Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category
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.
At a time when the entire nation is shell shocked and yet to recover over the brutality committed over a twenty three year old girl in the national capital Delhi, the heinous crime has come again , now visiting the backdoor of the state capital Bhubaneswar.
A 19 year old dancer was gang raped in the city by five men in the posh locality of Nayapalli exposing chinks in the armory of the city police. The commissionerate police rescued the victim from near a petrol pump near the Kalinga stadium area and the Mahila Police later arrested four persons and produced them in court. Another accused is still at large.
The police claimed that the victim who was acquainted with one of the accused had accompanied him to his house to discuss about a dance program where four men joined him and took turns to rape her. Later she was dropped near the petrol pump at Kalinga Stadium. She located a few policemen on patrol there and narrated her woes to them. The police rushed her to the hospital where the doctors confirmed of the misdeed.
If this was enough, there was another report of gang rape in Keonjhar. The 24 year old woman was gang raped by three youth and looted of her ornaments. Police are trying to catch p with the criminals.
All these incidents of rapes and crimes against women in the capital city and elsewhere in the state are pointer to the fact that , Odisha once known as a peaceful state is slowly getting transformed into crime and criminal activities. There is a great need today to overhaul the security measures apart from rediscovering our own culture.
From Obama to Schwarzenegger the US has seen them all. The list of non residents who strive for the senator’s job has been increasing in US with every passing year and so also has the list of Indians who keep on joining the fray with every passing election. However this is the first time that a man from Odisha is being fielded as a candidate for a state senate in the US.
Bikram Keshari Mohanty, an occupational therapist in the US who originally hails from the Chandbali block of Bhadrak district of Odisha has been fielded as a candidate by the Democratic Party from Valdosta district in the state of Georgia. Bikram who has been a resident of the US for the last sixteen years, is the owner and CEO of an organization called Innovative Rehab Solutions that provides physiotherapy solutions to residents in the area.
Bikram, who had done his post graduation in physiotherapy from the National Institute of Orthopedics in Kolkata in 1994, has been practicing actively in Valdosta ever since he arrived in the US sixteen years back.
Son of Batakrushna Mohanty, a staff at the sub registrar office at Chandbali, Bikram was one of the most vocal boys in the locality as a young boy and had shown immense interest in philanthropic activities even in his academic years in Bhadrak College. He had volunteered for many humanitarian activities in Chandbali district and was actively involved in helping out the victims of the super cyclone in Bhadrak district in 1999.After the news of Bikram’s nomination reached Chandbali, it has been the talk of entire town and several people have expressed their good wishes for the enthusiast.
The good work that he started in his home town continued even in his US home and he remained active in the field of social services even there by founding a nonprofit organization in the name of Mother Teressa Foundation that serves the low income and homeless Americans. Earlier he had also served in the Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce from 2002 to 2003. And as he got appointed as a candidate from Georgia in a conference to contest the elections, he became the first odiya to contest elections for a senator post in US.
We wish him luck and fortune!
Barely three months after the Cuttack- Khurda hooch tragedy that took a toll of 40 people in Orissa, fears have been expressed about the possibility of yet another tragedy of same caliber brewing in the state.
Almost every state had to deal with liquor tragedy periodically and Orissa is no exception to it. The trouble is such tragedies strike without notice and it is up to individual states to constantly remain on alert and identify and destroy the illegal hooch “factories” and book the perpetrators. No one can predict with certainty that hooch tragedy may never strike Orissa and to that extent that the one which struck Cuttack and Khurda region was the last one. The moment you lower the guard, the tragedy is going to hit you hard on your face again!
An acute shortage of country spirit led to bootleggers mixing the deadly methyl alcohol with liquor that led to the Cuttack tragedy. The excise department has now warned of current shortage in country spirit, pointing to a situation that might repeat the tragedy, if proper watch is not kept. This is a good sign of some sort of vigil being kept by the government on the bootleggers.
The quantity of country spirit solely supplied by Aska Co-operative sugar Industries Ltd (ACSI) is much less than the target fixed. During the last month, the quantity supplied was low at 10.5 lakh bulk liters ( BL), against the actual requirement of 13 lakh Bulk liters ( BL). There is no gainsaying the fact that the state has not achieved self sufficiency in meeting the emerging demand. Yet the government is averse to the idea of importing the same from neighboring states. Now the government has sought an explanation from ACSI as to why it failed to meet demands.
But this in itself is not enough! Now that a formal warning has been issued, it is now up to the government to exercise proper control .It needs to take appropriate steps to make good the shortfall and ensure that nothing untoward happens that will help nip any such freak incident in the bud itself!
Today the state capital of Bhubaneswar celebrates its 64 th birt day.It was on April 13, 1948, that Bhubnaeswar replaced Cuttack as the capital city of Orissa. Like Jamshedpur and Chandigarh, the Temple City was one of the first planned cities in the country.
Though the history of the state capital dates back to more than 2000 years, the first mention of the city comes during the infamous kalinga war . Later emperor Kharavela established Sishupalgarh, a place on the outskirts of modernday Bhubaneswar as his capital city.The heritage caves of Khandagiri and Udayagiri were established by him only. Later, innumerable temples built throughout ancient and medieval history in tune with its status as Temple City give a chronicle of the city’s history. It was the ancient capital of the Kalinga Empire and the architectural legacy of the period is its greatest attraction. There are many sites in the city that testify the importance of the region during the 7th to 11th century CE when the Kalinga kings ruled Orissa and the regions beyond it. The Ananta Vasudeva Temple and Bindusagar Tank in the only temple of Vishnu in the city of Shiva. The temples in Bhubaneswar are thus regarded as having been built from the 8th to 12th century of Shaiva influence.
The master plan for the new city was designed by Otto H Konigsberger in 1946. Konisberger, in his report to the state government wrote, “Most provinces in India had used existing cities as the seat of government and had to make use of them for the functioning of a capital. Orissa is in a fortunate position of being able to build a new town specially designed for the purpose of a capital.”
But he left the state before giving final shape to his vision. Later Dr. Harekrushna Mahtab took up the project. US Ford foundation was invited to advice on the future growth prospects of the capital city. It advised stricter control on peripheral growth with greater diversification of socio-economic activities and a higher density of residential space.
However the pisture back then was different. The city which had a population of 50,000 now hosts more than 13 lakh people. This unprecedented rise has crammed the city. Unbridled construction work has amounted to loss of greenery and the erstwhile scenic beauty that gave Bhubaneswar its own identification has been vandalized brutally.
During the course of it’s journey from a small town to a mini metro, many adjoining areas were eventually added to the capital city. Initially it incorporated areas like Old town,kapil Prasad, kapilesware and Samantrapur. Areas like Baramunda,laxmisagar, baragada, Jharpada and Nayapalli were added later. Bhubaneswar got recognition as a notified Area council in October 1952 and a municipality in 1979 as its population crossed two lakh.
The Bhubaneswar Authority (BDA) was formed in April 1, 1983 to speed up the development projects of the city.Finally it was declared a metro city in 1994.Ever since, riding on the economic boom and the momentum gathered by infrastructure escalation, there has been a noticeable change in the city. Hope the city keeps on growing!!!
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.
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.
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
Orissa becomes Odisha, Oriya changes into Odia as office of President issued gazette notification. The change of spelling will have retrospective effect from November 1.
The jubilant Chief Minister, the man behind the much cherished change, declared himself as the first Chief Minister of ‘Odisha’ and announced a State holiday on Saturday.
Patnaik conveyed his deep sense of gratitude to President Pratibha Devisingh Patil for her historic nod to the Bills. In a three-line message the Chief Minister said, “May I convey to you Madam, the deep sense of gratitude of our people for the State to be known now as Odisha.”
The State celebrated the historic moment by bursting crackers and distributing sweets as it received the communication from the President’s office. An elated CM Naveen Patnaik and his Council of Ministers, MLAs and officials at the State secretariat celebrated the occasion in the evening in front of the main entrance of the State’s premier administrative building.
The spelling of the name of Orissa (in English and some other languages) was changed to Odisha and its language from Oriya to ‘Odia’ with President Pratibha Patil giving her assent to the Orissa (the Alteration of Name) Bill and the Constitution (113th) Amendment Bill earlier passed by both Houses of Parliament.
The Odisha Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution on August 28, 2008 urging the Union Government to correct the spellings of the name and language of the State misspelt in the first and eighth schedule of the Constitution.
The resolution said as per the etymological principle the State’s name should be spelt as ‘Odisha’ and the language as ‘Odia’. The bill was passed by Lok Sabha on November 9 last year and sent to Rajya Sabha for concurrence. The Upper House passed it with amendments on March 24 and returned it to the Lower House the same day.
In the division today, 301 members voted in favor of the Constitution amendment bill and none against. Minister of State for Home Jitendra Singh piloted the two bills.
Members thumped the desks at the passage of the bill but hardly few MPs from the 14-member strong BJD, which is ruling Odisha, were present.
It is an irony that an ancient state is miss pelt and mispronounced in so many different ways in different parts of the country. It is called Udisa (Hindi) and Orissa (English), and the language Udiya (Hindi) and Oriya (English) in the Constitution. The state was spelled “Orissa” in the Indian Constitution adopted in 1950. BJD, though, espoused the view that this wasn’t the correct spelling for the name of the state. In the local script and language, the name of the state is spelt as it is pronounced: “Odisha”.
In the Tantric literature of the mediaeval period the word Udisa has been frequently used and in Tantrasara, Jagannath has been referred to as Udisanatha. Poet Sarala Das mentions both the words Odra Rastra and Odisa in his famous treatise Mahabharata while Gajapati Kapileswaradeva (1435–1467 AD) in his proclamation inscribed on the temple walls of Jagannath calls his territory as Odisa Rajya.
In Sanskrit, the region was referred to as Odra Vishaya or Odra Desa. Both Pali and Sanskrit Literatures mention the Odra people as Oddaka and Odrah, respectively.
In the Mahabharata the Odras are mentioned along with the Paundras, Utkals, Mekalas, Kalingas and Andhras, while according to Manu the Odras are associated with the Paundrakas, Dravidas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Sakas, Paradas, Pallhavas, Chinas, Kiratas and Khasas. The location of the Odra territory has been given in the Natural History of Pliny in which it is mentioned that the Oretes inhabited the country where stood the Mount Maleus.
The recent resolution finally establishes to correct all deviations relating to the pronunciation of the state.
The entire state showed respect to the Bhajan Samrat Bhikari Bal on his first death anniversary on Tuesday. The devotional singer who was an ardent devotee of the Lord Jagannath passed away November 2 last year at the age of 82 while undergoing treatment at the SCB medical college hospital in Cuttack.
Born to Ram Chandra and Gehlarani Bal in Sobal village of Kendrapara district, he had started his career with the village yatra troupe where he used to act, sing and dance. Later the gifted singer joined Gokulchandra Sangeet Sadan in Kendrapara as a music teacher. He also used to sing for the All Indian radio, work as a music teacher at the Kala Vikas Kendra at Cuttack and Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya in Bhubnaeswar.
The erstwhile ruler of Puri Gajapati Maharaja Duivyasingh Dev conferred him the title of Bhajan Samrat as he had greatly contributed towards spreading the Jagannath Culture across the country and abroad.
His popular bhajans still enthrall people of Orissa and no religious ceremony in orissa is complete without a bhajan by the great Maestro being played. During the last period of his life, Bal had set an ashram at his village Sobala where he used to spend his time.
His lucid and moving rendition of bhajans written by old generation poets such as Gopalkrushna, Dinakrushna, Baldev, Banamali and Salabega are still popular today.
In an effort to provide connectivity to all the villages in the state, Orissa government today launched a Rs 1,000 crore scheme – Biju Setu Yojana (BSY)- for construction of at least 400 bridges in next three years.
“The new bridges will provide access to market of goods and services and improved delivery of social service.
Statistics has shown that improved road connectivity has a positive impact on the reduction of poverty,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said after launching the scheme.
Though bridges were being constructed under different schemes, the state government felt that the existing schemes were unable to cater to the requirement of the state, said chief secretary B K Patnaik adding that the state government embarked upon a new initiative to bridge all the missing links on roads under Rural Development department.
The state government would fund the BSY from its own resources, the chief secretary said.
“There are about 23 per cent villages having population below 100. Therefore, they cannot be reached under different schemes. The new BSY will help providing connectivity to those villages,” said Rural Development secretary S N Tripathy.
Besides looking after the requirement of the rural development, the new scheme would also cover strategic and important panchayat samiti roads belonging to Panchayati Raj department, he said. more