Archive for April, 2013

Sudarshan Das Has Another Laurel, Wins Moscow Choice Prize

Sand Sculpture by Sudarshan Patnaik

Sand Sculpture by Sudarshan Patnaik That Won The Moscow Choice Award

Noted sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik who hails from Puri and has won many laurels for the country in sand sculpting  has been adjudged  the winner of  “Moscow choice prize” in Russia, for sand sculpting. The  12 feet creation of Hindu elephant god Ganesha, that the master sculptor sculpted on sand was intended top deliver the message of world peace.

The world sand art championship 2013 was held at Moscow’s Kolomenskoe Museum Reserve from April 22-28. The prize distribution ceremony was held Sunday evening. While the “Moscow choice prize” went to Pattnaik, a Ukrainian artist bagged the “sculptor choice prize” and the “people’s choice prize” went to a Russian.

The lone participant from India,the 36 year old competed with artists from 10 different countries. A popular figure in odisha, Sudarshan Patnaik has been into sand sculpting since the tender age of seven! He has won many national and international awards for his creative designs and has recorded his name in the World records for sculpting the tallest Santa Claus and most Santa Claus image built on sand.

Pattnaik, whose name is synonymous with sand sculpting in the country has so far participated in more than 50 international sand sculpture championships across the world and won many awards for the country. In June 2012, he has won first prize in International Sand Sculpture Championship . His  His sand sculpture on Black Taj Mahal earned him accolades all over the world. He runs the Sand Sculpting Institute in Puri, now a days to impart practical teaching on sand sculpting to people and hopes to get some government aid to popularize this form of art in the country!

“The government of India is not lending adequate support to sand art. Now that I have won the prize I do hope that government will do something for this art”, he said after winning the prize. Hope the government is listening!

Vaccant seats : A difficult proposition for survival of Engineering colleges in Odisha

Vacant Seats In Engineering Colleges In Odisha

Seats Iying Vacant In Engineering Colleges In Odisha

There has been an unusual spurt in the number of  colleges that provide education and training to students in various streams of engineering like Mechanical,civil and Electrical Engineering  in Odisha. An estimation states that there were over 107 engineering colleges in odisha by the year 2011. These college train around 43,000 students annually into different streams of engineering.

However there have been ominous trends on display since the last year . The overall admission capacity into the engineering colleges in Odisha has fallen sharply. The year 2012 saw a total of  26,947 seats in engineering colleges remaining vacant in Odisha even after two phases of counseling !

While 23 colleges could attract less than 50 students, the number of admissions in five colleges of the state were single digit figures. One private engineering college found no student at all this time. All the data go on to paint a bleak future for the engineering colleges in Odisha!

While the  private colleges are perishing for want of  students, the government is  facing flak from all sides  for still being busy in  giving nods to open fresh engineering colleges in the state. It is being alleged that that while granting sanctions to open new colleges in the State of Odisha, neither the Centre nor the State Governments have taken care of supporting such colleges.

When the State Government  and the Central Governments have a say in opening a new college, Granting affiliation, curbing the fee hike, increasing the seats or de-affiliating a college, is it not equally responsible for the losses incurred by the colleges due to its faulty or wrong acts ?  Is it not the duty of the Government to guide and support these new colleges in introducing with the Industry and the market?

The Government needs to have a mechanism to link the new colleges( heavily loaded with bank loans) with the Industry. Most of the colleges get self sufficient by the time 4 to 5 batches of students pass out. But in the infancy stage the government has a binding role in helping them as the government makes mileage out of the students passing out of the colleges.

Even now on an average one in five job seekers in India does not have  any Technical Expertise/ diploma or a degree. So it  can be safely assumed that the number of seats available in the engineering colleges  has not outnumbered the demand. As such the government needs to review its policy and take steps for proper nursing of the private engineering colleges so that they don’t face the threat of closing shutters even before they start operations!

Prospering Odisha: Hurdles Ahead

Odisha: Challenges Ahead

Odisha On Progress Path: Challenges Ahead

Earlier posts in this blog on odisha have   highlighted positives of the odisha economy that is clearly in ascendence. There is no dearth of statistics that indicate to the visible changes in the economy of Odisha. Let’s consider the points below:

  • The annual average rate of Odisha economy is 8.23% in the 11th plan.
  • Poverty in Orissa has declined by 20.2 percentage points from 57.2 per cent in 2004-05 to 37 per cent in 2009-10. This is the highest reduction in poverty among all States.
  • Overall literacy rate  of Odisha is 73.45 per cent against the national average of 74.04 per cent in 2011, male literacy being 82.04% and female literacy being 64.36%
  • Infant mortality rate and maternal mortality ratio have declined from 73 and 303 respectively in 2006 to 61 and 258 respectively in 2011.

While the statistics reveal too much and provide every reason to gloss about, there are indicators that cannot be avoided if growth in real terms  need to be achieved in the long term and on a consistent basis!

Let’s focus on each of these indicators here:

Agriculture : While the state’s economy is on rose, the agricultural sector is what has not shown any sign of growth over the past couple of decades. Though the state government has taken note of this and addressed the issue in this yaer’s annual budget by earmarking a total outlay of   5627.84 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 7161.84 crore un 2013-14 for the horticulture and agricultural sector, lots need to be done to increase the productivity. Increasing irrigation potential, promoting watershed development at a massive scale and drought proofing are critical pre-requisites to this. Apart from this diversifying  crops, strengthening rural marketing, encouraging  agricultural extension and technology transfer, expanding crop insurance and improving rural infrastructure are some of the steps that need to be  taken immediately.

Augment Human resource Development:  Human resources are the most important resource of any economy and if  Odisha has to  sustain growth on a long term basis, it needs to keep paying attention towards its human resources. More and more institutions of higher technical and managerial learning and massive networks of ITI, tool rooms, centres of excellence and other training facilities are required to be established throughout the State with a view to enhancing employable technical and soft skills of unemployed youth.

Stepping up Investments in Social Sectors : Though the state government has started addressing the disparity in social sector with greater thrust, statistics reveal a stark difference in prosperity  level between the coastal regions of Odisha and those areas dominated by tribal populace. The physical infrastructure and Human Development Index of the tribal areas calls for massive public investment. The  State has already embarked upon an ambitious plan to provide hostel facilities to 5 lakh girl children belonging to Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.  Other schemes targeted at  developing the tribal patches need to be pursued aggressively!.

The State should give reasonable tax breaks for attracting private investment in labor intensive manufacturing, agro-processing, tourism and other employment generating sectors in the tribal region. The removal of intra-state imbalances has been receiving special attention in the plan strategy of the State. The Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi (i.e., KBK) region of Orissa still considerably lags behind in terms of most development indicators. Heavy incidence and persistence of poverty in the KBK region of Orissa has been a cause of serious concern. The growth policy should focus on achieving faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth and bridging the regional, social and gender disparities.

Happy Birth Day Bhubaneswar

From Antiquity to Modernity - The Changing faces of Bhubaneswar

From Antiquity to Modernity - The Changing faces of Bhubaneswar

Upon reminiscence, on its foundation day, the spectacular journey of a historical city that became the capital city of odisha  in 1948 to a throbbing new world teeming with extensive infrastructure and modern amenities in  2013 seem , seem nonplussing.

In many terms the transition of this small city that was adorned by relics of history that displayed a rare mosaic of cultural creativity and was canopied with copious covers of green into a hub of services and education industry of east is no mean achievement.

Although its presence is rooted deeply in the history of the state and  it has been a center of activity  since the mighty emperor Kharavela established his capital in Sishupalgarh , it was only in 1948 that after careful considerations, that this sleepy town was chosen as the spot to become the administrative capital of Orissa. Long before  Pandit Jawhar Lal Nehru  inaugurated it as the capital of the state On April 13th 1948, the  place was  well known as the Temple city  boasting of more than 1000 temples  that were as old as 7th century!

The master plan of Bhubaneswar was prepared by the internationally acclaimed architect and urban planner, Otto H Koenigsberger in 1948 for a population of 40,000 over an area of 16.48 km2 with a density of 10 to 12 families per acre. The innovative master plan of the city with modernist buildings, land-use patterns, provisions for education, recreation, medical and social services created a landmark in the history of town planning in India. Bhubaneswar was after all the second city in the country and only after Chandigarh to be developed on a  master plan!

The City saw a greater change in the late 1980’s when  light industries and manufacturing activities were added into the ambit of the original master plan that envisaged it primarily for administrative activities. This led to influx of working population into the “sleepy town” and for the first time showed the seeds of expansion. Three decades later, today the government with its intention of projecting Bhubneswar as the Prime destination of Education in the eastern India, the city has taken quantum leaps not only geographically but demographically too. The city which is  growing towards north, northwest and southwest direction along the main transport routes and has already taken areas like Chandaka, Jatani,Uttara, Patia and Hansapal into its sway is today one of the fastest growing cities in India!

Agricultural and vacant land that once donned the outskirts of the city has been now replaced with high rise buildings. There are engineering collges and other educational institutes that are coming up there! The city boasts of  more than 40 engineering colleges and three medical colleges. Top institutes like that of IIT, BITS and AIIMS have already started operating in the city.

This has brought  in  structural changes in the demography of the  city too. Today students and younger working  professionals coming out of the state are becoming majority. Service sector industries like the Software  sector and ITES industries have started operations in the city in scores! Similarly infrastructure companies that have their eyes on the future too are now very active in the city. In fact the city has become the cynosure of all infrastructure activities  and boasts of some big players like DLF, Tata and Vipul. These companies are redefining the future  of the city by creating residential and commercial complexes in the city! On a nutshell, Bhubaneswar the city is going through a transition that is simply unprecedented!

And nothing defines this transition more than the cultural conversion that we are experiencing today! The youth of today in the city is more aggressive and extrovert than he ever was! While hindi and English are slowly  replacing Oriya as the mode of communication, the shopping habits of the residents have undergone sea change with the advent of mall culture. Similarly concepts of eat – outs and night parties have become popular too!

While all these changes might not be welcome, but transition is just a way of life and one need to accept the fact that Bhubaneswar is well on the path to compete with other cities on scales of infrastructure, development and economic success.  It might not be too far off when we actually see Bhubaneswar as the best city in the country!


Danda Jatra: One of The Popular Dance Forms of Odisha

Danda nacha

Danda nacha

Odisha is a land that is expressive culturally and has a lot to offer to the world in terms of art, songs and dance. Some of its celebrated folk dances are still throbbing to find peace with changing times. Danda nacha or the penance dance is one such folk dances of odisha that has fought the vagaries of time to be still popular in the state.

Celebrated mostly in different parts of Odisha, the dance ritual is performed in the month of “Chaitra” for seven to twenty one days. It ends on the Mahavisuva Sankranti that is the first day of Oriya New Year. The dance is undertaken by the devotees of Lord Shiva who observe the ritual as part of penance, roaming around street and villages with a brass idol of cobra mounted on pole.

The festival is celebrated with much enthusiasm as a welcoming ceremony to the spring season that lays foundation for the agricultural activities in the state of odisha. However there are historical allegories too that make the festival and this folk dance really fascinating.

Indian mythology is replete with anecdotes on Lord Shiva and his consort Sati. There is a reference in one such mythological story about a Yajna that was performed by Daksha Prajapati  in which Lord Shiva was not invited. The Lord took offence to it and consequenetly beheaded Daksha Prajapati. The wife of the killed Daksha then cursed the Lord and 12 other deities to be born as son of hermits suffering from leprosy. These 13 leper sons upon their birth on earth underwent severe penance observing Danda nacha and recovered.

Danda nacha is divided into three sessions – Dhuli Danda ( earth penance), Pani Danda( water penance) and Agni Danda ( fire penance). The devotees enact several activities based on farming on the streets under scorching sun as part of Dhuli Danda ritual. On dusk, they go to ponds or other water bodies to perform the Pani danda.As a part of the Agni danda, the devotees walk on embers of fire, jump through rings of fire and  swallow fireballs.

Danda Jatra is celebrated in different parts of the state. Danda Jatra of Galeri in the district of Ganjam is famous throughout odisha as it sees a one of the biggest congregation of devotees that can go up to 1000 to 1500. Similarly the Danda jatra of Nuagaon of Ganjamis also famous. Here at least 300 danduas(devotees) and 50 dancers participate in this. In the Danda jatra of Kutaguda of Ganjam almost 1200 danduas (devotees) join. In Odagaon, Khandapara and Ranpur of Nayagarh district danda jatra is celebrated with greater purity. Devotees in this place are known to hang themselves upside down in trees and face a fire that keep on burning down.

Danda nacha is a medium that assimilates several forms of dance forms on a single platform. It has thrived the tides of time to continue till date. A bit more government support & promotion would take this form of dance beyond the frontiers of the state.

Investments in Odisha : Much ado about Nothing

Investments in Odisha

Investments in Odisha - Much ado about nothing

Well, at a time when the Odisha government is busy  projecting itself as one of the most progressive economies of the country, the party seems set to be spoilt. No doubt Odisha has set itself ahead of all other states in terms of number of proposals received, but how many proposals actually see the daylight, is what that matters!

The  decision of the NTPC to shift out  the Rs 11,000 crore 1600 MW coal based project from Gajamara in Dhenkanal to  Gadarwara in Madhya Pradesh is a case that can be taken as a pointer. The reasons cited by the NTPC officials tell it all.  According to the NTPC, there were inordinate delays in execution of the project in odisha owing to holdups in land and environmental clearances. Another project of the NTPC which is scheduled to come up in Darlipali is similarly struck on the issue of procurement of resources necessary for the execution of the project.

Reports have it that one of the key equipment suppliers pulled out of the project and the company and the State Government failed to receive necessary clearances on time, threatening to delay the manufacturing process further. Though company officials now maintain that despite the delays they will go ahead and invite fresh tenders for procuring equipment, it needs to be seen whether this project will take off the ground or also go the Gajmara way. Similar precedents of delay in projects can be found in the  POSCO case and the proposed steel plant of the Arcelor Mittal group.

Flight of capital, for whatever reasons, is not a healthy sign from the perspective of a State that is keen on attracting more and more investment into industry.

Orissa, like any other State in the country, needs investment in industry for developing . However in most cases, the government is signing MoU’s with big multinationals and owing to execution problems on the ground level, the project gets stuck. What is common in almost all project delays in Odisha is the resistance of people to part with their land owing to displacement and rehabilitation issues. Issues like these need to be handled proactively and people of the locality need to be taken in to confidence before any MoU is signed with the investing companies. This would go a long way in curtailing the delays in implementation of the project. Similarly, critical issues like land and forest clearance need to be clarified beforehand rather than the other way round so that projects can take off smoothly without cost or time over-run.

Odisha is a mineral rich state and presents a great opportunity for those who invest however to make it more acceptable to the investor community as a truly investor-friendly State, executions of the MoU’s is needed. And the government needs to work in this regard too to ensure that investments keep flowing smoothly and steadily into the State.

On Utkal Diwa : Odisha in Quest of its lost Glory

Odisha : Fighting For Its Lost Glory

Odisha : Fighting For Its Lost Glory

It was on the year 1936 on the first day of April that Orissa rediscovered itself on the cultural and geographical maps of the country by becoming the first state in India to be constituted on the basis of language. Ever since the occasion is being celebrated in odisha as the Utkal Diwas.

What preceded this was a five decade long intense struggle for recognition. A state that once stamped its authority on the cultural landscape of the country with its own uniqueness was dissected and divided by a colonial authority with such alacrity that its self-belief  and pride was mauled beyond repair. This is the reason why  We Oriyas still run such a bad self esteem and lack of pride  that today’s generation is loathsome of anything that owes its origin to the Oriya culture.

Well, it’s really sad twist of fate but it’s true! The language itself, which is a mirror to our glory  is now under serious threat. Great sacrifices, vision and struggle that marked the endeavor of our leaders in the late nineteenth century stemmed from their ardent love of the language. However this is precisely what is lacking in today’s generation.

Odisha has, of late seen a major influx of non-residents owing to rapid industrialization and expanding commerce. This has no doubt helped in rising economic activities and rising prosperity of the state. However this has also has a telling effect on the culture of the state. In any given circumstance, the influx of outsiders leads to a mix in culture which leads to diversity. Unfortunately, because of the low self-esteem of Oriyas, things have not turned out the way they should have. Instead of influencing other cultures and introducing them to our heritage, Oriyas were prompt to give up their traditions and adopt alien customs with an eagerness that has been difficult to understand.

As a result of this Oriya festivals started losing out their charms to the younger generation. While Odisha has its own set of festivals that accentuate its identity, like the Raja festival, Prathamastami and Sabitri Brat, we end up celebrating Holi, Diwali and Karva Chauth with unprecedented zing. Festivals like the “ Kanwariyas” which were completely unheard of  in the state till a decade are being celebrated with a craze that seems alien to our culture while we are forgetting the importance of celebrating our own festivals. Ask any growing teenager from odisha  about “Prathamastami” and he would stare blankly.

Oriya weddings similarly been transmogrified way beyond recognition. For any Oriya native, it is getting increasingly difficult to identify between oriya marriages and North Indian marriages. Concepts like “Sangeet”, which are in no way connected to Oriya marriages, are now a part of every wedding ceremony in the state. If this was not enough, getting a non-Oriya bride is considered an honor by many young Oriya boys. This is nothing but a reflection of the inherent inferiority complex that lies in the heart of modern Oriyas, a complete reverse of leaders of the past.

The young generation truly is so much engrossed with anything that is non-oriya that you find Hindi taking over as the medium of communication among youngsters. While learning Hindi or English is essential in today’s world, pushing our own mother tongue to oblivion is something that is abominable. The same  has not been the case with other languages like Tamil, Kannda and Telugu. People of these states someway stay connected to their culture and gloss over their past. The same is missing with us in Odisha.

It is a issue that is grave and can assume monstrous proportions, if not attended to! The state was formed 75 years back and yet the language is not secure. Oriya has received patronage neither at the official level nor among the common people. Celebrating Utkal Diwas is nothing but a ritual for us today but the fervor that is shown during the celebration of English New Year or Valentine’s day  is completely missing.

A state that owes its birth to it’s language is getting increasingly unfaithful to its creator and is on the process of losing its own identity! And if something drastic is not done now, there will be nothing that can be done tomorrow!