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Water Rights activist Ranjan Panda faults Odisha Govt for suppplying water from Hirakud Reservoir to Industries

Water Rights activist Ranjan Panda faults Odisha Govt for supplying water from Hirakud Reservoir is toIndustries. The way they have shut down the power plant while continuing to supply water to industries is illegal, alleges Ranjan Panda, Convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha.

“Hirakud dam was originally constructed for flood control. Irrigation and power generation were incidental benefits. Providing water to industries at cost of power generation is a clear cut indication of the government’s vested tilt towards the industries”, Panda alleged further.

It is to be noted that, the dam’s power generation capacity has been drastically reduced by deliberate design, more so recently because of the favouritism towards industries. And on 17th June this year, when the dam authorities stopped releasing water for power generation, illegally, they created a history. For the first time in history of the dam, the power plant was completely stopped showing shortage of water as the reason, even though the water had not reached the dead storage limit, alleged Panda.

The dam’s Dead Storage Level of 590 feet is a stage from where irrigation and power generation should be stopped. For industries, however, the dead limit is said to be 595 feet. But, while on 17th June the storage level was about 593.75, the power supply was stopped but industries continued to draw water.

Local newspaper reports confirm that the dam authorities did an act of ‘eye wash’ by stopping water to Hindalco Industries at Hirakud on 17th June. However, the plant activities resumed in a few hours only. It is reported by the newspapers that the dam authorities had to release water to Hindalco succumbing to pressure of the Secretary, Water Resources Department of Govt. of Odisha.

Other industries also continue to draw water even as Hirakud’s water is receding and no canals could be supplied water on the stipulated date of 16th. WIO condemns such illegal and anti-people, anti-farmer act of the Water Resources Department and asks them to immediately stop water supply to industries and ensure water to irrigation canals, said Panda.

Unless the water supply to industries is stopped, irrigation will drastically suffer and conflicts in the command area will grow, warned Panda.

A dry reservoir is not merely due to scanty rainfall but also because of interceptions of Mahanadi’s flow by Chhattisgarh upstream. And despite repeated urge of Water Initiatives Odisha, the governments are not yet talking properly on managing Mahanadi in an integrated basin management approach. “The governments are only talking as knee jerk measure to reduce flood devastations and not for comprehensive and coordinated management of the entire River”, alleged Panda, adding, “such temporary and half-hearted approaches would neither reduce flood vulnerabilities during rainy season nor will solve such water scarcity situations during non-monsoon periods”.

High time the governments went for a holistic management plan of Mahanadi that is people-centric, open and transparent. Further, the governments should now admit that Mahanadi is a ‘water deficit river’ and accordingly stop giving away precious water to industries beyond a limit drawn on basis of proper ecological balance analysis keeping both present and future scenario in mind, said Panda.

2 arrested in Rangamatia murder case

Two men were arrested for their alleged involvement in the September 28 murder of a youth of Rangamatia area in the city on Friday. The accused, Bikali Behera and Dipuna Barik, were rounded up in Sambalpur district by the special squad of commissionerate police. Three other co-accused are still on the run. “The absconders would be arrested soon,” said DCP (Bhubaneswar) Nitinjeet Singh.

The arrested duo along with three others of the same area hacked Ranjan Behera, secretary of a local youth club, to death due to previous enmity. The rival groups had picked up a brawl during Ganesh idol immersion ceremony on September 26, two days before the murder. The assailants attacked Behera with sharp-edged weapons when he was standing in front of his shop in Rangamatia. Behera was trading in construction material.

On Thursday, many residents, including Behera’s family and friends staged a demonstration in Rangamatia demanding immediate arrest of killers. Singh had visited the area and assured the locals to arrest the culprits within three days.

NCC treated as an optional subject in colleges

To attract students to join NCC, the government has decided to make it an optional subject at the college-level. On an experimental basis, NCC will be made a subject for college students at Khariar College in Western Odisha this year.

Group commander of the NCC, Sambalpur Col. Vikas Goswami on Wednesday disclosed this information while briefing to the press about the forthcoming events of the NCC. He also informed that steps are on to reflect the performances of the cadets in their board examination mark-sheet where the student is supposed to get grace marks for admission and job purposes.

“NCC is a platform where a cadet gets a platform to boost his/her talent and build up confidence which definitely helps in their future. But unfortunately in Odisha, NCC has not been so popular due to various reasons. Hence, the government has decided to make it an optional subject in college level in order to attract college students to join NCC”, Col Goswami said.

Goswami has informed that work for setting up a new naval unit at Bhawanipatna and an Air force unit at Jharsuguda has almost reached its final stage and these units will become functional shortly.

“Students of western part of the state will be benefited once the two units start functioning”, Goswami said. According to him, a senior cadet of Sambalpur commandant Rabindra Singh has stood second in the Thal sainik camp presently going on in New Delhi and he is likely to receive the silver medal in the Obstacle race. “This is a great achievement for the state” , Goswami said.

He informed that in order to make cadets of the NCC ready for the National level competition, the group commandant is providing all round activities and training to the cadets. “We have hired experts to provide training for crafts, arts, dance and music of local culture and tradition to the cadets in order to make them fit for the competition at national level”, Goswami said.

Mahatma Gandhi Temple in Bhatra,Sambalpur

Mahatma Gandhi Temple in Bhatra,SambalpurThis is not your regular shrine. The deity who stands leaning on a walking stick with the tricolour beside him is not drawn from Hindu mythology. But the setting and rituals are no less different from any regular temple. How can it be when for scores of people at Salangapalayam about 25km from Erode, Bapu is no less than God?

On Gandhi Jayanti, there is a stream of people from neighbouring villages to the Mahatma Gandhi koil (temple) as it is locally known. They stand outside the sanctum sanctorum before a granite idol of Bapu, heads bowed and hands folded. The priest performs the aarti as part of the daily puja for Bapu. Across the Gandhi idol, stands a small bust of Kasturba.

“I prayed to Bapu to make me a good girl and also help me to come first in my class,” says M Sanghvi, a class 4 student of Appachimar Madam Government School.

Mahatma Gandhi Temple in Bhatra,SambalpurApart from numerous children from nearby schools, elders and senior citizens also visit the temple on special occasions like Gandhi Jayanti on Tuesday.

“Generally, we have two pujas for Bapu everyday. On special days like today and on Independence Day and Republic Day we have elaborate rituals like smearing sandal paste, milk and panchaamritham abhishekam,” says V Kannan Iyer, chief priest of the temple.

The temple was built in 1997. Vaiyyapuri Mudaliar, a local businessman and a Gandhian, was instrumental in constructing the temple which is now managed by a trust.

“I personally consider Mahatma a divine person who was instrumental in changing the lives of many others. His sense of sacrifice and humility cannot be followed by ordinary people,” says Mudaliar. M Kuppulakshmi, a teacher of nearby government high school, says she makes it a point to ask her students to pray at the temple.

In sharp contrast, and almost as an insult to the memory of Gandhi, entry to the Mariamman temple that stands across the Gandhi koil is restricted to upper castes. “Everybody is welcome inside Bapu’s temple. But there are some restrictions on the entry of dalits in the Mariamman temple,” says S P Annamalai, former panchayat president Salangapalayam.

Surely, Gandhi, who campaigned all his life would have protested at this discrimination.

The most famous Gandhi temple is in Bhatra, a village near Sambalpur in Orissa. This temple built in the 1970s has a dalit priest and reportedly attracts devotees from Orissa and the neighbouring state of Chattisgarh.

Interestingly, Mahatma Gandhi didn’t believe in idol worship though he has said he understood the spirit behind it.

Health awareness program during this Dussehra & Diwali

In an innovative endeavour to create awareness about a range of health issues, the Odisha State AIDS Control Society (OSACS) in association with National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has involved folk troupes to disseminate educative messages in an entertaining manner, especially during the forthcoming Dussehra-Diwali festivities.

Targeting migrants who come home during the festive season, OSACS launched an ambitious campaign on Monday, under which nine IEC (information, education and communication) vans of trained cultural troupes will visit nine districts.

Health minister Damodar Rout flagged off the vans, which will cover the districts of Angul, Balasore, Bargarh, Balangir, Rayagada, Ganjam, Khurda, Koraput and Sambalpur between 3rd October and 3rd December.

Rout said the vans with folk troupes on board will display informative exhibitions on issues of HIV/AIDS, reproduction and child health (RCH), tuberculosis, malaria and so on. “The vans will create awareness on multiple health issues at the same time,” the minister said.

Each van will be accompanied by a mobile health unit (MHU). With one session per day, an MHU will provide services at 25 sites per month and IEC publicity van will cover 125 villages per month. Coinciding with the IEC van-MHU movement, social organizations will open condom promotion stalls at various places.

“A lot of migrants come to their native villages to observe Dussehra, Kumar Purnima and Diwali and stay for at least two months. We will reach out to these returnee migrants and their spouses during these days,” said an OSACS spokesperson.

The districts where the IEC vans will visit are considered high incidence areas for HIV/AIDS. According to OSACS figures, of the total 26,127 HIV positive cases in the state (as on August 31, 2012), the highest 9,893 are from Ganjam. Others include 1,447 from Koraput, 1,185 from Khurda, 1,135 from Sambalpur, 841 from Angul and 578 from Balangir.

Of the 1,569 AIDS patients in the state at present, 503 are from Ganjam alone. Of the 1,347 HIV/AIDS deaths so far, Ganjam has contributed the highest 433 followed by Koraput at 148. It is below 100 in each of the other districts.