identify with the government designated terms ST (scheduled tribe) and SC (scheduled caste).

Although, districts with large Adivasi populations are to be found almost throughout India, the majority of India’s Adivasis hail from Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh and Orissa. Tripura, Arunachal, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland also have large Adivasi populations. There are also districts in Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra and Tamil Nadu with sizeable Adivasi populations

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April 22, 2007 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

Apr 21, 2007

Ration cards dish out unfair deal

Jamshedpur, April 20: Thanks to the efforts of Union railway minister Lalu Prasad, the Above Poverty Line (APL) ration cards distributed during his regime are still allowing holders to get subsidised foodgrain in East Singhbhum.
But the new APL ration cards distributed by the Jharkhand government do not provide foodgrain and kerosene oil to holders.

The strange state of affairs has resulted because of the district administration’s norms which state that unless the administration distributes new APL cards to each resident of the Jamshedpur block, the older APL ration cards, distributed during the undivided Bihar days (including Jharkhand), can not be cancelled.

The district administration has only been able to distribute 70 per cent of the new APL cards till now at Karandih, Parsudih, Sundernagar and other panchayats of the Jamshedpur block.

Over 30,000 new APL cards have been distributed by the state, but none of the holders have been able to get subsidised foodgrain for six years.

Tarun Kumar Nag (42), a resident of Karandih, claimed that the public distribution system, which stocks foodgrain supplied by the food and supply department of the government, refuses to provide wheat, kerosene oil and other stuff to the new card holders.

“We have complained to the concerned department. But none of the officials came forward to help,” Nag said.

Another APL card holder, Bula Rani, said the government has forced poor families to purchase costly food items from retail outlets since it “is promoting the business community in the state”.

Bihari Lal Behra is one of those lucky few who got his APL card during the Bihar regime in 1987. He recalled that in the days of undivided Bihar, there was regular supply of foodgrain.

“The Jharkhand government is providing just kerosene oil. They have not provided wheat and other cereals for years,” Behra said.

Jharkhand Disom Party president Eshwar Soren said: “We are charting out a list of such families that did not get subsidised foodgrain from a public distribution system in Jamshedpur block. This list will be handed over to the deputy commissioner. We plan to gherao the deputy commissioner shortly.”

Deputy commissioner, Nitin Madan Kulkarni, was not available for comments.

Maoists storm Narganjo flag station in Bihar

Nearly 100 CPI (Maoists) activists stormed the Narganjo flag station (Jamui district in Bihar) under Asansol rail division of Eastern Railway on Patna-Howrah main line on Friday midnight and held the cabin master and a porter hostage for more than six hours.

As a result of this train movement on the main line remained disrupted from 1 am from Friday night till 7.50 am on Saturday morning. The students going to Kolkata to appear in competitive examination on Sunday were the worst sufferers as the train was detained at Jhajha. It resumed its onward journey at 8 am.

The trains affected by Maoists operation included 5051 UP Poorvanchal Express, 3005 UP Amritsar Mail, 2333 UP Vibhuti Express, 5025 UP Maurya Express, 3111 UP Lal Quila Express, 3039 UP Delhi Janata Express, 2351 UP Danapur Express, 3287 South Bihar Express, 2331 UP Himgiri Express, 8181 Tatanagar-Chapra Express, 3288 Dn South Bihar Express, 2352 Dn Danapur Express, 3022 Dn Mithila Express, 2334 Dn Vibhuti Express, 3006 Amrisar Mail, 5048 Poorvanchal Express, 3420 Dn Muzaffarpur-Bhagalpur Jansewewa Express, 2332 Dn Himgiri Express, 3050 Dn Amritsar Express, 2318 Akal Takht Express and 8184 Dn Danapur-Tatanagar Express.

The incident took place at around 1 am on Friday night. The Naxalites informed the cabin master, M Rewani, that landmines had been planted on rail tracks. As soon as he flashed this message to Asansol control room, the Eastern Railway immediately stopped running of all UP and Dn trains. The Maoists, however, did not allow the cabin master to pass this message in detail and took away the panel board key and both the rail employees along with them, said the Chief Public Relation Manager (CPRO), ER, S Mazumdar.

The Maoists released the railway employees at around 6.30 am on Saturday but did not hand over the panel key. However, the lock was opened with the help of a duplicate key. A tower wagon from Jhajha and a security special train from Asansol with RPF, GRP personnel on board reached the spot and carried out intensive checking of the tracks. The railway team cleared the Dn line for traffic at 7.20 am and UP line at 7.50 am after obtaining clearance from the police, said the CPRO.

This is the third incident of attack on this station in last two years and second within a fortnight. The Naxalites have called a 24-hour bandh in Jamui district from Friday midnight to protest the death of their comrade Balgovind Yadav in Jamui jail recently. Earlier in April 2006, the miscreants had blasted the station building at Narganjo while on April 8, 2007, they had killed two RPF jawans on running train.

On getting the information, security commissioner RPF, ER, DM Jamui and SP Jamui reached the spot. The DRM Asansol, Ajay Kumar Rawal told Hindustan Times that since the law and order is the state subject, he had requested the DM and SP to provide security to passengers. “I’ve asked the RPF officers to identify the vulnerable stations, strengthen the security and intensify the track patrolling,” said Rawal. -98ab53a8e9&MatchID1=4454&TeamID1=4&TeamID2=2&MatchType1=2&SeriesID1=

Land acquired for industrial growth centres

Kolkata, April 20: The West Bengal Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBIIDC) has acquired 200 acres of land at Falta for the second phase of developing new industrial growth centres. The corporation said that an 88 acre plot has also been acquired at Malda for similar purpose.

WBIIDC has been setting up industrial group centres and assisting them by helping them establish a proper infrastructure. So far, around 12 growth centres have already been set up and given out on build, operate and maintain basis.

The corporation said that a new process has been initiated for setting up “a string of new growth centres in different locations to meet the steady demand for industrial land, while constantly working towards the expansion of the existing growth centres”.

Around 2,000 acres have already been acquired for the growth centres and 400 industrial units have been established. IOC, Hindustan Lever Ltd, Phoenix Yule Ltd, Hindustan Coca-Cola, Ruchi Soya Industries, TISCO, Exide Industries Ltd, Madhya Pradesh Glychem, are among the major names that have set up their units.

With land acquistion at Falta and Malda, new growth centres are expected to spring up, the corporation said.

Dalits empowered, finally

If the villages of Pappapati, Keeripatti and Nattramangalam in Madurai were known outside their boundaries, it was for a notorious reason. For over a decade in the three panchayats reserved for scheduled castes, no Dalit was allowed to be president for more than a week.

But on Wednesday, when the villagers cheered their new Dalit panchayat presidents, the celebrations were for real. The Thevars, members of a backward community that outnumber Dalits five to one and who have been regularly unseating the presidents, had finally come around. Democracy seemed to have finally trumped caste politics and electoral officials heaved a sigh of relief.

For long, elections here were reduced to a farce. Caste Hindus opposed a lower-caste man leading the panchayats but since the post of panchayat president was reserved for scheduled castes, the Thevars handpicked a Dalit as their candidate and elected him unopposed. But just for a few days. Then, he would be asked to resign and the village would again be without a head. The state Election Commission regularly conducted by-polls but to no avail. This time, however, the state government warned the Thevars they would be jailed under the Goondas Act if they tried to unseat the presidents. The threat worked. The caste Hindus participated in the polls and elected Dalits as presidents and ward members.

District collector T Udhayachandran said: “The warm reception by the people indicates a change of heart. It is a victory for grassroots democracy.” He added that Pappapati, Keeripatti and Nattramangalam would be made model panchayats.

City has no place for workers

The wannabe world-class city has no place for these workers, many of whom have helped build the city brick-by-brick. Conservative estimates put the number of construction workers in the city at 1 lakh (there are 20 lakh workers in the state). Despite the informal sector — that employs these workers — contributing substantially to the state’s gross domestic product, (nation-wide contribution is 6.2 per cent to the GDP) the workers enjoy no work benefits and lead a miserable life. Female workers constitute 49-50 per cent of the workforce.

Is there an alternative? Yes. The state has been dilly-dallying with the implementation of an 11-year-old Building & Other Construction Workers Welfare Act, formulated by the Central Government, even as seven states — Delhi, Pondicherry, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal — have implemented it.

The act lays down conditions for safety, health, working hours, welfare, wages, for construction workers. “The state is unnecessarily delaying the act’s implementation,” says Aarti Salve, an activist who has been forwarding the cause of unorganised labourers. Officials from the Labour Welfare Ministry said they were finalising the fine print for the Act’s implementation, but activists from the Construction Workers Union, a union working for the rights of 20 lakh construction workers in the state, allege that the state has been claiming the same for years now. It is probably waiting for some more deaths of stray labourers, before it is forced to use the act.

Salve remarks, “City’s development plan has reservations for rickshaw and bus stands, fish and vegetable markets, schools, playgrounds and dumping sites but gives no facilities to construction workers. Many of them starve for 6 to 7 days a week when they have no work. Yet we call ourselves the country’s financial nerve.” State Labour Commissioner BD Sanap conceded that the implementation had suffered procedural delays. He assured that it will be put to use in two months.

Labour Minister Ganesh Naik said the state had introduced a group insurance scheme for the welfare of the workers. The workers will be required to pay Rs50 for a year to avail of the scheme.

What does the Act mandate?

For the constitution of a welfare board, comprising of representatives of the government, unions and workers, which will work towards providing medical facilities, pension, family pension, advance for purchase or construction of house, loan for purchasing tools, financial assistance for education, for marriage, immediate assistance in case of worker’s accident, maternity benefit, death benefit, etc. to registered workers. It provides for cess collection on construction cost from the construction industry to fund these benefits.

Accident-prone industry

The rate of fatality in the construction industry is very high in comparison to the other industries. Out of 1,000 deaths, close to 160 are those of construction workers. In a major rally organised by the Construction Workers’ Union, workers stressed on the need for adequate investment in working conditions for workers, mainly in terms of job security, safety, fair conditions and skill development. “The state is avoiding its primary responsibility to meet basic needs of workers and inviting more accidents,” union workers maintained.

Demands of construction workers’ union

Collect 2% cess from the construction industry for workers’ welfare and social security.
Register construction workers and provide them identity proofs.
Every worker must enjoy pension and unemployment allowances. They must be covered under a group insurance scheme.

Maternity benefits for female workers. Loan facility for buying houses, special schemes for educating the workers’ children. Sheds for construction and naka workers at sites.
Enroll workers in the below the poverty (BPL) list.

Essar to set up 1,000 MW power plant in Chhattisgarh

Essar Power would invest Rs 4,000 crore for setting up a 1,000 MW coal-fired power plant in Chhattisgarh, a senior Essar group official said in Raipur on Tuesday.

“We have decided to construct a 1,000 MW power plant in Korba district with an investment of Rs 4,000 crore,” HS Sethi, Resident Director of group company Essar Steel (Chhattisgarh) Ltd, said.

Sethi said the power plant would have two units of 500 MW each and would supply electricity to Essar Steel’s upcoming 3.2 million tonnes steel plant in Dantewada district.

The steel plant is located about 450 km from the state capital, in a location close to Baila Dila iron ore mines, he said, adding this district had huge iron ore deposits but lacked in coal. This prompted the Essar Group to set up a power plant in coal-rich Korba district, he said.

The investment in power plant is in addition to what the Essar group is pumping is the steel plant, which entails an investment of about Rs 6,500 crore, he said.

Sethi said the power plant would be operational within two years, before the commissioning of the steel project.

Essar Steel would require about 300 MW and the balance would be sold to Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board, he said, adding they have initiated talks with state government to get necessary approvals for setting up the power plant, he said.

Ruias-controlled Essar Power runs a power plant near Hazira in Gujarat and is also planning to build more projects in India and abroad.

IIM directors to discuss reservation issue

The issue of proposed reservation for OBCs in premier central institutes IITs and IIMs is likely to be discussed on Monday at a meeting of directors of all six Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), sources in IIM (Ahmedabad) said.

IIMA director Bakul Dholakia said that the media would be informed when the reservation matter comes up for discussion in Monday’s meeting.

He said the date of meeting of IIM directors was decided in January 2006 and the meeting was not fixed after the reservation issue cropped up. He refused the divulge the agenda of the meeting.

Union Human Resource Minister Arjun Singh has announced a plan to implement 27 per cent reservation in central institutions after the assembly elections in five states.

The proposed move of the HRD Ministry to hike the quota for OBCs in premier institutions like IITs and IIMs has drawn flak from faculty members of IIM(A) who felt such reservations would “adversely affect the qualilty” of the institutes.

“If students do not enter IIMs and IITs through proper channels and lack calibre, then the quality of students in these institutes is bound to deteriorate”, an IIM-A faculty member told PTI on condition of anonymity.

“The students from the backward class should be given free education, proper infrastructure and should be taken care of by the government when they are young,” he said adding, “but these underprivileged students, while trying to get admissions into premier institutions in India, should come through the proper channel”.

Speaking on reservation issue, a faculty member had remarked last week that the students, who pass out from institutions like IIMs and the IITs represent India in different reputed organistions around the world. They are the face of India and their quality should not be compromised upon.

“The proposed 49.5 per cent reservation in the IITs and IIMs will be a disaster, because reservation at a late stage (in a student’s life) is ineffective and inappropriate as these institutions cannot correct years of neglect and irreparable damage that has been done to the student” Professor P V Indiresan, a former director of IIT-Madras, had said while delivering a keynote address at a seminar at IIMA. &

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Apr 20, 2007

Justice Eludes for 22 years

Banjhi (Sahebganj): Twenty-two years have passed since 15 tribals, including a former Member of Parliament Father Anthony Murmu, were killed in a police firing here.

But as villagers at this obscure village, 16 km from Sahebganj, once again lit candles and remembered the dead today, the 22nd anniversary of the Banjhi carnage, they regretted the fact that not one official has been penalised.

Worse, because of the report by the one-man judicial commission justifying the firing, none of the families received any compensation barring Rs 5,000 each as ex-gratia .

Many of the widows were forced to re-marry. Balaka Hembrom , widow of Modga Murmu, is one of them.

“I was forced to marry again in 1990 for the sake of my children; but I have not forgotten my first husband and every year I light a candle to remember him,” she said today.

The son of Anthony Murmu is today a BA (final) student at Sahebganj College and Murmu’s widow, Bibiyana, defends her marriage to one Bali Ram Yadav in 1990 because she had no option left.

An eyewitness, Baburam Murmu, recalled the simmering feud between tribals and influential moneylenders that culminated in the police firing.

Yes, a tribal mob had attacked the panchayat Bhavan, he recalled, but only because officials had held a tribal delegation captive there.

Tribals were falsely implicated in cases, ponds over which tribals enjoyed fishing rights, were settled with moneylenders, a few tribals were found killed under mysterious circumstances, he recalled, but officials took no action.

Not much has changed, they declared, after the creation of Jharkhand.

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha might be in the government now, they said, but the villagers at Banjhi are still awaiting justice.

Forest dept seeks celebrities’ help to stop tribal ritual

The serene greens of Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary may get painted red with blood of wild animals as tribals gear up to observe the annual ritual of animal hunt, Sendra, on April 30.

Official records had put the number of wild animals killed in last year’s Sendra at six — two barking deer, one peacock and three wild boars. The wildlife experts, however, believe the number could be much higher.

With the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) now a part of the ruling UPA government and many of its leaders not opposed to the ruthless killings of the wild animals, the toll is set to escalate this year.

Realising the gravity of the situation, forest department here has prepared a series of programmes to prevent tribals from plundering the forests.

“Since it is a custom strongly linked to the tribal culture and religion, it is difficult to stop the practice. We, however, are trying to reduce the damage to the wildlife during Sendra this year,” Dalbhum DFO A T Mishra said.
Ranger (Wildlife), Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary (DWS), Arjun Badaik informed HT that the department, for the first time, had decided to rope in services of eminent personalities and local celebrities to persuade the tribals restrain from plundering the sanctuary and killing the animals.

“We have prepared a list of eminent personalities, including politicians, theatre artists, musicians, Santhali film artists, social workers and academicians, who would be campaigning for us and spreading awareness on the need for protecting the wild animals. The encouraging part is that most of them have accepted our request for help,” the ranger said.

The department has also sought the help of NGOs having considerable impact on tribals in the area. “The volunteers had launched awareness programmes around three months back in villages across the district. The religious leaders are being consulted and educated on the endangering wildlife species, and also about the need to protect them. We have got satisfactory response so far.”

Sendra actually relives the old community hunting in forests by tribal groups. Home to several endangered species like mouse deer, barking deer, giant squirrels and porcupines, Dalma hill, according to tribal belief, is abode of Dolma Baba.
Devotees have a firm belief that killing the wild animal appeases Dolma Baba, who in return, blesses them with health and prosperity.

Bank focus on farm tourism

Ranchi, April 20: A pilot project to promote farm tourism will be undertaken in the state this year, said the chief general manager of Nabard (National Bank For Rural Development), K.C. Shashidhar, here today.

The bank would be conducting a survey as well to explore the potential for rural tourism in the state.

Several states, especially Kerala and Goa, have successfully promoted rural tourism, pointed out Shashidhar, who was addressing newspersons here at the bank’s regional office.

Nabard is engaged in talking to both Reliance as well as Spencers Retail for linking farmers’ clubs and the self-help-groups in the state. The backward linkage, he pointed out, would help many of the 763 farmers’ clubs and around 35,000 self-help groups in the state to market their products more effectively. The bank has collaborated with as many as 90 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to set up the self-help groups, he said.

Complimenting the Jharkhand government for initiating a large number of innovative schemes, Shashidhar said two different clusters are being developed to help rural artisans.

A cluster of villages in Ramgarh (Hazaribagh) specialising in silver-smithy and another cluster of villages in West Singhbhum engaged in handloom weaving are being developed to promote rural artisans.

Shashidhar, in fact, rattled off a large number of special development initiatives to encourage poultry, floriculture, fancy jute craft, fly-ash bricks, mushroom cultivation and bee-keeping to help generate rural employment.

Some 1,800 rural youth, he claimed, had been trained during the year in doing various works like food processing, silk-weaving and pisciculture besides the activities referred above. Nabard has supported a large number of NGOs in training the rural youth.

The year under review, said the CGM, was a particularly successful year with more than three lakh Kisan Credit Cards (KCC) distributed by banks in the state during the year 2006-07.

The total number of such credit cards in the state, he said, stood at 5.88 lakh by the end of March.

Shashidhar claimed that Nabard had funded rural infrastructure development schemes, mostly rural roads, of the state government to the extent of Rs 154 crore during the year.

Climate Change Will Devastate South Asia

A final draft of a report leaked from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to the authors lays out shocking scenarios for India and the rest of South Asia. The summary for policy makers that was released by the IPCC on Friday is a call for urgent action globally. While shocking, the fuller final draft version of the Second Working Group of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, which may be watered down before final publication, makes for even more sobering reading: It lays out in explicit detail what lies ahead for India and the rest of Asia. It also presents an opportunity for the country to take the lead in defining a more secure and sustainable future for itself.

Here are some of the devastating consequences detailed in the provisional February 16, 2007, IPCC report on Asia: Sea levels will rise by at least 40 cm by 2100, inundating vast areas on the coastline, including some of the most densely populated cities whose populations will be forced to migrate inland or build dykes — both requiring a financial and logistical challenge that will be unprecedented. In the South Asian region as a whole, millions of people will find their lands and homes inundated. Up to 88 per cent of all of Asia’s coral reefs, termed the “rainforests of the ocean” because of the critical habitat they provide to sea creatures, may be lost as a result of warming ocean temperatures.

The Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Indus will become seasonal rivers, dry between monsoon rains as Himalayan glaciers will continue their retreat, vanishing entirely by 2035, if not sooner. Water tables will continue to fall and the gross per capita water availability in India will decline by over one-third by 2050 as rivers dry up, water tables fall or grow more saline. Water scarcity will in turn affect the health of vast populations, with a rise in water-borne diseases such as cholera. Other diseases such as dengue fever and malaria are also expected to rise.

Crop productivity will fall, especially in non-irrigated land, as temperatures rise for all of South Asia by as much as 1.2 degrees C on average by 2040, and even greater crop loss — of over 25 per cent — as temperatures rise to up to 5.4 degrees C by the end of the century. This means an even lower caloric intake for India’s vast rural population, already pushed to the limit, with the possibility of starvation in many rural areas dependent on rainfall for their crops. Even those areas that rely on irrigation will find a growing crisis in adequate water availability.

Mortality due to heat-related deaths will climb, with the poor, the elderly and daily wage earners and agricultural workers suffering a rise in heat-related deaths.

This grim future awaits India in the coming century. The irony is that much of this damage will be self-inflicted, unless the country is prepared to make a radical, enlightened change in its energy and transportation strategies.

We are truly at a crossroads: Either we can be complacent or wait for leadership from a reluctant United States, the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, or begin to take action now, regardless of what other countries do.

The path that India has taken thus far, of waiting until wealthy countries take action on global warming, is understandable if viewed in isolation. The U.S., the U.K., and other countries in the wealthy North, have developed their economies largely thanks to fossil fuels. It is only fair that India be allowed to attain the same standard of living before curbing its emissions.

But as the IPCC report makes clear, while it may be “fair” to do so, it is also suicidal for India to pursue any strategy but the least carbon-intensive path toward its own development. Wealthy, less populous countries in the North are very likely — and very unfairly — going to suffer fewer devastating blows to their economies, and may actually benefit with extended growing seasons, while India and other South Asian nations will dramatically and painfully suffer if action is not taken now.

Today, much of India’s energy comes from coal, most of it mined in the rural areas of Orissa, Jharkhand, and Bihar with devastating consequences. Tribals and small and marginal peasants are being forced to resettle as these mines grow wider by the day. Inadequate resettlement plans mean more migration of landless populations to urban slums. The environment is being destroyed by these mines and their waste products — among them fly ash laced with heavy metals and other toxic materials. But the biggest irony of this boom in coal-fired power is that much of the power is going to export-oriented, energy-intensive industry. Look at Orissa’s coal belt and you will find a plethora of foreign-owned and Indian aluminium smelters, steel mills, and sponge iron factories — all burning India’s coal, at a heavy cost to local populations — then exporting a good share of the final product to the China, the U.S. or other foreign markets.

Volatile mix

Add to the problem of export-oriented, energy-intensive industry the problem of carbon trades, and you have a volatile mix. India is one of the top destinations globally in the growing carbon market. In exchange for carbon trade projects in India, wealthy polluters in the North are able to avoid restrictions on their own emissions. Rather than financing “clean development” projects as promised, many of these trades are cheap, dirty, and harmful to the rural poor. Fast-growing eucalyptus plantations are displacing farmers from their land and tribals from their forests. Sponge-iron factories are garnering more money from carbon trades earned by capturing “waste heat” than from the production of the raw material itself. Toxic fly ash from coal-fired power plants is being turned into bricks, and the carbon that would have been released from traditional clay-fired brick kilns, is now an invisible commodity that can be sold as carbon credits. These carbon trades are not helping finance clean energy and development for India’s rural poor.

Add to this the special economic zones or SEZs — forcing people off their land, where blood, often of the most vulnerable, is shed at the altar of development.

Global warming will tighten this growing squeeze to a noose, as huge areas of Bangladesh go underwater and environmental refugees flood across India’s borders. The leaked final draft of the IPCC report shows that Bangladesh is slated to lose the largest amount of land globally — approximately 1000 square km of cultivated land — due to sea level rise. Where will all of those hungry, thirsty, landless millions go? Most will flock to the border looking for avenues to enter, exacerbating an already tense situation not only in the States contiguous to Bangladesh but in cities as far off as Mumbai and Delhi.

Undoubtedly, global warming is not fair. It is exacting the highest price on those least responsible for the problem. But India can show the world that there is another way forward: A self-interested, self-preserving way, focussed on clean energy such as solar and wind; on energy efficiency; on providing for its own population’s energy needs ahead of foreign corporations; on public transportation plans that strengthen India’s vast network of rail and bus transportation routes, rather than weakening it with public subsidies to massive highways and to automakers. The IPCC final draft report urges India and other Asian countries to prepare for the coming climate apocalypse with crop varieties that can withstand higher temperatures, salinated aquifers, and an increase in pests. It also advises better water resource management and better disease monitoring and control. While important, prevention is always the best medicine.

The IPCC final draft report should be seen as a conservative assessment of what lies in store. It clearly implies that incremental or palliative responses to reduce vulnerability are not the answer. India and the other countries of the region need to take a preventative approach by moving their economies away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable forms of energy. This is the only way of preserving a sustainable way of life that could be a model for the world. If it pursues what is “fair” in a warming world by continuing to argue that industrialised nation are to blame and need to take urgent action, it will be placing the noose around its own neck while the hangman looks on.

End of the road looms for Calcutta rickshaws

CALCUTTA: Mohammed Jowahar, like his father before him, has pulled rickshaws by hand in the east Indian city of Calcutta for more than three decades. A government ban on the two-wheel carts may leave him destitute.

“This is the only skill I have,” said Jowahar, 55, wearing a blue checkered sarong, vest and slippers as he waited outside the mayor’s office for customers. He supports 11 family members in neighboring Bihar state on less than $3 a day.

Jowahar is among about 18,000 rickshaw pullers in Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal state and the only city in the world still served by so-called human horses. The Communist state government says the men have no place in its plans to turn India’s old British colonial headquarters into a modern investment destination rivaling Bangalore, Mumbai and New Delhi.

“It’s inhuman for a human being to carry another in this day and age,” said Mayor Bikash Bhattacharya, 55, a member of West Bengal’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist). “We have made so much progress. We want rickshaws off the streets.”

The government is building roads and shopping malls, and using tax breaks to lure companies like India’s Tata Group and Indonesia’s Salim Group to new trade zones.

West Bengal drew $337 million in overseas investment from 2000 to 2006, according to the federal Commerce Ministry.

In comparison, India’s most industrialized state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, lured $7.5 billion during the same period. Federal capital New Delhi attracted $7.04 billion and southern Karnataka state, powered by the technology hub of Bangalore, received $2.05 billion.

“Our government in its initial years worked extensively for farmers and other poor sections of the society,” said Jyoti Basu, 94, who retired in 2000 after 25 years as West Bengal’s chief minister. “We’ve been slow in attracting investments and we now realize we need funds to make this a poverty-free state.”

Basu first led attempts to ban the rickshaw pullers, known as rickshawalas, in 1984. Two other tries also failed because of protests by the pullers’ unions.

The state is determined this time, Bhattacharya said. Lawmakers passed a bill in December barring Calcutta’s estimated 5,000 carts and officials plan to phase them out gradually.

The current chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, who us not related to the mayor, declined an interview request through his press secretary, Sharit Banerjee.

“The sight of a human pulling other humans on his shoulders for a pittance does not enhance Calcutta’s image,” the chief minister told India’s Tribune newspaper in 2005.

Rickshaws came into existence in the 1860s in Japan, where they were known as jinrikisha, literally “human-powered vehicles.”

They arrived in India about 20 years later, surfacing first in the Himalayan hill station of Simla, Britain’s summer capital. By the turn of the century, Chinese traders were using them to transport goods and people around the city.

The hand-to-mouth lives of pullers have been featured in books like “The Phantom Rickshaw,” by Rudyard Kipling in 1885, “Rickshaw Boy” by Lao She in 1936 and “City of Joy” by Dominique Lapierre in 1985.

China and Pakistan banned human horses a half-century ago. In countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand and Indonesia, carts now are pulled by bicycle rather than hand, or have become auto rickshaws – three-wheeled taxis with engines.

Still, rickshawalas remain the cheapest form of transportation in Calcutta, costing about 10 rupees, or 23 U.S. cents, per kilometer (5/8 mile). They cross class, caste and religious boundaries, ferrying children to school, negotiating lanes too small for other vehicles and winning customers during monsoons.

“Rickshaws have been a part of my life,” said S. B. Roychoudhury, 86, a retired tea-estate manager in Kolata. “It’s the only transport that has worked even during heavy rains when the streets have been waterlogged.”

Like Jowahar, many pullers come from Bihar. Often they live in shanty towns, sharing rooms and meals to save money to send back to their villages.

Ramdev Sahu, 45, and Lakku Jadhav, 50, from Bihar’s Samastipur district, said they earn about 5,000 rupees a month. Jadhav said he has educated four sons on his wage and is proud that they will not have to follow in his footsteps.

The pullers are unsure what will become of them when the ban takes effect. The government, which has discussed lending the men money to buy and operate three-wheelers, has not announced formal proposals.

“We are planning to set up self-help groups so that these people can find employment,” Mayor Bhattacharya said. “We are also planning to set up parking zones and employ the rickshaw pullers to manage the areas.”

Jowahar said he would not mind being turned into a tourist attraction instead of plying his usual rounds. Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto still uses some pullers as draws for visitors.

Still, his confidence in the government is waning. At home in Bihar’s Kishanganj district, his wife, daughter-in-law, five grandchildren and three sisters all depend on his wage, he said.

“Calcutta is becoming anti-poor,” Jowahar said.

Still early days at the grassroots

India and China are in two different stages of political development. With over 50 years’ parliamentary democracy and regular elections behind it, India can be considered a mature democracy of sorts. But, China, with over 25 years’ rapid, record-making growth behind it, remains entrenched in a system of one-party rule. But the gap between the two in practising grassroots democracy is much narrower. In that sphere both effectively got going, incredible as it may sound, in the same year, 1993. That was the great watershed when modern panchayati raj came to India through the 73rd amendment to the Constitution. That was also the year when the notification of the Communist Party of China struck down the village offices set up by the “township governments” (the next layer above) that were undermining the villagers’ committees. The latter, ushering in grassroots democracy, had come into being through the adoption of the Organic Law of the Villagers’ Committees in 1987. Panchayati raj had also begun in India earlier, notably in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, but it is the constitutional amendment that made it national and mandatory.

How real, effective and autonomous is this third layer in the two countries? In this book the one by D Bandyopadhyay and others is quite scathing on the achievements of the Indian system. “Only in Kerala has there been a genuine attempt to develop the institutions of self-government for local governance … Although the amendments hold the promise of replacing the system of bureaucratic local governance by autonomous and representative institutions of local government, the promise has not been fulfilled as the state governments refuse to share power and resources with the panchayats.” The Constitution has given panchayats “de jure” autonomy, but “de facto” they remain “nothing more than an agency of the state governments”. They detect “a systematic subversion of the panchayats both overtly and covertly by the bureaucracy and the MPs and MLAs who feel threatened by the emerging leadership of the three-tier panchayat system”.

Not that the system has nothing going for it. With one-third of elected positions reserved for women, “this has been the most effective formal step for political empowerment of women” in India. The panchayats have also “released a new liberalising force for Dalits, STs, women” and overall the disadvantaged. The hope is that the panchayats are a “new phenomenon” which is likely to challenge the current dominance of “the land-owning propertied classes/castes in the countryside.”

And China? The great gain is that for the first time people at the grassroots have been given the right to vote in elections contested by multiple candidates. But, as Xiaohong Zhou points out, “the village party branch together with the township party committee and the government still dominate the process of nominating candidates for village elections in many areas.” The key issue that remains unresolved is “the relationship between the village committee and the party branch.” His view, shared by most, is that unless this is done, “villagers’ self-governance and democratic supervision cannot be truly accomplished, and the elected village committee head is not truly in charge”. If there has been some progress then how does the present reality square up with the Maoist ear when Mao, through the Cultural Revolution, tried to enlist the support of the grassroots to fight entrenched party interests and his personal opponents? Xiaohong ends with a pithy sentence: “In the Maoist period, villagers who could not even decide their own fate were able to influence the fate of the state, but in the post-Mao period, villagers have gained control over their own fate.” Well, partially at least.

Can China’s rapid economic development lead to greater democracy? Received wisdom holds that the relationship between the two is strong, but what is the reality in rural China? Zweig and Chung Siu Fung discuss the findings of their survey in 120 villages in two provinces. There has been some strengthening of democracy in rural China in the late nineties. But there is no correlation between wealthy villages and villagers and democracy. Party cadres in the wealthiest villages are the least democratic. Democratisation makes it more difficult to create public goods out of public resources. It is not clear if elections are curbing cadre misbehaviour. Critically, there is little change in the nature of the rural elite. On the positive side, village director and party secretary are now separate people. But with cooption still widespread through village director becoming vice party secretary, democracy poses only a limited challenge to party authority. Hence, it is not surprising that there is no sign of a coherent opposition to the Communist party emerging. But there is evidence that those in the upper middle income bracket may be the most democratic in rural China.

Overall, in two of the most populous countries of the world accounting for a third of humanity, grassroots democracy is at a somewhat nascent stage, with India only slightly ahead of China. The hope of a better future rests on the triumph of faith over current reality.

The National Common Minimum Program in India

India is a country of largest population of heterogeneous nature. In a population wise it is just after China. Since independence different programmes has been formulated by different government, and every five year, new five year plan being implemented, but particularly after the emergence of coalition politics, the picture changed its nature of development. This article focus on the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme (CMP) which passed by the UPA to give more attention on developmental issue to all the sections of the society as well as to all the areas including states and union territories of the Republic of India. It is very difficult to discuss all the programmes, because of its vast nature and area. This article focuses on the few areas of the Common Minimum Programme which is directly or indirectly related to the common people of this country.


The Common Minimum Programme (CMP) is the first achievement or to be say political achievements of the Congress led government. The people of India have voted decisively in the 14th Lok Sabha elections for secular, progressive forces, for parties wedded to the welfare of farmers, agricultural labour, weavers, workers and weaker sections of society, for parties irrevocably committed to the daily well-being of the common man across the country. In keeping with this mandate, the Congress, its pre-poll allies that include the RJD, DMK, NCP, PMK, TRS, JMM, LJP, MDMK, AIMIM, PDP, IUML, RPI (A), RPI (G) and KC(J) have come together to form a United Progressive Alliance (UPA). The UPA government supported by the Left Parties will have six basic principles for governance.

Achieving this goal however, poses a steep challenge. As Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh declared, all too aware, “life is never free of contradictions”.1Conflict of inherent in the new coalition, how this play themselves out depends on several important factors: whether sufficient trust exists or can be created amongst key coalition partners to share power genuinely, whether mechanism are put in place to facilitate collective decision making and whether the main coalition agents posses the necessary political skills to broker sustainable compromise. They depend in other words on the politics of managing the coalition.

Hence the question arises, can Congress effective multi-administration? It must surmount formidable challenges. First, the Congress must over come the legacy of distrust bequeathed by it’s undermining of previous multi party administration, many of whose parties’ successors are now in the UPA at the centre:

The Janata Party 1977-1979

National Front 1989-1991

United Front 1996-1988

Significantly, all three coalitions, which oppose the Congress yet nevertheless depend on it for external parliamentary support at some point in their tenure, failed to survive their term in office.


It’s been six month since the finance minister presented the Union Budget for 2005-06. The overall tax collection in the first half of the fiscal have largely been on track, the lower than-projected growth in excise and personal income tax collections, however, is a cause for concern, while direct taxes rose 28% at Rs. 58,052 crore. Indirect taxes increased 17% to Rs. 87,221 crore.

With the dip in internet receipts consequent to the Twelfth Finance Commission (TFC) award to states and the decline in divided receipts from oil companies, the centre will have to rely primarily on tax receipts to keep the FRBM targets within reach and bring the fiscal back to the charted course at-least from the next fiscal North Block is hardly enthused by the dismal collections from the fringe benefit tax (FBT) although the budget estimate (2005-06) of tax revenue did not include this new impost. FBT collection stood at just Rs. 800 crore in H1, and are expected to cross Rs. 3000 crore, the whole year. The stock market rally for most part in Rs. 1,000 crore forms the securities transaction tax.

Collection Budget estimate Balance to be collected

April-Sep 2005-06 in the next six month

Exercise 47,855 1,21,533 73,678

Customs 31,208 53,182 21,974

Service tax 8,158 17,500 9,342

Personal income tax 22,450 66,239 43,789

Corporate tax 33,685 1,10,685 76,888

Total 1,43,356 3,70,025 2,26,669

Figures in crore

Despite buoyant industrial production exercise collections were up just 8.3% at Rs47,855 crore. The collections fell short of the moving monthly target by about 9%. The budget target is to increase exercise collections by 19.9% to Rs.1,21,533 crore. In fact, from a negative growth in April (- 0.85%) exercise collections were nudged to an year -on-year growth of 3.22%, 6.25%, 7.2% and 9.8% in May, June, July and August respectively. The gradual increase in collections was despite the fact that convent credit out go during the period posted an unprecedented increase of Rs.7,213 crore, over the year ago. Period significantly the shortfall in collection was evident across sectors, including the petroleum sector that witnessed significant price increase during the fiscal due to the high price of crude oil.

Even as the exercise duty on petrol and diesel continue to nave an advalorem component (8%), the year increase in collections from the petroleum industry was just 14.8% against the targeted 19.9%. the collections from the oil industry did not meet the projections because the volume remained stagnant.

A comprehensive sector-wise assessment of the exercise mop-up Oil, iron and steel, cement, chemicals and pharma industries are under the lens. With imports growing even faster than exports, customs duties, despite a 55 cut in peak rate grew 24% at Rs.31,208 crore during April-September this fiscal. Service tax mop up stood at of at last fiscal. Higher profits of India in ensured that corporate tax collections was up 28% at Rs.33,685 crore in H1 of this fiscal from Rs.26,223 crore in the year ago period.

The situation is not quite encouraging as far as personal income tax mop up is concerned. Indeed, collections recovered from the negative growth in initial months of the fiscal, but the 18% growth and Rs.22,450 crore collections fall significantly short of the moving monthly targets.2

Reflection on some important inclusive Common Minimum Programme (CMP):

Addressing to a joint session of the Parliament, President Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam focus of the new regime would be performance oriented and accountable administration. The high points of governance which he stated are as follows.


The UPA government will enact a National Employment Guarantee Act. This will provide a legal guarantee for at least 100 days of employment to begin with on asset-creating public works programmes every year at minimum wages for at least one able-bodied person in every rural, urban poor and lower middle-class household. In the interim, a massive food-for-work Programme will be started. It establishes a National Commission to examine the problems facing enterprises in the unorganized, informal sector. The Commission will be asked to make appropriate recommendations to provide technical, marketing and credit support to these enterprises. A National Fund will be created for this purpose. It will revamp the functioning of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) and launch new programmes for the modernization of coir, handlooms, power looms, garments, rubber, cashew, handicrafts, food processing, sericulture, wool development, leather, pottery and other cottage industries. It will give the highest investment, credit and technological priority to the continued growth of agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, floriculture, dairying and agro-processing that will significantly add to the creation of new jobs. Along with vastly expanding credit facilities for small-scale industry and self-employment, the UPA government will ensure that the services industry will be given all support to fulfill its true growth and employment potential. This includes software and all IT-enabled services, trade, distribution, transport, telecommunications, finance and tourism. The textile industry will be enabled to meet new challenges imposed by the abolition of quotas under the international multi-fibre agreement in January 2005. Given its special ecological importance world-wide and within the country, the jute industry will receive a fresh impetus in all respects.


The UPA government will ensure that public investment in agricultural research and extension, rural infrastructure and irrigation is stepped up in a significant manner at the very earliest. Irrigation will receive the highest investment priority and all on-going projects will be completed according to a strict time schedule. The rural cooperative credit system will be nursed back to health. The UPA government will ensure that the flow of rural credit is doubled in the next three years and that the coverage of small and marginal farmers by institutional lending is expanded substantially. The delivery system for rural credit will be reviewed. Immediate steps will be taken to ease the burden of debt and high interest rates on farm loans. Crop and livestock insurance schemes will be made more effective. The government introduced a special programme for dry-land farming in the arid and semi-arid regions of the country. Watershed and wasteland development programmes will be taken up on a massive scale. Water management in all its aspects, both for irrigation and drinking purposes, will received urgent attention. The administration will ensure the fullest implementation of minimum wage laws for farm labour. Comprehensive protective legislation will be enacted for all agricultural workers. Revenue administration will be thoroughly modernized and clear land titles will be established. It brings forward a Constitutional Amendment to ensure the democratic, autonomous and professional functioning of cooperatives. Controls that depress the incomes of farmers will be systematically removed. Farmers will be given greater say in the organizations that supply inputs to them. It ensures that adequate protection is provided to all farmers from imports, particularly when international prices fall sharply. The UPA government will ensure that government agencies entrusted with the responsibility for procurement and marketing will pay special attention to farmers in poor and backward states and districts. Farmers all over the country will receive fair and remunerative prices. The terms of trade will be maintained in favour of agriculture. It takes steps to ensure that dues to all farmers including sugarcane farmers will be cleared at the earliest.

Education and Health:

The UPA government pledges to raise public spending in education to least 6% of GDP with at least half this amount being spent of primary and secondary sectors. This will be done in a phased manner; the government will introduce a cess on all central taxes to finance the commitment to universalize access to quality basic education. A National Commission on Education will be set up to allocate resources and monitor programmes. The government will take immediate steps to reverse the trend of communalization of education that had set in the past five years. It will also ensure that all institutions of higher learning and professional education retain their autonomy. The government will ensure that nobody is denied professional education because he or she is poor. Academic excellence and professional competence will be the sole criteria for all appointments to bodies like the Indian Council for Historical Research, Indian Council for Social Science Research, University Grants Commission, National Council for Educational Research and Training, etc. Steps will be taken to remove the communalization of the school syllabus that has taken place in the past five years. A review committee of experts will be set up for this purpose. A national cooked nutritious mid-day meal scheme funded mainly by the central government will be introduced in primary and secondary schools. An appropriate mechanism for quality checks will also set up. The UPA will also universalize the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme to provide a functional anganwadi in every settlement and ensure full coverage for all children. Government fully back and support all NGO efforts in the area of primary education. Proper infrastructure will be created in schools for NCC, NSS, physical development, sports and cultural development of all students. The government will raise public spending on health to at least 2-3% of GDP over the next five years with focus on primary health care. A national scheme for health insurance for poor families will be introduced. The UPA will step up public investment in programmes to control all communicable diseases and also provide leadership to the national AIDS control effort. The government will take all steps to ensure availability of life-savings drugs at reasonable prices. Special attention will be paid to the poorer sections in the matter of health care. The feasibility of reviving public sector units set up for the manufacture of critical bulk drugs will be re-examined so as to bring down and keep a check on prices of drugs.

Women and Children:

The UPA government will take the lead to introduce legislation for one-third reservations for women in Vidhan Sabhas and in the Lok Sabha. Legislation on domestic violence and against gender discrimination will be enacted. It ensures that at least one-third of all funds flowing into Panchayats will be earmarked for programmes for the development of women and children. Village women and their associations will be encouraged to assume responsibility for all development schemes relating to drinking water, sanitation, primary education, health and nutrition. Complete legal equality for women in all spheres will be made a practical reality, especially by removing discriminatory legislation and by enacting new legislation that gives women, for instance, equal rights of ownership of assets like houses and land. It brings about a major expansion in schemes for micro-finance based on self-help groups, particularly in the backward and ecologically fragile areas of the country. The government is committed to replicating all over the country the success that some southern and other states have had in family planning. A sharply targeted population control programme will be launched in the 150-odd high-fertility districts. It recognizes the states to achieve success in family planning cannot be penalized. It protects the rights of children, strive for the elimination of child labour, ensure facilities for schooling and extend special care to the girl child.

Food and Nutrition Security:

The UPA will government will work out, in the next three months, a comprehensive medium-term strategy for food and nutrition security. The objective will be to move towards universal food security over time, if found feasible. It strengthens the public distribution system (PDS) particularly in the poorest and backward blocks of the country and also involves women’s and ex-servicemen’s cooperatives in its management. Special schemes to reach food grains to the most destitute and infirm will be launched. Grain banks in chronically food-scarce areas will be established. Antyodaya cards for all households at risk of hunger will be introduced. It brings about major improvements in the functioning of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to control inefficiencies that increase the food subsidy burden. Nutrition programmes, particularly for the girl child will be expanded on a significant scale.

Panchayati Raj:

The UPA government will ensure that all funds given to states for implementation of poverty alleviation and rural development schemes by Panchayats are neither delayed nor diverted. Monitoring will be strict. In addition, after consultations with states, it considers crediting elected Panchayats with such funds directly. Devolution of funds will be accompanied by similar devolution of functions and functionaries as well. Regular elections to panchayat bodies will be ensured and the amended Act is respect of the Fifth and Sixth Schedule Areas will be implemented. It ensures that the Gram Sabha is empowered to emerge as the foundation of Panchayati Raj.

Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes:

The UPA will urge the states to make legislation for conferring ownership rights in respect of minor forest produce, including tendu patta, on all those people from the weaker sections who work in the forests. All reservation quotas, including those relating to promotions, will be fulfilled in a time-bound manner. To codify all reservations, a Reservation Act will be enacted. It launches a comprehensive national Programme for minor irrigation of all lands owned by Dalits and adivasis. Landless families will be endowed with land through implementation of land ceiling and land redistribution legislation. No reversal of ceilings legislation will be permitted. It takes all measures to reconcile the objectives of economic growth and environmental conservation, particularly as far as tribal communities dependent on forests are concerned. It is concerned with the growth of extremist violence and other forms of terrorist activity in different states. This is not merely a law-and-order problem, but a far deeper socio-economic issue which will be addressed more meaningfully than has been the case so far. False encounters will not be permitted. It will immediately review the overall strategy and programmes for the development of tribal areas to plug loopholes and to work out more viable livelihood strategies. In addition, more effective systems of relief and rehabilitation will be put in place for tribal and other groups displaced by development projects. Tribal people alienated from land will be rehabilitated. It is very sensitive to the issue of affirmative action, including reservations, in the private sector. It will immediately initiate a national dialogue with all political parties, industry and other organizations to see how best the private sector can fulfill the aspirations of scheduled caste and scheduled tribe youth. Eviction of tribal communities and other forest-dwelling communities from forest areas will be discontinued. Cooperation of these communities will be sought for protecting forests and for undertaking social afforestation. The rights of tribal communities over mineral resources, water sources, etc as laid down by law will be fully safeguarded.

Social Harmony, Welfare of Minorities:

The UPA is committed to the implementation of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1992. On Ayodhya, it will await the verdict of the courts, while encouraging negotiations between parties to the dispute for an amicable settlement which must, in turn, receive legal sanction. It will enact a model comprehensive law to deal with communal violence and encourage each state to adopt that law to generate faith and confidence in minority communities. It will amend the Constitution to establish a Commission for Minority Educational Institutions that will provide direct affiliation for minority professional institutions to central universities. It will promote modern and technical education among all minority communities. Social and economic empowerment of minorities through more systematic attention to education and employment will be a priority concern for the UPA. It will establish a National Commission to see how best the welfare of socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities, including reservations in education and employment, is enhanced. The Commission will be given six months to submit its report. Adequate funds will be provided to the National Minorities Development Corporation to ensure its effective functioning. The UPA government will examine the question of providing Constitutional status to the Minorities Commission and will also strive for recognition and promotion of Urdu language under Article 345 and 347 of the Constitution. The National Integration Council will be restructured and revived so as to fulfill its original objectives. It will meet at least twice a year.


The UPA attaches the highest priority to the development and expansion of physical infrastructure like roads, highways, ports, power, railways, water supply, sewage treatment and sanitation. Public investment in infrastructure will be enhanced, even as the role of the private sector is expanded. Subsidies will be made explicit and provided through the budget. The review of the Electricity Act, 2003 will be undertaken in view of the concern expressed by a number of states. The mandatory date of June 10, 2004 for unbundling and replacing the state electricity boards will be extended. The UPA government also reiterates its commitment to an increased role for private generation of power and more importantly power distribution. Railways constitute the core of our infrastructure. Public investment for its modernization, track renewal and safety will be substantially increased. Railways reforms will be pursued. It commits itself to a comprehensive Programme of urban renewal and to a massive expansion of social housing in towns and cities, paying particular attention to the needs of slum dwellers. Housing for the weaker sections in rural areas will be expanded on a large scale. Forced eviction and demolition of slums will be stopped and while undertaking urban renewal, care will be taken to see that the urban and semi-urban poor are provided housing near their place of occupation. It will pay special attention to augmenting and modernizing rural infrastructure consisting of roads, irrigation, electrification, cold-chain and marketing outlets. All existing irrigation projects will be completed with three to four years. Household electrification will be completed in five years.

Water Resources:

The UPA government will make a comprehensive assessment of the feasibility of linking the rivers of the country starting with the south-bound rivers. This assessment will be done in a fully consultative manner. It will also explore the feasibility of linking sub-basins of rivers in states like Bihar. The UPA will take all steps to ensure that long-pending inter-state disputes on rivers and water-sharing like the Cauvery Waters dispute are settled amicably at the earliest keeping in mind the interests of all parties to the dispute. To put an end to the acute drinking water shortage in cities, especially in southern states, desalination plants will be installed all along the Coromandel Coast starting with Chennai. Special problems of habitations in hilly terrains will be addressed immediately. Providing drinking water to all sections in urban and rural areas and augmenting availability of drinking water sources is an issue of the topmost priority. Harvesting rain water, desilting existing ponds and other innovative mechanisms will be adopted.

Regional Development, Centre-State Relations:

The UPA government is committed to redressing growing regional imbalances both among states as well as within states, through fiscal, administrative, investment and other means. It is a matter of concern that regional imbalances have been accentuated by not just historical neglect but also by distortions in Plan allocations and central government assistance. Even in the Tenth Five Year Plan, states like Bihar, Assam and UP have received per capita allocations that are much below the national average. The UPA government will consider the creation of a Backward States Grant Fund that will be used to create productive assets in these states. The central government will also take proactive measures to speed up the industrialization of the eastern and northeastern region. A structured and transparent approach to alleviate the burden of debt on states will be adopted at the earliest, so as to enable them to increase social sector investments. Interest rates on loans to states will be reduced and the share of states in the single, divisible pool of taxes enhanced. All non-statutory resource transfers from the central government will be weighted in favour of poor and backward states but with performance parameters as well. A special Programme for social and physical infrastructure development in the poorest and most backward districts of the country will be taken up on a priority basis. It will take special measures to ensure that regions of India like in the east where the credit: deposit ratio is lagging, is improved substantially. It will review the issue of payment of royalties to states in the area of minerals. From time to time, previous governments have announced special economic packages as, for example, for the northeast, for Bihar and for J&K. For Bihar, Shri Rajiv Gandhi had announced a special development package in 1989 and subsequently another package was announced at the time of its division in 1999 to make up for the loss of revenue. These packages will be implemented expeditiously. It will make the National Development Council (NDC) a more effective instrument of cooperative federalism. The NDC will meet at least twice a year and in different states. Immediately, the NDC will take up the issue of the financial health of states and arrive at a national consensus on specific steps to be taken in this regard. The Inter-State Council will also be activated. All centrally-sponsored schemes except in national priority areas like family planning will be transferred to states. It will consider the demand for the formation of a Telangana state at an appropriate time after due consultations and consensus. The Sarkaria Commission had last looked at the issue of Centre-State relations over two decades ago. The UPA government will set up a new Commission for this purpose keeping in view the sea-changes that have taken place in the polity and economy of India since then. Long-pending schemes in specific states that have national significance, like the Sethu Samuthuiram project, flood control and drainage in North Bihar (that requires cooperation with Nepal as well) and Prevention of Erosion in Padma-Ganga and Bhagirithi flood control in West Bengal will be completed expeditiously. A Flood-prone Area Development Programme will be started and the central government will fully support flood control works in inter-state and international rivers. All existing schemes for drought-prone area development will be reviewed and a single major national Programme launched.

Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast:

The UPA government is pledged to respecting the letter and spirit of Article 370 of the Constitution that accords a special status to J&K. Dialogue with all groups and with different shades of opinion in J&K will be pursued on a sustained basis, in consultation with the democratically-elected state government. The healing touch policy pursued by the state government will be fully supported and an economic and humanitarian thrust provided to it. The state will be given every types of assistance to rebuild its infrastructure quickly. New efforts will be launched to bring investments in areas like power, tourism, handicrafts and sericulture. It determined to tackle terrorism, militancy and insurgency in the northeast as a matter of urgent national priority. All northeastern states will be given special assistance to upgrade and expand infrastructure. The Northeastern Council will be strengthened and given adequate professional support. The territorial integrity of existing states will be maintained.

Administrative Reforms:

The UPA will set up an Administrative Reforms Commission to prepare a detailed blueprint for revamping the public administration system. E-governance will be promoted on a massive scale. The Right to Information Act will be made more progressive, participatory and meaningful. The Lok Pal Bill will be enacted into law. It will take the leadership role to drastically cut delays in High Courts and lower levels of the judiciary. Legal aid services will be expanded. Judicial reforms will be given a fresh momentum. As part of its commitment to electoral reforms, the UPA will initiate steps to introduce state funding of elections at the earliest.


The UPA will take all necessary steps to revive industrial growth and put it on a robust footing, through a range of policies including deregulation, where necessary Incentives to boost private investment will be introduced. FDI will continue to be encouraged and actively sought particularly in areas of infrastructure, high-technology and exports and where local assets and employment are created on a significant scale. The country needs and can easily absorb at least two to three times the present level of FDI inflows. Indian industry will be given every support to become productive and competitive. All regulatory institutions will be strengthened to ensure that competition is free and fair. These institutions will be run professionally. It will set up a National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council to provide a continuing forum for policy dialogue to energies and sustain the growth of manufacturing industry like food processing, textiles and garments, engineering, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, capital goods, leather, and IT hardware. Household and artisanal manufacturing will be given greater technological, investment and marketing support. In the past few years, the most employment-intensive segment of small-scale industry (SSI) has suffered extensively. A major promotional package for the SSI sector will be announced soon. It will be freed from the Inspector Raj and given full credit, technological and marketing support. Infrastructure up gradation in major industrial clusters will receive urgent attention. Competition in the financial sector will be expanded. Public sector banks will be given full managerial autonomy. Interest rates will provide incentives both to investors and savers, particularly pensioners and senior citizens. The UPA government will never take decisions on the Employers Provident Fund (EPF) without consultations with and approval of the EPF Board. Regulation of urban cooperative banks in particular and of banks in general will be made more effective. LIC and GIC will continue to be in the public sector and will continue to play their social role. In addition, the social obligations imposed by regulatory bodies on private banks and private insurance companies will be monitored and enforced strictly.


The UPA government is firmly committed to ensure the welfare and well-being of all workers, particularly those in the unorganized sector who constitute 93% of our workforce. Social security, health insurance and other schemes for such workers like weavers, handloom workers, fishermen and fisherwomen, toddy tappers, leather workers, plantation labour, beedi workers, etc will be expanded. UPA rejects the idea of automatic hire and fire. It recognizes that some changes in labour laws may be required but such changes must fully protect the interests of workers and families and must take place after full consultation with trade unions. The UPA will pursue a dialogue with industry and trade unions on this issue before coming up with specific proposals. However, labour laws other than the Industrial Disputes Act that create an Inspector Raj will be re-examined and procedures harmonized and streamlined. It firmly believes that labour-management relations in our country must be marked by consultations, cooperation and consensus, not confrontation. Tripartite consultations with trade unions and industry on all proposals concerning them will be actively pursued. Rights and benefits earned by workers, including the right to strike according to law, will not be taken away or curtailed.

Public sector:

The UPA government is committed to a strong and effective public sector whose social objectives are met by its commercial functioning. But for this, there is need for selectivity and a strategic focus. The UPA is pledged to devolve full managerial and commercial autonomy to successful, profit-making companies operating in a competitive environment. Generally profit-making companies will not be privatized. All privatizations will be considered on a transparent and consultative case-by-case basis. The UPA will retain existing “navaratna” companies in the public sector while these companies raise resources from the capital market. While every effort will be made to modernize and restructure sick public sector companies and revive sick industry, chronically loss-making companies will either be sold-off, or closed, after all workers have got their legitimate dues and compensation. The UPA will induct private industry to turn-around companies that have potential for revival. It believes that privatization should increase competition, not decrease it. It will not support the emergence of any monopoly that only restricts competition. It also believes that there must be a direct link between privatization and social needs—like, for example, the use of privatization revenues for designated social sector schemes. Public sector companies and nationalized banks will be encouraged to enter the capital market to raise resources and offer new investment avenues to retail investors.

Fiscal Policy:

The UPA government commits itself to eliminating the revenue deficit of the centre by 2009, so as to release more resources for investments in social and physical infrastructure. All subsidies will be targeted sharply at the poor and the truly needy like small and marginal farmers, farm labour and the urban poor. A detailed roadmap for accomplishing this will be unveiled in Parliament within 90 days. The UPA government will not cut deficits by reducing or curtailing growth of investment and development outlays. It is pledged to the early introduction of VAT after all the necessary technical and administrative homework has been completed, particularly on issues like the integration of service sector taxation and compensation to states. It will initiate measures to increase the tax: GDP ratio by undertaking major tax reforms that expand the base of taxpayers, increase tax compliance and make the tax administration more efficient. Tax rates will be stable and conducive to growth, compliance and investment. Special schemes to unearth black money and assets will be introduced. It will take effective and strong measures to control the price hike of essential commodities. Provisions to deal with speculators, hoarders and black- marketers under the Essential Commodities Act will not be diluted in any way.

Capital Markets:

The UPA government is deeply committed, through tax and other policies, to the orderly development and functioning of capital markets that reflect the true fundamentals of the economy. Financial markets will be deepened. FII’s will continue to be encouraged while the vulnerability of the financial system to the flow of speculative capital will be reduced. Misuse of double taxation agreements will be stopped. Interests of small investors will be protected and they will be given new avenues for safe investment of their savings. SEBI will be further strengthened. Strictest action will be taken against market manipulators and those who try to deliberately engineer market panic.

Economic Reforms:

The UPA reiterates its abiding commitment to economic reforms with a human face that stimulates growth, investment and employment. Further reforms are needed and will be carried out in agriculture, industry and services. The UPA’s economic reforms will be oriented primarily to spreading and deepening rural prosperity, to significantly improving the quality of public systems and delivery of public services, to bringing about a visible and tangible difference in the quality of life of ordinary citizens of our country.

Defense, Internal Security:

The UPA government will ensure that all delays in the modernization of the armed forces are eliminated and that all funds earmarked for modernization are spent fully at the earliest. UPA will set up a new Department of Ex-Servicemen’s’ Welfare in the Ministry of Defense. The long pending issue of one-rank, one-pension will be re-examined. The UPA government will make the National Security Council a professional and effective institution. It is committed to maintaining a credible nuclear weapons programme while at the same time it will evolve demonstrable and verifiable confidence-building measures with its nuclear neighbours. It will take a leadership role in promoting universal, nuclear disarmament and working for a nuclear weapons-free world. The UPA has been concerned with the manner in which POTA has been grossly misused in the past two years. There will be no compromise in the fight against terrorism. But given the abuse of POTA that has taken place, the UPA government will repeal it, while existing laws are enforced strictly. The UPA government will take the strictest possible action, without fear or favour, against all those individuals and organizations, who spread social discord, disturb social amity, propagate religious bigotry and communal hatred. The law of the land will be enforced effectively.

Science and Technology

The UPA government will follow policies and introduce programmes that strengthen India’s vast science and technology infrastructure. Science and technology development and application missions will be launched in key areas, covering both global leadership and local transformation. The UPA government will mobilize the skills and expertise of Indian scientists, technologists and other professionals working abroad for institution-building and other projects in the country.

Energy Security:

The UPA government will immediately put in place policies to enhance the country’s energy security particularly in the area of oil. Overseas investments in the hydrocarbon industry will be actively encouraged. An integrated energy policy linked with sustainable development will be put in place.

Foreign Policy, International Organizations:

The UPA government will pursue an independent foreign policy keeping in mind its past traditions. This policy will seek to promote multi-polarity in world relations and oppose all attempts at unilateralism. It will give the highest priority to building closer political, economic and other ties with its neighbours in South Asia and to strengthening SAARC. Particular attention will be paid to regional projects in the area of water resources, power and ecological conservation. Dialogue with Pakistan on all issues will be pursued systematically and on a sustained basis. The UPA will support peace talks in Sri Lanka that fulfill the legitimate aspirations of Tamils and religious minorities within the territorial integrity and solidarity of Sri Lanka. Outstanding issues with Bangladesh will be resolved. Intensive dialogue will be initiated with Nepal for developing water resources to mutual advantage. Trade and investment with China will be expanded further and talks on the border issue pursued seriously. Relationships with East Asian countries will be intensified. Traditional ties with West Asia will be given a fresh thrust. The UPA government reiterates India’s decades-old commitment to the cause of the Palestinian people for a homeland of their own. Steps will be taken to withdraw Indian mercenaries from Iraq while further recruitment for this purpose will be banned. Even as it pursues closer engagement and relations with the USA, the UPA government will maintain the independence of India’s foreign policy position on all regional and global issues. The UPA is committed to deepening ties with Russia and Europe as well. In keeping with the stance adopted by the late Shri Murasoli Maran at Doha, the UPA government will fully protect the national interest, particularly of farmers, in all WTO negotiations. Commitments made earlier will be adhered to, even as efforts are mounted to ensure that all agreements reflect our concerns fully particularly in the area of intellectual property and agriculture. The UPA government will use the flexibility afforded in existing WTO agreements to fully protect Indian agriculture and industry. The UPA government will play a proactive role in strengthening the emerging solidarity of developing countries in the shape of G-20 in the WTO.

Official Language:

The UPA government will set up a committee to examine the question of declaring all languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution as official languages. In addition, Tamil will be declared as a classical language.


It is not enough for poor people to say that they would like to take advantage of globalization. The government must ‘listen’ to this voice and work towards creating the enabling environment, particularly the marginalized sections of the society including the northeastern people of India. The poor are not idle or worthless but we need to find them productive work and market for the goods they produce that will sustained their families. No doubt this Common Minimum Programme (CMP) by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is a relief package to the poor but government should focus more in these areas like the development of SC/ST/Women and also make strong policy to check poverty. Sustained poverty reduction continued to be concerned

There will despite our best efforts and intention, be a widened and strength for such groups. Empowerment of people through social mobilization en-compassing the concept of self-help, transparency and accountability need to be pursued vigorously, Community based organization, self help groups and civil society including NGO’s should be networked to form social capital that will exert pressure towards ensuring good governance.

People’s involvement in planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes is very important. Provisions for such arrangements in the schemes need to be put to practice seriously and with full earnestness. Transparency in selection and accountability for results both the implementers and recipients must be ensured to realize better results. All has to play their assigned roles faithfully with a view to improve the Programme delivery efficient. The CMP will work effectively only when the implementer become responsible to the concerned work other wise it also failed like other past programmes which passed in different government’s.

Oriya tribals drink toddy to fight sweltering summer

PHULBANI: Tribals in Orissa’s Phulbani region are drinking toddy extracted from palm trees to fight the sweltering summer. Toddy or palm wine is an alcoholic beverage extracted from the saps of palm tree and is common in southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The brew undergoes natural fermentation, has no additives and yet remains as potent as any other. In fact, it becomes more potent as days go by. In Phulbani village of Kadhmal district of Orissa, where the consumption of toddy is said to be the highest in the state, people – from small children to elders – consume toddy, called ‘salap’ in the local parlance, all through the day. “It keeps the stomach cool and suppresses hunger. We don’t feel like eating rice entire day after drinking this. We drink it usually thrice a day, morning, noon and evening. We get little intoxicated after drinking this,” said Goswananda, a villager. Surprisingly the villagers also give the drink to their children to fight the heat. Liquor trade in almost all states across India is rigidly regulated, besides being heavily taxed. Officials however, say if the villagers trade the drink, they may have to intervene and take action against them. “We will register a case against them under section 47 (A) of Excise law. We have not registered case against anyone yet. But if they will start selling it then we will definitely register a case against them. We don’t have any information regarding illegal trade yet if we will get any such information in future them we will definitely register a case against them,” said Laxmikanta Behera, Excise Superintendent. The officials say toddy drinking causes lot of domestic problems in the area, as the men folk don’t do any work after drinking toddy. Dozens of poor people die in India every year after consuming cheap local brews, often laced with poisonous substances such as methyl alcohol, rectified spirit and varnish, which are added to provide a quick “high”.

Govt. enacting code of corporate governance

BHUBANESWAR: Scams, financial impropriety and mismanagement have by far been the bane of State PSUs. The multi-crore Orissa Rural Housing Development Corporation (ORHDC) scam not only shocked the State Government but also shook it in 2006.

It’s now readying to evolve a code of corporate governance for the PSUs in a bid to arrest bleeding of exchequer.

The exercise has begun with a study now being carried out on eight PSUs. The study would be a first under government initiative.

Also, Centre is set to launch a model code of corporate governance for Central PSEs. The State Government, which has embarked on a series of brainstorming sessions, is looking at prudent use of public resources, efficient delivery of services as well as ensuring accountability by introducing corporate governance.

An inception meet of heads of the administration was held here recently. “What we are trying to put in place are concepts of reforms in areas which need them. Issues like independent directors on the boards and human resources management should be introduced,” said a senior Government official.

The study, to begin with, would closely look at constitution of the boards of eight PSUs, audit reports and accounts committee findings as well as those tabled in the Assembly.

It will eventually lead to a set of codes which the Government is trying to formulate.

Besides, it will suggest certain reforms in human resources management (HRM) to arrest indiscriminate recruitment of manpower disproportionate to their areas of work.

Similarly, monitoring of targets and accountability matched by incentive are two other areas on the reforms agenda.

The last reviewed status of PSUs puts the number of inoperative undertakings at 32 out of a total 65.

The total number of employees engaged stands at 38,158 while Government’s total investment in the PSUs pegs at Rs 1,835 crore with the return rate at 15.69 percent.

Over six lakh schools lack girls’ toilet

NEW DELHI: With women and child abuse being much in the news, a new study by the human resource development (HRD) ministry has revealed that over 6,20,000 primary and upper primary schools in India lack separate toilets for girls.

According to the survey conducted jointly by HRD ministry, UNICEF and the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, only 37.42 percent of schools in India have separate girls’ toilets.

“The situation is quite dismal,” said Arun C. Mathur, chief researcher of the report.

Among the states, Meghalaya is at the bottom of the tally with just 7.71 percent of schools having girls’ toilets.

Other states too fared miserably. Only 9.58 per cent schools in Assam, 9.81 per cent in Chhattisgarh, 11.69 per cent in Arunachal Pradesh, 11.78 per cent in Bihar and 12.4 per cent schools in Orissa have separate toilets for girls

Long queue for coal blocks

The coal ministry has received over 1,400 bids for captive mining of 38 blocks.

The coal blocks, having reserves of 6.12 billion tonnes, are in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

The mines have been earmarked for power, steel and cement.

There are 748 applications from power companies, 142 from steel and 531 from cement.

The criteria for allocation will be the end user and the size of the project. The ministry has reserved 15 blocks for the power sector, while for the rest iron and steel will get preference over cement.

In power, projects of 500 mega watt (mw) and above will get preference and in steel, it will be projects of one million tonne (mt) and above.

Coal secretary H.C. Gupta said the allocation would be completed within three months. He said there were no plans for more rounds of bidding this fiscal.

A screening committee, under Gupta, will decide on the allotments. The government has so far allotted 130 blocks, having reserves of 27 billion tonnes, for captive mining.

The government has now allowed standalone mining companies, both Indian and foreign, to bid for the blocks. However, they must have supply contracts with power, steel and cement companies.

Supply norms

The committee on coal distribution will submit its report in two weeks, according to Gupta.

The committee was set up after the Supreme Court barred distribution of coal through e-auctions.

The committee is reviewing the distribution norms for different sectors, system of classification of consumers into ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ users and supply arrangements for the small-scale and tiny sectors.

Before the apex court stopped e-auctions in December, user industries were classified into core and non-core sectors. Industries in the core sector received assured supply of coal at regulated prices, while non-core industries bid through e-auctions. The prices for non-core industries were also higher.

Since December, the arrangement remained the same for core industries. However, non-core industries had to buy coal through e-bookings at prices 30 per cent higher than the regulated price.

The committee is likely to drop cement, steel, fertiliser and paper companies from the core category.

A senior Coal India official said only power companies can claim the core status and get supply at the regulated price. This is because these companies themselves operate in a regulated environment.

The official said cement and power companies should be stripped of their core status, since they change prices at will which breaks the principle of supplying coal at regulated prices.

The government is giving low priority to cement companies in the allocation of coal blocks for captive mining, and it is likely the sector will lose its ‘core’ status in coal distribution.

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Apr 19, 2007

Jharkhand tribals find poultry farming profitable

Gumla: Hundreds of tribals helped by support groups, have taken up self-help poultry farming as their main source of livelihood in Jharkhard’s Gumla District

The quiet revolution has occurred in Seelam village of Gumla district. Tribal people, who had otherwise been going places in search of earning a livelihood, have found that they could stay at their villages and earn their livelihood by taking up poultry farming.

In Gumla District, which has a low irrigation, farming was not a viable means of livelihood.

Local tribals either took to brewing of country liquor or collecting and selling of firewood. But the poultry business has changed their lives.

“Initially, we had no money for seeds or fertilizer and so we could not till land. But now the poultry manure we get from hen droppings is so nutrient rich for the land’s fertility that we get good crop harvests. This has also curtailed the exodus in our village,” said Sarita Devi, a poultry pioneer.

The liquor menace has changed ever since the women folk engaged themselves in poultry farming. The poultries also created employment opportunities for local men.

“Now that there are so many poultry units in our village, it has altered people’s lifestyles. I earn, like most other women, an average of rupees 2,500 to 3,000 a month. This has improved our financial capability. I send my child to a good school. My family has a more comfortable lifestyle and we eat differently too,” said Sunita Devi, a woman poultry farmer.

We had introduced poultry farming amongst tribals in 2002. Tribals used to migrate to neighbouring and far away states to seek livelihood. Till then, the main occupation of the people was to extract ‘hariya’ (a-country-made rice liquor) and sell it locally as well consume it or selling firewood. I am so glad that ever since poultries have flourished people have given it all up,” said Pankaj Das, coordinator of ‘Pradhan Sanstha’, the voluntary organisation, which helped the tribals.

The voluntary organisation helped village women to come together under the aegis of one umbrella group called ‘Mahila Jagruti Mandal’ or Women’s Enlightenment Society, which is a sort of awareness generating group.

‘Pradhan Sanstha’ also set up schools in the area. While newspapers and television sets were unheard of before, every household in the village has television sets now.

Probe team detects sale deed fraud

Ranchi, April 19: Registration of buildings at the Ranchi registration office has come under a serious clout following detection of serious anomalies by a three-member probe team set up by deputy commissioner K.K. Soan.

A preliminary investigation report filed this evening by the probe team revealed that of the 2,000 sale deeds examined, many records are found missing, plot numbers and registration numbers found altered while in one case a power of attorney for one acre has been changed to seven acres. “This is only the tip of the iceberg,” a source told The Telegraph.

There are reports that hundreds of sales deeds duly registered by sellers and buyers of land and buildings with the registration office are missing. “After the land scam worth crores, we might soon be faced with another registration scam,” a source confided.

Officials said a number of complaints have been received by Ranchi deputy commissioner alleging widespread irregularities in the Ranchi land registration office. They added that these complaints ranged from mysterious disappearances of sale records to alterations and even over writings in sale deeds.

Following the receipt of a large number of complaints, the Ranchi DC had set up a three-member probe team, headed by Ranchi additional collector, Sunil Kumar Singh. Other members comprise Rajesh Kumar, executive magistrate and 11 clerks of the land revenue office.

“We will be checking all sale records from the year 2000 to 2006. So far we have examined 2,000 sale deeds. In one case, a seller had executed a power of attorney in favour of a particular person to sell one acre that was found altered to seven,” an insider told The Telegraph.

In another case one P.K. Chandra had bought a flat at Ma Tara apartment in the Kantatoli area of Ranchi from one Raj Shekhar. The sale was duly registered with the Ranchi registry office with the buyer paying Rs 40,000 as stamp duty. The sale deed has now been found to be missing, the sources revealed.

The report further points out that according to land revenue rules, all sale deeds registered are to be kept serially according to the registration numbers. A separate register is also to be maintained denoting serial numbers of each registered sale deed. However, in course of inspection, the probe team confirmed that sale deeds are haphazardly kept making it difficult for the investigating team to conduct the probe.

“Going through thousands of sale deeds will take some time. We will be in a position to comment on the implications of the overwritings, changes in serial numbers and plot numbers and the missing sale deeds only after concluding our probe,” a source said.

Warnings ignored in Dhanbad underground fire

They are sitting over a ‘volcano’ and perhaps awaiting the disaster to strike in a big way.

Despite repeated warnings by the Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS), the Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) has still initiated no steps to vacate the Ena colliery officers Colony beneath which the underground inferno can play havoc any moment.

“The officers and the management of the BCCL should realize the magnitude of the impending danger and initiate immediate steps to ensure the safety of not only their officers but also of their thousands of the coal workers living in endangered areas,” the Director General of the DGMS, Mr Man Mohan Sharma said.

“We have identified at least 69 most sensitive places in the command areas of the BCCL and ECL and even apprised the coal companies of the unstable mines in the areas. It is now up to the BCCL to rise to the occasion and ensure serious steps to meet the challenge of the underground inferno,” he said.

It is worth mentioning that the DGMS has already sent the list of the most vulnerable pockets under the command areas of the BCCL and the ECL, to the union ministry of labour. The BCCL’s Ena officer’s colony also figures in the list prominently.

The DGMS, after the disaster at the Nayadih Kusunda basti in which at least six persons were buried alive had again warned against repeat of the tragedy in other areas including at the Ena officers colony. “Where should we go now? It is entirely up to the BCCL top brass to decide on the evacuation and subsequent shifting of the colony to safer areas,” the officers residing at the Ena colliery project told the HT.

The BCCL Director (project and Planning), Mr SN Katiyar, however, said, “We are assessing the situation in accordance with the guidelines of the DGMS and evolving measures to counter the situation.”

“But, the steps will be taken only after the disaster and on the bodies of the officers and the workers,” pointed out a senior functionary of the Coal Mines Officers’ Association of India (CMOAI). “Unless the much-awaited Jharia Action Plan gets underway the underground fire and the unstable mines will continue to send alarm signals across the affected pockets,” the national president of the CMOAI, Sukhdev Narayan said.

As per the DGMS report at least three coal seams including numbers 10, 11, and 12 are unstable due to underground fire. The areas are most vulnerable to the land subsidence and are posing serious threat to the dwellings, District Board roads and other vital installations in the Ena colliery the report of the DGMS said.

Bihar ministers complain of unheeding babus

PATNA: Guess who is complaining about the highhandedness of Bihar bureaucrats? Not the common man, but the ministers and legislators.

The latest to complain against the officials is state environment and forests minister Ramchandra Sahni, who says Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has given a free hand to them. So much so that Sahni expressed helplessness in running his ministry as officials were ignoring his orders.

“I have issued several directives to my officers asking them to check pollution at the Burhi Gandak river caused by effluents routinely discharged by sugar mills and distilleries of the area. Unfortunately, my officers have done nothing about it so far. As a result, aquatic life in the river is under serious threat there,” Sahni said at a function to release the State of the Environment Report of Bihar.

Early this month, Water Resources and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ramashray Prasad Singh, known as the grand old man of the Nitish Kumar Government, had lodged a protest against departmental secretaries for not following his orders. Singh had reportedly told Nitish Kumar to take note of the style of functioning of the bureaucrats.

Before that, Registration and Excise Minister Sudha Srivastava had lodged a protest in this connection with the chief minister.

In the 17 months that the Nitish Kumar government has been in power, several ruling Janata Dal-United and Bharatiya Janata Party legislators have openly raised the issue of bureaucratic highhandedness. Following directives from Nitish Kumar, the state chief secretary had issued a circular to officials to respect and behave properly with legislators, MPs and other people’s representatives.

Urban polls sans teachers in Bihar

For the first time in Bihar, an election will be held minus the participation of school teachers, which is a departure from the existing practice of putting teachers in poll related work. The new rule will be implemented in the ensuing urban polls for 2,900 posts in local bodies, scheduled in May.

The State Election Commission( SEC) on Thursday categorically directed all the District magistrates (DMs) and Divisional Commissioners( DCs) to ensure that primary teachers were not put in any election work. If need be, services of teachers of high school and colleges could be taken, secretary, SEC, Raghuvansh Kumar Sinha informed.

Over 30,000 school teachers will thus be off from election work in the urban polls. In last few decades, Bihar’s education standard especially in government schools have taken a beating due to the preoccupation of teachers in non-academic work like preparing electoral rolls, census work and pulse polio drive.

But last year the Nitish Kumar government took a policy decision to keep off teachers from non- academic work so that they could concentrate on teaching in schools. An estimated 50,000 teachers were deployed in election work in the last assembly polls in 2005.

Other directives issued by the SEC to DMs were to start a drive to arrest anti-social elements and habitual offenders in urban areas as well as execute all pending warrants.

The State Election Commissioner, JK Datta, who chaired the meeting, also directed the DCs and DMs to send the requirement of security force of their respective districts, constitute polling parties in a random manner and issue identity cards to polling personnel so that chances to curb electoral malpractices.

Bihar tops list of blacklisted NGOs

Bihar tops the list of states with the highest number of blacklisted non-government organisations (NGOs) which allegedly mis-utilised funds to the tune of Rs 4.87 crore, according to Council for Advancement of Rural Technology (CAPART).

Of the 362 NGOs blacklisted by CAPART for mis-utilisation of funds in the last 15 years, 113 are in Bihar. Uttar Pradesh has 57, followed by Andhra Pradesh with 15. Ten NGOs of the national capital are in the list.

States like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan with strong NGO sectors are the best states in implementing the projects by the council, CAPART’s Director General Veena S Rao said on Thursday.

The blacklisted organisations had mis-utilised Rs 4.87 crore from the total fund amounting to Rs 12.34 crore released to them, she said adding following such instances, CAPART has made it compulsory to monitor the NGOs which implement the projects.

“Every project we undertake will be concurrently monitored by independent agencies and we have streamlined our guidelines and tightened the process for blacklisting by making them more stringent,” Rao said.

On the new projects taken up by CAPART, she said, “we are redefining our strategies with an approach to address the current gaps in rural programmes.”

The council would partner with a leading established NGO with proven track record in each state to implement its programmes in most backward pockets of the states, she said.

The programmes include, life-skill development, rain- water harvesting, sanitation awareness in rural areas, primary food and vegetable processing and establishment of Village Knowledge Centres.

The first of such Knowledge Centres to provide information about agriculture, health and nutrition, would come up in Vaishali in Bihar by the end of July, Rao said.

Under its Rural Young Professional programme, one boy and one girl between the age of 16 and 20 years would be selected from each backward village and they would undergo training in skill development and basic computer skills.

“These young professionals would act as a resource person for spreading awareness and information at the grassroot level,” she said.

The council would also launch radio programmes targeting the most backward areas, she added.
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The Daughters of Bihar

The little girls had fought a battle of their own. Fighting for something many children take for granted — the chance to go to school.

Born into poor families where generations before them had never been to school, these girls had lied, stolen and fought against the tyranny of an unlettered tradition to make their way to school.

They belonged to the poorest of the poor, the lowest of India’s wretched caste system and came from the country’s poorest and most illiterate state — Bihar.

A state reeling under a baggage of hopelessness and ridicule borne out of misrule, Bihar is turning a corner, at least it is trying to. In January, it launched a programme to bring over 23 lakh ( 2.3 million) out-of-school children to educational institutions. And by organising a festival to celebrate these girls, it couldn’t have taken a nobler initiative.

Eighty per cent of the girls at the festival had not used a toilet. They had not seen buffet tables laden with a variety of food that their minders suspected would give them upset tummies due to overeating.

For many among the 2,200 girls assembled at the historic Gandhi Maidan in Patna — the ground where Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders of the freedom movement gave rallying calls against the British Raj — the two-day festival provided experiences they had never had before.

“I’ve never travelled this far, when I got into the bus to come here, on the way I saw a train. I was seeing a train for the first time!” exclaimed Mintu Kumari, 11, who only began going to the Kasturba Gandhi Vidyalaya, a residential school for poor Dalit girls, a year ago.

80% of the girls had not used a toilet before

The children had come from Bihar’s 37 districts. Some had travelled seven, eight hours in mini buses with teachers and fellow students making the trip to the festival that was inaugurated — surprisingly, dot on time — by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The next morning 18 girls had breakfast with Nitish Kumar at his home; 13 other girls had breakfast with the state education minister.

“The chief minister served us in our plates and gave us a wrist watch each. We were so excited that we could hardly eat,” said girls from the Islampur Middle School near Hajipur. “But we asked him to upgrade our school to a high school, so that we don’t have to walk to the high school which is very far.”

Nitish Kumar had made another promise to each of the 2,200 participants the previous evening. Something very basic, but nothing short of a luxury for many. He said that each one of them would have a toilet in their homes by the end of 2007.

“We want to recognise, encourage and motivate the girls. It is an exposure for them. We have also organised eminent women IPS/IAS officers and doctors etc to speak to the children,” says Anjani Kumar Singh, director of the Bihar Education Project, and the mastermind behind the festival for girls attending government schools.

Many girls saw a computer for the first time

Many of the girls were seeing a computer for the first time. In the tented enclosure housing PCs and laptops, 4 to 6 girls were bunched around each machine, egging each other on, tentatively pressing the keys — typing the one thing that came most naturally to them, their names.

A group of Muslim girls with veils who looked around 10 years old said they had just enrolled into school two years ago and were in Class I and II when children their age are usually in Class IV or V. They went to an all girls’ Muslim school in their area.

“We have to bring the school to the children in a conservative minority community, instead of the other way round,” says teacher Sultan Ahmad.

With dreams as diverse as being Miss India to a pilot, the festival also released a calendar showcasing 12 girls who had battled against deeply entrenched social stereotypes in their small, unheard of villages.

Apart from the 12 calendar girls, the festival ground had many other stories of similar courage. Their struggle, a documentation of how underprivileged girl children have fought tremendous odds to change their own lives with the power that only education can bring.

These are the stories of their battles. They deserve to be noticed and admired.

I am from the musahar caste (a community of rat-eaters, considered one of the lowest castes in India), where our people usually do not study. Musahars don’t eat rats so much now as they did before.

Since I was a child I wanted to study. My parents did not allow me or want me to study. So I went to this didi at the Mahila Samkhya (an all woman project run by the government aimed at assisting the most disadvantaged women in areas with lowest literacy rates ). I didn’t know how to hold a pen and she taught me how to start writing.

I did not have a pen or a note book, so I stole Rs 5 from my home and bought a pen for Rs 2 and copy for Rs 2. I used to tell my parents that I was going to my elder sister’s house but I went to the Mahila Samkhya didi instead.

One day I just left home in the clothes I was wearing for the government-run residential school for girls which is from Class I to V. I stayed at the school for two months without telling my parents or going back to them.

Then one day my parents came to that didi and asked her if she had sold me. On hearing that I had been enrolled in school, they came to see me. I think they are now happy that I am in school.

I have three brothers who dropped out of school very early on. They are labourers at a road construction site. I am the youngest, so no one in my family has had an education.

My brothers tell my parents that you have allowed your daughter to go to school, we’ll see what she achieves. It’s not as if she’ll become get a BA degree, just because she has started going to school. Now I am determined to pass my BA exam and show them that I can do it.

‘I tell village women if they don’t educate their daughters, they will die as they were born — unknown, unheard’

Apart from my studies, I visit 10 villages every month. I have to make two trips to every village. I walk to the villages with my brother. Sometimes we walk through most of the day. I have been doing this since September 2006.

I go to the villages, gather the women and tell them to send their children to school. I tell them if their daughters do not study they will not be able to know their own selves. They will die as they were born — unknown, unheard.

I tell them that even I would have had a life of no worth had I not studied. I tell the mothers to learn to write their name, at least. The mothers sometimes ask me what will they get by educating their daughters, so I give them my example. Some listen, some don’t.

No one in my family has ever got to class XII, I am the youngest of three brothers and three sisters, I am the only one who has got so far. I want to do a BA and become a police officer.

I don’t get paid anything for the work I do in the villages (she works as a volunteer and is likely to be absorbed in the Mahila Samkhya programme). The reason I make the trips and listen to my brother’s complaints when he accompanies me is because I want poor girls — whose families had no education till now — I want them to come to school.

‘I stay hungry in school till I get back home for dinner’

My father is a labourer, I live in a small thatched hut but I’ve represented Bihar in many swimming competitions and won several medals.

Seeing my interest in swimming, my father saved Rs 350 so that I could get a swimsuit. The person who trains us, bought the swimsuit from Patna.

On seeing the swimsuits of me and my two friends — Savitri and Payal, who are also champion swimmers too — people in the village said: ‘What is this?’ But now we’ve participated in many competitions, so it doesn’t matter.

We went to Goa for a swimming meet early this year but they put us in the 19-year category. Still I stood 6th.

We began swimming in the village pond when we were very young and people began telling us we were good. We trained in our village against the wishes of many villagers and try to be our best with whatever resources we have.

We wake up at 3 am every day and go to the pond to swim. We run and swim to build our stamina and swim for two-and-a-half hours every day. Then we come home, eat vegetable and roti and walk to school. It takes us an hour to reach school.

I don’t eat anything during lunch because I am not eligible for the mid day meal scheme (the free lunch given to children up to Class V), so I stay hungry till I get back for dinner.

I like the freestyle best but do the breast stroke too and am learning the butterfly stroke. The three of us want to grow up and be able to study and swim. We hope we can become very good swimmers one day.

‘What’s the use of studying? Are you going to become a collector you think?’

My father was murdered. The tragedy turned my mother almost mad with grief and it was left to my grandmother to look after my four brothers and sisters. She worked as a labourer so that we could get some money to eat.

I started attending school regularly after I turned 14. I used to finish the house work and go to the government school. My family and elders did not allow me to come to school. My family used to say — ‘What’s the use of studying? Are you going to become a collector you think?’

They would say that girls would get spoiled if they were sent to school and their place was in the house. But I managed to get myself to school with the help of the didi from the welfare programme and I now stay in a hostel.

I want to become a graduate. I also teach screen painting and karate. I earn Rs 2,000 every month for teaching screen painting and Rs 1,000 for karate.

I look after my siblings, send some money to my grandmother and even manage to save. I want to be independent and tell everyone in my village that all children should go to school.

I always wanted to go to school but my mother told me I had to go sweep leaves and gather them for building a fire for cooking at home. So everyday I had to go and collect dry leaves instead of going to school.

My brother — I don’t know his age — but he didn’t go to school either and works in a bangle factory. My father works as a labourer in Punjab. He has lost sight in one eye (starts crying ). He came to see us last year, I don’t know when he will come again.

I begged and begged my mother to get admission in the Kasturba Gandhi School (a school for Dalit girls run by the government). We don’t have to pay any school fee. It has a hostel, so I can stay there. It is near my house, in the same village. I can go home and see my mother but I go home during holidays. I have been home thrice in the one year that I have been in this school.

This is the first time I have travelled to Patna. It took us almost the entire day to reach here by bus. There are no railway tracks in my village. I saw a train for the first time from the window of my bus yesterday. I even saw a computer for the first time, you know?

I want to become a teacher. I want to teach others who haven’t had a chance to go to school.

Cola to provide water in MP

Mumbai, Apr 19: Cold drink giant Coca-Cola has announced its partnership with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) to improve community access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation in West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Nepal.

At the signing ceremony which took place at the 21st Session of the Governing Council, in Nairobi, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director, UN-Habitat said: “Clean water and sanitation can make or break human development. These basic needs are fundamental to improving the living conditions of the urban poor.”

“Our partnership with Coca-Cola, India, is an innovative example of how public-private community partnerships can help meet the challenge of the millennium development goals, especially those committed to halving the number of people not having access to clean water and adequate sanitation by the year 2015,” said Anna.

There are various projects that will be undertaken in this partnership. The first one is increasing water supply through rainwater harvesting and other techniques to store and conserve water in Madhya Pradesh, India.

This project aims at setting up urban and rural Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) systems in 15 locations. This includes the construction of roof top RWH structures in 10 schools, including three government-run schools and construction/revival of five rural RWH structures.

Another project focuses on providing safe drinking water and sanitation for urban poor in West Bengal. The target is to provide potable water to 150 schools.

The next project aims at improving water management and sanitation in selected urban slums and rural areas of Nepal. This project aims to provide access to potable water through WHO-approved household level purification methods as well as increase awareness on sanitation.

The project will work in five or six urban areas in Nepal with a total population of about three million people.

There will be many programmes launched to enhance awareness on water usage, sanitation and conservation, including capacity building and mobilisation of political will with legislators and political leaders.

Coca-Cola, in the past year, has made sustained attempts to be seen seriously in taking up its corporate social responsibility. Before this, the company had honoured Indian achievers in the fields of sports, music and medicine.

UN-Habitat is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It was established in 1978 and has its headquarters at the UN office in Nairobi, Kenya.

According to its 2006 annual report, sometime in the middle of 2007, a majority of people worldwide will be living in towns and cities for the first time in history.

This is referred to as the arrival of the “urban millennium.” The year 2007 will also see the number of slum dwellers hit 1 billion.

In terms of future trends, it is estimated that 93 per cent of urban growth will occur in Asia and Africa, and to a lesser extent Latin America and the Caribbean. By 2050, over 6 billion people, nearly two-thirds of humanity, will be living in towns and cities.

Beligum delegation happy over educational programme for tribal kids in Orissa

Koraput (Orissa), April 19: A delegation of the Belgium government, which is sponsoring a UNICEF run educational programme for the uplift of Orissa’s tribal children, recently visited State’s Koraput District to check the effectiveness of the programme.

The delegation comprising Education Minister of Flemish government (Belgium), Frank Ubenbroni, and select officials were greeted with a warm welcome by the tribal school children the villagers and district officials.

Despite a blazing sun, the Belgian delegation walked the dusty lanes of the Orissa’s remotest areas. The member of the group had personal interaction with many tribal people and school children.

Belgian Minister expressed satisfaction over the education programme after interacting with various school kids.

“My feeling is that we should continue this collaboration. For us, it was a first exercise in working together with UNICEF, in sponsoring UNICEF; it was the first time we did it. It is also the first time we did it in Orissa, in India,” said Frank Ubenbroni, the Belgium Education Minister.

Meanwhile, the delegation was given a warm welcome by the local tribals. The drumbeats led the delegation to the children’s exhibition, where many children had an opportunity to interact with delegation members.

The tribal elder women, who welcomed the delegation showering petals, danced with Belgian women delegates joining them.

“We, the Paraja tribe people had always thought that it would be of little use to us if we sent the children to school. So we ended up not sending our children to school, just the way our parents too deprived us of any formal education. The loss was ours and we remained in darkness. Now we realise the value of education,” said Saribari Muduli, a tribal woman.

The benefited tribal children were delighted to meet the visitors in their village.

“I studied in standard five. I also did domestic chores and worked in the village. I do not wish to discontinue my studies. I have sworn that I will work very hard,” said Kumari Jena, a middle school student.

The Belgian government is spending about 250,000 Euros(about rupees 1. 43 crore) to improve primary education of tribal children Orissa.

In 2005, about 288 schools had been selected for the special aid, which will last till 2008.

The funds are spent on imparting training to teachers, developing training materials and empowering the community so the education system gains strength.

Orissa occupies a unique position in the ethnographic map of India with the largest number of tribal communities.

In Orissa, the literacy level stands at 63.61 per cent as compared to the all-India average of 65.38 per cent. However, there are considerable regional disparities between areas and communities.

Intel to train Chhattisgarh school teachers

Teachers in Chhattisgarh will be trained by Intel Corporation, which has entered into a pact with the state government to impart free Information and Communications Technology (ICT) training to them under its World Ahead Programme.

Intel recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state government to teach the teachers IT basics.

Chhattisgarh will be the fourteenth state in the country where the company has launched the programme. It claimed to have trained about 700,000 teachers by now.

The secretary of the school education department C K Khetan said about 7000 teachers would be trained in the state under the programme which would take 60 days. Refresher course besides workshops and seminars would be organised for teachers.

“Information Technology is important in 21st century learning. It will provide access to a world of information, and improve learning outcomes,” state education minister Megharam Sahu said.

The training will help teachers gain ICT skills for education of students, he claimed .

The manager of Intel Technology Limited in India, Anshul Sonal, said the programme was launched in February 2000 and had covered 35 cities.

Tata Steel plant faces obstinate tribals

LOHANDIGUDA (CHHATTISGARH): A proposed Tata steel project in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region has run into rough weather, with farmers refusing to sell their ancestral farmland.

“Earlier we had sought a hike in compensation for surrendering our prime farmland to the Tatas. Now we have decided not to give up the land at any cost,” thundered Banga Ram, 52, of Badeparoba village. “Tata Steel,” Ram told news agency, “can get the land (only) over our dead bodies.”

Badeparoba is one of the 10 villages of Lohandiguda block in Bastar district where officials say Tata Steel plans to acquire about 5,098 acres of land. Of this, 3,500 acres are private land.

The company signed a deal with the Chhattisgarh government in June 2005 for investing Rs.100 billion for a five million tonne per annum (mta) steel plant in a region home to large stocks of the world’s finest quality iron ore.

The government sent a recommendation to the central government in February to grant a prospecting license for the 2,500-hectare stretch in Bastar’s Bailadila deposit no-1 to Tata Steel to fulfil its iron ore requirements.

Local legislator Lachhuram Kashyap of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who was till January welcoming Tata Steel’s decision for choosing Lohandiguda block for a mega plant, has now started opposing the project.
articleshow/1922978.cms Jharkhand News Network

April 19, 2007 at 10:49 pm Leave a comment

Apr 18, 2007

Cola major packing bags from Jharkhand

The Beverage industry in Jharkhand is not having the best of times. Days after closing down production at its Jamshedpur bottling plant, Hindustan Coca Cola Beverage Pvt Ltd is reportedly preparing to hand over the leased land back to Adityapur Industrial Area Development Authority (AIADA).

Highly-placed sources informed HT that the company has already given Voluntary Retirement (VR) to all its operators in Jamshedpur, while several administrative staff have been transferred to other bottling plants across the country.

“They are in the process of packing up. We have reports that the company will return the land to us,” sources in the AIADA said.

Coke consumed in Jharkhand is now supplied from Rourkela, Bhubaneswar and the bottling plants in Bihar.

AIADA secretary HN Ram had earlier said a notice was sent to the company, asking it to return the leased land ‘as it was not in use for production purpose.’

“We have learnt that the company is violating norms set for land use. A notice has been served to the company officials posted here. As per the rules, we issue three notices to a company before initiating further action. So far, we have served only one notice on the unit,” said Ram.

Sources, however, said the company would probably not wait to be served the notices. There are several legalities, including fate of infrastructure build up on the plot by the company, which have to be discussed before the land is finally returned.

When contacted, the company officials said they were yet to receive the AIADA notice. “Once we receive the notice, we would act lawfully,” they said.

But, what has led to the cola major winding up production in Jharkhand? “High cost of production, and negative propaganda against the brand have taken its toll,” sources said, adding, “The Yoga Gurus of late have targeted Coke, bringing down its sales considerably.”

Basant Kumar, spokesperson of the Pepsi bottling plant at Adityapur, also admitted that conditions for the beverage industry in Jharkhand were not favourable. “Unlike Coca Cola, we are not closing down, but the situation on the whole is not favourable.”
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Jharkhand schools become police camps

With security worries utmost on mind, the Jharkhand government has converted 25 schools in the state into police camps.

Many schools have been closed in the last five years as the buildings are used as police camps. Estimates put the number of affected students at 12,000.

When anti-Maoist operations are launched, the security personnel are shifted into school buildings. In some schools, the personnel live in the building while teaching takes place under the open sky.

As a result, a primary school in Ghure village of Latehar district is closed since 1990 and Maoist guerrillas have attacked the building thrice.

Education in the Chatrapur Middle school of Daltanganj has also been affected since 1990 for similar reason.

“For many years now, classes are taking place outdoors as the school building has been given to security personnel. Studies are badly affected by the movement of the security personnel but we cannot do anything about it,” complained a teacher in Jhumra Hill of Bokaro district.

Another teacher of a school in Kurkura, Gumla district, said: “Student lives are always under threat due to Maoists. The rebels sometimes attack the police camp and the students studying in the open air are vulnerable to such attacks.”

However, police officials pledge helplessness in the face of the state decision.

“We need places to house the security forces. The government has asked us to convert schools into camps. What can we do? We are just doing our job,” said a police official.

Maoists are active in 16 of the 22 districts of the state. At least 600 people, including 290 security personnel, have been killed in Maoist related violence in the last six years.

The state government’s order to convert 25 schools into police camps to counter Maoists attacks has affected about 12,000 students.
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Luxury unlimited for Jharkhand ministers

Ranchi, April 18 (IANS) There seems to be no limit to the goodies that ministers in Jharkhand can get – more and fancier cars, luxurious homes, hiked salaries, additional security and the other trappings that go with the job.

Official figures estimate that the expenditure on the 12 ministers in the state cabinet in 2007-08 will be much higher than the money spent on 26 ministers in 2004.

The number of ministers in the state cabinet went down from 26 to 12 when the central government bill on the reduction of ministers was enforced in Jharkhand in October 2004.

Jharkhand can have a maximum of 12 ministers, including the chief minister.

In 2004-2005, the total expenditure on 26 ministers amounted to Rs.33.7 million, which went down to Rs.29.2 million in 2005-06 for 12 ministers. In 2006-07, expenses on the same number of ministers rose to Rs.32.9 million. And in 2007-08, the expected expenditure on the ministers is likely to go up to Rs.41.3 million.

In 2004, a minister got one Ambassador car, 10 security guards, two personal secretaries and two peons. Just three years later, a minister gets an Endeavor worth Rs.1.6 million, besides an Ambassador, 32 security guards (black cat commandos of the Jharkhand Armed Police), two personal secretaries, four peons and other perks.

A minister’s salary in 2004 was Rs.22,000 a month. The present salary is Rs.39,500, which will go up to Rs.48,500 in the current financial year.

On an average, Rs.4 million was spent on renovating each minister’s bungalow. Some ministers wanted more face-lifting work on their houses besides this.

Most of the ministers here are covered under ‘Y’ category security due to Maoist threats. So, each is provided with two security vehicles and 12 guards.

‘Ministers are just wasting public money and have nothing to do with the people of the state,’ P.N. Singh, state Bharatiya Janata Party president, told IANS. ‘Even I was minister for four years after the formation of the state but we never asked for such luxurious vehicles etc.’

He added: ‘These ministers keep the government on tenterhooks by threatening to withdraw support and in the process loot the state exchequer.’

Even the Congress, which is supporting the Madhu Koda government in the state, is unhappy with the Jharkhand ministers. ‘The ministers cannot work without taking commission for development works. They are like cancer,’ said Manoj Yadav, a Congress legislator.

The new battles

Last week, at Jagatsinghpur near Paradip port in Orissa, a tense stand-off developed between 12 platoons of the state armed police and 4000 families belonging to three gram panchayats located in the middle of the proposed project area for the 12 million tonne steel-making complex of the South Korean steel giant, POSCO.

The villagers are resisting the acquisition of their land for the project and have erected bamboo barricades and even cut off an embankment road to prevent the police from entering the area. The MOU for the project was signed two years ago and Posco is now chafing at the leash at the delay.

However, fearing a Nandigram-like replay, the state government is reluctant to take any direct action against the agitators. It may come as no surprise if POSCO ultimately opts out of the Indian project and takes the Rs55,000 crore investment to another country. Orissa, incidentally, is ruled by the Biju Janata Dal.

Political parties looking on with unconcealed glee at the discomfiture of the CPM-led government in West Bengal following the Nandigram SEZ debacle may soon have to shed their grins. For, this isn’t the first time in our country that rural landowners and the police have clashed violently over land acquisition proceedings. As the above instance shows, it won’t be the last either.

Way back in December 2000, policemen deployed at the site of the Utkal Alumina International Ltd in Orissa had to open fire on a crowd of tribals protesting the acquisition of their land for the mines of the company. Three persons died. That project, which was given the green signal by the then Congress-ruled state government as far back as 1993, has never got off the ground.

In February this year, 15 people were injured when tribals in Lohandiguda village in Jharkhand attacked a government team which had come to survey land to be acquired for another Tata steel project. Jharkhand is governed by a BJP-led coalition.

As the examples quoted above make amply clear, the Nandigram fracas is but one pixel of a bigger kaleidoscope. And the contagion is rapidly spreading. The fight is not about SEZs alone. It is a part of a greater war that is being fought across the country. Ranged on the two sides in this war are the forces of stasis and development.

On the side of stasis is a motley group comprising NGOs, opportunist politicians, academic intellectuals, and Leftist insurgents. On the side of development are arrayed the state and Central governments, politicians, administrators, industrial establishments
and others.

In this war, during the early decades after Independence, the forces of development were strong and the land needed for giant industrial, infrastructure and irrigation projects could be acquired without much fuss. However, the last two decades has seen the balance of power shift to the forces of stasis. This has come about due to fragmentation of political power, enactment of more stringent environmental legislation, increased foreign funding of NGOs leading to strengthening of their organisations, and, of late, the spread of the Naxal network.

Aiding and abetting them is a mainstream media which revels in being anti-establishment. On the other hand, the forces of development have become weak due to rampant corruption in the body politic as well as in the administration, and the entry of entrepreneurs who have no sensitivity to social issues.

If allowed to continue, this war can debilitate the economy of the nation in the future. The solutions are there for all to see: market rate compensation for land acquired, employment guarantee in the project for one person from each displaced family, setting up of industrial training institutes near large project-affected areas, levying a special development cess on all commercial and industrial turnover — the proceeds of which should directly be channelled for improving social infrastructure in rural areas — establishing state-subsidised financing for small and tiny enterprises such as vehicle maintenance, tyre repair, catering, retailing, transport, schools and clinics which will come up as adjuncts to the main industrial projects and result in considerable indirect employment of displaced persons. Involving local NGOs in many of these activities, especially social infrastructure projects, would make them partners and not antagonists in the war and defuse to some extent the lure of insurgency.

The writer is a commentator on national issues.


In Bihar, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) was initially launched during 2006-07 in 23 Districts and has further been extended to 15 more Districts in the current financial year. A total of 12.64 lakh households demanded employment and 12.56 of them were provided employment up to Feb.’07.

The number of person day of employment provided in the State is 370.44 lakh. The average person days of employment provided in a district stands at 16.11 lakh compared to the national average of 36.47 lakh person days. Of them, 16.52% are provided to women, 46.44% to SC and 2.41% to members of ST.

The employment was provided on 49,956 works, out of which 22,971 works have been completed. The average number of works taken up in a district stood at 2,172 against the national average of 3,581. The average number of households provided employment in a district of the State was 54,623, while the National Average stands at 91,685.

An amount of Rs. 485.81 crore was released to the State during 2006-07. Up to February 2007, Rs. 557.66 crore was utilized, which is 48.08% of the total availability.

The expenditure on wages stood at 55.48% , material at 43.90% and on administration 0.006% was spent. The average expenditure on a district came out to be Rs. 24.25 crore compared to the National average of Rs. 35 crore.

No literate adult among 26 percent rural families

New Delhi: At least 26 percent of rural families in India and eight percent of urban families have no literate member over the age of 15, says a National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report.

The report – the third of a seven-part series based on employment-unemployment data of the NSS’ 61st round – says that in almost 50 percent of rural families there is still no literate woman above the age of 15. This figure is naturally smaller in urban families, says the survey, placing female illiteracy above the age of 15 at 20 percent.

Of the people surveyed, 73 percent belonged to rural India, accounting for 75 percent of the total population covered by the organisation. The literacy rate was 64 percent during 2004-05, the report says, adding that it was 55 percent in rural areas and 75 percent in urban.

Sixty-four percent of rural males and 45 percent of rural females were literate. The literacy rates among their urban counterparts were much higher at 81 percent and 69 percent, respectively, said the report.

The highest incidence of illiteracy among those above the age of 15 is rural Bihar with records showing 38 percent and the lowest is Kerala, recording only three percent.

In urban areas, too, Kerala leads in literacy, with only one percent of the state’s population above the age of 15 turning out to be illiterate. Literacy is marginally higher among urban Biharis than urban Rajasthanis, with 16 percent illiteracy in Rajasthan cities as against 15 percent in Bihar towns. West Bengal stands marginally better at 14 percent.

The proportion of non-literates was highest in the bottom monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) class and it decreased gradually as the MPCE increased; this proportion was largely similar in rural and urban areas.

The literacy report, which provides statistics on literacy, attainment of general and technical education, current attendance in educational institutions, covers all of India except parts of Jammu and Kashmir, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands that remained inaccessible through the year.

The level of literacy in Jammu and Kashmir is adequately high and the situation in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is also better than most other states, said government sources.

6 garment parks in Bengal soon

KOLKATA, APR18 : West Bengal will have at least two integrated garment parks in two years at an estimated investment of Rs 600 crore. Apart from this, at least four garment parks will come up in and around Kolkata.

The largest park, being promoted by Bengal Integrated Textile Park Ltd, a special purpose vehicle formed for the project, will receive an initial investment of more than Rs 500 crore.

Murari Lal Khaitan, president of the Chamber of Textile Trade and Industry (Cotti), said: “The market for textile fabric and made-ups in West Bengal is almost Rs 25,000 crore, of which 10-15% is produced by the state.”

“This leaves us with room for growth,” said Binod Nangalia, chairman of Cotti. “The integrated garment parks will be of international standard and will cater to the demands of both domestic and export-oriented units,” he said.

Cotti, awaiting the approval of the Union government to include it in the Scheme for Integrated Textile Parks (SITP), feels the project will house 300 small and medium entrepreneurs. Once approved, the parks will receive a grant of Rs 40 crore towards infrastructure cost.

The Bengal Hosiery Association and the West Bengal Hosiery Association have planned an integrated garment park on 70 acres. The project, filed with the SITP, will receive an initial investment of Rs 40 crore. “We are looking for land in Rajarhat or near the Kona expressway,” said Srimay Bannerjee, president of the Bengal Hosiery Association.

The four garment parks include the one that will be developed by the state government. The Eastern Garments Manufacturing Association will construct a garment park in Salt Lake on 13 acres.

The Bengal Hosiery Association is in the process of constructing a park at Belgharia in North 24 Parganas.

Health sector in the State undergoing radical change

BHUBANESWAR: The rapid expansion and growth of health institutions across cities and towns has opened up new avenues of self-employment for educated youth of the State.

Bio-medical equipment service and repair stands out among the most lucrative enterprise options and with the promise of absorbing a good number of youth who are not finding jobs despite being suitably qualified.

And it offers great promise, particularly for the science graduates and those with some engineering background.

Bio-medical equipment repair and service covers a wide range of machines and appliances used in diagnostics, medical testing, operation theatres, life-saving instruments at different hospitals, nursing homes and diagnostic labs.

The equipment include ECG machines, X-rays, microscopes, defibrillator, multiparamonitor, ventilator, surgical diathermy, anaesthesia machines, OT table, OT light, autoclaves, C-arm along with a vast number of other implements.

According to Kailash Nayak, Director of Society for Entrepreneurship Environment and Human Resource Development, the health sector in Orissa is undergoing a fast-paced upward surge.

While new medical colleges are being set up, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and diagnostic labs are being established even at the grass-root level.

“There was a time, when a patient in a village had to travel to the town to get the simplest of blood tests done. Today such facilities are coming up in the villages too,” Nayak observed.

In the evolving scenario, a severe dearth of manpower to handle the breakdown in equipment has begun to be felt.

“For costly and highly sophisticated instruments, the service engineer of the manufacturer can be counted upon but for tools and equipment of regular and frequent use like X-rays, ECG machines, microscopes – to name a few- there has to be someone at the local level to deal with the problems. One cannot be left waiting for days and weeks to get the service engineer come and repair the machine,” Nayak said.

An entrepreneur can start his enterprise at an investment of Rs 1 lakh and can garner upwards of Rs 15,000 considering his reach and networking with the medical institutions.

To generate awareness on this speciality sector, SEEHURD in association with the Union Science and Technology Department is organising an entrepreneurship programme on bio-medical equipment repair and service.

The first of its kind training programme is of six week duration and aims to motivate and provide the basic skills to the participants to enable them to start their own enterprise.

Reveal marks to candidates, HC tells UPSC

NEW DELHI: It’s a huge leg up for transparency seekers. On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court brushed aside UPSC’s arguments of confidentiality and protection of its intellectual property rights and directed the commission to make public the scaling system and cut-off marks for the civil services preliminary examination.

The court order came in the wake of an earlier Central Information Commission order which was challenged by UPSC. Delivering his ruling, Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed said public interest in this case far ‘outweighs’ any protected interest. He said the ”UPSC being a public body is required to act and conduct itself in a fair and transparent manner”.

The ruling has brought cheer to aspirants of government jobs who feel that they will now get a clear idea of where they stand — what have been the mistakes in case they’ve failed, and how to improve themselves. Transparency will also remove doubts about the scaling system being used for the advantage of some candidates.

Mistakes by UPSC examiners, if any, will also be exposed. For instance, the Chhattisgarh public service commission had maintained that India’s national flower is the rose. That the state commission didn’t know it’s actually the lotus would have not come to light if the model answer sheets had not been provided.

The court recognised the positives in the CIC order, saying: ”Disclosure of information as directed by CIC cannot harm the interest of UPSC and any third party. The approach of CIC in this matter has been in correct perspective.” Justice Ahmed also directed UPSC to disclose model answers of the question papers to enable candidates to ”know where they went wrong”.

The UPSC’s contention that its scaling system — its method to give a level playing field to candidates from all educational streams — was very confidential and it was their intellectual property that could not be revealed to anybody also failed to impress the court. It pointed out that this system had already been revealed to the Supreme Court and was in the public domain. So, what was the big deal about its secrecy?

After going through the sealed envelope in which Commission had placed its method of scaling system, the court concluded there was nothing special in it and the same system was followed all over the world. ”For scaling system nothing further needs to be done, as in my view the same already stands disclosed by the UPSC in the affidavit filed by it in the Supreme Court,” Justice Ahmed said.

He added, ”Information sought does not fall within the exception of intellectual property. The data collected by the UPSC is of an event which has already taken place and its disclosure would have no bearing whatsoever on the next year’s examination.”

During arguments, the government lawyer had opposed disclosing the scaling pattern followed by UPSC saying it was a ”closely guarded state secret” and its disclosure could be misused by coaching institutes. Clearly, the court felt otherwise.
UPSC/articleshow/1920107.cms Jharkhand News Network

April 18, 2007 at 10:44 pm Leave a comment

Apr 17, 2007

Tragic tale of the missing girls

14 –year-old Mary goes by one name. She does not have a parental title. Rather, she does not remember one. But, she is not alone in her obscurity. Seema, who is a year older, and the other 30 girls too have no address- tags attached to their travel bags.

They are “missing” and have failed to trace their families ever since they somehow escaped from their employer’s homes in Delhi, Mumbai and other metropolis.

And, ever since then the Women Probation Home at Ranchi— an ordinary-looking house with extraordinary stories to grapple with—has been their home.

“These girls had last seen their parents when they were very young, before they moved out from their respective villages with touts who placed them as domestic help in various cities.

There, the job was tough, and this forced these girls to escape after putting in years running errands. They actually managed to flee, but to nowhere,” said Renu Sinha, Superintendent Women Probation Home.

“They were caught by police, who placed them at different remand homes from where they were sent to the Women Probation Home at Ranchi because they seemingly belong to Jharkhand,” she said.

“In fact, we have gone scouting with these girls to different districts, trying to locate their parents. So far, we have not had much luck. But the search is on,” Sinha said.

For one, Seema who is lodged here since last six months knows of just one place—Ketrajhad. The authorities, however, have so far failed to locate the village despite focused searches along Jharkhand-Orissa and Jharkhand-West Bengal borders.

Similarly, Mary, who lost her parents in her childhood, knows of just one relative in Bihar. But, she does not have their address. These girls know that their parents too must be looking for them.

Like her, this tiny oasis is currently home to sixty other women—some young, some adolescents and one even born here last year to a woman, who was violated and left alone. Many of them, however, look much older than their years – a legacy of life on the street.

Unlike these girls, the remaining 29 residents of the Home have already begun afresh. They are not waiting for anyone, for they know nobody was waiting for them too.

With little worries, and negligible hopes from the outside world they are a talkative bunch—speaking endlessly about their dreams and their past lives, although many of their narratives are incoherent and broken as the women themselves.

For the missing girls, however, a silent and agonising wait is still on.
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First-of-its-kind pageant wins confidence vote

- An analysis of the show and the beauties

Jamshedpur: After an experiment, the inference follows. A day after four beauties walked the ramp, stole the limelight and bagged a chance to be a part of the bigger picture at Jamshedpur — Sananda Tilottama — the post-mortem started in the city regarding the programme. Was the show a success or not, was the question on everyone’s lips.

From the choice of finalists to the quality of participants, everything came under scrutiny.

Judges called the affair a moderate success. “Because, the show was held for the first time in Jharkhand not many people were aware of the contest. That was perhaps the main reason as to why many girls decided to stay away from the event, thinking it to be a routine and run-of-the-mill talent hunt,” said one judges.

The event saw many last minute entries. Ultimately, there was a healthy turnout of 30 participants for the show. But here, too, a lot of girls backed out at the last moment, especially from Ranchi, Dhanbad and Rourkela. Out of the bevy of beauties, who walked the ramp yesterday, only three were from Ranchi, Rourkela and Dhanbad.

Deepti Sarkar, one of the judges, believes that the fault lies with the “way” the programme hype was handled. “Maybe the event was not highlighted well. So people preferred to stay away,” said she.

But media hype and publicity apart there was the big problem of consent. Dipti Sahu, a student at a fashion institute, said: “I was very keen to participate. But my family was completely against my staying all alone in Calcutta for the entire month, which the finalists had to for the final grooming,” added Dipti. Asked if she knew how popular the show was she nodded, tad bewildered.

The greatest controversy, however, was the “quality” of participants and the final choice.

“Two of the finalist did not deserve to be in the final 10. For they neither had the required height nor the stage presence, but how the judges chose on them is only known to them,” said Ria Tripathy, a participant, who could not make it to the finals.

“We know some girls may have been prettier. But the final four were selected on the basis of their over-all performance and stage presence, which were confident. We will back our choices, and their performance at Calcutta perhaps would prove if we were right or wrong,” added Sarkar.

“For the sheer lack of stage presence, one cannot really blame the girls. This state is more academically inclined. Fashion is yet to be perceived as a career option. We have to wait for a few more years before a ‘metro’ response may be expected,” said Shakti Sharma, who, too, was a judge.

The leading city dignitary, however, also felt that from the coming year, the organisers should get a little more discerning.

“For the first time this was a great show. But from next year as the concept picks up, the selection should get tougher,” added Sharma.

Sarkar suggests a way to make things easier for the state’s beauties. “There is an urgent need for a grooming school in Jamshedpur and in the rest of the state. If groomed properly the state girls can do wonders.”

For now all eyes are on the Calcutta ramp to see whether the famous four can weave the same magic there too.

Guardians in coal mafia payroll

Dhanbad: A vigilance department report has named police officers, politicians and journalists involved in illegal coal mining that goes on in 6 districts of Jharkhand.

The report also states that some police officers, who were in-charge of police stations in the coal districts, were again posted to the area. “The transfer orders come from the office of the director-general of police (DGP),” said a senior IPS officer.

“Whom should one blame for this illegal trade? We know that top police officers are bowing their heads to the pressures of politicians,” he added.

A transfer to the coal belt area is considered as a “plum posting” because of the opportunities to demand and receive hefty bribes.

The report was submitted in January to director-general of police J.B. Mahapatra. Three teams of vigilance officers had visited Bokaro, Dhanbad, Hazaribagh, Girdih, Koderma and Chatra, stayed there and talked to the residents before preparing the report.

Three deputy superintendents of police (DSPs), 11 inspectors and more than 20 sub-inspectors and several junior police officers are involved in coal smuggling, the report states. They are reportedly acting in connivance with politicians.

Some journalists, the report goes on to say, are also involved. The journalists reportedly promise not to write any thing against the illegal activity as long as they are paid regularly.

The report also mentions that politicians of several political parties and their close relatives are involved in this illegal trade. The politicians include several former and present MPs as well as ministers.

A senior vigilance officer said in the name of tackling the Maoists, two DSPs and several inspectors were involved in ferrying illegal coal from the abandoned mines in Bokaro, Dhanbad, Girdih, Hazaribagh and Chatra. “No one (meaning the public) dares to enter Naxalite territory, from where coal is ferried in the night,” he said.

Rebel review

Giridih police have come across a review report of the Maoists that details their operations, strengths and weaknesses. The biggest strength of the rebels is the “fair introspection” they do and that is also the reason behind the outfit’s success, according to the report, which even mentions the number of bullets fired from each gun during one such operation. The report, however, does not state how many policemen were killed though it mentions the Maoists killed.

Eve-teasing on Rajdhani

Patna: An allegedly drunk attendant of the Indian Railways’ showpiece Rajdhani Express coach eve-teased the 18-year-old daughter of an Air Force sergeant near Buxar late last night.

The incident would have gone unnoticed and the New Delhi-Guwahati Rajdhani attendant unpunished but for timely intervention of two Bihar ministers, who boarded the train at Buxar for Patna.

GRP Patna officer-in-charge Alok Kumar said that between 12 midnight and 1 am Mohammed Chand, 35, attendant of AC-III compartment of the Guwahati-bound train reportedly tried to touch the daughter of Air Force junior commissioned officer U. Sharma, 43, when the compartment lights were off.

Sharma, a resident of Madhepura and posted in New Delhi, had boarded the train at Delhi for Guwahati with his daughter and a colleague.

Bihar arts, culture and youth affairs minister Janardhan Singh Sigriwal told The Telegraph: “As public relations minister Arjun Roy and I boarded the compartment to take seats in the adjoining AC-II bogey, the aggrieved JCO narrated the entire turn of events.” Sharma told Sigriwal how the allegedly drunk attendant — married and residing in Delhi — first passed snide remarks about his daughter and later tried to touch her in her sleep.

Sharma and his colleague tried to resist Chand’s bid, but over four-five attendants joined in, threatening the JCO with dire consequences flaunting “big connections” in Delhi. Chand threatened the TTE, too.

“Most co-passengers kept sleeping. A few who had woken up, just watched the proceedings,” Sharma told the train superintendent.

Sigriwal called up the Patna GRP officer-in-charge around 2.10 am from Buxar. The train, which goes to Guwahati via Balia and Muzaffarpur, has been diverted via Patna for a few days because of construction on the main route. The train reached Patna around 3.15 am, where the attendant, who had been hiding in a compartment toilet, was arrested. Sharma and his daughter continued on their journey after lodging a complaint of eve teasing and harassment with the GRP.

Kumar said since the incident took place at Buxar, the case has been transferred to the respective GRP. The coach attendant was also handed over to them this morning. Deputy superintendent of Buxar station R.R. Ojha has been suspended and asked to explain why the Rajdhani stopped at Buxar when it was not scheduled to, said A.C. Chandra, chief public relations officer of East Central Railway.

RIL outfit may now invest Rs 8k cr for 1100km pipeline

KOLKATA: Reliance Gas Transportation Infrastructure Ltd, the Mukesh Ambani-controlled outfit, may have to invest Rs 8,000-crore in the 1100km pipeline it proposes from its Krishna-Godavari basin gas find to the market in West Bengal. West Bengal is expected to get compressed natural gas by 2010-11 from the Reliance find.

In June 2006, Mukesh Ambani had said during a visit to Kolkata that he would invest Rs 1,500-2,000-crore in West Bengal for the gas supply project. Later, after signing a pact with the government, Reliance had said it would invest Rs 2,500 crore.

RP Sharma, president of the company’s LNG business, said that the expenditure on the pipeline from KG basin to the state could go up to around Rs 8,000 crore. The pipeline would come from Kakinada to Basudebpur and Haldia.

The company would have to invest Rs 2,500-5,000 crore to build commercial supply networks in the districts of Howrah, Hooghly , Burdwan, Midnapore and North 24 Parganas.

For the pipeline project to be viable, Reliance will have to ensure that the market can absorb at least 10 million metric standard cubic metre (mmscm) of gas, equivalent to 2200mw of power a day.

Reliance reckons that it has a market for 3.5mmscm of gas a day. Although it has asked the government to create provisions for supply of at least 10mmscm gas per day, it will itself scout for possible customers.

“West Bengal is the priority destination for Reliance gas supply,” Sharma said.

He said that, after Reliance signed a memorandum of understanding with the West Bengal government, it had decided to supply gas to the state by 2008-09 from the D-6 block.

But, since there had been a delay in notification relating to the interests of other parties to supply gas to the state using the Reliance pipeline, Reliance Gas Transportation had postponed the target date to 2010-2011, Sharma said. Also, the gas would now come from the NEC-25 block.

The company does not expect any other company to use its distribution pipeline to West Bengal. Reliance expects to produce 80mmscm from the KG basin.

Bengal gets poor marks on Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

Four years of implementation and spending has failed to yield the desired impact of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in West Bengal. Here’s why. There were 8.97 out-of-school children in West Bengal as of April 2005, despite the target of universal enrolment set by the SSA. Not just that, 76% children dropped out of school from Class I to IV and 51% from Class V-VIII as of April 2005, according to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).

In fact, West Bengal spent only Rs 789.33 crore (47%) of the projected outlay of Rs 1685.31 crore during 2001-05, indicating low spending.

As regards physical infrastructure, out 50,255 primary schools in the state, 10,084 (20%) had only one classroom, 9,316 (19%) had no drinking water facility, 20,468 (41%) had no toilet facility. As far as girl students are concerned, 81% schools had no separate toilet.

Pulling up the Paschim Banga Rajya Prarambhik Siksha Unnayan Sangha (Sanstha), which is responsible for implementing SSA in the state, the CAG report said non-utilisation of funds and delay in submitting the annual work plan was the key reason behind the lag in funds’ release by the Centre, in accordance with the guidelines for SSA.

Another area where the Sanstha slipped up was in preparing a perspective plan for enrolment of out-of-school children. ”Scrutiny revealed that neither any household baseline survey was conducted nor Village Education Registers were maintained properly”, the CAG report said. ”Instead, the number of children was estimated by way of gross assumption of population growth rate as per Census…”

West Bengal’s record in encouraging education among girls, SC and ST children is also dismal, according to the report. Out of the budget provision of Rs 10.27 crore during 2002-05 for the purpose, only Rs 1.83 crore was spent. In fact, the state project director had stated that Scheduled castes, Scheduled tribes and girl students were dropping out of school due to lack of monitoring.

Also, there were instances of expenditure on ”inadmissible items” under the SSA in the four districts of Bardhaman, Nadia, North 24 Paraganas and Purba Medhipur. For instance, Rs 63.61 lakh was spent on buying computers and accessories, Rs 5.38 lakh on air-conditioning machines, Rs 4.71 lakh on typewriters and fax machines for government offices, and Rs 0.83 lakh on mobile phones and cash cards for the DM and SDO of Bardhaman.

Orissa body to deal with rehabilitation issues

Bhubaneswar (PTI): With all major projects in the pipeline in Orissa affected by acute land acquisition problems, the State Government will establish a separate directorate to exclusively deal with rehabilitation and resettlement issues.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday directed officials to open the new directorate, the first of its kind in the country, within a week, official sources said on Tuesday.

The need for such a body was felt as Orissa has been hard pressed to acquire land for mega projects to be set up by Posco, Arcelor-Mittal, Vedanta, Tatas and a host of power companies.

“Even as investors have agreed to put in more than Rs 4,00,000 crore in the State, all projects are delayed due to land-related problems,” a source said.

Patnaik directed the revenue department to set up the directorate after discussions with representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Both UNDP and DFID have assured the Orissa Government they will help the new directorate. They also showed interest in training officers to be deployed in the new set-up.

According to decisions taken at the meeting, a Land Acquisition Officer (LAO) and a Rehabilitation Officer (RO) will be appointed for each mega project.

“These two officers will ensure that the land acquisition and rehabilitation processes go side by side. The officers will be responsible to talk to people and ensure peace in the project areas,” an official said.

The meeting also decided that the new directorate would take up some projects on a pilot basis before being given responsibilities to look after all projects.

“The activities of the new directorate should be result- oriented and focused,” Patnaik reportedly told the revenue department under which the directorate will operate.

Sources said, though Orissa had adopted the “most progressive” rehabilitation and resettlement policy since 2006, it mostly remained on paper.

“Patnaik expressed displeasure for not implementing the new policy which, according to him, would help to overcome land acquisition problems,” an official said.

The meeting also resolved that the acquisition of land and rehabilitation of affected people must be done through negotiations and not by force, sources said.

Rape accused marries minor victim in Orissa jail

A 24-year-old undertrial in Orissa has married a teenage girl whom he allegedly raped and got pregnant a few years ago.

The traditional tribal wedding between Padmini Murmu, 16, and Khaira Hansda was solemnised at the Circle Jail at Baripada, the district headquarters of Mayurbhanj, 250 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar, where Khaira is lodged on charges of rape, a jail official told IANS.

Khaira and Padmini, residents of Adasila village, were students of Class 7 in the local Adasila Nodal M.E. School. Padmini gave birth to a male child on Nov 1, 2006 – a child Khaira flatly denied having fathered.

Padmini and her family members registered a rape case against Khaira at the Kuliana police station after which he was jailed. Later, local social activists met Khaira and persuaded him to accept the child as his son.

After some initial protests, Khaira admitted that he was the father of the child and the wedding was organised in the jail.

Since the couple belongs to the Santali tribe, the marriage took place according to their traditional rituals in the presence of family members. The village head of the Santhal community of Adasila village solemnised the marriage, the jail official added.

All the 686 jail inmates, including Dara Singh who is convicted of murdering Australian Christian missionary Graham Stains and his two sons, attended the marriage.

Though Khaira will not be exempted from the rape charges after the marriage, he is likely to get bail, a legal expert said.

Under-qualified teachers evaluate papers

Bilaspur, (Chhattisgarh) : In a mockery of the Board exams, under-qualified teachers are checking the copies of the students, Sahara Samay sources said.

Albeit, these teachers lack any degree or knowledge in the subject, the evaluation of the copies is in full swing.

The incharge of the evaluation process also admits the loopholes in the process but assures that no evaluators are unscrupulous enough to spoil the future of the students.

The teachers have also managed forge certificate of merit in the subject to become eligible for the evaluation work and are minting money. Jharkhand News Network

April 17, 2007 at 11:29 pm Leave a comment

Apr 16, 2007

Nearly 75,000 primary schools in India have no classroom

New Delhi, April 16 India may claim that it is slowly becoming a knowledge hub, yet a survey by a university revealed Monday that nearly 75,000 schools at the elementary level have no classrooms.

The report, ‘Elementary Education In India: Where Do We Stand?’ by National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NEUPA) said at least 10.15 percent of such schools are running without classrooms.

‘Forget about buildings, 74,893 primary schools (Class I-V) have no classrooms. It’s a great worrying point,’ said Arun Mehta, who was part of the countrywide survey.

The percentage of schools without classrooms in urban areas is 13.9 as against 9.6 in rural areas, the report said.

‘A whopping 40.41 percent primary schools in Jharkhand have no classrooms,’ Mehta told IANS, adding that 37.62 percent of primary schools in Jharkhand have only two classrooms.

Ved Prakash, vice chancellor of the university, said: ‘All these pupils study in tents and a large chunk of them under the sky. Both the private and the government sector should work together to solve this huge issue.’

The survey covered over 1.1 million primary and upper primary schools across 604 districts of India of which nearly 67 percent are independent primary schools.

The report revealed that as many as 107,276 schools, both primary and upper primary, had only one classroom.

Of the over 1.1 million schools surveyed, 11 percent of the classrooms need major repairs and 21 percent need minor repairs, the report said.

Mehta pointed out that in Nagaland, 73 percent of classrooms need repairs.

‘Of the existing classrooms in Nagaland, 73 percent, Meghalaya 77 percent, Assam 66 percent, Mizoram 64 percent, Arunachal Pradesh 64 percent, West Bengal 57 percent and Orissa 55 percent need repairing,’ Mehta said.

The report also found that 50 percent of classrooms in Bihar, 52 percent in Jammu and Kashmir, 48 percent in Jharkhand and 64 percent in Lakshadweep needed to be repaired.

Sesa Goa told to develop mines or leave Jharkhand

Kolkata: Sesa Goa has received a showcause notice from the Jharkhand government asking it why its prospective licence for iron ore mines in the state should not be cancelled.

The district mining officer of Chaibasa has said the company seemed more interested in keeping the 7 square km of mining area in its fold rather than developing it.

The company has been asked to reply to the showcause notice in a month’s time.

Sesa’s valuation received the first blow when the Centre imposed an export levy of Rs300 a tonne on iron ore on 28 February. The company exports one-tenth of its 9.6-million-tonne output to Japan and 58 per cent to China and Taiwan.

Sesa Goa received the prospective licence for the mines in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district in early 2005.

Industry sources said the letter gains significance because the valuation of the country’s second-largest iron ore exporter would be determined by its reported 150 million tonne of iron ore reserves in Orissa, Karnataka and Goa and the prospective mining licence in Jharkhand (government-owned MMTC is the country’s largest iron ore exporter).

Lakhmi Mittal controlled Arcelor Mittal, Anil Agarwal-controlled Vedanta Resources, and the Aditya Birla Group’s closely-held Essel Mining & Industries have submitted bids for Mitsui’s 51 per cent stake in Sesa Goa.

903 abductions in Bihar and counting

PATNA: Bihar has once again earned the dubious distinction of being the most lawless state in the country with over 903 people reported kidnapped in the first three months of 2007.

MP Gupta, a senior lawyer of Patna High Court, quoted a court report as saying that 90 cases of abductions took place in Bihar from January 1 to March 31. In January, there were 333 kidnappings, 361 in February and 209 in March, indicating that little has changed since the new government came to power in the state in 2005.

“The figures are authentic and based on reports submitted by district judges to the high court,” said Gupta, who is also general secretary of the Council for Protection of Public Rights and Welfare, which files crime-related PILs. Gupta added that the Patna High Court had asked district judges to submit monthly reports on the abductions because it doubted the authenticity of the figures provided by the Bihar government.

According to officials, over 2,000 people were kidnapped in 2006, with lawyers, doctors, contractors, businessmen and schoolchildren being the prime targets. In fact, hundreds of professionals migrated to bigger cities or have sent their children to boarding schools outside the state.

In the wake of a series of abductions of schoolchildren in the state, more and more people are questioning Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s claim of providing better governance.

When Nitish Kumar assumed power in November 2005, he had promised to turn Bihar into a crime-free state in three months. In fact, when Rabri Devi was the chief minister of the state , the opposition had made the poor law and order situation in the state a major issue. Clearly, Bihar has not changed much since then.

Gupta said 14,276 abduction cases were pending in various courts across the state. He claimed that nearly 5,000 criminals involved in abduction cases had not been arrested.

Earlier this year, the Patna HC had directed the government to trace 144 children and 581 women reported missing since 2001. The court took a serious note of the reports that 44 of the abducted children had been killed. The court had expressed concern over the police failure in finding the missing children and asked the government to submit a report within six weeks.


The West Bengal government is believed to have roped in telephony service provider Reliance Communications for its e-governance project, an attempt to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban areas in the state.

The state government, which was planning to connect 3,600 gram panchayats and all municipalities through the Internet, had earlier roped in IT major Wipro and SREI Infrastructure Finance Ltd for the project. SREI was to set up around 5,000 common service centres (CSCs) in rural Bengal.

The Anil Ambani group company would help the state in setting up communication infrastructure, including providing of bandwidth and Internet connectivity, said sources close to the development.

The company would also look at setting up payment gateways that would help citizens to remit taxes and like electricity and water among others over online or through specially developed kiosks.

When contacted, a Reliance Communications spokesperson declined to comment on the issue and added that company was open to every opportunity available in the country.

The West Bengal government had undertaken an e-governance policy with an intention to connect its 3,600 gram panchayats and all municipalities on an IT network.

The network was being set up as a two-way communication mode between the governing bodies and citizens, with the government also keen on taking in citizens’ opinions to run the state.

The state was also planning to set up e-governance counters where the high-population density was not backed up by proper information infrastructure, and a number of information kiosks, under its government-to-citizen (G2C) interface.

The project was being planned in phases and it was also planning for automation of land records and retail transactions, while the stress was also on e-education and adult literacy among others
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Doctors still reluctant to take up rural postings

BHUBANESWAR: Rural health services particularly in tribal dominated districts continue to be plagued by shortage of doctors and other paramedical staff.

The additional financial incentives announced by the Government for doctors working in tribal dominated backward districts has failed to motivate doctors to take up rural posting.

According to latest estimate, 382 doctor posts are lying vacant in 14 districts including the 11 districts (eight KBK districts plus Boudh, Kandhamal and Gajapati) where doctors are given special allowance. The other three districts are Gajapati, Mayurbhanj and Sundergarh.

While 173 assistant surgeon posts are lying vacant, there is a shortage of 101 class-II specialists, 82 class-I specialists and 26 senior class-I specialists is these districts.

Shortage of doctors have hit the health services most in backwards districts of Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Koraput and naxal infested Malkangiri. As against a sanctioned strength of 92 assistant surgeons in Kandhamal district, 22 posts are lying vacant. The remaining three districts have a shortage of 20 assistant surgeons each.

The sanctioned strength for Malkangiri district is 55 while 35 doctors are in place. Delivery of health services in the district has crumbled and people are dying of common diseases like diarrhoea which recently claimed several lives, sources said.

While the tribal dominated southern Orissa districts are malaria endemic zone, 233 post of women malaria preventive health worker are lying vacant. The issue was raised at the recent meeting of the Tribes Advisory Council chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Last year the State Government introduced an incentive scheme to encourage doctors to take up posting in the KBK districts and three non-KBK districts of Boudh, Kandhamal and Gajapati.

A special allowance of Rs 2000 per month was given to each of the assistant surgeon and class-II specialist posted in district headquarters hospitals and Rs 5000 per month to the two categories of doctors posted in periphery.

Additional incentive of Rs 2000 per month was given to contractual doctors working in these districts and tribal blocks of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts.

However, there is hardly any changes in the situation even after introduction of the incentive scheme.

Recently, the Government announced a special package for the doctors including enhancement of basic salary. The special incentive for doctors working in KBK districts was from Rs 5000 to Rs 8000 per month and those working in district headquarters will get a special allowance of Rs 4000 per month as against Rs 2000 given earlier.

The incentive schemes will be extended to doctors working in Gajapati, Kandhamal and Boudh districts.

Mr Justice, We Want Social Justice

THE Supreme Court in its interim order on the question of reservations for the OBCs has observed that “it would be desirable to keep in hold the operation of the Act so far as it relates to Section 6 thereof for the OBCs category only”. The peculiar wording of the judgement pronounced by the court here is noteworthy. This has led to the chairman of the Oversight Committee on Reservations, Veerappa Moily, to comment “Where did they (court) say they were staying the operation of the Act? They have not mentioned it… It is up to the government of India (to decide). If they (the government) feel that they can hold back the operation of Section 6 (of the Act) they can do so. Otherwise they can go ahead”. If the entire issue is so simple then did the entire media, political parties and legal experts miss this point?

Let us look at the immediate sentence that follows the above quoted one from the judgement. “We make it clear that we are not staying the operation of the statute, particularly, Section 6 so far as the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes candidates are concerned.” This clearly meant that the court is in fact staying the operation of the statute for the OBCs. This sentence is much more direct than the earlier use of the word ‘desirable’. Leaving aside the legal intricacies in the usage of a word or a phrase, a reading of the entire judgement makes clear the intention of the court.

It is not for the first time that the Supreme Court has stayed the implementation of reservations for the downtrodden sections of our society. The very first amendment to our Constitution was necessitated by the reluctance of the Supreme Court to allow reservations for the SC, STs in education. Explaining the reasons behind the moving of the amendment Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, stated “In order that any special provision that the State may make for the educational, economic or social advancement of any backward class of citizens may not be challenged on the ground of being discriminatory, it is proposed that Article 15(3) should be suitably amplified”. This amendment also led to the insertion of Ninth Schedule in the Constitution to safeguard land reform acts. Unfortunately even after more than 55 years of the first amendment to the Constitution there are many ‘challenges’ for any special provision that is enacted for the advancement of the backward sections in our country.


One of the important reasons for staying the implementation of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act now is the absence of concrete data about the exact population of the OBCs. The court did not agree to go by the Census of the 1931 that the Mandal Commission has used to recommend reservations for the OBCs. Incidentally, the same court, but a bigger 9-member Bench, had allowed for reservations for the OBCs in employment – which was based on the same 1931 census used by the Mandal Commission – in its famous judgement in the Indra Sawhney case in 1993. Moreover, the 27 per cent reservation for the OBCs in employment was not decided according to the proportion of their population but taking into consideration the upper limit of 50 per cent that the court has set for the total reservations that can be provided to the disadvantaged sections in our society.

The collection of caste-wise census was stopped in our country after 1931. While the Second World War affected the overall collection of census in 1941, the first government of independent India barred the collection of caste-wise census, except for the SC/STs. The reason was that this might impede the transformation of the country into a casteless country. This decision can be better understood when one locates it in the background of the discussions that had taken place in the Constituent Assembly on the Report of the Advisory Committee on the Minorities tabled by Sardar Vallabhai Patel. This policy is continued till date and was one of the reasons for the rejection of the repeated requests of Mandal for conducting a caste-census.

Even though there is no collection of data about the population of each caste in the country there are other sources that give us an idea of the number of OBCs in the country. According to the recent sample survey carried out by the NSSO, the number of OBCs in our country comes to roughly 41 per cent of the population. Both the opponents and proponents of reservation use this figure to suit their respective arguments. Many of the Backward Classes Commissions/Corporations in the states have collected data about the number of Backward Classes in their respective states and their total population. To take an example, the calculation made by the Commission in the state of Andhra Pradesh is around 52 per cent of the total population of that state. Likewise many other states too have similar data. The government could have used all this data in its arguments to present its case and the court too should (have) consider(ed) it. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that there exists reservations for OBCs in the state level institutions based on OBC lists in the respective states and the data thus collected. When these numbers can ensure reservations at the state level, the question is why cannot they be used to ensure reservations at the all India level?


It is an undeniable fact that majority of these OBCs are poor artisans involved in various kinds of activities that are adversely affected by the neo-liberal policies. If anybody has a problem with the process of identification of the OBCs they should strive to correct the fault but should not try to put a halt to the entire mechanism of providing State support for them. The presence of few well-to-do sections among these sections should not make us conclude that the entire section of the OBCs is well off. ‘In the rural areas, the proportion of households in the highest Monthly Per Capita Consumer Expenditure (MPCE) class ( i.e. those who spent Rs 1155 or more per month) was higher among ‘others’ category of households (12 per cent) than among the OBCs (5 per cent), SCs (3 per cent), STs (2 per cent). The proportion of urban households in the highest MPCE class ( i.e. those who spent Rs 2540 or more per month) was higher among ‘others’ (13 per cent) category of households than among the OBCs, STs (3 per cent each), SCs (1 per cent)’ –– NSSO 60th Round.

It is in this background some of the observations made by the court come out to be disappointing when it states that ‘there is competition to assert backwardness’. It is a fact that some vested sections in the society are trying to take advantage of the special provisions for the backward classes and are vying for the ‘label’. This is because of the myth that reservations can guarantee them a seat in an educational institution or provide them with a job opportunity. A study based upon NSS 55th Round shows that the unemployment rate among urban dalits is over 2 per cent higher than among other workers. There is no guarantee that reservations are a passport to employment opportunities. Moreover the above quoted income inequalities between various social groups make it that much more difficult for them to pursue education of their dreams. Reservations for these really backward sections provide succour to them even though they might be of temporary nature. The stay desired by the court denies this relief to those very sections who are in real need of them.

The court quotes approvingly the arguments of the petitioner and states that the ‘policy of reservations cannot be and should not be intended to be permanent’. In an ideal society where there exists equality – social, political and economic – and when our goal of ‘economic democracy’ is achieved nobody might need reservations. To put it simply, when the State (all its arms including the judiciary) can guarantee education for all and jobs for all, then reservations may not be needed at all.

Unfortunately, India today is far from that ideal condition. Moreover it should also be remembered that the list of the OBCs is reviewed periodically through a public hearing from which additions and deletions are done. By statute there is no permanency of reservations for any backward class. Even for SC/STs it is periodically reviewed and only then an extension is granted.

It is in the Constituent Assembly debates during the finalisation of our Constitution that it was decided that parliament would undertake periodic review of reservations. Participating in the debate, Nagappa has stated, “If, after ten years, our position happens to be the same as it is today, then, it is open to the parliament either to renew it or abolish it. This does not prevent you from coming forward within the next five or ten years or even two years with an Act of parliament saying ‘Harijans have been granted their demands, they are now on a par with others and they need not have this reservation of seats’.” If today we claim that we have come to such a situation in our country – in spite of the overwhelming evidence pointing to the contrary – that means one is living in an illusory world, totally cut off from the realities. The existence of sharp dividing lines on caste, religion and regional grounds in our society certainly mandate a pro-active State support for the disadvantaged sections. Reservations have proved to be one such important means.

It is unfortunate that the arguments of the petitioner stating that reservations are dividing the society found a mention in the judgement. This has given scope for a section of the overzealous media to propagate that this was the opinion of the court. Divisions on the basis of caste pre-date reservations, they co-exist with them and unless some concrete and drastic social changes are initiated, might continue for years to come. Reservations cannot be blamed for this. The feudal social order is the culprit. To blame reservations shows an upper caste, elitist bias and is intended to shift the blame from their shoulders to the already disadvantaged sections of the society. This is nothing but a plan to further perpetuate their deprivation in the name of non-existent equality. It is also unfortunate for the court to state, “by increasing the number of seats for the purpose of reservation unequals are treated as equals.” This in a way gives credence to the already debunked idea that reservations are against merit. Here it should be remembered that the court itself allowed the private managements to ‘reserve’ a certain per cent of their seats as NRI quota, put up for sale to the rich who are not necessarily meritorious.


Most of the social welfare measures that the State is forced to undertake due to popular pressure ends up challenged in the court of law by a handful of people. They claim these social welfare measures to be a curtailment on their fundamental rights. Unfortunately most of the times the courts too are mechanically interpreting the fundamental rights to overrule these welfare measures. This is becoming the order of the day more so in the era of neo-liberal reforms. Dr Ambedkar replying to the debates on the draft Constitution in the Constituent Assembly said “Because fundamental rights are the gift of the State it does not follow that the State cannot qualify them.” The qualifications to the fundamental rights are to be wholeheartedly welcomed if they are intended for the good of the majority and the advancement of the disadvantaged sections in our society. The qualification to the fundamental rights 15 and 16 providing for reservations is one such measure that should be commended and not condemned. These qualifications are also in line with the other equally important provisions in our Constitution – though legally not binding on the State – the Directive Principles. Article 46 and clauses 1 and 2 of Article 38 are two such directions that one needs to remember here. As Ambedkar had pointed out in his concluding remarks to the Constituent Assembly “Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many, which is against the basic tenets of our Constitution.”

It is increasingly appearing as if the courts are giving credence to individual rights over the social good, which the directive principles seek to achieve. The Courts should try to answer the question that Ambedkar has asked “After all, what are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is so full of inequities, so full of inequalities, discriminations and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights”.

If the courts go on denying the basic urges of the common people and negate their hard-won rights it would adversely affect the functioning of our democracy. They should never forget the warning of Ambedkar “How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy…” It is high time for us as a society to really work for uplifting the downtrodden sections in our society.

Northeast India’s tea estates are held to ransom

GOLAGHAT, India, April 16 (Reuters) – Tea plantation workers linked to separatist groups in India’s northeast have banded together in an extortion racket, kidnapping at least 13 senior estate managers in the last two months, officials said.

The All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA) has been formed in the last six months by powerful separatist groups in Assam state as a new front while India’s renewed anti-insurgency efforts have begun to cripple their activities elsewhere.

The AANLA has more than 100 undercover militants working on estates, mostly in the Golaghat region in southeastern Assam. The group has brought around 40 tea estates into its racket.

“Our managers remain terrified and even their families are suffering from fear,” said one tea estate owner in Golaghat, asking not to be identified for his safety.

All 13 kidnapped managers and tea estate executives were safely returned after ransoms were paid.

The extorted money is passed on to larger rebel groups in the northeast, including a faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), security officials said.

These rebel groups are fighting for independent homelands for indigenous people in the region.

“We can hardly move freely in our own tea gardens nowadays,” the estate owner said. “If the situation continues like this we will have no option other than to close down our business.”

The new racket has emerged at a time when the tea industry has been hit by rising wage and employee welfare bills. Large tea companies are opting out of the plantation business in favour of the more lucrative marketing of tea.

It is the smaller tea companies and owners which are bearing the brunt of the latest extortion drive. The state produces about half of India’s tea output.

The AANLA claims it is fighting to safeguard the tribal culture of the plantation workers whose ancestors were brought from northern India by British colonialists to labour there.

“It is not a well-organised group and they don’t have well-thought out aims and objectives. It is made of a bunch of guys who are on to making easy money,” said a senior intelligence officer, who asked not to be identified. Jharkhand News Network

April 16, 2007 at 10:45 pm Leave a comment

Apr 15, 2007

Double trouble for Birhor tribals in Jharkhand

Birhor primitive tribals at Paharsingh village in Angara block of Ranchi had their best after a long time, when the solar-voltaic system converted their water-deficit area into a water-surplus one, a first of its kind in Jharkhand.

They had their worst of time, when wild elephants staked their claim to water and criminals decamped with the solar plates of the system.

The village of 39 families, which is still to enjoy the luxury of power supply, had their moments last month, when the Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (JREDA) installed a plant at a cost of Rs 6.5 lakh to quench their thirst by harnessing solar energy. However, the joy of having 20,000 litres of groundwater daily fleeted away, as elephants came to the site of the plant atop a hillock.

Birhors who thought to have struck gold with the discovery of water hit the rough patch, when armed criminals decamped with five solar plates out of 40 of the plant. “It is definitely tough to prevent the jumbos, but tougher to deal criminals who made off with five solar plates worth Rs 40,000,” said JREDA Director S E H Kazmi.

Kazmi is worried, for he had squeezed out required finance out of available fund in the absence of its scheme in JREDA’s regular budget to install the plant.

“We never took a hydrologist with us to locate the point that could indicate the availability of water. On the contrary, a local diviner did the job with the help of two bamboo sticks. He really proved right after we drilled about 300 feet below to set the plant with the machinery of the Central Electronics Limited, a Government of India undertaking near Noida for water to gush out,” said Kazmi.

JREDA has now set out on erecting a wall round the plant to prevent the elephants from trespassing into the site. “Besides, we are creating a ‘jal kund’ below the plant to store 5,000 litres to 10,000 litres of water for animals,” said Kazmi.

JREDA might have thought out a solution to the jumbo problem, but it is still baffled to take any ‘protective’ measure against criminals. “Investigation into the theft case is on. But this is not a permanent solution, as police cannot always be available for an individual case. Villagers and their Gram Sabha must protect the plant as their own property,” Kazmi said.

3000 detonators, 400 gelatines seized in Dumka

Dumka, April 14: Jharkhand police today seized 3000 detonators, 400 gelatine sticks and 48 kg of wire, which could have been meant for Naxalites, from a bus here.

Acting on a tip-off, a police team stopped the bus on its way from Deoghat to Rampurhaat in neighbouring West Bengal’s Birbhum district and seized the explosives from five passengers, Deputy Superintendent of Police Charu Lakra told a press conference here.

Five persons — three from Birbhum and two from Murshidabad district of West Bengal — were arrested after finding the explosives kept in two bags, he said.

The police were investigating whether there was any Naxal-link with the seizure since Naxal-posters were recently found at Kathikund, Sikaripara, Ramgarh and Gopi-Kandar in Dumka district, he said.

The five arrested persons were identified as Sapan Ravi Das, Mohammad Bagridduin, Mohammad Jala, Hassan Sheikh and Mohamad Sheikh, Lakra added.

PFC faces music from power secy for delaying Tilaiya project

MUMBAI: State-run Power Finance Corporation’s move to postpone the date for the submission of request for qualification (RFQ) for the 4,000-mw Tilaiya ultra mega power project in Jharkhand has drawn the ire of the power ministry. In fact, power secretary Anil Rajdan has expressed displeasure over the postponement without any reason cited by PFC.

As reported by FE, PFC had postponed the submission date to April 10 from March 20. Ten bidders who filed RFQ for the Tilaiya project on April 10 include Tata Power Company (TPC), Jindal Steel & Power, Sterlite, Essar, Vishal Exports, Reliance Energy Ltd, Torrent, NTPC, AES and Bian Vijaya SDN Berhard ( Malaysia). These bidders have filed their RFQs despite the ongoing controversy over the Sasan project for the alleged misrepresentation by the successful bidder Lanco Infratech-Globeleq Singapore.

Power ministry sources told FE, “The secretary has taken a serious note of the PFC’s decision to defer the RFQ submission date for the Tilaiya project. He has clearly noted that the changing of the deadline, without substantiating reasons, is untenable since this affects other basic parameters of the project. The secretary has asked PFC which is the nodal agency for the implementation of UMPP to explain its stand.” PFC sources also confirmed that the matter has been discussed with the power secretary.

Rajdan’s observation is crucial as PFC had planned to short-list successful bidder and issue letter of intent by July 16 and subsequently sign agreement by September 17. However, sources claim that with the revised date for RFQ submission this time table may go haywire.

Moreover, Rajdan is also reportedly disappointed by PFC’s decision to postpone date for request for proposal (RFP) for the Krishnapatna project to May 25 from April 11. Earlier, PFC was to accept RFP on March 9 which was postponed to April 11 without citing any reason.

Chancellor’s office initiative to improve teaching-learning culture in Bihar

The chancellor’s office in Bihar has taken a novel initiative to bring about qualitative change in teaching in colleges and universities throughout the state.

It has constituted four different forums, which will suggest ways means to improve teaching-learning culture to make it more interesting and healthy. The move is aimed at checking falling classroom attendance.

The forums, authorised by the Raj Bhawan, will conduct workshops, seminars and refresher courses for teachers, organise educational visits, share knowledge on smooth conduct of practicals and motivate teachers. There will be four forums for four different streams – Science, Social Science, Humanities and Commerce.

The forums will consist of subject experts. Reputed retired teachers from Patna University and Magadh University Colleges based in Patna will also be part of the forums. Every university will later have regional centers. Based on the outcome of the forums, more such groups may be formed in other parts of the State.

Chancellor RS Gavai, while talking to HT, said that he had asked the government to provide sufficient funds for proper infrastructure development in colleges. “For the first time, the entire UGC teams came to Patna. The team of the National Accreditation and Assessment Council (NAAC) also came to help the colleges. But for NAAC accreditation, the colleges must prepare themselves,” he added.

The move to constitute forums is a sequel to the inspection of over 120 colleges by Krishna Kumar, OSD to the chancellor, in the last six months. “In most of the colleges, the teaching standards left a lot to be desired. Practical classes, so important in science subjects, were the worst hit and attendance of both students and teachers was very low,” said Krishna Kumar.

Maintaining that all the students could not get enrolled to colleges of Patna, where the situation was relatively better, he said the best option was to make quality education available to all of them.

“The colleges should create such atmosphere in classrooms that draws students. At present, the students shy away from colleges. They are not content with the conventional method. They want something more and different,” he said, adding the chancellor was keen on improving the scenario in higher education.

The chancellor’s office has also constituted two separate working groups to work out the modalities for Eklavya (inter-university sports meet) and Tarang (inter-university cultural festival). Both the events would be annual features on different themes, viz AIDS awareness, female education etc.

To promote participation, Kumar said, there would be an incentive of up to 10 marks for students taking part in NCC, NSS, sports and cultural activities. This is after a very long time that efforts have been initiated to revive sports and culture in colleges and universities. The chancellor has announced that he would himself inaugurate the two events, which would rotate among the nine universities every year.
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Bihar mangoes US-bound

Ghulab Khas, Digha Malda or Zardalu, the succulent varieties of mangoes from Bihar, may fly overseas this season.

In view of a bumper crop, some exporters are considering sending these juicy fruits to the US market. Horticulture Department officials said at least 14 lakh tonnes of mangoes are expected to be produced over nearly 2 lakh hectares of land in Bihar this season.

“The export deal is yet to be finalised. Last year a private exporter from West Champaran had approached us for exporting mango varieties to the US. But it could not materialise due to some technical problems. The State has already been exporting Shahi and Chinese litchis to the Middle East and the US,” Ajay Kumar Mishra, nodal officer, National Horticulture Mission (NHM) told HT.

The production of mangoes this time is expected to touch 14 lakh tonnes. Last year it was over 12 lakh tonnes, he said.
Varieties like Alphonso, a variety of South India, Dashahari (Uttar Pradesh), Amrapali or Prabhashankar are also available here.

“North Indians settled outside, especially Biharis, yearn for the local varieties. The exporters are targeting this segment,” Shankar Jha, director, horticulture department said.

The mango crop this time is expected to be quite good. The production may further improve in the years to come as nearly 1,000 hectares of land have been added for mango plantation this year under the Chief Minister Gardening Mission. Mango, litchi and guava saplings have been planted in 19 districts of the State under the project, he said.

Mishra said the demand for local varieties have increased, but at the same time has also caused technical problems for the exporters. “They have short shelf life because of their sweetness. It can be improved with the vapour heat treatment (VHT). The processing will also remove fruit flies, turning them less perishable,” he said. He also suggested setting up the VHT plant in the state for better packaging and more export of fruits.

Government angry over slow development in Maoist-affected states

New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) Bihar and Jharkhand are likely to earn the wrath of the government for being slow in implementing various development schemes in their Maoist-infested districts.

A crucial inter-ministerial group (IMG) meeting of the union home ministry is meeting in Patna Monday to examine the pace of socio-economic development in insurgency-hit regions of both the states.

While Bihar is likely to be ticked off by the central government for faltering in speedy construction of roads and being slow in implementing job guarantee scheme in its affected districts, Jharkhand is likely to be told to expedite construction of roads in the vulnerable areas.

The meet, which will be chaired by home ministry’s Additional Secretary (Naxal Management) Vinay Kumar, comes in the aftermath of a meeting of the ministry’s Task Force in Hyderabad on the Maoist movement.

The agenda of Hyderabad meeting held Friday included joint strategies to tackle the Maoists, modernising intelligence gathering, and improving inter-state coordination to target Maoist leaders and cadres.

On the eve of the IMG meet, the ministry officials expressed concerns at the slow pace of construction of roads under Prime Minister’s Rural Road Scheme and sluggish implementation of National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme in the two states.

In 2006, the centre had earmarked 200 districts for implementation of the first phase of rural job guarantee scheme in such a way that all 150 Maoist-infested districts were covered.

Similarly, various states had been told to expedite road construction projects in the insurgency-hit districts to help security forces take up frequent patrolling there, official sources pointed out.

But Bihar and Jharkhand have performed miserably on both the counts, said sources.

For the IMG meeting in Patna, the home ministry officials appeared to have done some homework about the ground situation regarding rural road construction and implementation of the rural job scheme.

Citing an example of tardy pace of rural road construction in Bihar, the sources said, over 50 villages, including Alawalpur, Jamalpur and Jamunapur – having a population of over 1.5 million and located barely 15 km from Patna – have no roads at all.

These villages are situated near the Maoist-infested pockets of Masaudhi and Taregna near Jehanabad and could be a sitting duck for Maoist attacks owing to the fact that most of the villagers in this region are employed either in state police or various paramilitary forces and the army.

Additionally, these villages are inhibited by upper caste people and make them vulnerable to Maoist attacks.

SEZ APPEAL: The view from the states

Janardan Mhatre, 72, guards his three-acre land in the coastal village of Pen in Raigarh district the same way he would guard his grandson. Mhatre, who received a state government notice with 2,090 fellow villagers to sell their land to make for Reliance Industries’ mammoth Mahamumbai Special Economic Zone (SEZ), is ready to die defending it.

“We are ready to make a Nandigram right here in Maharashtra,” Mhatre said after receiving a notice from the Maharashtra government making it mandatory for farmers to hand over land and accept the compensation offered by India’s largest private company.

Nandigram, a village in southern West Bengal, was the location of some brutal police action last month following farmer protests over land acquisition by the state government for a large SEZ and has since become synonymous with farmer protests over land acquisition.

Resistance by farmers like Mhatre has meant that Reliance has been unable to acquire even four per cent of the land for its 10,000-hectare Mahamumbai SEZ.

Back in the pyramid-shaped headquarters of Reliance SEZs in Belapur in Navi Mumbai, nervous Reliance officials are tight-lipped. “Please read our compensation offer… it is the best for them,” says one of them. The offer include Rs 5 lakh for barren land, Rs 10 lakh for land under cultivation or giving 12.5 per cent of developed land back to the farmer. A monthly payment of Rs 5,000 and a job for one person per family is also on the table.

Reliance’s best, however, is not enough for the farmers who are teaching their children to work in white-collared jobs in the cities. “All these offers are bogus. They will make our children to work as security guards. As for giving developed land back to the villagers, the government’s record is bad,” says Thakur.

From the prosperous west coast to the poor east, such land-acquisition problems appear to be almost endemic to SEZs. The central and state governments and industrialists have embraced the concept with unqualified enthusiasm as future engines of economic dynamism. But the aam admi, whose land will be required for these model enclaves of industrial efficiency, seems less than enamoured.

Ever since the SEZ Act acquired Parliamentary approval on February 10, 2006, land acquisition and compensation acquired such mammoth dimensions that the government froze all approvals for a month a half starting mid-January. As Mhatre’s experience shows, things have not changed significantly after the government cleared proposals and changed land acquisition norms on April 5. Given what looks like an intractable problem, is the SEZ concept destined to be a non-starter in India like its predecessor, the export-processing zone? Surprisingly, as reports from Business Standard correspondents suggest, the answer is by no means negative.

Trouble-free in Tamil Nadu

In contrast to other states, there have been no major issues over SEZ development here. The state has five operational (three manufacturing and two IT) SEZs. Eleven have obtained final approvals, while 22 have received in-principle approvals.

The early birds to scramble on to Tamil Nadu’s SEZ bandwagon – Nokia for handset production, Flextronics for electronics manufacturing services, and Mahindra World City — are moving full steam ahead. Others who put in their applications for facilities in the second half of 2006 were bogged down by the embargo on fresh SEZ approvals, which the central government lifted on April 5.

So what has Tamil Nadu done differently? Senior government officials say most of the big projects have come up on land acquired by the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu Ltd (SIPCOT), the nodal agency for infrastructure development schemes. This land is leased to investors or companies on the periphery of Chennai and smaller cities like Coimbatore, Trichy, Madurai and Tirunelveli. These are mostly dry-lands acquired by the government about a decade ago.

Where government land was not involved, the government resolutely stayed out of land acquisition deals. Farmers haven’t done too badly out of recent acquisitions in pockets like Sriperumbudur, where Nokia has its plant. The per-acre cost of land here is Rs 90 lakh to Rs 1 crore (comparable to prices in the Mumbai’s suburbs.

Tamil Nadu has also been successful in its SEZ policy because, in stark contrast to king-sized units elsewhere, SEZs here are spread on 200 or 250-acre plots (approximately 100 hectares). The total land area for a single SEZ in Tamil Nadu does not exceed 500 acres.

That said, the government has also announced four multi-product SEZs in a few districts with land requirements ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 acres (800 to 900 hectares) per multi-product SEZ.

Overall, the SEZ message appears to have percolated well here. There is a wide appreciation of the benefits of SEZs in terms of development of rural and semi-urban areas and their contribution to employment generation and the ripple effect on the economy of the state.

For instance, last year, Hong Kong-headquartered Growth-Link Overseas Company, a leading supplier to Nike, had announced plans to invest Rs 300 crore in a shoe manufacturing facility at Cheyyar, 90 km from Chennai. The SEZ, located in an industrially backward area, is expected to create job opportunities for 5,000 people, especially for women, in the first 2-3 years. This project has been on the backburner after the Centre’s January freeze.

Smooth sailing in Gujarat

Unlike the controversy in Nandigram, Gujarat is busy developing its 33 approved SEZs with virtually no opposition from farmers (barring some minor protests against Reliance’s SEZ and a small protest in Por near Vadodara).

For instance, work on the 2,600-odd hectare Mundra SEZ, which was notified last year, has progressed at a rapid pace — roads and water, power, telecom, gas, drainage and sewage connections are already nearing completion.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi has chosen to make SEZs the cornerstone of his government’s economic development plan. So much so that the state enacted an SEZ Act in April 2004, one year before the Centre came up with its SEZ policy.

An evolved business culture has also made it easier to sell the SEZ concept here. Said S N Sharma, chairman and managing director, Diamond and Gem Developing Corporation, “In Gujarat, non-agricultural land is available in plenty and the local population is supportive of economic activities since it is a business community.”

Like Tamil Nadu, the state government does not intervene between the SEZ developers and the farmers. Said Arvind Agrawal, Industry Commissioner, Government of Gujarat, “There is no opposition by farmers as there is no intervention by the state. Farmers are free to sell their land if they get a good deal and can refuse to sell if they don’t.”

Under the Gujarat SEZ Act an SEZ developer can deal directly with farmers and pay compensation under the Land Acquisition Act. The other way is to buy land belonging to Gujarat Industrial Development Board (GIDC) or wastelands belonging to the government.

Agrawal said farmers who sold their lands to the Reliance SEZ near Jamnagar became millionaires overnight and are now buying larger plots 10 to 15 km from the SEZ site.

The opposition to SEZs has mostly come from political and NGO sources who have voiced concerns about environmental degradation and labour rights (Gujarat promises labour 40 per cent cheaper than other states) following such mass industrialisation.

Landlocked in Karnataka

Karnataka probably best exemplifies the criticism that SEZs can foster land-grabs and real estate plays.

The state has 27 approved, 17 in-principle approved and 10 notified SEZs that will cover around 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares). Of these SEZs, five are operational. Information technology forms the bulk of the SEZs, followed by biotechnology, textiles, automotive and food processing.

Land is acquired by the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) and then handed over to the SEZ developer. But there are numerous cases, especially for information technology SEZs, where private developers have acquired land and subsequently applied for SEZ status. Many analysts have suggested that domestic IT companies will simply relocate their operations to SEZs to avail of tax breaks once their tax-exempt status expires in 2009.

Though there have been no major protests over land acquisition in the state, senior officials in the Karnataka Industries and Commerce Department say land acquisition, compensation and rehabilitation remain major issues.

The principal concern is over the pricing of land acquisition and the compensation for displaced people. Added Shivaram Malakala, Executive Director of Habitat Ventures, a private real estate developer, “The policies are not completely clear in terms of the conversion of land use processes.

Developers who have acquired land on their own and then applied for SEZ status have often faced delays in notifying their land because of this ambiguity.

The lack of a practical policy for compensation and rehabilitation has also opened the door for politically powerful groups, not necessarily with corporate interests, to build land banks using SEZs as a proxy.

Meanwhile, the state is working on alternative modes of employment as a suitable rehabilitation measure. However, it is yet to define an adequate alternative source of livelihood, keeping in mind that if employment in SEZs is to be considered, the nature of employment would be skilled.

Chhattisgarh’s small scale

As one of the most backward states in India, Chhatisgarh sees SEZs as a source of economic transformation. But, having suffered popular protests over land acquisition for non-SEZ industrial projects for the Tatas and the Ruias, the state has limited its SEZ ambitions.

Chhattisgarh has two SEZ proposals — one in IT (20 hectares) and another in gems and jewellery (30 hectares). The first is pending central government clearance and the latter has in-principle clearance. Additional chief secretary (industries) P Joy Oommen said work on both would start within two months of receiving all clearances.

Oomen maintained that land acquisition problems here are minimal because the SEZs will come up as part of the expansion project for the new capital city. However, acquisition for the new capital project is already showing signs of problems with farmers and NGOs raising doubts about compensation and benefits.

The state government has a rehabilitation and compensation package that minister of state for industries Rajesh Munat claimed is “the best and most attractive “. Farmers receive up to Rs 5 lakh per acre, Munat said, adding that the amount is fixed as per the cost of land in the area and its utility.

Former minister and senior Congress legislator Satyanarayan Sharma has demanded Rs 25 lakh as compensation for farmers. Many villages identified for the capital project come under Sharma’s Assembly constituency, Mandir Hasaud.

Munat, however, claimed that land prices had gone up because the land mafia had cornered land and pushed up prices. “It is the mafia that is worried about compensation, not the farmers,” he said.

Workers and dispossessed farmers are less than enthusiastic about the concept, however. A group of workers at a steel plant in Mandir Hasaud said the SEZs will employer fewer workers and require higher skills that they may not possess.

Orissa on its ‘metal’

Orissa has received 17 SEZ proposals of which the Union commerce ministry has given formal approval for five and in-principle approval to eight, including Korean major Posco’s showcase 12 million tonne steel project at Paradip. The total land requirement for these 13 SEZs is 12, 325.821acres (a little under 5,000 hectares).

Most of these SEZs are in steel or alumunium with IT a close third. Of the five SEZs to receive formal approval, four are to be set up by the state-owned Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO). The only other SEZ to receive formal approval is the Jindal Stainless Ltd’s project at Kalinga Nagar. None of these SEZs is operational.

Not surprisingly, industry ranks land acquisition as the biggest hurdle in developing these SEZs. To add to the problem, the Orissa government has made it conditional for all standalone SEZs like Posco, Jindal, Vedanta, Hindalco, Saraf Agencies and so on to develop a minimum additional area of 250 acres (100 hectares) as a downstream hub near their SEZ to provide infrastructure and offer local entrepreneurs preferential allotment of sheds.

“When we are facing problems in acquiring land for our original SEZ area, getting an additional 250 acres to set up the downstream hub will complicate our problems,” said a top executive of a company with SEZ commitments in the state.

Part of the land acquisition problem is political in origin. For instance, of the 3,956 acres (1,582 hectares) required for Posco’s SEZ in Paradip, 3556 acres are government land. But hundreds of families have encroached on this land over the years and now eke out a living illegally cultivating betel vines.

Similarly, in Kalinga Nagar, people who had sold their land to the government in the mid-1970s for a steel hub and received compensation are now demanding higher compensation for the same land. In January this year, their protests turned violent following the construction of a boundary wall for Tata Steel’s 6 million tonne plant here and 13 tribals were killed.

After the Kalinga Nagara incident, the state government raised compensation rates and promised jobs to at least one member per displaced family. Significantly, the state government also offered industry the option of directly negotiating with people for their land.

In Orissa, no one rejects the SEZ concept but the political opposition and NGOs continue to highlight the compensation issue. There are also concerns about agricultural growth in this primarily agrarian state. Said J B Patnaik, former Chief Minister, “SEZs should not be set up at the cost of agriculture. They should be permitted only in those areas where government land is available or where people are willing to give up their land.”

Though the Orissa government is following the Centre’s SEZ Act, it intends to frame its own rules soon. The proposed state policy may not allow exemption of state taxes like electricity duty, entry tax, VAT and stamp duty although the SEZs coming up in the state can avail of exemption from Central taxes.

Overall, the mood in the states is one of determination to forge ahead despite the problems. And as Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have demonstrated, the key lies in implementation as much as policy.

As Sunil Rallan, managing director of J Matadee Eco Parks, pointed out, “The Indian government’s SEZ policy is superior to China’s in terms of legislation but has failed in the implementation process.”
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No sign of green

AT the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, India along with other member-countries of the United Nations, committed itself to a path of sustainable development. In 2002, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. this commitment was reiterated through a unanimous Political Declaration. At the turn of the millennium, the countries also framed the impressive Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), one of which is to “ensure environmental sustainability”. While several countries have gradually moved towards meeting this commitment, India seems to have moved further away from its commitment. This becomes apparent when one examines the 80-page Approach Paper to the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, released recently by the Planning Commission of India.

On the face of it, the government does seem to be aware of the need to integrate environmental concerns into developmental strategies. The Approach Paper makes the bold statement: “The 11th Plan must integrate development planning and environmental concerns”. But the rest of the document seems to go in the opposite direction.

The first chapter, on “Objectives and challenge”, contains no reference to environment or sustainability whatsoever. A single paragraph “Protecting the environment” is all that it gets under the section, “Some major challenges”. Somewhat later in the document, in the chapter on “Sectoral Policies for the Eleventh Plan”, a couple of pages are devoted to “Environmental sustainability”, dealing mainly with technical and managerial aspects such as increasing green cover, conserving wildlife, reducing pollution and tackling solid waste. There is no focus on how to steer the economy towards greater ecological sustainability although at the Johannesburg summit India had committed itself to a “10-year framework of programmes to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production” and the MDGs require India to “integrate principles of sustainable development into policies and programmes”. The concrete targets set in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation or the specific elements of the MDGs do not figure in the Approach Paper. There are no indicators to measure whether India is moving towards achieving the targets domestically or internationally.

On the contrary, time and again the Approach Paper makes it clear that environmental regulations should not be a hurdle in reaching a growth rate of 8.5 per cent. Under the section “Industrial growth”, the paper recommends single-window clearance for industrial applications to reduce “delays” in various procedures, including environmental clearances. The reduction in “delays” is a euphemism for diluting environmental standards and regulations, as witnessed in the amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment notification in 2006. Under “Environmental sustainability”, the paper warns of the danger of environment protection leading to a “new licence permit raj system”, and recommends a review of environmental clearance procedures without which “large increases in investment required for accelerated growth will not fructify”.


Under “Mining”, it recommends “elimination of constraints in the way of investments in mining activities” and goes on to cite favourably a report which recommends that mining companies that are given “reconnaissance permit” should also have the right to get “prospecting licence” and thereafter “mining lease”. Given that many State governments are already eager to lease out forest tracts and Adivasi habitats to mining companies, these recommendations are alarming. Measures such as the removal of the Urban Land Ceiling Act are suggested, with no reference to the unsustainable boom in construction activities and heavy road traffic that cities are witnessing and no recommendations have been made on urban environmental regulations. It is ironical that while the Approach Paper recommends full provision of public services such as health the government is facilitating the wholesale takeover of land and water for industrial purposes, depriving communities of basic health resources such as nutritious crops and forest and aquatic produce.

Strangely, the section on agriculture does not acknowledge the critical role of environmental degradation in lowering the average productivity of land, although it mentions other reasons such as imbalanced fertilizer use. Nor does it mention, in its recommendations, the importance of organic or sustainable farming. A series of measures to accelerate production and enhance farmers’ security are recommended, including greater orientation towards markets and trade (especially exports), without referring to the enormous impact this would have on land and water. Contract farming is favoured, ignoring the highly iniquitous relationship between corporate bodies and farmers and the environmental degradation caused by monocropping promoted by companies as part of such deals.

Also ignored is the safer alternative of building direct links between farmers and citizen consumers, and of diverting local agricultural produce into the Public Distribution System (rather than procuring from Punjab and Haryana for the whole country). Achieving self-sufficiency and food security through organic, low input farming does not find a mention in the Plan document.

The crisis that pastoral communities face is acknowledged, and strong words are used to trace this to government policy, which has resulted in the blocking of migratory routes by development and conservation projects and encroachment on pastures by activities such as biodiesel plantations. Butno recommendation is made on how to deal with this situation.

Creditably, the Planning Commission recognises the displacement of communities for development projects as a serious problem. However, the solution it provides does not touch the heart of the matter, which is the flawed decision-making process regarding what development projects are necessary in the first place. Such a process would incorporate environmental and social impacts, and would centrally involve affected populations in decision-making, possibly avoiding many cases of displacements in the first place. It is, for instance, not good enough to say that in mining areas the “rights of those whose lands are acquired must be suitably protected”; what is needed is for such people to be involved in taking an informed decision on whether the mining project is necessary in the first place.

The Approach Paper cites a National Common Minimum Programme statement that India can “absorb” three times the current Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) average of $5.4 billion a year. It is not clear whether the term “absorb” includes the carrying capacity of the environment; and what will such a massive jump in the activities of multinational corporations in industrial, mining, infrastructure and other sectors entail? The Paper makes no mention of this.


As the Planning Commission moves towards the finalisation of the 11th Plan, it must find ways to operationalise the Approach Paper’s commitment to “integrate development planning and environmental concerns”. If it wants to show that it truly means that “there should be no compromise on protecting the environment” and that “in the longer run environmental sustainability and human well-being are not necessarily in conflict”, it needs to integrate the following into the Plan:

A range of indicators to assess progress towards sustainability, including per capita availability of environmental services such as clean air and water, sanitation, forests and other natural ecosystems, reduction in the rates of biodiversity loss, clean and sustainable energy production and consumption and health standards linked to a clean environment. Countries such as the United Kingdom have developed a large number of such indicators, which we could assess for suitability in Indian conditions;

A commitment to move increasingly towards non-conventional clean energy sources (wind, solar, biomass, and so on). China, which we never tire to show as a model of economic growth, has announced a target of meeting 15 per cent of its energy needs through such sources by 2020; Sweden has announced that within 15 years it will be an oil-free economy. These are the sort of goals we should be setting for ourselves;

Strategies to make every economic sector more environmentally sensitive through environment impact assessments, not only of individual projects but of entire sectors and departments. For instance, when the Power Ministry or Water Resources Ministry drafts its plans and policies, it must go through an assessment of their possible environmental and social impacts. An “ecological footprint” analysis needs to be built in, which shows how much damage is caused by an economic sector, or a city, or the country as a whole;

Green budgeting and accounting in which the true value of services provided by intact ecosystems and biodiversity, including water and food security, are factored in, and in which the true social and economic cost of destroying the environment is centrally integrated. China is considering introducing a “green gross domestic product” regime, having realised that its economic miracle will not last long if environmental degradation continues at the current rate;

Sufficient investment to regenerate the degraded land and water resources, a mission which could provide employment to millions of people;

Redefining the concept of “backwardness” so that districts currently classified under this are considered ecologically and culturally sensitive and development plans are devised accordingly; and

Shifting subsidies away from unsustainable products such as agro-chemicals, towards organic, biologically diverse agriculture and animal husbandry (what the Approach Paper calls “multi-product” farms).

None of these concepts is new. They are being employed in a number of countries. If India wants to project itself as a global superpower, it must first show it is capable of living much more responsibly on the earth and providing a much healthier and cleaner environment.

However, there is one silver lining. The working groups set up to develop the component on Environment and Forests contained a number of civil society actors. Their final report contains a number of progressive ideas. One of these is to set up a Commission on Sustainable Development, an autonomous statutory body with powers to monitor and guide the government’s development direction.

Others include an Environment Clearance Authority that can function independently of both government and project proponents, and compulsory public hearings and written local community consent for all development projects.

It is, however, not clear how much of this will go into the final Plan. If we do not incorporate such measures into our planning and development process, we will continue on a perilous collision course with the very ecological conditions that give us life.

Chhattisgarh in power-sharing pact with J&K

Jammu & Kashmir will provide Chhattisgarh power this summer while the latter will return it in the same proportion with a bonus of 5 per cent in the winter.

The pact between both the states was finalised recently through the NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). While J&K will start supplying power in next couple of days, Chhattisgarh will return it in November and onwards.

“Under the pact, J&K will provide 100 Mw of power to the state while we will return 105 Mw. The formalities have been completed and the state will start getting power from April 16,” said the state electricity board secretary Manoj Dey.

The state will draw power from Kashmir for the entire summer. Dey conceded that there was a huge gap of 500 Mw between demand and supply in the state at this point of time.

The installed capacity of the state-run power board is 1410.85 Mw. With the state getting power from other sources, it reaches to 1,950 Mw.

The demand, however, has already reached 2,500 Mw and is likely to increase as summer advances. The board has increased the time of load shedding as a temporary measure to maintain the balance between demand and supply.

While the industries are facing power cut for about 6 hours daily between 6 pm and 12 mid-night, the district headquarters barring Raipur, Bilaspur and Korba will remain without power for one hour daily in the morning hours.

The villages in Chhattisgarh are already facing the heat with more than 4 hours power cut in morning and evening hours. The load shedding will continue till May 30, sources in the board said.

“The 100 Mw from Kashmir will help in reducing the gap as the board is also exploring other options to meet the crises,” Dey said. The state officials are in touch with the other states to purchase power. But the deal could not be finalised except the one with Jammu and Kashmir.

Chhattisgarh, under the pact, will assist Jammu and Kashmir in meeting some proportion of the demand when it will reach peak during the winter. With the valley-state having maximum hydel power stations, the state plunges into acute power crises when water freezes with mercury level dipping minus.

Besides, power generation comes down, power consumption goes up in Kashmir during winter when people using different electronic devices to keep themselves warm.

Tilting the balance

THE Supreme Court judgment against reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in admissions to Central institutions of higher learning is the latest in a series of verdicts by India’s higher judiciary that seek to undo existing or proposed measures to promote equality and justice. It sets back the cause of building an inclusive, caring-and-sharing society that genuinely values diversity.

The verdict’s impact will be particularly severe because of its timing – just before the admission process begins for the next academic year, for which Central educational institutions, many of them reluctant to implement OBC quotas, were allocated over Rs.2,000 crore so they could expand their infrastructure and admissions volume.

Equally damaging are its likely social and political effects, which have been widely seen as tilting the balance in the social justice debate against affirmative action. The strident celebratory welcome accorded to the judgment by upper caste-dominated groups such as the Youth for Equality and the Resident Doctors’ Associations in Delhi – based in teaching hospitals that practise caste segregation and active anti-Dalit discrimination – bears testimony to that. As does the critical, even angry, response of a range of political parties that support reservation for OBCs. Clearly, the verdict is an exercise in social engineering – of the retrograde, reverse, kind.

Yet, for all its heavy implications, the judgment is based on extremely slender reasoning, contained in less than 30 brief paragraphs. (More than half the space in these is occupied by long quotes from the Supreme Court’s earlier verdicts. Almost two-thirds of the judgment summarises the arguments of the petitioners and the government.)

The judgment makes no contribution to the existing jurisprudence on affirmative action or reservation by clarifying or sharpening the criteria that justify the treatment of a particular group differently from others. Nor does it explain why it is wrong to increase the number of seats available in Central institutions by 54 per cent to limit the “disadvantage” the upper castes would face thanks to OBC quotas. It merely makes numerous assertions, including the strong statement that such an increase would mean treating “unequals” as “equals”.

The judgment bases itself on two lines of reasoning. First, it says that there is some indeterminacy and confusion over the OBCs’ share in India’s population; the number estimated by the Mandal Commission may be too high; and the government is wrong to reserve 27 per cent of admissions unless it first determines the size of the OBC population on the basis of the “objective criteria” of backwardness.

Secondly, however, it raises fundamental questions about quotas and reservations as a measure of affirmative action. If the true rationale of the judgments it cites and its own reasoning are considered, the second argument is far more important than the first one, centred on numbers. The first merely provides a cover for the second.

But let us consider the first line of reasoning. It holds that the 27 per cent quota is derived from the Mandal Commission report, which wrongly estimated the size of the OBC population at 52 per cent of the total, on the basis of the obviously outdated 1931 Census. It also counterposes it to other estimates, in particular, some derived from the recent National Sample Survey (NSS) and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS).

This involves a major distortion and a methodological problem. It is a parody to hold that the Mandal Commission relied primarily on the 1931 Census. True, it began with it as a starting point/first hypothesis because it remains the last Census to enumerate castes. But it did not stop there.

The Commission consulted a wide range of experts from different social science disciplines before reaching its conclusion. In particular, it appointed an expert committee headed by the outstanding sociologist, M.N. Srinivas, with 14 other social scientists as its members, to prepare schedules and questionnaires to be sent out to all the States and 30 Central departments. It ordered systematic surveys of all residents in randomly selected samples (two villages and one urban block) in each and every district of the country.

The experts’ committee derived 11 indicators of social, educational and economic backwardness, and identified a total of 3,743 communities as “backward” and worthy of support through affirmative action.

Contrary to a widespread impression, caste was just one of many criteria. Others involved dependence on manual labour, low educational status (percentage of matriculates at least 25 per cent below the State average), high dropout rates and young age of marriage. Social indicators were given three points each; educational indicators two points; and economic indicators one point each. Quotas were only one of the Commission’s dozen recommendations, which included land reform, and programmes for educational and economic uplift.

One can of course question these estimates: no expert or method is infallible. But it is simply malicious to argue that the 3,743 groups were chosen arbitrarily or as part of “vote bank” politics, or to devise a “catch-all grab for power rather than a social justice programme”. It is one thing to demand further refinement in the determination of backwardness and estimates of the OBC population. It is quite another to say that the 52 per cent figure is “mythical”.

It is even more wrong to counterpose the NSS and NFHS figures to the Mandal estimate. These surveys were never meant to enumerate castes and their distribution. The NSS’ principal function is to estimate income, employment and consumption patterns. It does that with some rigour. But the identification of castes is left to the person being interviewed. She/he can ascribe whatever caste she/he likes. Such self-ascription is notoriously unreliable. People will claim a “backward”/higher caste status if that helps them. Besides, the NSS lumps Muslims together with upper-caste Hindus to arrive at a 32 per cent estimate for OBCs. The NHFS estimate is even lower. Questionable as they are, these numbers are well above the 27 per cent OBC quota. So they do not occasion drastic change – like staying quotas altogether.

However, implicit in the Supreme Court judgment, and heavily influencing it, is the second, more radical, argument, advanced in two judgments of the United States Supreme Court: Grutter vs Bollinger and Regents of University of California vs Allan Bakke. The first is a highly controversial verdict, delivered by one of the most conservative Supreme Courts in American history, headed by William Rehnquist, a Ronald Reagan appointee, who did a great deal to restrict the rights of underprivileged people. It is truly lamentable that our courts are following precedents set not by progressive, pro-public interest American jurists such as Earl Warren, but by ultra-conservatives judges.

The thrust of the Grutter judgment is that affirmative action, in particular in the admission process in universities, must be “narrowly tailored” to promote diversity, but not in such ways as would discriminate against those excluded from affirmative action because they do not belong to ethnic or racial minorities.

Thus, a desirable race-conscious admissions programme cannot “insulate each category of applicants with certain desired qualifications from competition with all other applicants” by creating a separate quota. It can at best assign special importance or “a plus” to race or ethnicity in an applicant’s file within the general category.

The latest verdict quotes this approvingly – while apparently disregarding its import. This, quite simply, runs counter to the constitutional reservation for the Scheduled Castes ( S.C.) and Scheduled Tribes (S.T.). These are the very categories, which, the U.S. court says, should not be “insulated” but made to compete with others. Such “competition” between unequal candidates reeks of total disregard for the overwhelming reality of caste discrimination and the heavy disadvantage that Dalits and Adivasis suffer – indeed, many OBCs do.

Such a position is simply incompatible with the Constitution, which right since 1950 has provided for reservation for S.C. and S.T. It should be impermissible for Supreme Court judges to oppose this important part of the Constitution. It simply will not do to pay lip-service to affirmative action, while ruling against its most commonly accepted and constitutionally validated form – reservation for S.C./S.T. Such reservation is an essential part of society’s acknowledgement of the historic wrong it has done to Dalits for centuries and of the need to create social opportunity for them.

However, the judgment appears to take an insensitive and disparaging view of social disadvantage when it says: “… nowhere else in the world do castes, classes or communities queue up for the sake of gaining backward status. Nowhere else in the world is there competition to assert backwardness and then to claim we are more backward than you. This truth was recognised as (sic) unhappy and disturbing situation… “

People do not celebrate or enjoy backwardness. They suffer it and face discrimination, insult and humiliation because of it. Mocking at their aspirations to overcome backwardness betrays casteist prejudice. Jharkhand News Network

April 15, 2007 at 10:15 pm Leave a comment

Apr 14, 2007

Jharkhand’s Mahato tribals wear ghost costumes during worship of Lord Shiva

Tamad (Jharkhand), April 14: Mahto tribals in Jharkhand’s Tamad village has a unique traditional festival known as “Koka”, in which the participants wear ghost costumes and dance to look like as the ardent devotees of Shiva.

Mahatos has a lot of influence of Bengali culture in its religious rituals.

Even the neighbouring area of Tamad, a non-descript village nearly 70 kilometres from Ranchi, has a large presence of Lord Shiva followers.

However, Tamad Village is popular for its Koka festival. But the fact that entities related to the age-old Koka festival are ghosts, it entices attention of a lot of tribals interested in Tantrik rituals.

Koka festival starts of during Chaitra (spring season) as per Hindu alamanc.

Hundreds of devotees observe a weeklong fasting and wear ornaments made of Gulaichi flowers. Finally, they take bath in the river and participate in huge procession that meanders through the village. This procession commences from Shiva Manda, located in the centre of Tamad.

Paat Bhakta, the head devotee, is dressed in red colour.

However, it is the dummy ghosts or Kokas who happen to be the main attraction of the procession. In fact, they lead the procession and the Kokas are regarded as a part of Lord Shiva’s marriage entourage.

“It has been practiced for generations. I believe it’s been now nearly 1000 years or even more. I have been observing this festival since 1963 as a nine-year old. All said and done, it is a major festival,” said Rattan Lal Rai, a Koka.

Many persons disguise their appearance since the belief is that if one makes a vow to the Lord for some favour, the person has to put on such looks for a particular number of times. They believe that the God listens to their vows and fulfills them!

“In this festival we make a vow and pray to God to accept it. We speak of putting into some time period for the vow saying that we will practice certain rituals, say for three years if it is fulfilled. I made a vow to the God to let me regain my health and it happened,” said Raj Rai, another Koka.

Finally, the procession arrives at Shiva Manda. While the devotees enter the temple, the Kokas merely touch the steps leading to the temple and return.

Thus, the Kokas are the main attraction of the entire procession and people from far and near gather for a memorable glimpse of Kokas. None of the participants is afraid of having any nightmare since a Koka, the dummy ghost is a devout Bhakta of Lord Shiva. By Girija Shankar Ojha

They rob, but with utmost politeness!

RANCHI, April 14. — Mummyji, behenji, please heart lose mat kijiye (Mother, sister, please don’t lose heart) ~ the entreaty was made by, believe it or not, a bunch of thieves while robbing a house.

A gang of robbers raided Mr Virendra Mishra’s house in Khuti police station area, 35 km from this Jharkhand capital, Friday night. They took away jewellery worth Rs 40,000, Rs 5,000 in cash and a motorcycle ~ but with utmost politeness. The robbers told Mr Mishra’s distraught wife: “Mummyji please do not cry.” They even requested for dinner: “We are hungry, please give us some food,” one of them was quoted as saying by her. Not only that. While leaving, they gave Rs 10 to the children in the house.

“Why are you are worried Mishraji? You will get the bike money from insurance,” another thief was quoted as saying by Mr Mishra. He has lodged an FIR at the Khuti police station. The FIR says around 10 thieves raided his house and took away jewellery, a bike and cash. Police said the thieves were members of the Jharkhand Liberation Tigers (JLT), which is active in Khuti.

Steel Authority bags Sitanala coal block

Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) has been allotted the Sitanala coking coal block in Jharkhand, which will result in significant cost savings on raw materials.

In an intimation to the stock exchanges, SAIL has stated that as per the communication from the Union ministry of coal, the central government had decided to allot the Sitanala coking coal block in Bharat Coking Coal Ltd (BCCL) command area. Industry sources said Sitanala has reserves of around 108 million tonne.

SAIL’s total coal requirement is around 15 million tonne, of which around 10 million tonne is imported. SAIL evinced interest in the Sitanala block in October 2005.

In 2005-06, the steel PSU incurred a cost of Rs 8,022 crore on account of coal usage. While the company is covered for its iron ore requirements, the situation is not the same with coal.

SAIL has three collieries, Chasnala with reserves of 40 million tonne, Jitpur with 16 million tonne and Ramnagar at 150 million tonne.

Sources said SAIL had also indicated interest in the Kapuria block in Orissa. The block has reserves of around 40 million tonne.

SAIL’s requirement of coal will only go up. According to the corporate plan 2011-12, the company would endeavour to achieve 22 million tonne capacity and the coal requirement for enhanced capacity would be in the region of 22-23 million tonne as against 15 million tonne at present.

SAIL was also in dialogue with Coal India subsidiary, BCCL for floating a special purpose vehicle, for joint mines development.
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‘Apt time for armed action’
- Maoists resolve to make bases in Bihar, Jharkhand

Ranchi, April 12: It is official. In the latest issue of its mouthpiece, People’s March, CPI (Maoist) has laid down its plans to develop Dandakaranya (Chhattisgarh) and B-J Area (Bihar-Jharkhand) as “base areas”.

It also acknowledges that it has suffered reverses in Andhra Pradesh and has made a strategic retreat from there, at least temporarily.

The party claims to have held its 9th party congress somewhere in Jharkhand in February this year after a gap of 37 years.

Adding to the discomfiture of the government, the rebels appear to have resolved that they would intervene in all the “people’s struggles”, specially those pertaining to displacement by SEZs. Dams, mining, urban development etc.

Noting that people, including traders, peasants, workers and Dalits, are breaking out into spontaneous protests, CPI (Maoist) chief Ganapathi is quoted as saying that all this presents an “excellent situation to advance the armed struggle”.

“Even though the state forces have resorted to the policy of ‘burn-all, kill all’ under the banner of Salwa Judum, the party has been able to effectively hit back and push the genocidal forces to the defensive,” the report said.

In Bihar-Jharkhand too the party has effectively countered the Sendra and paramilitary counterinsurgency forces and spread the movement in vast areas, it claimed.

Maoists admit to 130 “military actions” during the past two years in which 485 weapons were seized and 315 policemen were “wiped out”.

It was also time to finalise and urban policy and advance into urban areas, added Ganapathi.

Admitting a weakness in resolving disputes, he states: “When differences arose in 1985 in PW, we were not able to deal with it properly and so it led to a split. Again in 1992 in PW we could not resolve the differences properly. In the erstwhile MCC there were also differences in 2001-02 and the opportunist Bharat-Badal group left the party. We must understand how to settle differences…only then we will advance.”

The report has alarmed officials who expect Maoist violence to escalate in Santhal Pargana and in areas bordering Munger in Bihar.

‘Patna should be within 5 hrs reach from rest of bihar’

Q&A/ Nitish Kumar, chief minister, Bihar

You have now been in power for 18 months. What is the progress on Bihar’s road building programme?

We are spending Rs 150 crore on roads just in Patna. All over Bihar, road building is being taken up on a war footing. When the Centre withdrew money from the road building programme, we decided to fund it ourselves.

Recently, visitors to Patna were impressed to see that roads were being swept there…

No, because work is going on, you will find people laying bitumen, not necessarily sweeping the roads. People are being temporarily inconvenienced but you will find Patna will have spanking new roads in a few months. Our next priority for the capital is flyovers all over the city. But let me make it clear, road building is going on all over Bihar. We aim to spend Rs 3,000 crore on building roads. This does not include the Prime Minister’s Gram Sadak Yojana.

The Centre has not even completed its target of national highways. In fact, the state government was late in starting road construction. We floated the bids, but no contractors came out to take up the project. Remember, Bihar hasn’t really known road building — it has only had roads that have been repaired. So contractors don’t even have the proper equipment that road building requires.

So we are planning something more — a Road Equipment Bank. We are offering any private person, land to start a shed or a place where he can store road building equipment — heavy machinery like mixers, cranes and road-rollers. Whoever builds the roads can borrow the equipment for a fee. We have already chosen the land. We are just waiting to see what equipment is on offer. It has to be the best, most modern road building equipment.

How much will the equipment bank cost?

Virtually nothing. The land will come from the PWD. In the Eleventh Plan, Bihar will have spent Rs 17-18,000 crore on roads. It will surpass the national average.

My dream is to make sure that between Patna and anywhere in Bihar, the journey should not take more than five hours. I have just completed the run from Patna to Monghyr in three-and-a-half hours (Till a year ago, this distance of 180 km used to take seven to eight hours — Editor)

You don’t seem to have any difficulty in spending money. But your colleague at the Centre, Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh says he keeps giving you money for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) that Bihar is unable to spend. He has written many letters to you…

I have no time to keep writing letters to people who have nothing better to do than write letters. Some people are desperate for attention.

The state has reported low targets in NREGP…

Yes, there are teething problems. Can any work be taken up or just Panchayat work? On what land should the work be taken up? There is a problem of defining minimum wages: we have revised it from Rs 67 earlier to Rs 77 now, but this is not uniform. Muster rolls are not maintained. I told Prof Jean Dreze of the National Advisory Council about this. He said it is being implemented with great success elsewhere.

But I can’t spend money simply because Raghuvansh babu wants me to. It isn’t his money. I am not here to throw national resources down the drain. The tragedy is that you are reduced to having to learn to spend money from such people.

Your position on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) has been vindicated. You said you wanted no SEZs in Bihar, now most state governments are saying the same thing.

Our priorities are different. Bihar has formulated an excellent land acquisition policy. Earlier, the state government used to give land at the price at which it was registered, and add a solatium. We are acquiring land at the cost at which it is registered, but we add 50 per cent of the market rate to it. Plus, if the person gives the land willingly, he gets a solatium of 60 per cent. So if the cost of the land is Rs 100, we pay him Rs 240.

We need land for roads, flyovers, bridges… So we have started a land bank: land over which there is no dispute. We have invested Rs 400 crore so far. We have got industry — sugar, maize, alcohol — coming to the state. This means the farmer senses a gain straightaway.

The West Bengal chief minister said recently he didn’t know the police had fired bullets in Nandigram. Is this possible?

Well, I don’t know under what circumstances the firing took place. Sometimes the police sense a threat and have to fire. They can’t ask the CM for his permission at that moment.

What were the mistakes he made in acquiring land?

I don’t know enough to say.

You have another serious problem: Power.

Yes, this is a serious problem, especially because a solution cannot come overnight. Power plants take time to build. Here again, Bihar’s problems are different. Power generation by the state is near zero. We have to purchase every unit of power we consume from the Centre. The sub-transmission system in the state is poor.

In three or four years, NTPC will set up plants in Bhagalpur, Kahalgaon and Barh. I got Atal Bihari Vajpayee to inaugurate the Barh plant when he was the PM. So this is not a new plan. NTPC was committed to it. But the Bihar government never bothered to get the Power Purchase Agreement signed.

NTPC is also going to set up a plant in Nabinagar (1320 Mw). Some hydel projects in Indrapur, on the Sone, the Kosi barrage and Kaimur are also going to come up.

We can purchase all the power we want. But consider the figures: the national average per capita consumption of power is 600 units. Bihar consumes 74 units per capita.

Bihar has presented a deficit budget for 2007-08. How will you find the money to do all this ?

You know how much revenue from sales tax has increased in 18 months? 23 per cent. We had given concessions to the transport sector. The enforcement has been lax. There is no improvement in collections. I am going to address this. Collections from excise are upwards of Rs 400 crore. The main thing is the visible, demonstrable punishment for corruption through fast track courts.

Bengal, N-E on bird flu alert

KOLKATA/GUWAHATI: With cases of bird flu on the rise in neighbouring Bangladesh, West Bengal and all the seven North-Eastern state governments have stepped up vigilance in the bordering areas. A team from National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), which visited the bordering villages in North 24-Parganas, has issued the relevant guidelines.

The West Bengal government has identified North 24-Parganas, Murshidabad and Nadia among nine bordering districts for surveillance. Director, health services, Sanchita Bakshi, said no confirmed bird flu case has been reported in the state so far.

“The last report of poultry deaths came from from Gaighata in North 24-Parganas about six weeks back. The samples have been collected and sent to Bhopal’s high security animal diseases laboratory. The report is still awaited,” Bakshi said.

The NICD team has asked the state government to form special teams to monitor bordering villages. “These teams will be stationed at the villages and interact with local people.

They will liaise with poultry owners and make regular tests as well. Any unnatural death will have to be reported to the health department immediately so that samples can be sent for tests,” a senior official of the animal husbandry department said.

The team that went to Gaighata is also preparing its study. “We will have to await reports from Bhopal,” a health department official said. Movement of poultry and related products along the border in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Manipur has been banned.

Manipur has also proscribed imports of poultry products from Myanmar following reports of avian flu outbreak in Yangon. Nagaland, which also shares porous border with Myanmar, has taken up preventive measures by educating poultry farmers.

The Mizoram government has alerted its people. Following the instruction of the Centre on March 20, it has banned all import of poultry, foodgrains and related products from Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Vet departments in Assam and Meghalaya have stepped up surveillance along the international border. While rapid response teams from Assam’s regional disease diagnostic laboratory have been rushed to border districts to conduct random sero-surveillance, Meghalaya government has constituted a task force.

Dalits embrace Buddhism in Orissa over temple entry

Kendrapada (Orissa), April 14 (IANS) Around 1,000 Dalits in Orissa’s Kendrapda district Saturday embraced Buddhism in protest against having been denied entry into a Hindu temple by upper castes and the local administration despite a court order.

About 2,000 Dalits of Keradagarh and its nearby villages in the coastal district of Kendrapda congregated at Aul village, 30 km from here, to mark the 116th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar, who championed the cause of the depressed classes in the country.

Around 1,000 of them embraced Buddhism in the presence of leading state Dalit leaders as some Buddhist monks performed rituals, Ashok Mallik, Dalit leader and president of Republican Youth and Students Front (RPSF), told IANS.

The Dalits embraced Buddhism saying that though they were Hindus they were not allowed to enter the 300-year-old Jagannath temple at Keradagarh village. There are around 400 Dalits in the village of 1,400.

Dalits had attempted to enter the temple several times in the past but were barred by the upper castes. There were also clashes between Dalits and upper castes.

A division bench of the Orissa High Court had Dec 14 last year ruled on a public interest petition that all Hindus had the right to enter any temple irrespective of their caste.

Mallick said the Dalits were earlier allowed to worship the deity at Keradagarh through nine holes on the outer wall of the temple. After the court’s direction, the administration closed the holes and built an iron grill, barring everyone except priests, from entering the sanctum sanctorum. The Dalits are unhappy over the local administration’s move.

‘It is an insult to all Dalits and violates the court’s order,’ he said.

Dalits say the local administration is not ready to help them and that is why they took the drastic step, said Mallick.

A Buddhist monk Bhiku Biswabandhu from New Delhi laid the foundation stone for a Buddhist temple at Aul on the occasion, he said.

‘As per the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967, a person has to file an affidavit before the district collector one month prior to changing his religion. As per the rule at least 1,000 Dalits had filed en masse petitions before the district collector on Jan 3, 2007, to embrace Buddhism,’ he said.

Blind customs cause death of 10 Oriya tribals

Andrahal (Orissa), Apr 12: The onset of the Chaitra Parab (first month of their New Year) has proved disastrous for the Bonda tribe of Orissa, with seven persons, including six children, losing their lives.

The tribals, suffering from a respiratory illness and high fever, in Andrahal village refused to take medicines, citing the ongoing month-long festival, and died.

As per tribal rituals, they are not allowed to consume any medicines during the festival, as they fear it would “anger” their presiding deity.

“My son died four days ago as he had high fever. We could not give him any medicine as our Parab (festival) is going on. Secondly, doctors are not available here, otherwise he (son) wouldn’t have been this serious,” said Sani Kirsani, a tribal, who lost one of his sons.

Medical facilities in remote villages are almost non-existence with the closest doctor being nearly 30 kilometres away. Officials also say that doctors should visit such places more often.

“Health care is not that sufficient in my opinion and doctors should visit these villages time and again. I do request those people, I have also written to the doctors and the medical staff. In fact, they are telling that they are moving to these villages,” said Sisir Kumar Panda, Special Officer of the Bonda Development Agency.

Living in the dense forests of Malkangiri and Koraput regions of the state, Bonda tribals have been described by anthropologists as wild and ferocious.

Scantily dressed in hand-spun cloth and adorned in beads and silver jewellery, they are extremely protective of their territory and attack any outsider trying to enter their villages.

The Bondas are expert farmers, practising shifting agriculture and also hunt and fish. They also participate in an extremely brutal ceremonial hunting exercise in the months of March and April.

Are Naxalites on path of righteousness…?

In plain terms, what is the magnitude of India’s tolerance to absorb shock waves, emanating from terrorism, communalism, Naxalism and age-old casteism, which are almost inter-linked?

As if Pak-sponsored terrorism is not enough to bleed India, Naxalism, based on a borrowed doctrine, advocating Maoist Communism—which stands against the Indian establishment— is emerging as a hydra-headed monster in the country.

The latest massacre of 55 persons of the Chattisgarh Armed Police (CAP) by the Naxalites, at Ranibodli police camp in Dantewada district, shows to what extent the Naxalism has spread its tentacles, creating civil war- like situation in the affected regions.

Whatever be the authenticity of the report, most CAP personnel were allegedly in an inebriated state. Only six policemen were on duty; they were ‘sufficiently’ alert to repulse the attack of some 400 armed guerrillas. Any how they were no match to raiders.

Another version says 16 policemen and 30 Special Police officers were killed in the attack. DIG (Bastar range) John Longkumer, while denying reports of drunkenness, has said: “Drinking is an integral part of the Adivasi culture. To drink is one thing; to be drunk another”.

Undoubtedly, it was a wake-up call for the nation. The menace of Naxalism cannot go on endlessly and should not be taken lightly as just a law and order problem by the mandarins in the South Block. A total 551 people— 316 civilians, 147 policemen and 88 Maoists—have been killed in Naxal violence in Chattisgarh since January 2006. It is the worst affected state after Andhra Pradesh.

Chattisgarh and Jharkhand account for major incidents in the Naxalite belt, extending from the north of Andhra Pradesh to the Nepal border encompassing Orissa, Bihar and Maharashtra (Gadcharoli). The situation is very alarming. Even the Army is alarmed at the growing menace of Naxalism.

Naxalites now openly support for secessionist activities in Kashmir and the northeast. The Naxalite leadership generally refrained from issuing such pro-secessionist statements in the past. They mainly confined themselves to getting a firm foothold in the tribal belt. Not any longer.

The banned Maoist party— the CPI(Maoist)—at its 9th party conclave, somewhere in the ‘liberated zones’ along Jharkhand-Bihar border, has supported the demand for pardon of Afzal Guru, who has been convicted in the Parliament attack case.

The month-long conclave was held after 36 years. It was the first such congregation after the merger of the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCC) and the People’s War Group (PWG) in 2004. The latter had earlier come into existence in 1981 in Hyderabad. 100 delegates from 16 states attended the deliberations which ended on February 2.

A call issued from the conclave has called for support to ‘just struggles’ of nationalities and sub-nationalities, demanding secession. “Kashmir and various nationalities of the North-East have been waging an armed struggle against the Indian Government for their right to self-determination, including the right to secede from the so-called Union of India”, Muppala Lakshman Rao alias Ganapathi, who was re-elected General Secretary of the CPI(Maoist), told the delegates.

Unbelievable but true, the Maoists have set up full-fledged Research and Development (R & D) wings through the support of some scientists, who are ideologically close to Maoists. Some scientists of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) are reportedly working in R & D labs controlled by the guerrillas. This side of Naxalite activity came to light when security forces unearthed a full fledged R & D unit near Bhopal. Another such unit has been noticed in Jabalpur.

The ‘disclosure’ came just on the heels of the attack at Ranibodli police post, in which the Naxalites are said to have used an improved version of petrol bomb for the first time. The extremists are trying to develop more lethal weapons to target security forces. The ‘guerrillas’ are running what can be termed as a parallel government in their ‘zones’.

According to the annual report of Maoists’ Central Military Commission, they are striving to raise a parallel army called “Revolutionary Army” to fight the Indian Army. Surprisingly enough, it is happening at a time when India is trying to enlarge its sphere globally to emerge as a super power and when its GDP is growing.

The Naxalites have also planned to ‘disturb’ growing private sector in many ways. They have chalked out a huge plan to disrupt proposed infrastructure for mining projects and steel plants in mineral-rich belt, where they hold sway.

Maoists control over 19 per cent of India’s best forests. Tribals are in their belly and they too are comfortable with the Naxalites, who exploit increasing alienation of tribals and ‘colonial era repressive forest laws’. Timber mafia and poachers pay ‘protection money’ to the Maoists.

According to a study, there are ‘linkages’ between ‘forest mismanagement’ and the spread of Maoism. Forest-related issues are being used by the Maoists to gain control of villages in tribal areas.

Analysing the socio-economic conditions in the most affected areas of Orissa, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, the study predicted that 50 per cent of India’s forest cover could be ‘potentially brought’ under the Maoist control within five years. ‘Mobility’ of government officials inside these forests is falling in Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand and it has come down to just 15 per cent, a fall of around 40 per cent in five years. The Maoist violence, it says, affects close to 300 million people across 7000 villages. The CPI (Maoist) is said to be in control of 155 districts in 15 states from 55 districts.

The Maoists are not on the path of righteousness. While their counterparts in Nepal have discarded violence and joined mainstream political parties in delivering governance, Indian Maoists are still lurking. They should take a look at China and Russia from where they have borrowed their ideology, terminology and techniques. They would do well to join the mainstream of national life and fight for the cause of the downtrodden within the democratic set-up.

Chhattisgarh cracks whip on extortion calls from jail

Raipur, April 14 (IANS) Concerned over a report that imprisoned criminals in Chhattisgarh were running their extortion rackets from behind bars with the help of mobile phones belonging to junior jail officials, the government has decided to crack the whip.

Jail superintendents and district police chiefs have been asked to monitor all incoming and outgoing phone calls made from jails.

‘We believe there are hundreds of hardcore criminals who have been using mobile sets inside lockups and netting up good incomes through extortion,’ a senior police officer posted in Chhattisgarh’s state police headquarters, Raipur, told IANS Saturday

On April 9, 139 prisoners lodged in a sub-jail in Katghora town of Korba district ran amok when a police team led by district superintendent Himanshu Gupta raided the prison in connection with an extortion case.

Prisoners revolted against the raid, injured six policemen and then briefly took control of the jail, even snapping communication and power lines.

Police recovered two mobile sets from the jail inmates that belonged to junior jail officials. It was found that the cell numbers were frequently used by prisoners having major criminal records to make extortion calls to businessmen.

‘The Katghora jail takeover by inmates when police tried to bust an extortion racket was an eye-opener for the government,’ the officer said.

‘In the wake of the April 9 incident, the home department held a meeting with senior jail officials across the state and got a report that criminals operate their extortion rackets more freely from inside jail than they do from outside. Now we are monitoring all incoming and outgoing phone calls made from jails,’ the official added.

He said that criminals had terrorised lower ranking jail officials and often managed to use their mobile sets to make extortion calls. The police officer also said the government would boot out jail officials having a nexus with prisoners.

Call for ban on Sindhi girls using mobile sets opposed

Raipur, April 14 The Chhattisgarh Sindhi Panchayat (CSP) said Saturday girls of the community are mentally mature to utilise benefits of technology and should not be barred from using them as demanded by a section of the community in the backlash of a controversial inter-religion marriage.

The CSP’s statement came in wake of proposed ban by the Sindhi community in Madhya Pradesh on use of mobile phones and vehicles by Sindhi girls after one of them, Priyanka in Bhopal eloped with Muslim boy Omar and married him after the boy converted to Hinduism. The incident raised a hue and cry in both the Hindu and Muslim conservative groups.

The Hindu organisations including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) added fuel to the fire to the Bhopal episode and the boy’s family moved court for protection, fearing threat to his life. The court directed police to provide security to the couple.

‘It is an isolated case and only because of an act of a girl, we cannot be conservative and bar girls from using mobile sets and vehicles,’ CSP state chief Sreechand Sundrani and other community leaders said.

‘They are modern and mature and there is no need to distrust them,’ the CSP said. Jharkhand News Network

April 14, 2007 at 10:01 pm Leave a comment

Apr 13, 2007

Jharkhand seeks higher royalty for coal, iron ore

Jharkhand has sought a 20 percent share in the centre’s profits from coal and iron ore, saying delays in the revision of royalty on minerals mined from the state were causing it a loss of Rs.35 billion annually.

The demand was put forth at a two-day meeting of the Inter State Council of Mineral Resources (ISCMR), which began Thursday at the Indian Institute of Coal Management (IICM), Ranchi.

The meet is being attended by the chief secretaries of 14 states, which include Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Goa, Nagaland and Orissa.

Jharkhand Chief secretary A.K. Chug demanded a 20 percent royalty on profits made from coal and iron ore mined from the state.

Jharkhand officials believe if this demand is accepted by the central government, the state will earn an additional Rs.35 billion per annum. At present, Jharkhand gets Rs.11 billion as royalty.

Chhattisgarh representatives supported Jharkhand’s view.

The representatives of different states are discussing royalties paid on different minerals by the central government. The delegates also talked about the low rates paid on iron ore despite a boom in the steel industry.

Ho tribals discover cops as friends

The Help Line, a unique initiative of the West Singhbhum police, is fast shoring up the image of the police as ‘friend’ and not the ‘enemy’ the Naxalites had made it out to be.

Today, police stations are choc-a-bloc with Ho tribesmen, all seemingly content with the instant justice the Help Line was meting out.

Earlier, it was a rare Ho who dared the opprobrium that his fellow tribesmen treated the police machinery with, to make the journey for justice to a police station. The times, as they say, are indeed changing.

It took West Singhbhum’s Superintendent of Police Sudhir Kumar Jha lots of initiative and little time to effect the remarkable change. Of course, with a little bit of help from his peers in the district administration, but once he had got the Help Line going, it was an ‘upward travel’ all the way. “Today, the Ho tribesmen are realising that they had been foolishly taken in by the Naxalites’ propaganda. They are realizing the merits of a democratic system of governance, something the naxalites had turned them irrevocably against,” the SP said.

The concept, as such, is disarmingly simple. At all police stations of the district there is a Help Line, made up of thana-level peace committee members all of whom are well versed in the local dialect as also Hindi, the State’s official language. The Help Line thus, is the first layer that complainants as also the accused, come across at police stations.

The moment a plaintiff reaches a police station, Help Line members greet him or her in the local dialect, offer a chair and note down the complaints in a ledger. A minor irritant, not meriting litigation, is normally ‘talked over’ and quick and easy solutions suggested. On the complainant sticking by his or her stand and resolutely refusing the solutions suggested, the case is forwarded to the police station In-charge for further action.

A simple enough thing, one might say, but the ‘Police is your friend’ approach has been paying huge dividends from the day it was launched a couple of weeks ago. “Public dissent against the police, inordinately high till lately, has come down significantly ever since the Help Lines have started functioning at the police stations here. We try and keep legalese to the barest minimum, preferring instead to give them instant justice, something that they appreciate. Moreover, charges of human rights violations that we were always up against in the past, too have come down,” the SP told HT.

One of the most underdeveloped districts of Jharkhand, West Singhbhum also has the dense Saranda forest, a forest that is spread out across half the district. Maoists, sheltering within the forest had all this while been cashing in upon the simple Ho tribesmen even as they went about projecting the police force as a cruel, inhuman one that suffers no quarter. Unfortunately, the Maoists had been able to convince the Ho people who had for long kept themselves at a distance from the police. In fact, they had actively colluded with the naxalites in their anti-police operations.

“The Help Line concept has helped minimize public support to the naxalites in the district,” the SP said, adding, “People are now realizing the significance of a democratic system. They are getting convinced now that the ‘thanas’ are by them, for them and of them. We are getting tremendous support from local educated tribal youth, who now see the police in a distinctly friendly light.”

Jha said that he regularly inspects the Help Line registers at the monthly crime meetings of police station in-charges each month.
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Mines ministry plays Naxal card

NEW DELHI, APR 13: The ministry of mines has written to the finance ministry, seeking withdrawal of the Rs 300-a-tonne duty on iron ore exports levied in Budget 2007. The ministry said this duty would lead to job losses in iron ore-rich states and thereby heighten Naxalite activities. Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Karanataka and Goa have among the country’s largest iron ore deposits.

Describing the levy as premature, the ministry of mines note stated that iron ore-rich states were largely under-developed and had large forest reserves and tribal populations. Agriculture had limited possibilities and there was little scope for manufacturing due to poor infrastructure.

The ministry has argued that the export duty would erode Indian iron ore’s competitive edge vis-à-vis Australia and Brazil, as prices would shoot up by $7-8 a tonne. This would cause additional unemployment of about 5-6 lakh people in these “backward states”. Hence, Naxalite activities would gather momentum and could be difficult to contain, it warned

“It need not be over-emphasised that the mainstay of these backward states is mining activity and the move to tax will have an adverse impact on the employment potential in these areas,” the ministry said.

Indian postal workers vote for pay strike

Postal workers in East Singhbhum and other districts of Jharkhand, India voted unanimously this week for an indefinite strike on April 24 to demand the national government implement the Sixth Pay Commission recommendation to increase salaries. The workers, members of the Akhil Bharatiya Dak Karmchari Sangh (ABDKS), are also seeking a time-bound promotion system, the filling of all vacant posts, a transportation allowance and other employee welfare schemes.

Unlike other government employees, postal workers have not received pay and dearness allowance increases. A union spokesman said the central government had rejected the commission recommendation in order to cut costs. “We have no choice but to go on an indefinite strike,” he said. Sona Ram Mardy, a postal employee, said workloads in post offices had increased and complained “the government has forced its employees to sell tea, mutual funds, contraceptive and other products”.

- The quality of Muslim human resources must improve

India has very many poor and deprived people. There are large groups like small farmers, landless labourers, urban slum-dwellers and women (especially in low-income families), aborigines and other tribes, lower castes as scheduled in the Constitution and other backward classes among Hindus, Muslims, the indigent elderly, gypsies, and so on. Deprivation is widespread and not a prerogative of a single community or group. However, on some indicators, Muslims are worse off than Hindus, who also suffer serious deprivation. India’s experience with subsidies, dual pricing and specific handouts is that they have not significantly improved the condition of many recipients. It may only have added to their dependence. Since the Nineties, a fast-growing economy has reduced the numbers of the very poor. We must recognize that economic well-being brings in its wake social well-being as well. The deprived must become better-off and for that they need opportunities and the building of their capability.

Governments must improve opportunities for the poor and deprived. Is reservation of jobs in governments, public enterprises, academia and the private sector the best way of improving opportunities? Such jobs are few in relation to the need and in recent years, are decreasing in numbers. Few people from scheduled castes and tribes have benefited, perhaps owing to the lack of enough capable people. Tamil Nadu has offered, for the longest period, mid-day meal schemes to schoolchildren. Nutritious meals for pregnant and lactating mothers have helped the health of mothers and infants. Their beneficial effects on school attendance and on decline in fertility rates are known.

Unfortunately, social services delivery by many governments to the poor is inefficient and ineffective. Delivery of government services in health, education and subsidized supplies of essentials, is badly targeted and handled. They are not delivered at least cost and with minimum wastage, nor are they of uniformly high quality to those for whom they are meant. It is the incompetence of the government delivery system of these services that has resulted in continued deprivation of almost every section of the economically backward in India, despite large expenditures since independence. Children of the very poor get little out of the schools they attend. The quality of delivery of government services must improve. No government has given this the priority it deserves.

In 1992, the National Council of Applied Economic Research commenced the study in detail of human development indicators in each state of India. The sample had a strong rural bias and would get comparable data for Hindus (particularly scheduled castes and tribes) as well as majority-minority religions in each state — for example, Muslims in Uttar Pradesh or Christians in Kerala. The rich data out of this study has been used by many researchers. A key finding was that Muslims were, on many indicators, as badly or well off as the scheduled castes, but the scheduled tribes were the worst off on most indicators. The Sachar committee report has established certain other kinds of deprivation of Muslims that can only be attributed to discrimination.

The Sachar report uses many other data sources, particularly the National Sample Survey and the National Health and Family Planning Survey, and other specially designed studies. Muslims are deprived. So are scheduled castes and tribes in relation to OBCs, uppercaste Hindus and all other minorities. The worst-off Muslims are those in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, which together have 52 per cent of all Indian Muslims. The Sachar committee compares the status of deprivation between Muslims and Hindus (percentages below are in relation to total number of Hindus or Muslims).

In rural India, Muslims are much less represented in agriculture than Hindus and much more in non-agriculture. While 28 per cent of Hindus had no land, the number was 34 per cent for Muslims. Land holdings by Muslims are, on average, much smaller than those held by Hindus. However, rural Muslims match rural Hindus in monthly per capita expenditures. Muslims, and especially women in rural areas, trail even farther behind Hindus on higher education.

In urban India, 53 per cent of Muslims are self-employed versus 39 per cent of Hindus. Muslims have much lower representation in regular wage or salaried employment than Hindus. The proportion of illiterates is somewhat higher among Muslim males, but illiteracy is rampant among Muslim females. The differences become much sharper at higher levels of education. Secondary school education was undertaken by 17 per cent of Hindus and 8 per cent Muslims; while graduates and above were 7.9 per cent Hindus and 0.8 per cent Muslims. Less women than men among Hindus, and even less Muslim women as compared to Hindu women went for higher education. In urban India, at household monthly per capita expenditures above Rs 110, there are 64 per cent Hindus versus 46 per cent Muslims, and below Rs 110 there are 53 per cent Muslims versus 36 per cent Hindus, that is, urban Muslims have much lower expenditures. With higher percentage of all Muslims living in urban areas, Muslims are expenditure-wise worse off.

Female work participation rates among both Muslim and Hindu urban women are low. In rural areas, the work participation of both is more than three times that in urban areas. The differences between Hindu and Muslim women on this indicator are small. On some social indicators, the Muslims do much better. Thus the Muslim sex ratio is better than the Hindu one, and except for Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir, Muslims are at the same or higher levels than Hindus in every state. Muslims have more live births and higher surviving proportions than Hindus, and this is so at all levels of income. While contraceptive usage among Muslims is lower than among Hindus, the differences are not large in relation to their populations. Perhaps there may be less female foeticide and infanticide among Muslims, and better mother and child care.

Muslims are far fewer in government employment in relation to their population. In key states, Muslims had 6.3 per cent share in state government employment, 7.8 per cent in judiciary and 7.4 per cent in public enterprises, all less than half of their proportions in the population. The flow of benefits under various government schemes to Muslims is very low in almost every state. Habitations with large Muslim populations in the states with large Muslim populations (West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Assam) also suffer from government neglect in available facilities like schools, healthcare centres, post offices, bus stops and proper approach roads.

Muslims are better than their Hindu counterparts on monthly household per capita expenditures (in rural areas), female sex ratios, infant and maternal mortality, to name a few. The means that achieved these better outcomes must be identified and the community institutions that enabled them to happen must be nurtured.

Muslim deprivation appears to be owing to social mores (poor female education), possible discrimination (poor representation in higher education), and definite discrimination (poor services in predominantly Muslim habitations). Like the deprived among the Hindus, Muslims also require a better quality of school education. More and better-remunerated teachers, better teacher attendance at schools, more school facilities, outreach programmes to improve English and general knowledge, are some aspects that must improve in government schools. This improvement must happen for all communities.

Reservations will not help Muslims as they have not helped the SCs and STs. The quality of Muslim human resources must improve. Institutions that have helped achieve better results on some parameters could be used to improve on the poor parameters as well. New institutions must be developed to improve the delivery of social services from governments to Muslims. Muslim non-governmental groups must be formed to ensure that Muslims get their due share of government services and expenditures.

The author is former director-general, National Council for Applied Economic Research

Provocative Al-Qaeda CDs find their way into Bihar

Provocative CDs containing speeches and messages from Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his associates have been found in circulation in selective parts of Bihar. The CDs – in Arabic language with English sub-titles – exhort the youth to resort to “jehad for a larger cause”.

“Till we meet again, we request you to make dua for every one who contributed to the preparation of the CD. And may Allah reward everyone who participates in its circulation and distribution,” says the last message of the CD, which contains video footage of Taliban training camps and news clippings highlighting atrocities against Muslims.

The CD is of nearly 90-minute duration and has been apparently prepared using inputs from different sources. It has several news clippings, Osama’s speeches, Omar Abdullah’s visuals and visuals of Farooq Training Camp in the mountains. The location of shooting is not known.

“We have left our homes and families to seeks the pleasure of Allah. The fire does not touch the feet covered in dust for the cause of Allah (jehad). We are raising the banner of brothers,” say the transcripts in English.

It shows the Taliban fighters going through rigorous training and doing target practice on the portrait of former US president Bill Clinton. The footage shows both old Osama moving in the mountains as well as the young Osama in uniform.

It is not yet known how the Al-Qaeda propaganda reached Bihar. One of the CDs was found at Jagdishpur in Bhojpur district. Similar CDs are said to have been circulated in Muslim pockets along the Bihar-Nepal border. The CDs reportedly came from Nepal and have set the alarm bells ringing.

Last year, two suspected Al-Qaeda activists, Kamal Ansari and Khalid, were picked up from Bihar’s Madhubani district following the Mumbai train blast.

Police, however, seem to have no clue about it. “I have been shown the CD and our experts will analyse it before I can make any comment. We will certainly try to find out the details,” IG (headquarters) Anil Sinha said.

Purnea SP Sudhanshu Kumar said that he had alerted all the police stations close to the Nepal border following reports of the CD. “We don’t have any such information so far. But we will take all precautions in view of such developments,” he added.
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Bihar’s parties ‘one-man show’

PATNA, April 13: Most of the parties in Bihar are a “one-man show” in the absence of a second-line of leadership here. Apart from affecting the parties’ organisational set-up, the trend has added to the woes of the masses as their problems remain unaddressed. While party “bosses” are away from the party headquarters more often than not, common workers are as good as “bonded labourers”. They do not even enjoy the privilege of smooth access to their bosses to apprise them of the grievances of the constituencies they have been working in for so long.

The worst is the condition of the Rashtriya Janata Dal headed by Mr Lalu Prasad who is also railway minister. Caught between the state and national politics, Mr Prasad can hardly spare time for his party workers and is rarely available in Patna, though Bihar is where the RJD’s “work field” is. There is no one in the party to take any policy decision. There are many leaders in the RJD, but a majority of them are Laluji’ s chamchas (lackeys).

Most senior party leaders feel cornered. They have got no role but to garner blind support for the party boss’s actions. “We have no existence. Yet, we cannot quit the RJD as it’s a matter of ideology,” a senior RJD leader said on condition of anonymity.

In the national party chief’s absence, the state RJD depends on such sundry leaders as Shyam Rajak, Abdul Bari Siddiqui and Shakil Ahmad who have failed to make an impression on the masses.

Similar is the condition with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United that is in power here. In the past 40 years, the “socialist” George Fernandes had settled in Bihar and befriended Mr Kumar after 1994 when they broke away from the parent Janata Dal to form the Samata Party that later merged with the JD-U.

Mr Fernandes headed both parties as its national president and it’s here that the “power tussle” began between Mr Kumar and Mr Fernandes, it is learnt. First, he was rejected in Nalanda, the Kurmi-dominated Lok Sabha constituency that Mr Kumar had offered the “socialist” leader after they fell out with Mr Prasad, before being pushed out as the JD-U president.
Sharad Yadav, one of Mr Kumar’s cronies, was made the national president of the JD-U in last year’s organisational polls, held amidst a boycott by Mr Fernandes’ camp. Though Mr Yadav is the official JD-U president, Mr Kumar dictates terms to the party leadership, it is learnt.

The same is the case with the BJP. The writ of Sushil Kumar Modi, deputy chief minister in the NDA government, runs here. He is vested with powers of many departments, while many of his partymen await expansion of the Nitish Kumar ministry. That appears to be a distant dream, given the shadow-boxing within.

The situation in the Lok Janshakti Party, led by Union chemical and fertilizer minister Ram Vilas Paswan, is no better. Mr Paswan appears to be all in all. There is no second man in the party to take any policy decision or make statements.
The state unit gets active only when the LJP supremo is in Patna or Bihar. Otherwise, it remains inert. Mr Paswan is the only leader in the LJP. He has his own political ambitions, so the LJP does not have any organisational presence. It’s best used to cut into rival parties’ votebanks, a political expert said.

‘Even ministers’ names in Bihar’s BPL list’

NEW DELHI, APRIL 13: Accusing Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of ‘mismanaging’ BPL list in the state, Union Minister for Rural Development Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said even ministers have been included in the list while those who should be in have been left out.

“He has simply cancelled the 2002 BPL list and prepared a new one. There is a lot of discrepancies in it as it included even the name of ministers but not those who should be really a part of it”, Singh said.

He said in Bihar every thing in this regard was totally wrong as only two-to-four per cent persons (right) have been listed and rest is ‘completely fraud’.

Singh said every time he reminds the Bihar Chief Minister, he said, “you (Raghuvansh) is writting a lengthy letter like a Deputy Secretary. Perhaps he doesn’t want to read a long and detailed letter on any issue”.

Describing the BPL situation in Bihar as worst, he said dozens of fight and violence were being reported every day on the issue due to the fact right people find their name missing from the list.

Bihar is one of the leading state which was yet to submit the BPL list to the Centre and is virtually on the list of states whose funds are going to be stopped if it failed to provide the list in the next two-months.

Videocon to set up country`s first micro-chip facility in Bengal

Kolkata April 13: Reversing its decision to set up the country’s first thin-film transistor chip facility in Hyderabad, Videocon industries limited today said it would set it up near the West Bengal capital.

“Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee proposed that we set up the facility in West Bengal and his government is ready to provide whatever is required. I could have gone to Hyderabad, but I am not going,” VIL chairman Venugopal Dhoot told reporters after a meeting with the Chief Minister.

Spread over 100 acres, the facility will have an initial investment of Rs 1,000 crore. Dhoot said, “More funds would be pumped in later and the investment can go up to anything.”

According to Bhattacharjee, the facility will have units for microchip manufacturing, design and research and development in one place.

Describing thin-film transistor microchip manufacturing as a “most difficult job”, he said the reason for choosing Kolkata was to take advantage of the laboratory of nearby IIT- Kharagpur and the state government’s Indian design centre at salt lake, which has in its advisory body some of the world’s best names in semi-conductor technology.

VIL will also set up a 200-acre it and biotech SEZ at Dabgram in North Bengal, he said. The land for this will be taken from the housing board through the Siliguri-Jalpaiguri development authority.

A world-renowned French company will be the lead investor for the SEZ, he said.

Alcan Plans to Sell Stake in Utkal Alumina

MONTREAL (CP) — Canadian metals giant Alcan Inc. [TSX: AL] says it plans to sell its 45% stake in India’s Utkal Alumina International Ltd., a joint venture set up in 1992 to develop a new bauxite mine and alumina refinery in the Indian state of Orissa.

Alcan said it expects the sale to close in the second quarter, but did not say how much it expects to generate from the proposed transaction.

It also did not disclose the potential buyer. The company said it is selling its stake because as a minority partner it feels limited in the key decisions on the project. Hindalco, part of Indian industrial giant Aditya Birla group, holds the controlling 55% interest in Utkal.

Earlier this year, Hindalco struck a $6 billion friendly takeover deal to acquire Alcan spinoff Novelis Inc. [TSX: NVL]

”We have carefully weighed the opportunity and risk presented by the Utkal project and, given constraints within the governance structure that limit Alcan’s ability to participate in key decisions, believe that we have acted in the best interests of all our stakeholders.” said Jacynthe Cote, president and CEO of the company’s bauxite and alumina division

”The company will keep a strong focus on growing and executing its pipeline of projects in bauxite-rich regions, which will leverage its world-leading alumina refining technology.”

The Utkal project, currently in an engineering phase, will continue to receive Alcan technology, the company said.

Bauxite is the key mineral used in aluminum production. It is mined from the earth then processed into alumina powder, which is used along with electricity and heat in the smelting process to produce light-weight aluminum metal.

Alcan employs 68,000 employees, including its joint-ventures, and operates in 61 countries and regions. The company had revenues of $23.6 billion in 2006.

Hindalco of Mumbai, plans to pay $44.93 a share cash for all of Novelis stock and assume $2.4 billion of debt in a friendly deal that would make Hindalco the largest rolled-aluminum products manufacturer in the world.

Hindalco is the flagship company of the Aditya Birla Group with interests in cement, metals, telecommunication and textiles.

In Thursday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Alcan shares fell nine cents to close at C$61.85 on a volume of more than 736,000 shares.

Chhattisgarh reels under power cuts

Raipur, April 12 (IANS) A severe power crisis has forced Chhattisgarh to go for at least eight to 10 hour undeclared power cuts daily in rural areas to manage energy for industries and urban and semi-urban belts, officials said Thursday.

The long power cuts in the mineral rich state that began early this week coincides with a heat wave as mercury has shot up to 42 degrees Celsius in several areas.

In northern Raigarh, Korba, Bilaspur and Ambikapur districts, people have taken to the streets to protest against the sudden power cuts. In some rural hamlets, villagers have attacked electricity board staff members and even ransacked power sub stations.

“The state government has no option but to extend the power cut durations up to 10 hours daily in the impoverished northern and southern areas as the gap between demand and supply is 600 mw, which goes up to 900 mw during peak hours,” a Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board (CSEB) official told IANS Thursday.

The official added that the crisis could be aggravated further as power demands would only increase with the rise in temperature by month-end.

CSEB has begun talks with the central government for 300 mw of extra power for the summer from the central pool.

“The state is currently getting a power supply of 1,410 mw while the demand is over 2,000 mw daily. The gap will further widen and we will try to make up the loss for domestic consumers by deducting the supply to industry between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.,” the official said.
power_cuts.html Jharkhand News Network

April 13, 2007 at 10:40 pm Leave a comment

Apr 12, 2007

Hydel power to light up rural Jharkhand

JAMSHEDPUR, APR 12: Jharkhand, endowed with a good number of rivers, rivulets and waterfalls, has identified 47 locations in the state where hydel projects of various sizes could come up for producing around 64 mw to bring relief to people living in its remote villages. Initially, it is to start work on 25 such sites. The Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (Jreda) has already floated national tenders for erection/construction of hydel projects at these 25 locations. The bids close on May 8. While the power projects will be of various generating capacities, from 0.2mw to 6.86 mw, they will together have the potential to generate around 33 mw in five-six years. The entire project is to cost around Rs 165 crore. According to Jreda director SEH Kazmi, Mecon, which has been appointed as technical consultant, will, after evaluating the techno-commercial viability of the projects as submitted by the bidders, forward them to Jreda’s purchase committee for a decision. Some of the 25 sites are located at Kolebera, Banu, Tethainagar (Simdega district); Mahuabaand, Sugabaand & Pidhe (Latehar district); Disham Falls, Subarnarekha at Namkum, Raru, Tajna river at Arki, Topra, Subarnarekha at Hudroo & Jouha (Ranchi district); Subarnarekha at Kuju, Kharkai, Subarnarekha III & IV (East Singhbhum); Chainpur, Bistanpur and Dumri (Gumla district), etc. The selected parties will conduct a detailed survey investigation (DSI) and prepare detailed project reports (DPRs) after examining all natural conditions at the sites.

“No power is expected to be generated for at least four years from the date contracts for preparation of DSI/DPRs are given,” Kazmi told FE over phone. Jreda has filed a counter affidavit in the Jharkhand high court, pleading that the eight hydel projects, at Tenu-Bokaro (1 mw), Chandil (8 mw), Manlab (24 mw), Sadni (1 mw), Lower Ghagra ( 0.4 mw), Netarhat (0.5 mw), Nindigha (0.2 mw) and Zalimgha (0.2 mw), which have been under Bihar Hydroelectric Power Corporation (BHPC) for some time, be handed over to it now.

BHPC said that as it has already gone ahead with some of the projects, it should be allowed to complete them. Jreda sources, however, have challenged BHPC, saying the corporation’s claim of ‘major work having been done’ is not true.

Jharkhand death trail…

RANCHI, April 11: A disaster is waiting to happen. An assessment has been done by the National Highway Wing of Road Construction of the national highways passing through Jharkhand, besides the bridges and culverts on these roadways.
The condition of at least 60 bridges on national highways that run through most districts have been labelled “extremely dangerous, needing immediate repairs or replacement”.

There are nearly 100 bridges in the state, all on busy highways. These are more than 100 years old and need immediate attention. The condition of a considerable stretch of the national highways in Jharkhand is also bad, in the absence of timely maintenance, the assessment has indicated.

NHWRC officials say the situation is grim.

“There are about 400 small bridges in Jharkhand, either 30 metres in length or less, and another 200 major bridges on 1,844 km of national highway. At least 192 km of this stretch is part of the Golden Quadrilateral project. The bridges on the remaining 1,652 km of national highway have to be repaired immediately.

Many of the bridges have missing or broken railings. Patch work has been done on many of them as an ad hoc measure, leaving them even more vulnerable to wear and tear. Load-bearing structures and girders under the bridges have cracked in many cases, but heavily loaded vehicles continue to ply on them, an NHWRC official said.

With new guidelines coming into force, repair and maintenance of national highways are now the responsibility of the states through which they pass. The respective state governments send to Delhi their proposals for construction of bridges, repair and maintenance of existing bridges and highways. The Union government allocates funds in the budget and scrutinises their proposals. The 105-km NH 23, near Simdega, is the Halbai Bridge. “The steel-girder bridge is a key link to the border district. It collapsed last year. Some hamhanded work has been done and the structure reopened to traffic. The same happened with the Hirni Bridge on NH 75 (extension). The bridge caved in during monsoon last year but has been opened after some quick repairs. The Garg Bridge’s condition on the Chas-Ramgarh stretch of NH 23 and the four bridges, including the important Pandra Bridge on NH 75 connecting Ranchi to Daltonganj, going to Nagar Utariand and onwards to Uttar Pradesh, are also in bad shape,” the official said. The NHWRC chief engineer, Mr Harinath Chattopadhyay, is aware of the serious condition of the bridges and national highways in Jharkhand.

“The NHWRC was recently given the task of repairing and maintaining NH 75 from Ranchi to Orissa via Khunti, Murhu, Bandgaon, Chakradharpur, Chaibasa, Hatgamharia and Jaidga by the state government. We have found that 200 km of the total 2003-km stretch, is in a terrible condition. There are nearly 400 major and minor bridges on the stretch. We have sent a project report and proposal to the Union government and are waiting for their clearance and financial sanctions,” Mr Chattopadhyay said.

Easterly breeze

Much water has flown down the Ganges ever since the realty market heated up in the northern plains. Now check the spillover — strong demand drivers underlying commercial and retail markets have ensured an exponential growth in real estate demand across major markets in eastern India.

Undeniably, the bridge is too far and wide as compared to other states and the eastern markets still command comparatively low value levels. But the high growth curve seen over the last two-three years can’t be missed either. Already, experts say that the growth curve of West Bengal and, to an extent, Orissa and Jharkhand will be very high. And it is expected that real estate demand in these places will also rise to match the growth in supply which is being created or is in the pipeline.

Some concerns, however, persist over a price correction of 15-20% in the residential sector across major metros and its fallout in the eastern markets. Says Abhijit Das, regional director, Trammell Crow Meghraj, a real estate consultant company: “Markets in West Bengal and rest of East might see stagnation and comparatively lower growth in price levels for a very short period, but there’s no correction. In the medium to long term, these markets will witness significant and consistent growth in real estate prices and volumes. In fact, the growth curve might be one of the highest in the country.”

Sumit Dabriwala, MD, Hiland Group, feels the realty prices have remained fairly stable in the East over the last few years. They have grown but have not recorded the quantum jumps witnessed in the other regions of the country. Prices in this part of the country have only reflected the increase in construction costs and land prices, he points out.

Prices have indeed held the line so far. But this may be the turning point. In fact, Dabriwala says, West Bengal and other neighbouring states are poised to witness significant growth on account of industrial and services investments that are coming into the region.

These are expected to keep the outlook for the real estate sector buoyant in the medium term. The rise in interest rates is temporary and will, in any case, impact investment purchases more than actual user demand because the region has always been driven more by actual users than by investors. “I would expect the interest rates to begin to settle to more realistic levels by September 2007,” he reasons.

Ambuja Realty Group chairman Harshavardhan Neotia is also optimistic. “As far as Kolkata is concerned, real estate prices will remain stable in the near future. Demand for both commercial as well as residential properties will continue to rise. However, since the supply is currently much higher than the actual demand, some of the projects which are not well conceived or planned may face difficulties in the near future.”

Dabriwala, however, feels that while some other cities in the country may be headed for a supply overhang, the eastern region is still delivering a fairly modest amount of real estate in each of the categories. “Therefore, I see no concern whatsoever for well-formatted developments from reputed real estate developers,” he adds

“We are seeing a stabilisation of select markets in the current real estate scene. A consistent upswing is not possible in any market, particularly when a large level of supply is in the offering. Real estate markets have observed high levels of growth in the recent past. However, in certain markets, market stabilisation has been observed. This indicates that there are not many buyers for the prices quoted for various real estate typologies at this point of time,” says Sanjay Chandra, MD, Unitech group.

On the broad level, elaborates Das, while growth in the real estate sector over the last five-seven years has been backed by robust underlying fundamentals and economic growth, growth in real estate investment and prices can be attributed to easy availability of leveraged and non-leveraged funds and inflow of private equity or foreign direct investment into the market. “Policy maker’s efforts to correct this overflow of funds inflow by making primary and secondary fundings more costly will keep the heat under control, while not impacting growth levels,” he observes.

That’s a complex interplay of market forces. But experts also feel that an inhibiting factor in the growth of retail malls business could be the lack of sufficient infrastructure to cope with growing mall developments. Even in a developed market such as Delhi, they argue, the infrastructure is not strong and well planned to deal with added pressures to be put by the coming malls.

Dr Devinder Gupta, CMD, DGS Realtors, says that in the case of large destination developments, a serious pressure on the infrastructure (specially traffic and parking) is expected and the planning authorities need to take cognizance of this. The city and the government have to keep pace with the developments and they are doing a good job. It just has to be done faster. In fact, all this developments will rather help in developing the area it is located in. Instead of witnessing disorganised growth it retail, it will promote planned development with proper facilities, he adds.Well, that’s the tale so far. Now much of the unfolding action will depend on retail.

Cabinet flags off big-ticket road projects worth Rs 8,900 crore

NEW DELHI, APR 12: The cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) on Thursday cleared a host of road projects, estimated to cost Rs 8,900 crore. The projects include four-laning of national highways in Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh on build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis.

The four-laning of 780 km of national highway in Bihar is expected to cost Rs 6,782 crore. The projects in the other three states will cost Rs 1,616 crore.

The CCEA also gave its nod to the Rs 557-crore project for providing four-lane connectivity to the proposed international container transhipment terminal (ICTT) at Vallarpadam in Kochi, Kerala using cess funds.

The project will be implemented by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and is to be completed within 30 months commencing April 2007.

The meeting also approved further expansion of National Highways and Development Programme-III, under implementation since 2005, to include upgrade of 996 km of road stretches.

Of the total 12,109 km of roads under NHDP-III, 7,294 km will be upgraded on BOT basis at an estimated cost of Rs 47,557 crore. An amount of Rs 29,869 crore will be borne by the private sector and the government will fund Rs 17,688 crore.

As per the decision taken by the CCEA, the private sector will bear Rs 29,869 crore and the government will pump in Rs 17,688 crore.

Inclusion of the 780 km of NH in Bihar is over and above the approved length of 4035 km under NHDP Phase-IIIA. The proposal will now go for clearance to the PPPAC. With this inclusion, total length of National Highways to be upgraded under NHDP Phase III would be 4815 km.

The estimated cost of Rs 6,782 crore will include the cost for land acquisition, utility shifting, rehabilitation and resettlement, consultancy, within the ceiling of 40% of viability gap funding (grant) in accordance with implementation mechanism.

As some of the sections, such as Mokama-Muker Section of NH-80, Muzzafarpur-Sonbarsa Section of NH-77, Motihari-Raxaul Section of NH-28A and Forbesgenj-Jogbani Section of NH-57A approved to be taken up on BOT basis (which will be tolled later) have very low traffic volume and the maintenance cost can be higher than the toll collected in these sections, it is likely that there will be no response to bids for BOT (Toll) projects.

Keeping this in view, CCEA gave approval to take up these sections on BOT (Annuity) mode without any further clearance from CCEA, if no response to the bids on BOT (Toll) is received, after at least two advertisements.

The projects include four-laning of national highways in Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh on BOT basis
• The CCEA also gave its nod to the project for providing four-lane connectivity to the proposed ICTT at Vallarpadam in Kochi, Kerala using cess funds

MF collections up 25 per cent in Orissa

The mutual fund investment in Orissa is estimated at over Rs 400 crore.

This has gone up appreciably by about 25 per cent 325 crore during last year. This achievement is particularly noteworthy because of the fact that Orissa does not have many large corporate who are known to invest huge amounts in mutual fund instruments.

The mutual market in the state is mainly driven by the small and retail investors, mostly comprising the salaried class who are attracted to the sector for availing tax saving benefits.

However, despite this growth Orissa’s share in the national mutual fund pie is very small.

The total assets managed by the mutual fund industry in the country is estimated at over Rs. 3 lakh crore.

The mutual fund industry is experiencing phenomenal growth over last few years because of buoyant stock market, says Raghvendra Nath, Head – strategy and business development of Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund.

Nath, who was here to launch the company’s Birla Sun Life Long Term Advantage Fund -series 1 (BSLAF-series 1) said, though equity market has given fabulous return to the investors over last 3-4 years, they have to change their investment portfolio judiciously if they want the same rate of return to continue in future.

As the stock market movement during last 3-4 years was based upon strong fundamentals and there is a lot of interest among the Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs), the market is likely to be bullish.

The investment in small and midcap companies has given good return to the investors and the trend likely to continue, he added. He said, the asset under management of Birla Mutual Fund has increased from Rs. 3500 crore five years back to Rs.20, 000 crore at present.

Nath said, Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund has no immediate plan to start any offshore fund.

“Though there have been deliberations on it, no final decision has been taken so far”.

Birla Mutual Fund has launched BSLAF-series 1. It is a three year closed end equity fund which aims to provide long term capital appreciation.

Upon maturity, the scheme will automatically be converted into an open-ended scheme.

The resources mobilised through this fund will be mainly invested in a portfolio of attractively priced small and mid cap stocks expected to post attractive growth in next few years.

Orissa villagers damage roads protesting steel plant

Hundreds of villagers, protesting the proposed steel plant by a South Korean firm in their area, Thursday damaged roads and set up barricades in this Orissa district to prevent the police or company officials from entering their villages.

‘The villagers cut off roads at three places after the local administration deployed over 500 policemen in our locality,’ said Abhaya Sahoo, a leader of a local organisation that opposes the proposed steel plant by South Korea’s POSCO.

The roads linking Nuagaon, Dhinkia, Trilochanpur and Gobindapur villages were cut off by villagers, said Sahoo, who is the president of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS).

POSCO, one of the world’s biggest steel makers, signed a deal with the state government in June 2005 to set up a $12 billion plant near the port town of Paradeep by 2016. However, there has not been any significant progress on the project due to local opposition.

While the state government claimed that it deployed police personnel to bring normality in the area and to help the administration conduct local bodies election, villagers alleged it was an attempt by the local administration to acquire their farmland for industrial use.

Elections to local bodies were held in February across the state barring some villages in the region following clashes between supporters and protestors of the proposed steel plant.

According to Sahoo, hundreds of villagers are guarding some other roads to prevent policemen and government officials from entering the district.

‘The villagers have also placed wooden gates at nine places to prevent the entry of any officials,’ A. Panda, a local police official, said.

More than 20,000 people of about 15 nearby villages including Dhinkia, Gada Kujanga and Nuagaon have been opposing the project, fearing eviction. The villagers say the project will displace them and ruin their betel leaf farming.

POSCO, however, says although the plant would affect only 500 families it will create thousands of jobs

Nine foetuses found in drain in Bengal

COOCHBEHAR: Nine foetuses packed in plastic bags were found in a drain near the sub-divisional hospital in Tufangunj town of West Bengal’s Coochbehar district on Wednesday.

District Magistrate Rajesh Kumar Sinha said the sex of the foetuses and their origin were yet to be ascertained.

The plastic packets were recovered when municipality workers were cleaning the drain at about 6.30 pm in Tufangunj, a sub-divisional town about 30 km from this district headquarter town of North Bengal.

An FIR was lodged in this regard with the Tufangunj police station.

Local people raised suspicion that the foetuses were dumped after illegal abortion. A senior district health official said no one would be spared if any health department personnel was found to be involved in the matter.

The Chief Medical Officer and The Additional Superintendent of Police have rushed to Tufangunj from here, the District Magistrate said.

High-tech sector eyes India’s rural market

KOLKATA – The roads are dusty and unpaved; electricity is erratic and its quality inferior; the residents seldom finish school and to most the use of hi-technology starts with a television and ends with a mobile phone – just for talking. Yet ask the heads of dozens of technology companies in India and they will tell you that foremost on their list of strategic moves is to head into rural India.

From multinational high-tech consumer durable companies to Chinese mobile-phone makers; from global information

technology giants such as Microsoft to back-office service providers; global telecom and biotechnology companies, and even India’s IT-sector lobbyist, the National Association of Software Services Companies (NASSCOM), are stepping out of the cities and moving into the villages and towns of rural India.

Each has different imperatives and objectives, but all say that the growing influence of rural India on the country’s society and economy is too big to ignore. Over 740 million people – about 65% of India’s population – live in some 600,000 villages and small towns, and according to a recent survey by Indian Revenue Service, more than half of the 145 million rural households in India earn between US$300 and $1,400 a year.

And although only estimates of the present size of the rural markets are available, according to a survey by the global advisory firm Mckinsey & Co, carried out in April last year, India’s rural markets have the potential to reach $500 billion by 2020.

But that’s old news. After all, the realization that rural India holds huge potential dawned on people about two decades back, when fast-moving consumer product companies – makers of toothpaste, soap, detergent, soft drinks, etc – moved in, first just to sell their products. But what’s different in the “Rural Strategy Version 2″ is the new range of interests and their approach in tapping this largely unexplored market. The latest rural aspirants include a wide range of companies, ranging from retail products to drug and industrial products companies, as well as many technology companies.

Their strategy, too, is different. Few are looking at selling their products or services immediately; in fact, many are willing to wait for years. In addition, almost all are targeting the entire rural population rather than just the affluent elite.

Take Yahoo for example, the latest firm to announce that it is moving into rural India. This Internet company has finally decided to take the plunge after watching the markets for several months, primarily because competition from rival portals is getting tougher. According to Pranesh Anthapur, chief operations officer of Yahoo India, “The importance of rural India can’t be underestimated any more.” The company plans – for the time being – to just promote brand awareness by providing basic e-commerce support against the backdrop of growing personal computer ownership and Internet penetration in rural India.

Yahoo’s obvious competition in the rural markets is Google, which announced its foray about two weeks back and does not have profits in mind either – at least not just yet. This search-engine technology innovator’s “challenge” is to make the search engine less complicated, as well as to develop content for rural users – such as weather updates, crop patterns, ebb and tide schedules, etc.

Similarly, DataWind Net Access Corp, a Canada-based provider of wireless web access products and services, has tied up with the Indian IT lobbyist NASSCOM to run Internet training programs in the villages and small towns in the Indian states of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra. The objective looks more social than commercial in the sense that the aim is to improve the reach and user base of the Internet in villages and small towns so that state and district administration services can be enhanced and made more transparent.

Rural India also drives volumes

But if the rural markets are not revenue generators yet for Yahoo!, Google or even Microsoft – which is implementing the “IT Saksham” project primarily to evangelize the benefits of using IT in rural communities – most telecom companies (and even mobile handset makers) are moving out of larger cities and plugging into the rural sector, purely to ramp up volumes.

Although urban markets are still lucrative and will continue to be the focus for the telecom sector, the untapped potential of the rural markets is now seen as the next volume driver. “India has the target of reaching 500 phone subscribers – from the present 200 million (fixed plus mobile) – by 2010, and that kind of growth can only come from the rural segment,” said TV Ramachandran, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

In fact, a strange thing happened in India two weeks ago. To create and run networks in remote areas, the government announced the auction of 81 rural regions, the laying-out cost of which was supposed to have been subsidized by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) created by the Department of Telecom (DoT) in 2003. The resources for implementation of this objective are raised through a 5% universal service levy on gross revenue of all telecom companies (except the pure value-added service providers like the Internet, voicemail, e-mail service providers) and grants and loans from the federal government.

However, in 38 of the 81 regions, telecom companies did not bid – meaning that subsidies was not sought at all – and in about 15 regions, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Aircel (three of India’s large telecom companies) submitted negative bids – which means that they preferred to pay into the USOF instead of accepting its support.

“Most of the rural pockets, which were unviable even a few years back, have now become viable and profitable. Therefore, operators preferred to pay to the USOF rather than to take its support and be bound by a few restrictive DoT conditions,” said a COAI spokesperson.

Small wonder then that with the DoT stranded with unutilized USOF funds of about $2 billion as of March, many telecom experts have started questioning the utility of creating such a fund in the country.

Indeed, to some extent, thanks to an abysmally low teledensity (number of telephone connections per 100 people) of 4% (versus 15% in urban areas) in rural India, that segment of the market is scorching. According to the vision plan drawn up by the DoT, 200 million rural telephone connections are envisaged by the end of 2012, taking the rural teledensity figure to 25%.

New source for human resources

India’s 700 million-plus rural population is a cheap talent pool as well. That’s what the flourishing IT-enabled services or the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector has realized lately. Stymied in their growth by an acute shortage of human resources in the cities (where the attrition rate can go up to 60%) local BPO companies have now started moving into to the rural sector for launching their services. The other reason why the rural sector has emerged as attractive is cost. The industry says that the infrastructure cost is 20% cheaper compared to urban set-ups.

Pioneers that have set up such centers include Lason Inc (a US-based outsourcing firm), GramIT (a rural venture associated with local IT giant the Satyam Group), and Datamation (a Delhi-based group). These are now the key players in the Indian rural BPO scene, who say that besides reducing costs for their customers, their rural strategy has also been a key contributor toward bridging the digital divide and creating jobs.

Maoist outfits declared unlawful in Chhattisgarh

Raipur, Apr 12: The Chhattisgarh Government has declared Communist Party of India (Maoist) and its five frontal organisations ”unlawful”.

The Home department has issued a notification declaring these organisations as ”unlawful” under section 3 of the Chhattisgarh Special Peoples’ Security Act, 2006, for one year, official sources said today.

Besides CPI (Maoist), a naxalite organisation active in many districts of Chhattisgarh, five frontal organisations had also been brought under the provisions of the Act.

These organisations are the Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Mazdoor Sangh, the Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Sangh, the Krantikari Adivasi Balak Sangh, the Krisnikari Kisan Committee and the Mahila Mukti Morcha.

The Dr Raman Singh Government had brought the Chhattisgarh Special Peoples’ Security Act, 2006, to contain unlawful activities in the state, particularly in the light of increased naxalite activities in tribal Bastar region. Jharkhand News Network

April 12, 2007 at 9:59 pm Leave a comment

Apr 11, 2007

10 engineering colleges coming up in Jharkhand

Of the total engineering graduates in India, the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu produce 66 per cent. Jharkhand produces just one per cent.

The stark contrast could well soon become a data of the past, with as many as 10 new engineering colleges coming up in Jharkhand during the current calendar year. In fact, a few of them are even coming up in the state’s worst Naxalite-affected districts like West Singhbhum, Palamu, Garhwa and Hazaribag.

Of the 10, two colleges are being set up by the state government, six by different private parties and one each by the Vinoba Bhave University (VBU) and the management of DAV Schools on public private partnership (PPP) basis.

Construction works of three colleges are progressing at a very fast pace and if things proceed in the right direction, the VBU’s proposed engineering college at Hazaribag will admit its first batch from the 2007-08 academic session which will commence from coming September.

“We have already made presentation before the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the latter had issued the letter of intent (LoI) to us. The AICTE has also agreed to do mandatory inspection of our proposed college within a few months. We have planned to start the first batch from the coming session itself,” the VBU Vice Chancellor MP Singh told Hindustan Times on Tuesday.

He said, the proposed institute would be known as the University College of Engineering & Technology (UCET) and it would be set up within the VBU’s present campus.

The Jharkhand Government is setting up its two engineering colleges at Chaibasa and Ramgarh, while the DAV Group at Daltonganj with the financial support from the state government.

The state government has already released Rs 3 crore to the DAV Group and also promised to release another installment of Rs 3 crore in the next phase.

“Construction works for Chaibasa and Ramgarh engineering colleges will begin from the current month, as the government had already awarded tender for construction jobs to the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) and the National Project Construction Corporation (NPCC),” the state’s science & technology secretary AK Basu told HT.

He said, the government would move to the AICTE for approval of the intake capacity as soon as the buildings and hostels of the two colleges get ready.

The DAV group also has acquired sufficient lands near Daltonganj for its college. It has already erected boundary walls and began construction of buildings, reports reaching Ranchi from Palamu administration suggest.

Besides these, six colleges are being set up by different private parties, educational trusts and political leaders. While the RJD MLA Ramchandra Chandravanshi is setting up an engineering college in his constituency Vishrampur (Palamu), the former BJP MP Ramtahal Choudhary at his hometown Ormanjhi.

Now, Naxals take arms delivery from govt factory

NEW DELHI: A large cache of government-issue explosives seized recently from Maoists by the Jharkhand police has unnerved the security establishment.

The explosives were reportedly obtained by the rebels from the defence ministry’s ordnance factory in Wardha, Maharashtra.

The revelation has exacerbated security agencies’ anxiety, which was initially brought by the discovery that the Maoists had ready access to the government’s secret anti-Naxal deliberations.

DNA had reported on March 31 that government forces had recovered classified documents from a guerrilla unit after an encounter in Chhattisgarh.

The documents contained minutes of two meetings held last year in which anti-Maoist operations were discussed. One of the meetings was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The recent seizure of explosives affords more insights into rebel operations. First, the Maoists’ supply of arms and explosives is not limited to those looted from police and security forces or procured from mines, or from crusher operators. Security agencies are worried that Maoists seem to have fixed conduits in sensitive government organisations and the defence establishment.

Second, the haul reveals a link with Maharashtra, and a network so efficient that it facilitated untraced procurement and delivery to Jharkhand.

The haul included gelatin sticks, fuse wire, and electronic detonators — in sufficient volumes to produce hundreds of landmines.

The menace from the growing capability of Maoists is exemplified by a string of almost daily attacks in Jharkhand, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh. The most recent incursion was recorded last week. The large number of Maoist cadres involved in these incidents has worried security agencies. The numbers indicate the expansion of Naxal influence and support base as well as the failure of intelligence agencies to obtain information.

After slaying Sunil Mahto, a Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MP, and launching other attacks, the Maoists gained enough confidence to issue a threat to Jharkhand Deputy Chief Minister Sudhir Mahto. They warned him against making anti-Maoist speeches “cooked up on the dictates of corporate houses, native and foreign, and the landed gentry to cover the failures of your government”.

The rebels’ communication says: “How can you justify the wealth amassed by Sunil Mahto? Sunil was born poor family and became a millionaire.” Concerned by the intensifying activity, the Union home ministry has called for three meetings in April to take stock of the situation

Woman ultra who saved the lives of six CISF men

Six men including two CISF personnel were killed when the extremists attacked a CISF barrack on Saturday, April 6 at Bermo. But the six CISF men, who finally survived, owe their lives to a young woman Maoist, who had pleaded, argued and finally persuaded fellow comrades to let the injured CISF men go injured but alive.

Additional Director General of Police (Special Branch) Gauri Shankar Rath confirmed that this particular woman extremist actually saved these lives.

“When the Maoists barged into the CISF barrack after hours of gunfight, the security personnel had no ammunition left. They were injured and could not have defended them. Killing these men was the next thing expected from the Maoists. But the woman saved them. In fact, the CISF survivors have testified that had this woman not intervened, the Naxalites would have killed them,” Rath told HT on Tuesday.

According to Bokaro police officers, few of the Maoists had even cocked up their rifles. “She actually came in between and convinced the fellow comrades that killing these men will serve no purpose. This was unprecedented as Maoists have no history of leaving captured security personnel alive. It seems the women extremist despite wearing the Maoists greens still have some compassion left within,” said the Bokaro police officer.

The good news about the women extremist, however, appears to end here, as the recent Maoists attacks, both in Bihar and Jharkhand, have dished out a dangerous trend — that women are plying the lead role in launching attacks against the security forces.

The Maoist squad that had attacked Bermo had several women manning leadership positions. Again on Sunday, it was a group of women Maoists that sprinkled chilly powder in the eyes of five RPF men at Narganjo railway station (Bihar), and looted their weapons. Before moving out, they also shot two RPF men dead.

Similarly, it was a group of women Maoists that had snatched weapons of Sunil Mahto’s bodyguards before the other team killed the Member of Parliament from Jharkhand on March 4.

“The women Maoists are almost as skilled and dangerous as their male counterparts. Besides, the Maoists leaders find women more trustworthy, as they seldom desert the organisation,” Rath admitted.

Not surprisingly, the number of women extremists is swelling in both Jharkhand and Bihar, officers admit.

Wind of change sweeping Bihar higher education

In Bihar, there is a wind of change sweeping across higher education these days. Reason: The pro-active role of the Chancellor’s office.

Ever since he took over last year, Chancellor-cum-Governor of Bihar RS Gavai singled out revamp of higher education as his main priority.
Nine months on, there are many firsts to his credit. The Chancellor’s office has made it compulsory for teachers to stay on campus for a minimum of five hours and banned private tuition.

He has taken disciplinary action against the errant teachers, something unheard of earlier. For the first time, a team from Raj Bhawan has so far inspected over 120 colleges in different parts of the state to improve the scenario.

Like schools, colleges are organising parent teachers’ meet to improve attendance. The Chancellor office has made it clear that those having less than 75 per cent attendance should not be allowed to take examinations at any cost. To streamline the derailed academic session, there is deadline of July for the universities to set things right. For the first time, all the VCs in Bihar were selected after their interview with the Chancellor.

In an exclusive interview with HT, Gavai said that he would not tolerate if teachers shied away from their duty. “Teachers’ primary job is to teach. That is what they are paid for and that is what I want from them. They cannot remain on unauthorised leave and still draw salary. I have asked all the vice chancellors to enforce campus discipline,” he added.

Gavai said that he would not hesitate to take action against “habitually truant” teachers. “Majority of the teachers and students are happy. There are a few, however, who are finding the changes difficult to digest. But they will have to fall in line. They cannot enjoy life like they did earlier at the cost of students,” he added.

The Chancellor said that he had already initiated a number of measures. “I, as a Governor, have involved myself and accepted the challenge to set higher education right. I take actions accordingly. I am doing it with my heart. Whatever I am doing is within my rights as the Chancellor,” he added.

Gavai said that efforts were already on to streamline the academic session. “There will be a uniform academic calendar and holiday calendar in all the universities. I have asked my OSD (Education) Krishna Kumar to work out a detailed plan to revive inter-university sports and culture meets in the state,” he added.

Hand pump promises brides for unmarried villagers

Badwan (Bihar), April 10 (IANS) Dry summers have for long been the cruellest months for bachelors in a Bihar village – non-availability of drinking water had meant no brides. But a simple hand pump has changed all that.

The increasing number of young and middle-aged unmarried men of Badwan, a hilly village in Kaimur district about 250 km from here, are finally hopeful of tying the knot this year. All thanks to a hand pump installed ahead of ‘lagan’, the traditional marriage season in summer across rural Bihar.

The middle-aged unmarried men as well as their parents in Badwan village are cheerfully looking forward to marriage negotiations from families of prospective brides as the marriage season begins in the second week of April.

On several occasions in the last few years, marriage negotiations had failed to mature due to shortage of drinking water that discouraged girls’ families from marrying off their daughters to men of this village.

Like dozens of unmarried men in Badwan village, Birendra Yadav and his friend Shyam Chandra Yadav, both in their late 30s, are happy as never before. ‘We are sure that now girls’ families will turn up at our village in search of grooms. We hope not to die unmarried thanks to the hand pump,’ said Birendra.

‘No girl’s father was ready to give his daughter to a boy from this village due to the water problem,’ agreed Madan Mishra, a village priest. Mishra’s own family reflects this social reality. Three of his five brothers are unmarried.

The local administration installed a hand pump in the village some time back under the rural development programme scheme to provide safe drinking water. Earlier, the villagers, mostly women, had to trek four-five km every day to fetch potable water.

According to former village body head Ram Dayal Kharwar, around 35 to 40 men in the village over the age of 30-35 were unmarried because of the water problem.

Dozens of old men here are unmarried too because of this reason. ‘Water scarcity is to be blamed for their unmarried status,’ affirmed other villagers.

‘Finally, the government has installed a hand pump in our village. It has ended the century-old drinking water problem for us,’ said a smiling Mahesh Kharwar, an old villager.

Hundreds of villages in central Bihar spread over a dozen districts – known as Maoist-affected areas – have been facing acute scarcity of drinking water during summer for years.

A senior government official from the department of rural development admitted that water scarcity is a hard reality not only in rural but in urban areas here.

Not just a status symbol

The political scientist, Rajni Kothari, observed that one way to think about India is as a people and a land made up of a series of minorities. He was right. In the first all-India census in 1881, the enumerators found that Muslims numbered only 19.7 per cent of the population. They uncovered a geographically dispersed aggregate of Muslims forming neither a collectivity nor a distinct society for any purpose, political, economic and social. Out of a total population of about 50 million, the Muslims in Bengal spoke Bengali and those in Punjab used largely Punjabi as their language. Those living in Tamil Nadu spoke Tamil; those settled on the Malabar coast spoke Malayalam.

The enumerators found Muslims whose religious rituals had a very strong tinge of Hinduism and who retained caste and observed Hindu festivals and ceremonies. In Bengal, between the 15th and the 18th centuries, many Muslim cultural mediators wrote in Bengali. They expressed Islam in the local cultural medium, an idiom greatly enriched in the same period by translations of the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, into Bengali, and the expression of Nath and Vaishnava teachings.

The entry of Muslims in South Asia through so many and such separate doorways, their spread over the subcontinent by so many different routes, and the diffusion of Islam in different forms from one area to the other, ensured that this religion would present itself in those different forms. Neither to its own adherents nor to non-Muslims did Islam seem monochromatic, monolithic or indeed mono-anything.

The notion of ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ is a colonial invention. It did not exist under the Mughals: the lines of division then were regional and ethnic (in the way they are in the United States today) rather than religious. Under colonial rule, however, the introduction of representative institutions in late 19th century raised fears of minorities being swamped by the majority. They were echoed by Syed Ahmad Khan of Aligarh and, importantly enough, by the Hindu Sabha and the Akalis in Punjab where the Hindus and the Sikhs were in a minority. In December 1916, the Congress concluded the Lucknow Pact with the League on the principle that the Muslims were a religious minority. The Nehru Committee Report in 1928 lent its approval to the notion of a Muslim minority in need of constitutional safeguards.

The Muslim spokesmen had a three-fold aim: to trace the historical evolution of an imaginary community as an antithesis to the Congress theory of ‘Unity in Diversity'; to emphasise its distinct identity in order to extract concessions from the government; and to invoke Islamic symbols in defence of ‘Muslim aspirations’. This is how ‘Muslim nationalism’ gained legitimacy in the eyes of the Muslim landed and urban-based professional classes who were apprehensive about their position in the newly-created power structures. Hence every single step from 1909 to 1935 towards the devolution of authority to Indian hands lent weight to notions of majority and minority rights.

The British government had created a Muslim identity in Indian politics through the Acts of 1909 and 1919. Now, in the 1940s, they could draw comfort from M.A. Jinnah repeating much the same arguments in support of a formal minority status through separate electorates, weightages, and reservation in the councils and public services. Later, they backed his Pakistan project as a reward for his supporting the war effort.

After Independence and Partition, leaders like Maulana Azad questioned the standard definition of a minority, arguing that “their heads are held so high that to consider them a minority deserving special concessions makes no sense”. Nobody heeded such advice. Muslims regard themselves as a minority and there is nothing one can do to change that self-perception. This perception is grounded in history and, what is more, it draws legitimation from the constitutional provisions guaranteeing minority rights. These cannot be taken away by an executive fiat or a judicial judgment. Let us remember that the issue at hand was not the minority status of Muslims but to find ways and means of integrating them into the nation-building project.

How does one draw up the balance sheet on Indian democracy? It is generally agreed that the Constitution balances well the commitment of a democratic and liberal State to provide equal status for all and the need to take account of weaker and backward groups. The Muslims, on the other hand, have been economically marginalised and are disproportionately located towards the lower end of the socio-economic hierarchy. They lag behind the majority in income, in education, in participation in the major institutions of the country.

In June 1983, the Gopal Singh Committee had stated in no uncertain terms that the Muslims were “the hewers of wood and drawers of water”. Now, in November 2007, the Sachar Committee’s findings point to the “deficits and deprivation in practically all dimensions of development”, and to the absence of any great schemes that would stir the Muslims from a long sleep and beckon them to a prosperous future.

Why do the Muslims lag behind the majority? What does one do to mitigate the effects of those factors that make so many of them so much more poorer and backward than other Indians? Somebody must have the answers. The Manmohan Singh government, proceeding on the right assumption that the Muslims constituted a minority and recognising their uneasiness over their economic status, has initiated certain administrative measures. They deserve unqualified support.

Let me draw your attention to another compelling need. One of the crucial functions of most Constitutions is to protect minorities against the tyranny of the majority. This protection ensures equal respect for each and every citizen, a value at risk in any organisation run by majority votes. Therefore, the need is to preserve the idea that all citizens deserve to enter public space on equal terms and conditions. Indeed, as Malini Parthasarathy, the former editor of Hindu, pointed out, “It is time that those Indians who pride themselves on being part of the global community yet have bought unquestioningly the notion that the minorities are responsible for some imagined economic deprivation, ask some hard questions. By driving the minorities to the margins of a civil society of which they are equal inheritors and thereby polarising Indian society, rendering it more vulnerable to bitter internal conflicts, how can the dream of a modernising India becoming part of a wider global community, sharing a vision of faster economic growth and greater prosperity, really materialise?”

Minorities do not expect miracles to transform their lives, but they expect the State to guarantee them their right to observe and practise their religion, and provide them the opportunity, regardless of their faith, to lead a dignified and self-respecting existence. “A majoritarian democracy is no democracy at all,” declared Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah. “It is only a participatory, representative and inclusive democracy that can take a pluralistic society further and make it conflict-free.”

Whether Indian secularism can survive in any meaningful sense in the 21st century will depend on how religious minorities can share power and privilege and, at the same time, preserve and safeguard their religious and cultural interests that are enshrined in our Constitution. Jawaharlal Nehru had proclaimed in September 1950, “People should learn the great lesson that the inscriptions on Asoka’s pillars teach that a man respecting the religion and culture of others increases the value of one’s own. If the religion or culture of others is run down, to that extent the value of one’s religion and culture is lowered.”

The author is the Vice Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi

Hindustan Motors slams brakes at Uttarpara

KOLKATA: Hindustan Motors, the GP-CK Birla group automobile firm, on Wednesday announced the suspension of work at the Uttarpara (West Bengal) manufacturing facility, amid apprehensions that a sustained production shutdown could impact the company’s bottomline.

HM manufactures the Ambassador and the multi-utility vehicle Trekker, spread over 743 acres, one of the largest automobile facilities in South Asia. The facility also supplies components to Tata Motors and Ford.

About 300-odd cars are now piled up inside the plant premises since there is a complete blockage of entry and exit of material at Uttarpara.

“There is no estimate of losses (on account of the suspension of operations) but this will have some effect on the bottomline,” company spokesperson Soni Srivastava said.

Before labour trouble disrupted production, HM was making between 13,000-15,000 Ambassadors at Uttarpara annually. The company’s second plant near Chennai makes Mitsubishi Lancer cars.

What led to this situation?

Tension between labour and management had been brewing since March 13 with Sangram Shramik Yukta Manch (SSYM), an umbrella organisation of different trade unions affiliated to Congress, Trinamul Congress and Naxalites, picketing the factory gates and preventing willing workers to enter the premises.

The company management had secured court orders from the administration to ensure willing workers were not obstructed from joining duties.

This triggered a series of clashes between rival factions of workers.

Tension reached a boiling point on Tuesday morning when police used lathi charge to break up clashing workers, resulting in injury to 10 workers.

Srivastava said the management has been constrained to issue the work suspension notice because of prolonged tension and lawlessness in the factory premises.

“We cannot risk lives of any individual and property. Since the start of agitation, we had impressed upon the unions that there should not be any obstruction to entry of willing workers and raw materials,” she said.

Of the 4,000 total employees at Uttarpara, about 200-300 have been agitating for some time over payment of dearness allowance and revocation of suspension of some 15 workers, Srivastava said.

Sunil Sarkar, general secretary of the CITU-led workers’ union in Uttarpara, told DNA Money: “SSYM supporters resorted to total hooliganism. They used coercion to prevent willing workers from entering the factory. Even workers of our union were intimidated and beaten up.”

SSYM convenor Ajit Chakraborty told DNA Money the work suspension issued by the HM management “is illegal”.

“We will challenge this and also step up our agitation to prevent the management from depriving workers’ dues,” Chakraborty said.

Srivastava said HM was open to negotiations with agitating employees, provided there is no violence and the agitators allow free movement of goods from and to the factory.

Company insiders said a prolonged work suspension at Uttarpara could jeopardise HM’s plans to turn around its production base in West Bengal, which has been incurring a loss of about Rs 40 crore per year.

At heart of the revival plan for Uttarpara is the 314 acres of surplus land identified by the company.

The state government has approved HM’s proposal for re-using this surplus land.

And even though HM has not yet officially unveiled its plans, sources said that the company intends to convert this surplus into a automotive component hub that would house some of HM’s own engineering services and solution divisions apart from production base for other vendors.

Globsyn shifts IT wing to Chennai

Globsyn Technologies is shifting its software business to Chennai while the education and training operations will continue to be headquartered in Kolkata.

Last year the company acquired Synergy Log-in which operates out of Chennai and Mumbai. Bikram Dasgupta, chairman and chief executive officer, Globsyn Technologies said, Synergy already had 100 people in Chennai and it made more sense to grow the software operations in Chennai.

He said, in Kolkata there was dearth of mid-sized companies, which led in turn led to dearth of mid-level managers. “Kolkata has either an IBM, TCS, Cognizant or nobody.”

Globsyn would make fresh investments in its software business in Chennai. The group was eyeing another acquisition and on completion the software operations in Chennai would have 500-600 people.”

Globsyn, whose marketing headquarters are in Mumbai has transferred its entire technical base of operations to Chennai by reallocating its software development facilities as well as 80 per cent of its production support capability to the south Indian city.

Globsyn management also feels that that Chennai possesses a better infrastructure for software development than most other Indian cities.

The company has also started recruiting local talent on a large scale. Dasgupta said, the group was restructuring and software business would be consolidated in a single company, which would have the “Globsyn” tag and it would be listed. Synergy happens to be a listed company.

Globsyn’s education and training business comprises the Globsyn Business School, the Globsyn BPO academy and the Globsyn IBM competency centre. Asked about the company’s decision, State IT secretary Siddharth said, “It’s their business decision.”

However, he countered Globsyn’s claim that in Kolkata there was dearth of mid-sized companies, which led in turn led to dearth of mid-level managers. He said a lot of mid sized companies like Rolta are setting up base in the state and many are also operating.

On Globsyn’s feeling that that Chennai possesses a better infrastructure for software development than most other Indian cities, he said Bengal is also not lagging behind in infrastructure and this can be explained from the fact that companies like TCS are expanding capacity and Wipro is also asking for land for expansion.

“This shows the presence of good infrastructure in the state,” he said. He said the company has not intimated the state government about its decision

US trade team to explore new business goals

A 12-member US trade delegation will be in the city this weekend to explore newer opportunities of business co-operation with West Bengal.
Headed by Susan Schwab, US trade representative, the delegation will be in the city to discuss bilateral trade issues. “The delegation will also meet the chief minister on Saturday,” Henry V Jardine, US consul-general, told Newsline. Schwab, a Cabinet-level official, will be accompanied by other representatives associated with the US industry.

While this delegation may explore areas of common and mutual interests, things are already under process between the US and the Indian companies, including ones in West Bengal. Last month, representatives of the USINDIA Business Council had met chief minister and the state industry minister, extending an invitation for a US visit and expressing eagerness for participation in the regional business.

Ron Somers, president of the USINDIA Business Council, had then said that American delegates have “left (the city) with open eyes to come back soon again”. Bhattacharjee had then suggested that American delegates can participate in the development of Siliguri as a logistic hub. The other areas of interest between the two sides include food-processing and petrochemicals.

Now, other than the Schwab-led delegation scheduled to be in the city on Saturday, another important US trade delegation is also expected to be in the city this summer. Lesa Forbes, international trade specialist with US Commercial Service, Miami, Florida, told Newsline that a delegation will be in the city representing Florida. Forbes, currently in the city for exploring local markets, said: “Agriculture, machinery, metal/ steel are the sectors we may be looking at. But, specific industries may be taken up first. The delegation will comprise Florida-based companies,” Forbes said. Florida, the fourth largest US market comprising 18 million people, has proficiency in numerous industries, including high-tech opportunities, research and development, information technology, aviation and aerospace.

Orissa villagers protest against POSCO

The people in Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Garh-Kujang panchayats in Kujang in Orissa’s Jagtsinghpur district seem ready for the big fight.

They have erected check-gates at nine entry points to the area and it’s women and children who are at the forefront. They are opposing to land acquisition for POSCO’s $12 billion steel plant, port project and SEZ.

The proposed SEZ requires over 4000 acres of land near the sea and that would mean at least 600 families across eight villages would be displaced.

The seaside land is rich in cash crops like betel-vines and cashew and the village paddy fields are quite fertile. As a result, everyone in the village is an earning member.

“Agricultural economy should be given primacy and industrialization on barren lands are welcome but industrialization at the cost of agricultural lands will be resisted,” said Avay Sahoo, President, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.

But the state government, which is under pressure both from POSCO and the Central government to acquire land for the project is treading carefully.

Nearly 20 platoons of armed police have been deployed in Kujang town but they have not yet ventured into the troubled zone .

Residential girls’ schools in scheduled areas in Orissa

Bhubaneswar, April 11: The Orissa government will set up residential girls’ schools in ten blocks located in scheduled areas every year, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said Tuesday.

“This will result in all blocks in the scheduled areas of the state having a residential girls’ school within the next three years,” he said while presiding over the tribal advisory council meeting here.

The undivided districts of Koraput, Kandhamal and Gajapati would be accorded priority where the female literacy rate was the lowest, he said.

Reiterating the government decision to establish 1,000 hostels for tribal girls in Orissa, he said the measure would benefit over one lakh girls.

Patnaik said that 557 such hostels had been constructed during 2006-07 while work on the other hostels would be completed by June this year.

Besides, 110 hostels would be constructed in the KBK region during the current financial year under the Biju KBK Yojana of the state government.

The government also planned to provide improved looms to weavers belonging to scheduled tribes and train them in weaving. Three such training centres would be set up at Saintala in Balangir district, Sohela in Bargarh district and Bangiriposhi in Mayurbhanj district, Patnaik said.

A resolution was adopted at the meeting opposing the Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh on the ground that it would affect the livelihood of tribals.

Maoists kill three members of civil militia

Maoists have killed three senior members of a civil militia movement who they had abducted last week from a government-run relief camp in Chhattisgarh, police said on Wednesday.
The dead men were members of the Salwa Judum, a government-backed movement meant to counter the Maoists.

Their bodies were found in a forested part of the southern Dantewada district, 515 km south of Raipur, with multiple knife wounds on their necks.

“We found three dead bodies lying on a road in Dantewada district late last night,” a senior police officer told Reuters by telephone. “The bodies were identified on Wednesday as senior cadres of the Salwa Judum movement.”

Around 50,000 people have left their homes to live in relief camps run by the Salwa Judum in southern Chhattisgarh, the worst affected state by the Maoist insurgency.

Last month, rebels carried out one of their deadliest attacks in four decades of insurgency when they attacked a police base in Chhattisgarh and killed 55 policemen.
11T142649Z_01_NOOTR_RTRJONC_0_India-293841-1.xml Jharkhand News Network

April 11, 2007 at 10:30 pm Leave a comment

Apr 10, 2007

Recovered explosives a can of worries for Jharkhand police

The huge cache of explosives seized by the Ranchi police on Saturday has opened a can of worries for the Jharkhand police, as the consignment has been traced to the Government Ordnance Factory at Wardha, Maharashtra.

The seizure holds special significance, since this has been the first occasion when the Maoists’ link with Maharashtra to procure explosives has been exposed. So far, the Maoists in Jharkhand were found procuring explosives through different means from the Central Coalfields Ltd (CCL), and from the local crusher operators.

“The seized explosives were found good enough to plant over 100 lethal landmines in Jharkhand. This was also the intent of the Maoists, who got the materials transported from Wardha through a Bihar-based conduit,” Ranchi SSP Manvinder Singh Bhatia told HT on Tuesday.

“In fact, in terms of fuse wires and the detonators, the seized explosives could have done a bigger damage,” Bhatia said. The recovered haul included 6,460 pieces of gelatin sticks besides 12,500 meter long safety fuse wire and 2,000 pieces of electronic detonators.

“The Ranchi police will send a team to Wardha to check the factory’s records including the inventories of the registered buyers to get to the bottom of the explosive traders,” Bhatia said.

“The Ranchi police also want to procure the list of the explosive buyers, and the network will be crosschecked by a special team,” said an officer.

Similarly, a separate team is to be sent to Bihar from where a middleman is said to have channelled the explosives to Jharkhand.

The police, however, concede that the biggest bottleneck is the fact that the recovered gelatine sticks do not have batch numbers punched on them, and this may hamper the investigations because without them the factory cannot provide pinpointed information about the particular buyer.

A State Home Department official said the department may also take up the issue with its counterparts in Maharashtra and in the Union government to make the Ordnance Factory see reasons.

There are also suggestions to introduce a liquid-based explosive and on-the-site mixing of the components to prepare it, a senior IPS officer said. “In fact, the coal companies have also agreed to phase out the stick-based gelatine explosives. This, however, is a long term solution,” the officer added.

Besides, there are suggestions to mix substance with strong odour into the explosive substances. “This would be handy both for the sniffer dogs as well as for the police personnel to trace the unauthorised stacking of explosive materials,” said an officer.

Naxals: United in violence

Tuesday, April 10, 2007 (New Delhi): If the Kuki rebels are coming together in Manipur, in India’s heartland the dreaded Naxal militants are also forging new links, which many say is behind the new and bloody chapter of Naxal violence.

But is the unity real or is it to conceal personality clashes and competing violence between these groups in India’s red corridor?

Inside the forests along the borders between Jharkhand and Orissa, Naxal leaders from across the country are once again displaying their new unified strength.

In September 2004, the two biggest Naxal groups, the People’s War led by Andhra Naxalites and MCC or Maoist Communist Centre, the Jharkhand based Naxal outfit, formally merged.

The merger created the CPI Maoist – an umbrella Naxal force stretching from Andhra, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa to Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh – literally a red corridor through the heart of the nation.

This comes after decades of factionalism in the Naxal movement.

Armed revolution

The Communists in West Bengal soon after coming to power in 1967 faced a revolt by the radicals.

Opposed to electoral politics and inspired by Mao’s violent revolution, leaders like Kanu Sanyal and Charu Mazumdar triggered strikes – the first one in the village of Naxalbari.

What was born was Naxalism or a call for armed revolution that intially organised as CPI-ML.

Later, the CPI-ML did an about turn, returning to parliamentary politics.

But by then, the Naxal upsurge of West Bengal had spread to several other states.

The People’s War Group, born in Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, has for decades struck terror in the forests of Chhattisgarh and bordering Maharashtra.

But in Orissa, it’s restricted only to the southern districts as in the north, the rival Naxal outfit, the MCC, has been making inroads.

Intelligence sources say, post merger, the two have been working together – the PWG relying on the MCC for arms supplies.

“Post merger, the two Naxal groups have begun working in tandem,” said Amaranand Patnaik, DGP, Orissa.


But many believe this new found Naxal unity is nothing but propaganda – an attempt to conceal a history of personality clashes and splinter groups, each trying to be more radical and violent than the other.

In Orissa, a third Naxal group, the CPI ML Janshakti, is believed to have been involved in extremely violent incidents, including extortion. It is condemned by both the People’s War Group and MCC as mindless and unwanted.

In fact, for long, the debate has raged over whether Naxal violence is less about organisation and more about anarchy.

Whether it’s the murder of an MP in Jharkhand or the killing of more than 50 policemen in Chhattisgarh or speculation that Naxals were also present in the mobs in Nandigram: Is this evidence of a regrouped, unified and strengthened Naxal force?

NDTV met Naxal leaders in Jharkhand a few days after MP Sunil Mahato was killed. This is what they had to say:

Q: Doesn’t the guerilla zone come under your committee?

A: We formed the Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa border area regional committee. We took the decision along with them to eliminate Mahato and they executed the decision.

Many believe dialogue between Naxal leaders is easy to achieve, but uniting military might may not be.

Or at least that’s what intelligence agencies are hoping in what’s become India’s bloodiest internal war, which in the last one year has left more than 600 people dead.


Shri Arjun Singh, Human Resource Development Minister has said that an educated skilled, healthy empowered people are an asset and the challenge before us is to ensure that each and every citizen of India is an asset. Shri Singh was inaugurating the Conference of State Education Minister here today. Ministry of HRD has convened a two-day conference of State Education Ministers (April 10-11) in New Delhi. The conference will deliberate on issues concerning the entire gamut of education such as elementary, secondary, higher and technical education so that maximum possible progress can be achieved during the XIth Plan in the education sector in terms of access, equity, quality and efficiency.

The recent initiatives of the Central Government for the XI Plan such as the extension of Mid-Day Meal Scheme to the upper primary stage and increasing the Central Plan outlay for Secondary Education, bulk of which will go as assistance to State Governments are some of the areas where Centre would look forward to the feedback from the States.

Following is the full text of the speech:

“I am delighted to welcome you all to this Conference. We had organised a Conference of State Ministers of Higher Education in Bangalore in January 2005 and had also met at meetings of the CABE, in the same year. Today we are meeting at the commencement of the XIth Plan, and the main objective is to jointly take stock and to plan ahead so that we achieve maximum possible progress during the XIth Plan in the education sector in terms of access, equity, quality and efficiency.

2. Our Prime Minister has recently stated, “For too long we have viewed the size of our population as an economic and social liability. However, an educated skilled, healthy empowered people are an asset. The challenge before us is to ensure that each and every citizen of India is an asset.”

3. We live in the era of Globalization. Liberalization and privatization are held out as the keys to economic progress. However, we are clear in our mind that when more than 40% of our population is in the age group of 6-24 and when education has been identified as the most crucial element in the national developmental effort, the role of the government in providing education has necessarily to increase and not diminish.

4. Some Major Achievements

I would like to say a few words on what we have been able to achieve in the Xth Plan, especially since the assumption of office by the UPA Government.

· The Plan Budget of the HRD Ministry has been substantially raised from about Rs.7025 crores in the year 2003-04 to Rs.20745.5 crores in 2006-07 and now for the year 2007-08, in the budget, a Plan outlay of Rs.28674 crores which is an increase of 38.2% over previous year, has been proposed.

· Central assistance to States for elementary education, notably for the flagship programmes of SSA and MDM which was around Rs.4647 crores in 2003-04 has been increased massively to about Rs. 16893 crores in 2006-07.

· With the help of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Mid-Day Meals Scheme, as also their own schemes, States have managed to substantially reduce the number of out-of-school children at the elementary stage. Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) at the elementary level in 2004-05 stands at 93.5%. Infrastructure and teacher pupil ratio at the elementary level are also improving where SSA has contributed by opening 2.40 lakh schools, constructing over 98,000 classrooms and appointing 7.38 lakh teachers, all of which should hopefully have a salutary effect on quality.

· 2180 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas have been sanctioned upto March 2007, which includes 1000 new KGBVs in 2006-07. 88 % of KGBVs have been operationalised. A major national evaluation conducted this year has shown that the scheme has received ‘high priority and political attention in all States and has been launched in record tine with a clear commitment to reach out to out-of-school girls. The programme has been very well received by the community and has responded to diverse poverty situations including remote inaccessible locations.’

· The nutritional norm for the mid day meal programme was revised from 300 calories to 450 calories, 12 grams of protein and micro-nutrient supplementation. The cooking cost norm was revised to Rs 2 per child per school day with central assistance of Rs 1.80 for the states in the NE Region and Rs 1.50 for other states and UTs. In addition, keeping in view safety and hygiene norms, central assistance was provided for construction of cooking sheds and purchase/ replenishment of kitchen devices. I am happy that in the year 2006-07 we were able to provide assistance for construction of kitchen sheds in 1.94 lakh schools across the country.

· We had circulated a Model Bill on Right to Education for comments from the States. 18 States and UTs have forwarded their comments. We would be happy to receive the views of the remaining States and UTs on the model bill.

· 17 Regional Engineering Colleges and 3 other State Colleges have been converted into National Institutes of Technology, fully funded by the Centre. A Bill to grant statutory status to NITs is now before Parliament .

· To give a boost to education and research in science, three Indian Institutes of Science Education & Research , at Pune, Kolkata and Mohali, have been sanctioned, of which the first two have already started functioning. The third one at Mohali is expected to start functioning from this academic year 2007. The UGC is also taking action to implement the recommendations of the ‘Prof. M.M.Sharma Task Force on Strengthening Basic Science Research in Universities’.

· Article 15 of the Constitution was amended by near unanimity by the Parliament in January 2006 to enable reservation for SCs, STs and other Socially and Economically Backward Classes in admission to educational institutions. To follow up on this, I had requested all Chief Ministers in January 2006 to enact State-specific legislations. According to information available with us, 6 States (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand) have so far done so while Rajasthan has issued an executive order. We would look forward to getting feedback from Hon’ble Ministers of other States in this behalf.

· As regards Central institutions, the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act has been enacted and notified in January 2007. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has in its interim order stated that it would be desirable to keep in hold the operation of this Act so far as it relates to Section 6 thereof for the OBCs. The Government is examining all legal options to resolve this issue at the earliest.

· Plan assistance to State Universities has been made into a separate budget item under UGC assistance since 2006-07. The allocation under this head in 2006-07 was Rs. 755 crores which has been raised to Rs. 1193 crores in 2007-08, which is a major jump. I would urge State Governments to work intensively with UGC to fully avail of this enhanced allocation for the development of their respective Universities and other educational institutions.

· Through Central Acts passed in 2006, the Rajiv Gandhi National University, Arunachal Pradesh, and Tripura University have been converted from State to Central Universities, while a new University of Sikkim is being established. With this, all States in the North East would now have a Central University each.

With a view to increasing support to women’s education, the UGC has raised the amounts available for the construction of women’s hostels from Rs. 25 lakhs to Rs. 2 crores in metro cities and Rs. 1 crore elsewhere and I am happy to state that in the last year about Rs.130 crores was spent by UGC for Women’s hostels and in the current year, further impetus would be given to this item of work.

· With a view to attract talent and encourage research, UGC has announced a substantial increase in the fellowship amounts for the NET qualified PhD students from the existing Rs. 8000 per month to Rs. 12000 per month along with the existing percentage of HRA and contingencies. Further, corresponding enhancements have also been announced for the subsequent years as well as for Research Associates. Even for the Non-NET qualified candidates, the existing amounts of PhD fellowships which were introduced at the rate of Rs. 5000 per month in the year 2006 in the Central Universities, are proposed to be enhanced by almost 50%, besides increasing the coverage by including all State Universities with Potential for Excellence, all University Departments with Centres for Advanced Studies (CAS) and Special Assistance Programmes (SAP), all Departments assisted by the Fund for Infrastructure for Science & Technology (FIST) and all autonomous colleges and institutions having NAAC or NBA accreditations and having been running PhD programmes for at least the previous five years. This will be applicable from 1.4.07.

· The HRD Ministry has launched a very comprehensive learning portal called “Sakshat” in October 2006. Some details regarding this portal would be presented in the course of this Conference. “Sakshat” is a major step towards our commitment to bring education within reach of every Indian, regardless of his or her age, using the best of modern technology.

· A statutory National Commission on Minority Educational Institutions has been established, which is also empowered to adjudicate on complaints relating to denial of minority status to educational institutions.

· A Committee headed by my colleague, Sri M.A.A.Fatmi has given its recommendations for giving a boost to Minority Education in the light of the Sachar Committee Report. These recommendations are under consideration .

5. Major Initiatives for 2007-08 and the XI th Plan

As you are aware the National Development Council has considered the Approach Paper to the XI Five Year Plan and the consequential exercise to formulate the XI Plan is currently in progress. Your inputs at this juncture will be extremely timely and useful as it will be our endeavour to factor in your valuable inputs in our XI Plan proposals. The Central Government has already taken certain initiatives and identified certain thrust areas for the XI Plan, some of which are:

· The Centrally sponsored Mid-Day Meal Scheme, which was so far limited to children of the Primary stage, is being extended to the Upper Primary Stage in educationally backward blocks, with suitably modified nutritional and funding norms.

· For the first time in decades we have received significant funding for Teacher Education. The Teacher Education outlays have been enhanced from Rs 180 crores in 2006-07 to Rs 500 crores for 2007-08. We hope that we will be able to provide support to the states for opening DIETs or DRCs in districts that do not have them. We also hope to be able to inspire you to initiate systematic and relevant training programmes to address the problem of untrained and para teachers in the country. The XIth Plan will, indeed, be a Quality Plan. Content specific training for teachers, especially at the secondary stage and training for educational administrators to address systemic problems will consequently be the thrust area for the XIth Plan period.

· Central Plan outlay for Secondary Education has been increased in a big way from Rs. 1,087 crores in 2006-07 to Rs. 3,164 crores in 2007-08. The bulk of this will go as assistance to State Governments to universalize access to, and improve quality of secondary education. I had requested Chief Ministers to take preparatory steps in this regard , and would look forward to your feedback on consequential action being taken.

· In view of the fact that existing intake capacity in polytechnics is only about 3 lakhs which is about half of that in engineering colleges, a scheme is proposed, though polytechnic education is primarily a State subject, for establishing polytechnics in districts which have no polytechnic at present as well as to strengthen the infrastructure of polytechnics in special identified districts. The Community Polytechnic scheme is proposed to be revamped during the XI Plan and your valuable inputs in this regard, would go a long way in coming out with a very meaningful scheme.

· It is proposed to establish two more Indian Institutes of Science Education & Research (at Thiruvananthapuram and Bhopal) and 3 new IITs (in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan). A seventh IIM is being established at Shillong. 2 new Schools of Planning and Architecture are also proposed to be started at Vijayawada and Bhopal. A new IIIT (Design and Manufacturing) will be established at Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. Establishment of another 20 IIITs is also under consideration so as to cover all major States, with preference being given to States not having an IIIT at present. Planning Commission has suggested that this may be done in the Public-Private Participation mode. While stating the above, I am painfully aware of the fact that all States wish to have an IIT/IIM/IIIT/IISER etc., but it may be appreciated that it can be got done in a phased manner only depending on the availability of resources. We have to also ensure that the Quality and Brand of our institutions of excellence do not get compromised in our anxiety to increase the number of such institutions.

· We have also decided, in principle, to provide assistance towards upgradation of 5 Engineering Colleges to the level of an IIT, and name them as Indian Institutes of Science and Engineering Technology, subject to the concurrence of the concerned State Governments to hand them over to Central Government for declaring them as Institutes of National Importance.

· We have concentrated on expansion in Technical education given its scope and relevance for our youth. I am glad to announce that AICTE has decided to permit 10% increase in the existing intake on a voluntary basis subject to the condition that the increased number of seats would be awarded in the ratio of 2:3:1 to meritorious women, economically weaker sections and differently abled students without charging any tuition fees.

· The quality of higher and technical education would be considerably enhanced if all our institutions of higher learning get networked. The Ministry would consider providing some assistance to State Governments towards non-recurring costs of networking their institutions provided States prepare good, viable plans in this behalf, and agree to bear all other costs. I would also like all the States to direct the institutions under their control to provide high speed internet facilities to all their faculty members which will go a long way in updating the knowledge of their faculty leading to enhanced quality of teaching.

· Pursuant to the consensus evolved in the Conference of State Ministers of Higher Education at Bangalore in January 2005, our draft Bill to regulate foreign education providers is ready. We hope to introduce the Bill in Parliament very soon. We also hope to finalize and introduce the Distance Education Council Bill soon.

6. Some Major Issues for discussion

There are, of course, several major issues which need to be continuously discussed between Central and State Governments. I would however like to flag a few important ones for consideration in this Conference.

· Despite our various achievements and the increased financial outlays, we are still quite some distance away from the goal of every child completing eight years of good quality education. What should we now do to accomplish the goal of Universal Elementary Education (UEE) by the end of the XIth Plan? Specifically, how, towards this end do we optimize resource use, improve implementation of SSA and MDM, motivate and train teachers adequately, improve attendance rates and make elementary education truly child-centred?

· Surveys of attainment levels of our school-children do not give much cause for satisfaction. How do we improve achievement levels of children in elementary and secondary schools, especially state funded ones?

· CABE had approved the National Curriculum Framework formulated by NCERT in September 2005. Since then NCERT has formulated syllabi and developed new textbooks for use by the CBSE schools. The challenge is for States and UTs to begin the process of curricular reform. I would be happy for feedback on how States and UTs are meeting this challenge.

· What action is being taken by States to meet their enhanced share under SSA in the XIth Plan?

· Though much has been achieved, many States such as West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, MP, Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Orissa and Bihar, still need to open large numbers of upper primary schools so as to provide adequate access. What steps are these States taking in this regard?

· A target of increasing the literacy rate to 85% by the end of the 11th plan has been set. The gender gap in literacy is aimed to be lowered to 10 percentage points. This would in effect mean a target for male literacy of 90% and of 80% for female literacy. The 35+ age group will be the focus of adult education activities in the XIth Plan. The use of ICT for literacy has been emphasized. The schemes of ` Literacy Campaigns and Operation Restoration’ and `Continuing Education’ have been merged and renamed `Adult Education and Skill Development.’ Skill development is also the focus of the schemes for Grants in aid to NGOs and Jan Shikshan Sansthans now merged and renamed as ` Support to NGOs/
Institutions/ SRCs for Adult Education and Skill Development.’ The NLM in its revamped strategy for the 11th plan has focused on literacy linked with Livelihoods Governance and Rights. There is need for renewed emphasis on adult education if our literacy targets are to be met.

· What steps should be taken to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio for higher and technical education from the present about 10% to at least 15% by the end of the XIth Plan?

· Despite increased outlays, we are still quite far from the goal of spending 6% of GDP on education, which has been reiterated in the Approach paper to the XIth Plan. How best can this responsibility be equitably shared between the Centre and the States?

· How do we improve quality of higher education, especially in State-funded colleges and Universities? I understand that more than one third of teaching posts in State Universities are vacant. In many States, this is, perhaps, due to a ban on fresh recruitment, which needs to be urgently reviewed. The UGC, on its part, has tried to facilitate your filling up of the vacancies by waiving NET qualification for PhD candidates for teaching at post graduate level and for M.Phil candidates at the undergraduate level. We have recently decided to raise the retirement age for teachers in Central higher educational institutions from 62 to 65 years. States may wish to consider following suit, to address faculty shortage.

· State Universities need to consider educational reforms by introducing the semester and credit systems, and adopting/adapting UGC-approved curricula with a view to improving the quality. It may be desirable to encourage all State level educational institutions of higher learning to go for NAAC accreditation or NBA accreditation in case of technical institutions. With a view to encourage accreditation, UGC reimburses the full cost of the NAAC accreditation process .

· What further steps should be taken to bridge the existing gap in the participation and achievement rates of disadvantaged groups, notably girls, Scheduled Castes and Tribes, minorities and the differently- abled? During the next two days, we must, in my view, come up with some concrete steps to ensure that all our institutions, at every level, become compliant with the Central law to make them barrier free besides being energy efficient and environment friendly.

· In the interest of promoting Minorities’ education, I would urge States to be far more proactive in seeking central assistance under schemes of Madrasa modernization and appointment of Urdu language teachers. Special efforts will have to be made in the States to mobilise the minorities so that they avail of the educational facilities being provided by the States. Of course, in this regard, especially for encouraging minority girls, States are requested to have more women teachers, create more hostel facilities for girls, create more educational institutions in the minority concentration blocks and arrange for teaching of modern subjects in Urdu medium.

· What steps should be taken in the field of vocational education, polytechnic education and higher and technical education so that we produce adequate employable manpower with high degree of relevant skills to meet the needs of our growing economy and to provide suitable avenues of gainful employment to our youth?

· One essential step towards increasing the number of skilled persons is increased State investment in polytechnic education. A recent study has shown that while 80% of all degree granting engineering institutions are in the private sector, the corresponding figure for the polytechnic sector is lower than 20%. States must both increase investment in this essential sector and also encourage private investment. It is also necessary to better utilize the existing available infrastructure in the engineering colleges and polytechnics by having additional evening courses.

· Several emerging areas in Engineering require very good knowledge in Science. The specific areas include Biotechnology, Material Science and Engineering, Electronics, Nano-technology and Polymer Science & Engineering. Good B.Sc students currently do not have opportunities to enter into these areas of technical education. To enhance their employability and to pursue research and innovation in these emerging areas. AICTE has recently approved lateral entry for B.Sc passed students in the 2nd year of undergraduate programmes in engineering and have recommended starting of Integrated M.Tech programmes of four years duration for B.Sc students with Mathematics as one of the subjects. The admitted students will get two degrees, a B.Tech and a M.Tech together at the end of four years.

· An exercise done by us late last year revealed wide variations in availability of seats in technical education institutions per lakh population across States. I accordingly wrote to Hon’ble Chief Ministers of 12 large States, Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, UP, Rajasthan, Orissa, J&K, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, in November last year to take urgent steps to rapidly augment intake in technical education in their respective States so that they catch up with the national average and their students are not deprived of the opportunities of technical education in their home states. We are still waiting for substantive responses to the above letter, and I would look forward to getting some feedback from the Hon’ble Ministers of these States on this subject during the session on Technical Education.

· How can we maximize use of ICT, including EDUSAT to widen access and improve quality of education at various stages? It is rather unfortunate that at present, the usage of EDUSAT is highly inadequate. Only 14 States have till now executed tripartite agreements with ISRO and this Ministry, for the utilization of EDUSAT. I urge the rest of the States and UTs to expeditiously sign the tripartite agreements and operationalise State-level Hubs and Sub-Hubs besides establishing Satellite Interactive Terminals (SIT) and Receive Only Terminals (ROT) in the educational institutions.

· Ministry of HRD has been implementing the INDEST-AICTE consortium since 2002-2003 with the objective to procure e-journals and other electronic resources for academic activities through a centralized subscription process, for redistribution among its members. The University Grants Commission is implementing a similar scheme, namely INFLIBNET . State Governments may kindly encourage Universities/technical institutions in their States to join these consortia. This access to copyrighted journals would give impetus to research resulting in higher number of research publications and patents, etc.

· The Indira Gandhi National Open University ( IGNOU) has an extensive reach across the States; however this could be greatly strengthened if institutional premises could be made available to IGNOU for the setting up of study centers and other uses. Such partnerships could also lead to double-degree programmes. IGNOU would be happy to reimburse all variable costs and also will be willing to pay honoraria to those teachers who would be willing to put in extra hours of work on this account without in any way compromising with their normal work.

6. There are also some general points which feature on our agenda and to which I would like to call attention.

· We have informed State Governments that starting 1 July 2007, they must assume full responsibility for the work of authentication of educational certificates (and that we will cease to perform this function) so that their candidates do not have to travel all the way up to Delhi for this routine work. State Governments, which have not yet done so, must put all necessary systems into place before 1st July.

· Educational statistics, which should be the basis for any sound planning, are generally in a poor shape. This needs urgent attention and we seek your cooperation in this regard and would request you to also strengthen and revamp your statistical agencies.

· We have not been able to fully utilize allocations under certain Centrally sponsored schemes due to non-receipt of requisite Utilisation Certificates (UC) from State Governments. I regret to note that even funds meant for scholarships have lapsed on this account. State Governments and their Universities and other agencies need to give special attention to timely submission of UCs.

· States may also urgently consider setting up State Councils of Higher Education. According to available information, only Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu have done this so far.

7. I recognize that Hon’ble State Ministers will have a lot to say on these issues mentioned by me as also other issues of their interest. However, as we have a very heavy agenda before us, I would request them to be brief in their interventions and to stick to the issues being discussed in each session so that everyone gets a chance to speak and enrich the discussions. Hon’ble Ministers who have brought printed speeches may please get them handed over to us for distribution instead of reading them out. All such speeches will form part of the proceedings of this Conference but in the interest of time management, they may be taken as read.

8. I hope that with your cooperation and valuable inputs our deliberations will be fruitful and will help all of us to come up with a very meaningful XI Five Year Plan.”

Woman panch paraqded naked in Bihar

A woman ‘panch’ of gram kutchehri, Chania Khatoon, was reportedly stripped and assaulted by a ‘powerful’ person of the village, Maulana Alauddinin Siswa village under Banjaria police station of Motihari. She was chased on the road and beaten up by the accused.

Her onlly fault was that she did not allow Allauddin, her neighbour, to build a house on the plot of land where her hut was located. Alauddin reportedly wanted to grab the land located adjacent to his house.

A case has been lodged in this regard, said Ram Pukar Singh, officer-in-charge of Banjaria police station, on Sunday.
Khatoon said that Allauddin and her henchmen had threatened her in the past also. She raised the issue with the authorities but they did not take any step to prevent them.

Although, Chania Khatoon is an elected member of the gram kutchehri, this mother of two minor children earns her livelihood working as a maidservant in the neighbouring houses. Khatoon’s husband has also abandoned her.

Police have registered a case and launched a manhunt for Khatoon’s tormentors, who were absconding. “We have prayed for the issuance of warrant in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate. We would seek the property attachment orders in a day or two, if the accused could not be arrested,” the officer-in-charge said.

It is not the first time when a woman was stripped in full public view and assaulted. In the recent past, several such cases have been reported from different parts of the district. On every occasion, the victims were either stripped and paraded naked or their heads tonsured. Some of them were even forced to eat human excreta in front of co-villagers.

Before the Siswa incident, a woman, Vidya Devi, Bhelahi under Palanwa police station, was paraded naked following a land dispute. And despite orders from the then SP, the FIR could be lodged about three weeks after the incident.

Under the same police station, a woman was publicly assaulted and forced to eat human excreta for allegedly practicing witchcraft. Similarly, in two different cases lodged with Patahi police station, Parvati Devi and Lakhi Devi were gang raped, assaulted and abandoned in village fields. Most of these cases could be registered after prolonged agitation.

Some of the victims had to compromise due to pressure and police inaction, lamented Kiran Sharma, central chairperson of Vishwa Nari Jagriti Manch, here on Monday. Besides, three more cases of the similar nature were also reported from Dumariya Ghat, Adapur and Pakridayal areas during the past couple of years.

Battling For Her Daughter

Thousands of young girls are sold into prostitution in India every year. Many are abducted into the job when they reach puberty and never escape it.

But one mother has decided to fight back. Sky’s India correspondent Alex Crawford has been to India’s poorest region, Bihar, to join her attempt to save her daughter.

“Occasionally you meet people who make a real difference. In Meena, Ruchira and Tinku, the Sky News team met three.

Meena is a rarity. A woman sold into a modern day sex slave trade, still thriving in the economic phenomenon which is India, but who managed to break free. Ruchira and Tinku are the two charity workers who she turned to for help – and who would challenge the system, pull the strings and fight for justice for Meena.

Meena – like so many others – found herself ‘sold’ into bonded labour while still a child. For a few rupees she was bought by a family who put her into prostitution. They were part of a secretive and little-known group called the Nutt community, where every female is put into prostitution. Here a girl child is welcomed, unlike throughout the rest of India, because of the money she can earn the family by selling her body. Grandmothers, mothers and their daughters are all involved in the family business. What they earn can keep an entire extended family alive.

All Nutt women are prostitutes Meena remembers being locked in a completely dark room for what seemed like weeks. If she resisted, she was beaten, starved, denied everything. There simply was no other way. She worked as a prostitute and she lived. If she didn’t, she died. All her earnings were handed to the brothel keeper and she was just one of a number of young women working in the house.

She was eventually ‘married’ to the son of the brothel keeper and bore him two children. One was a boy, the other, crucially a girl. But Meena ran away. She managed to escape but she left behind her two young children. Her daughter was only five years old. She managed to rebuild her life, married and had a further two children, both girls. But she couldn’t forget her other children. She knew her daughter Naina would be reaching puberty now. For the past two years she has been travelling back to that house, the house where she was imprisoned, to try to rescue her daughter.

Each time she’s been beaten by the brothel keepers and her own daughter has renounced her.
Naina won’t even recognise her as her mother. She feels abandoned and she’s told repeatedly her mother only wishes her harm, wants to sell her body too. Sky’s Alex Crawford And then Ruchira and Tinku come into her life. Ruchira Gupta is a ferociously tenacious woman who founded the anti-trafficking non-governmental organisation Apne Aap.

Her organisation runs shelters for trafficked women, has creches for children of Nutt families and tries to educate and inform the women about alternatives. Ruchira and her doughty co-worker Tinku Khanna are determined to help Meena and no amount of Indian bureaucracy or corruption is going to stand in their way.

First they have to persuade the Superintendent of Police in Katihar to mount a raid on the brothel. No easy task.

No mount a raid, one has to admit there is a problem and although the red light area is just a half a mile from the police station, the police deny its existence.

Secondly, once a raid has been organised, they have to ensure it’s kept secret because a last-minute tip-off could mean the girls are spirited away.

Thirdly, they have to gain custody of the girl and any others found.

In the past, Ruchira’s organisation has organised police raids only to discover the morning after that the girls have ‘disappeared'; freed, due to a hefty bribe paid by the brothel keepers.

Naina is taken from the brothel So, after hours of negotiations, a raid is organised. The Sky News team film everything – a presence Ruchira later says gives the NGO workers protection from both the brothel keepers AND the police.

They are far less likely to be attacked with a Western film crew rolling all the while.

Meena marches straight into the house and despite the pitch dark, manages somehow to hone in on her daughter who struggles to pull away from her.

She is pushed down the steps by a determined Meena and walked to a car by a sari-clad female police officer.

Two other young girls are picked up. They both say they were only visiting and don’t live there.

One of them is pregnant and has a five-year-old daughter. All of them are loaded into the police truck. This is just the beginning. Once at the police station, Ruchira and Tinku argue the young women should be held in separate rooms to the brothel keeper.

She is an elderly woman who is claiming to be Naina’s grandmother. Her son, the real master of the brothel, has managed to escape.

Despite their prostestations, the girls are all kept at the police station for another four hours before they are allowed to see a doctor and be medically examined.

They are all showing signs of being drugged – a common way of subduing the girls and creating a dependency.

Naina seemed to be drugged Meena refuses to be separated from her daughter and is constantly talking to Naina, trying to gain her confidence.

She doesn’t even have any shoes and on the way to the hospital, as they walk through puddles of rainwater and mud, Meena hands over her own shoes.

At the hospital, Ruchira and Tinku are constantly on their phones talking to contacts in the state and district government urging help, calling for advice, begging favours.

They insist Naina is seen by a female doctor which necessitates another wait. Two hours later, she is examined and the doctor pronounces, yes, she has suffered much internal abuse – probably for about a year. She has a deep wound on her backside and swabs are taken for sexual diseases and Aids. She is reluctant to talk but eventually tells the Sky producer Neville Lazarus she can remember the first day she was given a client.

He paid 3,000 rupees (under £30) considered a lot as she was a virgin. What is remarkable about Naina is her lack of emotion. She has learned – through years of abuse – to mask her feelings. She is only 14, still a child, yet there are no tears, there are no smiles, just blankness. We spend the day in court with Ruchira and Tinku battling to get a magistrate to hear their case. Naina re-united with her brother They manage to get five minutes with the Chief Judicial Magistrate who shoos their lawyer out of court.

Ruchira tells him she won’t leave until he hears her out. He is a wise man and does.

“You will get custody by half-past four,” he says. It proves an empty promise. The junior he delegates the task to says there is a powercut. He can’t see well enough to take the statement so it will have to be done in the morning.

Even so, everyone leaves with a sense of achievement. Meena believes she has won. Naina is introduced to the two half-sisters she has never met before. Her brother is there too. We think it is all over. We are so wrong. Next morning, the decision we think is a foregone rubber-stamped conclusion, goes against Meena and Apne Aap. The Chief Judicial Magistrate has been informed Naina’s father is contesting custody.

He says Meena is a prostitute so he is reluctant to handover custody of a young girl to her for fear she too will be put into the trade again. He orders Naina be sent to a remand centre in Patna. The charity is distraught. They fear she will be handed back to her father and disappear into the Bihar countryside again. An agonising few days go by. Ruchira is pulling out all the stops. She simply won’t give up. One has to wonder what would happen if there wasn’t a redoubtable charity fighting for this girl. This story does have a happy ending with mother and daughter reunited but so many do not. Thousands upon thousands of girls are on their own, imprisoned in sex slavery with no-one to help them.”,,30000-13576170,00.html

A recent study shows that West Bengal is a leader with respect to redistribution of land to Dalit and Adivasi households.

IN the heat of the current debate on land acquisition in West Bengal, and in the aftermath of the violence in Nandigram, some critics have questioned the basic character of development in the State. They have attempted variously to portray the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Left Front as organisations of upper-caste elites whose interests, by implication, are distant from those of the socially oppressed, or West Bengal as a State where the plight of the Dalit and Adivasi masses, under globalisation and liberalisation, is no different from their plight elsewhere in the country. Even preliminary research on Dalit and Adivasi households in village economies and their access to land in West Bengal shows that such views have little basis in the reality of the post-land reform West Bengal countryside.

West Bengal is a State where policy efforts have been directed to distribute land to the landless and the poor, and specifically to Dalits, Adivasis and other deprived social groups, and also to issue joint title deeds to men and women. Some of the social-distributive effects of the land reform programme show up in recent village-based research and analyses of secondary data. These show that West Bengal is a leader with respect to the distribution of agricultural and homestead land to Dalit and Adivasi households, and also with respect to the purchase of agricultural land by the rural poor, including Dalit households.

The village-level data come mainly from a series of village surveys conducted by Vikas Rawal and others in 2005 in seven villages in different agro-climatic zones in West Bengal (a study in which this writer participated).

After the boro harvest in a village in Malda district. Recent village-based research has helped clarify the social-distributive effects of the land reform programme.

The villages studied were: a predominantly tribal village of West Medinipur district, two villages from the agriculturally prosperous Barddhaman district, two traditional agricultural villages from Malda and Koch Bihar districts, a village in Uttar Dinajpur where tea is grown on individual holdings, and a prawn-cultivating village in the estuarine region of North 24 Parganas.

First, let us consider the redistribution of crop land to the landless and rural poor. In five of the seven villages the redistribution of land was an important component of land reform. For each of them, this writer constructed a simple Index of Access to agricultural land. This Index measures the share of Dalit households (or other social groups) in total land ownership, weighted by their share in total population. Thus, if Dalit households constitute 20 per cent of the total population and they own 20 per cent of the land in the village, the Index of Access is 1. Where the Access Index is less than 1, it represents a situation in which the proportion of Dalit households in the population is greater than the share of total land that they own.

Our data show that in three of these five villages, the Access Indices for Dalit households were 1.49, 1.28 and 1.21; in other words, their share in land ownership was greater than their share in the population. In the predominantly Adivasi village in West Medinipur, more than 60 per cent of Scheduled Tribe households gained agricultural land and almost 75 per cent of households gained agricultural or homestead land through land reform. In the last village (in Malda district), the Access Index was lower, that is 0.5, because the main recipients of land in the village were income-poor households from the Tanti caste, which is classified as an Other Backward Class (OBC).

By way of comparison, according to data from the Land and Livestock Holdings Survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), the Access Index for Dalits in rural India as a whole was only 0.5. The NSSO data tend to confirm our village results, since they show that the Access Index for Dalit households in West Bengal was 0.8 (unfortunately, the most recent data in this regard are from 1992; more recent results from the 2003-04 survey are yet to be released). This is the highest Access Index for Dalits among the States of India after Tripura (where the proportion of Scheduled Castes in the rural population is smaller than in West Bengal).

Secondly, let us consider the distribution of house-site or homestead land, which is an important component of land reform in West Bengal. Ownership of homestead land means not only a place to live and a changed position in society, but also represents access to a new source of potential nutrition and livelihood support as a result of house-site and kitchen-garden cultivation. In all the seven study villages, we found that the Dalit and Adivasi households were the major beneficiaries of this aspect of land reform. Out of 210 households that gained homestead land, 21 per cent were Dalit, 46 per cent were Adivasi, 24 per cent were Muslim, and 10 per cent belonged to other caste groups. Of the last group, a majority belonged to the OBCs.

Thirdly, let us consider the participation of the poor in land markets. A 2001 study by Vikas Rawal of land markets in two West Bengal villages published in the international journal Economic Development and Cultural Change reported noteworthy results. The study showed that while empirical studies in other States had found that the net buyers of cultivable land were large landowners and the net sellers of agricultural land were small landowners, the trend was quite the opposite in the West Bengal villages that were studied. The major buyers in these two villages of Bankura district were landless households and small landowners. The paper attributed this difference to the increased purchasing power among the poor in West Bengal facilitated by land distribution, tenancy reform, higher wage rates, and access to credit.

The present study confirms and adds a new dimension to this conclusion. Five villages of the seven have significant Dalit populations. In four of them, Dalit and Muslim households were net buyers of land, while caste Hindus were net sellers. The acquisition of ceiling-surplus land by the Government of West Bengal for redistribution was and still remains a major disincentive for large landowners to purchase land.

The recent policy document on land use of the Government of West Bengal says that the State is poised for “advance into a new phase of industrial modernisation… and diversification into different forms of non-agricultural economic activity.” If such a policy is indeed to succeed, West Bengal will have been among the few States of India where industrialisation and economic diversification are based on the achievement of a socially broad-based land reform.

The author is a Junior Research Fellow at the Indian Statistical Institute working on issues of household incomes in rural West Bengal.


India has got mu-ch of the global outsourcing business for services, but very little for labour-intensive manufacturing.

Two major culprits are inflexible labour laws and the continuing reservation of many items for manufacture by small-scale industries. However, i see signs of one major labour-intensive industry shifting from Western countries and East Asia to India. This is ship-building and ship-repair.

With little fanfare, several corporations are building huge shipyards across the coast of India, from Kutch to West Bengal. Ship-building consists mainly of riveting of steel plates to form a vessel, followed by internal fittings. This cannot be done on an assembly line by robots. It has to be done manually by skilled welders and fitters.

Ship-repairing is even more labour-intensive and skill-intensive. Every repair job requires individual analysis and customised solutions. It involves less material and far more labour than ship-building.

India is well placed to supply cheap skilled labour that can compete with the best in the world. Yet, for decades ship-building has languished despite massive subsidies.

Why? Because, historically, the big shipyards — civilian and military — were inefficient public sector monopolies. A few private sector shipyards were licensed, but only for small vessels.

However, with the abolition of industrial licensing in the 1990s, new shipbuilders like Bharti Shipyard and ABG Shipyard came up. They faced difficult times when the Asian financial crisis led to the collapse of demand for ships. But the regional and world economy recovered sharply after 2003, and the demand for ships is now booming.

This has encouraged several companies to take the plunge and embark on construction of big shipyards, some of which will be world-scale.

ABG has set up a major shipyard costing Rs 1,600 crore at Dahej, Gujarat, and is flooded with orders worth over Rs 1,300 crore. It will build up to 25 ships a year, making it a major Asian player.

Sea King, owned by Nikhil Gandhi, is setting up a shipyard at Pipavav, Gujarat, to build ships of up to 300,000 deadweight tonnage (dwt), almost thrice as large as the biggest ships built by the government’s Cochin shipyard. It is far cheaper to transport oil to deep-water Indian refineries using big tankers. Gandhi claims that his Pipavav Shipyard will be among the ten biggest in the world. It has bagged two advance orders worth $720 million to manufacture ships for Z Schifenbau of Germany and B F Shipping of Cyprus.

Takeover specialist PK Ruia, who in recent years has taken over Jessops, Dunlop, and Falcon Tyres, now proposes a mammoth shipyard at Haldia costing over Rs 3,000 crore. It will be among the biggest in the world, building 12 ships a year of Panamax size (the maximum size that can go thro-ugh the Panama Canal). The project will include ship-breaking and ship-repair units, as well as a mini-steel plant and captive power plant. It will employ as many as 16,000 workers, more than major auto manufacturers such as Tata Motors and Bajaj Auto.

The Adani group is setting up a Rs 1,000-crore shipyard at Mundra in Kutch, adjacent to its new deep-water port there. This can be expanded to rival the Pipavav shipyard.

Tata Steel plans a shipyard at its new coast-based plant in Orissa. Steel sheets and plates from its steel plant can go directly by conveyor belt to the shipyard, saving time and transport costs. Tata Steel has just formed a joint shipping line with NYK of Japan, and the shipyard will be a link between its steel and shipping business.

A major new development is the decision of the ministry of defence to source the bulk of its annual spending (around Rs 13,000 crore) from the private sector. This has been the main spur for L&T to expand its shipbuilding business, which includes warships. It is already building parts of submarines and soon plans to build entire submarines. Other private sector defence suppliers include the Tatas and Mahindras, both of whom could conceivably get into naval vessels and equipment.

Indian business is convinced that India has a major comparative advantage in ship-building that has been masked all these years by an inefficient public sector notorious for high costs and time overruns. The labour cost per worker in India is estimated at $1,192 per year, against $10,743 and $21,317 per worker in leading shipbuilding countries like South Korea and Singapore. Apart from skilled welders and fitters, India has world-class naval engineers and architects. These, along with top-class management, can make India a global power.

Ship-building was dominated by Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the ’60s Japan’s cheap skills enabled it to become the top ship-builder. Soon afterwards South Korea , Taiwan and Singapore emerged as major builders. However, all these have now become high-income countries. So, ship-building is shifting to China.

Logically, it should shift to India too. China and India have the skills and cheap steel to make the best, cheapest ships.
building_Indias_next_ star_industry/articleshow/1872044.cms

Chhattisgarh on Maoist alert after intelligence warning

Raipur, April 10 – The Chhattisgarh government is gearing up to ward off fresh Maoist attacks on police bases and government installations following intelligence reports warning of deadly militant activity.

Fresh intelligence inputs suggest that Leftist guerrillas have suddenly stepped up their movements in the Bastar region’s Bijapur, Bhopalpattanam, Kutru, Chintanpalli and Narayanpur areas, a home department official said Tuesday.

Senior police officers met Monday in the backdrop of alarming intelligence reports. Security, including night patrolling, has been beefed up in and around police posts, outposts and government installations in areas vulnerable to Maoists’ attacks.

The reports come in the wake of one of the deadliest attacks by the guerrillas on a police post in the state’s southern Bijapur area in which 55 cops were butchered March 15.

‘The inputs have been passed on to senior police officers deployed in the insurgency-hit Bastar belt and top commanders of the Central Reserve Police Force, Nagaland Armed Police and Mizo battalion deployed in Bastar’s interiors,’ official sources added.

Security has also been tightened at a dozen government-run relief camps where 50,000 people, mostly tribals, have ben sheltered for the past two years following threat to their lives.

Understanding India

Hailing from Germany, Dr Martin Kampchen has been in India since 1973. A postgraduate in Indian Philosophy from Madras University, he holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Religion from Santiniketan. Acclaimed as a translator, an author and editor, he is also the cultural correspondent of the German national daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Apart from writing and publishing, he has been involved in raising the living standards of two Santal villages near Santiniketan. He has been the recipient of Rabindra-Puraskar, Rabindranath-Tagore Literature Prize, and the Order of Merit of the German Government.

You have lived in India for 30 years now. Have you settled down here permanently?

Settled? That would mean that I’d have taken Indian citizenship or owned a house or married here. None of these has happened, I would say, quite consciously. While I was doing my Ph.D. in Santiniketan, I developed an interest in the works of Sri Ramakrishna and Rabindranath Tagore and started translating them directly from Bengali into German. This I could do only in India because I needed the support of friends and the appropriate cultural atmosphere. And finally I got interested and involved in the development of two tribal villages near Santiniketan. But at no stage have I pulled down the cultural “bridges” that link me with Europe.
What kind of experience have you had in India?

Indians welcome those who come here as guests for a few weeks or months. Things get a bit more difficult if the guest wants to stay longer and be integrated into the local population. Many Europeans, who live in big Indian cities, give themselves up to grand lifestyles with an extremely high level of comfort and services, which they could have never dreamt of back home. They make use of the cheap labour and the feudal traditions still existing in the country. I personally find this simply disgusting. This is a reversion into the colonial mindset, which first makes human being unequal and then exploits this inequity to one’s own advantage.
Then, what kind of life do you lead in India?

Right from the beginning, I couldn’t have thought of a different kind of life in India from the one I lead now. The simple people here have always interested me. They accept me as I am, as a friend who wanted nothing but togetherness, a feeling of belonging. At the same time, this has brought me numerous disappointments. I was cheated, threatened, humiliated and denounced.
Have you ever been discriminated against or abused because of your ethnic origin?

India is culturally so diverse that it has to absorb numerous internal tensions and conflicts in order to exist peacefully. Above all, the difficult process of self-discovery and the population explosion have strengthened its defence mechanism against all that is alien. As a foreigner I was not allowed to teach at Santiniketan University. Add to this the natural discrimination an unmarried person faces in a strongly family-oriented environment. Social interaction takes place not as an individual, but more so as the member of a family. An individual person cannot be easily integrated here.

How do Indians view the West?

The West, including Germany, is rather glorified in India. However, it is a very imbalanced view: the high living standards, the relatively high social security, the tourist attractions and the glamour of a booming entertainment industry are the things in the West are known and sought. But what about Germany’s civilisational achievements like democratic equality, a strong civic sense, a lively cultural life, public cleanliness and discipline, environmental protection and so on?
Should development in India be at the cost of the marginalised and have-nots?

For me, development is neither industrialisation nor agricultural reform. For me it would be a change of mindset. The governments in the last few decades have not done enough for education. Now they find it difficult to make the semi-literate masses understand the need for change. Uneducated, poor people will rarely appreciate the reasons for change.
You have been actively involved in the development of two Adivasi villages near Santiniketan. What is the nature of that work?

For 20 years I have been helping two Santal villages near Santiniketan — Ghosaldanga and Bishnubati — evolve an alternative model of development. I always remain in the background as a motivator giving young men and women the chance to develop their own ideas and function as the real motor of development. My goal is to strive for a “holistic” model of development, not just economic development. Young people should get a chance to actively shape the development suited to their needs.

What are your observations regarding India’s social and political development?

I feel the greatest problem is the unrestrained population growth. India has to absorb an additional 15 million people every year. This may be possible for a while because of the excellent family traditions, which borders on self-sacrifice. But no self-sacrifice will help when vital resources like water become scarce.
On the other side, significant progress has been made in the field of technology. India has to be understood and meaningfully shaped not only in the context of its geographical size and large population, but also through the cultural and religious models it offers to the world. In the final analysis, the development of India poses a great challenge to the entire world. Jharkhand News Network

April 10, 2007 at 10:03 pm Leave a comment

Apr 09, 2007

Eight Maoists killed in Jharkhand

Ranchi, April 9 (IANS) Eight Maoists were killed and six injured in Jharkhand Monday evening following a gun battle between two groups of Leftwing radicals, police said.

The clash took place between communist party of India-Maoist supporters and those of a breakaway faction in Latehar district, Additional Director general of Police G.S. Rath said here.

Jharkhand Gram Sabhas to decide land prices for industry

JAMSHEDPUR, APR 9: Gram Sabhas will determine prices of the land to be acquired by companies for setting up projects in Jharkhand.

This is one of the ‘innovative’ clauses that have found place in the much-awaited draft Jharkhand resettlement & rehabilitation (R&R) policy to be declared in April, deputy chief minister Sudhir Mahato told FE.

“I am trying my best to make an early announcement (of the policy)”, Mahato said.
The government is likely to call an all-party meet soon to ratify the draft policy.

The minister had on March 22 said that the state’s R&R policy would be in place by either the last week of March or the first week of April 2007.

So far it was the government that used to fix prices of land after grading it properly by applying various criteria, including the number of crops grown on it in a year, Mahato said.

“Now there will now be only one flat rate, and that will be decided by Gram Sabhas,” said Mahato.

Naxals evade ‘intelligence’ net

PATNA: Outlawed they may be, but Maoists operating in Bihar and Jharkhand appear to be more “intelligent” than the law-enforcing agencies of the two states.

The failure of state intelligence agencies to get even an inkling of the Maoist operations in recent times is a pointer to this grim reality.

Sample this: Of the 40,000-odd police officers and regular forces comprising the Jharkhand police, 1,100 have been posted with its intelligence wing, Special Branch.

And 1,700 of the 80,000-plus forces of the Bihar police work exclusively for intelligence gathering. In both states, the Special Branch is headed by an ADGP-rank officer.

Yet not even a single individual had any information before 1,000 men and women, heavily armed and equipped with walkie-talkies, attacked Madhuban town in Bihar’s East Champaran district in June 2005; or when more than 500 Naxalites raided Jehanabad jail in Bihar in November 2005 and freed all the prisoners; or, for that matter, when over 400 descended on the state’s Riga town in March this year.

Similarly, the number of Naxalites participating in operations in Jharkhand has also not been less than 100 each time.

They were more than 100 when they hijacked the Barkakana-Barwadih train near Barkakana in March 2006 and kept the passengers hostage for the whole night. As many as 300 of them attacked the CISF camp at Bokaro last Friday.

And not these operations were executed suddenly.”They must have been pre-planned and well-coordinated as each operation involved participation of hundreds of armed activists,” said a Naxal watcher.

CPI (Maoist) sub-zonal commander Bhagirath Mahto’s statement to Jharkhand police also suggests this. Mahto, arrested from Hazaribagh district in February this year, is learnt to have told the police that Maoist squads have been asked for quite sometime by their central committee to”kill” politicians and policemen and”loot arms” in order to boost the morale of its cadres.

“What intelligence? So many people move around with arms and the police come to know about it after the attackers pull their triggers,” a retired police officer said. Even Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was on record having termed”intelligence” as”zero”.

As for the arrest of Maoists after the operations, Jharkhand Special Branch ADGP Neyaz Ahmed admitted that Naxalites moving in groups of hundreds are difficult to be identified and trapped.”But based on inputs from police sources in villages, we do arrest a few of them,” he added.

However, sceptics doubt the police claims. “Don’t go by the number of arrest being given by the police… Ask the police how come the sophisticated arms that are used in the Naxal operations are not recovered from the possession of those arrested,” said the Naxal watcher.

Maoists deploying their women to win over disaffected villagers
The non-implementation of labour laws, increase in the number of unorganised labour and the farmers living in poor conditions is providing the Maoists with an ideal opportunity to persuade the masses to join their fold.

Instead of involving them in violent activities, the female cadres reportedly take up jobs as labourers and influence the masses by mingling with them.

The female cadres are active in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.According to a study by S Narain of the AN Sinha Institute of Social Sciences, “Social interaction between the successive Governments from pre-independence era and the tribals did not exist, and the local people got attracted towards Maoists ideology, as they accepted them as their benefactors”.

Home Minister officials are finding it difficult to accept their annual report, which claims Maoist violence has reduced.

“Decrease in violence does not mean reduction in their strength,” a local daily quoted a senior Home Ministry official as saying.”They often use the tactics to reduce the violent activities to create an atmosphere of ease in the establishment and they make surprise attacks to get maximum benefit in terms of looting guns and ammunition from the police,” he added citing the Bijapur incident in Chhatisgarh.

Ministry’s annual report said that in 2006, the Maoist violence reduced by over six per cent compared to the previous year.

While, 1,608 incidents related to Maoists were reported in 2005, the number came down to 1,509 last year.

The report further said that out of total 8,252 police stations in the country, Maoists are present in at least 508 with considerable strength.

According to Home Ministry, 76 districts in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Maharashtra, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are ‘badly affected by Maoist violence’.

Maoists operate in 13 of 29 states along what is called a “red corridor” stretching from the border with Nepal to Andhra Pradesh.

The Maoists have pitted their campaign against landlords and the state administration whom they accuse of exploiting the poor.

In 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called them the biggest internal security challenge facing India since independence.

A Historic Injustice Perpetrated on Jharkhand Adivasis

After series of village meetings and local demonstrations, an adivasi delegation from Jharkhand consisting of Prakash Toppo, Suresh Oroan and Suresh Munda, led by the state secretary of the Party, met the union minister for Defence A.K.Antony on April 2 at New Delhi and submitted a joint petition signed by 552 affected adivasis from seven villages around Ranchi airport demanding the return of 1200 acres of adivasi lands occupied by the defence establishment. In response to an earlier memorandum of the state committee of the Party, the Defence minister wrote back to Brinda Karat, MP that the lands belong to Defence establishment and that some of the adivasis, who are cultivating a small portion of the lands, were encroachers. This joint petition of the adivasis exposed, with documentary evidences from British period, the hollowness of the claim of the Defence establishment.

This is a story of historic injustice done to the adivasis in British India which continued even in independent India. During Second World War, the headquarters of Eastern Command was shifted temporarily from Kolkata to Ranchi. Under Defence of India rule, using extraordinary power, thousands of acres of adivasi lands were requisitioned by the British government for this purpose. Adivasi houses were demolished, trees were cut and an airstrip was constructed for Defence aircraft landing. Since the lands were requisitioned, there was neither any rehabilitation of adivasis nor any compensation was given to them. The lands were never acquired under Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The lands continued to remain in the name of adivasis, but occupied by the Defence even after the war ended, India became independent and a republic. In 1962, the temporarily constructed airstrip of the Defence at Ranchi was handed over to civil aviation ministry where present Ranchi Airport is situated.

This led to an abnormal situation which was continuously ignored by the Defence and Civil Aviation ministries of the central government. The adivasis are having khatiyans (land records) and, with the hope that their lands would be returned to them some day, have been paying land taxes, earlier to Bihar government and at present to Jharkhand government, of the lands which are in occupation of Defence and even of the lands where present Ranchi Airport is situated and where aircrafts are landing! State governments issued receipts to them on regular basis. Copies of these documents were submitted to the Defence minister.

Defence personnel are regularly preventing the adivasis, who are cultivating some portion of their vacant lands, preventing their entry in the villages, preventing them from repairing their houses and performing religious functions. Against such high handed actions of the Defence, regular demonstrations and protests are taking place.

In a judgement related to these lands, occupied by Defence, the Ranchi Bench of Patna High Court stated, ” According to the State (State of Bihar) the lands in dispute and other plots which belong to Scheduled Tribes as was shown in annexure-3, were never acquired nor possession of the same was given for Air Field/Aerodrome” and ordered the Station Commander of Defence at Ranchi, ” not to interfere with the petitioner and other similarly situated persons, whoever having right, title and possession over the land, except by obtaining an order of the court of competent jurisdiction.”In this land dispute between the adivasis and the Defence, three member bench of Supreme Court in 1989 directed, “Status quo as on today regarding possession shall be maintained.”

Yet Defence minister of India writes that the lands belong to Defence establishment and that the adivasis were the encroachers! Though to the delegation, Defence minister assured to re-look into the entire issue, adivasis under the banner of CPI(M) are preparing for continuous agitation till historic injustice to them is corrected. A massive meeting of the adivasis is scheduled to be held shortly.

Maoists strike again in Bihar

Patna, April 8: After storming Bokaro in Jharkhand on Friday killing six persons, armed Maoist rebels today organised simultaneous attacks at two places in Bihar killing two security personnel and injuring three others.

Two railway protection force (RPF) jawans were killed and three others wounded in a daring strike by ultras on the Howrah-Mokama passenger train in Jamui district of Bihar this morning.

And even before the Bihar government could tackle the Maoist assault on train, the extremists attacked a contingent of the CRPF in Gaya district this afternoon.

Both Jamui and Gaya are among the 23 Naxal affected districts of Bihar of the total 38.

SP of Jamui Amarendra Kumar Amar said at 8.00 am today over 50 Maoists boarded the train near the Ghorparan railway station on Jhajha-Jasidih section in a dramatic way. They threw chilly powder in the eyes of the RPF personnel and seized their arms and shot them.

While no passengers was harmed by the ultras, the injured security personnel were admitted in a nearby hospital in Jhaja.

The Maoists looted five arms from the the security personnel. A massive manhunt has been launched to nab the extremists.

After this, in a separate incident the Naxalites attacked the CRPF contingent near Hassanpur village under the Aati police station area of Gaya district around 3 pm when it was returning after conducting a routine raid in villages falling under the Konch police station to flush out the extremists.

CRPF assistant commandant S.K. Savita said the Maoists escaped after the encounter that lasted for half an hour in which no one was injured.

One self loading rifle (SLR), three rifles looted from the police, two country made guns, live wire used for detonating land mine blasts, 200 live cartridges of different bores, Naxalite literature and police uniform used by the commandos were recovered from the encounter site.

Today’s simultaneous attacks by the Maoists was third in a row in less than 10 days after they had stormed the Riga police station in Sitamari near Nepal border in north Bihar on March 31 night. At that time the Special Auxiliary Force (SAP) jawans comprising ex-Army men formed by the Bihar government foiled the attempt by ultras to loot a nationalised bank there. Meanwhile, Chief minister Nitish Kumar asked senior police officers to rush to the spot and seal the nearby border with Jharkhand.

Russian firm taps Ruias for Orissa alumina plant

MUMBAI: It was in 2002 when the world’s second largest aluminium company, Rusal, expressed an interest in the bidding for state-owned Nalco, Asia’s largest alumina company. Although that didn’t progress further as the government stopped the privatisation process for Nalco, the Russian company hasn’t given up hope.

It has now been reliably learnt that Rusal has approached the Ruias of Essar to jointly build a 1 million-tonne alumina refinery plant in Orissa as part of its larger strategy to own alumina capacities across the world. The cost of building such a project is about $1 billion.

The steel-to-telecom Essar group had earlier announced a steel project in Orissa. Sources in the group said though there were informal talks with Rusal for an alumina plant, but “nothing has taken off.” A spokesman for the group said: “There were informal discussions but nothing has been concluded.” The group currently makes about 5 million tonnes of steel a year at its plant in Hazira, Gujarat.

Although the $15-billion Indian conglomerate hasn’t publicly evinced interest of entering the non-ferrous sector, it has formed a business development team to explore “all” options, the sources added.

Interestingly, last year the Essar group formed a joint venture with metals maker Hindalco Industries to mine coal, a vital raw material in metal making. The coal mines are scheduled to be developed at the Mahan block in the Sidhi-Singrauli coalfields in Madhya Pradesh. Coal production is scheduled to start after 2009.

Orissa is home to one of India’s largest bauxite deposits and has attracted global majors — Canada-based Alcan has teamed up with Hindalco under Utkal Alumina to build an alumina refinery in that state.

Rusal, which makes 4.1 million tonnes of alumina annually, is planning to double that production in the next five years. Access to cheap power is important in this sector as alumina, which is extracted from the mineral bauxite, is refined electrolytically to make the metal aluminium.

Companies that have access to cheap electricity can convert alumina into aluminium, while high energy cost regions have seen large-scale plant closures. Aluminium companies in North America and Europe are either closing plants or shifting manufacturing activities to areas with access to alumina and power.

Some of the large companies that had shut down units recently include Alcoa, Hydro, Pechiney and Mexico’s Almexa Aluminio. Rusal had evinced interest in Nalco mainly because of its large alumina capacity, 1.6 million tonnes, which is made at a low cost

Irrawaddy dolphins swim easier

Chilika Lagoon – Hope is rising that the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin can be saved in India after a survey showed more of the animals than before in a vast, brackish lagoon in the east of the country.

Environmentalists say much more needs to be done to preserve the dolphins in Chilika Lagoon in India’s eastern Orissa state, the largest lagoon population of the animals in the world.

But fears of their imminent disappearance appear to have diminished after a 2007 survey showed 135 of the little-known species of short-beaked dolphins in Chilika.

Hope lies in the involvement of local communities

“It’s an ideal habitat for the species, which prefers medium salinity,” said Sudarshan Panda, head of the Chilika Development Authority. “We have done a lot of things for the dolphins and our activities are now showing results.”

The Irrawaddy, or Orcaella brevirostris, lives in estuaries, rivers and shallow coastal marine waters in south and southeastern Asia and is a smaller relative of the Orca.

In 2004, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species voted to prohibit commercial trade in the Irrawaddy dolphin and placed it on Appendix I where it joined big cats and great apes.

The move was intended to prevent the easily-trained dolphin being removed from the wild for use in Asian water parks.

The light-grey mammals, which grow to just over 2m in length rarely show themselves fully above the water – a fin, flipper and nose all that usually emerges.

‘We are very concerned’

Experts say there is not even enough data about the shy mammals to give a reliable estimate of their global population. But lagoon populations in other places are falling, including in the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar which gave the species its name.

That makes preserving the Chilika group especially important.

Hope lies in the involvement of local communities in dolphin conservation. People around Chilika Lake on India’s east coast have long considered the dolphins a blessing, and even today cast their nets near where dolphins are sighted.

They have also woken up to their financial value, after a group of foreign tourists got excited after spotting dolphins during a birdwatching trip in the late 1980s.

Tourism took off, and today more than 400 boats ply the southern section of the lake chasing the dolphins.

Scientists came too. A marine assessment in 1992 found around 20 dolphins in the lake, but the first systematic survey conducted in 2002 showed a population of 98.

Panda says surveys since then have shown the numbers steadily rising, but others are not so sure. Direct count surveys are not considered reliable, and trends difficult to extrapolate.

“The fact that monitoring is continuing is good but I wouldn’t say the population is increasing or decreasing,” said Dipani Sutaria, a marine biologist who has been studying the dolphins in Chilika since 2004 and says her own analysis suggests there may be 95 to 110 individuals.

In some years up to 15 dolphins have been killed in a single year by becoming entangled in fishing nets or being hit by the propellers of tourist boats.

Panda says the CDA is working hard to protect the animals. Boatmen have been asked to remain at least 50m from the animals, always stay behind a group to reduce the risk of collision and employ propeller guards.

Only three were found dead last year, but it’s too early to declare victory, they say. Dolphins typically give birth to just one calf every three years and Sutaria says the small population in the lake can only absorb one or two deaths a year.

“We are very concerned,” said Biswajit Mohanty of the Wildlife Society of Orissa. “We have to be careful to avoid even a single death since the population is so low.”

There are no laws in place to enforce the guidelines. On a trip to the lake in mid-March, the rules were widely ignored.

Panda hopes for legislation soon, but says he also needs to consider the livelihoods of 200 000 people who depend on the lake, and cannot ban propeller boats as Mohanty would like.

Nevertheless the CDA is promoting alternative income generating activities to reduce the pressures of over-fishing.

Trees are being planted upstream in an attempt to reduce sedimentation, channels have been dredged and a fresh mouth opened to the sea to prevent siltation and shrinkage of the lake.

There are bigger problems too.

Widespread commercial aquaculture – shrimp farming along the lake shores – promoted by the World Bank in the 1960s is disrupting water flows, encouraging siltation and taking up valuable fish hatching sites, scientists say.

Beside the lake, a sign boldly declares “No Plastic Beyond This Point”. It stands beside a row of shops selling water bottles and snacks for the tourists who flock to see the dolphins.

A pile of garbage in the lake mud just a few metres further on provides a graphic reminder of the challenges ahead.

Hungry Bengal: 71.6 lakh lack enough food, says survey

Economists say rapid industrialisation and job creation can cut poverty

Kolkata: WITH a whopping 71.6 lakh people going daily without sufficient food, West Bengal tops the country’s hunger list according to the latest report of National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).

The survey says 8.8 lakh people out of these 71.6 lakh do not get two square meals a day throughout the year.

The survey finds at least 10.6% of the state’s rural population, and 0.7% of its urban residents, not getting adequate food in some months of the year.

The NSSO survey, carried out in the 2004-05 fiscal year, notes that “getting enough food every day” means that a person gets, by and large, “sufficient food to eat” daily.

The survey states: “This question is asked to record the subjective perception of households regarding sufficiency of food. While putting this question to the informant, it is thus presumed that the informant has a clear understanding of its meaning.”

Economists say West Bengal’s poor land-man ratio has caused pseudo-employment, or disguised employment, in rural areas and has thereby raised the poverty level. The only way out, they say, is a higher level of industrialisation to ease pressure on land, reduce urban poverty and migration to urban centres.

Prof Abhirup Sarkar of the Indian Statistical Institute, says though Bengal comes third in land-productivity ratio, after Punjab and Haryana, the state’s “man-to-land ratio is three times the all-India average”.

The survey says 9.1 per cent households in Bengal do not get sufficient food for between one and three months, making it the worst performing state. In contrast, Assam reported 3.6 per cent households going “half-fed” throughout the year.

Sarkar says the increasing pressure on land, due to post-independence migration, is not commensurate with productivity.

Significantly, 29.9 per cent of the people who are part of Antyodaya Anna Yojana and 20.3 per cent Below Poverty Line-card holders have reported food shortage in Bengal, the survey says.

The Antyodaya scheme identifies poorest of the poor and offers them foodgrain at heavily subsidised rates.

Noted economist Dipankar Dasgupta, however, says food shortage is not the biggest problem. Creation of jobs, he says, would help cut the level of poverty by reducing pressure on land and.

Giving an indication of where West Bengal stands vis-à-vis other states, the report states 2 per cent of Bihar’s rural population reported not getting enough food in some months of the year, while 0.8 per cent said they face shortage throughout.

In Uttar Pradesh, 1.4% of rural population reported food inadequacy for some months and 0.3% for the entire year.

The figure for the rural populace in Orissa, the survey states, is 4.8 per cent.

A little help needed but…

KOLKATA, April 9: The conch shell industry, which traces it’s origin to the days immediately after Independence, was set in the North 24-Parganas by a group of small businessmen from Bangladesh, is now on the brink of extinction courtesy an apathetic government.

The Sankha Baniks (conch shell businessmen) came to India from the erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and established their colony here in 1950. They settled in different parts of West Bengal mostly in Baghbazar and Amherst Street in Kolkata, Barrackpur in North 24-Parganas and Chandannagar in Hooghly district. There are at least 18,000 to 20,000 people involved with conch craft in the Barrackpore Sankha Banik Colony. Considering their professional approach in making conch ornaments including shells, bangles and finger rings, nearly 250 artists were provided with two cottas of land each by the West Bengal Government free of cost to set up their units. They found appreciation from all quarters including the Tamil Nadu government and things for these businessmen had never looked brighter. But slowly this industry witnessed its downslide with the passage of time and now it has nearly come to the brink of extinction.

Conch artist Mr Sudha Krishna Dhar of Barrackpore, North 24-Parganas said: “In the beginning we purchased raw material and got five per cent discount on the purchase of conch worth Rs 50,000 from West Bengal Handicraft Development Corporation Ltd. But now the discount is no longer available. Consequently we are compelled to purchase the raw materials from open markets at higher rates. This has raised our production cost and as a result the prices of conch products have also increased”.

In 2002 Ms Maneka Gandhi and Mr TR Balu of Tamil Nadu stopped the haul of the conch for environmental reasons. West Bengal Conch Craft Association subsequently raised a protest. With the intervention of minister Mr Banshogopal Chowdhury the matter was resolved, said Mr Dhar.

Another conch artist Mr Subrato Kumar Nag said, the conches are of eight to ten species. Their life span generally ranges from six months and most of them are acquired from the sea adjoining the coast of Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Gujarat and Srilanka.

The rate of conch ornament (a pair of bangles) ranges from Rs 40 to Rs 300 and the profit on these ornaments ranges from Rs 8 to Rs 10. A conch artist can make a profit of Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000 per month.

These ornaments are generally dispatched to Delhi, Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Gujarat.

SREI to set up 5000 Common Service Centres (CSCs) in partnership with West Bengal Government

SREI Infrastructure Finance Ltd has announced that in a unique move to bridge the digital divide between the rural and urban areas and in the process ensuring prompt delivery of government and other services, the West Bengal government has entered into a Master Service Agreement with the Company, the leading private sector infrastructure equipment, infrastructure projects and renewable energy products financing Company to set up nearly 5,000 common service centres (CSCs) in rural Bengal. The program has been drawn up under the aegis of the increasingly popular public-private partnership (PPP) mode.

The agreement signed between the Company and the Government of West Bengal, Panchayat and Rural Development Department on April 05, 2007, encompasses 14 districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Uttar Dinajpur and Dakhin Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia and South 24 Parganas, Purba Midnapore, Bankura, Birbhum, Howrah and Hooghly in Public Private Partnership (PPP) Mode. The agreement was signed by Shri. M N Roy – Hon’ble Principal Secretary, Panchayat & Rural Development Department, Govt of West Bengal and Dr. Sabahat Azim – Vice-President, Strategic Initiatives, of the Company. Mr. Hemant Kanoria, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, of the Company was also present on the occasion.

The initiative envisages setting up one CSC for each cluster of six villages with one being set up within each Gram Panchayat and Panchayat Samiti office premises. To start with, 4,937 such CSCs to be known as ‘Sahaj Tathya Mitra’ will be set up with Internet connectivity and will offer e-Governance Services and other commercial services to the rural populace.

The Company will manage these CSCs in collaboration with Wipro Infotech Ltd. While Wipro will be responsible for the technological inputs, the Company will chalk out the various services these CSCs will provide to the rural masses.

Under this program, a number of village level entrepreneurs (VLEs) preferably from women self-help groups (SHGs) will get direct livelihood while rest of the population will get access to e-Governance and Internet related services at its doorstep at a very nominal rate. The program is aimed at improving the standard of living in rural Bengal.

The feather in the cap undoubtedly goes to West Bengal, which has become the first state off the bloc in signing this Master Agreement, which is a part of the National e-Governance Plan. These CSCs will become operational in less than twelve months.

These CSCs have the potential of developing as revenue neutral tools in the hands of other Companies and service providers keen to access rural markets. The IT-enabled e-kiosks will also be developed to provide information and services for meeting rural needs in relation to agriculture, education, vocational training, health and hygiene.

Incidentally, the Company bid for all eight zones in the State comprising 18 districts for a total of 6797 CSCs and bagged six of those against stiff competition from Companies like Reliance Communication, 3i-Infotech and Wire & Wireless India Ltd.

Prisoners take jailors hostage in Chhattisgarh

NEW DELHI: A group of more than 145 prisoners took 20 jail officials hostage at Katghora jail in Korba, Chhattisgarh, on Monday evening, sending the entire police set up into a tizzy.

The incident occurred when the jail authorities were conducting a raid on the prisoners, checking for mobile phones in lock-ups. The prisoners snatched the rifles from the officials and took them hostage. The prisoners took full control of the jail, but made no attempt to escape.

The district administration and senior officers rushed to the spot and tried to work out a compromise formula.

When reports last came in, the district authorities were trying to negotiate with the prisoners for the release of the 20-25 sub-jail officials, who are in the custody for over two hours now. Earlier in the day, there was a surprise check by prison officials to recover mobile phones being used in the jail. There were reports that some prisoners with criminal record were making extortion calls from the jail. Chhattisgarh IG (Intelligence) Girdhari Naik, however, claimed the situation is under control.

“The jail officials were conducting a routine check when the around 145 criminals ganged up and snatched the arms of the jail official. They also tried to take the officials hostage. The situation is under control now,” Naik said. Similar incidents have occurred in the state in the past when rowdy criminals have overpowered jail officials and even managed to flee. The police officials at the Katghora jail said there was “enough security at the jail’ and the incident was just an isolated one. “This is only a number-game. We maintain law and order and make sure that things don’t slip put of control,”

Finding Sirpur, a village, a great heritage

Sirpur was a happening place 1,300 years ago. After centuries of remaining in oblivion, today it has captured its rightful place on the tourist map of Chhattisgarh. And all thanks to the excavations undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India, which has unearthed important Buddhist sites, the 6th-century Laxman temple and a host of idols belonging to that period.

Standing on the banks of the Mahanadi in Mahasamund district, Sirpur or Shreepur was once the capital of Dakshin Kosala (as Chhattisgarh was then known).

We travelled through picturesque landscape on NH6 to reach Sirpur, about 80 km from Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh. The wooded expanse and the pristine air made the hour-and-a-half drive exhilarating. Our sojourn assumed a more purposeful air as a professor of History from Raipur, Shampa Choube accompanied us on the trip.

Merchants’ halt

As we entered the hamlet of Sirpur, there was absolutely no sign that this was once a bustling and flourishing centre of trade that witnessed a constant stream of merchants from China! But yes, it was quite evident that the region was once home to astounding monuments and structures that had become buried under the sands of time. New temples have mushroomed everywhere, almost in clusters, on the shores of the Mahanadi. But our adrenaline levels peaked as we came within sight of the ruins that lay spread over a large area.

The excavations at Sirpur, spread over a 6-km radius of the village, continue to generate excitement in the world of history and archaeology. A mutilated idol here, some broken sculptures there—there’s something surfacing every once in a while, adding to the treasure trove of archaeological finds.

Temple town

An intriguing aspect of the findings relates to the presence of statues belonging to Vaishnavite, Shaivite, Buddhist and Jain religions at one place. This is believed to be one of the biggest temple towns of the sixth and seventh centuries discovered anywhere so far. According to archaeological sources, another unique feature here is the stone carvings depicting sexual activity among animals that are not seen even at Khajuraho or Ellora.

Having heard so much about the ruins of the Laxman temple, we proceeded there first. We were awestruck by its sheer size and structure and wondered how such a magnificent work could lay buried for so long a time! The temple is believed to be among the earliest in India built solely of bricks. It is also believed to be the only temple dedicated to Laxman, brother of Sri Rama.

The temple stands on a six-feet-high platform and its entrance is adorned with several figures carved in stone. The doorframe is of stone and a figure of the reclining Vishnu on Sheshnag is seen on the lintel. The panels of the doorway are embellished with statues depicting the incarnations of Vishnu and his devotees. The high brick roof ends in an imposing shikhar or temple dome, the passage of time clearly writ on it.

A caretaker at the complex guided us to a shed-like structure at the back of the temple, which functions as a ‘museum’. The place stacks rare statues, many of whom badly mutilated, belonging to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. One headless piece in particular caught our attention as our guide explained that it was the Buddha. He informed us that the head would be plastered to the body in due course of time.

Remains of a Shiva temple

Renovation works are on at the Gandheshwar temple dedicated to Shiva, and the Buddha Vihara, even as more idols continued to be unearthed at these sites. A metre-high statue of Buddha in the lotus position, belonging to the 6th century, is one of the largest finds at this site. Close by is the Ram temple, which is completely in ruins. A few stone foundation structures are all that remain of it. The Gandeshwar temple has today become the centre of an annual religious fair coinciding with Shivratri.

Historical evidence

The Laxman temple is believed to have been built in the 8th century by Vasata, the daughter of King Suryavarma of Magadh. Vasata was an ardent devotee of Vishnu and she built the temple in memory of her husband Harsha Gupta. Her son Mahashivagupta Balarjun, however, was Shaivite ruler credited with building the city of Shreepur—the city of wealth—as the capital of the Mahakosala kingdom. Every religion, especially Buddhism, flourished under the royal patronage of Harsha Gupta and Balarjun. The latter also promoted architectural styles of every religion and several Buddhist monasteries with their intricate motifs sprung up during his reign.

Copperplate inscriptions and a Chinese coin unearthed at Sirpur indicate that trade was buoyant under Balarjun’s rule and this brought with it exchanges of learning from neighbouring countries as well. Sirpur became an established centre of Buddhism between the 6th and 10th centuries and the Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang is believed to have visited the city.

Tsang’s travelogue mentions Shreepur as having over a hundred Buddhist monasteries inhabited by over 10,000 monks belonging to the Mahayana sect. The present-day excavations have discovered some conch bangles, giving rise to the surmise that the monasteries were possibly inhabited by bhikshunis or female monks as well.

Theories abound on the subsequent downfall of the thriving town—a civil war between Buddhists and Shaivites, invasions, declining trade and even floods.

Many rare idols are believed to have been stolen from Sirpur due to lack of proper security. One such piece, an idol of Goddess Tara, is believed to have been stolen in the mid-1960s and is currently housed in a US museum.

Once a flourishing centre of trade, today a veritable tourists’ delight, a historians’ palette, Sirpur however still remains a village that lacks proper communication and other infrastructure.

79&page=32 Jharkhand News Network

April 9, 2007 at 10:36 pm Leave a comment

Apr 08, 2007

CAG pulls up Jharkhand Police

The comptroller and auditor general (CAG) of India has pulled up Jharkhand Police for unlawful deployment of huge number of police forces as personal security guards to non-entitled persons like ex-ministers, ex-MPs, ex-MLAs, political workers and businessmen.

The CAG, in its latest report, has also assailed superintendents of police (SPs) of 11 districts including Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Hazaribag, Deoghar, Lohardaga, Palamu and Koderma, for non-realizing the cost of deployment from these non-entitled persons.

The cost of deployment amounted to a whopping Rs. 4.51 crore. A total of 187 police personnel were deployed as personal security guards in 11 districts in contravention of existing rules.

“The test check of records of office of SSP and SPs of 11 districts revealed that two ASI, seven havildars and 178 constables were deployed as personal security guards to ex-ministers, ex-MPs, ex-MLAs, ex-MLCs, political workers, businessmen and other non-entitled persons in between November 2000 and March 2005 without obtaining sanction of the district level committee constituted for the purpose,” the CAG report said.

The report further revealed that the SPs of 11 districts didn’t take steps to recover the cost of deployment from these non-entitled persons.

Under the provisions of the Police Act, 1861, police force can be deployed by the superintendent of police (SP) as security guard to individuals on demand and on payment of cost in advance.

By an order issued in May 1995, the unified Bihar Government prescribed the designation of persons such as CM, ministers, MPs, MLAs and judges of High Court to whom guards in prescribed numbers were to be provided.
The order also prohibited deployment of bodyguards from Bihar Military Police (BMP) or Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) under any circumstance.

“But, test check of records of the JAP, Deoghar, revealed that one JAP personnel was deputed as bodyguard to a non-entitled person (ex-MLA) in violation of government order in between November 2000 to March 2005. The cost of single deployment amounted to Rs. 4.50 lakh,” the report said.

The CAG has also asked the state government to fix responsibility for violation of its orders and ensure recovery of the deployment costs.

Further in March 2003, the Jharkhand Government prescribed guidelines and scales for providing bodyguards. It says the SP can provide police force as security guards to other than entitled persons for a period not exceeding one month on approval of district level committee and on payment of cost in advance.

“But in most of the cases, security guards were provided to non-entitled persons without approval of the committee and advance payment,” the report said.

Police-Naxals exchange fire in Garwah

GARWAH: Police Saturday claimed to have shot four extremists in a 2-hour encounter in the jungles of Nawadih in Jharkhand’s Garwha district.

“The extremists took them away as they retreated from the encounter spot at Ramkanda outpost. There is no injury on the police side who were well positioned” Superintendent of Polic Mohammad Nehal told reporters here.

Police fired about 200 rounds while the ultras used some 250 bullets in the encounter, Nehal said adding the police arrested one Samlim wearing an extremist outfit uniform..

An SLR, which was looted from the police some time ago, and 54 live cartridges were recovered from the the encounter site, he said.

CAG unhappy over elementary education in Jharkhand

Ranchi, April 9 (PTI): The number of ‘out of school’ children in Jharkhand was 3.66 lakh even after five years of the implementation of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India said.

With its present pace of implementation in Jharkhand, the SSA’s objective of providing universal elementary education by 2010 was a distant possibility, the report ending March 2006 said.

The dropout rate of children from class one to eight in the state as a whole was 68.39 per cent as of September 2005, the report, which was placed in the just-concluded budget session of the assembly, said.

Pulling up the state government for its inability to utilise funds granted under SSA, the report rued the government could not utilise the grant in 2001-02 session while the utilisation in the next four years (2002/2006) was between 18.88 per cent and 60.16 per cent.

Stating that there was a shortage of 4,996 teachers in primary and upper primary schools, the report found the student-teacher ratio at 51:1 in 2004/05 as against the norms of 40:1.

The CAG also indicted the govenrment for urban bias in posting of teachers and shortfall in the training of untrained teachers, resulting in deployment of under-qualified teachers and untrained teachers affecting the quality of education.

Jharkhand to invest 151cr to upgrade sericulture production

To upgrade silk production in Jharkhand, Central Silk Board (CSB) and state industry department initiated a joint venture project of ‘perspective plan for sericulture development’ with an investment of Rs151 crore.

Jharkhand at the moment produces 100 tons of raw silk and targets to reach 350 tons within next six years.

Regions of West Singhbhum, Seraikela-Kharsawan and Santhal Pargana serve as breeding grounds for cocoon cultivators. The state produces tasar, mulberry and eri silk.

In this venture, government plans to undertake infrastructure development, plantation activities, training and value addition of raw silk projects in the current fiscal year.

Ranchi-based Central Tasar Research and Training Institute would help in the project by providing services of training, research and development and technology transfer to farmers.

At the moment sericulture is being done in plant species like arjuna, saal, asan and mulberry tree but the Government’s focus would be on non-mulberry production of silk.

Dark road to temple – Streetlights not important to tourism department

Madhuban (Giridih): Tourism opportunities are aplenty in Jharkhand. But the state tourism department doesn’t seem to be serious to cash in on them.

Religious sites and scenic beauty attracts a large number of pilgrims and tourists to the Parasnath hills and Madhuban throughout the year.

Two years ago, India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) installed at least 110 streetlights on the 5-km-long Madhuban Road that leads to Shikharji — a Jain temple located
on the Parasnath hills. The arrangement cost the government about Rs 30 lakh.

To facilitate power supply, the state electricity board installed a 100-KVA transformer at Jharkhand Bhavan.

Even as everything was arranged, the street has plunged into darkness again. Thanks to the lackadaisical attitude of the state tourism department.

“The installation work was completed two years ago but the local officials were not interested in taking up the responsibility,” said an ITDC official.

All the state tourism department needs to do is appointing a caretaker to look after the maintenance of lights and pay the power bill on time.

In September 2006, the ITDC handed over the responsibility to the tourism department. But the area remained lit up for only three months. The department didn’t bother to clear the dues of the electricity department and the supply was discontinued.

“The department neither appointed a caretaker nor paid the three-month bill of Rs 38,000. On March 1, the supply has been snapped,” said the sub-divisional officer (electricity) D.P. Bhagat.

The absence of a maintenance official has resulted in many lights going missing, possibly stolen, and getting damaged as well.

Despite efforts, officials of the state tourism department could not be contacted.

IITs ask JEE candidates to mention OBC status

MUMBAI: The Supreme Court may have stayed the implementation of OBC quota in Central educational institutions, but HRD ministry is clearly in no mood to put off the decision this year. To pave the way for smooth implementation of OBC quota in this academic session itself, the seven IITs asked candidates at the joint entrance exam on Sunday to mention if they were from the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes or other backward classes.

The attendance sheet passed around before the exam required aspirants to mention if they belonged to the general category or any of the other three.

Usually, IITs ask only SC/ST students to list their caste category on the attendance sheet. The institutes then release separate merit lists for SC, ST and physically challenged students. The decision to mention the OBC category on the attendance sheet was finalised after a review ahead of this year’s entrance exam.

After the top court’s stay on the implementation of the OBC quota, IITs were unsure on how to proceed for the entrance test. With IIMs receiving last-minute faxes to freeze admissions till further notice on Friday, sources in IIT-Chennai said they didn’t want to take any chances with data on OBC candidates.

Maoists kill two RPF personnel in Bihar

In a stepped up extremist activities, CPI (Maoist) gunned down two Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel and injured three others between Ghorparan and Narganjo railway stations under Asansol railway division of Eastern railway on Sunday morning. They also looted two carbines, two SLRs and one 9 mm pistol from the policemen. However, no passenger was harmed by the extremists.

This is the second incident of Naxal attack in Bihar within a fortnight. Barely a few days ago, about 300 extremists stormed Righa police station and a bank in Sitamarhi district and killed a Special Auxiliary Police (SAP) jawan and wounded an assistant manager of the bank and a homeguard jawan.

Reports reaching the State police headquarters said that around 100 strong-armed squad of the CPI (Maoist), including women members, boarded Howrah-Mokama passenger (213 Up) in different groups at Simultala and Ghorparan railway stations. When the train left Ghorparan railway station at around 7.30 am, women activists entered a sleeper coach (83209) in which RPF personnel were also travelling. First they befriend them and after some time they threw chilly powder in their eyes.

The RPF jawans, said to be five in number, were caught off guard and started protecting their eyes. Taking advantage of the situation, the Maoists tried to snatch their firearms. When they offered resistance, one of the women activists fired from close range, killing one of the jawans on the spot and causing injuries to four others. Soon other Maoists, travelling in other compartments joined them.

The Maoists alighted from the train after pulling alarm chain before Narganjo Block hut. They also shouted anti-government slogans before they disembarked.

The railway and GRP officials came to know about the incident only when the train reached Jhajha railway station at around 9.03 am. The GRP lodged a case against unidentified extremists on the basis of the statement of an injured constable, Jayant Biswas. Biswas informed the senior officials that over 40 Maoists were travelling in the sleeper coach.

Jamui Superintendent of Police A K Ambedkar, who rushed to the spot with district magistrate, Ram Shobhit Paswan, said that Arijit Bag died on the spot while another RPF constable, Palash Ghosh, succumbed to his injuries on way to Jhajha hospital. “We have launched a massive combing operation in the area to nab the extremists involved in the attack,” he said.

DIG, Munger Sunil Kumar did not rule out the possibility of involvement of the same extremist group that had carried out operations on a BMP camp at Khaira village on February 26.

Additional Division Railway Manager (Asansol), Anil Kumar told HT over telephone that an assistant sub inspector, S N P Srivastava, who sustained four bullet wounds in the attack, had been shifted to Kolkata railway hospital and havildar B Sardar and J Biswas were undergoing treatment at Asansol divisional hospital. “The condition of Srivastava is stated to be critical while the two other injured constables are out of danger,” he said. Srivastava was leading the escort party.

He lamented that the police failed to make any headway in the Naxalites’ attack on Narganjo railway station in April last year. “Had the police taken the matter seriously and launched operation against extremists, the attack between Narganjo and Ghorparan would have been averted,” he said, adding that senior security commandant Nurul Hoda and assistant security commandant R K Singh had been camping at the site of occurrence. “The attack has not affected the movement of train on Asansol-Patna main line,” he added. The train guard was so terrified that he fainted and was subsequently admitted to Jhajha hospital.

Inspector General (Railway) A S Nimbran said that the borders of Bihar and Jharkhand had been sealed and all the railway stations under the division put on high alert. “Raids are on to arrest the Maoists,” he added.

It may be recalled here that about a year ago the underground Maoists had blasted the building of Narganjo railway station.

NGOs in Bihar: Voluntary Sector and its Credibility

This commentary is based on my field visits, and interaction with over four hundred NGO’s representatives, staff and functionaries in Bihar. I also got an opportunity to see some of their work in the field and interact with their staff and communities. There is lot to share and I know many of NGOs and readers of this article may not agree with my views and the way I see NGOs and its emergence in Bihar and their work. The observations, comments and examples mentioned in the paper are my own views and perception, and not against any particular organisation or individual.

There are several issues and concerns which questions the credibility of NGOs in Bihar. In last ten years and particularly after nineties, the number of NGOs registered in Bihar has outnumbered the other states. Although we do not have exact numbers, according to estimates, presently there are more than thirty thousands NGOs in Bihar. According to official sources nearly 10,000 NGOs exist only on paper .

There are several reasons for the increase in this number. Registration of trusts and societies have become hotbeds of corruption. It is interesting to note that many people are registering or have registered NGOs as property value which gives good return after three years or even before that. One can buy an NGO in Bihar in ten to fifteen thousand and if the NGO is more than three years old with FCRA one has to pay even more (Fifteen to thirteen thousand). NGOs complain that officials in Bihar charge up to Rs 10,000 for registering a society or trust; clearance under section 80G of the Income Tax Act can cost Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000; acceptance of audited accounts can cost even more .

There are families, who have more than five NGOs within the family and all the family members are part of it. So with time, these NGOs have also emerged as family business. In fact, some of the families with their sister organisations have emerged as very influential in lobbying with donors and bilateral agencies. However, in most of the NGOs in Bihar, it is difficult to find second line of leadership and even if it exists, it is confined within the close family members.

Besides the family, caste has also played a very important role in the emergence of NGOs in Bihar. Although there is no data available, it is believed that before nineties most of these NGOs were headed by upper caste and especially the Bhumihars, Rajputs and Brahmins or caste elites. After the nineties, there was change and it also spread to other caste groups. Primarily there are two reasons for this spread. First, by that time lot of funding agencies were approaching the state and secondly because of change in government which was pro-poor in principle. The other caste groups also became aware of the NGOs (easy money making business with no accountability towards people) with political, bureaucratic connections and patronage.

In the beginning, many NGOs were established in Bihar in late seventies and early eighties by sarvodayis or socialists or youth who had been a part of the J. P. movement. It may be noted that it is not uncommon for activists from emergency days (part of J P movement) to be part of NGOs in bihar. A large section of youth was mobilized during this movement, lot of them had left their studies and jobs, later, a number of these activists, became part of NGOs . Most of these people were political activists and believed in socialist ideology guided by Jay Prakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia. They believed in social change and some of them really did good work and were able to mobilise people for volunteerism and community development. Initially there were no outside funding support and resources were mobilised locally from the community and there was full community support and participation. It was during this period that many of Ashrams were established for social development.

At the same time, many of caste elites also opened voluntary organisations and NGOs in their villages but they were not able to succeed because of the ownership and hierarchy. Later they moved to cities like Patna, Ranchi and other urban centres because it was easy to lobby with government departments and donors. In fact many bureaucrats and politicians also associated themselves with these NGOs. This nexus has in fact further facilitated the spread of corruption. The functioning of a large number of fake non-government organisations (NGOs) in different parts of the state has proved beyond doubt that it has a well-knit group of highly-placed officials for running it smoothly. Investigations have revealed that close relatives of a large number of politicians, bureaucrats and academics are engaged in running such NGOs, each one of them claiming to change the face of the society . In many of these NGOS, most of the chief functionaries are family members, no matter whether they have an understanding of NGO or development or not. There are couples, who have separate NGOs, where husband has a mother NGO for RCH programme and field activities are run by the wife’s organisation. In principle there is nothing wrong in it but the dynamics and inter-relationship is important because the work done by both the organisations is in question and they are ultimately accountable to the people for whom they are working.

During the last fifteen years, NGOs in Bihar have increased in number, size, and scope and have established themselves to be perceived in pivotal positions capable of bringing about social, economic, and political change. In this context, it is imperative to understand the dynamics, work and political economy of NGOs and to evaluate their social roles. A study led by Elmer H Lighid, of the International Council on Management of Population Programmes (ICOMP), Malaysia reports that though the number of voluntary organisations working in a district varies, out of every 1,000 such organisations, there are only 20 “real” ones. It stresses that the voluntary organisations in Bihar are fragmented and work in isolation due to caste, religious and ideological factors. It maintains that the voluntary organisations lack the requisite technical skills, qualified staff and exposure .

Credibility Question:

The question is “what is credibility” and what constitutes credibility for an NGO. One can define credibility as quality of being trustworthy which means, whether or not the NGO (the aims and vision with which it is established) is to be believed or trusted. We know that many a times, NGOs are not considered credible because they have a personal, monetary, political or other interest which is often in contradiction with the interest of the community or people whom they claim to serve..

Credibility is one of the most critical factors, which has affected the peoples perception of NGOs in Bihar. Now people and communities have started demanding money for participation in NGOs programme as they believe that NGOs are getting money in their name. The question here is, ‘how can an NGO build its credibility?’ Before answering this question, however it is important to focus on why NGOs have lost their credibility.

NGOs have lost their credibility in people because they are not consistent, transparent, honest and accountable to their work being done. Despite the recent cancellation of the registration of hundreds of “fake” non-government organisations (NGOs) in Bihar, a large number of people, including those belonging to Naxalite outfits, have made a beeline for getting their new organisations registered. Interestingly, people belonging to various Naxalite outfits and women activists top the list of those who have set up their NGOs in different parts of the state . Transparency and sharing information and knowledge is a best way to build credibility which helps in building the intellectual base of the NGO, and its ability to articulate the views of the people it is speaking for. There is no fix set of guidelines for NGOs, which we have for other sectors like government, corporate and other institutions. Although several activists, networks and Alliances (Like credibility alliance) are raising theses issues and have developed norms and good practices for governance and public disclosure, we have not achieved and provided rights to people working in development sectors (Its not true for all organizations but applies to many voluntary organizations and NGOs).

There is need to debate, raise and discuss the issues which hampers NGOs credibility directly besides other factors.

The author (Dr. Anant Kumar) is a member of Jharkhand Network and faculty in Department of Rural Development at Xavier Institute of Social Service (XISS), Ranchi, Jharkhand.

Source: Submitted to Jharkhand News Network by Dr. Anant Kumar
(Published at Bihar Times, 05/04/2007)

What Bengal thinks today…

Did Nandigram happen due to the CPI (M)’s overconfidence? Partly. The rest was about the bourgeois attitude that has crept into the leadership.

The Left Front’s most recent record in ushering in capitalism in the state of West Bengal is shameful, but there isn’t even a muted response to the Pakistan judiciary reeling under the boots of a military dictator.

However, let’s stick to India alone. Even though the Left allows the UPA government to survive on its oxygen, it misses no opportunity to bare the Manmohan Singh government’s capitalists tendencies. And in its own bastions of West Bengal and Kerala, it’s not just rolling out red carpet to woo foreign investment but is shameless in suppressing popular revolt.

The contradictions are clear. Coming from the CPI(M), lofty ideas, talks of power to the people and human rights appear hollow. The emperor has no clothes. Scores of artists and intellectuals across the country have showed their resentment in no uncertain terms.

Also, West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi has hardly ever courted political controversy. He is known to be a man of scholarship, integrity and composure. When he criticises the government, it contains the credulity of honesty.

The state government thought it would get away this time, too. It thought that a nexus of party, police and a highly politicised establishment would again suppress opposition. It forgot, however, that communication technology and a vibrant media not only had gathered more strength in recent times but also spread the reach. Mamata Banerjee just fitted the bill.

The support of Jamiat-e-Ulema against the state government is again reflective of the withering away of its Muslim vote bank. So, did Nandigram happen due to CPI (M)’s overconfidence? Partly. More so, due to the bourgeois attitude that has crept into the leadership.

Nandigram, quite naturally, generated much political heat in both the Houses. The NDA and the ruling almost came to blows. It was only expected. But the sheer ruffian behaviour of the Kolkattan Left forced Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to offer his resignation for the nth time. No, the Communists did not attack any member from the Opposition benches but a Cabinet minister belonging to DMK, a fellow ally in UPA.

Minister for Road Transport and Shipping T R Balu became the target of physical attack. Had the Minister of State for Railways Velu not come to his rescue and formed a human shield, anything was possible. As the Left MPs tried to snatch papers from Balu as he announced shifting of a maritime institute from Kolkata to Chennai, in the scuffle Velu almost lost his dhoti—much for the decency and dignity that they champion.

What many would have thought the minimum, the Left did not even offer an apology. Worse, the statement after the CPI(M) politburo meeting was written in cold blood.

So what does it all hold for the national politics? The Manmohan Singh government will be further weakened. The Left, to deviate attention from its deeds, will try to attack the government and prevent the CBI from bringing the real guilty to book.

But it will surely not sink the UPA boat as this is the best it has in having the best of both worlds. If the BJP comes to power at the Centre, it will only give the Communist government in the state more sleepless nights instead of the present situation where it can threaten to pull down the Congress-led UPA government.

It is only a mass movement that can keep the CPI(M) on tenterhooks. It is time the civil society, instead of being a mute spectator, should emerge not just as conscience keepers but should also keep alive genuine democracy instead of what Communists have been long indoctrinated with. It is also time the state live up to the dictum: what Bengal thinks today, the rest of India thinks tomorrow.

Attendance in govt schools not a major problem, says study

NEW DELHI: The much maligned attendance problem of students and teachers in government schools is not as huge as it is made out to be. Yet, states like UP, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand do lag behind some other states. These facts are revealed in a first of its kind study across all states done by 20 institutions for the HRD ministry.

The study shows that Himachal Pradesh is on top with overall students’ attendance of 94.63% in primary classes and 93.18% in upper primary, followed by Maharashtra where attendance in both primary and upper primary classes is 89%. As for teachers’ attendance, West Bengal is on top with 96% attendance in primary and 98% in upper primary while Madhya Pradesh is at 67% in both primary and upper primary.

The study also shows that attendance is far better in upper primary classes (class VI-VIII — in some states like West Bengal upper primary starts from V, and in a few others like Maharashtra and Orissa, it ends at class VII).

So far, data from only nine states — Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, MP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, UP and West Bengal — have come in. The study was done for 2006-07 academic session and included random surveys on three selected days, both in the first half and second half of school. The head count, as well as the attendance register, was checked. In case of teachers’ attendance, survey was once again done on three random days in the first and last period.

Uttar Pradesh is not ‘uttam pradesh’ in education as Big B claims it to be in the Samajwadi Party election campaign. In primary classes (I-V), the average attendance was found to be abysmally low at 57.37%, while in upper primary it was slightly better at 60.50%. Interestingly, in UP, attendance dips post-break. For instance, in primary classes while attendance was 59.56% in the first half, it dropped to 55.18% in the second half.

Two consecutive terms as CM and the image of a doer has not made much difference to Navin Patnaik’s Orissa. It is just above UP with attendance in primary classes pegged at 66.79%. In upper primary, the average attendance was 66.79%.

Then comes Rajasthan with overall attendance in primary classes at 62.67% while in upper primary it is 78.87%. In both classes, the post-break attendance comes down in a big way. Madhya Pradesh is also lagging behind. The overall attendance in primary classes is 72.10% and in upper primary 72.10%.

Heat Wave Kills Two In Orissa

Orissa health department Saturday confirmed two people had died in the intense heat wave sweeping the state.

Officials said the two deaths occurred one each in the southwestern district of Kalahandi and the coastal district of Bhadrak.

They said the government had received information of seven deaths from different parts of the state, three of which, reported from Jagatsinghpur district along the coast, were not related to the heat wave. Two reports of death from Nayagarh were being investigated.

Bikash Patnaik, medical officer of the state health control room, said: “After conducting examinations we found that the three deaths reported from Jagatsinghpur were due to some other reasons.”

“While the two deaths in Nayagarh are still being examined, we confirm that the two deaths from Kalahandi and Bhadrak are due to sunstroke,” Patnaik said.

Heat wave conditions have been prevailing over some parts of the state with Jharsuguda town in western Orissa recording the maximum temperature of 40.6 degrees Celsius Friday. There was no let up in the situation Saturday.

Hirakud and Sambalpur recorded 39.8 and 39.0 degrees, the weather office said.

State capital Bhubaneswar recorded a maximum of 35.6 degrees Saturday.

PSU foursome set for foreign coal venture

The National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) plans to set up a joint venture with PSUs Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited, National Thermal Power Corporation and Coal India in overseas coal mining, its chairman and managing director B. Ramesh Kumar said here yesterday.

He said the four PSUs have agreed to hunt for coal blocks in South Africa and Australia, and the deal will be signed soon. He said NMDC will invest Rs 9,000 crore on an iron and steel plant at Nagarnar, Chhattisgarh, an integrated iron and power plant at Jagadalpur, Chhattisgarh, and a pellet plant at Donimalai, Karnataka.

“We are in talks with SAIL and RINL for setting up the integrated steel plant in Chattisgarh,” Kumar said.

He said NMDC plans to reduce iron ore exports by half to 3.5 million tonnes in 2007-08 from 6.04 million tones in the previous year, following a change in policy of the Centre towards more ore for domestic steel units.

NMDC plans to invest Rs 18,000 crore in the Eleventh plan on its expansion activities. “We plan to spend Rs 3,500 crore for building new infrastructure and open up new mines to increase iron ore production to 50 million tones (mt) from 27 mt tonnes by 2014-15,” the NMDC CMD said.

The company is taking up mining projects at Bailadilla, Chhattisgarh, and at Kumaraswamy, Karnataka. Each of these projects envisage an investment of Rs 300 crore.

Kumar said NMDC closed the fiscal with a profit before tax of approximately Rs 3,400 crore against Rs 2,770 crore last year. The turnover was Rs 4,150 crore, against Rs 3,711 crores of the previous year.

NMDC excavated 36.71 mt of ore and raised the supply to domestic industries to 22.50 mt against 18.80 mt in the previous year, which is 76 per cent of the output.

Last month NMDC had petitioned the government against the imposition of duty on iron ore exports, saying the levy would cause a loss of Rs 150 crore, according to PTI.

“The nmdc has written to the various ministries stating that its profit would come down by Rs 150 crore because of the duty in the coming year,” sources said. According to estimates, the duty imposed in the Union Budget has already resulted in decline in exports by 40 per cent in March. Jharkhand News Network

April 8, 2007 at 10:37 pm Leave a comment

Apr 07, 2007

Six killed in Naxal attack in Jharkhand

RANCHI: Six persons, including two CISF personnel, were killed and six others injured when Naxals launched attacks on a CISF picket at Khasmahal coal project in Bokaro district and a police station, a senior police official said on Saturday.

The two CISF personnel received fatal bullet wounds in the attack on Friday night on the picket near the project under Gandhi Nagar police station of the district, Superintendent of Police Priya Dubey said.

Four civilians died when the Maoists fired at Kurpania Bazaar nearby, the SP said.

Two other CISF jawans and four other civilians were injured in the attack.

The Maoists, who exploded landmines at several places to create panic in the area, also tried to storm the Gandhi Nagar police station but the police repulsed their move.

Both the security personnel and the Maoists traded several rounds of bullets.

A cleaner of a dumper was injured when a separate group of extremists exploded a landmine in an attempt to blow up a bridge leading to Khasmahal to stop police movement.

Soon after the attack, the Bokaro SP rushed to the spot with reinforcements. The encounter lasted till the early hours.

The injured were being treated at a nearby hospital.

We need quacks

By the time Bijola reached the house where Savitri was groaning with labour pains, the village ‘doctor’ had already reached. Savitri had sent a neighbour to call Bijola, whereas Savitri’s husband had called the ‘doctor’.

The ‘doctor’ came on his mobike, Bijola came on her feet. He had pulled out his needle and syringe and was about to load the magic medicine to hasten the birth. Bijola — an empowered (and trained) ‘dai’ — told the family members, “If you allow this doctor to give her injections i will leave this house”.

Bijola has been working in the villages of Chandankiari, in the Bokaro district of Jharkhand, for more than 30 years. She knew Savitri well.

She had helped deliver her first three children and had referred the fourth one to a hospital for a caesarean, since she had a crooked foetus. She already knew that this fifth one was crooked too.

She quickly wore her gloves and examined her, and found what she was expecting: the cervix was hardly dilated, and the head was nowhere to be felt from below. But Savitri was having very strong, regular contractions.

Bijola told the family to get her to a hospital fast if they wanted to save the mother and the baby.

The village ‘doctor’, however, offered no such advice. His role during delivery is only to administer ‘hot’ injections.

These are usually oxytocin, a drug that stimulates the uterus and produces stronger contractions. It should never be administered intra-muscularly before a baby is born, and never, ever, to a mother that has already undergone a caesarean section.

It can cause birth asphyxia and death in the newborn, and can lead to a ruptured uterus and death of the mother. Bijola understood this, the doctor did not. Fortunately, the family listened to Bijola and took Savitri to the hospital.

It wasn’t easy to get the system to work in a government hospital, but Bijola prevailed upon the doctor to operate on Savitri. The mother and baby survived.

However, Savitri’s husband was not a happy man. His sister-in-law had a caesarean section in her first pregnancy, and had a normal, home delivery in the second, so why couldn’t his wife?

It must be Bijola’s fault, he told her. The village doctor had told him that a couple of injections would get the baby out in no time at all. And now he was stuck in the city for a week, arranging food and medicines for his wife.

Not only is Savitri’s husband unhappy with Bijola, but the government is too. The current thinking in India, with perhaps feedback from beyond the seas, is that the only way to bring down maternal mortality is to ensure insti-
tutional delivery for all.

The traditional birth attendants, so the argument goes, cannot help reduce maternal mortality. In Savitri’s case, as we have seen, it was the big doctor of the big hospital that saved her life, wasn’t it?

Officially, traditional birth attendants are out of favour. In Jharkhand, the Janani Suraksha Yojana, a scheme to give financial inducements to push poor women to deliver in ill-equipped and inaccessible hospitals, has not been a great success.

In Bijola’s district, one of the better performing ones, the scheme is more successful in the town — where services are nearby — but has hardly made an impact in remote villages, where women continue to die during childbirth.

Most women who have received the first instalment of the scheme, during pregnancy, still go on to deliver at home.

The Rs 700 given for an institutional birth is hardly enough for transportation costs. The expenses for a normal delivery in a private nursing home in Bokaro is not less than Rs 2,000.

In any case the government health centres are hardly equipped to deal with institutional delivery for all.

And since all women are supposed to have safe deliveries in hospitals (when they have been built) the government need not waste valuable resources training traditional birth attendants any more.

The focus is on training government nurses, or ANMs, to become skilled birth attendants. It matters not that ANMs do not conduct deliveries, that they do not reside in the villages, and more than 90 per cent of deliveries in Jharkhand take place at home.

As for Bijola and the village doctor, they will, and should stay, as long as hospitals remain inaccessible and ANMs stay in towns and cities.

The writer is a village health worker.

Metro model for two cities

Ranchi and Jamshedpur would soon turn into cities of malls, multiplexes and residential complexes.

The Jharkhand housing board, in a joint venture with private players, will soon build over 2,700 reasonably-priced flats in Ranchi and Jamshedpur. Besides, the board has also given the go ahead to build malls, multiplexes, hotels and shopping complexes in the two cities.

Superintending engineer Diwakar Singh said the board has given its approval to enter into an agreement with private players to develop 17 plots of land in Ranchi and Jamshedpur into multi-storied residential complexes.

Of the total plots, nine are in Harmu, two in Argora, three in Bariatu, Ranchi, while the remaining three at Adityapur, Jamshedpur, he said.

The board would sign the agreement with the successful bidders shortly. The interested private players include Nagarjuna Constructions, Orbit and Simplex.

According to Singh, the construction is likely to be completed within two years.

Though the board had advertised for 71 acres, it could not find any takers for 20 acres in Daltonganj, 12 acres in Bokaro and 2.5 acres in Hazaribagh, said Singh.

The board has fixed a rate of Rs 800 per square feet for lower income group (LIG), Rs 900 for middle income group (MIG) and Rs 1300-1400 for high income group (MIG) flats.

A mall and a multiplex at Harmu Chowk, two shopping complexes and a community hall at Sahjanand Chowk, Harmu, and a hotel and malls at Argora are on the cards.

Kidnappings continue in Bihar

Patna, April 7 (IANS) Two people were killed after being kidnapped and six other abductions were also reported within a span of two days in Bihar, indicating that little has changed since a new government came to power last year.

The kidnapping industry is still thriving in the state, say residents.

Armed criminals abducted Umesh Jha, a 51-year-old farmer, and his nephew Rajaram Singh, 25, from Rampur Thuthi village in Khagaria district late Thursday night and later killed them.

Police recovered their decapitated bodies from a field and sent them for autopsy.

Four people were also reported to have been abducted in separate incidents in Siwan district. Police said they were abducted for ransom.

Of these, two victims were a father-son duo. Lalan Pandey was abducted along his son Pappu when he was returning after a marriage negotiation for hiss daughter.

An 11-year-old school student, Pitamber, was abducted in Samastipur district. His father Ravishankar Pandey is a rich farmer who also owns a business. Police suspect that the abduction is for ransom.

A bus owner, Shalendra Singh, was also kidnapped Friday in Danapur near Patna.

Last week, police recovered the body of an abducted 10-year-old student in Munger district. The same week, a youth was reported kidnapped in Patna and another in Nalanda district. Later both were released.

The Patna High Court had early this year directed the state government to trace 144 children and 581 women who had been reported missing since 2001. The court also took note of reports that 44 of the abducted children had been killed.

Father poisons daughter to death in Bengal

BURDWAN (WB): Driven by poverty, a daily farm labourer in West Bengal’s Burdwan district poisoned one of his daughters to death and was himself in a critical condition after consuming poison, police said on Saturday.

Sanatan Majhi of Ketugram was not getting any work as he was ill and was finding it difficult to run his family of two daughters, wife and himself.

According to an FIR lodged by Sanatan’s wife Jyotsna with the police on Friday evening he took his elder author Jaya (4) with him and went to a sweet shop. After purchasing some rasogollas he mixed poison with it and asked his daughter to eat it and also himself consumed them.

Jyotsna found both of them in a critical condition. They were rushed to Katwa Sub-Divisional Hospital where Jaya was pronounced brought dead while Sanatan was admitted to hospital in a critical condition.

Jyotsna said here husband had become sullen and dejected as he was finding it very difficult to find work due to his ill health and was always short of money

Solar power boon for villagers

BOLPUR, April 6: Switching on electric lamps or watching television was some sort of a dream for them until a few days ago, but today the dream has come true, illuminating their lives.
The villages like Mohuli and Geatgram, situated on the bank of the river Ajoy along the border of Birbhum are regarded as the most underdeveloped villages in the district.

The floods in 1995 wreaked havoc in the area, wiping out these two villages completely. Thereafter, it had been a long and bleak battle for the villagers to earn their livelihoods.
At a time when the villagers cannot afford electricity, they have got it because of a novel project taken up by Santiniketan Sriniketan Development Authority.

With the help of the West-Bengal Renewal Energy Development Agency, the SSDA arranged for solar electricity in these villages. The project, funded by the ministry of renewable energy, the state government and the SSDA, has provided about 127 families with a solar panels connected with two lamp sets and a plug point.

The chief executive officer of SSDA, Mr Ashoke Das, said: “The development authority has been working in these villages for the last two years. We found out that the villagers were so poor that they could not bear the cost of electricity.

“So we were in search of an alternative way. The WBREDA helped us to implement this project. And now we are looking forward to carry on this project smoothly in these villages.” “Villagers have been trained in maintenance work by the experts of the the WBREDA and a distilled water plant has also been set up near Dhannosara village so that villagers would not have to face any difficulty in using the distilled water for the maintenance process”, said Mr Das. “Under this project, the villagers will have to pay Rs 20 per month for five years to the agency and that agency would be responsible to run the project smoothly for around 20 years”, said Mr Das.
The project was inaugurated by the Lok Sobha speaker and MP of Bolpur, Mr Somnath Chatterjee and Mr Santi Pado Gon Chowdhury, director of the WBREDA in presence of other dignitaries.

In his address Mr Chatterjee also assured the villagers that in the near future the SSDA would help the villagers by providing solar lights in the streets free of cost.

Invest for a healthy HRD

BHUBANESWAR: Investment in industries, mines, IT hubs and infrastructure development has taken the centre stage in the current time of globalisation, but human resources development (HRD), which needs the basic input of a healthy workforce, still remains neglected as investment in health sector has taken a backseat.

While the slogan of World Health Day this year as coined by World Health Organisation is ‘Invest in health, build a safer future’, it is time for introspection to see what is on agenda to address threats to health security including emerging and rapidly spreading diseases like AIDS, cardio vascular ailments, humanitarian emergencies caused by natural calamities and man-made disasters like road accidents, bio-terrorism and pollution.

Given the health landscape in our State the continuing inadequacies of both public health and causative health is almost threatening the stability of the community.

With Orissa being the leading state in India with highest road accidents and oral cancer cases, a lot has to be done at planning stage, says Major General (Retd) Bikash Kumar Mohanti, Medical Superintendent with Kalinga Hospital here.

Rising threats to public health could place our development plan and economic growth in peril. The communities are yet to adopt an appropriate health response to disease outbreaks and other concerns.

The State Government and all the stake-holders must build a common capacity to prevent, detect, report and respond to health threats, he adds.

Admitting that the acute shortage of trained and committed health workers from primary to tertiary level of care is a cause of concern in the State, the expert says public-private partnership, non-government organisation and corporate houses must focus on various aspects as the State sees a surge in industrial sector.

Emphasising mutual support to enable people protect their health standards, Dr Mohanti also advocates setting standards in public health strategies and providing technical co-operation and financial support for health-care related research in the State at the national and regional research laboratories.

‘The need for more continuing medical education (CME) on various specialisations and intra-specialisation topics are important with emerging health emergencies’, says Dr SC Dash, Professor and HOD, Nephrology and Principal, Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences here.

With fast lifestyle, natural calamity and other man-made conditions giving rise to complex diseases, doctors need to adopt a holistic approach on the treatment process and update their knowledge base through CMEs, he adds.

Role of telemedicine, public lectures, awareness rallies, health camps and talk shows by experts should be tried to popularise health topics, the former Nephrology HOD with AIIMS, feels.

Impunity for gang-rape in India

Victims of gang-rape and other violence against Christians and other minorities in India shared their testimony with an independent tribunal. The media were denounced for inciting anti-minority violence.

For the first time an all-India picture has emerged of anti-Christian violence from a people’s tribunal.

Victims of Christian persecution from across India shared their horrific stories and highlighted the denial of justice to them before an independent people’s jury.

According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the depositions were part of “The Independent People’s Tribunal against the Rise of Fascist Forces in India and the Attack on the Secular State,” a three-day program which concluded here on March 22.

In its report, ICC said the independent jury was organized by non-profit organizations Anhad and Human Rights Law Network, and supported and attended by a plethora of rights groups, including Christian organizations, like the All India Christian Council (AICC) and the Christian Legal Association.

Of the 100 victims who submitted their statements, about 40 were Christian. The rest were mainly were from Gujarat state, which witnessed a wide-scale killing of members of the Muslim minority community in 2002.

Impunity of perpetrators of gang-rape

“I was gang-raped by my fellow tribal villagers, including the brother and father of the local legislator in January 2004, and I named everyone in my police complaint, but no one has been arrested till today,” lamented Taramani, a school teacher from Madhya Pradesh state’s Jhabua district.

Taramani’s village, Alirajpur, was one of the worst affected villages during the spate of anti-Christian violence that followed the infamous January 11 incident, in which a young girl was found dead in the compound of a Catholic school in Jhabua district. Hindu fundamentalist Hindu Jagran Manch (Forum for Revival of Hindus) blamed the murder on the church, and instigated a series of attacks on Christian individuals and their institutions. This was despite the fact that a non-Christian admitted to the crime.

“A crowd of about 250 people first launched an attack on my house and set it on fire and then some of them took me to a jungle and outraged my modesty,” said, Taramani, a widow.

With tears in her eyes, she added that when she returned she found the house completely gutted. “Even the police initially refused to register my complaint which they did only later and reluctantly.

“All that I have received from the government is Rs.30,000 ($700 USD), but no arrests. The perpetrators still tell me that nothing will happen to them, as they are very powerful,” she said.

Attackers remain at large

Another victim, Shobha Onkar, also from Alirajpur, could not help crying as she narrated how she was attacked by a mob in the aftermath of the January 11 incident. “About 300 people surrounded our house in the presence of the local police inspector and started breaking in. I thought I should open the door before they vandalized my house, but when they entered into the house, one of them hit me with a stick on my head. I started bleeding profusely,” she said.

“My son ran to the police and bent on his knees to plead them to rescue me, saying, ‘They will kill my mother,’ but they did not budge,” she added.

Onkar also said that relatives of the local legislator belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were among the crowd.

Onkar’s house was badly damaged and completely looted. “The government gave me only Rs.6,000 ($140 USD) as compensation. And justice, which matters the most, was denied, as the perpetrators were not brought to justice,” she added.

There were also victims from the states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir.

Lessons for the church

Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the AICC who was one of the jury members, told ICC, “From the Christian perspective, the hearings were memorable and important. Christians of all denominations, and both men and women, came forward to depose for the first time in a major way. In my experience this is also the first time that an all-India picture has emerged of anti-Christian violence from a people’s tribunal.”

The all-India pattern of violence has lessons for everyone, and particularly for the church whether it is Catholic, Protestant or Evangelical, he said, adding that urgent steps needed to be taken. “Clergy and church workers have to be trained in human rights and basic law.”

Another memorable witness, said Dayal, was the compilation by the Rev. Madhu Chandra of AICC to prove the massive activity of Hindu extremists in the north-eastern Hindu majority states of Manipur and Assam.

“For me, the most heartening testimonies were of women — Muslim and Christian.”

Madhya Pradesh a daylight church

He also said it was obvious that “Hindutva pressure” was working. “The church in Madhya Pradesh is fast becoming a ‘daylight church’ with mission activity in the evening and after sun down — which is how outreach programs can work in forest villages when people return home after sunset — has stopped. Only in full daylight can some work be done. And yet, the church hierarchy seems not too worried.”

In other areas, church activity is now confined to tribals alone, who constitute just a third of the population even in the so-called tribal belt of central India, he said. “This has serious ramifications.”

Dayal thanked the civil society, including “well-meaning Hindu Activists,” for their “unstinted support” to the Christian community.

No help from the State

Based on the statements of the victims and presentations by human rights activists, the tribunal noted that “demonization of minorities, both Muslims and Christians, and their consequent marginalization and physical attacks have been noticed all over the country, particularly in the states where the BJP is in power, like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.”

In these cases, the victims have failed to get any help from the State. The role of the police is particularly dubious, as in most cases, the victims were not even able to file an FIR (first information report). It is often noticed that the victims are turned into perpetrators of crime. As a result, there is a sense of helplessness that the minorities feel.”

Rights activists also deplored the role of the media, mainly local newspapers in vernacular languages, in inciting anti-minority violence.

The tribunal was an initiative of Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad and attorney Colin Gonsalves of the Human Rights Law Network.

Keep It Skimmed

Before the quotas, identify the OBC. That is the new wisdom

The National OBC Commission set up in 1993 had refused backward status to 456 castes and subcastes.

The Cream Of The OBCs

As per the National Backward Classes Commission, children whose parents fall in these 7 categories are ineligible for job reservations…

Those who hold constitutional posts like the President of India, Vice President, Supreme Court and high court judges, chairman and members of the UPSC and state public service commissions.

Class I officers of central and state services; international organisations like the UN, IMF or World Bank

Group B/Class II officers of the central and state services

Class I and II public sector employees;

armed forces and paramilitary personnel of colonel and above rank.

Professionals like doctors, lawyers, CAs, income tax consultants etc.

Agricultural land owners whose holdings put them in the higher income bracket.

Every time the government pays obeisance at the altar of social justice and invokes reservations, it’s the same old demons that return to haunt.

Who are the actual beneficiaries of reservations? Is it the really deserving among the Other Backward Classes, or a ‘creamy layer’ that skims all the benefit from the reservations bucket? Has the government, ever eager to pull the reservations rabbit out of the hat, made any attempt to identify those who have already availed of quota benefits, and moved on to balance the social stakes at the lowest rung? How desirable are reservations anyway in this era of equal opportunities? Even as the nation continues to get exercised over the issue, and emotions run high within both the pro- and anti-reservation camps, there is still little reflection on which castes need reservations and which don’t.

It was precisely for this task that the National Commission for Backward Classes was set up in 1993. Its mandate was to identify socially and economically backward castes/communities, and delist those which had already made use of reservations and moved up. Though guided by the political compulsions of the government of the day, the commission attempted to correct the anomalies of the Mandal Commission report, mainly its exclusion of several subcastes. It has periodically conducted social audits to determine the status of various castes. Not every caste that has staked a claim on reservations has made it to the national OBC list; as many as 456 castes have failed to convince the commission of their social/ educational backwardness.

Of course, the commission’s work is far from complete. Some of the dominant backward castes, like the Nadars of Tamil Nadu, remain on the list. Good old politics keeps them there: no political party wants to upset powerful OBC lobbies; those in power would rather that the commission maintain status quo instead of dislodging the government. However, if the commission is given a free hand, it has the infrastructure to provide a comprehensive status report on OBCs.

And the conclusion it arrives at on the basis of various studies and public hearings is that reservations are necessary. The commission’s current chairperson, Justice S.R. Pandian, has noted: “That a few of the seats and posts reserved for backward classes are snatched away by the more fortunate among them is not to say that reservation is not necessary. This is bound to happen in a competitive society like ours. Aren’t unreserved slots snatched away by the creamy layer among forwards?”

And so the debate has moved to the next level: should reservations be made without ascertaining the extent of backwardness among the beneficiaries? The OBC groups weren’t too happy with the Supreme Court stay on the government’s attempt to implement the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu led the pro-reservationist charge: both states witnessed bandhs for the quota cause. But the apex court in its interim stay order sought a more realistic basis for reservations and asked for a headcount of OBCs and identification of the creamy layer.

The ball is therefore back in the commission’s court, with the government seeking its help in answering the apex court’s questions. On its part, the commission has already spelt out the parameters to identify the creamy layer; it is now up to the government to zero in on the already-benefited and ensure they are derecognised. Says constitutional lawyer Rajeev Dhawan: “The creamy layer mechanism, which provides the guidelines for disentitlement, should be followed to ensure that those not deserving are kept out.” It is the only way to make reservations more credible, and ensure its benefits accrue to the truly deserving. It should also go some way in appeasing the anti-reservationists who cite the example of individuals who have benefited unduly to point out the lacuna of reservations.

But reservations for politics’ sake is something even staunch votaries of reservations like D.L.Sheth caution against. Says the former member of the OBC commission: “If the Mandal policy has prevented a huge turmoil in checking subaltern marginalisation, the time has now come for a relook.” However, he realises the enormity of the task when he asks: “But who will bell the cat?” He is referring to the hard decision that will have to be taken to “put out of the benefit system” communities with political and economic clout.

But whether for or against the reservations motion, the opposing sides are agreed on one thing: that the issue has to be sorted out, one way or another. Collating real data would be a first step in that direction as that alone will help one put a finger on the extent of backwardness in the country. Such an exercise may exclude the forward minority among the backwards. But that would not dilute the 27 per cent reservation fixed for OBCs in IITs, IIMs and other institutes of higher learning. As P.S. Krishnan, advisor to Union HRD minister Arjun Singh, puts it: “There can be no doubt on the 27 per cent. If a real headcount is done, you know who will be having the last laugh…”

Multiple Entrance Examinations Work As “Entry Barriers”

It appears that our Honorable HRD Ministry and its even more Honorable Minister Mr. Arjun Singh are hell bent on providing justice to the real needy, poor and socio-economically marginalized sections of the society. However because all his noteworthy efforts towards OBC reservation have come to a temporary halt due to the unfavorable Supreme Court verdict passed recently, as responsible citizens we must help our Ministry to find alternate means to achieving its broader goals.

Here is a suggestion that the Ministry should look at to keep itself busy, one which should receive no confrontation from most of the students or guardians, or the broad society in general.

The daughter of one of my colleagues is in the final year of +2 this year. The board exams now being over, what awaits her now is a run of competitive exams like IIT-JEE, AIEEE, various state level JEEs, few private engineering and medical college exams, the AIIMS test, ISI … the list can be indeed long.

The picture is no different after graduation when most young students aspire for an MBA degree. There are CAT, JMET, XAT, MAT … no difference here either – the list is equally long.

If one wants to apply for even a few of them, it may cost one tens of thousands of rupees in terms of application fees alone. Add to that the process of application and lack of infrastructure in rural areas, one immediately understands how difficult it is for good rural students to compete with their urban counterparts. For MBA admission, there are interviews again.

Irrespective of the justifications on costs incurred by respective institutes and specific knowledge/aptitude they seek from their entrant students, when one examines how a student from rural or semi-urban place faces the economic and other burdens, one can easily concur that these separate multiple exams are nothing but an effective “entry barriers” that favor students from metros and relatively well-off families.

We know that people in Mumbai or in any major metros won’t like distant relatives from rural places to come and stay with them for a few nights – because space is too precious. As most of these exams have centers in major metros/state capitals, any student from smaller towns or villages needs to take on the additional burden of travel – which adds to physical exhaustion along with the economic costs. Many even may not have relatives at these exam centers, and as most of them can’t afford hotel-stay multiple times; they therefore may have to directly come to the exam centers without even having the opportunity to arrive fresh for the exams. The urban students at least don’t face these additional traumas.

Irrespective of the USPs these exams offer (or as claimed by the organizers), one simply can’t ignore the basic obvious monetary benefits they accrue to the different institutes. The costs are multiple for the end-consumer, the stress is multiplied to students and guardians and in the name of uniqueness, this has indeed been taken too far stressing all students in general and, particularly, economically marginalized students from remote areas.

In the name of freedom and competition, many of us mostly forget the basic infrastructure, policies, systems that the U.S. offers through standardization. Irrespective of boards or school, there is one SAT, one GRE, one GMAT. And true, in case a good student accidentally badly performs in any of these critical exams, s/he can take that again without even losing a year.

We saw some developments on this front from government in regulating and controlling number of exams – limiting to two or three for MBAs couple of years back. The proposal eventually had a natural death as there was opposition from vested bodies. One isn’t ruling out possibilities of genuine oppositions; however with adequate representatives from these various institutes in an apex body like the formal Educational Testing Service (ETS) or its present form the GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) adopted through ACT Inc. and Pearson Vue, most of the genuine grievances against retaining only one admission test in India should get addressed.

Otherwise it’s a criminal offence we are practicing by stressing all students and guardians unnecessarily, and putting an enormous economic and physical burden to students who come from rural backgrounds, who are the worst sufferers.

A true reservation was to be meant for them – wasn’t it? Well, till our government works out the basis for controversial reservation, one can always expect a speedy action from our Honorable Minister and his Ministry so that these types of effective “entry barriers” that act against these bright rural students from economically poorer families are removed. Jharkhand News Network

April 7, 2007 at 9:34 pm Leave a comment

Apr 06, 2007

Jharkhand women gain self-reliance with poultry farming

Seelam (Jharkhand), Apr 6: Women of Seelam village in Jharkhand’s Gumla District have set an example for their rural counterparts by becoming self-reliant.

This has happened with the support of Mahila Mandal, a self-help motivating group.

Established in 2000, the group initiated poultry farming in the village. It mobilised a group 16 enterprising women who have now become a household name in the village.

On identifying their potential, Pradhan, a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) collaborated and helped them with loans from banks to go ahead with lucrative projects.

Apart from incentives, each woman was provided with a loan of rupees 10,000. And since then, the quality of life index of the villagers has changed.

Unemployed youth of the village today have a job. They no more need to worry about migrating elsewhere in search of greener pastures.

“Financial condition has improved. We are sending our children to good schools with an aim to provide them good education. Our standard of living has also changed. We are very happy. Earlier, we had to go to Delhi and Himachal Pradesh to work but now we stay in the village and are engaged in poultry farming,” said Sunita Devi, member of Mahila Mandal.

Women have set up poultry farms where each of them has at least 300 birds. The Mahila Mandal has installed machines and engrossed even the men folk who prepare feed for chicken.

“We prepare good quality feed for the chicken,” said Vandna Bilung, Co-ordinator of Mahila Mandal.

The village women earn about rupees 3,000 to 4,000 per month from poultry farming products. And, almost every household engaged in poultry farming have a television set and life insurances in their names.

“One woman earns at least rupees 2,000 to 3,000 in a month. Even when one works hard, there is earning up to rupees 4, 000,” said Dr. Pankaj Das, Advisor of Pradhan.

These women also visit various poultry farms where they demonstrate the usage of vaccine and healthy breeding procedures.

The chickens and eggs are sent to Ranchi, Jamshedpur and many other places. Beyond Jharkhand, these poultry products have a ready market in Chhattisgarh and often as far as Nepal.

Training to bolster tribal youth bombs

Ranchi, April 5: Unbelievable, but true. Only 10 youths qualified in the state civil services examination and 12 became clerks after the Jharkhand government drained around Rs 70 lakh for over five years to train Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Scheduled Caste (SC) aspirants!

The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reveals that of the 320 students enrolled in the pre-examination training centre run by the government at the Tribal Welfare Research Institute (TWRI) between 2002 and 2005, only 27 qualified for various jobs. Worse, the centre could not fill up all the seats every year. In 2004, it had only 14 students against 25 seats.

The report shows that huge funds available for the tribal students were either being frittered away or not being used fruitfully.

Out of the Rs 2.08 crore available during 2001-06 for pre-examination coaching, the government spent Rs 66.29 lakh (32 per cent only). The funds were tripled from Rs 22.48 lakh in 2002 to Rs 64.33 lakh in 2005-06, but the utilisation declined from 68 per cent to 22 per cent. The reason for the under-utilisation of funds was due to poor performance in meeting the target, the report stated.

Under the scheme, enrolment of ST girl students was 30 per cent during 2002-05 but the percentage of successful ST girl students in 2003-04 was 19 per cent.

The state government’s poor execution of various schemes aimed at improving the representation of SC/STs in government jobs, and thereafter perpetuating the reservation policy, might aptly justify the Supreme Court’s remarks that the Constitutional privilege was being used as vote bank.

Ironically, TWRI director Prakash Oraon attributed the poor performance of the centre to the attitude of tribal students.

Beni Ekka, the director of Xavier Institute of Social Service (XISS), pointed out the difference of attitude between general and SC/ST students as one of the reasons behind the dismal performance of the centre. The lecture method of teaching could also be blamed for the students not coming out in flying colours, he added.

The state government, two years after the scheme bombed, has decided to hand over the pre-examination coaching centres to private agencies and non-governmental organisations.

Welfare secretary N.N. Sinha said the centre performed poorly owing to lack of experts and irrelevant courses.

Seven other schemes launched to enable the SC/ST students to pursue their education and get jobs were also far from effective. Pre-matric scholarship scheme, post-matric scholarship scheme, book bank scheme, coaching facilities, hostels, cycles, computers and uniforms have failed to enthuse the SC/ST students, the report stated.

A sample scrutiny said that no student succeeded in secondary examination during 2001-02 from the ST Residential School, Dumka.

In Dhanbad, Dumka and Ranchi districts, five hostels for 450 students were occupied by lady constables and police pickets evens as a few hostels were overcrowded.

Woman dies in BSF firing

RAIGANJ, April 5: Tension prevailed in Goalpokhar block of North Dinajpur district over the death of a tribal housewife allegedly in BSF firing at Kokradaha border out post last night.

The victim was identified as Manika Soren (35), a resident of Pokharia village of Goalpokhar. It is alleged that Manika Soren was returning home with her husband Palus Hemran around 9.30 p.m. through the border road at Kokradaha BOP after attending a function at her relative’s place. Two BSF jawans of the 47 battalion allegedly intercepted them near the BOP and started to beat Palus Hemran. When Manika tried to dissuade them the BSF jawans shot her from close range and she died on the spot. BSF officials thereafter brought the body to the MGM Medical College and Lions’ Hospital in Kishanganj, Bihar, where the lifeless body of the woman lay the whole night.

When news of the incident that led to the death of a tribal housewife spread in Goalpokhar, numerous residents from different villages of Goalpokhar armed with bows and arrows turned up at Pokharia vilage. The irate villagers gheraoed the Kokradaha BOP demanding that the BSF handed over Manika’s body to the family members without delay.

The villagers also demanded that the BSF authorities hand over the alleged culprits who killed the woman to them.

The BSF took immediate action to save the situation from worsening. Arriving at the spot BSF DIG, Panjipara range, Mr Rabi Kumar Panth issued temporary suspension orders against the jawans who were on duty when the woman was shot to death. Congress MLA from Goalpokhar Mrs Dipa Dasmunshi said from Kolkata over telephone that the victim had alleged been raped before she was shot.

The villagers are also angry with the fact that the crime was committed in West Bengal and the woman’s body had been taken to Bihar where it lay unattended throughout the night. The victim’s body was shifted to Islampur sub-division following the BSF DIG’s intervention today.

Mr SB Purnapatra, SP, North Dinajpur, said police reached the spot before the agitated villagers could converge at the Kukradaha BOP and saved the situation from turning seriously unpleasant

Keeping the creamy layer out

Caste-based census was given up after 1931 even though caste-based discrimination is a fact of life even today. Hence, the government has to depend on those projections to prove that OBCs form 54%.

THE recent Supreme Court’s order staying the operation of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act 2006 has triggered a variety of reactions. The political leadership in Tamil Nadu, for instance, registered its protest against the judicial decision by calling for a statewide bandh, leaders of the ‘national’ parties seem to be in a state of shock. And the reaction has been characteristically knee-jerk and calling for a legislative intervention.

The non-political class too has articulated its view. They are all out there celebrating the injunction. Justices Arijit Pasayat and Lokeshwar Singh Panta, in their eyes are noble men who will be remembered for their no-nonsense approach. Rather than seeing it as merely an injunction, the intelligentsia seems to perceive the apex court’s stay as a final verdict against caste-based reservations. And in this they see a judicial endorsement of their opposition to the idea of reservation for OBCs and the obsession for ‘merit.’ Well. The truth or the real story is something else.

The two-judge bench of the apex court has stayed the operation of the Act on two grounds: That the quantum of reservation for OBCs (27% in this case), the judges felt, was based on some arbitrary consideration; the premise that the OBCs constitute 54% of the population is based on projections made from the census of 1931, could be faulty according to the judges. In their view, this figure was arrived at without accounting for the demographic changes over the years.

The stay was granted on another ground and this indeed is substantive. The two-judge bench observed that the non-exclusion of the ‘creamy layer’ from the reservation bracket in the Act is against the Constitution. The Act, in this sense, seeks to determine social and educational backwardness only on the basis of caste; and hence violates the law as upheld in the Indira Sawhney versus Union of India and others case in 1992.

The nine-judge bench, in 1992, had gone into the rational of excluding the creamy layer and established a clear case, both in the legal and ethical sense in its favour. It is worth citing the relevant portion from the judgment: “After excluding them alone, would the class be a compact class. In fact, such exclusion benefits the truly backward.”

The judges had underscored, in that instance (and later in 1999 while dismissing an Act passed by the Kerala Legislative Assembly that sought to negate the concept of creamy layer in that State) that the Constitution provides for positive discrimination in favour of backward classes and not castes; hence, the bench ordered, the exclusion of the creamy layer from among the castes identified as backward and that it will constitute a class only then.

Minority loan plan on track

NEW DELHI: Despite Reserve Bank of India’s reservations, the government has not given up on its plans to increase the flow of loans to minority communities.

In a fresh plan being drawn up by the finance ministry, the government intends to ask state-owned banks to concentrate on districts where minorities formed a significant part of the population.

Sources said that districts where non-Hindu population was less than 50% would automatically be taken up for the special drive.

Based on the last Census numbers, there are 85 districts where Hindus accounted for less than half the population.

In addition, there are more districts that are proposed to be taken up, whose number is yet to be finalised.

While the finance ministry wanted the coverage to be extended to an additional 44 districts, the minorities affairs ministry has suggested that the number should be enhanced to 104.

The focus of the programme is going to be on Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Zoroastrians, Jains and Buddhists.

According to the Census data, 46 districts in the North-East, 14 in Punjab, 12 in Jammu & Kashmir, four in Jharkhand, three in Kerala, two in West Bengal and one each in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar islands had minorities accounting for over half the population.

While the government had earlier hoped to implement the scheme, based on Sachar Committee recommendations, ahead of the elections in Uttar Pradesh, RBI and the Indian Banks’ Association threw a spanner of sorts saying the proposal was difficult to implement.

RBI had cited lack of sufficient data as the prime reason for its reluctance, an official said. “They have now asked banks to submit data while the government is also working on a plan,” an official said.

Though sources said the government was keen to implement most of the recommendations of the high-level panel, the move on enhancing credit is being seen as a fresh initiative to woo Muslim voters, who have in the recent past moved to vote for parties other than the Congress.

Through the package, which is still in the works, state-run banks will be asked to set up special cells to deal with loans for minorities besides an increased drive to get them on the list of borrowers and ensure that they get a certain share of the priority sector lending by banks.

But there are already concerns that with a special scheme for minorities along with the existing ones for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, there will be a demand from the backward classes too to get a slice of the pie.

What’s good for Bihar is good for India

A Stanford-India Mirror Conference took place in Patna this week. It was part of the state government’s programme of confronting the state’s challenges with an open mind to best practices from around the world. The conference brought together a team from the Stanford Center for International Development, members of the state government, researchers from area universities and thinktanks, members of the global and local Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) and other members of civil society, to discuss policy challenges for Bihar.

The focus was not so different than the kinds of general questions that policymakers in India have on their minds: what policies would accelerate inclusive growth? Nick Hope (Stanford) made a presentation on lessons from China, Anjini Kochar (Stanford) on education policies, Ward Hanson (Stanford) on IT and growth, TN Srinivasan (Stanford) on employment generation as well as centre-state relations and AN Sharma and Pinaki Joddar on povert. We spoke on public private partnerships and investment climate.

The Chief Minister of Bihar summarised the reform and legislative initiatives over the last 15 months, and laid out his vision for the coming years. The deputy CM, ministers of HRD, RCD, energy, rural development, science and technology, apart from the chief secretary and commissioners of HRD and finance, among others, provided insights into Bihar’s current strategies. Ramesh Yadava, a charter member of Silicon Valley TiE, also brought out the importance of accelerating the pace of implementation of the multiple commitments made in its recently launched Approach Paper to the XIth Plan. The theme running through all sessions: given the pressing needs, administrative challenges, and constrained financial and human resources in comparison with the task at hand, what steps deserve priority?

Some consensus did emerge:

Learn from others’ experience. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel in all cases. The world is full of relevant experiences, both successes and failures, to learn from. On SEZs, for example, much of the debate has focused on comparing India and China’s fiscal policies. Nick Hope brought out the importance of an exit policy to wind up any special preferences once their purpose is over.

Given the many pressing needs, administrative challenges, and constrained financial and human resources in comparison with the task at hand, what steps deserve priority?

But tailor this experience to local conditions. Nick Hope’s presentation on China’s development strategy raised a number of suggestions that would need to be tempered to suit India’s democratic setting. China’s differential treatment of coastal and interior provinces, for example, would not be feasible here as a way to focus resources. Our session on mobilising investment discussed an adaptation of the strategy focus on enabling ‘infrastructure clusters’ like office parks, small-store retail malls, or time-share equipment shops that any citizen with an entrepreneurial bent could access, no matter how small the enterprise. These could balance the benefits of focus with the need to avoid shutting any group out of development at first.

And take advantage of India’s conditions. Democracy might look like a ‘constraint’ when policies fail to reach consensus, vested interests block reforms, or people occupy land intended for a power plant. But it is actually an advantage in other ways. The freedom to protest provides information about preferences and needs. Confidence in challenging government policies also lets citizens act as monitors of service quality better than if they were subdued by authority. Active community groups, a byproduct of an open society, could complement governments in providing infrastructure and services.

Take unintended consequences into account. Anjini Kochar’s presentation on education pointed out that education policies’ focus on creating access to education by localising the school system seems to also have affected the level and variance in quality. Schools designed to serve small localities effectively become segregated when there is residential clustering. Localisation also means that school size is determined by population density more than efficiency. In the end, Professor Kochar recommended an adjustment of the policy to take these multiple dimensions into account: place pre-schools in localities to draw people into the system, but then aggregate students to the efficient scale for higher grades.

Leverage technologies to create change. India’s development efforts, especially its rural policies, are taking place in an era where ICT can (in theory) mean the ‘death of distance’. The challenge: to develop the content to be diffused through this network and ensure greater access. We discussed in our session the need to create an open-access rural Internet backbone to support government programmes (like agricultural extension) as well as any other applications and services that private entrepreneurs can dream up.

Rework institutions to enable change. Sessions looked at not only the state’s institutions, but also the state’s institutional context. TN Srinivasan emphasised the importance of rationalising intergovernmental transfers, reconsidering the role of the Planning Commission and restructuring the mechanism for Centre-state relations.

In the end, implement. Policy pronouncements are just words and aims. Changing outcomes takes concerted actions, coordinated by pragmatic strategies. In all of these areas, Bihar is not alone or unique in India. What is good for Bihar could also be good for India.

Bengal commercial bank disbursals set to exceed target

Commercial banks in West Bengal are expecting to disburse around Rs 10,581 crore against the annual credit plan of Rs 10,925 crore for the state in 2006-07.

During April to December 2006, the banks disbursed Rs 6,373 crore, which marks an increase of 24 per cent over the disbursement of Rs 5,154 crore during the corresponding period of the last year, said P K Gupta, chairman, United Bank of India and State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) said.

The banks sanctioned 1,00,168 cases under different self employment schemes registering a growth of 19 per cent over the 83,836 cases sanctioned during April to December 2005.

The banks also made savings linkage to 87,407 self help groups and credit linkages to 70,639 groups during April to December 2006.

The state government had expressed increase in credit deposit ratio up to 65 per cent. The credit-deposit ratio in the state for priority sector has improved against 61 per cent of the previous year.

The state wants the banks to raise the CD ratio of rural, semi urban, and urban areas by five percentage points during the next financial year.

State finance minister Asim Dasgupta has also advised the bankers to extend credit to two lakh unemployed youths through employment guarantee schemes during 2007-08.

Dasgupta had suggested for setting higher targets for agriculture, and small scale industries for 2007-08 with special emphasis on financing to small and marginal farmers, oral lessees, patta holders and small entrepreneurs keeping in view the requirement of the state.

The SLBC members also formed a sub-committee to look into the feasibility targets set by the state finance minister for lending exposure in agriculture and industry.

Gupta would head the committee. The other members of the committee were Allahabad Bank chairman A C Mahajan and Uco Bank chairman V Sridar.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) would also guide the committee. The committee would submit its report within a month.

In the recent state budget Dasgupta had raised the lending targets for banks significantly.

For the agriculture sector, the target was fixed at Rs 5,500 crore in 2007-08 as against Rs 3,800 crore in 2006-07. For the SME and SSI sectors the target had been raised to Rs 3,000 crore from Rs 1,500 crore.

Reliance agri-retail seeks Bengal licence

KOLKATA: Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Industries’ Rs 2,000-crore agri-retail venture in West Bengal may hit an air pocket. Reliance, with the go-ahead from the West Bengal government, has in recent weeks privately-acquired close to 270 acres from farmers for its mega agri-retail rollout.

But such land acquisition may be of little consequence since the West Bengal agri-marketing department has thrown a spanner in RIL’s works by holding back the all-important APMC (Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee) licence. Without an APMC licence, Reliance will be unable to re-sell any agricultural produce in West Bengal that it originally purchases from state farmers from designated APMC yards.

Reliance officials declined to divulge the transaction details of the 270-odd acres acquired from the state farmers in blocks of 10 acres each. But when contacted, senior company executives told ET: “RIL had applied for APMC licences in 16 state locations from the West Bengal State Marketing Board, in step with the provisions of Sections 13 & 17 of the West Bengal Agriculture Produce Marketing (Regulations) Act, 1972.

We have not heard from the state government since October 2006 when we had put in the licence application. We did point out that without an APMC licence, the entire feasibility of Reliance’s Rs 2,000-crore agri-retail venture in West Bengal was uncertain.”

Elaborating, they said: “Though we have privately acquired 270-odd acres from farmers in multiple state locations, the agri-retail venture cannot get off the ground if we do not get the APMC licence which is necessary to re-sell agricultural produce purchased from farmers.”

The West Bengal government confirmed that it has received an APMC licence (for 16 locations) application from Reliance. But it has a very different take on the issue. For starters, it claims that the board, which is under the state agri-marketing department, is not the competent authority to issue an APMC licence.

Here’s what Mr Bimal Pandey, principal secretary in the state agri-marketing department, had to say: “I am aware Reliance has put in an application for an APMC licence to re-sell agricultural produce procured from farmers.

Let me confirm that the West Bengal State Marketing Board is not the appropriate authority to issue such a licence. All APMC licences in West Bengal are issued by some 46-odd regulated market committees (RMCs) in the respective service areas.”

Hyd-based firm plans Rs 6,000cr port in Orissa

Navayuga Engineering Company, a Hyderabad-based company, has proposed to construct a Rs 6,000 crore port at Astaranga, a fishing jetty between Paradip and Puri in Orissa.

The company would also build a 50-km railway line linking Astaranga with the Howrah-Chennai main line on Khurda Road with an investment of Rs 400 crore on public-private-partnership mode.

C V Rao, chairman, Navayuga Engineering Company, discussed the proposal with Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik yesterday.

Jayanarayan Mishra, Orissa minister of state for commerce and transport, said the company would develop the port in the Devi river mouth in three phases on a build- own-operate-share-transfer basis with an investment of Rs 1,500 crore in the first phase.

The second and third phase of the project will comprise Rs 2,000 crore and Rs 2,500 crore, respectively.

Mishra said the company would require 5,000 acre at Astaranga where it has also proposed to set up a 1320 MW (660 x 2) captive power plant besides a fly-ash brick unit and desalination plant separately.

Lost in transit

Over the last 55 years India has spent around Rs 3.5 million crore in implementing its 10 five-year plans and several annual plans. This period also saw an explosive growth in population, dissipating developmental efforts over ever-increasing numbers. Until the end of the 1980s, growth was not even visible amongst the poor, making Rajiv Gandhi lament that not even a quarter of development expenditure reached the people for whom it was intended. No economist dare calculate as to what incremental output this massive outlay should be producing now.

It is only since the 1990s that there has been a notable change in the lifestyles and living standards of people, with a perceptible decline in poverty levels. This is in great measure due to the heroic efforts of our maturing youth and the sudden burst of successful entrepreneurship, helped by policies that favour competition.

While the percentage of population living below the poverty line has declined, the acuteness of poverty has increased. The unchecked suicides by farmers, the brutal attacks by Naxalites, the increase in the number of pavement shops, and the lack of state control in almost 100 districts of the country either dominated by militant separatist outfits or Naxalites, show that there is something fundamentally lacking in our delivery systems of public goods and the reach of welfare programmes intended for rural India, particularly the poor.

Poverty in India now is more an outcome of the lack of responsiveness, accountability, inefficiency and corruption of the state institutions at the field level, rather than due to lack of resources. This is compounded by ineffectual supervision by senior bureaucrats who are content to issue directions, satisfied with paper figures that are out of sync with reality.

It is not sufficient to say that growth reduces poverty. How does this growth percolate to the poor and in how much time? The current type of economic growth makes a billionaire out of a millionaire within a few days, as he is able to buy up an ailing foreign company with the support of the banks that add to his assets. It takes decades, if at all, for this growth in wealth to percolate to the poor in a district like Kalahandi or Jhabua. They are not even assured of daily bread and shelter. The administration in the country is more concerned with the Ambanis and Mittals getting their clearances in double-quick time but not so much with the fruits of government expenditure getting delivered at the right place, to the right people, at the right time.

Planning Commission statistics show an impressive growth in the number of schools, with a corresponding number of teachers and thousands of kilometres of rural roads built in all these years. Yet, literacy is nowhere near the levels of other south-east Asian countries, even after half a century of planning.

Malnutrition, curable blindness and communicable diseases still haunt rural India. Mass migration of poor tribals during summer from the districts of Jhabua, Banswara and Kalahandi (to cite a few examples) in search of employment — with children tagging along having abandoned schools and old people left behind to fend for themselves — is a heart-rending sight. How many times has the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission or its members visited a village in the remote tribal districts to study at firsthand what their plans for inclusive growth have achieved? They seem more content to discuss the theoretical aspects of inclusive growth rather than waste their time listening to a bhil from Banswara in Rajasthan or a Maria from Dantewada in Chhattisgarh who does not know who will look after her old parents when she migrates to Punjab in search of labour.

TN Seshan, when he was secretary in the ministry of environment, toured the interior villages of Bastar that were affected by a proposed hydroelectric project on which a large sum of money had already been spent. After patiently listening to the views of the tribals as to how their daily lives would be affected by the project, he refused to grant approval to the project. The dam was never built.

Urban India has also not treated its poor well. Growing numbers of the poor now occupy pedestrian pathways in metropolitan cities, eking out a miserable living. Land is acquired in no time, even with the use of force, for an industry or an SEZ — but not for constructing shops to accommodate the footpath merchants. There is a commission on the informal sector, with an erstwhile economist bureaucrat as its head. After three years of existence, what has it done for these footpath merchants?

What the finance minister fails to report in his action-taken report, which comes along with the budget documents, is physical achievements in terms of benefits delivered and quality of work executed in the field. His report does not throw any light on where the thousands of crores of agricultural credit have been used and, consequently, how much production has actually increased.

How does the budget delivery system in India actually work? The amounts allocated in the central and state budgets first go to the HODs (heads of departments). They, in turn, are dependent on their underlings — including the financial administrators (FAs) and accounts officers (AOs) — who, in the absence of anything else to exercise their authority over, raise every objection in the world before sending the allocated amounts to the states or field officers.

In the states, things are even more arduous. Allocations are placed at the disposal of the HODs sometime in May…if things go well, that is. This money now has to go to the divisional level officers and then, on to the implementing officers in the districts. If the expenditure has been approved, they can continue and spend it. Else, they have to go through another protracted process of administrative and financial sanctions. In such cases, by the time the procedures are over, the year is usually coming to a close.

In March there is a mayhem in the offices of the HODs, where all the field officers and grant-in-aid institutions line up for release of funds. Where the funds go, when they are released at the close of the financial year, is usually anybody’s guess. Sometimes, they get spent on the purchase of goods. If the allocation is for roadwork, bitumen is purchased and orders for the supply of metal are placed. Work itself will probably start months later, by which time the metal and the bitumen have deteriorated, or been partly damaged, or even stolen. The result is incomplete roads of poor quality, without side berms.

Irrigation and other construction projects are no exception. Lack of supervision by senior officers — of the quality of the roads, maintenance of buildings and irrigation works — results in the wastage of public expenditure and offers scope for corruption. If the quality of the works is bad, action has to be initiated. The supervisors do not want to do this as they themselves may be partial beneficiaries of any commissions paid by the contractors. So they avoid taking action in cases of poor delivery of benefits.

In the case of an ashram school providing free education for the benefit of the tribals in Kathiwada, a remote forest village in Jhabua district, teachers’ salaries could not be paid for one whole year because the commissioner did not release the grant till this author intervened with the chief secretary. The author also reported to the chief minister on the deficiencies observed in a major project during his walks along the canal banks, as requested of him by the irrigation minister. The result was that he was never asked again to continue the work —even though the minister appeared to be aghast at the deficiencies.

The recent controversies about the Rs 35,000 crore expenditure on irrigation projects not producing desired results — increase in areas under irrigation — is an example of the shoddy delivery and supervisory system in India in every department.

Teachers are appointed to work in remote rural areas with no basic amenities for their stay. Soon, with the help of powerful politicians, they get attached to schools in urban and semi-urban areas. The rural schools’ rolls show a higher number of teachers than those actually available to teach. In Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh, where the population is 83 per cent tribal, about 35 per cent of the population of over a million migrate with their children, starting March, every year. Consequently, the retention rate of children, even in elementary classes, is very low.

The hospitals in Jhabua also show far more doctors on their rolls than are actually available to work. Many are attached to other city hospitals. A private cancer foundation that does yeoman service in this region, has more than once pointed out the growing incidence of certain types of cancer due to lack of hygiene, malnutrition and a host of other preventable causes. The collector laments that he cannot do anything about this as nobody listens to his complaints. The field officers, including the collector, get transferred within a year or at the most, 18 months.

The system of delivery at the field level and supervision of the activities by senior officers have all but failed. No one is held responsible except in some high-profile cases. The author, who had the privilege of working with the prime minister, had brought to his notice the miserable situation in Jhabua, and suggested solutions. But these too have gone unheeded, despite the fact that a former collector of Jhabua sits in the prime minister’s office (PMO). If nothing is done before long, Naxalism will spread to this area.

Justifying regression In order to improve the public delivery systems it is necessary to:

n Prepare a district-wise plan for delivery of health, education, water supply and sanitation services, with specific targets.

n Identify the officers responsible, train them adequately and assign responsibilities, as per capacity, to deliver. Assigned officers should not be transferred till the goals are achieved. If they need to be promoted, the promotions should be in situ.

n Allot funds for programmes at the beginning of the financial year.

n Have an independent monitoring unit that will continuously appraise implementation and give feedback to supervisory authorities.

n Have an expert agency evaluate the accomplishments at the end of each year.

n Based on evaluation and monitoring, take corrective action in programmes.

n Establish a chain of communication among all levels of government and amongst professionals and institutions.

n Set up separate maintenance organisations to ensure proper maintenance of all buildings, roads, water supply schemes, irrigation works and equipments, with adequate resources.

n Reward and punish implementing and maintenance staff, on the basis of transparent objective criteria of achievements.

This will require reorganisation of the existing district administrative setup and would include the elected bodies – for purposes of assigning roles and responsibilities. At the state level, the delivery system – with respect to issuing all kinds of licences, registration of documents, granting of permission for construction of buildings, electricity connections, etc., should be brought under e-governance.

The government’s administrative reforms commission (ARC) is involved with high profile issues rather than public delivery systems that affect the common man. India is unique in being the only country that has not reformed its civil service and delivery systems in order to make them more responsive, responsible and transparent. Jharkhand News Network

April 6, 2007 at 10:39 pm Leave a comment

Apr 05, 2007

Jharkhand Teachers’ woes take front seat in Assembly

Ranchi: The education system is in a shambles.

Sample this: primary school teachers in Lohardaga have not been promoted for the last 21 years! Worse, there are only 10 headmasters for 74 middle schools in the district.

These stark realities were revealed in the Assembly today while human resource development minister Bandhu Tirkey replied to a volley of questions on the poor state of school affairs in Jharkhand.

Congress member Sukhdev Bhagat threatened to go on fasting if the state government did not complete the exercise of giving promotion to the teachers within a week.

Tirkey said 33 teachers were promoted in two batches in 1995 and 1997. The cases of rest of the teachers were under consideration, he said.

The Congress legislator said teachers were facing hardships in getting salary due to shortage of headmasters (there are only 10 headmasters for 74 schools). The headmasters are the drawing and disbursing officers for the withdrawal of salary from the treasury. Shortage of headmasters delays the salary of teachers.

The minister, in reply to another question from Radha Krishna Kishore of JD(U), conceded that 3,380 posts of teachers in government high schools and 1,820 posts of headmasters in middle schools were vacant. He said the Jharkhand Public Service Commission had been urged to hold the test for direct recruitment of 2,507 teachers for high schools. The JPSC has received 1,88,000 applications, he said.

Ironically, Tirkey said, the process to amend the Jharkhand secondary school (service conditions) rules is still under consideration of the government. The recruitment process could be initiated only after the rules were amended in pursuance of the high court’s order on October 6, 2005.

The House members, cutting across party lines, however, asked Tirkey to set a timeframe to fill up the posts. But the minister ducked the question by blaming the previous government for keeping the issue pending. “I have at least sent the vacancy position to the JPSC,” he said.

The HRD minister again begged for answers when Congress member Pradeep Balmuchu asked why books in Bangla were not made available to students in 2006.

Admitting the lapse, Tirkey said the government has secured the translation rights from the NCERT and would make all the books, including those in Bangla, available to students at the beginning of the 2007-08 session.

Bill on panel court

The Assembly on Tuesday handed over the agriculture products’ marketing committee bill to the select committee following demands by legislators belonging to the treasury and the Opposition. The select committee has been directed to submit its report within 30 days. The legislators argued that that this bill was prepared by the Arjun Munda government last year, but could not be passed in the Assembly following objections from different corners. The Madhu Koda government, too, had tabled the bill without making any amendment.

Software pill for health hubs

Jamshedpur: Jharkhand may not be India’s silicon valley, but a pioneering information technology firm headquartered here and operating out of Ranchi is going places.

Alpine Techno, the Jamshedpur-based technology company has come up with a new mobile computing software to be used in hospitals.

Titled “Life Line”, the software solution has been implemented in a hospital abroad and is in the process of being negotiated for major hospitals in India.

The product will help doctors have real time information about their patients on their palm tops, which can even be accessed through wireless internet.

Apart from the new software solution, the 10-year-old company has been providing services in various streams of software.

While a large portion of Indian software companies fall under services, industry bodies such as Nasscom has encouraged product portfolios so that India has a better edge in the global IT industry.

Life Line is Alpine Techno’s brand developed completely by its own engineers. The company set up by N.A. Khan and A.A. Khan, who share their Jamshedpur background and a passion to make something successful in the state.

“We are both from the engineering background and wanted to build a successful business here. Though Jamshedpur is known for its manufacturing industries, we cashed in on the fact that no company can afford to do business without IT,” says N.A. Khan, CEO.

Alpine Techno is the first call centre of Jharkhand and is situated at Software Technology Park of India in Ranchi. The 48-seater centre caters to mortgage companies of USA. Headquartered in Jamshedpur, the company has offices in Ranchi, Gurgaon and Noida. Plans to open another office in Bangalore is on the cards.

Currently the company has about 150 employees. “In three years’ time we plan to be among the top 200 IT companies of India,” said N.A. Khan. The clientele of the company include Tata Steel, Tata Motors and Nusantau Hospital, Indonesia which has the company’s Life Line solution.

Both the Khans agree that the firm is still too small to be counted. But it is now the take-off stage for the duo and wait to hear more about them.

IMA to discuss lifestyle diseases

Jamshedpur: Over 500 doctors from the districts will take part in the first annual conference of Indian Medical Association (IMA), Jharkhand, to be organised at the Shavak Nanavati Technical Institute (SNTI) in Bistupur on April 14 and 15.

The conference will mainly focus on recent developments in medicine and surgery and will also have special sessions on lifestyle diseases that have become a common problem with people living in urban areas. Emphasis would be laid on case studies.

Eminent experts on diabetes and hypertension management from Delhi, Calcutta and Madras are expected to share their experience with the delegates during a special session.

State health and medical education minister Bhanu Pratap Shahi will be the chief guest at the inaugural programme.

The general secretary of IMA, Jamshedpur, Mritunjay Singh, said post graduates pursuing education in the three medical colleges of the state would be invited to make presentations based on their findings.

Sources in the organising committee said in the two days members would also evolve a strategy to create pressure on the state government for appointment of permanent doctors against vacant posts.

Big brothers watch progress

Development of four major cities of Jharkhand already lying in limbo for over a year now, the ministry of urban development has proposed spruce-up plans for the smaller towns.

The ministry will invite expressions of interest (EoI) from parties experienced in urban development for 30 small and medium towns in the first phase.

Although the government has failed to get a detailed project report prepared for the major cities — Dhanbad, Bokaro, Ranch and Jamshedpur — in more than a year, this time it plans to get it done in three months from the date of appointment of consultants.

The towns include Seraikela, Kharsawan, Khuti, Chas, Bundu Deoghar, Godda, Hazaribagh, Chaibasa, Dumka, Madhupur, Garhwa, Latehar, Koderma and Chakulia. They would be developed on the guidelines of urban infrastructure development scheme for small and medium towns under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

Officials in the department said since the process of preparation of a detailed project report of the major cities was taking a lot of time and were getting stuck due to anomalies of the consultants appointed by the government, it was decided to take up the work for development of small and medium towns.

The state had failed to prepare even a single detailed project report that could satisfy the Union government for allocation of funds in the past one year.

“The government’s focus till now was on the major cities and we neglected the smaller towns, whose population had grown manifold over the last decade. When plans for major cities got stuck, we decided to shift focus to the small cities and work rationally,” said an officer.

Chief engineer (technical cell) K.K. Singh said that according to the proposal, interested parties have to submit a detailed plan — both conceptual and investment — by April 20.

Selected consultants would be required to prepare a detailed project report within three months of their appointment.

Jharkhand government finalises site for new capital area

It was the dream project of the first chief Minister of the State.

But it took six years and the fifth chief minister’s Cabinet to give it the official go ahead.

The much-awaited New Capital project – Nayee Ranchi – would now, finally, come up on the northwestern flank of the existing Capital between Patratu and Ratu road areas.

The government has approved the setting up of the New Capital project, on 2630 acres of land and also earmarked an amount of Rs 200 crore for the same.

“The New Capital would come up on the northwestern flank of Ranchi — between Ratu Road and Patratu Road and north of Jumar River. An area of 2630 acres of government land has been identified for the purpose,” Cabinet Secretary JB Tubid told media persons. An area of 132.97 acres of raiyyati land has also been earmarked for the New Capital township.

A committee, constituted under Chief Minister Madhu Koda to revive the new capital project, had submitted a proposal to this effect on March 12. The committee also had officials from the departments of Building Construction, Water Resources and Transport on board. The Government plans to start the project during the current financial year.

The officials have been tasked to do the landscaping, plan architecture, develop water supply and distribution, power generation and carry out digital mapping and geotechnical investigations. The State Government, however, also has the option to rope in global consultants for the process.

The New Capital project, a brainchild of Babulal Marandi, had been shelved by his successor Arjun Munda, who cancelled the work allotted to the ORG for preparing a detailed project report (DPR) for the then “Greater Ranchi” project, later renamed Nayee Ranchi project.

The Marandi government had invited a global tender for the preparation of DPR for the project, initially pegged at around Rs 900 crore.

Government sources said the old consultant and the initial project report would not be revived. “The work would be undertaken by entirely new teams,” they said.

Of Roopchand and prostitutes’ children

PATNA, April 5: What’s in a name? Juliet said it first but now it’s become the chorus of hundreds of sex-workers in the infamous Barda Red Light area in Bihar’s Rohtas district.

Faced with the prospect of their children being thrown out of schools because they do not have fathers, the women got together and found a common “husband” to solve the problem. By appropriating “Roopchand”, a fictitious character, as a collective father to the children, the youngsters could then be enrolled in government schools without a hitch.

This novel practice was uncovered during a state-wide enrolment drive by police to get children loitering on the streets admitted to schools under a policy of the new Democratic Alliance Bihar administration. Yesterday, the Rohtas police raided the Red Light areas yesterday looking for children that weren’t in school, bringing around 30 of them to a local government school for admission. According to reports the school authorities were baffled as it began to emerge that all the children had the same father: Roopchand.

Mr Manoranjan Bharati, officer-in-charge at Moffasil police station, was dispatched to find out why all the children had the same father. An angry prostitute reportedly told him: “None of us know for sure the father of our children. They are basically the children of our customers driving heavy vehicles on the busy GT road. How could we all figure the names of their real fathers? You came only today looking for our children and we’ve taught them to give their father’s name as Roopchand. That’s all.” The police went back to report to the school and asked the concerned authorities to fill in only the names of their children’s mothers in the admission registers.

However, by that stage it was too late – according to the documents, the enigmatic Roopchand had already become the father of more than 20 children.

Other Backward Classes simply the average Indian

Whether in terms of income or ownership of goods, the result is unambiguous

Data from the the National Council of Applied Economic Research’s (NCAER) latest National Survey of Household Income and Expenditure (NSHIE) 2004-05 show that the Other Backward Classes (OBC) are very similar to the average Indian, both in terms of income and expenditure, as well as in ownership patterns of consumer goods like radios, television sets and two wheelers. Like the National Sample Survey 2004-05 findings, NSHIE 2004-05 also shows that OBCs are a little over 41 per cent of the population —the NSS, however, does not capture data on income levels or on ownership of durables like NSHIE does.

NSHIE shows that while the average annual income of Schedule Caste (SC) families in the country in 2004-05 was Rs 44,641, it was Rs 39,218 for Schedule Tribe (ST) families, Rs 57,384 for OBCs and Rs 81,731 for the rest which includes upper-caste Hindus — the average for all Indians was Rs 62,066. In terms of expenditures, the figures were Rs 32,208, Rs 27,236, Rs 38,288, Rs 50,731 and Rs 40,607 respectively (see table). That is, income and expenditure levels for OBCs are almost identical to the all-India averages for all castes/religious groups.

When you look at the data in terms of per capita income quintiles as well, the results are not too different. SC households in the bottom-most quintile had an annual income of Rs 19,376 in 2004-05, that for ST households was Rs 17,533 while that for OBC households was Rs 20,093 and the average was Rs 19,600 (that for upper-caste Hindus was Rs 20,687). In the top-most quintile, the SC, the ST and OBC families had remarkably similar income levels (Rs 134,000 to Rs 138,000) while the upper-caste Hindu was Rs 157,869 and the average for everyone was Rs 148,339.

In the case of televisions, while 20 per cent of SC families, and 13 per cent of ST families in the bottom-most quintiles owned a set, the figure was 28 per cent in the case of OBCs and 26 per cent for the country as a whole — for the upper-castes, the figure was 40 per cent. For the top-most quintile, the ownership levels are above 90 per cent for all groups except STs where the figure is a slightly lower 84.5 per cent.

For two-wheelers, a remarkable similarity in ownership patterns can also be seen for the creamy layer, or the top-most quintile. While 62 per cent of the SC creamy layer owned a two-wheeler in 2004-05, the figure was 72 per cent for OBCs, 74 per cent for upper-caste Hindus and 72 per cent for the country as a whole. In the case of cars, it was 12 per cent, 18 per cent, 23 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

Of course what matters is not just the absolute numbers of consumption, income and ownership in each income quintile, but also the number of families in each quintile. Thus, a tad over 30 per cent of SC families and 40 per cent of ST families are to be found in the lowest income quintile. For upper caste Hindus, this proportion is under 11 per cent while for OBCs it is 19.5 per cent, that is, just a bit lower than the average of 20 per cent for the entire country.

Similarly, while just 9.6 per cent of SC families are in the top income quintile (9.4 per cent for STs), the figure is 17.2 per cent for OBCs — that is, in this case as well, the distribution is very close to the average for the country. In the case of upper-caste Hindus, 31 per cent of all households fall in the top-most per capita income quintile.

The NSHIE Survey procedures were decided after reviewing the experience in 36 countries, including major national surveys such as the NSS. The multi-stage stratified sampling had a listed sample of 440,000 households spread over 1,976 villages, 250 districts and 24 states/UTs. From this, 63,000 households were chosen for a detailed questionnaire. According to RK Shukla, NCAER’s senior fellow who was in charge of the survey, its results were validated against the census, national accounts and even the NSS. While the NSS 2004-05 gives an annual monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) of Rs 725, NSHIE’s figure is Rs 678. Within this, the NSS says the MPCE for Hindus is Rs 717—NSHIE says it is Rs 674. Figures for different groups like the SC/STs and OBCs are also remarkably similar.

These are just preliminary findings of the survey, and only a detailed analyses will provide information at the level of individual states, top cities and for high income groups. A more detailed analyses will also provide valuable cross-tabulations of incomes and occupations and the differences across regions and perhaps states. With the Supreme Court now asking for more data on the number of OBCs in the country, and others such as the Youth for Equality arguing that OBCs are not really backward in the sense that SCs and STs are, the results of a more detailed analyses will make the debate a lot more lively in the months to come.

Protest against Haripur nuclear plant in West Bengal

To reach Hairpur, a remote fishing village along the West Bengal coast, one has to get off the main road and walk 2.5 km over a broad mud dyke. Access to this path is blocked by a log barrier. Outsiders are not welcome.

Haripur villagers have been protesting since last September against a 10,000-mw nuclear power plant on their land. In November, they and people from neighbouring villages turned up in thousands on two consecutive days to block a 12-member site-selection panel from the department of atomic energy.

If the project comes through it will displace at least 25,000 farmers, fishermen and their families. The villagers aren’t giving in. “If the project materialises we will have nowhere to live, nothing to eat, and the fish in the sea will die,” says Sandhya Dalal, who lives in a one-room shack by the sea with her fisherman husband and two little sons.”Surely when such decisions are made, the government should first ask us if we want such a project near our homes.”
Little logic Coastal east Midnapur earns about Rs 360 crore in revenue from fish exports: that’s 60 per cent of the state’s export earnings from fishing. It also boasts a rich agricultural economy. The fertile, multicropped land yields paddy, pulses, vegetables, paan (betel) leaves, chillies and several fruits. Income from this land is high. Even, small farmers like the Manna brothers—Biren, Bidhan and Bikas—earn around Rs 2.5 lakh a year growing tomatoes and brinjals on their half-acre ( 0.2 hectare) plot of land.

A nuclear plant, requiring millions of tonnes of fresh water to cool its reactors, will deplete the water table and destroy this agrarian economy, say anti-nuclear activists. And hot water from the reactors released into the sea will affect marine life in the Bay of Bengal.

Also, the location of Haripur—along a cyclone-prone coast—makes setting up a nuclear plant here dangerous, activists say. If tidal waters enter a reactor, which nearly happened in Kalpakam during the 2004 tsunami, it could poison large tracts of land. Given the Indian nuclear establishment’s penchant for secrecy, however, not much is known about the proposed project. It will reportedly have six nuclear reactors each of 1,650- mw capacity, three times the size of the country’s largest reactor as of now, 540 mw. It will be one of the five new nuclear power projects that the centre intends to set up in coastal areas (see box: Unsafe and unclean).

Considering all these factors, why Haripur? asks Suvendu Adhikari, local Trinamul mla. “When I asked (chief minister) Buddhababu, why Haripur, he told me ‘not too many people live there’.” According to census figures, the population density in a 5.6 km ring around Haripur is 890 per sq km.

No cakewalk That’s a lot of people and they are mobilising. With the help of local farmers’ and fishermen’s bodies, people have launched the Haripur Vidyut Prakalpa Pratirodh Andolan. The mood is both defiant and dejected. “People are willing to put up an all-out resistance, but seeing what’s happened in Singur, they wonder how far they can stand up against state power,” says Harekrishna Debnath of the National Fishworkers Forum, part of an anti-nuclear alliance.

At the other end, the state government has roped in Jadavpur University to conduct seminars on the benefits of nuclear power; and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, which will run the plant, will take 30 Haripur residents on a tour to a nuclear plant site.

Unsafe and unclean

The centre’s decision to set up five new nuclear power projects has caused concern among anti-nuclear activists. They say these projects will feed India’s weapons programme. “India’s nuclear programme has always been used as a cover for its weapons programme,” says Suren Gadekar, an anti-nuclear activist.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd runs 16 plants capable of producing 3,900 MW of power. Seven more with a combined capacity of 3,000 MW are nearly over.

Plants operate at less than 50 per cent capacity. The department of atomic energy (DAE) has “a history of failure” when it comes to generating power, says Sukla Sen of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, an anti-nuclear network. “Even if DAE meets its projections of 20,000 MW by 2020, it will only be 8-10 per cent of installed capacity.”

Also, say watchdog groups, India’s safety record is poor. About 300 accidents have occurred, leading to radiation leaks and deaths.

SEZs here to stay, but no forcible land acquisition

The Indian government Thursday said special economic zones (SEZs) that have evoked violent protests in several parts of the country, particularly from farmers, are here to stay but limited their size to a maximum of 5,000 hectares.

It also put an end to the compulsory land acquisition by state governments in the wake of recent spates of violence in the states of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGOM) of the government, which met to clear the pending SEZ proposals, also said that SEZs would be treated like public utility.

This means that the states need not intervene to acquire land and leave the decision to sell agricultural land for SEZ to the discretion of the farmers and owners of the land.

These recommendations, once adopted and implemented, could put to rest the controversy surrounding the recent acquisition of agricultural land by several state governments, that tends to threaten the livelihood of farmers and farmhands.

However, this limitation to size is expected to hamper the business plans of some of the big companies like Reliance Industries that proposes to set up SEZs of 10,000 hectares in Maharashtra and Haryana.

“The decision will be applicable to all SEZs including those which have already been notified,” Minister of Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath told reporters after the meeting.

The smaller size of the SEZ is something UPA government’s Left supporters like the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) have been asking for.

The government, however, said nothing on the recommendations made by rural development ministry to drastically amend the land acquisition policy formulated by the previous NDA government to make the farmers as partners in the development.

However, according to Kamal Nath, one member from every displaced family would be given a job in the project, adding that a relief and rehabilitation policy in this regard would be finalised soon.

The meeting of the EGoM follows a clearance from the Congress party last week on SEZs, which were facing uncertainty after violent protests over land acquisition at Nandigram in West Bengal and uproar in other states.

The government has so far received a total of 234 SEZ proposals with formal approvals, of which 63 have been notified and 83 were cleared Thursday for notification.

The SEZ Act, which was passed by parliament in May 2005, has so far attracted investment of Rs.134.35 billion and offered employment to 18,457 persons.

India Inc raises toast to SEZ clearance

Leaders of the Indian industry welcomed the government’s move Thursday to lift a freeze on approving new special economic zones (SEZ) and clear 83 pending proposals.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said in a statement that it “supports the concept of SEZs and hopes that the decision to put an end to compulsory land acquisition by state governments and limiting the size of SEZs will end the ambiguity about the future of SEZs”.

“The state industrial development corporations may now use land already earmarked for industrial purposes for creation of these SEZs,” it added.

Underlining that SEZs are here to stay, The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) said “SEZs have an important role in today’s competitive environment.”

It also said the decision taken by the government Thursday will clear all the ambiguities regarding SEZs.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) lauded the government’s decision to restrict the size of the SEZs to 5,000 hectares, as it would help in settling recent controversies regarding land acquisition SEZs.

“The clearance of the proposals to set up SEZs with a limit on multi-product zones at 5,000 hectares and the discretion to the states to lower the size below this limit will give flexibility,” said FICCI.

Orissa man leads a green revolution

Cuttack: Every summer, the Orissa government takes several measures to combat the heat wave in the state.

Most of them are short term, but a farmer from Cuttack district in Orissa has been waging a battle for the past seven years to tackle the problem.

Forty-six-year-old Pravat Mahapatra, along with his family, have been planting trees for the past seven years to beat the heat. The farmer says that his crusade began after a devastating cyclone in 1999 uprooted all the trees in the village.

“After the cyclone we could not bear the heat. When we tilled our farm there were no trees nearby under which we could take shelter. It’s then that I felt the importance of trees and forest in our environment,” he says.

It was then that Pravat decided to plant trees in the 72 acre barren government land near his village. Pravat’s 13-year-old daughter, a class eighth student, helps him collect seeds required for plantation from farmers in the area.

When there is a world wide debate over global warming there are very few people who actually do something in protecting the environment. The green man, as he is commonly called, and his family have planted more than 20,000 trees over 30 acres of land so far.

With parts of the state already reeling under temperatures crossing 43 degree celcius, the Orissa government has been forced to order closure of schools in the state after 1030 hrs (IST) in the morning.

“During summer, our school is closed early but no one teaches us how to fight heat through plantation. It’s from my father that I learnt how important it is to plant trees,” says Pravat’s daughter Bharati Mahapatra.

It’s a mission that has the villagers’ encouragement, but for this green warrior, the real reward will be more people joining him in his crusade.

Efforts underway to fight alcoholism among tribals

Jhabua (Madhya Pradesh): Chendu, a tribal from Alirajpur in Jhabua district, beat his wife to death. Reason? She asked him to stop drinking. In the same block, another young man killed his brother with an arrow when the latter tried to extract toddy from the palm trees owned by him.
Often the reasons for murders or fatal assaults here are as mundane as someone’s hen entering the neighbour’s territory or someone’s refusal to lend a ‘bidi’ (leaf rolled cigarette) to a friend. In all these crimes, either the killer or the victim or both are high on alcohol, reports Grassroots Features.

Alcoholism is taking a heavy toll on the socio-economic life of the tribal population. According to an official from the department of tribal development, the age-old problem of excessive drinking in tribal areas is affecting the new generation too.

‘One can see teenagers brewing ‘arrack’ (local brew) in front of their houses. There is lack of conscious effort from the community to prevent youngsters from becoming hard-core addicts,’ he said.

This reflects on the literacy rate and high dropout percentage in the district, the highest in the state.

‘The attendance in schools also comes down especially during October to March when toddy tapping starts in certain regions of the district. Several students show up for classes drunk while others sneak off for a nip or two of toddy from the nearby palm groves,’ said Sanjay Solanki, a teacher.

Efforts are underway to counter alcoholism among tribals, though the progress is not very encouraging. Since alcoholism is also associated with starvation and unemployment, the district administration tried an innovative method to make use of toddy to generate gainful employment.

The project started in November 2004 in Bhavari village in Alirajpur. ‘We gave training to one Bhim Singh and his family, who owned 10 toddy palms, to make palm gur (sugar) out of toddy,’ said Rajkumar Pathak, the district collector of Jhabua.

The logic of the administration was – a family with 10 toddy palms involved in making gur can earn up to Rs.16,000 a season, while through sale of toddy it can earn only less than half that amount.

The officials in the district administration thought that since gur making was more profitable, more and more tribals would change over from the toddy business. ‘This would not only improve their financial situation but also reduce the number of crimes in the area,’ said Pathak.

However, this did not happen. Although Bhim Singh is very happy with his newfound enterprise, there are not many takers for it among his community.

The district administration has managed to convince only three more families to pursue gur-making. One reason for the failure of this project was the tribals’ love for toddy. ‘No one wants to leave toddy,’ said Shankar of Khedut.

But many people feel that if effective marketing strategies were in place the new enterprise could have done better. In states like Orissa and Karnataka, it is catching up well.

Despite the setback in the gur-making project, the district administration has not lost hope. It is encouraging tribals to sell fresh, unfermented toddy for making ‘neera’, a health drink. Unfermented toddy is very sweet and healthy. But fermented toddy contains 50-60 percent alcohol, making it a highly intoxicating beverage.

‘We are working on this project. Our effort is to encourage more and more people to sell toddy for making neera so that there is a shortage of toddy for making alcohol,’ said Pathak. The administration has approached the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) for processing and marketing neera.

Sources in KVIC say that it is working on the proposal. With suitable technological intervention as prescribed by the Pune-based National Chemical Laboratory, neera’s shelf life can be enhanced to six months.

‘Neera contains a number of minerals and salts; acids like ascorbic acid, nicotinic acid and riboflavin; proteins and vitamin C. It has less calorific value, apart from being sweet and delicious. It can give mineral water a run for its money,’ said A.K. Sharan of KVIC.

According to Sharan, neera can enhance the income of a farmer. One palm tree yields four litres of toddy a day. So if a farmer has 100 trees it would become 400 litres. The same could be sold at the rate of Rs.10 a litre, amounting to Rs.600,000 for the season lasting five months.

Although it makes a lot of economic sense, weaning away the tribals from the toddy business is an onerous task. ‘It all depends on the commitment on the part of the administration. If the government really wants to counter alcoholism then it should stop promoting foreign liquor also,’ said Shankar.

Alcoholism is linked to high incidences of crime in the district. According to the state crime records bureau, in 2005 there were 124 murders in the district — the highest among all districts in the state.

‘In more than 50 percent cases, alcohol was a factor,’ said Avinash Sharma, the assistant superintendent of police, Jhabua. ‘Tribals are very simple people. But once they consume alcohol they get violent even on trivial issues and use fatal weapons against each other.’

The crime rates are very high in certain blocks, especially Alirajpur and Jobat. Toddy palms are found in abundance in these blocks.

A survey by the Adivasi Sewa Shikshan Samiti in 2004 revealed that 10 percent of the tribal population in the district could be termed ‘heavy drinkers’. About 80 percent of the addicts in the district are below poverty line.

‘An average tribal family spends between 60-70 percent of its income on alcohol. It was found that if a person is a ‘desi’ (local) liquor addict, he spends a minimum of Rs.400 a month on it. But for a person addicted to foreign liquor, his bills touch up to Rs.3,000-3,500 a month,’ said Benedict Damor, secretary of the samiti. Even poor families spend huge amounts – to the tune of Rs.25,000-30,000 on alcohol alone during marriages.

The alcohol industry is the only flourishing business in this district. In 2007, the contract for the sale of liquor in Jhabua district was auctioned at Rs.100 million.

For Jhabua, where 47 percent of the population is below the poverty line and 85 percent is tribal, this is a huge sum. The officials in the excise department say the turnover from the sale would be anywhere between three to four times this amount. Besides, toddy and desi liquor (almost like a cottage industry) are available freely and cheaply.

However, Benedict Damor, who campaigned extensively against alcoholism, feels that prohibition is not a solution to this problem.

‘Alcohol is an integral part of tribal culture. But consuming alcohol as part of rituals or festivities is different from alcoholism. Alcoholism is linked to illiteracy, impoverishment and many other factors. But there should be a concerted effort from within the community to do away with such evils and to return to our roots,’ he said.

Chhattisgarh is new hot-spot for investors: Report

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh got the highest investment in the industrial sector last year followed by Karnataka, Orissa and Gujarat, says the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion’s (DIPP) latest report.

Edging out traditional investor friendly states like Gujarat, mineral rich Chhattisgarh got proposals and investments of Rs.1.07 trillion between January 2006 and December 2006. It was the highest investment in a single state in the country, an official state government statement claimed on Thursday.

According to the report, Karnataka stood second with an overall figure of Rs.718 billion, followed by Orissa with Rs.694 billion. Gujarat was at fourth place with Rs.661 billion and Andhra Pradesh ranked fifth with Rs 434 billion.

“Chhattisgarh is witnessing a silent industrial revolution. The majority of investments are going to poverty hit areas such as Bastar and Surguja to take the benefits of the revolution to rural masses and village people,” Chief Minister Raman Singh said.

Chhattisgarh has nearly 20 percent of India’s iron ore deposits and about 18 percent of the country’s coal reserves. But more than 45 percent of its 20.8 million people live below the poverty line.

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, which works under the union commerce industry, was established in 1995 and reconstituted in 2000 with the merger of the Department of Industrial Development. Jharkhand News Network

April 5, 2007 at 10:06 pm Leave a comment

Apr 04, 2007

Jharkhand woman develops mosquito repellent with lemon grass!

Nagri (Jharkhand) April 4: A septuagenarian woman in Jharkhand has developed a unique lemon-grass-based mosquito repellent to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Neelika Lal took to gardening after her husband’s death, and in the process developed repellent by cultivating lemon grass.

She now wants villagers to take up such cultivation with the larger objective of commercialising the indigenously made repellent.

“The villages are in a pathetic condition due to lack of measures to clear off stagnant water, which proves a breeding ground for mosquitoes. If the repellent is burned in all villages, it would help to ward off mosquitoes and curb malaria,” claimed Neelika Lal.

After trying her hands at different things, Neelika took to lemon grass cultivation to keep herself busy and set up an oil extraction unit at her place in Nagri, a small hamlet near Ranchi, the State capital.

The strong and distinctive smell of lemon grass prompted her to use it to keep mosquitoes at bay.

During initial trials, Neelika tried burning the whole grass and found the results satisfactory. Thereafter, she went on to prepare repellent cakes out of it.

She claims that if it is properly used and marketed, the repellent can be effective in curbing mosquitoes in Jharkhand, where malaria is endemic and claims hundreds of lives every year.Neelika is, presently, distributing these repellent cakes free of cost to villagers to popularise and develop a wide scale acceptance.

Lemon grass is a main ingredient in Thai and Caribbean cuisine, but here it is mixed with rice husk and cow dung to make the mosquito repellent.

“Lemon grass is mixed with cow dung and rice husk and made into small roundels. It is then dried in the sun. After the cakes are dry, we burn them to keep off mosquitoes,” said Savita, a villager who helps Neelika in making the mosquito repellents.

Apart from using lemon grass for mosquito repellent, Neelika is also making pain-relieving balm from it by mixing it with vaseline and coconut oil, which she claims, is also very effective.

In 2006, India reported around 1.04 million malaria cases and 890 deaths from the disease.

BCCL, SAIL to join hands for mining project

Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) will soon launch a joint venture with Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) for underground mining at Moonidih mines in Jharkhand.

‘We have already identified a patch at Moonidih XV seam and decided to go for a Rs.5 billion joint venture project of which SAIL will invest Rs.3 billion. The project will shortly be signed between BBCL and SAIL,’ said BCCL chairman and managing director A.K. Paul here Wednesday.

He said BCCL will guarantee equipment and production and SAIL will chip in with money.

BCCL is a subsidiary unit of Coal India Limited (CIL). The company operates 70 mines – 68 in the Jharia Coalfield and two in the Ranigunj Coalfield.

It has 36 underground, 12 open cast and 22 mixed mines. Besides these, BCCL operates several coking and non-coking coal washeries and various other units.

To achieve a turnaround, BCCL is gearing up to augment one million tonnes of coking production annually to generate Rs.3 billion profit.

‘To meet the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) target, we are trying to achieve 25 mt of production in 2007-08 and also trying to achieve Rs.5.26 billion profit, including the backlogs which we could not fulfil in last two years, in the current financial year,’ said Paul, adding the company has several other projects like modernisation and upgradation of washeries in the pipeline.

‘In next five years we are going to invest Rs.13.5 billion for undergoing development and upgradation works in all BCCL coking coal mines,’ Paul added.

Silk trade to get a boost

Ranchi, April 3: Jharkhand could regain its lost glory in silk production if plans undertaken by Central Silk Board (CSB) and state industry department materialise in the n