Daily Archives: August 28, 2012

Centre identifies 789 habitations for ultra small branches

The department of financial services under Union finance ministry has identified 789 habitations in 14 Naxal affected districts of Odisha covered under Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for establishment of ultra small branches (USBs).

The 14 districts are Deogarh, Gajapati, Ganjam, Jajpur, Keonjhar, Kandhamal, Koraput, Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Nabarangpur, Nayagarh, Rayagada, Sambalpur and Sundergarh.

The establishment of USBs includes two components- capital cost of Rs 1.40 lakh per branch which is to be met out of IAP funds. On the other hand, recurring cost for the branch will be borne by the identified bank.

 “The state government is requested to inform the district level committee that funding of capital cost for the establishment of USB amounting to Rs 1.40 lakh per USB has been included as permissible work under IAP. Necessary action may kindly be taken in this regard and we may be apprised of the action taken in this matter,” Sindhushree Khullar, secretary, Planning Commission, Government of India wrote to R N Senapati, development commissioner cum additional chief secretary.

On a pan-India basis, the department of financial services has identified 7,034 habitations with a population of over 2,000 in 66 districts covered under the IAP in nine states for providing banking services through establishment of USBs. USBs would consist of a small area of 100-200 sq ft where the officer designated by the bank would be available with a laptop on pre-determined day and time in a week. The banking correspondent agent (BCA) would also operate from such premises.

While cash services would be offered by the BCA, the bank officer would offer other services, undertake field verification and follow up the banking transactions. The periodicity and duration of visits can be progressively enhanced depending upon business potential and reviewed periodically. The state finance department had recently urged all district collectors to take stock of progress made with respect to establishment of ultra small branches by commercial banks in Odisha under ‘Financial Inclusion Plan’. It may be noted that the department of financial services under Union finance ministry has underscored the need for setting up USBs in all villages with a population of over 2,000 where brick and mortar branches are currently not viable.

Prison department “unprepared” for international seminar

The state prison department has missed the August 25 deadline set by the Union home ministry to submit presentation reports on correctional measures initiated in jails. Sources said the Centre had sent the directive to all the states ahead of a six-day international seminar on prison reforms at Darussalam in Brunei from October 7.

The states were also directed to nominate their officers to fly to the Asian and Pacific Conference of Correctional Administrators in Brunei. But Odisha prison wing has failed to comply with the order. “I have not seen the letter from the ministry of home affairs. We will submit a report after learning the details,” ADG (prisons) S S Hansda told on Sunday.

Sources said the delegates were scheduled to discuss core issues relating to challenges and initiatives in corrections, sharing and adaptability of best practices in correctional administration and promoting staff-offender interaction in prisons.

Hansda claimed that the state government was taking a host of correction measures such as education and vocational training to reform the inmates. Human rights activists, however, rebutted that Odisha prisons were reeling under an assortment of problems

“We often see prisoners resorting to strikes inside prisons complaining of substandard diet, unhygienic living conditions, poor health service and slow progress of trial. The government has failed to provide basic facilities to inmates,” said human rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo.

“About 84 deaths occurred in jails in Odisha in the last two years. Most of them were in their 50s and died due to poor health facilities. Some committed suicide driven by depression. Many jails are overcrowded and do not have psychiatrists and counselors,” Kanungo said. “Worried about slow progress of trial, an under trial prisoner threw slipper at a judge in Puri which indicates the sorry state of prisons in state,” he added.

Around 15,000 prisoners are languishing in 91 jails in the state, even though the actual capacity is around 9,000. Though there was a proposal in the past to build more prisons, including two open air jails, the proposed projects are moving at snail’s pace. At present, the state has only one open air jail, namely Biju Patnaik open air ashram at Jamujhari on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. The two proposed open air prisons would come up in Sambalpur and Balasore.

The freedom and unrestricted privileges given to inmates at the Biju Patnaik open air ashram are being governed sans any rules. Though the prison administration had long back sent a proposal to the state government seeking formulation of a special legislation for functioning of the jail, it is still stuck in limbo.

Demands for manning of all level crossings in the state

The chief minister Naveen Patnaik asked Union railway minister Mukul Roy to man all level crossings in the state. There are more than 600 unmanned railway level crossing gates in the East Coast Railway’s jurisdiction. “As these gates have become potential death-traps, immediate steps should be taken by the Railways to either convert them into manned level crossings or construct road over-bridges or under-bridges at these spots to avoid reoccurrence of such unfortunate incidents,” the CM wrote in a letter to Roy.

The CM said 20 persons died due to accidents at unmanned level crossing gates in EcoR in the past one year. Meanwhile, the divisional railway office of the East Coast Railways said a proposal to build a sub-way at the crossing was awaiting the district collector’s nod since May.

Divisional safety officer Pitabas Panda said, “Keeping in view the recurrence of accidents at level crossings, the Railways has planned to build sub-ways at 169 places. Since it involves acquisition of lands, the Railways has take the collectors’ approval. Of these 169 proposals, only 36 have got the collector’s approval so far. The Khairpali underpass plan is yet to be cleared by the Sambalpur collector.”

When contacted, Sambalpur collector Mrinalini Darswal denied delaying the project. “The underpass plan is not pending with me. I have approved it and sent it to the DRM.”

Panda informed that of the level crossings in Sambalpur railway division, 60 crossings between Sambalpur and Angul are accident-prone. The railways has abolished 169 unmanned crossings and diverted road routes at 80 such points. Plans are afoot to build over-bridges at 20 crossings.

The divisional safety officer said the divisional railway office had been spreading awareness campaigns in villages about passing through level crossings. But, these have not yielded result.

“Despite our best efforts to aware people, bikers, passers by and small lorries and jeeps pass through the crossing even when the train is barely hundred metre away. A speeding train comes to halt 600 metre away from where the emergency brake is applied. Khairpali crossing was of low traffic value unit (TVU). Unless the TVU goes beyond 3,000 units, we don’t recommend manned crossings,” he added.