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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.

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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.

Silent soccer revolution taking place in Sambalpur

Sambalpur Football AcademyTucked away some 15 km from the bustling western Odisha town of Sambalpur a dream has taken shape in the form of the Sambalpur Football Academy (SFA). And the vision has begun to make an impact in the life of youth in the State. The Academy, established on a sprawling 18-acre property very close to the Hirakud Dam , is complete with three full-sized playfields, a state-of-the-art gymnasium, accommodation for nearly 100 boys of different age groups, a dining hall, a well-equipped kitchen, class rooms, a three-storied guest house, swimming pool and a well-stocked store room. Apart from learning the nuances of the game, the boys are given compulsory education in a Government-affiliated school.

Having come into existence on November 22, 2008, the SFA has made a marked difference to soccer in the State. Two of the leading clubs of Cuttack have based their teams on the SFA boys. More are eyeing talent from this academy.

The SFA, an initiative of former minister, player and a soccer lover Jaynarayan Mishra, is run on self-finance and donations. The MLA of the area for the third successive term, Mishra’s project is contributing to the development of tribal welfare. As much as 90 per cent of the boys are tribals of the State. The rest of the trainees are from Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam and even Manipur.
Top-class players

The teaching staff is all from the region which helps the boys and the faculty to interact better. Apart from well-qualified coaches, headed by technical director Sanmoy Basu, the academy has a doctor, a dietician and administrative staff to run the programme smoothly.

“We spend close to Rs 1.5 crore per year on the project. The biggest problem we face is lack of exposure to our boys against better teams. We are planning to send our boys to Kolkata to play in local league,” Mishra says.

After organising a football festival for schools in the area, the academy coaches fan out to other States to choose boys for the academy. At present, there are 25 boys in the under-14 group, 24 in U-16, 20 in U-19 and 20 more senior boys.

Pritam Singh is presently in the National under-17 camp in Goa. Sayed Viju Oasim, Golak Pradhan and Prakash Naik were part of the group of Indian boys trained at Arsenal and A.C. Milan academies. The best boys play for Samaleswari FC, owned by the academy.

“The main objective is to produce top-class players through promotion of the game at the grass-root level. In less than four years we have successfully created the right atmosphere in and around the district and the State,” the chairman of the SFA points out. “We need to tie-up with an I-League side. The rest will fall in place.”

HC tightens anti-pollution noose on govt hospitals

The Orissa high court on Friday directed the State Pollution Control Board to initiate criminal proceedings against seven district headquarter hospitals for continuous violation of Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules. “The division bench of Justice L Mohapatra and Justice I Mohanty has directed the board to file criminal cases against the in-charges of bio-medical waste management at the district hospitals of Angul, Dhenkanal, Bhadrak, Balasore, Boudh, Deogarh and Sambalpur under the Environment Protection Act, 1988,” said amicus curie P R Das.

The directive came in the wake of a petition filed by a social organization, Maitree Sansad. It has alleged that these hospitals have been long flouting biomedical waste handling rules. Even the high court-appointed advocate’s committee had visited these hospitals and found deficiencies in the biomedical waste disposal system. Warnings were also issued to these hospitals but nothing was done by them to improve the situation, stated the amicus curie.

He further said the hospitals dumped the biomedical waste in a haphazard and improper manner, which is extremely dangerous from health point of view. “We had submitted our report before the high court and taken strong note of the report that the court has directed the SPCB to file criminal cases against these hospitals,” added Das.

The board had filed criminal cases against the superintendents of three government medical colleges in 2010 for violating the biomedical waste management rules.