In Orissa town of Puri consuming Bhang is a ritual
Puri: If you remember the original `Don’ with the `Big B’ and its sequel with Shah Rukh Khan as the lead, perhaps the Bhang scene would give you much food for thought – with its typical local flavour and rustic Indian touch. But unlike the Banarasi connection, in Orissa, the temple town Puri can boast of a similar tradition of
Bhang consumption and the servitors’ communities are beginning the day with it early on bed a la morning tea.
`We, the servitors cannot stay without Bhang. I drink thrice a day since my childhood, ‘ says Nolia, a guide of Jagannath Temple. He says he takes 100 grams at a time and spends up to Rs 100 a day and without the stuff he even cannot dream about a sound sleep.
`Bhang is sacred and thought to be the daily diet of Lord Shiva. Consuming on daily basis is a tradition for many in this pilgrim city. It never causes harm to consumers like alcohol and other narcotics,’ reveals Gedu, a vendor near the temple.
According to Kankada Nana (70), a priest of Lokanath Temple, he used to collect packets of Bhang and preserves like paddy till the year-end. But with the price hike, its short supply has created problems.
This is quite same with a lawyer of the local court. ‘By consuming Bhang, I feel relaxed from the entire day’s worries. This is digestive and keeps stomach free from all disorders,’ he says quoting a Sanskrit Shloka.
Consumption of Bhang is like a daily ritual here for most of the `Puriwallahs’. The habit is hoped to have been running with the rise of Akhra culture. During the rule of King Ramachandra Dev, Akhra had played a major role for the security of Jagannath Temple and mutts from Islamic attack. Bhang was used in all Akhras for uniting youngsters in order to practice physical exercise and martial art when they took an oath for protecting temples and other monuments.
The Bhang paste is prepared by manual rock grinder and is drunk by `Aakhra-wallahs’ after offering the first drink to their presiding deities.
According to elders, in the past the temple servitors had a habit to go for toilets in-groups on the outskirts of the town after consuming Bhang.
A report says that Puri consumes five quintals of these narcotics per day and around 75,000 are habituated with this. Roadside outlets are selling drinks laced with bhang although local Excise Department limits its permission to eight shops.
For some, Bhang has acquired a status of a cottage industry as it has provided unemployed youths a source of income through cold drink shops that also sell bhang laced drinks.
Usually visitors having curiosity for Bhang tradition of Puri fall prey to the ‘green fanta’ or Bhang laced cold drink bottles refilled and freezed up for daily sale in the town. Allegations are rife that sedative drugs are mixed in these drinks.
Localites never opt for ‘green fanta’. They prefer to venture out to small kiosks where Bhang paste is prepared on spot, along with availability of sweetened herbal drinks to mix with the Bhang paste for consumption.
According to Sibu Das, a connoisseur of Bhang from Puri, one can easily sense effect of Original Bhang and adulterated one. Original Bhang takes a person to ‘highs’ slowly with a cooling effect, which makes it popular during summer. But Bhang adulterated with sedative tablets provides quick kick.
`Bhang is part of our cultural tradition. It is known as ‘Siddhi’ and ‘Vijaya’ in Sanskrit as it helps in transcending conscious mind due to its calming effect on the central nervous system. This calming effect opens up the mind to new avenues of creativity. Several writers and cultural personalities of Puri surely enjoy Bhang. But it should be
taken in small doses so that one enjoys its joyous mental effects rather than Bhang ruling over the mind,’ Sibu adds.
But locals fear that this `tradition’ is getting eroded and devalued with the steady rise of drugs and alcohols among the Gen-X. They say that the alcohol shops are increasing every year in the city resulting in social disorders and anarchies while Bhang never caused such problems.
According to Ayurvedic practitioner Bhaskar Mishra, Bhang is also required in preparation of many herbal medicines. `Consuming it in small quantity is good, but overdose is injurious,’ he said.
Lok Sabha MP among six killed in Jharkhand Naxalite attack
JAMSHEDPUR: Naxals on Sunday shot dead General Secretary of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Lok Sabha MP Sunil Mahato in an attack that also killed two of his bodyguards and a party colleague during a football match organized to mark the Holi festival at a place about 40 km from here on Sunday.
Jharkhand Home Secretary Sudhir Tripathi said in Ranchi that a group of Maoists opened gunfire from close at 38-year-old Mahato, who represented Jamshedpur constituency and was the chief guest at the match at Bakuria in East Singhbhum district.
The lawmaker was killed on the spot, he added.
East Singhbhum Superintendent of Police Pankaj Darad said seven bullets were pumped into the body of Mahato.
He said the attack also left two of the lawmaker’s bodyguards and Ghatsila block secretary of JMM Prabhakar Mahato dead.
Raju Giri, general secretary of JMM’s central committee, said two other bodyguards of the MP had been taken away by the Naxalites.
Eyewitnesses said 15 ultras, armed with sophisticated weapons, shot at Mahato and his bodyguards when he was watching the football match.
A commotion broke out after the firing and the ultras escaped taking advantage of that.
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee expressed shock at the killing of Mahato and conveyed his condolences to the bereaved family.
Mahto, one of the four JMM members in the Lok Sabha, was a first timer in the Lower House. He has been associated with the party for over two decades.
He is survived by wife and two daughters.
“The career of an upcoming political leader has been cut short by the frustrated elements. But the perpetrators will not succeed in their violence,” JMM general secretary Prashant Mandal said.
They go to work in metros, never return
RANCHI, March 2: The Nithari killings have opened a can of worms. Every state is now looking for its missing children. The Jharkhand police too, is fumbling for answers to the rise in incidence of missing children. This, in fact is a queer phenomenon to have gripped this part of the erstwhile state of Bihar (now Jharkhand) since the early 1990s. Till now, the state police passed it of as trafficking of girls and refused to see more into it.
• Poonam, the 10-year-old daughter of Bigna Oraon of Bakhar village (Jharkhand) is missing since 15 February, 2004. Though he lodged a complaint with the local police immediately, his daughter is still untraceable.
• Jabar Munda’s 14-year-old daughter, Gangi Purtilodged went missing on August 23, 2003. Though the Akri police station (Jharkhand) registered an FIR, there has been no headway in the case.
• Fifteen-year-old Sarsawati, daughter of Ramnagina Hembrom of Kisku village (Lohardaga district in Jharkhand) did not return from school on May 14,2003. Even though the father promptly filed a complaint, he is yet to hear from the police.
• Ashok Soy’s, 16-year-old daughter Rukmini Tirkey went missing from near the well where she had gone to fill water on February 12,2002. Even after five years, the Chakardharpur police station (West Singhbhum district in Jharkhand) has made no headway in the case.
Majority of people here, particularly the Adivasis have very poor living conditions. Sending their children to work as domestic help in metros bought them quick money. Earlier, where they barely managed to make Rs 500-600 per month by doing odd jobs particularly working as part-time labourers, their children were employed for more than double of what they bought home. “This new-form of employment thrown up by metros has led to the rise of missing children,” said RC Kaithal, Additional Director General of Police while speaking to the indian Express. Though on January 25 this year he had directed the superintendents of police to furnish him with data on missing children in Jharkhand, he is yet to hear from them.
Compilation of the complaints have, however, helped the police zero in on the fact that most of the missing girls were in the age group of 8 to 15 and they were either illiterate or school dropouts, employed by agencies to work as domestic help.
Our investigations revealed that Poonam was sent to New Delhi along with two other girls — Sangeeta and Ashok, by Sony, a resident of Piskanagri village (Ranchi district). She liasoned with a domestic help placement agency in the national capital. Though Sangeeta and Ashok returned home a few months later, Poonam is still untraceable. “We lost touch with her,” said Sangeeita when we contacted her. Though we could not contact Sony, she has apparently told the missing girl’s parents that the New Delhi place ment agency was unreachable on the numbers with her.
Suresh Tiwari,a lecturer at Sanjay Gandhi College has written in his thesis on “Trafficking of Adivasi Girls in Jharkhand” — “Most agencies lured the parents by promising them a party of their children’s wages. But in quite a few cases they failed to keep track of the girls, resulting in the rise of missing children.”
It’s not that all employers are insensitive. 16-year-old Salkhi’s employers in the posh Bengali Market area of New Delhi lodged a case of missing at the local Tilak Nagar police station. The police advertised for her in the missing columns of local Hindi dailies in Ranchi as well as New Delhi. SH Lakra, the Additional Superintendent of Police (CBI), who was also working on this case along with the local police said: “She was friendly with a boy but there are are other suspects as well.” The Delhi Police is yet to make a breakthrough.
Experts express regret at tribals’ exploitation
THE SOCIAL structure in tribal India is experiencing emergence of a ‘tribal elite’. This is mainly on account of improving literacy, reservations in government services and exposure of tribal people to mainstream society. But, sadly, the tragedy is that this ‘elite tribal people’ are distancing themselves from the larger tribal masses and is only caring for their kith and kin, regretted Professor Sachchidananda, an eminent anthropologist while speaking at a function here at Lucknow University (LU) today.
He lamented that the ‘elite tribal’ class refused to take up the leadership task, which actually restrained the development of the tribal people. “If the Indian tribals were to develop, it is imperative that the educated among the tribal people should come forward and provide a leadership else unscrupulous elements would continue to exploit them for their own vested interests,” said the anthropologist. Prof Sachchidananda emphasised that unless tribal people got leadership opportunities, they would continue to face problems.
Speaking at the diamond jubilee conference on ‘Tradition and modernity: Development and change among tribal in India’ jointly organised by the Ethnographic and Folk Culture Society, Lucknow and Sociology Department, LU, the professor said another social change was the demand of tribal women for a share in the property of their fathers. In Jharkhand, girls are not entitled to any share in the property of their father. He said, “After Independence tribals had been politicised through the democratic process. The tribal leaders should come to the forefront and work for the betterment of the masses”.
Goons ‘ready for hire’ for UP polls
Kushinagar, UP: As Uttar Pradesh gears up for the Assembly elections next month, not just political parties, even organised gangs are gearing up for the big political event. Guns and goons are ready for hire, to be deployed during the elections in the garb of private security.
In eastern UP, river Narayani is an undeclared dividing line, with the police on one side and over a dozen organised gangs on the other. There are armed gangs that roam freely along the region bordering Bihar and Nepal.
It was only after a long walk, a boat ride and driving for several kilometres that a CNN-IBN managed to track one of these professional gangs down. They call themselves the Jungle Party.
The 200 members of the Jungle Party operate in the areas bordering Nepal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. But with the polls drawing near, it’s not just robbery and kidnapping that will keep them busy.
“Neta logo se baat karte hai. Un logo se aapna baat-seet chalti rahti hai, Woh log sunab ke dauran hum logo se madad mangte hai (Political leaders contact us and we are constantly in touch. During elections, they seek our help,)” one of the gangsters confessed to CNN-IBN.
The gangs roam freely in the forests. And during every election, they get into the act of booth-capturing and intimidating voters to tilt the balance in the favour of their mentors. Gangs like these thrive under full political patronage and with the Nepal border close by, they have a safe haven to escape to when the security agencies go after them.
Villagers in these area have to fend for themselves. They have come together to form village samitis. But they can’t hope to match the arms and ammunition of the Jungle Party.
” Woh log dabao dete hai ki vote phalanoo ko dijiyega or kisiko nahi. Agar vote nahi dena hai toh marna hai ( They come and tell us to vote for a particular party and none else. If we do not vote, they threaten to kill),” Ramesh Kumar, a resident of Khadda village in eastern UP, says,
These gangs can effectively determine the fate of candidates in the UP districts bordering Nepal and Bihar. Police sources say the gangs even have access to sophisticated weapons provided by Nepali Maoists.
“The main reason for this is that there is a lot of poverty in this area. There is a lot of illiteracy,” S K Bhagat, SSP Gorakhpur, states.
The local intelligence unit has submitted several reports on the Jungle Party. But the administration is yet to formulate an action plan to control these private armies.
Urbanisation triggers langur invasion in south Bengal
If Kolkata and its vicinities are an area of surging humanity, they are also a happy hunting ground for langurs (long-tailed monkeys) these days — courtesy the rapid urbanisation and rampant deforestation of rural areas.
With the increasing number of shopping malls, restaurants and housing projects coming up, Kolkata and its outskirts are becoming a hunting ground for langurs as they come out in search of food, posing a serious threat to humans.
‘Human settlements are slowly devouring far flung areas and more and more trees are being cut. The langurs which inhabit rural areas are forced to venture into human settlements due to the loss of habitation and destruction of food sources,’ said Col. Shakti Ranjan Banerjee, director, World Wildlife Federation (WWF), West Bengal.
‘Langurs are creating problems in Kolkata, Howrah, South 24-Parganas, Hooghly, Birbhum, Burdwan and Nadia districts,’ said Banerjee.
Experts say the situation is getting out of control, especially as there’s no comprehensive study available on the population of langurs in south Bengal.
‘Neither the state forest department nor any other organisation has the exact figures of the langur population in south Bengal, so nobody can take any action to control the menace,’ Banerjee claimed.
Banarjee earlier said the langurs were used to getting their food from agricultural land but the excessive use of pesticides and fertiliser prevented them from surviving on agricultural crops.
To control the menace, WWF had sent a proposal for an extensive study on the langur population to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests through the state forest department.
‘We had asked for a fund of Rs. 650,000 from the union ministry for conducting a study but nothing has happened in the past one year,’ Banerjee said.
‘To find out the reasons behind this human-langur conflict we need to conduct the survey in three stages — assessment, analysis and management. There’s no base-line data available with us.
‘There could be other reasons behind this langur invasion too. For instance, if a langur gets separated from its mother or from the group, it can turn violent and cause immense trouble to the people,’ he said.
Sangita Mitra, senior project officer, WWF, added: ‘Artificial feeding (people feeding animals) is another bad practice that lures langurs into human settlements. Sometimes they go on a rampage if they don’t get food in the locality.’
According to her, the population of langurs in south Bengal increased after 1976 when langurs were banned for laboratory tests and research purposes. Mitra is doing research on south Bengal’s langur population.
‘But before knowing the exact number of langurs we cannot sterilise the male members of the group,’ explained Mitra.
V.K. Yadav, chief conservator of wildlife in West Bengal, however, felt that the incidents of langur invasion are sporadic. ‘But whenever we are informed about any such incident we immediately rush to the spot and try to capture the animal,’ he said.
A langur injured 12 people at Sankrail, about 20 km from Kolkata, in early February.
Police had to be deployed and the entire locality wore a deserted look till the forest department captured the simian.
Statutory provisions for SC, ST remain elusive
The Minister for Welfare of Backward Classes and Plains Tribes (WBPT) Pramila Rani Brahma told the State Assembly yesterday that the Constitutional and statutory privileges still remained elusive for the State’s Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). She called upon the MLAs belonging to these categories of people to come forward to facilitate proper implementation of the schemes meant for the welfare of these sections of the people.
However, the State Government is considering the issue of granting allotment of land to the landless people of these categories. Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has agreed to the suggestion for settling Government land with the genuine occupants concerned provided they belong to these categories of people, she said.
She also told the House that there were 17,404 backlogs against the reserved posts for the SCs and STs in the State Government offices. Earlier, the figure was 18,404. Last year, 1,000 of the backlogs were filled up. The State Government is considering filling up of 5,000 of the backlogs this time.
The Minister’s statement came in response to a call attention motion moved by Asom Gana Parishad’s (AGP) Hiren Das.
The State Government also changed the policy for implementation of the welfare schemes meant for the SCs and STs this time with the provision of paying money to the beneficiaries instead of materials. The money is paid to the beneficiaries through cheques, the Minister said.
The Government is also strictly monitoring the procedures for issuing certificates adopted by the non-Government bodies like the Anuchuchita Jati Parishad so as to check issuance of fake certificates by these bodies. A Cabinet memorandum is also being prepared for the purpose, said the Minister.
She regretted that due the lack of consciousness among the leaders of the SC and ST people, due facilities to these categories of people could not be provided. The call of the hour is that the leaders of these categories of people should come forward to make their communities aware.
The unemployeds of these communities are being trained for skill development and schemes for the purpose are prepared. Meanwhile, the State Government is making arrangements to pay salaries to the employees of the Welfare Corporations meant for the SCs, STs and Other Backward Classes, she said.
Essar wins licence for Bailadila iron ore deposits
India’s leading steel-maker Essar Steel has won the prospecting licence for Chhattisgarh’s Bailadila deposits, which has one of the world’s finest quality iron ore stocks. This happened after a state-run firm’s lease expired unutilised.
The central government has approved the Chhattisgarh government’s proposal to award the prospecting license to Essar Steel for a 2,285-hectare stretch in Dantewada district, officials said.
For three decades, the prospecting license for the iron ore reserves was kept reserved for the state-run National Mineral Development Corp (NMDC), which lost the lease in February because it had not begun excavations.
India’s largest iron ore producer and exporter in public sector NMDC had got the mining lease right of an area of 3,308.04 hectares in Bailadila deposit no 3 on Feb 3, 1977 for a period of three decades. Its lease expired on Feb 8, 2007. Surprisingly, the NMDC did not excavate a single kilogram of iron ore,’ a senior industry department official told IANS.
‘NMDC was stunned when it was formally informed that its mining lease has automatically lapsed under the Mining and Mineral Act. It was not renewed because NMDC failed to undertake any mining activity,’ the official added.
The hilly region of Bailadila, located in Dantewada district, has large reserves of high quality iron ore stocks, divided into 14 deposits. NMDC has been excavating mines in three bigger deposits for domestic supplies as well as for exports to China and Japan. ‘NMDC’s loss is Essar Steel’s gain,’ the official said.
Essar Steel will use the Bailadila iron ore to feed its Rs.70 billion greenfield integrated steel plant to be set up in two phases in Dantewada district with a capacity of 3.2 million tonne per annum.
Holi brings love – and elopement – for Bhil tribals
Bhopal, March 3 – Love, romance and even marriage is in the air for the Bhil tribals of Madhya Pradesh as Holi approaches. For, just preceding the festival is the weeklong event of Bhagora Haat.
The ‘haat’, or country fair, is special for Bhils because that is the time when many of them look for soul mates. This year Holi is being celebrated March 4.
At the heart of the festival is the uninhibited mingling of the sexes, which men and women celebrate by dancing to the beat of dhols and thalis and the sweet melody of the shehnai and bansuri.
Bhagordev or the tribal god of dance is worshipped during the fare, which is celebrated at west Nimar and Jhabua districts. The most respected village elder presides over the ceremony and offers sweets to the god.
As the fragrance of tadi and mahua – intoxicate the ambience, tribal boys and girls gather from far and near in large numbers to choose their partners. They eat, drink, dance and elope, as elopement is an important precondition to their marriage.
Young men go around applying gulal – on the girls they like. If a girl reciprocates the sentiment then she too applies gulal and that is all the permission a young man needs to marry her.
The mutual exchange of paan or betel leaf also signals a declaration of love.
‘The boy applies gulal on the girl’s face and if she does the same then they move towards a lonely place in the deep forests for some moments of utmost intimacy and celebrate Holi in their own way,’ said Digraskar, who himself chose his life partner at the Bhagora Haat.
The couples who run away as per the Bhagoria custom – ‘bhag’ means to elope – are then accepted in the Bhil society.
‘A woman and a man who decide to elope soon come back to a tumultuous welcome and are pronounced man and wife by their elated families,’ said Digraskar, who works as a supervisor at Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited -.
The festival provides an institutionalised framework for announcing the alliance publicly though in Hindu mythology the eight days preceding Holi, known as Holika Ashtak, are considered inauspicious for marriages or any good work.
The important thing is that unlike in most other cases, the boy here has to pay the dowry for his would be partner to her father.
The festival, which coincides with the end of the harvest season, is celebrated with even more gaiety if the crops are good.
‘The better the crop, the better the dowry. These days, however, it is really low – between Rs.40,000 and Rs.50,000 – because of a not-so-good crop this year,’ said Deenu, a prospective groom.
The changing times have also caught up with this quaint festival. Whereas earlier they would dress up in all their tribal finery, today the Bhil males wear shirts and trousers to the haat. Even the women have started applying lipstick and talc in a nod to modernity.
Revelry in riot of colours
- Rich and poor get ready to celebrate holi, inflation fails to dampen festive spirit
Members of Junior Chamber Women’s Wing celebrate Holi. Picture by Hardeep Singh
The rich and poor celebrate Holi according to their capabilities. But colours, snacks and the inevitable bhang form the common denominator of revelry for all.
Holi for the affluent is nothing less than Bollywood style celebrations. Around this time, tanks of coloured water to drench the guests and a wide array of snacks to quench their appetites are prepared at farmhouses away from the city.
For Bhanu Jalan, an eminent businessman of the city, Holi is a time to “freak out” with friends and family. “When it comes to playing with colours, we start early in the day. We first smear colours on relatives and gradually venture out on to the roads in our area. No one is spared.”
After the initial spree, Jalan said, he and his friends go to a farmhouse, where a makeshift pool filled with water and colours await them.
As Jalan and friends wait eagerly for Holi, children living near the house of Meenakshi Bhagat, former president of Lioness Club of Ranchi, have started smacking their lips in anticipation. Bhagat has been known to give the children chowmein and other lip-smacking snacks.
The festival is also an excuse to meet relatives, especially for those with large families. Girish Malhotra, the proprietor of Kashmir Vastralay, is waiting just for that.
“We have a huge family and all members make sure they are together on Holi. Children start playing with colours at 10 am and we join in later. The revelry goes on till late in the afternoon, when we start gorging on non-vegetarian snacks,” he said.
Holi wouldn’t be complete without music and songs, especially Rang barse, and dhol. For the Malhotras, at least, it is not. “It does not matter if we cannot get a dhol because then we make one out of a tin can,” the businessman said.
Rickshaw-puller Pradeep Ram has devised an ingenious way to keep the fun going without much expense. His revelry starts after noon. “I like to start when most people have almost exhausted their stock of colours.”
If I start early, I might run out of colours. The prices of the colours have gone up considerably and I cannot afford to buy beyond a point. So starting late gives me the chance to enjoy with my friends till late in the evening.”
For Ram Ji, a cobbler, Holi means colours, does not matter what type. “All friends come together on Holi. No one really minds if he is splashed with cow dung. Every act is forgiven on Holi,” he said.
When it comes to social work, students from Jharkhand are raring to go.
The young generation is after all not so materialistic as they are thought to be. To tag them so has almost become a fad. Truth is many of them are dreaming of being agents of social changes. And it’s not just a few of them following such dreams. There are many, too many to be dismissed as coincidental cases.
Many of them being students of Jharkhand, who away from their home state, have found their “calling” in social projects in Delhi. And most insist it’s not just a passing phase, but a commitment they intend to pursue lifelong.
“It may sound a bit fake when young students declare to remain committed to social work all life, but we mean it. Once one gets into the groove of such work, it’s absolutely addicting,” explains Ranjan Shekhar (Bokaro), a third-year student of Hans Raj College, who has been working with a group called Parivartan.
“The group that I work with focuses on RTI cases and as volunteers we usually go on dharnas or awareness drives, with posters and banners. It is really inspiring to work with social activists. Seeing their dedication to the cause, we students, too, get seriously involved,” Ranjan adds.
Fleme Verkey (Jamshedpur), a third-year English (hons) student of Lady Shri Ram College, takes her stint at Jamghat, an NGO working for street children, as serious fieldwork, which will help her understand the basic nature of the profession. “I am planning to pursue a masters degree in social work and my experience in NGOs will stand me in good stead,” explained Fleme. After two years of field experience, Fleme says there’s a lot she has learned. “The work experience has taught me how to deal with various problems, legal and financial, that one has to face while working on the field,” she adds.
Many, like Prerna Sanga (Ranchi), a second-year student of history at LSR, who has been working for Pravaah, an NGO, feels her exposure to “real issues” that society has to cope with has taught her to be a much more matured person than she would have been had she done a stint in a corporate house. “Here, I get to meet people from a cross-section of society. Working with them is an enriching experience. At Pravaah, we have three sections, film, theatre and media, through which we spread awareness,” explains Prerna, who has also been involved with the India Social Forum, which was held last year.
Yes, all of them wish they could do something in their home towns, too. Time or motivation, they say, is not a problem. “I feel students do have a lot of time and also the energy to be a part of social work. This energy needs to be tapped by NGOs. While there are so many opportunities here, we would have loved to do such work back at home, too. Though there are NGOs there, too, somehow we never seem to have noticed them or got to work with them,” says Sitamshu Kumar (Ranchi), a III-year student of Ramjas College.
S. Vidya, a third-year student of Shri Venkatesvari College, suggests NGOs in Jharkhand should connect with the youth. “We are motivated to engage in social work in school but end up limiting ourselves to paper drives and blood donation camps. We need to get ourselves involved in something more focused,” is what she feels. Like the many other youths of the state.
Lalu all set to tear off clothes this Holi
PATNA: Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, euphoric over his record-surplus budget, will celebrate his trademark
‘kapdaphad’ (cloth-tearing) Holi, dancing to drum beats and Bhojpuri songs, in the state capital.
“After presenting my dream Railway Budget, which has shown up a profit of Rs 200 billion, I’m now in a mood to celebrate Holi in my very own style. It’s going to be kapdaphad Holi for me once more,” said Lalu on Friday.
Beaming with pleasure, Lalu said that as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and millions of people had praised his Railway Budget across India, he was ready to celebrate the festival of colours in a big way like earlier times.
Holi had been a low-key affair for Lalu in the last few years.
The railway minister planned to stay on at 10 Circular Road, the official residence of his wife Rabri Devi, former Bihar chief minister and leader of the opposition in the state assembly, till Holi.
Sources at Rabri Devi’s official residence said Lalu had given instructions for a grand party.
“There will be different herbal colours, thandai, bhang and sweets.”
Lalu is known for tearing off clothes of his party leaders including ministers, officials and people who visit him on Holi day.
During their 15 years rule in Bihar, Lalu-Rabri would host a big Holi party every year except the year Lalu was in jail on charges of his involvement in the multi-million rupees fodder scam in the late 90s.
Alternately, the present Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will celebrate Holi in a simple and low-key fashion
Sex workers to contribute in state’s development
In an unprecedented move, the sex workers of Bengal have decided that they want to contribute money to the state exchequer towards the development of the state.
They would collect the money by imposing additional charges on their customers and contribute majority portion of this money to the state exchequer. All they want in return is recognition from the government and end of police harassment for them and their clients.
And if this proposal sees the light of the day, the West Bengal government would be richer by a few crore rupees every month which it can use at its will for the development works. Even by a conservative estimate, the state exchequer would get Rs 5.4 lakhs per day or Rs 1.62 crore per month from the 60,000 sex workers in the state who are more than willing to contribute the money.
The decision to contribute money to the state was taken on Monday evening by the sex workers during the ongoing six day ‘All India Conference of Entertainment Workers’ organised by the recently formed Binodini Sramik Union led by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) along with Amra Padatik Sathi Sangathan and Komal Gandhar.
The conference is discussing various issues related to the sex workers and the problems being faced by them. The conference is also demanding “entertainment worker” status for the sex workers.
They have also decided that Binodini Sramik Union and DMSC would jointly appeal to the state government in this regard and submit a formal proposal to the finance minister next week for approval.
“After discussions, the sex workers across Bengal have decided to contribute money to the state exchequer through which they believe that they will be able to get the attention of the state bosses towards their pitiful plight and continuous harassments by police.
They have decided that if state government accepts their proposal, they would take Rs 5 from each of their customers as Darshani apart from their regular charge,” said Dr Smarajit Jana Chief Advisor of DMSC, which has over 60,000 members among the nearly 80,000 strong sex workers in Bengal.
Jana told Hindustan Times that out of the five rupees, Rs 3 would be contributed to the state exchequer, one rupee would be taken as “condom charge” and the remaining one rupee would be contributed to the Self Regulatory Board which takes cares of the sex workers’ problems including education of the children of sex workers, health issues, old age problems faced by sex workers etc. This way, using of condoms by every customer visiting a sex worker too could be ensured to a large extent.
“All we want is to draw the attention of the state government towards our pitiful situation and the harassments faced by us by helping them financially. We are ready to give the money, which would run in lakhs every month, to the state government and in return we want the police atrocities on us to stop.
“Our clients too have willingly approved this proposal, as they too want unnecessary police harassments on them stopped. And we want to be given the right to live and carry on with our trade peacefully,” said Gauri Das, president of DMSC.
But the state government authorities are in a fix over the proposal and feels that it would not be possible to accept the money in this manner. While the finance ministry officials claimed that the matter would be looked into by the Social Welfare Department (SWD), the principal secretary of the SWD Sheikh Nurul Haque explained that the state government would not be able to accept money from the sex workers.
“It’s not possible for the state government to accept money from the sex workers and they should themselves try to utilise the money for their development.
“They should utilise the money for their area development, health concerns, education of their kids etc as well as creating some funds for their old age problems,” said Haque.
Bihar tops list in domestic violence
NEW DELHI: Over 37 per cent married women in the country were victims of physical or sexual abuse by their husbands with Bihar topping the list.
Women in Himachal Pradesh faced less violence at home compared to other states in the country. The latest National Family Health Survey-III found that 37.2 per cent women had experienced violence and cited lack of education as the key reason behind their woes.
“Women with no education were much more likely than other women to have suffered spousal violence. However, spousal abuse also extends to women who have secondary or higher secondary level education, with 16 per cent reporting abuse,” the survey said.
The survey showed that countrywide more women face violence in rural areas (40.2) as compared to those in the urban areas (30.4).
In Bihar, women in urban areas fared worse than those in rural areas. While 62.2 per cent underwent the trauma in urban areas, it was 58.5 per cent women in villages.
It is followed by Rajasthan (46.3) Madhya Pradesh (45.8), Tripura (44.1), Manipur (43.9 ), Uttar Pradesh (42.4), Tamil Nadu (41.9), West Bengal (40.3) and Arunachal Pradesh (38.8).
Among the metros, the fairer sex was better off in Delhi (16.3) and Mumbai (19.5) recorded relatively low percentage as compared to Chennai ( 40.6) and Kolkata (26.7).
Nearly, 17 per cent women in Goa have experienced violence, with 17.2 women in rural areas at the receiving end as compared to 16.4 per cent women in urban areas.
In Chhattisgarh, a total of 30 per cent women suffered at the hands of their husbands, while in Jharkhand, the figure was 37 per cent. About 40.8 per cent women in Jharkhand villages found the going tough as compared to 24.6 per cent in the urban areas.
In the hill state of Uttarakhand, nearly 28 per cent women experienced violence, with those in villages (29.8) fared worse than their urban counterparts ( 22.8).
After Himachal Pradesh, women fared relatively better in Jammu and Kashmir (12.6), Meghalaya (13.1), Nagaland (15.4), Sikkim (16.5) and Kerala (16.4).
Other states where women find themselves vulnerable are Assam (39.6), Arunachal Pradesh (38.8), Orissa (38.5), Maharashtra (30.7), Andhra Pradesh (35.2), Haryana (27.3), Gujarat (27.6) Punjab (25.4), Mizoram (22.5) and Karnataka (20).
Cattle lord it over colours
BALASORE, March 2: Holi is not all about playing with colours. Rural Orissa observes ‘Dola Utsav’ on the eve of Holi which falls on a full moon day.
‘Dola Purnima’ is celebrated from three to ten days, depending on the local traditions. For the Yadavs, it’s an occasion to worship cattle and pray for their good health.
As per tradition, on the day, the Yadavs of every village gather at an open field (melan padia) in their locality with Radha-Krishna deities to perform rituals before offering prayers to cows and buffaloes.
“We are the descendants of Lord Krishna and have preserved our traditions including cow worship. It’s an important festival for our community,” said Sambhunath Yadav, president of Sekhpatana Dola Utsav Committee.
However in the coastal districts, it’s the ‘dola melan’ (congregation of village deities at a common spot) that draws huge crowds and marks the culmination of Holi celebrations. Games like ‘naudi khela’, a mock fight with small sticks, are held in which youths and men participate.
This traditional game, however, is fast losing its popularity due to lack of enthusiasm among young ‘gopals’ (milkmen) to learn the art. With changing times ‘gopals’ are not interested to learn ‘naudi’ due to lack of incentives.
“Originally ‘naudi khela’ was performed by ‘gopals’ during ‘Dola’ festival in groups of 10 and 20. They used to sing and dance reciting Krishna Lila and myths associated with Lord Krishna and his attachment to ‘gopis’. Now it does not attract performers,” pointed out Bimal Barik, a milkman.
The Culture Department should take initiatives to revive the art, he added.
Adolescent girls clubs started by an NGO are changing lives slowly, in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand
Ramakrishna Sarda Math and Mission (RSMM), is successfully administering the Adolescent Reproductive Sexual Health programmes The youth clubs and SHGs have also been linked to the horticulture programme of the government.
Durga Kumari, Pinky and Manju are 17 years of age and members of the adolescent girls club in Katbhanga Village of Katkamsandi Block of Hazaribagh District. After joining the club and learning about Adolescent Reproductive Sexual Health, the girls decided that no member of the club would get married before 18. It was a quiet resolution taken after learning about their own reproductive health
But in September 2006, Durga Kumari’s father announced that he had met a wonderful boy who had a good job with Coca Cola and Durga would marry him. Durga immediately told her mother she was not prepared to marry till she was 18 at least. Her mother spoke to her father but he was adamant. “You don’t get good boys easily and in any case my responsibility for you will be over once you are married,” he said.
Durga then shared her dilemma with her club members. A group of girls then approached both parents and requested them not to go ahead with the marriage. They used all the knowledge they had acquired as club members to get the parents to change their mind. It took a whole week of repeated visits to convince the parents. Durga’s elder brother also supported her. Fortunately the date for the marriage had not been finalised. The father then spoke to the boy’s parents and they agreed to hold back the marriage till Durga was ready for it.
A quiet battle had been won because of the collective determination of enlightened, ambitious young adolescents. Durga is determined to finish her graduation in commerce, work for a couple of years before honouring her parents’ commitment. “But I will work where ever I go,” she says.
Pinky is the peer educator of the village. She started the adolescents club with five members in 2003. Then the numbers swelled to 18. Three girls from the group have got married but all were over 18. At the club, where they meet regularly, they discuss a range of health issues.
Manju has done a course in tailoring and embroidery and is now doing the beautician’s course. With two members of the adolescent club she wants to set up a beauty parlour in the village.
When a girl of the club gets married, she has to report back to her club on how she is using the knowledge acquired at the club`85this could be anything from use of contraceptives to a discussion with her mother-in-law on why she has not produced a child a year after marriage. This information can be shared either through a letter or on her visit home.
Girls are better at sharing confidences and their problems than the boys of the adolescent boys clubs, says Mamta of the Ramakrishna Sarda Math and Mission (RSMM), which is administering the ARSH programmes in Katkamsandi block.
But the programme has come a long way since it was started in 2003. Sadhna Kumari, 20, peer educator of Patha village, recalls how the girls of the Radha Kishori Club would hide the material on adolescent reproductive and sexual health from their parents when the club was started and material distributed.
But Sadhna has innate leadership qualities which are also being honed as a peer educator of the village. She has 25 members of 12 to 20 years in the Kishori Club. Her claim to fame is that she has motivated five women of the village who had two to four children for sterilisation. Initially nine women consented to laprascopy operations but four backed out at the last minute. In one case, the husband objected though he had four sons and in other case it was the mother-in-law who put her foot down. The women were taken to Sadar Hospital. After the successful surgery, others are approaching Sadhna for sterilisation. The young girls of the village, all members of the Radha Kishori Club are playing a stellar role in health and hygiene of the village and determining the size of families.
Sadhna is doing her intermediate in arts with maths, economics and history. After becoming a peer educator she feels she should have chosen medicine. But I can finish my arts course and do a science course that would prepare me for medicine, she says. Sadhna’s mother is a school teacher, her two brothers are still studying and her father stays at home, reversing the male/female role in this traditional, still seen as backward district of Jharkhand.
The more conservative Muslim population of Katkamsani has not been left behinf. At Devura village, Afsana Khatoom, 16, is the peer educator of the village. She proudly introduces you to Hamida Pervez, also 16, who she has rescued from an early marriage and Mohammed Basit Ali, a 16-year-old peer educator of the boys clubs. Ali is equally at home with the girls and boys because in this village the boys and girls adolescent clubs meet regularly and work together on various issues.
Each club has about 25 members and on Eid and during the Chaat puja, they come out as a group to sweep and clean the roads. At village shaadis too the girls and boys come to help families. At club meetings everyone contributes a rupee and from this small but growing fund, money is found for giving birthday and wedding presents. So Babli got a diary and cake on her birthday and Gita, bangles, the henna decoration on her hands and feet and a sari on her wedding.
Since Devura is a Muslim dominated community, it was a challenge winning confidence of the community. The programme began with a meeting of parents and Mamta and Shamshad of RSMM and Afsana, the local peer educator seeking their permission to get the girls to come to the youth clubs. The difference in the way society treated girls and boys was depicted through photographs showing the different jobs being done by girls and boys. While the boys took pictures of girls at work, the girls took pictures of boys at work. The gender gap was immediately apparent and parents slowly accepted that a correction was called for.
Eighteen was the age determined for girls and earning a livelihood for boys which meant not before they were 21/22 years. It was the girl’s club that interceded with Hamida’s parents against her early marriage. When they would not listen to the adolescent, some of the parents of the adolescents approached Hamida’s relatives.
Today girls and boys of the club go together to counsel newly married couples about delaying the birth of the first child, spacing methods and importance of nutrition and cleanliness.
The RSMM has some excellent resource material for the sexual and reproductive health and education classes. It also has games like snakes and ladders, carom and ludo for giving the right messages on HIV and AIDS, gender and health. In carom the coins have various messages on HIV and have to be hit into the right pouch on how it spreads and how it does not. In snakes and ladders, the player goes up a ladder when he hits the right message and down when he is gender insensitive.
The adolescent girls and boys clubs are affiliated to the Nehru Yuvak Kendra which has plenty of funding and sufficient projects. Sixty girls and boys were able to do the six months computer course of the NYK on a scholarship of Rs 300 a month.
The youth clubs and SHGs have also been linked to the horticulture programme of the government. In fact there is a demand for an information centre where information is provided on courses, jobs, loans etc. This is being done through the Continuous Education Centres. These linkages have ensured the sustainability of the adolescent youth programmes.
Jharkhand to electrify all villages by 2009
Jharkhand will electrify all the villages in the state by 2009, Governor Syed Sibte Razi announced Friday while opening the 21-day budget session of the state assembly.
‘We are determined to complete the electrification of our villages by 2009. Under the Rajeev Gandhi Rural Electrification (RGRE) scheme we have sought Rs. 27 billion from the central government. It has already approved Rs. 11 billion under RGRE,’ said Razi.
‘In the 11th five year plan, we are hopeful of setting up a 2000 MW power plant through state-sponsored schemes, a 3000 MW power plant under the central government scheme and a 4000 MW power plant by private investors,’ he said.
Razi enumerated the efforts taken by the state government to increase fish and food grain production, improve the irrigation system and promote marriage schemes for girls from poor families.
The governor announced that an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) would be opened next year in the state.
He has a ‘Vision 2020′ for Bihar!
AHMEDABAD: At the tender age of three years, polio arrested his body growth but not his dream.
At 26, Nirmal Kumar, a Post-Graduate Programme in Management student of Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, is a great example of grit and resolute character.
Kumar belongs to a remote village Risuara in Siwan district of Bihar. After clearing CAT in the first attempt and entering the impressive Louis Kahn plaza of IIM-A, which he had never heard of during his college days, was a dream come true.
“Vision 2020″, written in bold red in his dorm room looks quite like a target Nirmal set for himself. “I aspire to become a rural king, owner of India’s most respected organisation,” he says.
Determined not to take any million dollar job offers, Nirmal has decided to become a rural entrepreneur and go back to his roots.
“I have seen people in rural areas deprived of basic needs of education, health and entertainment. My idea is to develop a one point source for all these facilities at realistic prices. I want to take the advanced technology revolution to their doorsteps and address their problems,” he says.
For this, he set up a business venture Community Information and Communication Centre (CICI), a one point service provider on healthcare, education and entertainment.
Its pilot project will be in Chhapra, Siwan, and Gopalganj before he takes it to all the BIMARU states. This venture will be at the grassroots level, be financially self-sustainable and can be replicated.
“Rural market needs have huge business potential which I want to explore”, says Nirmal. So far, Nirmal has given over 30 presentations to IAS officers, financial institutes, banks and venture capitalists.
His main supporter has been Prof P K Sinha from IIM-A. Kumar got rave views for his novel idea from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who held a closed room interaction with students of Bihar during his visit to IIM-A last year.
“My physical disability has never come in between my aim and my approach towards life,” says Kumar.
Shahabuddin gets two-year jail term
SIWAN (Bihar), March 2: Controversial RJD MP Md Shahabuddin was today sentenced to two years imprisonment by a special court here for wrongful confinement and assault of a CPI-ML worker about nine years ago.
Shahabuddin, who was convicted in the case yesterday, was awarded two-year jail term and a fine of Rs 1,000 under Section 147 (rioting) and Section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) of IPC by special judge Mr Vishwa Vivhuti Gupta.
He was also sentenced to one year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000 under Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 342 (wrongful confinement) and 438 (mischief described in Section 437 committed by fire or explosive substance) of IPC. The MP from Siwan was also sentenced to one month imprisonment and a fine of Rs 100 under Sections 341 (wrongful restraint). All the sentences would run concurrently. The judge, however, granted Shahabuddin bail to appeal, but he would remain in judicial custody in other criminal cases. Shahbuddin, who is in judicial custody for the past several months in Siwan, faces disqualification of his Lok Sabha membership after conviction.
Shahabuddin faces 34 cases including those of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping and violation of the Foreign Exchange Act and Arms Act.Chargesheets have been filed in all the cases. It is for the first time that the MP, who was arrested in Delhi in November 2005, has been convicted in a criminal case. This case relates to an attack on CPI-ML’s office at Khurmabad in Siwan on September 19, 1998 in which Shahabuddin and his armed supporters exploded bombs, damaged furniture and brutally assaulted office secretary Mr Keshav Baitha. The Siwan administration had twice booked him under the Crime Control Act on 18 February, 2005 and 6 October, 2005.
Tax from prostitutes? No thanks, says West Bengal
KOLKATA (Reuters) – West Bengal on Friday rejected a proposal by prostitutes to pay tax to the government in return for stopping police raids on brothels and checks on soliciting clients.
Officials said since prostitution was illegal, the government could not tax sex workers.
“Tomorrow, criminals will say we will pay taxes so don’t catch us,” Raj Kanojia, a top state police officer, said.
On Thursday, the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) — an umbrella group of 65,000 sex workers in West Bengal — announced that prostitutes would charge clients extra to help them pay tax.
“Even if we collect one rupee from each client it would boost the exchequer,” Smarajit Jana, DMSC’s chief adviser, said. “Let the government collect taxes legally, as prostitutes in any case pay the police hefty amounts to get away.”
About four million clients visit red light areas under the control of DMSC every month in West Bengal.
Sex workers say they are harassed by police and picked up from brothels, hotels and nightclubs and jailed. They often have to pay bribes to officers to continue working.
Under law, sex workers cannot solicit customers in public. Authorities tolerate brothels in some areas although police often raid them to rescue minors or to prevent women from being forced into the profession.
Bengal looks for PPP model in agri-retail on eve of Reliance entry
Kolkata, March 1 Following Kerala’s footsteps but with a twist in the tale, West Bengal’s Left Front government has firmed up plans to enter the agri-retail business even as it has rolled out the red carpet to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd for its retail venture in the state.
Kerala’s Left government, threatened by Reliance’s entry as part of a Rs 25,000-crore national rollout, has decided to form a government-owned horticulture development authority that will mimic Reliance’s initiative with the backing of subsidies.
West Bengal, on the other hand, will adopt the public private partnership (PPP) model, which has been a success in the state’s housing sector. The government here will adopt Reliance’s hub-and-spoke model, but has not yet decided whether to challenge Reliance the way Kerala aims to do.
This leaves open the possibility of Reliance being invited to join the state for its retail foray.
ML Meena, West Bengal’s food processing secretary, said the Union cabinet committee on economic affairs has cleared plans to set up a terminal market each at Dankuni, Barasat and Baruipur as part of a national horticulture mission.
The state will invite expressions of interest (EOIs) next week from private parties for the markets, to be built on the PPP model.
Officials agreed that this also leaves room for Reliance to join hands with the state but the “government must have a strategic outlook”.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s decision to invite Reliance retail is being opposed by Front members like the Forward Bloc, which controls the agriculture marketing department in the state.
Reliance is looking for 11 locations in the state with carpet area of 500- 20,000 sq feet entailing investment of Rs 1500-2500 crore.
Officials said that the government’s terminals markets would be built over 100 acre, complete with infrastructure like cold stores, but much would depend on what the private partners propose in their EOIs. Investment and other details would be decided later.
Hungry kya? Yes, say many country cousins everyday
NEW DELHI: A significant part of Bharat is still struggling to get two square meals even as India is the second fastest growing economy. The problem seems to be acute in the Left-ruled West Bengal. The percentage of rural households ‘not having enough food everyday in some months’ is highest in West Bengal ( 10.6%) followed by Orissa (4.8%), says an official survey.
The situation is even worse in Assam. “In rural area, Assam reported the highest percentage of households ( 3.6%) ‘not getting enough food every day in all months of the year’ followed by Orissa and West Bengal (1.3%),” it said. The survey of household consumer expenditure in India has been carried out by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) for the period July 2004-June 2005.
It is based on a randomly drawn sample of 1.24 lakh households spread over 7,999 villages and 4,602 urban blocks across the country. In urban India food scarcity in some months of the year is noticed in another Left-ruled state. Kerala reported “maximum percentage of dissatisfied households in urban areas ( 1.7%) followed by Bihar (0.8%),” the survey said. About 2.1% of households reported that they did not get enough food in any months of the year in Assam followed by Bihar. Haryana and Rajasthan emerged as the least effected by food inadequacy .
According to the survey, 2% households in the country do not get enough food everyday for some months of the year. The percentage of households not getting enough food everyday in any month of the year is 0.4%. The report, compiled recently, is based on three premises; ‘getting enough food throughout the year’ , ‘not getting enough food in some months’ and ‘not getting enough food everyday in any
month of the year’
Oriya girl gets UN assignment
Bhubaneswar: Dharitri Patnaik of Orissa has joined United Nations as a consultant in New York. In her new job, she will be supporting UN’s fund for women on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
UN is trying to bring all its various agencies under one roof and her work will be to support that process too, family sources said here on Friday.
Dharitri who had successfully served with Action Aid and CARE in U.K. and U.S.A. is the eldest
daughter of eminent social worker, visionary a nd Congress leader Late Dhiren Patnaik who founded
popular newspapers such as `Khabarkagaj’ daily and `Tuesday’ weekly and had established Capital city’s
well-known college for women, Kamala Nehru Women’s College.
Dharitri is the first girl from Orissa to get such a coveted post in the United Nations.
Earlier, Dharitri worked in the Ersama area of Orissa’s Jagatsighpur district after the 1999 super-cyclone. She was also there in Sri Lanka to work for the survivors of the Tsunami disaster.
With Naxalites around, cops here have no time to track missing kids
Days before Holi in 2003, 5-year-old Anju went missing while playing with friends outside her home. Ever since, Sushila and Anil Tandi, her parents, have been making daily rounds of the Khamardih police station. Sushila now doesn’t let her other two children out of sight. Anil has searched Nagpur, Bhopal, Gwalior, even Delhi but has had no luck. “Whenever I approach the police, they tell me, ‘Tumhari beti ko dhoondhne ke alawa aur koi kaam nahi hai kya hamare paas’ (Do you think we have no other work than to look for your daughter?)”. So whenever Anil manages to save money, he sets out in search of his daughter himself.
• Six-year-old Sonia Rao went missing on August 14 last year while on her way home from school in Raipur.She was later found in Nagpur, where she had been sold by child-lifters within hours of her abduction. But it wasn’t the police who sniffed her out. Sonia’s mother, Sharda Rao, led a crowd from her colony to the Collectorate and police station for two days to mount pressure on the administration. “I was shattered but knew that if I didn’t act quickly chances of seeing my daughter again were slim.” The pressure tactics worked, teams went out and Sonia was traced to an orphanage in Nagpur where she had been kept by the Maharashtra Police. Three persons were arrested on charges of involvement in trafficking. It’s another matter that the Chhattisgarh Police learnt of Sonia’s return almost six days later.
The police do not maintain records on the number of children missing in Chhattisgarh. However, there seems to be a pattern in the disappearance of children there. Social activists confirm that most of these abductions are linked to the flesh trade and most of the victims are minor girls. “A majority of these children are taken to nearby towns where they are thrown into prostitution,” said Dr Ilina Sen, member of the Committee Against Violence on Women. “We have often demanded that policing should be increased in certain vulnerable areas of the state. However, the authorities plead there is a shortage of manpower,”
NGOs involved in women and child welfare estimate that only 10 per cent of kidnappings are registered with the police. Which means that the actual numbers could be much higher than the police figures of around 650 children missing during 2006 and about 620 in 2005. “As most complainants in tribal areas are illiterate, they cannot differentiate between lodging a complaint and a First Information Report. All that the police do is make a daily diary entry and issue the complainants non-cognisable receipts, telling them that a ‘case’ has been registered. Since an FIR adds to the crime statistics, the police tend to nip the trouble in the bud,” Anita Gupta, a social activist, alleged.
According to the police themselves, there are gangs in the state that lift children to be sold to brothels in other towns. The recovery of Sonia was a case in point. Tehrunissa, Sheikh Maksood and Ramesh, members of an inter-state trafficking gang, were arrested for kidnapping and selling Sonia. They confessed during interrogation that they were active in Chhattisgarh for the past couple of years. “The accused used to abduct children from Raipur and sell them in the red light districts of Nagpur and in other cities,” a senior police officer said. Since the arrest of the three, police have also decided to increase their interaction with their counterparts in neighbouring states to check the trafficking.
That may be an important step forward since there is no Chhattisgarh Police cell to deal with cases of missing children. The Chhattisgarh Police claims that its priority is the Naxal menace and child recovery isn’t high on their to-do list. This despite the Chhattisgarh Police circulating the Supreme Court guidelines on missing children, which directs the local police to act immediately in such cases. “Currently the local police has been entrusted with the job of locating missing children and we don’t think there is any need for a specialised cell to deal with the issue,” said Additional Director General of Police (CID) S K Paswan. He claimed that they were in the process of compiling the statistics and said the information would be available “shortly”.
When The Indian Express tried to seek the version of DGP O P Rathor, he refused to speak on the issue, firmly saying that no data could be provided on missing children in Chhattisgarh. “I do not want a Nithari-like panic in my state,” Rathor retorted.
Despite the constant reference to the chilling happenings at Nithari and the increasing incidences of crimes against children in Chhattisgarh, Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam also felt that there was no need for the creation of a separate cell to deal with such cases. “We need to understand that the local police is competent in handling the situation,” he said.
It is no wonder then that over 5,000 children have gone missing in Chhattisgarh in the past decade, an alarming 70 percent of them girls. The parents of the victims get very little help from the administration and the search for missing children is almost entirely a family pursuit. A lot of parents, especially in the lower rungs of society, have learnt to cope with the danger in the only way they can; they seldom allow their children to venture out alone.
Jharkhand ill-prepared to combat cyber crimes
Even though cyber crimes are on the rise in the state, Jharkhand is yet to formulate a policy or set up a separate cell to fight such new-age offences.
The state police headquarters had sent a proposal to the state government last month, seeking approval for the creation of a separate cell to deal with cyber crimes, but it was rejected.
‘The state government rejected the proposal as it would be an additional burden on the state exchequer. The number of cases registered in the state is not enough to create such a cell – that was the argument of the state government,’ a senior police official told IANS.
‘How will we deliver if we are not given the training and manpower to deal with hi-tech crimes?’ he asked.
Six months ago, an MMS (multimedia messaging service) scandal rocked the Regional Institute of Technology in Namokom, Ranchi. Two boys allegedly prepared a three-minute MMS clip of a girl and circulated it among students. But the police failed to act due to manpower shortage.
This was followed by another MMS scandal four months ago that allegedly exposed three Bharatiya Janata Party legislators taking bribes. But the police have made no arrests.
‘A few crimes are reported in newspapers while so many go unnoticed. Maoists use mobiles and computers here. How will we deal with them unless we are trained to deal with such crimes?’ asked another police official.
Catholic prelate joins call for justice for rape victims
RANCHI, India (UCAN) – Thousands of people including the Catholic Church leader in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand have demanded exemplary punishment for men who raped 13 tribal women.
The unmarried tribal women aged 16-20 reportedly were assaulted on Feb. 21 in Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh state, where they worked in a brick kiln.
Local news reports said that around midnight, at least 18 armed men entered a makeshift house for women workers. The men molested and raped migrant workers from Jharkhand’s Ranchi and neighboring Lohardaga districts.
As news of the incident spread, tribal organizations in Jharkhand called for protests. Thousands of tribal people responded, shouting slogans as they marched on Feb. 24 through Ranchi, the state capital, 1,160 kilometers (about 720 miles) southeast of New Delhi, and Lohardaga town.
Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo of Ranchi said in a Feb. 23 press release that perpetrators of rape should be given exemplary punishment and victims should receive “justice at all cost.”
The incident proves that women of “dalit and tribal societies are not safe in the country even in the 21st century,” Asia’s first tribal cardinal wrote. It “also proves how the so-called higher-caste people see” people belonging to dalit and tribal communities, he said.
“Dalit” is a Sanskrit term meaning “trampled upon” and is used to denote people at the bottom of the traditional Indian caste system who formerly were called “untouchable.”
Cardinal Toppo described rape as “the most heinous crime against humanity” in comments for UCA News. “Whether the victim is tribal or non-tribal, one could not find enough words to condemn whoever commits it.”
The protesters demanded that the Jharkhand state government “act immediately” to ensure that the culprits and kiln owners are charged and prosecuted. They also demanded a federal inquiry and compensation to the victims.
“Our poor sisters go to work in the brick kilns of Uttar Pradesh to support their families, not to lose their modesty,” Neelam Baxla, a Catholic college girl who led the protest rally in Ranchi, told UCA News.
Some young people at the protest rally held their state government responsible for the situation in which poverty compels tribal women to migrate outside the state to make a living.
Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar state in 2000 for the declared purpose of augmenting tribal advancement, but its leaders have “failed to guarantee” adequate employment opportunities for tribal people, charged Michael Ekka, a college student.
Dayamani Barla, a tribal women leader, went further in asserting that “the governments did nothing for the betterment of tribal people” in the six years since the state’s formation and “only exploited them further.”
According to Barla, hundreds of migrant tribal women “eke out a livelihood” in several Indian states, facing physical and sexual violence. “So many tribal girls who have gone out for work, are missing too,” she told UCA News.
Cardinal Toppo agrees that the state has not done enough “to provide social security and eradicate poverty of our villages, which forces people to migrate as laborers.” The kiln rape case puts the situation in stark relief, he said. “This incident is an eye opener for the people and government of Jharkhand. We have to work for the poor joining hands.”
Reacting to the demands of various political parties as well as church and social organizations, Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda said he has asked officials to provide a detailed report about the incident.
Koda told UCA News on Feb. 24 that the crime would be probed with the help of the Uttar Pradesh government “to ensure safe return of the girls and maximum punishment to the culprits.”
Pichkaris Not So Popular in Jharkhand
A Holi without revellers chasing passers-by with ‘pichkaris’? Unthinkable till a few years back. But the new trend in Jharkhand suggests the water sprayer is no longer the most sought-after plaything among children for celebrating the festival of colours.
The reason: It’s considered unhealthy.
“Health experts say children should avoid playing with plastic articles and most sprayers are made of plastic,” said Pyali Banerjee, a housewife.
“On Holi we often get complaints about children pumping harmful liquids in the eyes of other children with pichkaris, so we discourage them from buying pichkaris now,” added Sushila Devi, another housewife from Ranchi.
Colours used for spraying water are also said to be harmful for the skin and this is adding to the decrease in their sale.
“Till few years back we were earning good money selling pichkaris during Holi. The sale has declined by 20 per cent now,” said Vikas Kumar, a shopkeeper from Lalpur in Ranchi.
Another shopkeeper, Indu Bhushan echoed: “During Holi we would set up makeshift stalls outside the shop. Over the years, traditional pichkaris were replaced with other forms such as guns or airplanes but the sale was good. In the last few years its been steadily going down.”
The price of sprayers varies from Rs. 5 to Rs. 90 depending on the shape, make and size.
He admitted that health conscious people now prefer not to play with colours. People like only ‘abirs’ (coloured powder) and avoid liquid colours.
“There was a time when one child would insist on buying two to three pichkaris and parents would buy them without a second thought. Now parents discourage children from buying them on health grounds,” said Munna Bhagat, who has set up two stalls of sprayers near Sahid Chawk in Ranchi.
However, not everyone is averse to sprinklers.
“During Holi I buy at least five pichkaris. We enjoy playing with colours for at least two to three days,” said Sumit Kumar, a student of DAV School here.
Varsities eye grant for centres
Ranchi, Feb. 28: The higher education scenario in the state would get an unprecedented boost if Jharkhand universities’ consolidated short-term plan gets the Planning Commission nod.
The document includes the universities’ five-year plans and would to be submitted to Governor Syed Sibtey Razi tomorrow to get the required grants.
The five universities in the state are eyeing for “only” 2.5 per cent of the state’s annual plan approved by the Centre, which is over Rs 6,500 crore, said vice-chancellor of Birla Institute of Technology (BIT), Mesra, S.K. Mukherjee.
The other four universities — Birsa Agriculture University (BAU), Ranchi University (RU), Hazaribagh-based Vinobha Bhave University (VBU) and Dumka-based Sidhu Kanhu Murmu University— are also ready with their proposals.
BIT has proposed a specialised centre for nanotechnology, and centres for energy and environment, habitat and habitation as well as chemical research, among others. The deemed university would require around Rs 270 crore, said Mukherjee.
RU vice-chancellor A.A. Khan said they are eyeing for an institute of natural resource management system, which would require about Rs 55 crore.
“The proposed institute’s primary purpose would be research and manpower generation in the state by tapping opportunities in mineral resources’ exploration and its utilisation,” said Khan.
VBU has drafted proposal worth Rs 216 crore which includes a centre of excellence in geology, petroleum and earth sciences besides a linguistic laboratory, a department of museology and archaeology.
The proposals drawn up by BAU, said its director (research) B.N. Singh, require Rs 160 crore. The bid is to start centres for animal genomics, biotechnology, soil and water pollution and organic farming research, among others.
Officials of the universities are “quite hopeful” the proposals would be accepted.
The BIT vice-chancellor said if the plans are accepted, the Union human resource development ministry and the department of science and technology would have to allocate Rs 80 crore each annually. The Union ministry of agriculture could also help by allocating funds to BAU.
University authorities said they get financial support from the state government but most of these funds are spent on salaries and related expenditures thus leaving n nothing for expansion projects. The “nominal” funds the Department of Science and Technology and the UGC provide are for specific projects and cannot be diverted, they added
Twin blasts terror tourists at Holi hub
Madhuban, Feb. 28: In a major strike at the under-construction Jharkhand Bhavan here last night, Maoists destroyed the interior of the building apparently to send a message of terror for Holi pilgrims.
Madhuban is famous for its three-day Holi Mahotsav, starting tomorrow, which is attended by thousands of pilgrims from across the country.
According to Ghanshyam Munda, the guard at the building, an ambitious project of India Tourism Development Corporation and the state tourism department, a group of around 40 Naxalites raided the site around midnight.
“Wearing bottle-green uniform, the rifle-toting rebels told me that they had nothing to do with me and tied me up,” he said, adding: “I could only hear the deafening sound of the two blasts.”
Before leaving the site, the extremists spent around an hour there destroying several building materials, besides those already damaged by the twin blasts. Marble slabs, tiles, glass windows and at least 10 air-conditioning machines bore the brunt of the Maoists’ ire. The work on the three-storeyed 15-room building started around three years ago with an estimated cost of Rs 1 crore and it was supposed to be inaugurated next month.
The project was also hit by three-month agitation by the Majdoor Sangathan Samiti — the association of local labourers — demanding the induction for the son of one Banarsi Das, who died while working at Bhomia Bhavan. However, the timely intervention of the district administration settled the matter before the labourers were to go for a three-day strike during the Holi Mahotsav.
However, the raid had bigger impact on pilgrims. “When we got down at Parasnath this morning, we heard about the incident. The news was shocking, as Maoists did not attack this place of worship earlier,” said Nishan Jain, a pilgrim from Ahmedabad.
Police superintendent Arun Kumar Singh said there was a problem over paying levy by the contractor. The contractor paid to one group of Maoists and so the other faction struck, he added. The caretaker of AP Bariar & Sons, the contractor, however, said “there was no such dispute”.
Sexy Bhojpuri songs annoy women
HOLI COW! Women allege songwriters look at women only as sex objects. Patna: Bhojpuri numbers are usually popular during Holi in Bihar. But not this time, at least not with the women folk who think they are getting an unfair deal.
Women across many villages in Bihar are protesting sexual innuendoes in Bhojpuri songs specially those composed for Holi.
They say the lyrics have undertones and that the songwriters look at women only as sex objects.
“The administration should look into the matter and if they don’t do anything to stop these numbers from playing out, we women will raise our voices,” says an activist, Anita Devi.
“It’s the collective fault of people who write the songs, sing them and listen to them,” says activist Chandrawati Devi.
Bhojpuri Holi numbers have a huge market in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. But the number of people who think the songs are obscene is on the rise.
And it’s not just activists.
“This is wrong. Just to sell their product, these people are targeting the others,” says Bhojpuri superstar Ravi Kishen.
But opinion is divided among the women and the men patrons. The song may be lewd and offensive to some, but patrons and regular listeners continue to have a ball.
But this time on, the fairer sex has launched a crusade against this trend, sending out a warning signal that women being portrayed as sex objects will not be taken lying down.
Train passengers looted at gunpoint in Bihar
Varanasi (UP), Mar 01: Armed robbers today looted cash and valuables worth lakhs of rupees from the passengers of Patna-Sikarandabad Express between Buxur and Mughalsarai stations in Bihar, officials said here.
The robbers, said to be between eight to ten in number, barged into two coaches of the train at Buxur station and looted the passengers at gunpoint, GRP cantonment inspector Sheshnath Singh Yadav said.
The robbers also assaulted some passengers when they resisted, he said, adding no one was injured in the incident.
The angry passengers registered their protest with the railway authorities at Mughalsarai junction when the train reached there, Yadav said, adding an FIR has been lodged in this connection.
US devotee fined for entering Orissa temple
Bhubaneswar, March 1 (IANS) An American devotee Thursday was fined by priests for entering into the famous 12th-century Jagannath temple in Orissa’s holy city of Puri, where entry of foreigners are prohibited, police said.
Paulf Rodgier, 55, reportedly entered into the temple along with two Indians, Dhirendra Kumar Sukla, 47, and Asis Saxena, 23, at about 2 p.m. Thursday, inspector in charge of town police station Alekh Pahi told IANS.
When they were roaming inside the temple the temple priests caught them near the temple’s north gate. The priests fined Rodgier Rs.209 when he pleaded that he was not aware of such restriction, Pahi said.
‘We immediately brought Rodgier, Sukla and Saxena to the police station for their safety,’ Pahi said.
Police will not register any case against them because the priests have already fined them as per temple rules, he said.
The trio had reportedly come to government-run National Thermal Power Corp, located at Kaniha in Angul district, on official work a few days ago.
Bible distribution plans moving forward in Orissa State
India (MNN) — In spite of Orissa State’s 1999 anti-conversion law, there are still evangelistic projects going on in this hostile part of India. The Freedom of Religion Act of 1967 was amended in 1999 to narrow its focus.
Following that, it became known that people could be punished for not informing the state about their plans to convert. But that got taken further by enforcing punishment for those involved in conversions.
A ‘Chilling effect’ was feared to follow, but instead, the opposite phenomenon occurred. The church, according to many evangelical groups, grew. Coupled with the timing of the Dalit’s rejecting Hinduism and embracing other faiths, the pace of church growth quickened.
World Bible Translation Center’s Gary Bishop says they’re excited about their newest undertaking. “We’re going to have the first mass distribution of Bibles this year, in 2007. This is going to be kind of an historic thing because we’re going to do 30-thousand Oriya Bibles in the Orissa State.”
Bishop says there’s a high population of poor people who are not well-educated. That’s the perfect place for them to bring in Easy-to-Read Version Bibles. It’s available in 13 of the most spoken languages of India.
With the Scriptures aimed at a third grade reading level, more people can understand the gospel and respond. By the year 2010, they want to distribute 1 million Bibles, 2 million New Testaments and 5 million Scripture portions worldwide.
Working in this part of India will likely prove a difficult challenge, and they’re asking for help. “We, first of all, need to have people praying for our team there. We have 400 volunteers that have agreed to help distribute these texts through 30 districts. So, we need to pray for their safety, for them to have courage in the face of certain opposition.”
If things stay on track, Bishop notes, they could begin the distribution as early as mid-2007. Before that, the text, which was completed in 2005, has to be printed, bound and shipped. Funding becomes a issue at this stage in the project.
Dola Jatra: Where deities meet in rural Orissa
`Dola Jatra’, a festival that is celebrated after Holi is the most colourful cultural event in rural Orissa. On Magha Purnima (full moon in February) the youths of the village, irrespective of caste and creed, visit each house and collect wood, bamboo and straw for a huge bonfire that is lit as the full moon begins rising on the horizon. Crowds cheer as they offer grain, vegetables and coconuts to the fire.
The conflagration signifies the burning of the `Agira’ or `Holika’ who apparently is responsible of diseases like measles and small pox.
The villagers believe that the persons in whose direction the flames would leap will reap bumper crops that year. The scorched vegetables and coconuts are distributed as `prasad’ while the ashes are sprinkled in the courtyards and rice fields.
A couple of days preceding Dola Purnima (full moon in March), the deities of the local temples are taken around to every household in the village. The head of the family invites the gods and offers `prasad’ – puffed rice and dry sweets specially the snow white `khusi’ and the fawn- coloured circular sweets called `pheni’ prepared from jaggery are made from fresh harvests. Green mangoes, mahua fruits are also offered to the deities first before anyone tries them.
The deities are carried in colorfully decorated temple shaped `vimanas’ and the members of the village committee accompany them with fanfare. A barber leads the procession carrying a blazing torch and a can of oil. Drummers and dancers accompany the group. The group also has young boys entertaining the people dressed up in finery. They distribute colored powdered `abhira’ as a gift from the deities for the ensuing Holi.
After Holi, the `saltana’ or the road show is the most popular celebration. It is a procession of the deities along with the entertainers that moves slowly through the main road in the area and finally assembles on the main street of the village. This is organised on the fourth night after Holi or on the ninth day, and the fair ensued is called `Panchu Dola’ and `Dasa Dola’ respectively. These nights bring the villagers out in the open.
There a procession of local youths dressed in mythological characters like Rama, Krishna and Shiva and theme-based carts are drawn, with some of them enacting roles to the joy of the crowd. Procession of light and lamps, burning sticks adds to the glamour. There are also the traditional martial and Tiger dance where the youths are smeared with bright yellow and black stripes on their bare bodies and adorned with a mask of tiger and tail mock-fight to the amusement of the viewers.
Paik is a warrior class who display their art in warfare. Banabati is the most popular amongst them in which two players are given poles with oil drenched cloth tied to one end. These are set afire and the players begin a mock fight with the blazing torches. Sword fights bring back the memories of the glorious heritage of the Oriyas who excelled in martial art. Nagas are stout bodied men with their bodies smeared with black colour mixed with mustard oil. He wears long artificial matted hair and carries huge wing like attire with flags, tinsels, feathers tied to it and also a large crown on his head… his steps and looks inspire awe. They all walk to the beats of the drums dancing and acting.
This spectacular procession moves slowly as the villagers throng and jostle for space to have a glimpse of the different entertainments on the street. There are makeshift bazaars selling sweetmeats, eateries, balloons, indigenous toys, and other fancy items through the night and finally they land at the open field at the end of the village where there is an old temple with a large pond – a site demarcated for the five-day -fair. This area is called `Melana’ ground, and almost every village in Orissa has such an open marked for the purpose.
There are permanent structures where the `vimanas’ or the small temple shaped wooden structures decked with colourful cloths and garlands are kept for the fair. Here all the deities from the temples are placed together and sometimes deities from the neighboring villages also visit as guests. Events like `Pala’, `Dasakathia’, shadow puppet shows, `bhajans’ and religious discourses also enliven the place.
On the concluding day it is a spectacular show of the deities on the move. The `abhira’ or `gulal’ which is played with Holi is sprinkled, sprayed and the gods are bathed with it. The colourful fog-like atmosphere envelops everyone around. This is good they say as the medicinal properties of these natural dyes protect one from many skin diseases. This is the soul of a village life that is colourful and spectacular marking the onset of Spring.
How a classy dress helps the needy
BISHNUPUR, India – A school in eastern India built with money raised in the auction of Audrey Hepburn’s iconic black dress was inaugurated yesterday by French author and philanthropist Dominique Lapierre.
Some 200 children will be able to attend the school in Bishnupur, a village nearly 30 miles south of Calcutta, the capital of the West Bengal state.
“I am very happy that my efforts are fructifying. Things are changing with more and more children going to school,” Lapierre told cheering students.
The school is one of 15 to be built in the state with $807,000 paid by high bidder Givenchy, now a division of LVMH, at an auction in December at Christie’s in London.
Lapierre had received the dress as a gift from designer Hubert de Givenchy. The company repurchased it to support both the City of Joy Foundation, run by Lapierre to help India’s poor, and the heritage of the brand.
Hepburn wore the elegant sleeveless sheath for her role as eccentric Manhattan socialite Holly Golightly in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Can`t farmers choose their livelihoods too?
The last few months have been fraught with unwanted limelight for Prasoon Mukherjee who, as chairman of Universal Success, is the Indian partner of the Salim Group which is at the centre of a political storm.
Though his SEZ project in West Bengal has kicked up a huge storm, Mukherjee draws on his experience with investments in Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Singapore and Thailand to explain why the situation is not irretrievable. Excerpts from a conversation with Nistula Hebbar:
Your SEZ project in West Bengal has sparked off a lot of protest on the issue of land acquisitions.
Land acquisition is always a tricky subject. It never happens overnight, not even in China where dissent is not given as much airtime as it is here. So we always knew when we started that this would be a problem.
But the key to this is to convince land owners that they have a stake in development, that ultimately they too will benefit from the industry that will get set up and the employment opportunities.
Having said that, in the context of West Bengal, let me make it very clear, despite perceptions to the contrary, my company had no choice in the land earmarked for our SEZ. We were told that this is the land and it would be up to us to develop whatever infrastructure we needed. Our attraction to West Bengal is more to do with the huge pool of English-speaking graduates there and the human resource-pull rather than the land specifically.
How will you convince someone who is losing his land that it is for his benefit?
First of all, we are going to give it time. We are also going to participate in the process of convincing people that they too have a stake in it. We have a saying in Bangla, that a chaasha chele (farmer’s son) does not want to remain one all his life.
The Opposition does not see that farmers too have the right to a livelihood of their choosing, of availing better infrastructure. Not just that, seeing is believing. When people see roads, bridges and other things coming up they will get convinced.
For example, my company has built a 103 kilometre stretch of road linking the Kolkata airport to the Haldia port, also a 3.5 kilometre bridge along the same route. Everyone uses it and people are amazed that this kind of investment is pouring into the state.
Unlike other business houses, we are not waiting for land or assets to be handed on a platter before we pour in any money. The West Bengal formula for SEZ is also different and better than the rest of the states’. While other states allow 75 per cent of the land for real estate development, my SEZ project has been allowed only a net of 30-35 per cent land for real estate.
You are also partners with Unitech in West Bengal. How has your experience investing in a communist-ruled state been?
Most Indian political outfits are left of centre, and are not entirely comfortable with capital, but chief ministers from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other states have met me too. The point here is that investment is a politico-economic need and the Left is no different, they too need capital for development.
The change in the CPI(M)’s mindset hasn’t come about overnight. It is dictated by the realities of the economy just as the Narasimha Rao reforms in 1991 were. Not just here, communists in China, Vietnam and even Cuba are changing, so what is the fuss all about? I don’t see how communists are any different in using investments. The state chief minister has made it very clear that capital is welcome.
How do you find the investment climate in West Bengal?
When Bengal Unitech first entered the state four years ago, even a five-acre development was being hailed as path breaking; there was a fear in investing in the state thanks to the old communist regime and the labour and infrastructure problems.
Right now our holdings in the state are over 9,000 acres and others are also investing. It seems like Bengal Unitech has opened the floodgates. As a Bengali, I have sentimental reasons as well for investing, but apart from that, it is a good state, resource rich with high human resource capital to recommend it. The state needs the investment and the government is cognizant of this.
Are you going to bid for the new Kolkata airport?
Yes, my company will be bidding for the greenfield project. We are definitely in the fray.
Much has been made of your partner Salim Group’s anti-communist past.
Yes. Strangely the noise has been created by anti-communist political parties, not the CPI(M). I’d like to say that Salims were businessmen like any other. Thirty years ago, Indonesia was like West Bengal, in dire need of investment and development.
The group was one of the many which stepped in with their businesses. They are non-political and should be given the benefit of that. Just because they happen to be related to a particular political family is not enough reason to reject their business.
Apart from West Bengal which are the other areas where you are expanding now?
I am interested in investing in certain ventures in Russia. I deal in crude oil, therefore Russia is an important destination for me. China is also important as the investment climate there is attractive. Real estate and hospitatlity are also our core competency areas and the sectors are booming in India. We are also looking at the social sector.
What in the social sector?
Well, Benny Santoso (partner in the Salim group) and I were struck by a CNN documentary on human trafficking in India and we want to set up a way in which some interventions are possible.
As a Bengali I have grown up on stories on the hazardous lives of those who live in the Sunderbans. I would like to do something for those attacked by tigers. As of now we are involved in the welfare of Thalassemia patients.
Finally, there is a lot of talk that the protests and violence have convinced you to withdraw from West Bengal.
Absolutely not, we are here to stay. I don’t regret investing in the state in spite of the fact that so much violence and protest has been triggered off. Other state chief ministers — of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand — have approached us but we are staying the course in Bengal, not just because I am a Bengali but also because the state is a good business opportunity.
I feel that what the present government is doing is right for the state. The state badly needs an infusion of investment. This is not only a sentimental decision but one borne out by hard facts. I feel if we are patient, people will see our point of view.
Naxals attack security party, kills eight in Chhattisgarh
RAIPUR: Naxalites on Thursday killed eight people, including six security personnel, and injured two in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district, police said.
“The Naxalites triggered a huge landmine blast and opened indiscriminate firing on a police party killing eight people on the spot and injuring two security personnel at Metaguda in Errabore Police station area, about 485 km from here,” police sources in Dantewada said.
The dead included four jawans from Nagaland Armed Forces, who were deployed in Bastar region for anti-Naxal operation, two Special Police Officers (SPOs) and the driver and the helper of the truck.
The injured were two Nagaland jawans, the sources said.
The incident occurred when the police party was on a road opening operation. Some were on foot and about ten jawans were in a truck which was targeted by the Naxalites with a huge landmine and indiscriminate firing, they said.
Naxalites also looted seven sophisticated weapons from the security troops after killing them, the sources said.
The Naxalites escaped with three AK-47 rifles and two each of Left Loaded and .303 guns.
Additional forces have rushed to the spot and combing operation has been launched to trace out the Naxalites, the sources said.
It was the same spot, where about a year back the insurgents had triggered a landmine targeting a truck which killed 27 villagers.
State Home Department sources told PTI that the truck targeted by the Naxalites today had a Orissa registration number and the security forces personnel had taken a lift when the blast was triggered.
Naxalites have become active in Chhattisgarh after the Salwa Judum (anti-Naxal campaign) was started in Dantewada district from June six, 2005.
In last one year, about 350 people, including over 50 security personnel, have been killed in Naxal-related incidents in the state.
Security intensified at Tata project after violence
Police patrolling was stepped up in 10 villages of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region where angry protesters injured six policemen late Wednesday in an attack when police asked locals to call off a meeting convened to intensify protests against the Tata’s upcoming steel plant, police said Thursday.
‘Some local politicians are fuelling anti-Tata protests in the 10 villages of Lohandiguda and we have strengthened police presence there Thursday as the situation is very tense,’ Bastar range inspector general R.K. Vij told IANS over the telephone.
He said the protesters attacked the state police team in the area Wednesday and injured five police personnel including an assistant platoon commandant of the Chhattisgarh Armed Police when the forces visited the area to ‘maintain law and order’.
Lohandiguda is located some 32 km from Jagdalpur town, the Bastar district headquarters.
The Chhattisgarh government has assured the Tatas that it would provide 5,157 hectares — a mix of private and government land — in the Lohandiguda area to set up the plant and develop the township.
‘The tribals are determined to cross any limits to save their ancestral farm land from going into Tata’s hands. The police have ordered the locals to not convene any protest meetings and agree to a smooth land handover, which is not acceptable to them,’ Chitranjan Bakchhi, a local Communist Party of India (CPI) leader, told IANS Thursday.
Tata Steel, India’s largest private sector steel maker, is setting up a 5 million tonne per annum integrated greenfield steel plant in Bastar district with an investment of Rs 100 billion for which a written agreement was signed between the company and the state government on June 4, 2005.
The Chhattisgarh government has sent a recommendation to the Indian government for granting a prospecting license to Tata Steel for carrying out a survey in the 2,500-hectare area in Dantewada district’s Bailadila hills in Bastar region.
Bailadila has huge world-class iron ore stocks that have been divided into 14 deposits. The public sector National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) has been excavating mines in three bigger deposits.
Essar Power firms up Rs 13K cr investment for 11th Plan period
Mumbai, Feb 27 Essar Group, which is hogging the limelight for its ongoing moves to sign partnership deal with Vodafone, has been simultaneously pursuing its plans through its arm Essar Power to investment over Rs 13,000 crore in power and mining projects during 11th plan (2007-12). The company proposes to set up 1,000 mw each coal based power projects in Maharashtra and Jharkhand while it has launched development of 1,200 mw pit head coal based power project in Madhya Pradesh.
The company last week has been allotted a captive coal mine at Chakla, Jharkhand with the potential coal reserves of 110 million tonne while Essar Power in joint venture with Hindalco has launched development of captive coal mine alloted in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh last year with the coal reserves of 180 million tonne.
In case of Madhya Pradesh mining venture, Essar Power and Hindalco would contribute 50% equity each in the total 30% equity while raise 70% debt. The entire project entails an investment of Rs 400 crore and the JV company would be able to start coal production from 2010.
Essar Power would use 60% coal while the balance 40% by Hindalco. Essar Power Sources told FE the company would develop Chakla coal mine on its own and it would need an investment of Rs 400 crore. The coal to be produced from this mine would be use for its proposed 1,000 mw pit head coal based project in Jharkhand. The proposed power project with 1,000 mw capacity would be located near the mine. According to sources, the company has already written to the Maharashtra government for the setting up of 1,000 mw imported coal based power project at Vile Bhagad in the coastal Raigad district.
The state government had initially signed memorandum of understanding with Tata Power Company for similar site.
However, TPC has withdrawn from the Vile Bhagad site and has proposed to develop 1,600 mw project at Shahapurvg in Raigad district. Sources said that its talks with the state government for the Vile Bhagad project were at the advance stage. Moreover, the company has projected that it would be able to commission 600 MW of the 1,200 MW project in 3 years in Madhya Pradesh. The second phase would be commissioned in 42 months.
Power rides Gardih model
Ranchi, Feb. 27: After Gardih in Bokaro, it is now the turn of Hudwa village in Hazaribagh to experience the joy of electricity.
The Union ministry of new and renewable energy has given its nod to the state to electrify about 100 households in the non-descript tribal village.
Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (JREDA), the nodal agency for the project, will begin work on the project in April. And the process of electrification in Hudwa, an extremist-hit and virtually inaccessible hamlet, will be the same as it was done in Gardih.
“The Centre was quite happy the way in which we implemented the pilot project at Gardih where the villagers are using oilseeds to generate electricity,” said the project officer of the agency, P.K. Das.
Last year, the Union ministry allotted pilot projects to five states, including Jharkhand. The state’s implementing agency chose Gardih for the project. It is 100 per cent centrally-assisted project, which costs about Rs 18 lakh.
The funds were utilised in setting up a generator set, a storeroom for oilseeds, erecting lamp-posts, wiring of the households. Initially, the agency faced hurdles in giving shape to the Gardih project as the conventional generator sets had to be modified so that it could operate with the bio-fuel oil, unlike petrol or diesel. After frantic search, a Karnataka-based company agreed to change some parts of a generator set to make it functional with oilseed.
Meanwhile, BIT, Mesra, has agreed to lend R&D assistance to the agency to see to it that the equipment meant for generating electricity at Gardih runs without any problem. The institute will offer suggestions whether there is any need to alter or modify the machinery for generating power. Two professors of the mechanical engineering department will visit Gardih along with Das on March 8.
Such projects using oilseeds, said the agency officials, would gain more popularity in days to come.
“So far our thrust area was electrification of villages using solar energy. But the success of the Gardih project has given us more options for lighting up mud huts by non-conventional way,” the officials said.
Shopping at petrol pumps
Ranchi, Feb. 27: Residents in rural pockets of Jharkhand and Bihar can from now on drop in at petrol pumps to shop for their daily provisions and much more.
The pumps, to be opened by Indian Oil, will sell vegetables, provisions, fertilisers and even stationery items like pencil and erasers. The list, of course, is not exhaustive and items like revenue stamps, agricultural tool, water pumps will also be housed in the outlets.
Sivasis K. Dey, senior divisional retail sales manager-cum-state level coordinator of Indian Oil, told The Telegraph that these petrol pumps have been officially christened as Kisan Seva Kendras and will target a clientele comprising the rural populace only.
By March 31, Dey further said, at least 20 such kendras will be opened in the rural areas in Ranchi, Dumka, Sahebganj, Pakur, Giridih, Palamau, Lohardaga and Hazaribagh.
The company is soon planning to drop anchor at every block in Jharkhand, Dey added.
“These kendras will be strategically located near the block headquarters, so that they are always within the reach of common people,” he said.
One distinct advantage that the shops will have over their rural cousins is their location on the main roads, which will help them stay afloat during monsoons.
“While many villages remain submerged and cut-off during the monsoon, the KSKs, which will be located on the main thoroughfare, will be able to negotiate high waters,” Dey also said.
The shops will also accommodate two small petrol and diesel outlets with a capacity of 10,000 litres each. “That will remain the core business. It is just that their ambit will be widened and a number of non-fuel provisions will also be sold,” the sales manager clarified.
Other utility add-ons in the pipeline include internet kiosks, communication facilities and ATM booths.
Indian Oil is mulling tie-ups with reputed companies and brands to ensure that only quality products are sold through these outlets. “Talks are on with reputed companies to ensure quality supply of all non fuel items from the petrol outlets,” Dey said.
Marriage, a ruse to sell wives
Pinki, a minor was pregnant when the police sent her to the Alwar Child Helpline in June 2004. A truck driver had brought her from West Bengal after ‘marrying’ her. But the ‘marriage’ lasted as long as it took to reach Alwar. She was then sold to another man, who sold her again. Her third ‘owner’ Ratiram Ahir a Meo from Alwar’s Kishangarh tehsil, was caught, charged and sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment. Pinki was sent to her village.
Rehana (name changed) was first ‘married’ in Haryana. But she refused to put up with the exploitation, and went back to Jharkhand. Meanwhile Mushtaq, a resident of Alwar lost his wry. He needed someone to take care of his two children but was too poor to afford marriage to a local girl. A fellow villager offered Rehana’s match. It has been three months now, and she is happy at being respectably married.
The Mewat belt, stretching from Alwar to Faridabad, is full of such stories. Girls from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and even Madhya Pradesh are brought to the region in large numbers on the pretext of marriage. The poor families in these states find it hard to marry their daughters. Even a rickshaw puller in Bihar/Jharkhand expects a dowry of Rs 50,000, explains Nooraisa, who hails from Chatra district and is married to a Meo in Alwar. The Meos are the Muslims of the Mewat region.
When someone wins the trust of such families and offers to marry their daughter without dowry, they are more than happy. They feel the girl would be ‘settled’ at last, even if hundreds of kilometers away. Many such ‘husbands’, however, have other things on their mind – sex and money. They keep the girls for a few weeks. Then they look for some poor villagers wanting to marry and sell them a wife.
Fakruddin (name changed) has been in the business of bringing and selling girls for many years. His second ‘wife’, in fact, has stayed for eight years now simply because he couldn’t make a deal for her. She has borne him four children already “Those people (in the eastern states) are too poor to marry their girls locally, while the men here have no money to get a local match. It’s simply a case of supply and demand,” says Fakruddin.
The grooms in Mewat are expected to shell out over 20 grams of gold as ‘meher’ (bride’s security) while marrying a local girl. While this practice is more common among Meos, there have been cases where Hindu men ‘married’ poor Muslim women by pretending to be Muslims.
Recently three girls raised a hue and cry when they realised they had to live with Hindu men and were sent back to their village. “Usually truck drivers bring the girls on the pretext of marriage. After using them for 15-20 days, they sell them for Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000,” Fakruddin says.
Fakruddin knows two brothers who bring one girl every month. The Alwar Child Helpline gets at least four to five such cases every month. These minors are from the eastern states and are usually unable to communicate with the police and social workers, reveals coordinator Purushottam Kumar “At any given time, there are 15-20 girls ready to be sold in Alwar alone. There would be more in Haryana,” says Virendra Vidrohi, secretary of the Matsya Mewat Shiksha Evam Vikas Sansthan, an NGO that has done extensive research on the issue.
Why doesn’t the administration do anything about this trading of women? “There is an element of consent in these cases. Though the girls are exploited, most of them finally get married and settle down. Then they prefer to keep quiet about what they went through,” a senior official said, off the record.
These girls, having escaped the stigma of a sexually exploited woman, are content being a ‘Paro’ an outsider in local dialect. At least it’s more respectable and they have a home and hearth to call their own.
West Bengal Govt, flays Union Budget
Kolkata, Feb. 28 (PTI): In a critical observation of the Union Budget, the West Bengal government today said that the 2007-08 budget had failed to address the two basic problems of unemployment and inflation now afflicting the majority of common people.
“We don’t find any special reason to be enthused with this year’s Union Budget”, State Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta said in his reaction.
Apart from routine constitutionally mandatory devolution of state’s share of central taxes, the states, particularly West Bengal, had not received any “significant dispensation”, he noted.
In curbing inflation, Dasgupta said, the Centre should not only self-critically examine its previous decision of allowing corporate houses, including FDI in retail trade (with monopolistic price jacking inflation), but also come out with complete course of action in closely interacting with the state for extending overall public distribution system in essential commodities.
He said that in the Centre-State relations, no significant proposal for debt relief related to past small saving loan to the state had been mentioned.
Faking disability in Orissa district
Kendrapara: If one has the right connections at the right place and possesses the capability to grease the palms of the authorities, obtaining a disability certificate is easy even if he is physically fit and fine. Such a nefarious trend of persons endowed with perfect health profile sneaking into the list of enumerated disabled persons has become the order of the day in Kendrapara district of Orissa. Nearly 100 cases of persons faking physically challenged status have been detected in the district.
While the government used to provide succour like monthly pension, reservation of seats in educational institutions, monthly scholarship, free disabled aid such as hearing aid, tri-cycle and walking stick, travel concession besides income tax rebates, many able persons figure in the list of disabled. Thanks to official patronage mainly by medicos, their number has swelled in arithmetic proportion.
If the district social welfare department and health department sources are to be believed, unusually high ratio of more than 3 per cent of the population in this district languish in physical disability of various forms. As against 10/1000 national average, more than 30 are found to be physically challenged out of 1000 population in Kendrapara.
While the district has more than 13 lakh population as per the latest census, 39330 of them are afflicted with physical deformity of some form or the other. This is as per the official statistical record prepared on the enumerated disabled persons by the district social welfare department, health department of Cuttack and Kendrapara districts. Prior to 1993, Kendrapara formed the part of the undivided Cuttack district.
The disability detection is done by social welfare department by intensive district-wide surveys. Besides the medical board especially constituted for the purpose certifies the disability status of individual cases, according to official sources. The lists of enumerated disabled persons include orthopaedically handicapped, hearing and speech impaired and visually impaired.
Kendrapara District Magistrate Kashinath Sahu when asked on high disabled ratio said cases relating to persons faking disability enrolling themselves in government survey list have come to the notice of the district administration. As per preliminary report, nearly 100 such cases are believed not to be genuine. The matter is being inquired into by the district social welfare department and necessary action on the alleged lapses would be initiated after the submission of inquiry report, he added.
The departmental sources confided that more than 50 per cent of the enumerated persons do not qualify to come under disabled category. The medical examination of the disability-afflicted persons was either conducted haphazardly or the medical board constituted for the same resorted to foul play. This apart, the periodic ‘disabled’ survey conducted by the social welfare department may have been done on pen and paper only leading to massive upswing of disabled population in coastal district, sources revealed.
Caste bias deep-rooted, won’t change with a law
Delivering Zakir Husain Memorial lecture, UGC Chairman urges youth not to lose perspective of issue
Unlike slavery, discrimination has not ended by merely passing a law on it. SCs and STs were marginalised because of the social order that existed,” said Prof Sukhadeo Thorat, Chairman of University Grant Commission while delivering the XIX Zakir Husain memorial lecture-2007 today.
Professor Thorat said, “The social mechanism makes sure that the ground reality does not change because of the philosophical justification provided by Hindu religion to the same. This leads to educational, political, social and economic deprivation that in turn leads to inequality.”
He urged the youth not to lose the perspective and see the problem in its historical context. He asked them to realise that whether they like it or not, they are reaping the benefits of past discrimination. They can’t be held responsible for it but nevertheless they must hold a sensitive view and realise that indeed a section of society has been marginalised, said Professor Thorat, who heads the committee probing the alleged anti-SC, ST happenings in AIIMS.
Professor Thorat further said that exclusion could be seen as active or passive. “Active exclusion is what is done in the open while passive is in terms of unintentional damage. An example of the latter would be the Singur issue in West Bengal or that of Narmada dam. This will lead to unwanted deprivation.”
“Another way to look at it is the unfavourable exclusion or unfavourable inclusion i.e. either the opportunity is never given to a certain section or it is given with discriminatory terms and conditions attached to it,” Professor Thorat said.
“And this discrimination has been happening irrespective of the economic status or merits of the individual. Economic status cannot be made the basis of providing reservations because social ostracisation has to be taken into account along with economic deprivation,” added Professor Thorat.
200 schools to be set up for SC/ST students
NEW DELHI: The paucity of funds for education has not deterred the government from furthering the agenda of increasing equity and access to education for the marginalised. The government has proposed setting up 200 secondary schools for SC/ST students. In the 2007 Budget, some Rs 175 crore will be earmarked for this expansion programme.
The proposed schools will be part of the Navodaya Vidyalaya set up. These schools will be established in districts with a high population of SCs and STs. In order to improve access for students from these backward communities, 50% of seats will be reserved for SCs/STs depending on which of the two is numerically dominant in the district.
The remaining 50% of the seats will be filled by general category students and SCs/STs. The reservation quota will be followed as well. In other words, in a district which has an overwhelming SC population, the Navodaya Vidyalaya will reserve 50% seats for SCs. For the remaining 50%, 7.5% seats will be set aside for STs. No further reservation will be made for SCs. It is not clear, how this proposal will pass muster, as the total percentage of reserved seats will be more than 50% at any given point.
The Supreme Court in its judgement on the Indira Sahwney case set an upper limit of 50% for reservations. Though the case made references to institutes of higher learning, it is unlikely that things will be different for schools as well.
The task of identifying the districts was undertaken by the Planning Commission that used the 2001 Census data as the basis for identifying the 200 districts, which will house these schools. Admission to these schools will be undertaken in the same way as it is for other Navodayas. The Planning Commission has been in favour of expanding the Navodaya Vidyalaya network
Minor’ hitch in govt’s wedding plan
In 2004, the Jharkhand government launched the Mukhyamantri Kanyadaan Yojna, a plan to help poor, tribal families get their daughters married. But like all ambitious plans, this one too backfired — now the government has to deal with allegations that several minor girls were married off to meet ‘official targets’.
The allegations are serious. The National Family Health Survey III (NFHS) for 2005-06 put Jharkhand on top of its list of states with a high percentage of child marriages.
The survey said 61% of women in Jharkhand married before 18, the legal age for girls to enter into wedlock, and 27.5 per cent of women between 15 and 19 were mothers or were pregnant.
Tribal organisations, too, alleged that the scheme was without any checks and that families were lured into getting their minor daughters married off.
Under the scheme, which was launched during Arjun Munda’s term, tribal families below the poverty line were identified and if they had daughters of marriageable age, the state would not just fund the wedding but provide a grant of Rs 10,000, besides household utensils to each couple.
Over 10,000 poor tribal girls were married off under the scheme in the last two years. The government has been routinely fixing an annual target for each district, failing which the authorities are pulled up. Tribal activists say that for several poor tribal families, the offer was irresistible. With a little bit of prodding, they gladly pushed their underage girls into marriage.
The Adivasi Ho Samaj Mahasabha (AHSM), an organisation of the Ho tribe, claimed they had warned the government about how the Kanyadaan Yojna was leading to marriages of minors.
Chief Minister Madhu Koda is not sure if he should perform any more kanyadaans. “The NFHS figure has put us in an embarrassing position. The NFHS figure is more than enough to prove that all is not well with the yojna. I have to take serious action against the offending officials,” Koda told HT.
A government official, who didn’t want to be named, said, “The scheme resulted in some forced marriages. I had drawn the then government’s attention to the issue, but nothing happened.” The officer said that a 15-year-old girl was forced to marry a 65-year-old man in Seraikela Kharswan. “The girl was studying and was against the marriage, but she had no option. A powerful minister was present at the wedding,” the secretary said.
Sources in the Silli block office confirmed that on July 7, 2004, a six-year-old boy was married off to a five-year old girl under the scheme.
India’s processed uranium selling in Int’l black market
ISLAMABAD: India’s Jaduguda uranium mines in Jharkhand are becoming notorious for the smuggling of processed uranium, or ‘yellow cake’, which is being sold in the international black market, according to ‘WMD Insights’ – a reputable US-based magazine.
More recent reports dealing with international discussions on the smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials have said that uranium ores stolen from the Jaduguda mines in India have found their way to Nepal, from where they are sold to international buyers.
An Indian newspaper, Vijay Times, wrote, “In an alarming development, smugglers are sending highly radioactive yellow cake or processed uranium, used in making nuclear weaponry, to Nepal through the clandestine narcotic route via the Jharkhand-Bihar-West Bengal conduit, and it is suspected that the destination might be Al Qaeda.”
India is being projected by some as a responsible nuclear-capable state. In fact this has been cited as a prima facie by the US to offer India civilian nuclear cooperation. However, the facts belie any such presumption.
India became a nuclear-capable state by diverting peaceful nuclear technology provided by the US and other countries to achieve its military objectives, and contrary to what the US wants the world to believe, India is one such country where security for nuclear material is far from ideal.
As a result, dangerous nuclear material that could end up in the hands of terrorists continues to be smuggled out of the country through various means.
Just in November, there had been two incidents of theft and reported loss in India. There could be many more incidents that could not come to light or may not even have been discovered by the Indian authorities.
India’s lax controls on nuclear materials and technology were further exposed in a recent incident in which highly radioactive Caesium (Cs-137) was stolen from one of its storage facilities.
Similarly, in another incident reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency in November, India reported the loss of another radioactive material, Iradium (Ir-192), from Gujarat.
International community, especially the Nuclear Supplier Group, are expected to take notice of India’s irresponsible behaviour. app
Gold exploration nod on cards
Bhubaneswar, Feb. 23: After the scurry for steel and aluminium, it could well be time for a gold rush in Orissa.
While Posco, Arcelor-Mital, Sterlite and Tata Steel have lined up for a stake in the bauxite and iron ore reserves of Orissa, a Jharkhand-based mining company has received the Centre’s nod for prospecting gold in the state.
Rungta Mines Ltd, a part of the SR Rungta group, which has been in the mining business for the six decades, is expected to get the state government’s nod for gold and diamond exploration soon.
S.N. Sarangi, additional secretary in the steel and mines department, today told The Telegraph that his department received the Centre’s approval last week to grant reconnaissance permit to Rungta Mines for undertaking exploration of gold and diamond deposits.
So far, reconnaissance permits have been granted to 14 mining companies for exploration of precious minerals like gold, diamond, copper, lead and nickel, said mines director R.N. Sahoo. Prominent among the companies are De Beers and BHP Billiton.
Under the existing rules, the Centre’s approval is needed for grant of the permit by a state government.
According to official sources, Rungta Mines is likely to be allowed to carry out exploration of gold and diamond deposits over 2,824 sq km in mineral-rich Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj districts.
During the exploration exercise, aerial, geo-physical and geo-chemical surveys are likely to be undertaken.
Managing director of the company L.N. Rungta said: “The state government had forwarded our application to the Centre and recommended grant of reconnaissance permit. We would start the exploration work as soon as we receive the order.”
The senior official said they would undertake airborne surveys and other studies during the exploration period, which is likely to last three years.
A recent survey conducted by the state directorate of geology suggested that traces of gold have been found in Telkoi, Saleikana, Siriabahal, Dubulapal, Gopur, Gajipur, Odal, Taramakenta, Kalima, Kadangi and Samakuda areas of Keonjhar district, Suruda, Jashipur, Suriaguda, Kadeikucha and Gorumahisani in Mayurbhanj and Govindpalli area of Koraput.
Similarly, diamond deposits were found in Kalahandi, Nuapara and Keonjhar districts of Orissa.
A survey, conducted by Geological Survey of India in Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Nowrangpur, also revealed traces of gold.
A crowded, intelligent tale
If Harry Potter had been born a Chamar somewhere in Bihar, turned into a Communist and then a Naxalite, had been fired upon by the police and had a chance to describe his life and the society he had lived in, this would have been the book he would have written.
The book is named after a paradox. One cannot see through stones, but if one could, what would one see? Opacity? Or a fuzzy depiction of reality? The author, one of India’s most incisive and intelligent chroniclers of the growth and development of the Indian Communist movement, seeks to describe life in Puraina, a semi-mythical village somewhere in Bihar-Jharkhand through real-life incidents that have occurred in this region. Semi-mythical because you might not find Puraina on a map of India. But those who are familiar with the region know that there are hundreds of Purainas all over northern India where feudal upper castes rule society and politics through their own caste-based armies and through judicious interventions on their behalf by the State.
Mahendra Chamar, born a Dusadh, does not become a Communist overnight. His being is overlaid by decades of history beginning from the freedom movement, a time when lower castes and tribals in this region conducted their own parallel struggles—both against the British and against caste. The story of the decaying economy of feudalism and the degeneration of the ruling castes is told through Hari Pratap and his uncle-father, Chote Thakur. The lives of Hari Pratap or Harry and Mahendra Chamar and their families intersect throughout the book—sometimes through Ashok Sharma, the police officer posted in the region enjoined upon with hunting down Maoists, sometimes through Rani, the doctor wife of Sharma, whom Chamar knew as a little girl. The central point in the book is the confrontation between the upper castes and the Chamars in a historic encounter in which the haveli of Chote Thakur is attacked and male descendants killed. This is the catalytic event that transforms benevolent feudalism into a lifelong struggle of lower castes against upper castes.
There are lots and lots of characters in the book: Baguna Oraon, the tribal villager who becomes Chamar’s lieutenant; Bhola, the informer who causes Chamar to be captured and almost killed during a shootout; Chamar’s escape from hospital, where Rani Sharma is treating him; and Mohan Ram, the Dusadh, who turns Communist in the belief that this would liberate him of caste but finds history and society a bigger shackle than ideology. There is also Sister Lilian, a nun radicalised by her association with Naxalites, and Mahendra Karma, through whom is told the story of the factional struggles in the Naxalite movement. The novel skirts the reasons for the rise and decline of Naxalism in the more rarefied environs like St Stephens College (where lecture room blackboards carried slogans like “Reactionary Teachers, We will Have Your Skin for Shoes for the Poor”). There are repeated allusions to “Spring Thunder”, the 1967 split in the CPI (M) by Charu Majumdar, and the launching of the Naxalbari movement against Communist revisionism, the power struggle between Jyoti Basu and Pramode Dasgupta and the Communist view of the Congress.
But interspersed with these ‘real’ events are magical encounters of the protagonists: through visions, half-remembered dreams at dawn and oral history of battles won and lost by tribesmen told by their kinsmen around campfires to ‘Komrets’—which is how the tribals refer to Naxalites. The life of Mahendra Chamar and his associates is laid out against events in recent history: the rise and decline of leaders like Jagjivan Ram, the Emergency, the assassination of Mrs Gandhi, the electoral rise of the OBCs, and the restoration of the primacy of the village. But the social attitudes of the protagonists do not change. Towards the end of his life, Mahendra Chamar, a half-crazed Lear-like old man, watches assaults by descendants of the upper castes in Puraina on a statue of himself. He dimly perceives that for his sacrifices, the villagers have elevated him to the status of a God. But for the upper castes, he remains a symbol of all that is dirty, an eyesore, a dangerous thing that might talk back.
The only flaw in the book is that there are probably too many characters. Names pop up from all over the place, making it confusing to follow the lives of all of them. It is also sometimes confounding to leap from event to historical event unless you can read the author’s mind and follow the invisible logical progression that ties these events together. But this is recent history from below, humbling for those who think they know Indian politics.
Court told that quota for backward students not illegal
The government Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the law providing for 27 percent reservation for students from socially and educationally backward classes in higher educational institutions does not violate the basic structure of the Constitution.
On the contrary, it said, ‘not providing for reservation for schedule caste and tribe as well as socially and educationally backward classes will be a violation of the basic structure of the constitution.’
The government made the assertion in its affidavit to the court adjudicating on a bunch of petitions, challenging the legality and constitutionality of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservations in Admission) Act, 2006.
In its affidavit, the government said, ‘Reservation, whether in employment or in education, is not violative of the basic structure or equality code’ prescribed in the constitution.
It argued that there was nothing unconstitutional to specify in terms of units or castes those identified as Socially and Educationally Backward Classes on social and educational criteria.
The government said implementation of the legislation to accommodate students in the reserved categories would be done by increasing the number of seats and would not reduce the number of seats in the non-reserved seats.
‘The 93rd Constitutional (Amendment) Act, in no way alter the basic structure of the constitution or that Parliament has overreached its powers under Article 368 of the constitution in the said case’, it told the court.
‘The amendment is not only a valid and justified exercise of the amending power of Parliament, but also does not, in any manner, violate the basic structure of the Constitution,’ the government said.
20% madrasa students are ‘backward’ Hindus not able to afford ‘regular’ school
Kolkata, February 24: More than two in every 10 students studying in the state’s recognised madrasas are not Muslims. They are Hindus from backward classes.
Those teaching in madrasas say that a strong population from the Hindu mainstream opt for education in madrasas because they cannot afford other schools. Most of them belong to the Schedule Castes and Tribes and Other Backward Classes.
The state government has under its wing 506 madrasas which are affiliated to the West Bengal Board of Madrasa Education. The state-run madrasas impart secondary education through two modes of instruction. The High Madrasas (where Advanced Arabic and Arabic are the only theological subjects), and the Senior Madrasas (called Alim courses which have a strong theological content).
Data available with Newsline, shows that every fourth student appearing for Class-X in the High Madrasa system, is from the Schedule Castes and Tribes or Other Backward Classes. In 2005, such candidates formed 31 per cent of all students. Last year, it was 28 per cent. This year too, 25 per cent of students appearing for the High Madrasa examination are from the SC, ST and OBC families.
“There are no Muslim candidates in the SC, ST categories. In OBC category, the Muslims presence is negligible. These are mostly Hindu candidates from backward sections. Besides them, we also find Hindus from the general category studying in madrasas. Since we keep no count on the basis of religion, we do not know the exact number of general Hindu students. But they form a large part of the madrasa community,” said Soharab Hossain, Board president.
Interestingly, the theology content in High Madrasa syllabus has not deterred Hindu students. “There are two papers — Advanced Arabic and Arabic language, besides other commonly-taught subjects. Students have an option to choose between the two. The Advanced Arabic covers basic facts about Islam. So it’s not tough to get through, and most students thus opt for this paper,” said a madrasa teacher.
As the madrasas cater to the most underprivileged sections of society, this trend highlights the plight of general Hindus, when it comes to availing secondary education. The Board feels the presence of Hindu students in madrasas could have been even higher. “The Senior Madrasa syllabus (Class-X, Alim course) has strong theology content. This is the only reason why Hindu students are absent in this stream,” said an official.
Having found itself guarding the interests of minorities, the Board is now equally concerned about its Hindu students. “We will assess the number of Hindus from the general category too. Earlier, they have been missed in figures, as no data has been collected on the basis of religion,” said Hossain.
Lalu lives upto expectations of Bihar people
The Railway Minister Lalu Prasad has lived up to the expectation of people of Bihar and joined the race for development in state by announcing six new trains from the state in the rail budget of 2007-08. Besides, he has also tried to match the state government’s development initiative in Madhepura by announcing setting up of a locomotive factory at an estimated cost of Rs 1300 crore. The rail minister had already announced setting up of a sleeper factory at Madhepura in the rail budget of 2006-07.
Of the 40 new trains announced by the railway minister, Bihar has once again got a rich haul of six new trains including a weekly Patna-Kolkata Garib Rath. This is in contrast to Jharkhand, which has just been given only one new train, the Bhubhaneshwar-Ranchi tri-weekly Garib Rath.
This would be the third Garib Rath from the state, the others two being between Saharsa and Amritsar and Patna and New Delhi.
The other new trains announced in this year’s rail budget are daily Intercity Express train between Patna and Dehri-on-Sone, Bhagalpur-Banka passenger, weekly Bhagalpur-New Delhi Express, tri-weekly Bapudham Motihari-Varanasi Exprress and weekly Chapra-Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Jansadharan Express via Siwan and Gorakhpur.
Acceding to long a long pending demands of MPs and different representatives, the frequency of Patna-New Delhi Rajdhani Express has been increased from two days a week to six days a week. Similarly Patna-Pune Express would now run four days a week instead of two days and Patna-Yashwantpur Express would run twice a week.
The state capital has also been provided with a direct link to Udaipur. The budget proposes to extends the services of 2315 Sealdah-Ajmer Ananya Express upto Udaipur. Besides, four Darbhanga-bound trains have also been extended up to Jaynagar. They are – Saryu-Yamunaaa Express, Saheed Express, Sealdah-Darbhanga Express and Gangasagar Express.
The Railway Minister has also tried to bring in new areas under rail network by announcing the survey of Gaya-Nateshwar and Chakia-Bargaia-Madhubani (Champaran)-Senhara-Piprahi rail line. Already, the gauge conversion work is on in all the parts of the state. He also mentioned about the establishment of a high axel load wagon / bogie factory under the public-private partnership.
Incidentally, during the last rail budget, Prasad had announced altogether 55 new trains, of which 15 were from Bihar.
Videocon Gives A Facelift To Kanchan
Videocon revamped the sick food processing unit, ‘Kanchan’ into a CTV and computer production factory in Siliguri, a North Bengal town.
Monday, February 26, 2007: Kolkata: Recently, Videocon revamped the sick food processing unit, ‘Kanchan’ into a swanky CTV and computer production factory in Siliguri, a North Bengal town. This is probably for the first time that such an industrial endeavour has been taken up by a company in the North Bengal region.
Videocon had taken over the sick unit of ‘Kanchan’ just a year back. Speaking on the occasion, Asok Bhattacharya, MIC urban development and municipal affairs department, government of West Bengal, said, “Videocon has set an example by opening the factory. The company for the last one year had rendered training to the workers of ‘Kanchan’ and turned the sick unit to a new factory. A year back, when CM laid the foundation stone, many criticised it as an eyewash before the elections. But, now everything is crystal clear.” He added that presently 40 employees have been recruited. “With time when there will be an investment of 100 crores by the company, more people will get jobs.”
According to the Videocon sources, in the next two years, if everything falls into place, 500 people will get jobs. Right now, Module I has started. Later on, Module II and III will be taken up. The unit targets to produce 5000 CTVs. This will serve as a gateway to the entire north-eastern region and Bangladesh market.
Gautam Sengupta, VP, Videocon said, “Not a single employee of Kanchan has lost job. They have been trained by us who will make CTVs and computers. But, we have also recruited a few technical people to help them. Further, we have also started campus interviews at the local engineering colleges to recruit more fresh technical heads.”
He added, “Videocon also plans to set up a bio-technological park and an IT hardware factory at Fulwari, Siliguri.”
Meanwhile, The Videocon group has also submitted a bid to the West Bengal government among other companies to become a joint venture partner for Webel Consumer Electronics (WCEL), the television manufacturing company under Webel. The Videocon group’s proposal involves setting up of a printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing unit and a finishing school for IT engineers. It will be the fourth major investment of the group in consumer electronics in the state.
Auto park to be developed in West Bengal’s Uttarpara
Hindustan Motors Limited (HML) will develop an Integrated IT Township and Auto Park in West Bengal’s Uttarpara town over the next seven years.
The automakers Tuesday finalised an arrangement with Shriram Properties of Bangalore for development of a township in line with its plan for modernisation of existing facilities at Uttarpara in Hooghly district into an automotive forging, casting and stamping facility as well as expansion of its product range.
The plan was accepted in 2006 under the West Bengal Industrial Renewal Scheme 2001.
The proposed world-class township and auto park, to be completed in the next 5-7 years, would create both direct and indirect employment
Maoists ‘kill four Indian police’
Maoist rebels have shot dead four policemen and wounded another four in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, police say.
A police spokesman quoting local eyewitnesses said the officers were killed just after midnight when up to 600 rebels attacked a police camp.
Police say the attack took place at Khaira village in Lakhisarai district.
They say that the rebels ordered the police to give up their arms but they refused to do so, and fought back.
Police said the rebels also blew up railway tracks at two places nearby.
The Maoists say they are fighting to defend the rights of the poor and indigenous tribes.
Maoists are active in several Indian states
Correspondents say that of Bihar’s 38 districts, 18 are badly affected by the Maoist insurgency. Central Bihar in particular has a long bloody history of killings.
In November 2005, Maoist rebels raided a jail in Jehanabad district and freed more than 300 inmates.
The rebels are pressing for the creation of a communist state comprising tribal areas in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Bihar and Chhattisgarh.
More colleges, modest fees
- Public sector participation in education
Ashok Kumar Basu, principal secretary, department of science and technology and IT. A Telegraph picture
The departmental promotion committee (DPC) has recently recommended that Ashok Kumar Basu, principal secretary of the department of science and technology and information technology, be granted the salary of a chief secretary, thus catapulting him in the race for the top slot.
The war for the chief secretary’s job has further intensified with at least two
former Jharkhand chief secretaries vying for the post.
A 1969 graduate from Presidency College, Calcutta, Basu passed out from IIT Kanpur in 1974 and joined IAS in 1976. Initially, with the Bihar cadre, after November 2000 Basu was awarded the Jharkhand cadre.
Basu has underlined for himself the task of stopping the annual migration of thousands of students from Jharkhand to other parts of India from neighbouring Orissa to Maharashtra and the southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Speaking to Rudra Biswas, Basu unveiled his plans for the future stressing that all his plans are intended to benefit the needy of the state.
How do you propose to stop the annual migration of students from Jharkhand and the resultant outflow of crores?
We are trying to set up a technical university in Jharkhand, which would supervise and control all technical institutes. All efforts are being made to finalise the draft bill for the creation of the university, so that it can be put up before the state Assembly latest by the monsoon session this year.
At present, the number of seats in the five technical institutions in the state is 2,500. By the end of the 11th plan period in 1911, the state would boast of 20,000 seats.
What concrete steps are being initiated to increase the number of technical institutes of quality in Jharkhand?
We are trying to get the public sector interested in setting up quality technical institutes in the state. Bokaro Steel has already agreed to set up an engineering and a medical college in Bokaro. Talks are on with top private institutes to set up shop in Jharkhand.
Though quality education comes at a price, how do you propose to control the fee structure?
According to a recent Supreme Court judgment, the quantum of fees to be charged is to be decided by a committee to be set up under the chairmanship of a retired judge of the high court. In Jharkhand, too, we have instituted such a committee in line with the apex court directives. This committee would decide the fee structure for 2008-2011 after examining all aspects before arriving at a decision.
Do you also propose to increase the number of polytechnics in the state, particularly for those who cannot afford degree level studies?
We propose to increase the number of polytechnics from 13 to 34 so that each district has one in its area. We have already approved 8 polytechnics. Eleven polytechnics are to be created in the more backward districts of the state.
Colonial yokes are not bad for all
Feb 1st 2007 KOLKATA
From The Economist print edition
The world’s last rickshaw-pullers are battling against extinction
SOME very poor men, perhaps 18,000 of them, went on strike in Kolkata on January 24th to protest against a ban on their livelihood, ostensibly imposed for their own good. Much good may it do them. The Communist government of West Bengal has long wanted to outlaw rickshaws, of the original man-pulled variety, that now exist only in Kolkata. Last December it did so, on the grounds that man-powered transport was inhuman. But what else are the thousands of rickshaw-wallahs, in one of the world’s poorest cities, to do?
Beg, is the best guess of a group of rickshaw-pullers on Debendra Ghosh Road, a typically crowded alley in central Kolkata. Like most of their fellows across the city, they are migrants from Bihar, India’s poorest and third-most populous state. Earning around 150 rupees ($3.50) a day, with an average fare of 20 cents, they are not flush. But with an annual income of a little over $1,000, after paying rent on their rickshaws, they make roughly double West Bengal’s average. “I may not like it, you may not like it, but I have children to feed,” said Mahendra Paswan, a rickshaw-wallah for 26 years, with bare feet, a blue-check lungi, and six offspring in school.
West Bengal’s government sees the rickshaw trade as an outworn symbol of the colonial yoke. “A disgraceful practice that flourished when the British lorded over the people,” is how Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the chief minister, has described it.
The rickshaws are used by Kolkatans of all classes, especially in streets too narrow for taxis. But the chief minister, despite his Marxist mantra, has been furiously opening the state to business over the past six years. His vision, which includes making West Bengal one of India’s top three producers of information technology by 2010, is apparently incompatible with the herd of “human horses” on Kolkata’s streets.
The rickshaw-pullers are going down battling. When the government started destroying unlicensed rickshaws a few years ago, they formed themselves into a union to fight the ban. “We are all faced with ruin,” lamented Mr Paswan, who fears that cycle-rickshaws, which the government says it wants instead, are even more arduous to operate. In the meantime, Mr Paswan can offer a pleasant trot across Kolkata, an excellent way to view the city’s fine colonial buildings.
Booked: Berths to Bihar for Holi
People throng the railway reservation counter in Ranchi. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Feb. 25: With the festival of colours round the corner, the rush on Bihar-bound trains and buses from the city has started increasing.
While most seats in private buses leaving for Bihar have been booked, the rush for seats on Patna-bound trains are gradually catching up. The rush is expected to remain till Holi, which would be celebrated on March 3 and 4.
Of the three Patna-bound trains, reservation is available for seats on Ranchi-Patna Superfast Express and Hatia-Patna Pataliputra Express, though in limited numbers. No berths are available in Hatia-Patna Express.
Seats on buses to Bihar are also getting booked fast. About 60-odd private buses leave Jharkhand for various places in Bihar every day.
“Between February 28 and March 2, 90 per cent of the seats have been booked in all these buses,” said Ranchi Bus Owners’ Association president Krishna Mohan Singh. “In the next couple of days, we expect the remaining 10 per cent also to be filled up.”
Unlike trains, commuting by buses is cheaper and faster, especially as the road transport goes to more places.
Buses charge about Rs 30 less than what a sleeper berth on an express train costs. The vehicles reach Patna in eight hours, about three hours less than what an express train takes. Further, unlike trains, direct buses are available to several places.
But railway sources said seats on the two Patna-bound trains would be filled up by the end of the month. “This has always been the trend. Reservations pick up before the festival. The seats would be filled by February 28,” said a source in the railway.
A sleeper coach will be added to the Hatia-Delhi Jharkhand Swarn Jayanti Express on February 25 and 28 and also on March 2, 4, 7 and 9. This extra coach, sources said, would be able to take care of the rush.
Sex workers: Call us entertainment workers
Kolkata, February 25: After acquiring the status of “workers”, sex workers are now journeying towards achieving the title of “entertainment workers”. At the All-India Conference of Entertainment Workers 2007 that kicked off today, this struggle by the sex workers for gaining a specific identification for themselves was seen as a pivotal issue.
There are 70 red-light areas in West Bengal with 14 in Kolkata alone, and the conference provided sex workers, both male and female, with a common platform. Sex workers will also get the opportunity to interact with entertainment workers from other spheres of life.
Entertainers like dancers, singers and stage actors from seven states will be participating in the week-long event. Various cultural programmes will be held by entertainers from West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. The conference, being held at Rabindra Kanan, is organised by Binodini Sramik Union and is supported by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, Amra Padatik, Sathi Sangathan and Komal Gandhar. Rathindranath Dutta, sheriff, Kolkata, inaugurated the conference on Sunday.
The seven-day event will involve interactive discussions and debates along with cultural programmes. Topics of discussions and debate include the “Right to pleasure as a fundamental right”, “Human desire and sexual pleasure”, “Addressing vulnerability towards HIV through empowerment and ownership building”, “Role of entertainment in social & economic development”, “Sex workers are a part of the entertainment sector”, “Sex worker’s challenge to patriarchy”, “Sex education should be included in the school curriculum”, “Contradiction between sexual rights and sexual reproduction”, “Addressing trafficking through engagement of entertainment workers”, “Protecting women or protecting rights of women?”, “Same sexual relationships – issues, agenda and challenges”, “Repression of sexual pleasure – across different communities and cultures”, “Entertainment workers in trade union movement”, “Redefining women’s movement through the lens of sex workers movement” and “Role of media in promoting rights to pleasure”. Eminent personalities will actively participate in these sessions.
Teams from different parts of the country will be participating in cultural programmes, which include kawwali, Sambalpuri dance, Odisi dance drama, Panduani song and dance, Baul performance, Bhadu song and dance, Nachini dance, Chow dance, Bhojpuri dance, puppet shows and street plays. A fashion show, in which sex workers and other entertainment workers will take part, will be staged on the last day.
Orissa gifting bicycles to college-going tribal girls
New Delhi, Feb. 26 (PTI): In an initiative to ensure more enrollment of tribal girls in colleges, the Orissa government has started gifting bicycles to them so that they could reach the institutions located at a distance from their hamlets.
As tribal villages are located in hilly and forest areas and with practically no transport facilities available, the girls are finding it difficult to reach colleges which are normally 15 to 20 km away from their homes resulting in low representation of the group in higher education.
“As the students were facing difficulty to reach the colleges, the enrollment of tribal girls was low. Hence the Government has started this scheme,” Orissa Chief Secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathy said here on Sunday.
The State Government also wants to ensure that the under-privileged sections get the facilities of higher education, he said.
The government started the scheme this academic year. All tribal girls, who had passed the high school certificate examination under Board of Secondary Education last year, have been provided with a bicycle each, he said.
Outlining other plans for tribal boys and girls, he said the government also plans to built more hostels for students.
At present, the hostels in tribal schools can accommodate 66,000 and with new ones, Government plans to give space to more than one lakh students, he said.
The initiatives assumes significance in view of the high drop-out rates among the tribal students in the State.
European Commission to boost Chhattisgarh’s health sector
Raipur, Feb 25 – The European Commission is to assist Chhattisgarh in revamping its primary health sector with an aid of Rs.1.5 billion – over the next three years.
‘The European Commission has agreed to provide the Chhattisgarh government Rs.1.5 billion for toning up the primary health sector in Raipur, Mahasamund, Rajnandgaon, Janjgir-Champa, Bilaspur and Kawardha districts,’ state Health Minister Krishnamurthy Bandhi said Sunday.
The amount will be received phase-wise over the next three years and will be used for constructing primary health centres and providing basic health facilities.
The Chhattisgarh government has been spending millions of rupees in the current fiscal 2006-07 for creating infrastructure at health centres in all the 16 districts.
The state is to set up 200 new health centres in the current fiscal ending March 31, mainly in remote and impoverished areas dominated by illiterate tribal population. This will take the total number of primary health centres to 717.