Archive for March, 2012

Private Firms Filling Their Coffers with Black Gold in Mineral Rich Orissa

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India came down heavily on the Orissa government for incurring a staggering loss of 932.32 crore loss owing to administrative callousness as well as irregularities by the officials. Citing gross anomalies in allotment of land to private companies, the report slammed the government for not adhering to the industrial policy of 2001.

Coal Loot in orissa

Coal Loot in orissa

The report clearly points that the policy of captive blocks formulated by the state government has created ample opportunity for a veritable cross-section of corporate India to grab the dwindling natural resource for a song and make undue profits at the cost of consumers. Fingers are regularly pointed at  corporate like , Jindal Power, ), Essar Power and Reliance Power for having taken undue gains from the captive coal mines in orissa

Jindal Power owns captive coal reserves of 50 million tonnes per annum (mmtpa), which is enough to fire as much as 12,000 MW generation capacity. Cost of coal available from captive mines is much lower compared to the price charged by Coal India. But the policy hardly enures that the company will share the benefits of low fuel cost with consumers when it starts supplying power from upcoming power projects in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa.

Jindal Power has been allocated captive coal mines to meet fuel requirement of its 1,000 MW Tanmar power plant in the Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh. But the developer is selling entire power from the plant in the free market, which fetches a much higher price that what might be allowed under the power purchase agreement, where tariff are set by the regulator.

The company has been selling power at over R5 a unit during peak hours in the open market though its fuel cost is estimated at just R0.45 a unit. In comparison, the price discovered for similar power projects awarded under tariff based bidding has been in the range of R1.5 a unit. So, its return on equity is over 100% compared to the industry norm of 15.5%.

The private developer has allocated 170 MW power to the Chhattisgarh state at a variable cost as a quid pro quo for its support to the project. So, there is little chance of the home state starting penal proceedings against the developer.

Other power companies like Essar Power and Reliance Power too have “unduly benefited” from the captive coal policy that is at odds with the spirit of the Electricity Act which aims to rationalise tariffs through competition.

Essar Power has contracted power supply to Bihar at R3.26 a unit, the rate set by the regulator although its coal costs from captive mines might not justify the tariff. Reliance Power, which has quoted levelised tariff of R1.19 a unit for the Sasan ultra mega power project, will supply power from the nearby Chitrangi power project at R2.45 a unit, though the coal source for both the projects is the same.

Apart from the revenue loss that the government is incurring owing to  unwarranted support to its policy of  industrialization, there has been a visible loss of arable and forest  land in the state which is being continually lost to the industries. The CAG report has also been categorical in pointing this aspect too. The government reportedly  gave away land arbitarilly for industrialization purposes in the last decade. It is stated in the report that a total 1,20,142 acers of land  was allotted to 199 entities out of 208 companies who together applied for 1,30,677 acres of land between 1995-2011.

With the report, it is now obvious now that in its willingness to take Orissa to the next stage in development path, the government has taken a heavy toll on the people and exchequer, the implications of which will be carried forwarded even to the coming generations.

 

Four students help PG Admission in Utkal University go Electronic

Utkal University Online Admisssion

Utkal University Online Admisssion

There could not have been a better way to felicitate the students! In what is hailed as one of the most landmark decision, Utkal university is planning to take its admission process online from the forthcoming academic session. And what makes the icing in the cake is the fact the web application for making this happen has been developed by students of the University itself!

Recognizing the efforts of the four integrated master of computer application (IMCA) students, Chandrasekhar Biswa, Kamalakant Pradhan, Javed Anwar and Abhinash Sahoo, who have developed the EMS for Utkal University, PG Council chairman Mr. P K Sarkar, hailed the efforts of the four students saying the apex decision making authority of the university would be meeting  for giving a final nod for using the application.

Students wishing to take admission in Utkal university can , thus, from now on fill up forms, download their admit cards and submit fees online through electronic money transfer.  The university which has already started taking positive steps towards this direction has standardized cost of application forms and entrance fee for all the departments by removing minor anomalies. The varsity offers PG courses in around 50 disciplines, including 19 self-financed courses and three innovative courses.

Meanwhile. for the students who spent two month sof hard work in developing the application which finally takes Utkal university to the e-admission mode, it’s raining laurels from everywhere. Thanks to their efforts, now students will be spared from the pain of waiting long hours in queues to get admitted in the esteemed university.

The online admission procedure will however not ensure that physical admission procedure be phased out completely with immediate effect. Students , for the time being, will also have the option of taking printouts and depositing the forms and fees at the varsity counters physically. However this option of  physical deposit of forms and fees will be phased out over the years, making the process completely paperless

Spurious water Being sold In pouches in Orissa

Spurious water Being Sold in Pouches

Spurious water Being Sold in Pouches

With the sun spitting venom and Orissa already seething under  a canopy of terrible heat wave, theer has been a spurt of the non certified  and illicitly  packed drinking water  pouches. Massively popular in Orissa, these pouches raid every nook and corner of market in Orissa during the summers. Low in cost and sold chilled; the pouch drinking water provides respite to many in the extreme heat.

However the quality of the water being sold in the pouches, in most of the cases  is sub standard. These packets with one-month shelf-life don’t mention packing dates. The 250 ml packs of water of diverse brands, claiming on its cover to be ‘best before 30 days from the date of packing,’ don’t have packaging dates or batch numbers, speaking volumes about its quality. It should be noted that  contaminated and spurious water may cause diseases like Hepatitis A, E and gastroenteritis.

Government, however, seems to be ill-equipped to tackle the problem. Currently there are just 10 food inspectors in the state for the 30 districts against 26 sanctioned posts.  An assessment of the the directorate of public health has assessed that the sanctioned strength of the food inspectors should be increased to 60 in order  to ensure proper scrutiny of the water pouches of various  companies being sold in the market. The first and foremost job of these  inspectors should be to establish that  all the water pouches being sold have the mandatory BIS mark in them.

Apart from conducting regular checks, it is needed that  the illicit manufacturing units that have sprung up in state be raided and shut down completely. A legally validated bottling unit invests huge sums in installing water purification units and has to adopt proper standardised packaging mechanisms. But the illicit one can come up in neighbourhood sheds with only a packaging machine. By pouring and sealing non-purified water, the units are minting money.

Alta – The Odia way of Feet Decoration

Alta - the traditional foot decorator of oriya women

Alta - the traditional foot decorator of oriya women

A radiant blushing bride : vermillion on forehead, dainty hands decorated with Mehendi, slender feet decorated with “Alta”.This is the image of the quintessential Oriya bride that comes up in everybody’s mind once we think of Oriya marriage. Red signifies prosperity and purity. A color that makes its presence felt at all Hindu functions. Also known as Mahawar in some parts of the country, “Alta” is believed to cool the body while at the same time beautifying the feet.

It  is still unclear when “Alta” was discovered or how it become such an important part of dressing etiquettes of women in Orissa. Rfeernces of this liquid can be found in Upanishads which made it a necessary equipment of the 16 adornments of a women. Then, many depictions of the Hindu mythology show Lord Krishna lovingly applying “Alta” on his beloved Radha’s feet. A married woman’s look was believed to be incomplete without the red lining on her feet. However with changing times, “Alta’s” use has diminished. However it still continues to a vital part of the bridal trousseau in Orissa just like the vermillion and kohl.

Mahwar/ Alta - Decoration for foot of Bride

Mahwar/ Alta - Decoration for foot of Bride

Traditionally, “Alta” was squeezed out of the betel leaves. Much later ‘kum-kum’ and vermillion were dissolved in water to create this dye. Today chemical colors and lac are used to produce this. Red lac is one of the most ancient  of natural dyes.

How and when these beautiful aesthetic liquid made their way to the makeup routine of Indian women is  not known . But a peep into the history provides ample examples to show that it was very popular among the women of yore. Even the marauding Muslims could not resist  the charm of the red colors and started using it. However it was this exchange of culture between the original inhabitants of India and the visiting Muslims that gradually led to the waning away off of the “Alta” from public consciousness. The Muslims introduced henna in India and along with it came subtle designs in the hands which were highly aesthetic and appealing. Gradually the expansion of Muslims in India and their policy of forced conversion led to the henna finding its place of preference in Indian women. At first, henna extracts replaced betel juice to make the color.  And then slowly the use of Alta also diminished. The first documented use of henna extracts to be used in hands and feet are found in among the women of royal houses of Rajasthan, whose marriage alliances to the Mughals made the adaption of the custom compulsory.

It was only the Indian classical dances that remained true to their ancient get up so much so that when the famed  Kathak originated as a combination of Bharatnatyam and Persian-Arab dances, the artistes retained “Alta” as a necessary part of the dancer’s  get up. This is quite understandable as the Indian dance forms had originated as a form of expression of Puranic stories .  They thus stayed glued to traditional costumes and make up .

Thus true to their origin, the use of Alta is still lavishly in Indian classical dance forms. It is in fact one of the most conspicuous aspect of an Odissi dancer as she uses it to decorate both her hands as well her feet. Applying them on the hand, make the mudras more conspicuous for the odissi dancer. Apart from the odissi dancers, specific festivals in Orissa like the “Sabitri Brata” require the women to decorate their feet with Alta.

Thus though their use has been marginalize, alta still find a place in dressing table of a women today too.

The Yogini Cult of Orissa

64 Yogini temple

64 Yogini temple

Orissa is known for the Jagannath cult all over the world today. However the land had been a throbbing ground for multiple sects from aeons. Much before the germination of Jagannath cult in Odisha, the area was known to be a throbbing hub of  Shaivaite activities and prior to that a seething cauldron of tantric and shakti practices. Distinct marks of Buddhism are also visible in Orissa before it got swayed under tantric practices.

Though much of Buddhist and Shakti cults have now lost identity having merged themselves in the evolving religious cults of that time, they still have left their imprints on the sands of time in forms of architecture and vague references in religious scriptures. The Yogini cult is one such cult which having found its origin from the Shakti form of worship, prospered well in the 8th century Odisha. The famous 64 yogini temple of Hirapur is a strong memento of the significance of this now extinct cult from Orissa.

Not much is known about the yogini cult and the various tantric practices undertaken by them is still shrouded in mysticism. In fact so secret were the practices by this cult, that mere mention of this term would bring awe of fear among people. The main reason behind this is, probably, the secret of the Yogini cult which is kept in dark from the common mass. Also the images of the  yoginis are sculpted with demonic expressions or other dark attributes which were awe inspiring. When the yoginis are depicted in sculpture or described in text, they often have the heads of various birds such as: parrots, hawks, peacocks, eagles, pigeons, and owls.

Apart from this, yoginis are associated with cemeteries and battle field where they are said to devour upon the dead. They were worshiped by kings and soldiers before going on a battle for good luck and victory. Yoginis find mention in the Rudra Upanishad where it is stated that Lord Shiva after slaying Jalandhara summoned the Yoginis (Sapta-matrika) to the battlefield and asked them to devour the flash of the demon and drink the blood.

Origin of The Yogini Cult

The Yogini traditions are tantric in nature and therefore have strong connections to rural and tribal traditions. However references about these deities have been  found in puranic literature too. That the cult of sixty-four yoginis was widely prevalent is evident from several lists of sixty-four yoginis recorded in different texts. The Kalika purana,Skanda purana, Brihadnandikeswara Purana, Cansatha yogini namavali, chandi purana of Sarala Das, Durgapuja, Brihndla Tantra, Bata Avakasa of Balaram Das and other texts contain the list of sixty-four yoginis.  They are: – –

1. Chhaya, 2. Maya, 3. Narayani, 4. Brahmayani, 5. Bhairavi, 6. Maheswari,7. Rudrayani, 8. Baseli,9. Tripura,10. Ugratara, 11. Charchika, 12. Tarini,13. Ambika Kumari, 14. Bhagabati, 15. Nila,16. Kamala, 17. Santi, 18. Kanti, 19. Ghatabari,20. Chamunda, 21. Chandrakanti, 22. Madhavi,23. Kachikeswari, 24. Anala, 25. Rupa,26.  Barahi ,  27.  Nagari ,  28.  Khechari ,29. Bhuchari, 30. Betali, 31. Kalinjari,32. Sankha, 33. Rudrakali, 34. Kalavati, 35. Kankali, 36. Bukuchai, 37. Bali, 38. Dohini,39. Dwarini, 40. Sohini, 41. Sankata Tarini, 42. Kotalai, 43. Anuchhaya, 44. Kechamukhi Samuha, 45. Ullaka, 46. Samasila, 47. Mudha, 48 Dakhinai, 49. Gopali, 50. Mohini,51. Kamasena, 52. Kapali, 53. Uttarayani,54. Trailokya Byapini, 55. Trilochana,56.  Nimai ,  57.  Dakeswari ,  58.  Kamala ,59. Ramayani, 60. Anadi Shakti,61. Balakshatrayani, 62. Brahmani, 63. Dharani 64. Matangi.

Mythology apart, the origin of the Yoginis appears to be in small, rural villages. They are local village goddesses, grama devatis, who look over the welfare of an individual village. Through Tantrism, these local deities were able to gain new forms and vitality as a group of goddesses who could impart magical powers to their worshippers.

In the villages of Odisha, the Yoginis are the favored deities. Each gram devi, be she Ramchandi, Shyamkali, Harachandi, Tarini, Viraja, Bhagavati, Durgamata, Sarala, Bhadrakali, Kamakhya, Bhabani, Mangala etc., presides over the welfare of the village. These village goddesses seem to have been gradually transformed and consolidated into potent numerical groupings of sixty-four (sometimes eighty-one, sometimes forty-two) acquiring thereby a totally different character. It was Tantricism that elevated these local deities and gave them new form and vigor as a group of goddesses who could bestow magical powers with a view to the destruction of enemies.

There are four main traditions that are associated with the cult of the yoginis and how they developed from their tribal beginnings and became integrated into orthodox beliefs.All four of the traditions revolve around the idea that the yoginis were minor divinities to greater goddesses. The first tradition is the idea of the yoginis as aspects of the Devi or Great Goddess. The yoginis were said to be formed from different parts of the Devi, including: her voice, sweat, navel, forehead, cheeks,lips, ears,limbs, toe nails, womb, and her anger. The second tradition is the idea that the yoginis are attendant deities of the Great Goddess. This tradition is thought to have developed from earlier tradition of Siva and his gana attendants. The third tradition focuses on the yoginis as acolytes of the Great Goddess: the matrukas. This tradition describes the yoginis as being born of eight mothers and formed into eight groups. The fourth and final tradition centers on the thought of the yoginis as patrons of the goddess of the Kaulas.

Yogini Worship

The worship of 64 Yoginis in Orissa started at around  800 AD and flourished till 1300 AD . The cult is influenced by Tantrik rituals and a great deal of the worship was conducted to achieve powers of black magic. The number 64, being a multiple of 8, was considered to have magical powers in the numerology of India. Devotees who performed this worship were known to conduct the Shava Chhedan ceremony — meaning the beheading of a dead body as the ultimate symbol of detachment from earthly desires. The members of this cult never harmed living beings and never conducted animal or human sacrifices.

Until 1500 AD, there are references in history to the widespread following of this cult.  Yogini worshippers would ask for corpses from poor families with a promise of a grand funeral and provide this after their Shava or corpse ritual was over.

In Yogini worship, the Tantrik symbol is a chakra with 64 spokes in the wheel.  Each spoke represents one Yogini a form of Shakti. In most of the well-conserved temples, the sculptures of Yoginis are intact and none of them are erotic as in other temples. This is because this cult did not believe in sex as a path to self discovery.

But in later centuries, out of scary nature of the rituals and because of the growing stronghold of the Bhakti movement all over India — which preached love of god as the finest path to self realisation — this cult died a slow death, and remained only in small pockets of India. Thus, today, several Yogini temples are dilapidated and neglected . However the element of fear still persist and even tourssts are  scared to enter the precincts of the Yogini temples.

However, Yogini temples in Hirapur, Ranipur Jharial  are in excellent conditions even today.

 Yogini Cult and Architecture

64 Yogini temple ArchitecturePlacing the main deity in a dark and hidden chamber like a baby inside a womb has been the custom of the Hindu temples since ages. However the Yogini temples do not follow this practice and their monuments are open to sky. The Yogini temples are usually constructed with a circular cloister, except one temple, the rectangular Yogini temple at Khajuraho. In many such temples, an open shrine in the center of the circle dedicated to either Shiva or Bhairava is also found. Yogini cult is a heterodox sect hence it is expected that their monuments do not follow common Hindu temple architecture

Now coming to the most famous yogini temple of Orissa -The Yogini Temple at Hirapur, also known as the “Mahamaya Temple”, has an ambience that is quite charged. The temple conveys an impression of the overwhelming power of its sixty-four Yoginis. Mahamaya, the presiding deity of the temple is found adorned with red cloth and vermilion. The deity is still worshipped by the local villagers.

The Hirapur Temple is the smallest of the Yogini temples in India. It measures only thirty feet in diameter, and is hardly eight feet high. The temple is built of coarse sandstone blocks with laterite as its foundation. The Yoginis are carved out of fine-grained gray chlorite. The inner walls of the temples have sixty-four niches with sixty Yoginis still in place.

The credit for building the Yogini temple of Hirapur goes to the Bhauma and Somavamsi rulers of Orissa who were known for their tolerance, liberality and eclecticism. During this period, there was a gradual amalgamation of Shaivism (worship of Shiva), Shaktism (worship of the Mother Goddess) and the Vajrayana, or Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism in the region. It is believed that the Yogini Temple at Hirapur was built towards the end of the Bhauma rule, in the 9th century A.D.

Though yogini cult has seen a diminishing phase and hardly we find the mention of yoginis these days, it is an accepted truth that these once ruled the roost in Orissa and have contributed immensely towards the spiritual and architectural growth of Orissa.

 

Betel Cultivation facing Rough Weather in Ganjam

Betel Leaf farm cultivation

Betel Leaf farm cultivation

No meal in Orissa is complete without the traditional paan. Not only post lunch and dinners, the famed leaves were once an integral part of hospitality in the state with guest being welcomed with offerings of flavored betel nuts. It was thus nothing great that the length and breadth of the state lay scattered with betel leaf cultivators who made fortunes with the cultivation of these much demanded leaves.

However times have changed now as betel farming has taken a back seat in the state. The betel leaf farmers of Ganjam district once earned name with the quality of the leaves. The highest resistance powers of the betel leaves cultivated in Ganjam used to attract traders from far and near. But now the cultivation of betel in the district is passing through rough times. As the total land area under cultivation has reduced from 300 acres in 2000 to 30 acres in 2012 in the region, the cultivation has slowed down. And one prosperous cultivators of the region are slowly looking for alternatives.

The Golonthara area was once known for betel cultivation. Big businessmen from Benaras, Mirzapur and Agra used to frequent this place to buy betel leaves in bulk. The trade went so well that the government was forced to set up a passenger halt at Golonthara only for exporting betel leaves. Post 1999 super cyclone, however the betel cultivation took severe beating. As farms were destroyed, businesses However, the apathy of government agencies have now compelled the traditional betel farmers to change their produce or vocation.

Rangeilunda,Chikiti,Hinjili,Sheragada and Kukudakhandi are some of the blocks in the Ganjam district  which are famous for betel cultivation. The production has now marginally declined in these areas. Though factors like overuse of fertilizers are primarily responsible for this, what affects the most is the increase in the prices of bamboo which are used for betel cultivation. The price of bamboo which ranged between Rs 150- Rs 200 per 1000 pieces in the 1970’s have now risen to Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,500 . On the contrary, the prices of betel have remained static. This has made its cultivation unviable. On the backdrop of this, banks also started refusing loans for betel leaf cultivation. And then, the advent of gutkha, zarda and masala pouches pushed the demand of the betel leaves down.

A study by horticulture experts in the region recently confirmed this. While the business in Ganjam district annually used to be Rs 4 crore in 2002, it has nosedived to Rs 5 lakh now. In such a situation, betel cultivation is slowly being pushed into oblivion.

Rising Real Estate Prices in Orissa: An Artificial Phenomenon Than A Natural Trend

Rising prices of real estate in orissa

Rising prices of real estate in orissa

It is a trend that is putting even the best in the trade go nuts. For the fifth consecutive  year, the prices of real estate in Bhubaneswar is skyrocketing at maddening pace. So what’s exceptional about this? Well, in Bhubaneswar, the capital city has experienced real estate prices have seen a hike of as much as 300%. This is not only bewildering but also stunning. With per square foot prices touching Rs 3,000 per square foot in many parts of Bhubaneswar, the rates are almost equal to that of  property prices in the expanding Noida sector in Delhi.

Though the rising prices, mostly dismissed by knowers as superficial, is mostly attributed to the fact that perhaps Bhubaneswar is the only place in the state that has access to all the cosmopolitan facilities like educational institutes, hospitals, entertainment centers and shopping malls. So even though the state has experienced an industrial boom and seen rising income levels of people, the focus of the people is only on Bhubaneswar.

However this contention is rubbished by most real estate associations which claim that the rising cost is attributed to the land price hike by the government which had in recent years hiked the base price of land. With government agencies raising land prices, real estate developers are also increasing their base price. Land cost and taxation alone account for as much as around 60 per cent of the property price in Bhubaneswar. Delay in project approval also results in price rise. Similarly government agencies like the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) and the Orissa State Housing Board (OSHB) have adopted the public-private-partnership (PPP) mode in housing schemes, indirectly forcing a hike in prices.

Earlier, the construction cost was less as the projects were executed solely by government agencies. But now, as the PPP mode has come into effect in housing schemes, the business interest of the executing agencies causes the cost escalation. Another factor that has pushed land costs in the city is the practice of land auctioning by  government agencies like BDA and OSHB. The auctioning process has no link to the local  land value. However this practice in itself is responsible for pushing costs in a particular area.

Industry experts claim that  simply by controlling the price of land, the state government can reduce building cost to around Rs 800 to Rs 1,000 per square foot, so that a two-bed room apartment in the much sought-after Pokhariput and Patia areas can be made available for around Rs 20 lakh, whereas the present price for the same is more than Rs 32 lakh. So what is required is a simplified tax rules and measures like faster approval system to address the issue of the rising prices and make the scenario more friendly for people.

 

Kidnapping of Italian Tourists in Orissa: The government should not blow the entire issue out of proportion

Kidnapped

Kidnapped

The abduction of two Italian tourists has turned the spotlight on the Maoists operating in Orissa. Never before in their over a decade long operations in Orissa, did they bother to target foreign tourists. The timing and the message they send out of this is clearly well thought of and premeditated.  More than anything else the sole idea behind such an act seem to be nothing but  gaining more media publicity to their cause. Anything that involves foreign nationals gets you as easy spot spot in the media not only in India but also of that of the victim’s country.  The unfortunate killing of two fishermen off the Kerala coast by an Italian ship and the diplomatic flurry that followed earlier this month, is still fresh in everybody’s memory.  So, if the Naxals have planned and executed this operation with a greater purpose in mind, well, then they have achieved it.

Italy is already on with stupendous efforts to have its nationals released, unharmed. It was not only the state chief minister Mr. Naveen Patnaik but also the center that responded positively  by calling  on the security forces to stop all actions that are being carried on against the rebels.

So how the situation should be dealt with?  Well any answer to this question first calls for understanding the reasons behind the premeditated effort. Gone long back is the era when the majority of the rebels constituted of the locals who were hard pressed against being left out of the development plan by the government.  Most of the cadres of the Maoist group in Orissa are now constituted of non-oriyas. Against this backdrop, there have been reports of acrimonious coups within the naxalite cadre for taking the leadership position. Thus it is with the survival instinct in mind that the leaders are pinning their hopes on negotiations. The government should therefore desist from falling into their trap.

There is another reason for the government to act strong in this issue. The way the Italian nationals went on a tour to the Ganjam- Kandhmal border areas without seeking the permission of the administration is an indication of their own disdain for the laws of the land. Following the recent international sensation created by  video shooting by foreign tourists involving the nude Jarawa tribal , the Orissa government had issued strict guidelines regarding tourist activities in the tribal dominated areas of the state. Unfortunately, the kidnapped seem to have shown utter disrespect for the law in traveling to a sensitive area. The consequences are now there for everyone to see.

Last year, the abduction of the then Malkangiri District Collector Mr. Vineel Krishna had elicited extensive media coverage. The Maoists at that time had put forth multilateral demands which included forcing the government to agree on an irrigation project in their area. Clearly it was a ploy by the Maoists to flex their muscle as well as publicizing themselves as people- centric idealists. The way the bureaucratic machinery bent backwards to concede to the demands to save one of their own, meant that the Maoists have learned the tricks of trade fast. It is far more effective to abduct IAS, IPS officer or a VIP and get your demands fulfilled.  Another big fallout of the Vineel Krishna abduction was the realization by the Maoists that antagonizing the bureaucracy repeatedly would simply defeat their own purpose, for no government  can do anything if the bureaucrats do not rally against it.

Various Maoist groups are losing popularity, perhaps because it has become increasingly  difficult for them to provide  to the people at the grassroots level the kind of justice they profess. Under such circumstance, it would only help if they reassert their presence through statements and opinions in the media. This is where the abduction gives them mileage. And with foreign nationals being involved, the incident has got the potential to create stir at international level too.

The Maoists cannot run the risk of killing the kidnapped. Riding on the wave of publicity gathered, the incident can help as a catalyst for triggering development in their regions. Again this is something which falls completely out of the ideology of the Maoists. So the only intention behind such daredevil act is simple – The Maoists want to find a place in the wagon instead of going on to pull the rein.

Obviously detaining the abducted for long would tarnish their image. So the best way for the government to deal with the situation would be to act dispassionately. If the foreign governments want to be involved, their co-operation should be solicited on conditions of not hyping the issue beyond propotion. And the moment, the Italians are released, they should be arrested and tried for trespass and also for running a travel agency in the country without necessary permits, flouting all norms.

Golden Farming: New trend in Orissa

Ever came across a term like “Golden farming”? If no, then be ready for a shocker! For farmers in Gajpati district of Orissa, this has over the years become synonymous with cultivating gold.

Still in quandary? Well, gaining momentum is dry areas of Orissa, Golden farming refers to the rearing of Emu birds for commercial purposes.  This highly lucrative business  which promises heavy return on investment, has off late lured farmers in Gajpati district and its adjoining  areas into large scale commercial production of these birds.

Emu Farming In Orissa

Emu Farming In Orissa

There is an increasing demand for the bird’s meat and oil these days, which is believed to have medicinal properties, especially for treating joint pains. The oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects. Apart from this, the meat of the bird which fetches around Rs 500-600 per kilo is also high in demand owing to it being fat free and low in cholsestrol.

What makes this farming popular among farmers is the fact that Emu farming is not labour-intensive and is highly compatible with rearing of other live stocks as well. Apart from this, the Australian bird’s 100 per cent utility in terms of market value ensures that none of its part goes waste.  The birds which are highly resistant to diseases are immune to extreme weather conditions as well. The poultry industry which is marred by the dreaded bird flu at intermittent duration also fail to make any impact on these birds.

A farmer can produce different things from the Emu bird which are hig in demand in the market. These are given below ;

Emu based commercial products

(A) Emu eggs

In emu farming, the egg production and hatching remains a very important process that  fetch large amount of profits. A single bird gives minimum twenty and maximum forty eggs every year. These eggs have dark-green colour. Each egg ways 400 to 600 gms. And each egg can be sold from Rs 600- Rs 2000 in the market.

(B) Emu Oil

Emu oil  is highly in demad as it is used for treatment of muscle and joint pains. Apart  from this  the oil  has other medicinal properties and is much used in beauty industry. The oil  is

· Anti-inflammatory

· Moisturising

· Cholesterol reducer

· Bacteriostatic

· Penetration enhancer

· Signficant epidermal proliferative activity

· No –comedogenic

· Significant wound healing agent

· Significantly reduces recent keloid scarring

· Appears to promote faster healing of burns with less pain and scarring

· Anti-arthritic activity

(C) Emu Meat

Low on cholesterol, high on protein,” in what sounds like a well the benefits of consuming emu meat. 300 in Maharashtra-up and running in the country today. While 1,000 may seem like a big number, it’s a drop in the ocean in comparison with the poultry farms that dot the country.Likewise in production, there are estimate of about 33,000 tonnes of emu meat produced in India now, which is a fraction of the 1.9 million tonnes of chicken meat produced in the country every year.

(D) Emu Skin

Emu-skin is very soft and smooth, hence it has a great demand in international leather industry for producing new fashionable goods. A fully grown up bird can yield 6 to 8 sq. ft. leather.

(E) Emu Feathers

The feathers of the Emu bird are double quilled, attractive and velvety to the touch. They are used as feather duster, feather pad, fans, bows, masks, finishing metals prior to painting, weather-proof apparels, pillows,

With so much to offer, its is hardly a surprise, that  rearing these birds is called golden farming. Survival rate of the birds is also higher since there are no specific diseases that plague the species.From being 10-inches at the time of birth, a fully-grown emu stands some 6ft and weighs between 45 and 50 kg. The bird’s life span is 40-odd years. An emu starts laying eggs as early as 18 months. The process normally begins at two to three years and continues till 26 to 35 years. An emu egg takes 49-54 days to incubate.

Illegal Mining Spawns millionaires in Orissa

For long Keonjhar district of Orissa was known for its abundant forest resources and rich tribal culture. Though sitting on a cockpit of iron ores and other minerals, there was nothing that set it apart from other tribal dominated patches of the region and obviously  it was long considered endemically poor  and lacking in fuel for development. However things have changed quicker than time. And the once famished region is now a throbbing ground of mining operators who have simply revolutionized Keonjhar way beyond recognition. The transformation has left an indelible mark on the people of the region and in the process many of the wage earners have turned into millionaires.

Nothing but the tale of the now urbanized Guali village could be a better testimonial. The village that was nothing but a cluster of thatched houses a decade or so back is today laden with SUVs that whizz around with intermittent regularity.  The teetering thatches have made way for ubiquitous multistoried buildings. A leading private bank operates a profitable branch for wannabe millionaires. Locals flaunt the latest mobile phone models, and putting the prefix ‘crorepati’ before an acquaintance’s name is routine these days, just as the presence of leading banks, both nationalised and private, is.

Among other the village houses the formidable Apat brothers Kusha, Laba and Bhima. The brothers over the past eight years have spun a rags-to-riches story that is recounted many times in the households of the village. Kusha Apat, a former truck driver, is the Keonjhar district BJD vice-president. He is said to have earned crores after the mining boom began in 2003-04.

The boom that attracted many companies and contractors from outside state spawned in the mining revolution in the region. Although things were okay in the beginning, slowly illegal mining began to clench the entire area and soon the mine owners with a nexus of local people, truck owners and contractors started making millions illegally.

B Prabhakaran, a contractor from Salem in Tamil Nadu  who arrived here in 2002 established  the Thriveni Earthmovers pvt Ltd. The company which first came to notice for being booked in a 2009 case of illegal mining worth nearly Rs 1,000 crore, has created ruckus in not only in the mineral rich regions of Keonjhar  and Sundargarh but in Orissa Assembly.

Prabhakaran who is known as a man who can” get things done”, has cultivated a network of politicians and industrialists  and has over a period of ten years monopolized most of mining operations in Joda and Barbil. So strong is his clout that  earlier this year, when Posco, the world’s third-largest steel company, started parleys to secure iron ore for its upcoming steel plant in Odisha, it called on him for discussion. It is hardly a surprise then that B prabhakaran with his company though does not own any mines in the state, has his hand in many.

Jitendra Kumar Jha has a similar story to recount with the exception that unlike Prabhakaran, this resident of keonjar started modestly, with small-time contracts in mining activities in mid 1990s in Keonjhar and that he was on the wrong sied of the law from the very beginning. So spectacular was his rise that even police was dumbfounded on seizing his booty during a raid in his muti- storeyed building in barbil earlier this year. The police stumbled upon close to Rs 1 crore besides other valuables. Accused in at least eight criminal cases, Jha had turned into a mines mafia of the area with huge assets and a flourishing trade. Jha  started on a modest note with contracts in the mining areas and soon formed his gang to build his syndi¬cate of illegal activities, using extortion as a major weapon.

It is not just people like Prabhakaran and Jitendra Das who have flouted laws in their quest for chasing money. Many big companies have been consistently flouting norms tio operate in the region.  Tata sons for example that is running a mines in the region  has not renewed its lease which has expired since 2005. The company which is running its 771 hectares land in a deemed manner for last seven years is  one of the respected conglomerates of the country. Similarly the  Kashia Iron ore and Dolomite mines of Aditya Birla Group’s Essel company are being run consistently “without having” a permanent forest clearance.

It is but a open secret now what  the government couldnot do with 60 years of effort in the region  has been done by mining in just over a decade. The mining boom, coinciding with China importing and stocking huge quantities of iron ore and fines – residual dust generated after crushing big iron ore lumps into small sizes – has set off thousands of rags-to-riches stories. A truck helper-turned driver is today one of the richest men in the area with bankers queuing up at his residence in Guali, a nondescript village on the outskirts of Joda, for deposits. Corporates pay ‘tax’ to a former sarpanch of Bamebari to transport mineral from the area, and a one-time grocery supplier now boasts of owning sponge iron and pelletisation units. The twin towns are breeding millionaires.

But as with everything good that comes with development, this too has come at a steep cost. The overnight prosperity of the towns has led to mind-boggling corruption and an insidious network that has everyone, from politician to bureaucrat, businessman to criminal, in it. It’s no wonder that agriculture has taken a back seat and few are bothered about high vegetable prices. Rampant mining in the area and subsequent urbanisation has also increased air pollution and there are hourlong traffic jams on roads leading to these mining hubs. Last year, 143 people died in accidents with iron ore-laden trucks on NH 215 that passes through Keonjhar.  Similarly criminal cases are on rise and once peaceful, lush surrounding is slowly retracting back to oblivion.