Water projects lying defunct

Of 110 revenue villages under Bijepur block here, 80 are water-stressed. Out of 800 tubewells in the block, 200 are lying defunct.

Water projects under Swajaldhara rural water supply scheme in villages of Gudimunda T Gondpali and Jokhipali are lying defunct. After working for some time, those were rendered defunct due to breakdown of transformer. Neither has the transformer been repaired nor replaced. Stand posts in various areas are also in bad shape.

At Piplipali village under Budapali gram panchayat of the block, the problem is high fluoride content in water. Villagers alleged that though they have been requesting the officials for supply of drinking water, no step has been taken yet. They said the officials forget about the issue after monsoon arrives.

Junior Engineer of RWSS Sanjib Panda said steps are being taken to repair the defunct tubewells and transformer of Swajaldhara project.

More officials land in police net for money laundering

Deputy general manager of Andhra Pradesh-based para-banking company Wellfare Buildings and Estates Private Limited RS Madhav Rao was arrested by Dhanupali police on Tuesday.

Rao was in charge of operations in the States of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha. Police have also seized documents related to investments from his possession.

The company was collecting money from investors by assuring them of giving land in return against their deposits. It had also promised to return their investment at a high rate of interest in case the investors did not want to take land. Preliminary investigation revealed that the company had acquired 24 acres of land in the name of Madhav Rao in Jamadarpali on the outskirts of Sambalpur town. The company had been operating from its office at Dhanupali in Sambalpur town since 2006 and had collected more than ` six crore from the depositors.

Rao is the second person of Wellfare Buildings and Estates Private Limited to be arrested after the arrest of Dilip Kumar Mallick of the company on May 11. However, Rao refuted the allegation of any financial fraud.

Phulbani: Four officials of Golden Land Developers (GLP), a finance company, were arrested by Town police on Monday evening.

They were identified as branch manager B Upendra Patra, cashier Upendra Mohanty, computer operators Subrat Kumar Tripathy and Anil Kumar Mishra. Two bank accounts of the company operating in Punjab National Bank having deposit of over `13 crore have been freezed by police.

The company was functioning in the district headquarters town from 2007 and was into money circulation business.

Similarly, G Udaygiri police on Sunday sealed the office of Rose Valley Company functioning at MMC Road at G Udaygiri.

Branch manager of the company Dilip Kumar Mohanty and cashier Silu Pradhan were arrested.

Balasore: Nineteen persons working in different non-banking sectors in Mayurbhanj district have been arrested since Saturday on the charges of cheating people after promising to pay high rate of interest on their deposits. They were produced in the court and remanded in judicial custody on Tuesday.

The Assam Government to acquire Bezbaroa’s Odisha house

The Assam Government is going to acquire the Sambalpur (Odisha) residence of Lakshminath Bezbaroa, the doyen of Assamese literature, for converting it into a memorial.

Presiding over a meeting held in this connection at Raj Bhawan yesterday, Governor JB Patnaik underscored the need to convert the Sambalpur residence of Bezbaroa into a memorial, and directed the State Government to take immediate steps to buy or acquire the plot of land housing Bezbaroa’s residence.

Bezbaroa stayed at the town of Sambalpur for 20 years from 1917 and 1937. During this period, the master litterateur produced the bulk of his literary works which shaped modern Assamese literature.

Patnaik said that the residence of Bezbaroa was in a dilapidated condition and that the State Government must take urgent steps to buy or acquire the plot (M.S. Khata No. 142 of Sambalpur town, Unit No. 4) from the present owner, Nanda Kishore Poddar, within the month of May, 2013.

“This particular house of the late literary genius at Sambalpur is lying in a state of neglect. Therefore, it is the duty of the people of Assam to develop this house into a memorial in the memory of the great author,” he said.

The meet decided that the Cultural Affairs Department, Govt of Assam, should move a proposal for Rs 4 crore to be approved from the Contingency Fund as it was not earmarked in the current year’s Budget.

The Commissioner & Secretary, Cultural Affairs Department, was asked to prepare and send the proposal to the Finance/Planning & Development Department for approval under the Contingency Fund so that the sanction could be issued within the deadline of May 8, 2013. He assured the meeting that the Director, Cultural Affairs, would accompany the Trade Adviser & Director of Movement, Kolkata to Sambalpur for registration formalities, etc.

It was decided in the meeting that the Trade Adviser & Director of Movement, Assam, Assam Bhawan, Kolkata, would complete the formalities of registration of the land and building at Sambalpur and will also depute a PWD engineer from Kolkata for the development of the land, boundary wall and gate, etc., in the first phase and a memorial in the second phase.

The Additional Chief Secretary suggested the incorporation of the cost towards security of the premises (deploying home guards with the help of the DC/SP, Sambalpur) and the cost of immediate repairing, renovation, etc., in the initial proposal.

The Governor also mooted the idea of having an MoU or tie-up with the local Sahitya Sabha for upkeep and maintenance of the memorial at a later stage.

Lighter of pyres

Personal tragedies forced her to go against age-old customs and take up the cudgels at a local crematorium. Meet Shanti Behera from Odisha’s Sambalpur

There is nothing extraordinary about the way she looks. Yet Shanti Behera, 52, a resident of Sambalpur, is unique. For the last decade she has been running the local crematorium. According to traditional Hindu customs, women are not even allowed to go the crematorium, leave aside participating in the funeral rites. But compelled to provide two square meals for her family after the demise of her husband, Shanti willingly took on the job of being the full-time keeper at the Kamlibazar Rajghat crematorium.

Married at 15 years, she had just turned 40 when she lost her husband to multiple illnesses. “I had no work and six children, including four daughters, to support. I was thinking of seeking work as a domestic worker but destiny, I guess, had something else in store for me. My husband was the caretaker of this cremation ground. He worked there on a daily wage basis and so when he fell severely ill and was bed ridden, I had to take over his duties or else he wouldn’t have got any money,” Shanti recalls.

“As this is the only crematorium in the area, thousands of households were dependent on it. My husband was the only keeper there and his absence would have posed a huge problem,” she adds.

Her journey from being a housewife to becoming the manager of a crematorium was a difficult one. There were several personal as well as social hurdles. Initially, she found it very difficult to look at the bodies being brought for cremation. She also faced opposition from her relatives and friends because she was daring to go against tradition. But Shanti grew stronger as time passed.

“My husband was cremated at the same ground where he worked. I had to take over just after a few days after his death. It was very painful for me but I went ahead. Then, a few months later, my son died in a road accident. I don’t know how I set the pyre for his funeral. It was a heart breaking moment for me. But ever since, I have learnt to face pain and hardship. I sincerely took to doing the job on a full-time basis, despite being aware that customs dictate that women are strictly prohibited from working at a cremation ground.”

Her job is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Arranging the wood for the pyre, setting it alight, and ensuring that it burns properly — she is always on her toes, come rain or shine, performing her job to the best of her ability. Often she has to work until the wee hours to ensure that everything is done right.

“I work round the clock, and am there whenever the need arises. In fact, I have had to come here at midnight braving terrible storms, too. Over the years, I have realised that this work is not only a means of livelihood but has a higher purpose. I believe I am helping the dead souls rest in peace and that gives me immense satisfaction. The only thing I find difficult is to see a family cremate a child. It reminds me of the worst experience of my life — cremating my own son,” she says.

For the first five years, Shanti worked for free because the municipal authorities did not believe that she would be able to manage the crematorium properly. During that period the family survived on tips, which was insufficient. Later, she started receiving a monthly payment of Rs. 1,500 from the municipality. Managing expenses for the whole month on this meagre salary, however, has only gotten tougher in recent years.

“I have to pay Rs. 600 as rent for the single room where we are staying. I don’t even have a Below Poverty Line (BPL) card so that I can get subsidised rice. I have run from pillar to post to get a BPL card, but to no avail.”

While making ends meet is still a struggle for Shanti, she is glad that at least the community’s attitude towards her has changed. While the local people were once shocked by her bold move, today they respect and admire her courage.

Says local resident Padmabati Behera, “She is a great woman and everybody respects her. She is doing a job that no other woman had dared to do. I have seen her over the years and feel proud of her. She is working selflessly without any expectations.”

Families visiting the cremation ground also draw great comfort from her presence.

Many hope that Shanti’s example will inspire other women to opt for unusual professions. Says Abhida Nanda Mishra, an academic from Sambalpur, “For me, Shanti’s work in the crematorium is not just a livelihood issue but, looked at from a broader prospective, is about women’s empowerment and acceptance in society. It represents positive change.”

Maoists torch cellphone towers

Maoists blew up two mobile towers of a private telecom operator in the Gandhamardhan mountain range on Monday night. The tower were in Bargarh’s Purena village and Balangir’s Rengali village. Police could reach the spot only on Tuesday due to security concerns.

SDPO (Padmapur) Parul Gupta said “Last night incident is a desperate attempt by Maoists to divert the minds of people. We have already intensified combing operation to drive them out.” Around 15 Maoists were involved in it, she said.

SDPO (Patnagarh) Sunil Joshi said it was done to create panic among people and disrupt communication in remote areas of Balangir district.

According to him, about 20 armed Maoists came to the village and set the tower on fire. We have deployed additional force and started a probe.