Archive for January, 2013
Railway budget is round the corner and expectations in the state are high. The decision of a panel of MLAs from the Odisha assembly to demand Rs 3,050 Crore for developing the railway infrastructure in the state in 2013-14 has added fuel to the expectations as the government of odisha is giving final touches to the memorandum to be submitted to the Railway Ministry.
Around the same time, the railways have come up with a revised estimate for the year 2012-2013. And in this, the plan outlay of the East Coast Railway has been finalized at Rs 822.156 crore, the lowest among all zonal railways. Taking out the lease payment, the effective outlay of the years for East coast railway comes to around Rs 571 crore.
This is something that is not only demeaning of the way the Railways treat the highest surplus generating and most efficient zone in its portfolio but also shows clear lack of planning in its own backyard. East Coast Railways with its headquarters in Bhubaneswar has been consistently generating highest revenue for the railway since the past few year among other . However it has been since 2004 that the East Coast Railway used to be among the bottom of all Zones in terms of plan outlay. But being in the bottom is a distinction in itself. The East Coast Railway Zone gets only Rs 46.96 crore for construction of new lines, the lowest in five years. This means that the development of the long-in-demand railway tracks in Odisha for Lanjigarh-Junagarh, Khurda-Bolangir and Talcher-bimalgarh be done at the cost of Rs 46.96 crore.
It may be assumed that the plan outlay for all major railway zones of the country meet with the same fate, taking into account the condition of railways. But this is not correct. Plan outlays for most railways are either intact or even enhanced. It needs to be kept in mind that more than half of the planned expenditure of the railways come from the Center while another 25% comes from bonds. And while funds from both the sources have more than doubled in the last four years, it is intriguing why the East coast Railway is getting such a raw deal in all this.
There are two major reasons for all this. First is the General approach of the railway Ministry towards the East Coast Railway (ECoR) as a freight railway that transports goods and earn surpluses. These surpluses are used to subsidize the losses in other loss making zones and finance works for development of railway infrastructure in other states. Hence every decision of railways in Odisha is seen from the perspective of earning more freight or enhancing the freight collection.
Second reason is that he small shelf of projects under plan heads new lines and gauge conversion. No new lines have been sanctioned in odisha since 2003.Simolarly Odisha never had a major stake in any massive gauge conversion program that demands heavy capital investment. Most of the doubling of railway tracks that are being affected in odisha is financed by the railways from extra budgetary allocation. Thus unless a few new line works are sanctioned by the railways, there is no hope that the small shelf of two new line projects ( Khurda-Bolangir and Talcher- Bimalgarh) will be able to absorb higher levels of investment.
The other major areas that require attention are the the consistently low investments for passenger amenities, workshops, production units and staff amenities. The expenditure for providing passenger amenities in odisha averaged around Rs 20 crore for the past two years while the Eastern Railways got Rs 140 Crore under the same head. The SECR headquarter at Bilaspur in fact get much more budgetary allocation under the same head. The state of railway platforms in the state is a testimony to the kind of indifference that is meted to East Coast railways.
Similarly the big ticket investments for development of workshops and production units have gone to Bihar and Maharastra while odisha has got none. It is exasperating to think that biggest freight loader of the country does not have a wagon workshop of its own. Now coming to staff amenities front, the East Coast railways has the dubious distinction of having the lowest bedded central hospital of the railways in the entire country.
If anything that comes out of the aforementioned statistics are pointer to, then it is to the fact that the interest of Odisha is grossly overlooked by the railways. Odisha gives most to the railways in terms of revenues and deserves the best too. Time has come for the politicians of the sate to speed up demand for a share of larger pie which is the just right of it.
In yet another case of barbaric sexual assault on women, that once gain exposes the ineffectiveness of state police and substantiates the rise of female violence in the state, a tribal woman was gang raped inside the District Headquarters Hospital at Baripada after her husband was tied up and beaten mercilessly by the offenders. The criminals included two hospital employees. All the offenders have been arrested and brought to book.
The 25 year old woman and her husband, hailing from Dantiamuhan village under the Betonati police limit had gone to visit her brother who is undergoing treatment there following an accident. The couple had stayed back in the hospital to attend to the patient as there was nobody to take care of him. At around 7 pm in the evening, as the victim was taking a stroll outside the hospital compound; she was pounced at by these six men and taken to a secluded place behind the road heading towards the TB ward of the hospital. The husband who was with her was thrashed and completely overpowered. He was later tied to a tree as the men took turns to rape her one by one. They fled the scene of the crime leaving both of them behind in the night.
Later based on a complaint filed by the husband of the victim, police formed six teams and conducted raids at several locations the whole night. All the six accused were arrested by the early morning. Two of the arrested were engaged with the hospital as sweepers, while another owned a betel shop in front of the hospital. The fourth is a driver of a hearse van. The ones employed as sweeper with the hospital were the first to notice the couple and invite other four to over the phone to commit the heinous crime.
Though all the accused have been arrested and forwarded to the court, the incident has sent shock waves across the peaceful township of Baripada. The intensity of the crime where a woman is raped in front of her husband and the place of execution, a busy government hospital , is something that is disturbing. And though the case has been picked up by various social organizations and political parties alike, it has once again raised serious question marks over the police ability in controlling crime in the state.
It is a scene very common in odisha. Most of the time you barge on to somebody unknown in the street or encounter the teen age working in a hotel or driving a auto-rickshaw, or even the familiar looking Security guard at the entrance of the building, you are greeted with deep sunken lips simmered red and corroded teeth that look equally resplendent as if carefully painted in crimson! And you know, it’s the same thing at work everywhere.
The omnipresent gutka has more people under its sway in Odisha than anything else. This preparation of betel nuts and tobacco that is sold in small sachets is responsible for more than just plastering your lips and tooth red. It is in fact responsible for more oral cancers in Odisha than any other form of tobacco consumption. In an annual health survey, it was stated that odisha ranked highest among all the states in the country in terms of gutka chewers. And what is worse is the fact that a majority of the users fall in the age group of 15-31 in the state.
Low in cost and easily available, the gutka is sought by children and teenagers in impoverished neighborhoods. More often than not, the children come under its bad effect simply by picking the habit from their seniors. The practice of chewing gutkas is in fact commonly prevalent among women who work as daily wage earners in construction sites and elsewhere. The effect that it has on them on later parts of their life is really ominous. A mild stimulant, the guka tells upon the reproductive health of women and the addicts run the risk of giving birth to underweight infants. For somebody who is in the habit of chewing more than 10 packets of gutka a day, a period of five years is enough to acquire precancerous conditions like malignancy of lips, mouth or tongue.
The state government thus took the right step towards promotion of public health by banning the sale of the “silent killer in sachet” on the inaugural day of the year 2013. This had a telling effect on the availability of the gutkas in the shop. However traders have taken to innovative routes and back door practices to continue with their business. Koraput district in odisha and Jeypore town in particular used to be the hub of manufacturing and distribution of the local made gutkas. This small town also acted as the place of delivery of the consignment that came from neighboring states. The products then got distributed to other parts of the district and state. However fearing police action, the traders have shifted their region of action to Semliguda now, a small town 40 km away from Jeypore.
Shopkeepers are also reaping gold by selling these products stealthily. A sachet of gutka priced at Re 1 earlier is now being sold at Rs 5. Habitual chewers shell out this amount without much fuss knowing that it is not easily available now. While some shopkeepers are reluctant to sell gutkas to strangers, other make sure that it’s for your own consumption before they take the thing out of their coffer. And then there are shopkeepers who in clear defiance of the enforced rule, still sell gutka uninhibited. Regions like Khandagiri and Pahal in Bhubaneswar still have shop that display garlands of the gutkas to attract chewers.
While frequent police raids are being conducted to curb the sale of the tobacco item, anti-tobacco activists argue that unless the ban order is strictly implemented, the prohibition on gutkha will hold no meaning.
However what is needed is a massive awareness program and educational campaigns to inform the people about the ill effects of the silent killer. Otherwise they would simply keep on switching from one form of tobacco habits to other!
Orissa has outclassed many states of the country to emerge as one of the fastest growing states in the country. In fact it stands right behind Bihar and Gujarat as the fastest growing state of India in the year 2012. What’s more important is the fact that it has gained goodwill as one of the most preferred destination for investment by investors across the world. The state’s image as an investor friendly destination has helped it in getting lots of projects of late. However what most companies putting in funds in the state are concerned about is the basic infrastructure which still has lots of distance to cover!
According to data available with the planning and co-ordination department, odisha lacks sufficient infrastructure to cater to the needs of the industrialists, investors and common man which is depriving the state of huge amount of potential returns. Rail density inOdisha is only 15km per thousand square kilometer which is far below the national average of 20km. Similarly the national highways constitute only 2% of the total road network and handle about 40% of the traffic on road. Although odisha stands above national average when it comes to postal density, it falls flat in respect to tele-density (the number of telephone connections per 100 people).the number of phone connections in the state was 43.92 lakhs in 2010-2011 with cell phones constituting 75% of total connection.
Getting back to the roads in the state, odisha enjoys better position as far as road density ( total length of all roads per 100 sq km) is concerned. The extent of rural road connectivity in Odisha , though is better than the national average, it is way below satisfactory limits. With 62% all weather connectivity roads and the state government trying for a growth rate of 9% growth rate in road connectivity to rural areas, this is certainly going to increase.
All the afore mentioned factors are indicators of the basic infrastructure facilities of a state and as can be seen Odisha’s performance in the sector is not that commendable. Though the state government has started taking initiatives , it will be a while before things turn up. The odisha government has decided to pump in close to Rs 1 lakh crore in infrastructure development of the state in the 12th five year plan. This is done with an aim to boost tourism, hospitality, IT & ITeS , energy and higher education sector. The state is also aiming to set up a platform for the local entrepreneurs by providing robust infrastructure facilities to the MSME sector.
Industry bodies and economists are of the opinion that if the State Government is able to translate the plan into reality in infrastructure development, it would be able to take odisha to the status of the most developed state in the country.
Unable to stop the rising crimes against women in Odisha, the police has chosen easy way out. In what has been dubbed as Talibanization of Police forces in Odisha, the Odisha Police of Jajpur district caught up three couples and beat them black and blue in full public glare.
And executing the entire operation was no other than an official of Inspector rank. Mr. Ranjan Ray , the inspector in question is stationed at the Japur Police station. On 15th of January, the inspector went on rampage thrashing the boys and girls in full public glare in broad daylight in presence of hundreds of people. The brutal blows were rendered as the couples were picked up gossiping at the Trilochaneswar temple by a PCR van. As if this was not enough, the couples were made to kneel in front of the police station and then again caned by a lady constable before being handed over to their families.
The incident has spread shockwaves in the locality and many people have come up condemning the high handedness of the Inspector in particular and police in general. Witnesses claimed that all the three couple being picked up and later manhandled by the police were only speaking in the temple premises and had not involved in any objectionable or offensive activity when the police swooped down to them.
After the couples were dragged to the to the PCR van, all of them were made to kneel before the police station. That is when Ray picked up a cane and went on beating them black and blue. As he rained blows after blows, the boys and girls frantic cries attracted the people’s attention and over hundred onlookers gathered just outside the police station to witness this bizarre act of the police. The beatings continued unabated as the parents of the couple were summoned to the police station. The sobbing boys and girls were made to kneel down in front of the police station once again. And as their respective family members arrived, the inspector asked a lady constable to beat up the boys and girls one more time as “final lesson”.
And while Social activists, lawyers and po;itical leaders have condemned the inhuman act of the police, it is the right time to ask Whether the Talibanization of Police forces in Odisha just begun?
The plans are perfidious and injurious to the healthy relations between the two states!
But that does not deter the Andhra Pradesh government in slowly extending its area of administration beyond its natural territory. What began with the Polvaram Dam issue where both the states came into loggerheads over water sharing has now gone well into the inland territories as the Andhra Pradesh Government has started undertaking several development projects in the Koraput district, which is a clear transgression of Odisha’s territories.
Kotia Panchayat of Koraput district has grabbed the limelight in Odisha as the Andhra Pradesh government has continued with implementation of its number of project in different villages of the panchayat. A school is being constructed at Gaipadar village by the assistance of the Andhra Government. Similarly it is also building concrete roads to connect the village to other ares. But what has raised the hackles of the Odisha government is the fact that the Andhra Pradesh Government has set up an Anganwadi Center in Sembi Village of of the same Panchayat.
A similar attempt by the Andhra Pradesh Government brought things to boiling point when 20 electricity poles were constructed in the village and the Koraput district administration forcibly removed the electricity poles before power supply could be started. Things have not been well off in the bordering village since then. And incidents of skirmishes between the Andhra Government and Odisha Government keep on happening on a regular basis.
Meanwhile for the family of 40 Kandha Tribal residing in the village, life is hell. Deprived of basic amenities and constantly being sidelined by the Odisha government which has not done enough to safeguard their interest, they have no options but to switch sides. These tribal still live in abject poverty and are deprived of basic necessities like school, hospital and electricity. So when the Andhra Pradesh government is undertaking various developmental projects for their benefits, they are more than happy to welcome them.
The Andhra Pradesh government, aware of the shifting loyalties of the residents have even started providing them with commodities like 35 kg of rice,6 liter of kerosene,4kg of dal,3 liter of cooking oil,3kg of sugar,2kg of potato, ikg onion and 2 soaps to nearly ten families to whom it has issued ration cards.
And while all these things are happening right under its nose, the Odisha government has done nothing but raised objections with the neighbouring government. Clearly, it is a case of underdevelopment and apathy that has led the people to switch loyalties. And the inefficiency of the Odisha government is highly visible not only in its incapacity in implementing policy measures but also in safeguarding its own territories!
The year 2012 started on for Odisha with positive note as one of the fastest growing states in the country. There was rapid inflow of capital into the state’s economy. However as the year closed, the euphoria created died down with several projects facing roadblocks for factors like land acquisition and environmental degradation.
Works in 14 Proposed Special Economic Zones in Sambalpur,jharsuguda,ganjam,Khurda,Jajpur,jagatsingpur,kendrapara and Cuttack could not be started or carried forward . Similarly the proposed alumina park at Angul by NALCO and the downstream park by Jindal Steels at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur district remained non starters. However the biggest jolt to the industrial sector came during the month of December when Vedanta Aluminum Ltd (VAL) decided to shut down its refinery at Lanjigarh citing shortage of bauxite.
The multi crore coal block allocation and mining scams also took its toll on the industrial climate of the state. But the worst hit was the port sector. The ports of Odisha which depended mainly on the export of iron ore saw a sharp decline as a result of the scam in mining sector. Another jolt came to the port sector when L&T decided to divest its stake in the the Dhamra Port Company Ltd in the face of irregularities and scams.
Labor unrest also managed to draw attention among many industrial units in the year 2012. The most notable was the strong protests by the trade unions of Nalco on the decision of the center for divesting 12.5% stake in the Public limited company. Similarly the Management of the Birla Tyres, a unit of Kesoram Industries was forced to shut down their manufacturing unit at chhanpur near Balasore several times due to labor unrest.
In June there was labor unrest at oil refinery project site of the Indian Oil Corporation ltd ( IOCL) in paradip when CISF ( central industrial Security Forces) jawans opened fire injuring five contract laborers. There were similar labor issues with the Jinadal Steel and power units in Angul.
On a whole, the year that had started on a promising note for the state ended in whimper. However with industrial growth picking up and the business environment showing signs of recovering, there are symbols of revival around the corner in the year 2013!
In the midst of the raging controversy over the death of the Delhi rape case victim, the role of police has come under scanner. A more alert and sensitive police would have averted the tragic incident that happened in December 16th and shook the entire nation. The Delhi police has been obviously on the receiving end of the media for its ineptness.
The situation is not so cosy even in Odisha as the police administration here too has been slack enough in executing its duties properly. Forget about execution of duties, what is exasperating about the general police administration in Odisha is the fact that they have been busy burying most of the cases into obscurity under pressure from influential persons or for laxity in resolving the cases. It is appalling that the conviction rate in the rape cases in Odisha is almost negligent.
Take the case of Puri district for example. The district has hogged the limelight for all wrong reasons for the past few years. Be it the much hyped Puri-Konark Marine drive gang rape incident of 2008 or the much recent Pipili gang rape incident. While not much has happened in the first incident, the Pipili rape case is yet to be resolved even after the death of the victim Babina Behera and her family still lives under the shadow of terror.
Similarly the rape and murder of a student in Chandanpur was camouflaged as unnatural death by the police and mystery still shrouds the death of the girl. Similarly the sensational case of Biti Mohanty who attempted to rape a foreign national at Konark Pantaniwas is still unresolved. The accused in this case, the son of a senior bureaucrat has been on run since the last 5 years.
It is tragic that after being victimized of something as terrible as rape, a girl goes through more pain in getting the cases resolved and gets the criminal convicted. It is a pity that most women today hesitate to go to the police station because of the indifferent attitude of the police. Add to this, the delay in judicial trials owing to late filing of charge sheets by the police and the victim has no option but to suffer in silence.
If we need a society where women are respected and work hands in hands with their male companions, we need to provide them with a safe environment and until and our police should be prompt enough to ensure this sense of security to them .
On the backdrop of the Delhi gang rape case and the charged sentiments in the country, crime being committed against women in our country has managed to draw everyone’s attention. It’s not only the media and government but common people alike who have become aware of the rising crime graphs against women in our country! And it is really shocking when one considers the statistics. There is something wrong; something really worrying when one sees that the crime graph instead of falling has continued to rise and rise with each passing year.
The same holds true even for odisha. The number of reported rape cases in Odisharose from 1025 in 2010 to 1112 in 2011. Though concrete data on rapes in Odisha are available only till the year 2011, it is evident that the number of rape cases filed in different police stations across the state rose in 2012 in comparison to the year 2011.
Sambalpur earned notoriety as the rape capital of odisha with 110 reported cases of rape . The most shocking incident of rape and murder was also reported from Sambalpur district when a 8 year old girl was raped in an isolated place and then murdered. The kid had been enticed by the accused to a stall and then raped brutally. This incident shook the entire state and the accused was ordered to be hanged by the court. What deserves mention here is the fact that the hearing of the case was completed by the court in a record 29 days.
Of the data belonging to the year 2010 and 2011, as many as six districts of odisha viz Mayurbhanj,Balasore,Keonjhar,kalahandi,Angul and Bolangir reported more than 100 rape cases. The statistics for three years relating to crime against women in odisha is shown below:
Apart from the aforementioned cases of rapes and sexual; assault, there have been sharp rise in molestation cases in Odisha. As many as 2,905 molestation cases were registered in various police stations in the state in the year 2010 which rose to 3,207 in 2011.
The Odisha police attribute the rising cases of crime being committed against the women to changing socio-economic dynamics of the state. The state has witnessed rapid industrialization over the past couple of years which has bought in criminals from neighboring states to odisha. And with them the cases of crime too has shot off.
While this is true to an extent, sociologists argue that what has really changed over the years is the mindset of people. People in general today are more extrovert and money oriented than they were couple of year earlier . And as this change happens gradually, we are losing touch with our core values and culture. So what is required to be done in today’s pretext is to bring about a positive change in people’s mindset. Only then will the crime against women stop completely!