Monthly Archives: May 2012

Lawyers stall work over Sambalpur incident

The lawyers’ strike over the Sambalpur incident continued to stall work in the Orissa High Court on Monday as the High Court Bar Association (HCBA) has announced the ceasework till Tuesday.

The decision was taken as HCBA’s assessment team’s report is still pending.

The team had visited Sambalpur on April 27 and met the parties concerned. The representatives of Sambalpur Bar and the collector had then requested the team to be present at Sambalpur on Monday for negotiations to break impasse.

The team will report the developments to the High Court Bar at about 1.30 pm on Tuesday and a decision on the future course of action would be taken after that, the extraordinary general body meeting of the HCBA decided on Monday.

The Orissa Administrative Tribunal Bar Association on Monday also joined the strike protesting the arrest of lawyers.

While announcing that the ceasework would continue on Tuesday, the Association said further decision would be taken after an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday.

NRI urges PM, CM for HC Bench

Non-resident Odia professor Digambara Patra of the American University of Beirut has demanded establishment of a High Court Bench or Circuit Bench in Bhawanipatna.

In a letter to the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of Odisha, Patra has cited that a High Court Bench or Circuit Bench exists along with their parent HC in many States in India due to work load or given the distance and backwardness of specific locations.

However, in Odisha, though there are many regions which fulfill all the criteria for establishment of HC Bench or Circuit Bench, it is not done. The Jaswant Singh Commission has pointed out that a distance of 400-km from the parent HC should be a factor to have a HC Bench in a backward location, he said in the letter.

He said political demands for HC Benches in Sambalpur and Behrampur are illogical as both areas are well-connected with Cuttack and people can return in the same day finishing work in the court at Cuttack by train. HC Benches in any State in India are located at least 320 km away from parent HC seat, except in Lucknow, which is a State capital and Allahabad with a court since British era. Both Sambalpur and Berhampur are located less than 300 km from Cuttack.

He pointed out that communication to KBK region in Odisha is poor and the region is considered to be given special category State status in line with the north east States due to their hilly, tribal and backward characters.

Therefore, based on their long distance and backwardness, a HC Bench for KBK region comprising the backward districts in western and southern parts of Odisha should be ideal.

“Kalahandi Bar Association has demanded earlier for a HC Bench in Bhawanipatna. So, there is demand for the same in Jeypore and Balangir by the local bar associations. However, Bhawanipatna is a central location in KBK and south western Odisha comprising Kandhamal, Boudh, Gajapati and Bargarh, etc. Bhawanipatna is also far away from Cuttack, above 400 km but is well-connected by SH and NH with all the south western districts. Hence, Bhawanipatna has a solid ground to host a HC Bench or Circuit Bench,”

Odisha forests burning bright

Forests in Odisha are burning in the scorching summer heat, literally. Around 2,700 cases of jungle fires were reported in the state in the past two months.

Satellite generated data available with the Forest Survey of India (FSI) said Kandhamal district in the southern part of the state reported the highest 757 incidents of forest blaze between March 1 and April 28.

Koraput district reported 500 forest fires while Ganjam reported 286 in the past two months. Other districts with over 100 instances of forest in flames include Sambalpur (171), Dhenkanal (137) and Sundargarh (108).

In total, there have been 2,934 forest fire incidents reported in the state this year. While a majority of 2,400 incidents were reported in March, there were 296 fires in April. The latest three incidents of fire were reported in three different places in Puri district on April 26, the FSI data said.

There were just 780 incidents of forest fire reported in 2011, while 2,523 fires were reported in 2010 and 2,080 in 2009.

Authorities attribute the drastic increase in number of forest fires to better tracking. “The mechanism to track and report fire incidents have improved due to satellite imagery. That is why the number seems to increase sharply. Earlier, many incidents were going unnoticed,” said principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) (wildlife) J D Sharma.

Sharma said another reason behind marginal rise in the number may be exceptionally dry weather during December and January. “There was no winter rain this time. Such rains help control dryness in forest. That may be one reason behind some more fires this time,” he said.

The PCCF (wildlife) said the forest department had created several fire lines (patches clean of foliage so that accidental fires don’t cross those lines) and had undertaken controlled fires to destroy combustible leaves to avert mishaps.

Environmentalists said all incidents of forest fires are due to human error, sometimes deliberate. Gopal Panda, a professor of geography at Utkal University, said March and April are the months when such incidents go up every year because thick carpets of leaves shed by tress are found lying in forest during this time. “People dependent on firewood, torch the forests so that they may gain an easy entry inside the thick foliage,” he said. Notably, 65% families in the state depend on firewood for kitchen fuel, as per Census 2011 household data.

Panda said those collecting mahua flowers tend to burn the fallen leaves to have a clean ground to collect the flowers on. Such fires sometimes spread uncontrollably. During the dryness of spring and summer, people casually dropping their half-lit biri may also lead to fire. Awareness should be created to address such problems, he added.

Environmentalist Biswajit Mohanty said the rising incidences were due to the failure of the forest department to take remedial steps. “The department is supposed to involve people in protecting the forests as per the provisions of Forest Rights Act. But no such initiatives are being taken. Incentives meant for protecting forests are not reaching people,” Mohanty said.