Monthly Archives: May 2012

Cong to woo tribals for regaining lost ground

The State Congress, realising that its traditional tribal vote bank is fast slipping out of its hands, is now trying to raise the issue of ‘rising atrocities’ on tribals in the State.

The issue will be discussed at the zonal meetings of the party on June 5, 6, 7 to 8 in Bhubaneswar, Balasore, Sambalpur and Jeypore respectively.

Zonal meetings in Cuttack and Berhampur had already been held in the first week of this month to activate the party rank and file keeping an eye on the urban local body (ULB) polls next year.

Sources said Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh’s recent letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik pointing out that there are too many innocent tribals languishing in jails of Odisha and demanding their immediate release has come in handy for the State Congress to mount an offensive against the BJD. The ‘rapidly-deteriorating’ law and order situation will also be one of the issues to be discussed at the meetings.

Senior leaders maintained that issues for? agitations to reach the masses would be identified after completion of all the zonal meetings.

A senior Congress leader told this paper that the State Government was anti-tribal,? an issue to launch a campaign in the coming days.

Sources, however, maintained that the base of the Congress has eroded in many tribal areas.

Steps would be initiated to address the situation first. The party base in predominantly-tribal districts like Koraput, Malkangiri, Rayagada, Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar has shrunk during the last 12 years.

The first task before the leadership is to identify party workers at booth-level in these areas and strengthen the organisation from the grassroots level.

The State Congress will also cash in on the cracks in the ruling BJD which have come to the fore for the first time. Differences between Naveen and Rajya Sabha member Pyarimohan Mohapatra have created confusion among the party workers.

Former Congress minister Narasingh Mishra told this paper that the zonal meetings would work towards bringing unity in the party.

The grassroots workers will be enlightened on the Central Government’s welfare schemes and ‘failures’ of the State Government, he said.

Vulgar dance organizers face police music

Police arrested two persons on Sunday for allegedly promoting raunchy dances during the Sital Sasthi festival at Barpali in Bargarh district.

Police said the accused, Ashok Sahu and Tatan Talukdar, had organized a vulgar dance show in a play ground and charging money from people eager to see it. “We have taken immediate step to stop the dance that was organized in the local play ground and arrested the two for organizing the show at Barpali during Sital Sasthi festival,” said IIC (Barpali) PK Meher.

Sources said the dance was supposed to be organized in the local football ground on May 22 and 23 during late night and dancers from outside were specially invited to perform in it. The organizers were charging Rs 30 per person as entry fee. The dancers allegedly performed vulgar dance by wearing skimpy clothes during the dance. Police, however, stopped the show on May 23 after receiving complaint from the local people. However, police arrested the two organizers of the show only on Sunday following the intervention of the Bargarh SP, sources said.

On the other hand, similar dances were organized in Balangir town during the procession of the Sital Sasthi festival on Sunday. Dancers from outside Odisha performed vulgar dances. Social activists alleged that the dance was performed in presence of police and the administration took no step to stop the show.

Odisha slaps Rs 1306 cr fine on MCL for illegal coal mining

The state government has asked the Mahanadi Coalfield Ltd (MCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Ltd (CIL), to pay a fine of Rs 1,306 crore for mining coal without environment clearance in the Ib valley area.

It said, MCL had resorted to illegal extraction of coal in the absence of statutory clearances and therefore, is liable to pay the penalty amount. Earlier, the Deputy Director of Mines (DDM), Sambalpur circle, had issued a demand notice to MCL for payment of Rs 862.58 crore as fine. But the state steel and mines secretary has sent another letter recently to MCL ordering it to pay Rs 1,306 crore towards the dues calculated for realisation of the cost price of the coal mined illegally.

 The bill was prepared as per the observation of the Deputy Accountant General (R&A), Odisha. The revised bill was sent after the observation of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) regarding the short assessment of cost price of coal mined illegally in the areas not having environment license.

When contacted, director finance, MCL, Kulamani Biswal said, “We have not violated any law. So the state government cannot impose any fine or penalty on us. Being a Central sector PSU, we abide by all rules. There is no question of MCL paying any fine illegally raised on us. We will take appropriate action after we look into the notice”.

However, the state steel and mines minister Raghunath Mohanty has asked the Steel and Mines Department to take appropriate steps to check illegal extraction of coal by MCL, government sources said.

This is second time, MCL has run into problems with the state authorities on environment issues. Earlier this month, the deputy director of mines, Talcher circle, had served closure notices on nine out of 11 mines of MCL, urging the coal authorities to stop all mining activities including despatch of coal, on the ground that the ‘Consent to Operate’ issued by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) to these mines in Talcher region had expired on March 31.

State Government cautions people on heat wave

Taking bath for relaxation from heat waveThe Odisha government cautioned public to avoid venturing out of their houses between 11 am to 3 pm due to intense heat wave as the death toll in sunstroke mounted to 19, official sources said.

Heat wave condition may prevail in some parts of interior Odisha during the next 24 hours, a Met office release said forcing the state government to issue the advisory to the public.

While Sambalpur recorded 46.7 degree Celsius during the day, it was followed by Hirakud and Sonepur (46.2 each), Jharsuguda (46),Titlagarh (45.8), Balangir (45.5) and Sundargarh (45).

Many western and southern districts also experienced temperature above 42 dc. The state capital of Bhubaneswar also sizzled at 40 dc with 89 per cent of relative humidity, they said.

Of the total 65 complaints of sunstroke deaths so far, 19 cases have been confirmed while report on 29 other allegations are awaited, said revenue and disaster management minister Surya Narayan Patro.

While tribal dominated districts of Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj reported four sunstroke deaths each, three persons succumbed in coastal Balasore district, the minister said adding that one died in each eight other districts.

With the interior districts experiencing intense heat wave spell where mercury hovers between 44 to 47 dc and above 40 dc in coastal districts, the state government has advised people to remain indoors during peak hours unless they have urgent works.

As schools and colleges remained closed due to summer vacation, the government had also rescheduled working hours for MGNREGA and other government works.

Besides, bus operators are also told to avoid plying on road during peak hours, he said.

Meteorological observatories lying idle in 530 schools

Calamity-prone Odisha has missed out on a golden opportunity to tackle natural disasters by not generating real-time data in 500-plus schools where meteorological observatories are virtually lying idle.

Even though natural disasters have been taking a heavy toll on lives and property every year, the State Government is showing no interest to put the observatories to use.

Under the Participation of Youth in Real-Time Observation to Benefit Education (PROBE), a Department of Science and Technology (DST) project, the observatories were installed in 530 schools across the State barring Malkangiri, Deogarh and Sambalpur.

The main objective under PROBE was to train students at secondary school level to take up meteorological observations for understanding of the day-to-day environment, including weather. The project, which was initiated in Uttarakhand in 2003 before being extended to Odisha and other states, was carried out through 36 agencies, including NGOs as well as national institutes and universities.

Since 2011, when the project was completed in the State, the observatories are virtually rotting with the school authorities not taking any interest to train the students.

“The onus was on teachers to train the students in collection of the data on a daily basis. Once the project period was over, not many are taking interest, barring some schools where the headmasters and the science teachers have been enthusiastic enough to train the students entirely on their own,” said an official of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).

The DST had asked IMD to inspect certain schools to study the effectiveness of the project. In some pockets, such as in Sukinda block, science teachers were found to be zealous enough to keep using the observatories. In some parts, schools have established Met Clubs to keep the instruments running. But the same sense of zeal was missing in other schools.

“The teachers do not get even honorarium which could have been an incentive to use the observatories on a daily basis so that data generated can be collected and used for disaster-mitigation purposes. Even the DST would be interested to take the project forward but there has been no enthusiasm on the part of the State Government,” said official sources.

The observatories generate all kinds of weather parameters except atmospheric pressure data. Significantly, the schools are located in rural pockets whereas the weather stations of IMD and other disaster mitigation agencies are mostly in urban centres.

“If the State Government could use the observatories to collect the huge amount of data they are capable of producing, it could be of immense help in studying the climate as well as drawing up strategies,” said an official of the Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority.