Archive for September, 2012
In a show of unshakeable willpower and exceptional camaraderie, people of 27 villages under Kishorenagar block of Angul district, made mock of government apathy to get their work done by themselves. The renovation of Suresewari canal which had been kept under cold wraps of the government officialdom f or years was taken up by the people and executed to perfection.
Interestingly the Canal itself was dug up by the people when they met with indifferent attitude of the authorities’ way back in 1928. 35 villages of the Kishorenagar block had constructed the check dam at Dangmal to preserve the water flowing down from Sureshwari Hill in 1928 for farming purposes. In course of time they dug up the canal to irrigate their farm land.
However it was not until nine long decades that the first help came in from the state government to renovate the canal at a cost of 99 lakh in 1999. Consequent visit by the Chief minister in 2006, had led to the announcement to upgrade the check dam to a bigger one under Sureshwari Irrigation Project at a cost of Rs 6 crore. However nothing was done!
Meanwhile, some parts of the canal was rendered sand-cast thereby affecting the flow of water to 13 villages. Repeated complaints by the villagers to the officials to get it de-silted did not produce any results. In the meantime, the government of Odisha signed an MOU with JR power Plant to set up an power plant in the area. People here are of opinion that all lands that are not irrigated would be handed over to the company for this purpose.
In order to prevent their lands from being rendered uncultivable due to unavailability of water flowing down from the canal, it was decided by 2000 men and women of 27 villages to clean the canal themselves. And then in a spectacular show of what human willpower is capable of doing, 4 km stretch of the blocked canal from Baeja to Dhaurapali was cleared by over 700 men in 6 hours of strenuous job. People here have now united themselves in the common agenda of taking care of their own interest and never depending on government’s welfare scheme. They have also set up a Committee to register their protest against setting up of the power plant in their backdoor!
At a time when Odisha projects itself as one of the states in the country whose march towards economic stardom seems unstoppable, news like these seem to bring one back to reality. In what has been a sort of eye opener, away from glossy news reporting’s of the media, a woman was arrested in Jajpur district of Odisha for having sold off her infant son in a bid to arrange money to get her jailed husband free from jail.
The story is a shocker of sorts and exposes the underlying truth of poverty stricken Odisha peo
ple who are still living in such untamed penury that they don’t hesitate to do things that are beyond normal human comprehension.
Rakhi Patra, a daily wage earner from Mundamal Village of Jajpur district went to Cuttack on September 13th and handed over her infant baby boy to a person for a measly Rs 5000. Upon getting information about the same, the mother-in-law, Kanaklata Patra filed an FIR against Rakhi . On being arrested, Rakhi confirmed to the crime, saying she needed money to get her husband released from jail. Her husband, a daily wage earner himself has been cooling his heels in the jail for the past few days on the charges of theft.
The mother in question is being hounded by her in laws and is now bereft of any shelter. The in laws are not willing anymore to accommodate her in their house. The police who has meanwhile arranged for her housing at a “home for women”, are still in lookout for the child and person who purchased him.
The event which has come as a shocker to many, tells the tale of many who still live under abject penury in industrially rich clusters of Odisha and are left untouched by the tall claims of development by the government!
Giving clear indications of his intent to take Odisha to the next platform on big time reforms, the Naveen Patnaik government gave its approval to investments worth of Rs 26,076 crore in various sectors. The step would give a breather to the government that has seen a clear shortfall in revenues earned over the past year owing to general slowdown of the economy that affects the entire globe.
The investments in Odisha which have been cleared include sectors like mining, power production and smelting. NALCO which had been pushing hard with the state government for a small unit at Sundargarh has been given nod to go ahead with the 0.5 mtpa smelter unit and a 1260 MW capacity captive power plant in Sundargarh district. The plant that would be set up at a cost of 16345.89 crore would employ 3500 people directly.
Other projects that got approval from the state government include
- Uttam Galva Steel Ltd – That Proposes to setup a HR Coil Plant with 2mtpa capacity at Kalinga Nagar with an investment of Rs 4000 crore
- VBC group – That Proposes to set up set up a gas-based combined cycle power plant to generate 750 MW of electricity at an investment of Rs 2,876 crore.
- Bhusan Steels Ltd – That proposes for a 12 mtpa iron ore beneficiation plant and a 4 mtpa pelletisation plant in Keonjhar district at an investment of Rs 1,280 Crore.
All these industries put together are likely to generate an employment for over 4,300 people. Along with this, they will be critical in contributing positively towards the economy of the state. Apart from this, the clearing in of the projects send clear signals to the industry that Odisha government, despite the setback of POSCO and Vedanta is still keen on its commitment of industrializing the state .
There recent raids by the wildlife department against the people keeping rare turtles in home in the capital city of Bhubaneswar has exposed the existence of high voltage illegal trading of turtles in the city periphery. That the creatures face threat from trawlers and human captors navigating in their natural habitat in fresh waters as well as marine areas, is well known. However it is a matter of great concern that the links of a trade that flourishes in other cities of the state has come as shocker for many.
Senior wildlife officials have now begun admitting that turtle trade has been rampant in odisha as it is assumed that keeping them in shops and homes augurs fortune for them. The situation is so grim that people even resort to import them and sell them for making profits. While people keep on doing this, it is generally not known to them that it is a punishable offence under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Recently some rare turtles were seized by wildlife officials in Bhubaneswar. While three were seized from an eatery at NALCO square, six turtles that included Indian Soft Shell Turtles and River Tent varieties were seized from a pool in a private hospital. This is raised the hackles of wildlife department. If the endangered species of the turtle end up as menu of posh restaurants in the state, then it would become really difficult to save these meek animals from extinction.
Sources reveal that sellers in the city procure these creatures en masse from suppliers as hatchlings and keep them in tanks which in itself are enough to devitalize them. And once they are able to track customers these turtles are supplied to them in exchange of good money. Spicing up the trade is the belief among the Feng Shui practitioners that endorse Turtles as one that bode great fortune for the keepers.
Ignorance may however lend people in trouble and instead of good fortune they can end up in cells. For buying or keeping turtles in home can lead to the arrest of the keepers . As freshwater turtles are accorded protected status and are bracketed under the Schedule – I aquatic species as per Wildlife protection Act 1972, killing or catching is a non bail able offence. This is high time that people grow aware about the fallacies associated with these creatures and contribute positively to the initiative of the Wildlife Department by refraining from active trading of these creatures.
Once a lucrative trade for many artisans and in fact a mainstay for them, bell metal work is fast losing its appeal. Odisha had been a flourishing market for bell metal utensils since ancient times and the braziers (bell metal artisans) had a buxom trade however with evolving time and the advent of steel utensils, the kitchenware industry is fast pushed to brinks of oblivion.
Traditionally, the bell metal utensils were used in the household as the metal was believed to have medicinal properties. They are also stronger than steel. Also their significance in religious ceremonies ensured that, they were much in demand in the local market. However making these utensils is a tedious job and apart from time demands unusually high level of dexterity. The process of preparing the utensils out of bell metals begin by mixing the metals ( generally brass) together and working them with ingots, which are then heated until they become malleable and then beaten with a hammer into the desired shape for the kitchenware. ( For the bell metal craft of odisha, please follow this link)
Once the utensil has cooled, tar is applied to the bottom of the vessel and the item is stuck onto the polishing machine. The metals natural golden glow is maintained on the exterior of a vessel while the inside is polished to achieve a greater metallic finish.
Being in existence for over 4000 years the business had enjoyed patronage from regal as well as commoners alike in odisha. However a cluster of reason has been responsible for pushing this trade into a level of obscurity. First, the middlemen who happen to be the supplier of raw materials to the artisan extract , majority of the profit denying the craftsmen their justified share. Then the rising price of the raw material in itself is a big deterrent for the artisans to make a decent profit out of the trade. Competition from steel utensils is another big challenge for local artisans. And finally there are no proper marketing facilities in place to ensure that whatever bell metal utensils is being produced by the artisans in Odisha finally reaches the customer.
In this scenario, the once vibrant craft of Odisha is gasping for existence. Clusters of village artisans who once excelled in the craft have started forsaking their ancient trade for better opportunities. Kendrapra district for example was one of the region that was high on density with practicing craftsmen of bell metal casting. Unfortunately, there are hardly any takers of this form of crafts here anymore. Whoever is left to practice this antiquated form of craft, cannot stop but whine away at the precarious condition of state of things. These smiths are in fact now hoping for government’s help in seeing a turnaround for this craft. Obviously so, without proper financial and marketing assistance, this craft would soon become a thing of past.